375 H&H HAMMER Load for African Plains Game

Story by Guy Miner

In case you didn’t already know — I’m beyond excited about my upcoming trip to Africa. I’ve already showcased load development for my 30-06 and threading the same rifle for a suppressor, but I’m also taking another rifle, a Ruger Number One 375 H&H. 

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Why the 375 H&H for African Plains Game?

I’m taking two rifles on this hunt to Africa, my 30-06 and this 375 H&H, a Ruger Number One. 

The plan is to use the 30-06 primarily, but I bought this 375 for Africa twelve years ago and it would be a shame for it to never fulfill its destiny. (It’s also a good idea to have a backup rifle.) I have only shot three black bears with it so far, but the rifle performed well. 

Here is a photo of a bear I took at 306 yards with a Nosler Accubond bullet. 

The 375 H&H cartridge has also been used for elk, moose, and the great bears (Kodiak, brown, grizzly and polar bear) here in North America. It’s widely regarded as one of the most versatile big game hunting cartridges in the world with enough power for elephants, but mild mannered enough for many shooters to handle. Although many hunters think that the 375 H&H is a huge cartridge, being under .40 caliber, it’s actually classed as a “medium bore.”  The recoil is better described as a “big push” rather than the harsh slap delivered by some magnum rifle cartridges. It’s got the accuracy, trajectory and power necessary to be a viable 300 yard plus hunting cartridge. It actually has a very similar trajectory and muzzle velocity to 308/30-06. I’m planning to hunt large African antelope, gemsbok, kudu, wildebeest and other game with shots no further than 300 yards. In fact, my Professional Hunter (PH), known as a guide here in the states, doesn’t like people to take shots past 300 yards. 

About the Rifle, Cartridge and Load

The rifle is a Ruger Number One, a falling block single-shot. It’s actually a tropical model, which I’ve found rather ironic when using it to hunt elk in the snow.

 Ruger Number One’s are strong — you don’t need to be shy about shooting powerful loads through it. 

This particular gun was once owned by well-known gunwriter John Barsness who used it in Africa, once on a trip with the same Professional Hunter I’m hunting with! I bought it used, and conferred a bit with John about the rifle. He’d written several articles featuring this rifle and I started out using load data he’d worked up in this very rifle!  Someone had installed a very nice Pachmayer Decelerator recoil pad before I bought the rifle which takes the sting out of the recoil. I’ve hunted a bit with the rifle and practiced with it extensively, including shooting it in the Safari Rifle Championships in Libby Montana in 2019. Reloading it can be accomplished more quickly than many people would think. 

Normally I have the small 1.5-5x Leupold mounted on the 375. It’s worked out fine for big game hunting over the years, but scopes can fail. My secondary scope for this trip is a 3.5-10x Leupold, zeroed at 200 yards. 

Interestingly, Ruger’s standard rings work a bit like true quick-release rings, returning to zero nicely when dismounted and then re-installed (requiring only a screwdriver or a knife blade in a pinch). 

The cartridge was introduced in 1912, and 110 years later it’s still going strong! The brass tapers significantly and there is only a slight shoulder, making the belt necessary for headspacing. In some areas, the 375 H&H is the legal minimum for hunting dangerous game such as lion, cape buffalo and elephant. 

Bullet weights for the 375 H&H typically range from 235 grains to 300 grains with 350 grain bullets being available for the heaviest game animals. The 300 grain bullets are most popular and can work well on all sizes of game. Bullets in 250, 260 and 270 grain weights are considered ideal for plains game, moose, elk and bear. My Alaskan grizzly outfitter, Lyle Becker, was carrying a battered Remington 700 chambered in 375 H&H with 260 grain Nosler Accubonds when we hunted Brooks Range grizzly a few years ago. 

I chose H4350 because I’d had good results from it in the 375 in the past, and also because I was unable to find any more Reloader 15 during this component shortage. Nosler lists Reloder 15 as the most accurate powder with their 260 grain Accubond bullet. Barsness, the original owner, also favored Reloder 15. Breaking with tradition, 76 grains of H4350 produced an average of 2,706 fps, just a bit more velocity than the RL-15 load. I’ve run the bullet up to 2,800 fps without problem, but was satisfied with 2,700 fps and 4,200+ ft lbs of energy at the muzzle. 

In Magnum cartridges with large charges of powder, I like to use a large rifle magnum primer to ensure good ignition. I’ve had excellent results with Federal’s 215 magnum primer, but this time turned to CCI’s 250 large rifle magnum primer. 

Nosler’s 260 grain Accubond is a versatile bullet. I’ve personally used it on three bears from a bit over 300 yards to one taken at a mere 15 feet. That happened when I was following up a bear wounded by another hunter. It was quite an experience. Trailing the bear in thick brush, I could hear him moving, even breathing, but I couldn’t see him until we were only about 15 feet apart. The Nosler bullet put him down for good. 

I like this bullet because it’s bonded — although it opens readily, it’s unlikely to fragment. It also has a relatively high BC for a 375 hunting bullet, and can be driven at 2700+ fps, providing a trajectory similar to that of a 308 Winchester or 30-06 hunting load.

 Zeroed at 200 yards, it has only dropped about 8” at 300 yards, making kill zone hits a simple proposition. Although intended as a medium game bullet, it has even been used to stop a cape buffalo charge! 

Range and Chronograph Results

At 100 yards from the bench, the H4350 load produced three shot groups of about 1.5 inches. Most of my shooting with the 375 though was from the standing or sitting positions with and without use of Bog Pod shooting sticks. Good practice for an African hunt! 

The chronograph revealed an average muzzle velocity of 2706 fps with an extreme spread of 22 fps and a standard deviation of 10 fps. 

Summary and Conclusion

Though the article is about loading the 375 for African Plains Game, I’ve seen excellent performance from this bullet on black bear, and it would likely be a great choice for other North American big game such as elk and moose. 

This article was written prior to my African trip, so conclusions will wait, but I’m sure that the rifle, scope, and ammunition are reliable and quite up to the task. I’m planning to use my 30-06 most of the time as it’s threaded for a suppressor, but I’d like to use the 375 H&H for something. Stand by for our after-the-hunt report! 

Get the Gear! 

Midsouth carries both Hodgdon H4350 and the Nosler Accubond 260 grain 375 bullets I used – sadly both are out of stock as of 6/11/22.

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Thanks,
Guy Miner 

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