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A Hundred Years With The .375

Wayne killed this old eland bull at 250 yards with a .375 H&H from Montana Rifle Company
Wayne killed this old eland bull at 250 yards with a .375 H&H from Montana Rifle Company

Is this the best all-around cartridge, period?

It was a pre-war rifle with blonde, figure-less wood. It had a wrist repair–a pin and glue that didn’t look too bad after I’d finished with them. Soon after climbing into elk country with it that November morning, I heard the clack of antlers. I crept through the pines, downwind on quiet grass. A cow saw me, however. She didn’t know what I was, but when she stopped foraging, the woods went silent. Behind her trailed a spike, the only bull I could see. He stopped in an opening. The gold bead settled low in his ribs and at the explosion, the bullet landed there. But instead of turning upside down as I’d expected, this elk ran.  I found the animal dead a few yards off. Even the .375 H&H won’t “knock down” an elk.

While many hunters expect a cartridge this size to flatten big game, some consider the .375 on the light side for dangerous African beasts. Big-bore enthusiasts dismiss it as inadequate–though mostly in private, as a rant against the .375 carries the same risk as denigrating the Pope, private gun ownership and Toyota Land Cruisers. It’s no accident that .375 is widely specified as minimum legal bore for shooting buffalo and elephants. It’s equally predictable that the .375 H&H remains one of the most popular rounds for shooting them. Years after trailing that spike elk, I dropped a cow elephant instantly with a .375 solid.

A century ago this year, the English gun-making firm of Holland and Holland introduced the .375 Belted Rimless Nitro Express. It migrated to the U.S. in 1925 when Western Cartridge Company began loading it. Known Stateside as the .375 H&H Magnum, it fathered a necked-down version, the .300 H&H Magnum. About 1926, up-scale New York gun-builder Griffin & Howe began barreling Magnum Mauser rifles to .375 (as had Holland and Holland). In 1937 it made the charter list of chamberings for the Model 70 Winchester. Beginning in the 1940s, Weatherby took an occasional order for a .375 H&H rifle, albeit Roy Weatherby’s high-velocity line included a blown-out version of the cartridge. Remington offered the .375 H&H in its 725 Kodiak, less than 100 of which were built, all in 1961.

vanZwollwithriflehnt4evr111813Rifles bored for the .375 must have a long action, as the case measures 2.85 inches, base to mouth. Loaded length: 3.60 inches. The .30-06, in contrast, mikes 2.49 and 3.34 inches, respectively. A rimmed form of the .375, the .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express, appeared in 1912 for double rifles. The belted round works fine in hinged-breech mechanisms, though, so has outlived its rimmed kin. (There’s a .375 Flanged Nitro Express, too. Dating to 1899, it has a 2 1/2-inch case–and much less punch than the magnums).

Leggy, front-heavy and steeply tapered, with shoulder angles of less than 13 degrees, a shiny pair of belted .375s nosing into a smoking breech let you focus on the sweeping black horns quickly gobbling your panoramic view of Africa. “Close it up, Bwana! We’re in!” You can almost hear them shout, if you take the time. Dawdle, and instead you’ll hear hoof beats on your brisket.

Anyone with any experience in the bush will give the .375 kudos as a killer of plains game. But a stopping round? Opinions differ. On an elephant cull in 1985, I interviewed rangers who accounted for 52 pachyderms that day. Four used .458s. The one who favored a .375 told me his bullets drove “as deep as any from a four-five-eight. Maybe deeper.” I’d watched him shoot an elephant quartering away. The 300-grain solid struck the animal in the neck and exited the forehead. If brain damage is a measure of killing power, the .375 equals more brutish rounds that spin you around and bloody your nose on recoil. I suspect that many hunters dismissive of the .375 are thinking of animals poorly shot. Heavier bullets with more energy do have an edge when you hit on the edges. A stunned beast may take longer to recover its senses–and sense of direction–when struck with a 530-grain solid from a .500 Jeffery or .505 Gibbs, but it is no more dead if your bullet enters the brain.

“If that’s not stopping power… .”

