Home Articles Game & Gun Tanganyika, the .375 H&H and Other Tall Tales

Hunters Check-in

from R29-00 p/m

from R177-00 p/m

Tanganyika, the .375 H&H and Other Tall Tales PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 146
Written by Georg Grohmann   
Saturday, 09 October 2010 11:12
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Unwelcome Visitors
Some indeterminate noise woke me. I lay in the darkness of the tent, listening. Another soft noise came from close by. It was not any sound I could identify, even though I was now fully awake.

We were camped a short three miles (4,8 km, but ‘kilometres’ only came to Tanganyika1 many years later) out of Rungwa, just above the low-level bridge over the Rungwa River, on the track leading westwards to Igumira and Kitunda and thence north by north-west to Tabora.

Just north of Kitunda, the track runs over the extensive floodplain of the Shama, Limba and Wulua Rivers, which all empty into the Ugalla River 20-odd miles west of the track. We had tried to get as far as the Shama River (to take a barrage – bulk – sample of river gravel) a few days previously, but had become comprehensively bogged some 13 miles north of Kitunda, even though we had two Land Rovers and about 15 labourers to pull or push out any vehicle, which got stuck.

Left: The Landy has just been manhandled around for the return trip.

At the start of the rainy season (the track had not seen any traffic in two months) heavy trucks had gouged out deep trenches in the track, and if the Land Rovers didn't go down in a soft patch, they would hang up on the central ridge. So we were for ever cutting branches and filling the trenches with wood, then packing a ‘corduroy’ (a strip of large, cut branches, laid down at right angles to the direction of travel. A strip for each wheel track.) over the top. The track, through years of compaction, was the only relatively solid ground around. Leaving the track meant being sucked in to the floor boards instantly. It was the height of the rainy season (February 1960) and that floodplain was one colossal bog, impassable to anything other than a swamp buggy or an airboat.

Right: Typical rainy season travail. When the Landy ceases to make headway, you switch off smartly, so as not to bog the thing to the floor boards. Then you jack it up. Before you can do this, you collect/cut a load of stout branches. A big one goes under the Gerry jack.2 Note the one leaning against the back of the Rover at right. Then you start cranking the jack and pack wood under the wheels. Meanwhile the jack gently subsides into the muck. So you wind it down, pack more wood under it and crank it up again, again packing wood under the wheels. Repeat until your ship is floating at the right level again, pack corduroy in front of wheels and try to scoot out to 'solid' ground. This particular fix took us two hours to get out of, as we had no help along.  Then we had to turn around and go back over this 'mbuga' (vlei - boggy, black cotton soil depression). Fellow looking forlorn is Frank Delfos, field assistant

Now, I was ‘alone’ in camp (our staff of 20-odd porters/labourers was camped 100 yards up the road towards Rungwa) my field assistant Frank, and another geologist, Louis Roentgen (who claimed a distant relationship to the inventor of X-rays) were away at Mbeya, having taken an injured worker to the hospital there, some 160 miles to the south. I lay on the stretcher and listened.

Then my tent shuddered, as something brushed one of the guy ropes. I thought: “Someone is trying to steal rations!” The rations for our labour, kassawa (cassava or manioc) flour, dried beans, ‘dagaa’,3 salt, tea and sugar, were stacked in the adjoining tent. And I had been warned that ration pilfering was an occupational hazard. To be fair, I never had any rations or, for that matter, anything else stolen while I worked in Tanganyika.

I got up silently, moved to the entrance of the tent and very slowly and quietly unzipped both the mosquito netting and the tent flaps. Then I moved stealthily out and onto my ‘porch’ (formed by the overhang of the tent's flysheet)  until I got to the pole supporting the tent at that end. The night was pitch black, but a glow and a few small, flickering flames still emanated from my camp fire, 10 or 12 feet away, at the edge of the track. All my senses were concentrated on the tent next door, and it was a second or two, before I recognised the shadow beyond the remnants of the fire as a lioness, which stood in the track, staring at me!

Holy whatever! I stared back at her for what seemed like a week at the time. There was more stealthy movement around my tent, which movement now translated into more lions! Time to retreat! I very slowly backed off to the tent entrance, never taking my eyes from that lioness, got inside, zipped the flaps with unsteady hands, then got my Bowie knife, sat down on the stretcher and did some deep breathing – and thinking.

If only I had the .375! But it was locked up in the police station at Itigi, some 120 miles away to the north-east, pending approval of my license by some bureaucrat in Dar-es-Salaam. Well now, even a rifle of the .375 H&H’s undoubted talents cannot help you, while it is locked away in a safe!

I told myself that there had been no (reported) cases of man-eating around Rungwa for a long time, and anyhow, the lions would likely take the sable haunch, which was sitting in a cloth-covered enamel basin on the table on my ‘porch’. The smell of said haunch was probably what had attracted the lions (I was sure there were at least three, probably four) in the first place.

I won’t cliff-hang you on this: the lions went away after what seemed an age, but was probably no more than ten minutes. They didn’t even investigate the sable haunch. Ordinary hunting lions are very reluctant to enter any manmade structure. They probably suspect that it is a trap. This lot, although they had obviously smelled the sable meat, wouldn’t even stick a head in under the tent sail, which covered my open porch. And they knew, of course, that I was there in the tent, which probably made them even more wary.

Right: YT (yours truly) on his 'porch' at Rungwa, a few days after the lion visit. I am packing tobacco leaves for fermentation, sprinkling with rum (note bottle at left, green-labelled bottles contained distilled water, for the car batteries) in an attempt to make my own pipe tobacco. Not a success! Note water filter in background. Green tin at bottom right is Ensign Navy Cut tobacco of old, used to keep small items of gear together and dry. Bottle on ground at left is a dead quart of Tanganyika-brewed IPA. (Imperial Pale Ale - but we had another translation for those letters!) Unfortunately, the much better Kenyan 'Tusker' lager wasn't always available in Tanganyika.

Of course, the rifle would only have served to make me feel less helpless! I couldn’t have shot any of those lions, unless they had actually tried to join me in the tent: lions required a special license throughout Tanganyika, except in Songea District. There they were declared vermin and could be shot on sight. Songea District still had sporadic cases of man-eating.4 However, I never came across such an incident, when I worked in the district later.

The Lupa Area
While there was much game in the Rungwa and Lupa areas, I couldn’t do anything about it while my rifle was sitting in a police safe. The sable haunch was donated by our friend ‘Jeff’ Jeffries, the manager of an experimental tobacco farm of Tanganyika’s Department of Agriculture, further south near Lupa Tingatinga, the Lupa River Bridge.

We hunted one day just north of the Lupa River Bridge, on the west side of the river, in gallery forest. We came across a herd of 20 or 30 sable, which promptly took off, with Jeff’s assistant Gordon and me in hot pursuit. Unbeknown to us, the herd bull had remained behind. Jeff had noticed this and shot the bull, but didn’t put him down. The bull holed up in a bamboo thicket, and there was a moment of drama when, having heard the shot, we came back to Jeff and innocently walked past that bamboo thicket. Jeff , on the far side of the bamboo, was shouting “Get away from there!”, and the sable bull boiled out of the bush. Fortunately, he charged Jeff (from about 20 m) who put him down with another bullet from his 8x60S. Had the bull charged the two of us, there might have been some grief: we were only 6 or 7 m away from him as we wandered past his ambush, and Gordon only had a 6,5 Mannlicher, which he carried slung over his shoulder, i.e. not ready for instant use. Me? I had my camera.

Above Left: Posed photo of Jeff and his 8x60S facing the bamboo thicket.

Above Right: Sable and tracker. The man is standing at the edge of the thicket the bull hid in.

Below Left: Typical gallery forest, just south of Itigi Bush.

Below Right: Stakes marked road during flooding.

