Simply mention Africa - whilst sitting among those who hold hunting as a passion and devotion - and images of wild, uninhabited places, filled with the largest mammals on dry land, images of thirst and danger, images of a place where a rifle is relied upon to both procure meat and for personal protection, will all flood the mind’s eye. There are those who came before, those who were equal parts adventurer, explorer and hunter, who remain iconic figures in the hunting literature we love so much; these men were fortunate enough to live in a period of time that allowed a man to wander across the width and breadth of the continent, and so long as he were brave and cunning enough to survive among the native peoples, he could carve a fortune out of the bounty of Africa. For better or for worse, those times are gone.
However, a good lesson has come out of that era, a lesson of conservation, and the securing of wild places to allow those very game animals we love to hunt so much, and it is – in some instances, ironically – the hunter who preserves the wildlife, through financial means and the willingness to take action against the unchecked poaching that occurs during human/animal conflict. African hunting has a different face in the 21st century, but it has a face, and many of my own generation have answered the call to come to see it.
Today’s Africa is different; the days of safaris that went on for months are gone, having been replaced with shorter trips. Modern air travel can have a hunter firmly rooted in safari camp less than 24 hours after leaving one of the major airports of the United States, and the fast paced lifestyle has also carried over into our choice of rifles and cartridges. Recent technology has given us firearms with synthetic stocks and CNC metal work, made to be almost impervious to effects of the climate, yet our choice of calibers pays homage to the era of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. The cartridge designs were sound a century ago, and have become even more so with the benefits of modern propellants and projectiles.
Undoubtedly, over the last hundred years, one cartridge has proved to be the single-most relied upon for visiting sportsmen and women, as the fabled ‘all-around’ choice for all African game: the .375 Holland & Holland Belted Magnum. Yes, there are a plethora of choices out there – I have strong feelings for both the .404 Jeffery and .416 Remington Magnum – but the debate that has raged on at so many African campfires has pretty much been settled. When in doubt, use a .375 H&H; it gets the job done, from duiker to elephant. It has been challenged; the .375 Ruger, the .375 Weatherby and .378 Weatherby have all tried to challenge the champ, but all have bent the knee in respect to the H&H. It is, in the opinion of this author, the single most useful cartridge ever invented.
It has an effective bullet range of 235 grains, all the way up to the heavy-for-caliber 350-grain slugs, like the Woodleigh Weldcore and Full Metal Jackets which Norma loads in its African PH line. While those heavy bullets make an excellent choice for hippo, Cape buffalo and elephant, and the lighter bullets will easily turn your .375 H&H into a decent long-range hunting rig, it has been the 300-grain bullets that have offered the best balance of trajectory and striking power. I’ve personally used them to take game as small as steenbok, and as large as an eland bull pushing one ton.
There are many types of 300-grain bullets available in the .375” diameter, some of the traditional copper jacket/lead core design, other of homogenous metal construction, and yet others which have improved the cup-and-core theory. By chemically bonding the lead and copper together to strengthen the bullet and prevent the premature breakup common to cup-and-core bullets, a bonded core bullet will still give great expansion, yet penetrate deep into a truly big animal, to effectively destroy vital tissue, even if the tough shoulder bones are struck.
In what I consider to be the most underrated bullet on the market, Norma’s 300-grain Oryx load in .375 H&H ranks among the top choices for an all-around choice for any safari, save for the elephant. This load offers a bullet stout enough to cleanly take a Cape buffalo bull, or to brain a hippo, yet will reach out and touch a kudu or sable at 300 yards. It is surprisingly easy on the shoulder; while the .375 H&H with 300-grain bullets – with a muzzle velocity of 2,550 fps – represents a significant increase in recoil over the .308 Winchester and .30-’06 Springfield, almost any shooter can learn to shoot it effectively with a bit of practice. The .375 H&H has considerably less recoil than say the .416 Rigby or .458 Winchester Magnum, yet has taken innumerable elephants and buffalo. It is, in all probability, the ideal cartridge for lion hunting, and the Oryx – with a perfect balance of expansion and penetration – may be the consummate lion bullet, as well as taking leopard cleanly.
The Oryx bullet has served me well in a number of cartridges, including the 6.5-284 Norma, .300 Winchester Magnum, and the .375 H&H Magnum. It will retain upwards of 90% of its original weight, with expansion exceeding 2.5x the original diameter, as only the rear portion of the Oryx is bonded. As the .375” bore diameter is the legal minimum for dangerous game in many African countries, bringing one rifle – chambered in .375 H&H Magnum – makes an awful lot of sense. If your safari is a combination of dangerous game and larger plains game – the Cape buffalo/plains game safari is extremely popular today – the Norma 300-grain Oryx load will cover all the bases. If you feel you might want more for the buffalo, pairing the Oryx load with the Norma 350-grain Woodleigh combo will give all sorts of flexibility, allowing a hunter to make the most of his or her rifle. Offering 4,000 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy, and a trajectory nearly matching that of a .30-’06 with 180-grain bullets, the .375 H&H 300-grain Oryx load is really the do-all African combination we’ve all been looking for.