The .300 H&H Magnum might be old, but it's certainly not dead.
Why The .300 H&H Magnum Clings To Life:
- It is a good all-around choice for larger big-game, except dangerous game.
- Few cartridges feed and extract as easily or as smoothly.
- It proves relatively simple to handload for, and there are some good factory loads available.
- Its recoil in most rifles isn't much more than the .30-06 Springfield.
The herd of Hartmann’s mountain zebra stood scattered across the valley floor, with the stallion taking his position at the rear to protect his harem.
Namibian PH Jamy Traut was lying next to me, prone, on a slab of ancient granite. He pointed out the big male.
“He’s on the right at 275 yards,” Jamy informed me, still looking through the Bushnell rangefinder. “Just let him turn a bit and take him.”
I let my second deep breath halfway out, and the crosshairs steadied on the triangle of stripes on the stallion’s shoulder as the trigger of the Colt rifle broke cleanly. In spite of the recoil, I heard the smack of the Federal Trophy Bonded Tip bullet, and Jamy gave that “yassssss” that PHs give when the shot is placed properly. The stallion, mortally wounded, did his best to follow his herd, but as he paused again at just shy of 300 yards, a second 180-grain bullet ended the game.
A British Classic
To have the opportunity to hunt such a majestic game animal was wonderful, but to have done it with such a classic rifle and cartridge made the hunt that much better. I had a 1959 Colt “The Coltsman,” chambered in .300 Holland & Holland Magnum, although the barrel was labeled simply “.300 Magnum.”
Long before the .300 Winchester Magnum or even the .300 Weatherby Magnum had reared their heads on the scene, there was but one improvement over the .30-06 Springfield: Holland & Holland’s .300 Magnum. Also known as Holland’s Super .30, it would drive a 180-grain, .308-inch-diameter bullet to more than 2,800 fps, bettering the velocity of the Springfield by 100 fps, making it a magnum length equal to .300 Winchester Magnum (which would take nearly four decades to arrive on the scene).
H&H Magnum Backstory
The year of 1912 saw the prestigious London firm of Holland & Holland release its .275 Holland & Holland Magnum—a 7mm cartridge so close in form and function to the 7mm Remington Magnum of 1963 that it’s uncanny—and the undeniable .375 H&H Magnum.
These two cartridges feature a belt of brass just above the cartridge rim, used for headspacing. The .375 H&H the hunting world would come to love has a 15-degree shoulder (very slight in comparison to many of the modern designs) that has been associated with easy feeding and reliable extraction. The .275 would take a half-century to catch on—and only then in a different marketing scheme and under a different moniker.
1925 saw the release of the .300 Holland & Holland Magnum, a slope-shouldered cartridge the same length as the .375 H&H Magnum—3.600 inches, to be exact—yet designed with an 8-degree, 30-minute shoulder and that same useful brass belt, which serves as a false rim. It gives the positive headspacing of a rimmed cartridge but offers the easy feeding of a rimless cartridge from a box magazine.
A decade after its release, Ben C. Comfort shot the .300 Holland (in a rifle built by Griffin & Howe on a Remington 30-S action and with a 30-inch barrel) to win the 1935 Wimbledon Cup.
.300 H&H Merits
The virtues of the .300 Holland & Holland were not lost on the ballisticians and engineers at Winchester. In 1937, the year the rifle was introduced, Winchester added the cartridge to the lineup of its prestigious Model 70 rifle. With ammunition already available from the Western Cartridge Company, hunters and shooters immediately picked up on the benefits of the higher velocity and increase in striking energy. Remington followed suit, offering both ammunition and chambering its reliable Model 721 rifle for the long cartridge.
It was regarded as a good all-around choice for the larger big-game species of North America, along with all but the thick-skinned dangerous game of Africa. It also had its place in hunting literature. John “Pondoro” Taylor stated that “everything the .30-06 will do is done better by the .300 Magnum … .” The cartridge was also featured in Robert Ruark’s Uhuru as PH Brian Dermott followed up with a wounded leopard in the thick bush. It was also the cartridge that John Nosler had in hand when his bullets—I’m not sure of their brand or weight—failed on the shoulder of a mud-caked moose, resulting in the development of the now-famous Nosler Partition.
Three factory loads were available early on: a 150-grain load at 3,000 fps; a 180-grain load at 2,700 fps; and a 220-grain load at 2,350 fps. As time progressed and powders improved, velocities increased. Hunters loved it; target shooters loved it.
So, what happened to the popularity of Holland’s Super .30?
The Downhill Slide
Even with affordable American-made rifles and reliable ammunition—readily available from two of the biggest makers—the cost of producing magnum-length rifles continued to increase.
The .375 H&H required a magnum-length action, but as the 1950s saw the definite move to the long-action (.30-06 length) receiver, Winchester’s trio of 1950s belted magnums based on the H&H case (the .264 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum and .458 Winchester Magnum) all gave excellent performance from a long-action receiver.
The .308 Norma Magnum, introduced in 1960, showed that the ballistics of the .300 H&H Magnum could be reproduced in a long-action rifle, and Winchester’s 1963 release of the .300 Winchester Magnum spelled serious trouble for the .300 Holland & Holland.
It had a great reputation among African hunters, because it pairs very well with its “big brother,” the .375; but the simple fact is that the .300 H&H Magnum never did achieve the popularity of the .30-06 Springfield, the 7×57 and 8×57 Mauser, or the .303 British. Couple that with the accuracy and affordability of the .300 Winchester Magnum, and you can easily see the reason for the decline of the .300 H&H.