The tobacco farm was not an unqualified success: while Jeff’s tobacco flourished, so did several bugs, weevils and other assorted creepy crawlies, which had developed a craving for tobacco. Some of the game was partial to it, too, especially kudu and elephant. Although the fields were extensive, they were enclosed by a 10-foot (3 m) high wire mesh fence. No deterrent to elephant, of course. They merely pushed it down, and the other game gratefully used the illegal entry points. Jeff said he shot at a kudu one evening, but missed. The bull, in his haste to depart, didn’t bother to look for the exit, but simply sailed over the 10’ fence!

Move to Songea
After taking a barrage sample on the Lupa, just above the tobacco farm, and the abortive attempt to get to the Shama River, there wasn’t anything more to be achieved in that area. So in early March I moved to the Songea District. Songea is a pleasant little town in the SW corner of Tanganyika., some 115 miles (185 km) east of Lake Nyassa.5

Left: Songea main drag, looking down towards the  dukahs (shops). The trees are mangoes, planted by the Germans before WWI. Planting mangoes along the streets was first introduced to Tanganyika by the Arabs.

Above Right: Songea main drag and dukahs. The tarred strip of street was only about 500 m long.

Like so many Tanganyikan towns, Songea still shows much German Colonial influence, especially in its architecture, reflected in its residential buildings, the Boma (seat of the District Commissioner when I was there) Post Office, Police Station, etc.

Left: The Boma, at the end of its alley of mango trees. Road to right goes to Lindi on the coast.

Right: Boma in Background. My Landy is parked opposite Post Office. Little blue FIAT belonged to Songea's Black Chief of Police.

Left: Songea market place. Large building in background is big Indian trading store, where you could buy everything from Aspirin to Zambuk, including double rifles and ammunition.

Right: Williamson Diamonds' regional head quarters was in this Colonial house.

Peramiho Some 15 miles (25 km) west of Songea is the Mission Station of Peramiho. It was established in 1898 by the German branch of the Benedictine Order. Satellite missions were later established at Mbinga and Njombe. In 1960, Peramiho was still largely staffed by German monks and nuns, and Germany took an active interest in the mission. Picture below right shows a reception in progress for a visiting German politician.6

This is one of the largest mission stations in East Africa, with a large housing complex for monks, nuns and novices, hostels, schools, vocational training workshops and a large hospital. At the centre of the station stands the huge St. Benedict's Abbey, which can seat 2000. All buildings are built from the red brick, burnt on site from the local lateritic clay.

In the Songea District, I took over a base camp near Nyamtumbo, 50 miles (80 km) ENE of Songea, on the road going to Tunduru, Masasi and finally Lindi, on the coast. The camp served as a base from which to make safaris into the area NE of Songea, to prospect the drainage systems for Kimberlite-derived heavy minerals. Besides myself, there were four field assistants, a cook for each white staff member (to go along on safari) plus a head cook, who stayed in base camp, a 'karani' (secretary), who kept track of days worked and marked the 'kipandis' (work tickets) accordingly, handed out rations, etc, also camp-bound, and 60 or more porters.

Nyamtumbo camp consisted of seven ex-army officer's tents, a pole-and-grass mess room, covered by tarpaulins, a smaller kitchen of like construction, a grass enclosure, open to the sky, in which  a large canvas  bag with a rosette at the bottom was suspended from a cross beam for shower purposes, and a grass walled and roofed 'choo' (pronounced 'choh', a long-drop). Our labour mostly had tarpaulin-coverd pole-and-grass huts, but some preferred just a tarpaulin shelter.

Left: Mess and two tents. The fly sheets of the tents have been joined to make a shady 'veranda'.

Right: Mess with Field Assistants Dave Henderson (left) Tex Murray and Wally Walney-Dean (at rear).

Left: Tex Murray giving YT a haircut. Note water filters beyond us. Fridges were paraffine driven.

Right: Choo.

Left: Camp kitchen in operation.

Right: From left, porters, Tex Murray, YT and Hannah, the shotgun.

At Nyamtumbo Camp I acquired a near brand-new shotgun, which the previous camp chief had left to be sold, when he returned to South Africa. Shotgun licenses were dealt with by the police, and the black Chief of Police in Songea took less than 10 minutes to issue it! It was a Spanish double with 32” (81,3 cm) barrels bored modified and full, built by Gaspar Arizaga of Eibar, and then quite common in East and South Africa. I still have this gun. So I had some form of fire power. My rifle licence only came through in June, nearly five months after I handed in my application. So now I could hunt. But where the area around Rungwa and down to the Lupa held a fair amount of game, though it was dispersed in the rainy season, the areas of Songea District, in which I worked, held little game.

Sampling the Rivers
We would work from a base camp, like Nyamtumbo, and go out on safari for 10 to 14 days. I would take about a dozen porters, my headman and my (Peramiho-trained) cook. We would go by Land Rover as far as possible, and then set out on foot.

Right: My headman, Zuberi Hassani, and Diesel Land Rover on recently rebuilt bridge. Most bridges of this kind are washed out during the rains. Now, in the dry, the surface of the stream was 2,5 or 3 m below the bridge!

At the start of the safari most of the porters carried rations. As these were being used up, they were replaced by the samples we took. We would plan to deal with two river systems per safari, taking samples at about 6-mile (10 km) intervals and, wherever possible, at a point where a creek entered the main stream.

We would take a sample from the river, above the mouth of the creek, and a sample from the creek, above its entry into the river. Having dealt with that particular river for as far as practical, we would cross over to another river system and work it in the opposite direction, until we were back near our starting point. Then we would return to the Land Rovers and back to base. And incidentally, the cars were never interfered with in our absence, even though we did not usually leave anyone behind to guard them.

Left: Porters and the reason for going on foot - a bridge washed out during the rains, a very common occurrence!

Our main problem was the fact that no accurate, detailed maps were available at the time. We had to work from air photo 'mosaics'. These were sheets, consisting of 324 black-and-white air photos, each about 1 inch square, covering about 1 square mile, so that a single mosaic was 18x18 miles (29x29 km), or 324 square miles (840 sq km). The sheets we used were photographs of the stuck-together originals. The problem was that the scale of an air photo varies in proportion to the distance of the camera from the ground. In flat country, air photo mosaics like these work reasonably well.

Left: Safari in forbidden territory. Here we are actually in the NW corner of Mocambique! 'Positive' garnets had been found in a sample I had taken from the Rovuma at Mitomoni, the point where the Lunyere turns east and becomes the Rovuma. My Ozzie area chief, Bernie McBride, had ordered me to go and take samples from both the Msinge and Madra Rivers, above their confluence and about 6 miles from the Rovuma. "And if they catch you, I don't know you!" Fortunately, we got in and out without meeting a Portuguese Army patrol! In fact we met not a single soul. The Msinge sample proved positive, and De Beers later located the pipe, working legally in Mocambique. Although it contained some diamonds, it was not considered payable at the time. After Mocambique Independence, the Russians worked that pipe for a time, but also gave it up as unpayable.

Unfortunately, however, my areas were far from flat! The plane taking the photos had flown at an altitude, which gave an average 1" to 1 mile scale (1:63.360) but since the difference between valley bottoms and hill/mountain tops was often 1000' (300 m) and more, the scales on those mosaics varied wildly! Beacause of this, it sometimes happened that the same valley or hill was shown on two adjoining photos, creating the impression that there were two valleys/hills, when there was only one!

The opposite also sometimes happened. The 1" squares used on the mosaic were the centres cut out of larger photos, in order to keep the scale as close to 1" to 1 mile, as possible. In this process, one hill/valley was sometimes cut out! Most confusing! And if that weren't enough, large areas were often white, having been blanked out by cloud, at the time when the survey was flown!

Finally, we were navigating by compass, which is fine on open ground, but is of rather limited value in forest. As a result, we were often not certain of where we were, exactly! And that area NE of Songea was competely devoid of people, then. After we hit the major river we were making for, the procedure then was to scout up and down the river, until we found a recognizeable landmark, such as another river or creek meeting the main one, or some prominent hills, or maybe a swamp. After that, we could usually determine the planned starting point of the survey.

