The roots of the .375 can probably be traced to the 9.5mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer. In 1910, the 9.5mm was known in Great Britain as the .375 Nitro-Express Rimless. The 9.5mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer caused concern with the British gunmakers because of the 9.5mm's popularity in the African market which the British gunmakers viewed as their own. About1910, the prestigious British firm of Holland & Holland introduced what was probably the first belt-magnum - the .400/.375 which was also known as the .375 Velopex. The .375 Velopex was a short-case magnum which would fit into a standard Mauser Model 98 action, but its downfall was the fact that it fired a 270-grain bullet at 2,175 feet per second. In other words, it was simply not powerful enough. Holland & Holland followed up on the .375 Velopex and in 1912 introduced the .375 Belted Rimless Nitro-Express, or as it is known the world over, the .375 H&H Magnum.
The .375 H&H magnum was the second cartridge ever to feature a belt. The belt was designed to allow the cartridge to headspace on the belt as opposed to the shoulder. This allowed smooth feeding from box magazine of a bolt-action rifle, but keep the positive head spacing of a rimmed cartridge. It is because of the .375 H&H's belt that most magnum cartridges today feature belts (i.e., the 7mm Remington Magnum) even though a belt is really not necessary due to improvemens in the technology of smokeless powder and brass cases.
The cartridge was initially loaded with three weights of bullets: a 235-grain bullet at 2,800-2,900 fps for light game; a 270-grain bullet at 2,650-2,700 fps for medium game; and a 300-grain bullet at 2,500-2,530 fps for large and dangerous game. Today, bullet weights available to the handloader range from the 200-grain Sierra Flat-Point (originally designed for the .375 Winchester) to the 300-grain Nosler Partitions and Hornady RN-FMJ that have made this rifle famous. In between weights include the 235-grain Speer Soft-Point, the 270-grain Nosler Partition, and the 285-grain Speer Grand Slam to name a few. There are also several 350-grain bullets now being offered for the .375 H&H Magnum. The rifles in this caliber also have a reputation of being able to put any bullet regardless of weight into the same spot on a target; however, this reputation is in reality a myth though some individual rifles will still shoot surprising tight groups when using varying bullet weights.
Unlike most British cartridges of the time, Holland & Holland choose not to keep the .375 H&H Magnum as a proprietary cartridge. Shortly after 1912, the cartridge was released to the then existing firearms industry where virtually all of the British manufacturers made rilfes chambered for this great caliber. In 1926, Western loaded the first commercial loads for the .375 H&H Magnum in the United States; however, the only available .375 H&H Magnums made in the United States at that time were custom rifles based on Mauser actions made by Griffin & Howe. But in 1937, Winchester offered the caliber in its new rifle, the Model 70 bolt-action.
Today, all of the major American gunmakers (Winchester, Remington, Ruger, Savage, Weatherby, Dakota, etc.) produce rifles chambered for the .375 H&H Magnum (or a so-called "improved" version of the original). Also, most American ammunition companies load the .375. Many ammunition manufacturers load the "premium" bullets (i.e., Nosler Partition, Swift A-Frame, etc.) so that over-the-counter ammunition buyers can shoot the same bullets that are loaded by handloaders. This further makes the .375 one of the world's ultimate calibers.
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Source: Craig Boddington, Safari Rifles, Safari Press (1990);Craig Boddington, American Hunting Rifles, Safari Press (1995); Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading (4th Ed.), Hornady Manufacturing Company, Inc. (1991); Craig Boddington, "Which .375 for You?," Petersen's RIFLE SHOOTER (September/October 2001).
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