’Old’ Is Not ’Dead’
Despite being “pronounced dead” by more than one writer over the last two decades, the .300 Holland & Holland still clings to life. Let me make this perfectly clear: From the standpoint of practicality, anything a hunter can do with a .300 Holland can be done with a .300 Winchester Magnum. They are so close in performance that no game animal could ever tell the difference.
People have often criticized the .300 Winchester’s neck length (less than 1 caliber at 0.264 inch), but it has never posed a problem for me. And although it uses the H&H belt, the .300 Winchester headspaces off the shoulder. The older Super .30 design might not be on the cusp of modern cartridge design, but there is something unique, nostalgic and attractive about the .300 H&H. In fact, I will be the first to admit I have a weakness and a penchant for vintage British cartridges; and the .300 H&H is high on the list.
I feel comfortable saying that there are few cartridges that will feed and extract as easily or as smoothly as the .300 Holland & Holland; it feeds as if the cartridges were greased, and that makes keeping the rifle on the shoulder for the follow-up shot that much easier. I will also say that the cartridge has proven relatively simple to handload for, and although there are some good factory loads available from Federal, Hornady and Nosler, it will be through handloading that your .300 H&H will come into its own.
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Better Results via Heavier Loads
I spent a good amount of time developing some loads for the .300 H&H and have found that heavier bullets have given me the best results. The 180-grain Swift Scirocco II, 180-grain Federal Trophy Bonded Tip, 175-grain Federal Edge TLR and the 220-grain Hornady InterLock roundnose have all given excellent results.
The 180-grain bullets like powders such as IMR4350, Hodgdon’s H4831SC and Alliant’s Reloder 19, 22 and 23. I’ve been able to achieve both good velocities and accuracy with all these bullets using Norma brass and Federal’s excellent Gold Medal Match GM215M large-rifle magnum primer.
In spite of the Coltsman being an old rifle (I have no idea how many shots have been sent down that barrel, although it still shoots very well), I’d happily take that setup on any hunt for which a .30-caliber rifle would be suitable.
As far as rifles go, there are many modern used options available—from the CZ550 Safari Classic, Remington 700 Classic and Ruger No. 1 single-shot to the Browning X-Bolt. The chambering seems to be produced in limited runs by a particular company … only to be dropped and then picked up again by another company.
In the Field
For Namibia, I settled on the duo of sleek Federal Edge TLR and Trophy Bonded Tip component bullets at 175 and 180 grains, respectively. Loaded with Reloder 22 for the Edge TLR and Reloder 23 for the Trophy Bonded Tip, I achieved velocities of 2,955 and 2,940 fps and a point of impact so close as to call it the same. I had the opportunity to take five animals with the nearly century-old cartridge; they ranged from the aforementioned Hartmann’s mountain zebra to gemsbok and wildebeest, as well as red hartebeest and the mighty eland.
Mainly due to the terrible drought that Jamy Traut’s Panorama concession was experiencing, the shot distances were definitely on the long side. The closest was a gemsbok at slightly more than 100 yards, with the other shots ranging between 275 and 325 yards. My rifle was topped with a Bushnell Forge 3-12x44mm with a good duplex reticle, so I had a good, clear image at midday, as well as at first and last light.
I’m happy to report that the old case design and the modern bullet designs got along just fine. And although I couldn’t recover a single bullet (I was shocked that an eland bull at more than 300 yards wouldn’t stop a Trophy Bonded Tip), all the animals were taken cleanly.
The recoil of the .300 Holland & Holland—at least in the Coltsman rifle I have come to love—isn’t much more than the average .30-’06 and is certainly easier on the shoulder than any .300 Weatherby Magnum I’ve spent time with. From the bench, it is more than tolerable, and from field positions, well, suffice it to say that from shooting sticks and from the prone position, I truly don’t recall the recoil.
We have a whole bunch of good .30-caliber cartridges—from the venerable .30-06 Springfield and its little brother, the .308 Winchester, through the .300 Winchester Magnum and .300 Weatherby Magnum up to the seriously fast cartridges such as the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum and the behemoth .30-378 Weatherby Magnum.
New developments, such as the .300 PRC and .30 Nosler, put a new twist on things, offering very usable trajectories and energy figures. But if you want the measure of the .300 Holland & Holland Magnum, tell your PH in Africa you’ve brought one along on safari as your light rifle … and watch his face light up. I can certainly tell you that Jamy Traut asked to hold the rifle more than a few times during our time together afield, and I could see him get that same nostalgic look that I had while carrying it.
The rifle? It belonged to me once, but I sold it to Dave deMoulpied, a dear friend who was generous enough to let me take it to Namibia to experience a safari with an absolute classic. I’ve helped him develop several loads for the old girl, and he takes it afield at least once each deer season. After all, classics shouldn’t be locked up in a safe.
If you base your rifle purchases on sheer practicality (like my dad, Ol’ Grumpy Pants, does), the .300 Holland & Holland might not be for you. But if you like to hold a bit of history in your hands, a good rifle chambered for the .300 H&H might just tickle your fancy.
There are good choices among factory ammunition, including lead-free options, such as Federal’s Trophy Copper load, as well as a factory version of the Trophy Bonded Tip load. Hornady loads the 180-grain InterBond bullet, and Nosler loads its Partition (it’s fitting that it solves John Nosler’s original problem) and AccuBond in several weights.
Because there are so many choices, along with the myriad choices for the handloader, I can’t come up with a single excuse not to buy that sweet, vintage .300 H&H you might find in a dusty corner of your favorite gun shop.
The article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.