The usual method of sampling rivers and creeks is to take a sand/gravel sample in a suitable spot. The sample is passed through a set of screens with different mesh sizes and so separated into three different size fractions. The coarsest is inspected for large heavy mineral (HM) specimens (almost never present) and then thrown away. The midlle fraction is jigged on the fine-mesh screen, to concentrate heavy minerals at the centre. The sample is tipped out after a while, and any HMs present are scooped out and put into a sample packet. The fine section is panned, the sand washed out of the pan, and the remaining HMs again put in a sample packet. Sample packets are numbered, and the number is entered on the air photo 'map' at the relevant location.

A barrage sample is a large gravel sample, taken below any obstruction that the river crosses over, usually a rock ledge, below which the speed of the water is checked, so that a lot of gravel accumulates there. We would dig out a ton or two of sand and gravel, pan the fine portion and concentrate the midldle fraction in a jig, ending up with some 10 or 20 kg of heavy minerals.

These were mostly ilmenite (basically FeTiO3). This is common to a lot of different rock types, but Kimberlite-derived ilmenite has some of the iron replaced by magnesium. Second most common mineral was garnet (various forms of alumino-silicate of calcium, iron, manganese or magnesium). Garnet from a Kimberlite is the deep purple variety called pyrope, Mg3Al2(SiO4)3.

Barrage Sample on Lupa near Lapa Tingatinga Rovuma near Chamba looking across to Mocambique Left: The Lupa, further south around Chunya, was the site of a gold rush in the late 1920s and  early '30s. The workings were mainly alluvial. What 'reefs' were found were usually low grade. However, with the current high gold price, interest in the area has revived recently.

Above Right: Rovuma near Chamba. Some of my crew took it upon themselves to hire this local and his dugout to go upriver to a gravel bar, for sample material. Man in front of the dugout is my cook, of all people! Our activities are eliciting some interest on the Mocambiquan side of the river.

Barrage Sample: Jig on Rovuma, South of Chamba The concentrates would be sent first to Mwadui (Williamson Diamonds' mine and Headquarters) then on to De Beers’ Diamond Laboratories (DDL) in Johannesburg, where the garnets and ilmenites were examined for magnesium content. If magnesium was present it meant the minerals came from a Kimberlite pipe. More samples were then taken upstream, until the point was found, where these ‘positive’ minerals entered the river. They were then followed by soil sampling back to the pipe they had come from. Then pits were dug on that pipe and bulk samples taken, screened and concentrated, to establish whether any diamonds were present.

Incidentally, all the above photos were taken with a little Yashika 35mm range-finder camera, which sported a 45mm f3.5 lens. It had no exposure meter, so initially I simply followed the instructions on the leaflets, that came with the film. And I never saw the photos, until I returned to South Afrika. The only processing laboratory in Tanganyika was in Dar-es-Salaam, and it was Kodak. But I preferred Agfa film. So I mailed exposed films to my fiance, who had them processed in Johannesburg, and then wrote me how they turned out! This worked surprisingly well. However, when she presented  me with a Seikosha exposure meter after a few months, that was a tremendous help. And that meter did sterling service for me for years.

Film used was mostly Agfa CT 18 (50 ASA) slide film, which was the fastest colour film then available. It had what was billed as a 'tropical emulsion', meaning that it resisted heat and moisture, as well as fungus, which latter is a huge problem with film emulsions in the tropics. I can well vouch for that: after 50 years, those Agfa slides are still like new! I also used the occasional Kodak film, when replacement Agfas didn't reach me in time from South Africa (Agfa film was not usually available in Tanganyika). Mostly Kodachrome (25 ASA) and one or two Ektachromes (32 ASA at the time).  Kodachrome tended to exaggerate yellows and mauves, Ektachrome was very blue-green. The Kodak films have faded somewhat over the years.  All above photos were digitised on a Canon 9950F scanner and were worked over electronically, where necessary.

Photos below were taken with a Nikon D300s and rather more sophisticated lenses than that early Yashika.7 Yet that simple little lens did a tremendous job!

The .375 H&H

My rifle was a standard grade Winchester Model 70, in .375 H&H calibre. It was given to me at Christmas ’59 by my wife-to-be, as ‘life insurance’ on my first job after university – prospecting for diamonds for Williamson Diamonds Ltd. (by then belonging to De Beers) of Mwadui8, Tanganyika.

I chose the .375 H&H, because I knew it had an excellent reputation as an ‘all-round’ calibre, and that it was the minimum calibre legal for big game in Tanganyika, and most other African hunting grounds. There was also a minimum energy requirement (3500 ft/lbs if I remember correctly) which excluded all the old 9,5 mm (.375”) cartridges. Uganda, I seem to remember, insisted on .400 calibre.

I had also considered the 9,3x64. While its ballistics were essentially the same as those of the .375 H&H, it wasn’t legal tender for big game, its bullet diameter being only .366” (9,3mm). Besides, the Brennecke rifle was not only scarce in those days, but also much more expensive than the Winchester. Ammunition would have been very difficult to come by, while every Indian dukah in the Tanganyikan bush kept .375 H&H fodder! I learnt only much later that the 9,3x64 was plagued by bullet break-up in those days, as the Germans loaded it with the same bullets, which they had designed for the much slower 9,3x62.

Fifty years later, I still believe I made the right choice, and I still have that rifle, though it has changed a little over the years: in 1968, ‘Old Man’ Triebel of Rosenthal, in Windhoek, installed a scope in Suhler claw mounts for me, and in 1975 it was restocked, engraved and reblued in Ferlach. The original stock had developed a crack in the tang – not uncommon for Winchester .375s of that vintage. It is as accurate and effective as ever, and if I could keep only one of my many rifles (which range from .17 to .458 calibre) it would be the .375.

Left: Winchester pre-64 Mod 70 in .375 H&H, restocked, engraved and reblued by Johann Fanzoj (now JF Sr.) of Ferlach, Austria, with Kahles Helia 39 S2 scope.

Right: Kahles Helia 39 S2, 3-9x48 steel-bodied scope in Suhler claw mounts, detached from rifle at left.

Round about 1905, Holland & Holland brought out a cartridge to compete with the 9,5 mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer (or 9,5x56 – .375 cal 270 gn bullet at 2150 fps). The H&H cartridge was labelled .400/.375 Belted Nitro Express. This early belted cartridge fired a .371 cal 270 gn bullet at a pedestrian 2175 fps, and even then it was troubled by bullet break-up. It was never popular amongst experienced African hunters and has been obsolete for a long time, now. The last ammunition for it was loaded in the late 1930s. The cartridge is significant, however, as it was an early attempt by H&H to produce a belted case. While the case dimensions were similar to those of the 9,5 mm MS, it had a wide, rather clumsy looking belt.

H&H designed the belted cartridge to overcome the head-space problems so prevalent in rimless calibres. Such problems were very common 100 odd years ago, especially with calibres which had been designed for military purposes, such as the 7x57, 30/06, 8x57, etc. The reason for this was the variation in chamber sizes, and hence vatiations in pressure, encountered in such weapons. They were always produced in many different factories, and even countries, and specifications varied, often widely. This was particularly true of rifles built under the pressure of wartime production.

Ammunition, therefore, had to have minimum dimensions, so that it would fit even the smallest chamber it might encounter. In a chamber of larger dimensions it had too much head-space. This was not of concern to the military, as cases were used once and discarded. But it was detrimental to accuracy, and on repeated reloading led to head separation.9 As we still have thousands of rifles in those ex-military calibres, a great many of them being sporter conversions of military surplus rifles, the problem is still very much with us!

