Elephant Hunt with a .375 H&H


I will be elephant hunting in Botswana next year. Is a .375 H&H with a 350-grain solid enough gun?


Yes, it is. Karomojo Bell proved to the world that even the .256 MS (6.5x54 mm), the 7mm Mauser (7x57 mm) and the .303 British, with 160-, 175-, and 215-grain steel-jacketed solids, respectively, were adequate, provided shot placement was perfect and the bullet reached the brain.

I presume you'll be backed by a competent, suitably armed professional who will help out should things not work out as planned so I have no hesitation in recommending this fine, Africa proven caliber/cartridge combination. The .375 H&H was the choice of professional elephant hunters like Harry Manners and it is the minimum recommendation for PH backup work. With regard to huge bodied, thick-skinned creatures like elephants, a larger caliber and heavier bullet will always be better, but only if shot placement is equally as good. If it isn't, the .375 H&H, which is certainly more shooter-friendly, is definitely “enough gun.”

It is my experience that going to a 350-grainer (at 2,300 fps), as opposed to a 300 (at 2,550) significantly increases the momentum and KO values as well (115 foot-pounds of momentum and a KO value of 43 as opposed to 109 and 41 for the 300-grainer). At the short shooting distances elephant are usually taken at, it is my impression that heavier, and therefore longer, 350-grain solids stabilize quicker in most .375s, which have a 1:12 twist rate, than shorter 300s. This means they settle down—“go to sleep”—sooner than 300s, and will penetrate well on really close shots.

The elephant brain shot, which most clients want to try, is quite difficult for the inexperienced. Just like billards, elephant brain shots are all about getting the angles right. I stand 6 feet 3 inches tall. At such short shooting distances, at an animal about 12 feet tall, where I visualize the bullet will need to be placed on the outer skin surface so as to reach the brain in the center of the head will be different to where a shorter client will need to place the same shot. In my Perfect Shot DVD we went to great lengths to try to explain this problem and to show viewers just where the brain is situated. You may want to review our efforts.

Successful elephant brain shots are dramatic. The head always comes up as the hind legs give way. If the front legs collapse first, the elephant is not dead, only unconscious. In such situations, an insurance shot or two are an extremely good idea.

The elephant heart shot is a lot easier. This vital organ is huge, about the size of a 5-gallon bucket, and it is situated at about the average human height level, so there are no confusing upward shooting angles involved. The perfect heart shot is where the bullet pierces and punctures the aorta, the huge, wrist-thick artery where it emerges from the top of this muscular pump. Such a shot will also pass through he center of the lungs and shot thus, this huge creature will not go far. While not nearly as dramatic, this is the shot too take if there is any uncertainty with the brain option, and I have also covered its placement thoroughly in my Perfect Shot DVD.

What sights to use for such short shooting distances is another interesting question. If your eyes are still good, open express V sights and an easily visible foresight (preferably white) are the best, but only if you are thoroughly familiar with them. If not, then a 1X scope with a big, bold, and easily visible reticle is the better option.

As with the hunting of any species, where you actually hit an animal is more important than what you hit it with. Do you part with a .375 H&H and a good 350-grainer and your hunt will be a success.

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