Ask professional hunters in Africa what cartridge they would pick for their rifle if they could only carry one rifle, and almost universally they’ll tell you the .375 Holland & Holland Magnum. One of the first magnum rifle cartridges to make it to the Dark Continent, the .375 H&H is capable of taking just about any game in Africa. And for those who can handle its stout recoil, the cartridge could fill an important role in your survival armory.
The early 1900s saw a flurry of development of mid-caliber cartridges suited for use in Africa. Whereas the older .500s and .450s were largely chambered in double rifles, the new cartridges took advantage of more efficient smokeless powder and the availability of the new Mauser Model 98 bolt action to create a new breed of hunting rifle. The extra magazine capacity (4 or 5 rounds) in the Model 98, plus the speed of the bolt action, more than overcame the double rifle’s quick two-shot advantage to many African hunters. And with advances in bullet technology, mid-caliber rifles in the .35- to .40-caliber realm (9mm to 10.3mm) gained in popularity.
Among the most popular were two cartridges with continental origins, the 9.5x57mm Mannlicher-Schönauer and the 9.3x62mm Mauser. The 9.3x62 in particular took Africa by storm, and remains to this day a highly popular cartridge for African hunting. In response, the English firm of Holland & Holland developed its .375 Holland & Holland Magnum, which competed with the 9.3x62 and quickly became a favorite cartridge in the UK’s African colonies.
The .375 H&H features a long, tapered case, which like the .303 British cartridge was originally loaded with sticks of cordite powder. The case also featured a minimal shoulder and a belt at the base to assist in headspacing. The medium bore featured a .375”-diameter bullet, offering better long-range ballistics than the larger .450 and .500 cartridges. With bullets of 235 grains, the .375 H&H could be used to make longer shots on plains game such as antelopes. But with heavier bullets of 300 grains, the cartridge could be used against lions, elephants, and Cape buffalo. The 300-grain bullets offer similar sectional density to a 450-grain .458” bullet, or a 550-grain .509” bullet.
The .375 H&H offers plenty of power too, with the 235-grain bullets capable of being to over 3,000 feet per second with modern powders. 300-grain bullets can be pushed to nearly 2,600 feet per second, while 350-grain bullets can be pushed to 2,300 feet per second. Muzzle energy ranges from 4,000 to 4,700 foot-pounds, making the cartridge a good stopping cartridge for African dangerous game and North American bears.
One of the downsides to the .375 H&H is its stout recoil. Many riflemakers compensate for that by building heavy rifles, which can be difficult to carry for long periods of time. Another disadvantage to the .375 H&H is the high cost of ammunition, starting at nearly $2 per round. Handloading can bring that cost down somewhat, but it’s still an expensive proposition.
While the .375 H&H is overkill for most hunting and defense purposes, for those hunting or traveling in areas where large, dangerous game such as grizzly bears, moose, and polar bears may be found, it could be a solid choice of rifle for the survival scenario you may face.