Head-space of a belted cartridge is controlled by the belt, so exact dimensions of case and chamber ahead of the belt are not critical. Cartridge belt and corresponding chamber cut-out can be held to much closer tolerances than shoulder position. End of head-space problems.

H&H introduced their ‘.375 Belted Rimless Magnum Nitro Express’, arguably their most successful calibre, in 1912. This cartridge is both taller and wider than its forerunner, and the belt is a little slimmer. It is also a true .375 (9,5 mm) calibre.

Left: .375 H&H flanked by two of its offspring: 7mm Rem Mg (L) and .458 Win Mg (R). Bullets are all Hornady RNSPs, from left: 175, 300 and 500 gns. All modern belted cartridges, except the .378 and .460 Weatherby Magnums, use the .375 H&H's head size.

Right: L to R, WW 300 gn ST FL (for abbreviations see bottom of article) Sierra 300 gn SpBT, Hornady 300 gn RNSP, Hornady 300 gn FMJ, WW 300 gn FMJ FL, Claw 350 gn RN. All cases are Winchester. Note that cartridges No. 1 and 5 are factory rounds and No. 2 is an as yet unfired hand load. Nos. 3, 4 and 6 have been reloaded several times and show colours due to annealing.

Initially, the .375 H&H was handicapped by the fact that Holland & Holland had patented the new cartridge, as did most gun-making firms with their developments around that time, and no other gunsmith could build a rifle for it. However, the patent was later dropped, and the calibre took off, as less expensive rifles became available for it.

I have a reprint of an ICI catalogue, probably originally printed in 1953, which lists the Kynoch loadings as a 300 gn bullet (FMJ, SP or Westley Richards type copper capped10) ahead of 58 gns Cordite for 2500 fps (from a 28” barrel), a 270 gn SP driven by 61 gns Cordite at 2650 fps, and the infamous 235 gn pill, pushed to 2800 fps by 62 gns of Cordite. The 235 gn bullet had a conical tip of hard copper alloy, commonly known as a bronze point. This prevented deformation of the tips of cartridges in the magazine during recoil. The rear of this bronze point was a shallow cone, which projected into the lead core. This was to initiate mushrooming. It did. Those 235 gn bullets broke up on anything and everything. No experienced hunter used them.

Powder charges of the flanged (rimmed) version for doubles and singles were 2 gns less and hence 50 to 100 fps slower, i.e. 235/2700, 270/2600 and 300/2400.

Much has been made of Holland & Holland’s old claim that all three of these loadings would shoot to the same point of impact. But that was only applicable, more or less, to double rifles and double rifle ranges. (For more details on this see the article Doubles, Loads and the .458 below.) But the .375 H&H is not immune to the laws of ballistics, any more than any other calibre.  The 235 gn bullets have a ballistic coefficient (BC) of around .250 to .315, 270 grain bullets range from .263 for a flat-based round nose to .429 for a spitzer boat tail, and 300 grainers have a BC ranging from .262 for the FMJ RN to .583 for the Sierra SpBT. From a single tube, loading the  bullets to within 100 fps of safe maximum and using a scope and a target at 200m, the trajectories prove to be rather different, as one would expect.

For open country, I sight my .375 H&H in at 200 m, using the Sierra 300 gn SpBT. At 100 m, that bullet is then about 2½” (65 mm) above line-of-sight. Hornady 300 gn RNs and Winchester Silver Tips are then on at about 150 m. For Bushveld hunting, I sight the Sierras at 100 m, and all other 300 gn bullets are so close, that it makes no difference. Even the 350 gn bullets print close enough out to 50 m, or so.

John Taylor, in his book Big Game and Big Game Rifles (the forerunner of his justly famous African Rifles and Cartridges) devoted a whole chapter to the .375 H&H, singing its praises. In that chapter, he gives an example of the “… amazing penetrative power” of the .375, describing how he once killed seven eland with one solid .375 bullet! He wrote that it killed six outright and broke the back of a seventh “...after which the bullet had passed through a tree about 5 inches in diameter and then gone on.” Gregor Woods, in discussing this episode once wrote that “…some little green gremlins got into the typewriter.” Gregor was right, of course. Unless the gremlins were green and purple chequered!

The ballistics of the .375 H&H have not changed in the century of its existence, and no-one else has ever driven a .375 H&H (or any other calibre) bullet through more than one animal of that size, broadside. Of course, any calibre which could do that would be thoroughly dangerous in the field, and Taylor wisely omitted that story, when he wrote African Rifles and Cartridges. John Taylor was a very experienced big game (mainly elephant and buffalo) hunter, and his books are chock-full of worthwhile information. But in my opinion old ‘Pondoro’ wasn’t above a little embroidery, when he wanted to make a point. This is the crassest, but by no means the only, example.

So what is the truth about the .375 H&H? Well, 100 years after its introduction it is still the most popular big game calibre around the World! And rightly so. It has all the power and penetration any modern hunter could need. It is accurate, easy to reload, and it can be used satisfactorily on all kinds of game. At a weight of around 4 to 4,5 kg it has tolerable recoil, and it can be carried easily. Yes, if you were to cull elephant or buffalo in dense cover, you would opt for a larger calibre, throwing a heavier bullet. But no ordinary mortal is in that position today.

Sure, the .378 Weatherby and other high-velocity .375 cartridges have more speed, i.e. more power and hence potentially more penetration than the H&H. But is that an advantage? The .375 H&H has all the penetration anyone can need or use safely. The .378 Wby has too much penetration and at moderate ranges, its solids usually pass through a buffalo broadside. This is a decided liability when hunting any herd animal, especially something as dangerous as buffalo. The same goes for all other .375s pushing a 300 gn bullet faster than about 2600 fps!

At close range, the .378 Wby solids have a history of riveting when striking heavy bone. Riveting increases the bullet’s diameter, and often such a bullet has less penetration than a solid from the .375 H&H. It also often deviates from its intended course. And incidentally, the .460 Wby has the same problem.

The bullets rivet, because the jackets haven’t the strength to withstand the high impact velocity. Making the steel jacket thicker than it already is, is not an option, as the bullet would have to be longer, unless it were made lighter. Being longer would entail three undesirable consequences. One, it would be more difficult to stabilize, needing a tighter rifling twist. This would not only result in more felt recoil, but at the high velocity of the Wby, it might also lead to stripping of the gilding metal outer jacket. Two, a longer bullet would have to be seated deeper in the case, reducing powder capacity. Or, three, the bullet could be seated to the same depth, making the cartridge even longer than it is already. This would entail a longer action and magazine box, lower manoeuvrability and greater cost.

Of course, there’s always Speer’s African Grand Slam Solid. This bullet is precision turned from a solid rod of gilding metal. A cylindrical hole is then machined from the rear, into which a solid dowel of tungsten carbide is press-fitted and heavily crimped in. The bullets are shorter than conventional steel-jacketed solids and considerably shorter than monolithics of equal weight. And no Fred, if you have to ask what they cost, you can’t afford them.

Wildcats and the .375 H&H
Americans have always been great ‘wildcatters’, and the three decades from the early ‘30s to the ‘60s probably saw the peak of this activity. There were two reasons for this. The first was that early smokeless calibres were often black powder cartridges, which were now loaded with nitro powder. Or, if new, they were designed following black powder practise. This meant that they had steeply tapering case walls, needed with black powder to assist extraction. Black powder quickly fouls chambers, and straight cases would simply stick and resist extraction. People were so used to tapering cartridge cases, that this configuration was simply carried over into the smokeless era. The 250-3000 Savage and its offspring, the 22-250 are holdovers from that design philosophy. But a tapered case holds less powder than a straight, parallel-sided one. Hence the wildcatting.

