375 Holland & Holland Magnum – still a stalwart!

British rifle manufacturer Holland & Holland launched its 375 H & H Magnum calibre in 1912 as the 375 Belted Rimless Nitro Express. After more than hundred years, this stalwart remains among one of the most popular calibres with hunters in southern Africa.

The development of the 375 H&H Mag was linked directly to the development of the 9.3 x 62 mm Mauser by Otto Bock from Germany in 1905, following the growing popularity of this calibre in Africa and India. Sales of the 9.3 x 62 mm bolt action Mauser, which was much cheaper and effective, soon exceeded the more expensive double barrel heavy calibre rifles that were the firearms of choice for hunting dangerous game. At the time, numerous British rifle makers had been experimenting to find an alternative for the 9.3 x 62 mm Mauser. The 375 H&H Mag was Holland & Holland's contribution.

With a total length of 91.4 mm, the cartridge is too long to use in a standard length action, unless adapted for that purpose. Holland & Holland chose the magnum length Mauser action for the 375 H&H Mag. Other rifle manufacturers, including Holland & Holland, subsequently started building 375 H & H Mag rifles by adapting standard length Mauser actions.

Initially, bullets for this calibre were available in 235gr, 270gr en 300gr with original muzzle velocity of 2800, 2650 and 2550 ft/s respectively. Soon after the release of the 375 H&H Mag, satisfied hunters started giving feedback on the efficiency of this calibre. The penetration ability on for example elephants in particular and the flatter trajectory of the lighter bullets over long distances on other game contributed to establishing the 375 H & H Magnum as a very versatile hunting rifle.

The high cost of the rifle and the ammunition made the 375 H&H Mag expensive for colonial Africa. An original Holland & Holland 375 H&H Mag cost twice as much as the 9.3 x 62 mm Mauser. American rifle manufacturers started producing the 375 H&H Mag during WW1 and WW2, and introduced the Winchester Model 70 in 375 H&H Mag in 1937. During the WW2 era from 1939 to 1945, private individuals could not travel freely and hunting safaris to Africa came to a virtual standstill. The destruction of the Mauser factory at the end of WW2 also ended the production of, among others, the 9.3 x 62mm Mauser.

The safari industry recovered during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The majority of clients were from the USA and hunting rifles in the 375 H&H Mag calibre became a common sight in Africa. The 375 H&H Mag with good quality bullets of  appropriate weight and correct shot placement proved itself as an effective calibre that most hunters could use with ease to hunt dangerous game. Many professional hunters have the 375 H&H Mag on standby should a client's heavy calibre rifle give trouble during a hunt. According to professional hunters, clients often acquire heavy calibre rifles shortly before their hunting safari to Africa, which leave little time to get properly acquainted with their rifles. Therefore, they frequently cannot handle the rifle with confidence - with excessive recoil usually a problem -  and cannot shoot accurately.

When hunting dangerous game, the first shot is most important. A wounded animal from the especially the Big Five group is very dangerous and no one wants to take unnecessary risks. That is why most professional hunters prefer a client using a calibre in the class of the 375 H&H Mag, that he/she can use it with confidence for accurate shot placement.

It is with good reason that professional hunters usually choose a heavier calibre rifle such as the 458 Win Mag or bigger for personal use. They are responsible for the safety of hunters (clients) when hunting dangerous game that might be wounded and must be able to stop a charging animal at short range.

It is now more than a hundred years since the launch of the 375 H&H Mag and it is impossible to estimate how many rifles of this calibre are being used in Africa. It must be thousands that had been manufactured by numerous gun-makers worldwide. In South Africa where gun-owners experience a host of difficulties with the licensing of firearms in terms of the new firearms legislation (Act 60 of 2000), hunters think very carefully when choosing a new hunting rifle. Hunters who want to purchase a second or third hunting rifle might consider a heavier calibre for hunting buffalo or similar large game, but also suitable for the more common game species.

The 375 H&H Mag is such a calibre suitable for any game animal in Africa. The ammunition is affordable to allow regular practice at the shooting range to ensure that you can effectively use your rifle and ammunition combination in all conditions. It is a suitable `heavy' calibre for the average South African hunter. Not bad for an `old man' of 103 years!

  • Last modified on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 10:24
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Andre van der Merwe

André van der Merwe is die Bestuurder: Tak-  en Skietsake van die SAJWV

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