This particular safari was the commencement of my lifelong love affair with the .375 H&H Mag., and I determined to own one myself as soon as I could. That did not come about until 1950 when, at the end of a three-month safari, I was presented with a Winchester Model 70 in .375 H&H Mag. by the clients.
It was the first of several .375 H&H Mag. Winchesters I have owned, and I cannot recollect being on a safari since without a .375 in the gun racks of the hunting car. Regrettably I have never owned a genuine Holland & Holland-made .375 H&H Mag.
The .375 H&H Mag. played a significant role in the post World War II era in the African safari scene. During the late 1940s and early 1950s hunting safaris from overseas, mostly the United States, began to trickle back to East Africa and as new rifles were not available in Nairobi, prospective hunters brought their own with them. Rifles chambered for the .30-’06 Sprg. and .375 H&H Mag. cartridges were by far the most common, although there was a small percentage of other calibers as well. A few English rifles showed up, belonging to clients who had been on safari prior to the war, such as the Holland’s .375 H&H Mag. previously discussed.
It had become customary on pre-war safaris for clients to hire a heavy double rifle from the safari company for elephant, rhino and buffalo, and the .375’s role had been largely for use on the larger plains game and lion. However, due to the advent of convenient and time-saving air travel, combined with the writings of people such as Hemingway, Ruark and O’Connor, increasing numbers of people decided to undertake an African safari, and many of them had minimal hunting experience and were not too familiar in the use of firearms either. It takes time and much practice to shoot a heavy double rifle well, and having read stories about the horrendous recoil attributed to the heavy English doubles, some of the new generation of clients were possibly more apprehensive of the rifles they were about to use, than they were of the animal on which they would be using them. This situation did not contribute to accurate shooting and resulted in many missed shots, wounded animals and “messy” followups. I personally saw an elephant run off after having been cleanly missed by both barrels at less than 40 yards.
This time of transition served its purpose however, because as time went by, clients, encouraged in many cases by the professional hunter, began using the .375 H&H Mag. instead of the heavy doubles on the “big three.” The change proved most rewarding, as more accurate placement of bullets resulted in cleaner kills and less time wasted, not to mention the danger involved in following up on wounded animals. In this era, the .375 H&H Mag. was confirming its status as a very effective dangerous game cartridge, and many gunmakers worldwide began chambering their rifles for it. Additionally, new government regulations in a number of African countries required that the minimum legal caliber for hunting thick-skinned dangerous animals be .375. These requirements forced many users of sub-caliber rifles to invest in a larger one, and the logical choice was a .375 H&H Mag.
It is impossible to estimate how many .375s are owned by people living in Africa today, there must be many thousands, and although manufactured by different companies from different countries, they all owe their existence to Holland’s design dating back to 1912.
The success of the .375 H&H Mag. also resulted in a range of so-called “improved” versions of the cartridge, usually by fire-forming the original case in an enlarged chamber in order to accommodate more powder and, thereby, increase velocity. In my opinion, these “improved” versions do not demonstrate any real advantage over the original Holland & Holland design—which is an extremely well balanced cartridge—other than some extra striking energy and a somewhat flatter trajectory. They certainly produce more noise, more muzzle blast and more recoil. To add to the downside, the ammunition becomes a handloading proposition.
Members of various groups, such as professional hunter associations, game control officers, and professional guide associations, have on a number of occasions voted by a considerable margin in favor of the .375 H&H Mag.’s acceptance as the best all-round hunting caliber. This distinction has been earned by the outstanding and dependable performance of rifle and cartridge combinations throughout a period of 100 years from all corners of the earth. From the frozen wastes of the North and South Poles to the sweltering deserts of Africa and Asia, to the great primeval jungles in other parts of the world, the .375 has delivered. Today, with so many rifles chambered for this cartridge, it is usually possible to obtain ammunition in many countries—sometimes in quite remote places—a considerable advantage to the travelling hunter.
For me, the .375 H&H Mag. is the most outstanding and versatile cartridge ever developed, and no matter how hard some may try, its track record will never be equaled.