Many of these wildcats were simply ‘improved’ cases. That is, the sides were straightened up and they were given steeper shoulders. All other dimensions remained the same as for the parent case, and the original cartridge could still be fired in the ‘improved’ chamber. This not only allowed more powder to be used, giving higher velocity, but the steeper shoulder also gave more positive head-spacing . In addition, the combination of the steep shoulder and a straight case with minimum body taper reduces the forward flow of brass into the neck during resizing. A straight case also puts less of a load on the lock mechanism during firing, than does a tapered one.

The second reason for all that wildcatting activity was the fact that more and more slow-burning powders became available then, which meant that more and more powder could be burnt behind a given bullet. This led to the development of full wildcat cartridges, where the case dimensions were not similar to earlier cartridges of the same calibre. The usual route followed was to take a suitable, existing case and neck it down to a smaller calibre. The .270 Winchester is an example of this, as it is simply a necked-down 30/06. Though the .270 Win was a factory development, there were – and still are – a number of wildcats in that calibre.

If you are interested in wildcats, try to get Parker O. Ackley’s books on the subject11. Ackley was a first-rate barrel maker and custom rifle smith and the doyen of wildcatters. He produced countless wildcats, working with practically every calibre. His workshop and ballistic laboratory were equal to and, in some cases I believe, better equipped than those of some rifle manufacturers. He was also an instructor at Trinidad State Junior College. My smallest rifle is a .17 Ackley Hornet, a K-Hornet (itself an improved Hornet) necked down to .172” (4,37 mm). It was built on a small Martini action by Australian gunsmith Bill Marden, the man who used to make the Simplex reloading equipment. This little cartridge spits the 25 gn .17 bullet from a 24” (61 cm) barrel at 3250 fps, while staying below 41.000 cup. According to Mr. Ackley, it can be loaded to 3570 fps, when used in a bolt action rifle.

Of course, the wildcatting fraternity has had a lot of fun with the .375 H&H. P.O. Ackley’s Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders, Vol. 1 , lists no less than five .375 wildcats, all of which have had a measure of success, and some of them are still with us. These are the .375 Barnes Supreme (350 gn bullet at 2650 fps), .375 Durham Mag (300/2580), .375 ICL Kodiak (300/2720), .375 Mag Improved (Ackley) (300/2740 and 350/2650) and the .375 Mashburn Mag (long) (300/2770). The most successful were the Mashburn and the Ackley, and the latter is still frequently built by custom gunsmiths.

All of the above are true ‘improved’ cartridges. I.e., they use the .375 H&H parent cartridge and simply straighten up the case walls to get more powder capacity, as well as giving the cartridge a steeper shoulder, to improve reloading performance. Cases are made by simply firing factory .375 H&H ammunition in the improved chamber.

Fast Factory Cartridges in .375 Calibre
Then there was (and is again) Roy Weatherby’s .375 Weatherby Magnum (300/2700), introduced in 1945. Like all the above, this was simply an improved .375 H&H, the only difference being the Wby’s rounded shoulders. These rounded shoulders were, and still are, a sales gimmick. Old Roy called them ‘venturified’ (ugh!) saying with a straight face that they improved gas flow and hence performance and accuracy. Of course, every bottlenecked case is a venturi, and the only thing those rounded shoulders achieve is to allow more powder to be pushed out of the case during ignition and burn in the bore. This is detrimental to accuracy and also to barrel life. The .375 Wby’s only advantage  over the wildcats was/is that factory rifles, ammunition and empty cases were/are available from Weatherby, and these days A-Square, too, sells loaded ammo and components.

In 1953, Weatherby introduced his .378 Wby (300/2930). It is a true .375 calibre, and the .378 designation is merely there to make it look ‘bigger and better’ than other .375s. Old Roy was a shrewd salesman! The case is a necked down .460 Wby, a huge can of  Weatherby’s own design, which is not based on any standard calibre. The .375 Wby was phased out after the .378’s introduction, but A-Square resurrected it in 1986 and Weatherby resumed building rifles for it more recently.

Other, newer high-velocity .375 calibres, such as the .375 Dakota (300/2600), .375 Remington Ultra Mag (300/2760) and .375 A-Square (300/2920) are virtually unknown here in Africa, and I have no reports on them. But all the super fast .375s will have the same over-penetration, and most likely the riveting problem, also. Unless, of course, monolithics are used.

Recoil from HV .375 calibres
And finally, there is the recoil! I once fired two shots standing, free-hand at a target from a .378 Wby – a long time ago in Tanganyika. It was an experience I decided there and then that I would not repeat! The damned thing kicked like an Abyssinian mule! The rifle’s owner had such a massive flinch, that he couldn’t hit a little condensed milk tin at 20 meters, from a prone rest! Pity his poor PH!

If you can handle a .378 Wby (or any of the other .375 HV cannons) accurately and safely, bearing in mind the riveting and consequent deflection, and if you enjoy being socked in the shoulder by a fiercer punch than Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis could have administered together, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t use one. But no, there is such a thing as too much power!

Muzzle Brakes
A muzzle brake is a device used to reduce the amount of recoil generated by firing a projectile down a barrel, as well as limiting the muzzle rise. They have been used on cannon and machine guns for a long time, but are now also fairly common on heavy calibre rifles and on competition pistols. In the latter case they are usually called compensators. In its simplest form the brake comprises a series of ports drilled into the top half of the barrel (from 9 o'clock via 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock) over the foremost 40 or 50 mm. These ports are angled rearward. When a bullet passes these ports some of the gasses driving the bullet forward are bled out via the ports. In the process they impart a forward and downward thrust to the barrel, thus reducing recoil and muzzle rise.

A more sophisticated version is a separate piece of barrel with an outside diameter two or three times that of the rifle barrel, into which baffles have been machined. These baffles offer a larger area for the gasses to work on than do mere barrel ports and are, therefore, more effective. The device is threaded and screwed onto the barrel like a silencer.

A well designed muzzle brake does reduce both recoil and muzzle rise significantly. However, there is no free lunch. A portion of the supersonic powder gas driving the bullet, which is normally belched out forward from the muzzle, away from the shooter, is now directed rearwards. The blast experienced by the shooter is increased significantly, even though the ports are angled in a way to direct said gasses past the shooter. But the greatest sufferers are bystanders. They get the full benefit of the rearward blast and may, in fact, suffer hearing damage. Nor is this all: the escaping gasses carry with them a lot of burnt powder residue – a hard, gritty ash – which is blasted into a bystanders face at supersonic speed!

I knew a PH, who allowed his client to rest his muzzle-braked 9,3x62 on his shoulder. The PH, who was not wearing glasses, got the full benefit of the blast from about half a meter away. He was blinded instantly and spent the next six or eight months in and out of hospital, while bits of powder ash were dug out of his eyeballs. Fortunately, none of the particles penetrated to the depth of the Ciliary muscles and the lens. He was extremely lucky not to have lost his eyesight altogether!

It amazes me that in the safety conscious, consumer-protection-litigation-prone environment of the US, these devices have not been outlawed long ago! A muzzle brake on a rifle is definitely a hazardous, antisocial device, and I will not hunt with anyone who uses one. They are the result of the mania for more and more velocity and power, without any consideration of what is enough power and what the shooter can handle.

Remember that a hundred-odd years ago, a lot of elephant, rhino and buffalo were shot with .303s, 7 mm and 6,5 mm rifles, using relatively heavy, long, nickel-jacketed round nose bullets, which, sadly, are no longer available today. And Karamojo Bell was not the only small-bore merchant.12 Stigand and Lyell used the same small calibres, and there were a lot of others, who did likewise, but never wrote about their exploits. And in the final analysis, 175 grains of 7 mm in the brain is just as effective as 900 grains of .600 NE.

The .375 H&H in the field
Once I got my Tanganyika licence for the .375, I used it to good effect. Whenever I got the chance, that is. The list of animals on the general hunting licence was a yard long. Unfortunately, the areas of the Songea District, which I worked in, held little game. And, of course, I was there to work. I wasn’t there to hunt.

With the rifle, I shot mostly waterbuck, which were common in the areas I worked in, also duiker, shamba-raiding baboons (yes, baboons, not elephants) and one crow, which was always stealing spoons and such from our kitchen.

Left: Although it is true that waterbuck cows and calves frequent the riverine thickets....

Right: ....bulls can be found anywhere, often miles from water.

I also shot one baboon out of a troupe which used to invade the mess in one of our base camps, when we were absent. "Pour encourager les autres." They not only left their calling cards on the mess table (no pun intended) and any other surface they could get onto, but also destroyed any objects they could get their hands on. Worst of all, they opened the fridges and bit or broke open anything they found in there. They even got the caps off one or two beer bottles. Naturally, they never closed the doors after they were finished, so that anything they left in there spoilt, and there was no cold beer for two days after such a raid. That's how long a paraffine-driven fridge takes to get back down to operating temperature.

Shooting that baboon taught me another painful lesson. I fired the shot from the mess, poking the rifle out of a 'window', resting the forend on the pole, which formed the bottom of the window frame. The muzzle had fresh air in front of it, but the tarpaulin of the roof overhung the rifle muzzle by perhaps two feet - say half a meter - and was about six feet above ground. At the shot, the blast deafened me, and then I heard bells ringing for hours, and not much else. It took two or three days before my ears were back to normal. I knew, of course, not to fire a rifle when the muzzle was inside a room, or a car cab. But the effect of that tarpaulin overhang came as a complete surprise!

Most shots were taken at 40 to 50 m, in light bush or gallery forest, none were over 100 m, and the combination of shallow ‘V’ rear sight and platinum covered front bead worked very well. The rear sight is a small bar, which bears a ‘V’ for close work on its front edge and can be ‘toggled’ to raise a second ‘V’ at its rear. The front ‘V’ puts the bullet ‘on’ at about 75 m. The rear ‘V’ puts it on at about 150 m, though I never had to use it. The rifle is very accurate, and I still have a 100 m target, shot more than 30 years ago from an improvised rest, with open sights, using factory 300 gn Winchester Silver Tips. Two of the three bullet holes are level and just touching, with the third just above them. Well, I had better eyesight and steadier hands, then.

Eagle-eyed readers may ask why that 'Register of Game Killed' is blank. The answer is simple: no 'local' ever filled it in before he had to. Ordinarily, this was at the end of its 12-month validity period, when it had to be handed in, before a new license was issued. I left Tanganyika before the license expired, so never filled it in.

The Game Ordinance, which determined what animals could be shot on the General and Supplementary Game Licenses, was designed by politicians, with as little input from the Game Department as they could get away with. The General Game license was generous, not to mention the Supplementary Licenses. However, this suited mostly visiting sportsmen. Unless one could go on safari to three or four different parts of Tanganyika, one would never see most of the animals on that license.

A local, hunting to feed himself and his work force, had to rely on whatever game was available in his area. If he lived around the edges of the Serengeti, there were tens of thousands of Wildebeeste and Zebra, probably hundreds of thousands of Thomson's gazelles and Grant's. But his General License restricted him to two Wildebeeste plus two on the Supplementary License, three Zebra on General, one on Supplementary, three Thommies on General, two on Supplementary and Grants were two and one. Though nobody shot Grants for food, as they were almost all 'measly', i.e. full of tapeworm cycts!

That said, however, few locals ever took out supplementary licenses. The General Game License cost £ 5 and allowed the hunting of 57 animals, 10 of which were hares and about a dozen more were small antelope, such as Dikdik, Duiker and Oribi, but the rest were animals from Thommie-size on up. However, to pay an extra £ 1 and 10 shillings (30 shillings) for an additional Wildebeest or Zebra for staff rations was not really on. Cheaper to feed them on dagaa! If a fellow shot all the Wildebeeste, Zebra and Thommies on his General License, he might feed his labour for a month or so (it would not have fed our workforce for a week!) and then have to revert to dagaa. But at the same time, he would never shoot the other animals on his license, which made up 70 or 80% of it!

The Game Department people realised this and were very decent about it. Provided a fellow did not shoot rare game and stayed within reason with the common stuff, they turned a blind eye, if they could.

I used only 300 gn bullets, mostly Kynoch ammunition, both SPs and FMJs. I also had some Winchester Silver Tips, which I had brought with me from South Africa, and it was fortunate that I did: purchase of ammunition was restricted by law to 50 rounds per rifle, per year, if I remember correctly. There were more animals than that on the General Game License!13 People, who had only one rifle, were forever trying to scrounge ammunition from others, who were more fortunate. The Kynoch ammunition was loaded with Cordite and corrosive primers! I learnt then about having to clean a rifle barrel with hot water, after using such ammo! The Winchester ammunition was non-corrosive, by then.

Although I was interested in what happened to the bullets, we didn’t have a lot of time to dig for them. That is, if they didn’t go straight through and were lost, anyhow. Game was shot when encountered on our foot safaris. We took the meat which we could use and carry and went on our way.14 However, I never had to shoot anything twice! So, obviously, the bullets did their job. On small animals even the soft points went straight through, of course, causing surprisingly little meat damage. Being designed for larger game, they didn’t mushroom much, if at all. I used FMJs only when I carried one up the spout in elephant country, and a fast shot at some game animal was required, leaving me no time to change cartridges. They went straight through, in one case the full length of a young (about ¾ - grown) waterbuck bull.

In short, the .375 H&H and the available ammunition (with the sole exception of that 235 gn pill, which I never used on game) was boringly reliable, and I took its flawless performance for granted, then. Today I know that there are other cartridges in that class, which give far from perfect results. In retrospect, I am grateful that I had the .375 H&H, and not some other calibre which might have given me trouble.15

Other Artillery
The locals usually had at least two rifles, so they were entitled to 100 rounds of ammo per year. Most had a light rifle for plains game. There were still many rifles in the ‘old’ British calibres about, especially the .318 Westley Richards. The 30/06 was popular, as was the 8x60S, and many people had 6,5 Mannlichers. For big game, the .375 H&H was the most common, the .404 was probably second. I am talking here of ordinary mortals, not professional hunters. I remember only one man who had a .470 double (a member of the Department of Forestry or Fisheries – I disremember). And I visited a PH in his camp in the Rungwa area once (where I got to fire that .378 Wby) who had a double. But he didn’t show it around – the client with the Weatherby held centre stage –  and I don’t remember what calibre that double was.

Double vs Magazine
There were the usual pub arguments about calibres and about double vs magazine rifle, of course, and sometimes they got rather heated. I remember one evening in the pub of the Songea Club, when the owner of the .470 double mentioned above had such a disagreement with another rifle-toting gent. (We never left our rifles in our vehicles, but brought them into the pub and stacked them in a corner!) Eventually a challenge was issued: the owner of the magazine rifle (I think he had a .404) proposed a contest, saying that he could fire four aimed shots at a target faster than the double owner could.

We all trooped outside, where there was a railing fence running alongside the pub. The man with the double shoved two brass cigars into the chambers of his rifle and held two spares between the fingers of his left hand. The repeater was loaded with three rounds in the magazine, one up the spout. A set of four empty bottles was put up on the rail fence for each contestant, someone gave a signal and they both started blasting.

Left: Double rifle in cal .458 Winchester Magnum, built in 1975 by Johann Fanzoj of Ferlach, Austria.

The first two shots from the double came in very quick succession, and I noticed that the man grasped the barrels firmly, just ahead of the slender (‘splinter-style’) fore-end. That way, he managed to limit the muzzle rise on recoil. After shot No. 2, the barrels were broken open at the top of the rise, and the two empties fell out. The left hand was slid back along the barrels, while they returned to point slightly downwards, with the two cartridges actually riding on top of the barrels. As they cleared the chambers, their noses automatically dropped in and they were pushed home, the barrels snapped shut, and another two shots were fired very quickly.

When the man with the double shattered his fourth bottle, the magazine owner had just lined up for his third shot, which actually came on the heels of the double’s fourth! The wager must have been suitably large, to justify such a colossal waste of scarce, expensive ammunition!

Of course, the double man’s ability was exceptional, but I have heard and read of others, who could do the same. However, such prowess can only be achieved by constant practise, at a great cost in ammunition (and remember the 50-round-per-year limit) and is only required for culling operations. Those double vs magazine arguments are futile, anyway, as each type of weapon has advantages under certain circumstances.

Most ordinary people couldn’t afford doubles, anyhow. While I worked in Tanganyika, Tanganyika Hunters Co. imported a batch of off-the-shelf, standard-grade .470 doubles from Westley Richards. They cost £ 250 each, if I recall correctly. I was earning £ 50 per month, of which I managed to save perhaps £ 20. So while that double was tantalisingly close, it was just out of reach!

Reloading the .375 H&H
In 1970 I took up reloading, and had no trouble with the .375 H&H. It digests a great number of different powders with equanimity, but I got my best results with IMR 4350, using 300 gn Hornady (SP and FMJ) and Winchester (Silver Tip) bullets. With the Sierra 300 gn SpBT, Olin’s 760 BR worked best. With IMR 4350 the Vihtavuori No. 68 LR Mag primer gave the best results, producing the least shot-to-shot variation in velocity. With Olin 760 BR, as with all their ball rifle powders, the Winchester 120 primer was best. This primer is now called WLR. Winchester didn’t make a magnum primer then, but they do, now. It is called WLRM, and I have never been able to get any.

Right: .375 Bullets, L to R, Sako 270 SP, Norma 300 SP, WW 300 ST, Hdy 300 RNSP, Hdy 300 FMJ, Sra 300 SpBT, Claw 350 RN, Barnes 300 X.

I have had good results with the Hornady and Sierra bullets in the .375 H&H. The Winchester Silver Tip also gave good results, but tended to open up a bit more, and lose a little more weight.

The Claw bullet is a lead-cored copper-tubed bullet, swaged closed at both ends, leaving only a tiny spot of lead exposed at the nose. Unless it hits bone, it acts like an FMJ.

I do not like the Barnes X at all: it either whistles straight through, like an FMJ or, if it opens up, it usually sheds one of its petals and changes course in the process. When it does open up, meat damage is about the same as that caused by soft point bullets.

The 270 gn Sako bullet is just a specimen, someone gave me, and I have never used any. And while I did work up some experimental loads for the Hornady 270 SP (not shown), I never used them for hunting.

That nickel jacketed Norma bullet I used in factory loads in 1968 and '69, before I started reloading. Those cartridges gave  an incredible number of misfires and hangfires. When they did go off, they produced sub-standard and very erratic velocities, and I couldn't use them for hunting! Rosenthal's of  Windhoek used to replace misfires for us, which was very decent of them! However, those Normas were totally unreliable, and we avoided them, if possible.

Another packet of those same Normas, which I bought in Australia in 1970 (nothing else was available then), before I started to reload, had the same problem! I later disassembled the remaining rounds from that packet of "Australian" Normas, replaced the primers and reassembled the cartridges. They then all worked OK, but I never used them for hunting.

Load Data

Factory Loads
Kynoch (from 28” barrel) ICI Catalogue, 1953 (?), p 111.

Case Projectile Weight gns Powder Weight gns Primer LOA" Velocity fps Remarks
FL Kynoch BP 235 Cordite 62 Kynoch NA 2800 Fragile Bullet
FL Kynoch SP 270 Cordite 61 Kynoch NA 2650
FL Kynoch RN 300 Cordite 58 Kynoch NA 2500 SP or FMJ Bullet




Winchester Western
(chronographed from my Mod. 70 – 25” barrel)

Case Projectile Weigt gns Powder Weight gns Primer LOA" Velocity fps Remarks
WW WW ST 300 Olin ?? 67.5 WW120 3.54 2498
WW WW FMJ 300 Olin ?? 67.5 WW120 3.59 2467

Somchem Recommended Loads Somchem Reloading Manual, 2004, p 47 (24” barrel)

Case Projectile Weight gns Powder Weight gns Primer LOA" Velocity fps Remarks
PMP PMP RNSP 300 S335 61.3 PMP NA 2282 (Min)
PMP PMP RNSP 300 S335 68.0 PMP NA 2515 (Max)
PMP PMP RNSP 300 S341 66.0 PMP NA 2375 (Min)
PMP PMP RNSP 300 S341 70.0 PMP NA 2526 (Max)

Reloads (chronographed from my Mod. 70 – 25” barrel)

Case Projectile Weight gns Powder Weight gns Primer LOA" Velocity fps Remarks
WW Hdy RNSP 300 IMR4350 76.5 VM 3.545 2496
WW Hdy RNSP 300 S341/80 73.0 CCI250 3.545 2481
WW WW ST 300 O760 75.5 VM 3.583 2474
WW Sra SpBT 300 IMR4350 76.0 VM 3.62 2446
WW Sra SpBT 300 O760 76.0 WW120 3.62 2460
WW Claw 'RN' 350 MR405/66 73.0 WW120 3.543 2225

S341/80 was slower-burning than current S341. Max load was 77.5 grains.


Above reloads worked well in the author's rifle. Hoever, when attempting to duplicate these loads, start by reducing them by 10%. Except the load using the 350gn Claw bullet, which is a minimum load. Results obtained from using the above information are strictly the users own responsibility.


So which .375 calibre should you get for your African safari? Well, by now I am sure you won’t be surprised when I say the .375 H&H. It has all the power any safari client will ever need. In fact, I load mine down to about 2350  fps (300 gn bullet, I don’t normally use any other weight16) for Bushveld conditions, where shots are generally inside 50 m, to avoid over-penetration and excessive meat damage. I have been experimenting with Claw 350 gn pills lately, but as of this writing I have loaded them to only 2225 fps.

While considering your options, remember that quite a few professional ivory hunters used nothing but the .375 H&H! Harry Manners was probably the best known of these. Once he discovered the .375 H&H early in his career, he used nothing else: Harry used the standard grade Winchester model 70. He wore out two of them during his hunting life and finished up with a third.17 His pal and early hunting partner, Wally Johnson, also relied on the .375 much of his time.18 And there were many others. John Taylor, who experimented with different calibres more than any other ivory hunter I know of, and who really preferred heavier calibres from .400 on up, owned no less than five .375 H&Hs during his hunting life: three doubles and two magazines. Taylor wrote that he fired upwards of 5000 rounds of .375 H&H ammunition at game (mostly buffalo and elephant) from these rifles.19 Need any more recommendation?

Get yourself a nicely balanced, not too heavy .375 H&H. Have a competent gunsmith mount a quality scope in quality, detachable mounts (you don’t want the scope in close cover), and you will have a rifle you can carry all day and that can handle anything you will come up against. In spite of the reasonable weight it will not belt you out from under your hat, so you will not be afraid to practise with it, and you will start your safari with confidence in your rifle and your ability to shoot it accurately. Let your PH lug a Big Bertha and get belted!

Long live Holland & Holland’s masterpiece!


BP Bronze Point Ky Kynoch RNSP RN Soft Point
BR Ball Rifle (powder) LOA Length Over All S Somchem
CCI Cascade Cartridge Inc. LR Large Rifle SP Soft Point
cm Centimetre mm Millimetre SpBT Spitzer Boat Tail
cup Copper Units of Pressure MR Musgrave Rifle (powder)
Sra Sierra
FL Factory Load NA Not Available ST Silver Tip
FMJ Full Metal Jacket NE Nitro Express VM
Vihtavuori Magnum
ftlbs Foot-Pounds O Olin Wby Weatherby
fps Feet Per Second PH Professional Hunter WLR Winchester Large Rifle
Gn(s), gn(s) Grain(s) PMP Pretoria Metal Pressings WLRM Winchester LR Magnum
HV High Velocity Pwdr Powder WR
Westley Richards
ICI Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. Proj Projectile Win
IMR Improved Military Rifle (powder) Rem Remington
Wt Weight
Hdy Hornady RN Round Nose WW
Winchester Western

CAVEAT: Loads shown in this article were safe in the author's rifle. As internal dimensions of barrels (head-space, chamber size, free-bore and land/groove measurements) can vary between individual rifles, and since neither Game & Gun nor the author have control over readers' reloading practices, any results you may obtain from using the data in this article are strictly for your own account. So reduce the loads shown here by at least 10% and work up in small increments.

Now Tanzania. Incidentally, Tanga Nyika means 'Mixed-up Country', probably referring to the fact that its population consits of a dozen or more different Black tribes, several White tribes - mainly Germans, English and Greek, with a sprinkling of Belgians (ex Congo) and Portugese, plus Arabs and two kinds of Idians: Hindu and Muslim. Tanzania is a contraction of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, and has no meaning.

2 It was also often called jerry jack, or Tanganyika jack. It was introduced by the Germans, hence the name, and was standard issue in Tanganyika. It was a huge, cumbersome affair, but very strong, and capable of lifting a truck some two feet (60 cm). It worked on the rack-and-pinion principle. The rack was set in a large slab of hardwood, about the size of a railway sleeper, bound around its  edges by strips of angle iron. In later years, the wood 'sleeper' was replaced by a steel girder frame, which made it lighter and easier to use and stow in the truck.

3 Strictly speaking this is the Silver Cyprinid, a small freshwater ‘sardine’ (Rastrineobola argentea), max length about 8 cm, from Lake Tanganyika. There are two others: the Lake Tanganyika Sardine  (Limnothrissa miodon), max length about 17 cm, but usually much smaller, and the Lake Tanganyika Sprat (Stolothrissa tanganicae), max length about 10 cm. They occur in all the East African freshwater lakes and are netted at night, with the help of a light (which attracts them) when they rise from deep water to feed near the surface. They are then salted, (2,5 kg of salt to 30 kg of fish) sun dried and offered in the marketplace as dagaa. All three species were introduced into Lake Kariba by the Zambian Department of Fisheries in 1966. They are known collectively as ‘kapenta’ around Lake Kariba. By the early 1980s the Kariba catch exceeded 10.000 tons per year. In its heyday, catches were around 50.000 tons per year, on a sustainable basis, but illegal over-fishing and fishing in the protected breeding zones has led to a near collapse of the industry. Over the years, the fish have migrated downstream to Cahora Bassa, where, by 2003, the catch exceeded 10.000 tons p.a.

4 The notorious maneaters of the Njombe district were cleaned out by George Rushby in the 1950s. See The Hunter is Death, by T.V. Bulpin, reprint by Safari Press, Long Beach, CA, USA, 1987. ISBN 0 940143 08 9. An excellent read!

5 Now Lake Malawi.

6 Kai-Uwe von Hassel, then Head of the German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein. Von Hassel's family had lived in the then German East Afrika for two generations and he had himself been born there a year before the outbreak of WWI.

7 The close-up photos of the two rifles and the scope were taken with a Sigma 28-70mm f2.8 EX DG lens. The cartridges and bullets were photographed with a Sigma 180mm f3.5 EX DG HSM APO Macro lens. The picture of the two waterbuck ladies was taken with the D300s, a Sigma 100-300 f4 and a Sigma 1.4x Telextender. The waterbuck bull and the hunting licenses were scanned from Agfa CT18 (50 ASA) colour transparencies.

8 Mwadui is situated some 80 miles (130 km) SSE of Mwanza, the port town on Lake Victoria.

9 Head separation on first firing occurs when head-space is around 15 thou (0,38 mm) or greater, subject to case thickness and brass consistency.

10 This was a jacketed bullet with a lead core, capped with a round nose of a tough copper alloy. The bottom edge of this cap overlapped the top of the jacket by two or three mm, and was then crimped into a cannelure in the jacket. There was air space under that nose, and the front of the lead core was dished slightly. It prevented the bullet from expanding too rapidly and prevented break-up. John Taylor spoke highly of it in African Rifles and Cartridges (1948) and lamented the fact that Westley Richards had patented it, so that it was only available for Westley Richards calibres. However, in the 1950s, Kynoch not only loaded this type of bullet in the .375 H&H, but also in all the various .450 NEs, the .476 NE WR, both .500 NEs and both .577 NEs.

11 Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders, Vols 1 & 2 and Pocket Manual for Shooters and Reloaders.

12 While Bell certainly preferred using his 7mm, .303s and .256 (the 6,5x54 Mannlicher Schoenauer) and wrote mainly about using those, he had a lot of larger calibres: at least one .318 WR, a .416 Rigby, one or two .577/.450 Matini Henrys and the occasional double, up to .450/.400 NE. He is reported to have bought ammunition for his .416 from Rigby by the case lot!

13 The General Game License had 57 animals, and another 78 were available for additional fees on the Supplementary License.

14 The regulation load for a porter was 60 lbs – about 27 kg. But it never ceased to amaze me how much extra weight a porter could carry, when that extra weight happened to be meat! In other words, we wasted very little meat, though skin and horns were left behind, due partly to the weight, but also because we couldn’t carry loads of salt for treating skins, and an untreated skin would have spoilt in a day. Anyhow, I never shot anything with trophy horns, so had no regrets.

15 Old Manny Laxton, still in in his shop on Johannesburg's Market Square in 1959, tried very hard to sell me a .375 Weatherby, extolling its extra velocity, and the fact that it could still be used with standard .375 H&H ammunition. But apart from the fact that it was considerably more expensive than the straight-forward Winchester .375 H&H, I also distrusted that Weatherby bolt. At the time, that was mostly instinct - I didn't have the knowledge then, that I have now. Today, of course, I know of the shortcomings of recessed bolt faces, interrupted-thread type locking lugs, little spring-loaded plunger ejectors and tiny rats-tooth extractor hooks. I also know that those early Mark V Weatherby rifles were/are notorious for accidental discharges, even with the safety on! This was due to a fault in Weatherby's design. When manufacture of the Weatherby rifles was moved to J.P. Sauer of Suhl in Germany (it is now back in the US, at least for the rifles) the design was improved by moving the safety from the receiver to the bolt - where it should have been in the first place. To this day I thank my lucky stars, that I didn't go for that rifle!

16 There is no advantage to using the 270 gn bullet. The difference in trajectory is not large, but you’d still have to re-sight your rifle for it. Stick to the 300 gn bullet. It is the most effective and, unlike the 270 gn bullet, it can be had in various soft point configurations, as well as FMJ. And learn its trajectory over normal hunting ranges. Avoid a multiplicity of different bullet weights and loads. This goes for any calibre, not just the .375. And anyhow, your PH will not allow you to use live animals for long range target practise. You only have to move the muzzle of your rifle about a millimeter when firing, and your bullet will arrive at 400 m 30 cm away from your point of aim! That's a foot!

17 See Kambaku, by Harry Manners, Ernest Stanton Publishers, Johannesburg, 1980. ISBN 0 949997 420.

18 See Last of the Ivory Hunters, The Saga of Wally Johnson, by Peter H. Capstick, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1988. ISBN 0 312 00048 0.

19 See reprint of African Rifles and Cartridges, by John Taylor, The Gun Room Press, Highland Park, N.J., USA, 1977. ISBN 0 88227 013 3.

Most pictures in our articles can be enlarged by clicking on the picture.
Images are © Copyright Game and Gun (G Grohmann and H Grohmann).
Images and text may not be used in any format without the written consent of Game and Gun.
Click here to send us an email with your request and receive our licensing/royalty terms.
Site Terms and Conditions here.


Only registered and logged in users can read and post comments on articles.