Ammunition options The original light-bullet load for the .375 H&H, a 235-grain softnose at 2,800 fps, is long dead. Modern 260-grain bullets beat it ballistically with better terminal performance. A 260-grain Nosler AccuBond delivers more punch at 200 yards than a 180-grain .30-06 bullet musters at the muzzle, and flies just as flat. It may well supplant traditional 270-grain softpoints in the .375. Most development recently has focused on heavy bullets; the field of 300-grain loads is rich indeed. Few 300-grain bullets for tough game are sleek in profile, but they have great sectional density, and trajectories flat enough for a 200-yard zero. Here are two fine factory loads that bracket the practical bullet weight range for the .375. 260-grain Nosler AccuBond (Federal) Muzzle		100 yds.	200 yds. 	300 yds. 	400 yds. Velocity (fps)	2700		2510		2330		2160		1990 Energy (ft-lbs)	4210		3640		3130		2685		2285 Arc (inches)	-1.5		+2.0		0		-8.5		-24.5 300-grain Hornady FMJ (Hornady Superformance) Muzzle		100 yds.	200 yds. 	300 yds. 	400 yds. Velocity (fps)	2705		2386		2089		1817		1568 Energy (ft-lbs)	4873		3792		2908		2198		1637 Arc (inches)	-1.5		+2.3		0		-10.1		-31.3 Handloading the .375 is easy, and the cartridge seems forgiving--most loads stoked to hunting speeds shoot accurately. Not long ago I unearthed a box of mild 300-grain loads I’d assembled 28 years ago. Before hunting, I shoved a handful in the magazine of my Montana rifle. The first two holes at 100 yards touched. Prairie dog accuracy from a dangerous-game rifle! You needn’t handload for top performance, though. The .375 is blessed with factory loads for every task. Remington offers 300-grain Swift A-Frames and, with Barnes now in the Freedom Group, should add TSX bullets. Winchester lists 300-grain Nosler Partitions and Solids; Hornady catalogs five .375 loads, with 270-grain softpoints, 300-grain softs and solids. Hornady’s Superformance ammunition tops the velocity charts, giving the .375 nearly 5,000 ft-lbs of energy on exit.  Federal trumps competitors with the widest selection of 300-grain loads listing Barnes, Swift and Trophy Bonded expanding bullets and two excellent solids. Norma offers a 270-grain TSX load, plus 300-grain Oryx and Swift A-Frame options. In addition, Norma’s African PH line carries 350-grain softs and solids from Woodleigh. I can’t think of better bullets for the .375 than those five. If you want custom-loaded ammo, you can supply the recipe to Superior Ammunition--or ask Larry for his considered opinion. Safari Arms also loads custom cartridges. Like Superior, it makes a beautiful product. A typical first package has four loads of five rounds each, so you can test and compare economically, then get more of the top load
Ammunition options
The original light-bullet load for the .375 H&H, a 235-grain softnose at 2,800 fps, is long dead. Modern 260-grain bullets beat it ballistically with better terminal performance. A 260-grain Nosler AccuBond delivers more punch at 200 yards than a 180-grain .30-06 bullet musters at the muzzle, and flies just as flat. It may well supplant traditional 270-grain softpoints in the .375. Most development recently has focused on heavy bullets; the field of 300-grain loads is rich indeed. Few 300-grain bullets for tough game are sleek in profile, but they have great sectional density, and trajectories flat enough for a 200-yard zero.

In his well-known book, “African Rifles and Cartridges,” John Taylor says this about the .375 H&H: “Undoubtedly one of the deadliest [cartridges]… . I’ve had five of these rifles–two doubles and three magazines–and have fired more than 5,000 rounds of .375 Magnum ammunition at game… . One [rifle] accounted for more than 100 elephant and some 411 buffalo, besides rhino, lions… . Although my formula gives this rifle a Knock-Out value of 40 points, I must regretfully admit that does not really do full justice to it… . When a bullet of reasonable diameter and weight possesses a sufficiently high striking velocity it appears to develop a peculiar property of “shock”… . But if the effect is to be obtained…the bullet must hold together.”

Taylor illustrated that last point by recalling a buffalo he’d shot with a 300-grain solid from his .375 double. “The bull dropped to the shot but in an instant was up again and coming… . I gave him the left barrel fairly in the center of his great chest. Well, the effect of that shot was exactly as tho there had been a steel hawser stretched across his path just the right height above the ground to whip the forelegs from under him. He crashed on his nose [and] keeled over–stone dead. If that’s not stopping power, I should very much like to know what you would call it.”

On another hunt, Taylor shot a waterbuck bull at 40 yards with a 235-grain .375 bullet clocking 2,850 fps. To his surprise, the animal ran. Taylor trailed the animal and shot it again. “The copper-pointed bullet with its tremendously high striking velocity had literally disintegrated against the spine…making [only] an appalling surface wound… .” Taylor considered the 300-grain .375 solid to give “deeper penetration than any other bullet I have ever used.” But he warned against solids not hard enough to prevent bending or riveting. A tall order, given strikes on big bones at current speeds!

John Hunter, whose books have become classics on African hunting, relied on “a .500 double-barrel hammerless ejector fitted with 24-inch barrels and weighing 10 pounds 5 ounces made by Holland & Holland.” He wrote that “it is extremely unwise for any man to hunt elephant, buffalo, or rhino with a gun of less than .450 caliber.” While such a position begs argument, John Hunter killed so many of East Africa’s biggest animals–for market and on control missions–that his opinion has value.

Last July, I was in Australia’s Northern Territories hunting buffalo. I could have carried a Brno rifle in .375 but was seduced by a Webley & Scott double in .500 Nitro Express. The bulls that fell were not perfectly shot and required multiple hits. I’d have had better luck with the bolt rifle, partly because it wore a scope, partly because it did not kick so hard, and partly because bolt rifles by their design put fine accuracy over fast shooting. A big Australian buffalo has inch-thick skin on its forequarters, and support bones the size of trolley rails. Both arrest big softpoints–so does muscle as dense as stacked phone books. Solids guarantee penetration, but the great lung volume

Wayne followed a .375 softnose with a solid to take this buffalo. The first shot was really enough
Wayne followed a .375 softnose with a solid to take this buffalo. The first shot was really enough

of these beasts can overcome perforation.

In Africa, I’d downed buffalo of similar size with bolt-action .375s. Trophy Bonded bullets had destroyed bones and vitals. I’ve seen lethal work from Barnes TSXs and Woodleigh softpoints. Swift’s A-Frame rates equal billing. Loaded in a .375 to generate 4,500 foot-pounds, those bullets dump two tons of energy at 50 yards. Still, the .375 can be chambered in a rifle as lively as a .30-06. Most hunters can point such a rifle more deftly than they can a heavier, if shorter, double. They can trigger it without cracking a molar, bruising their zygomatic arch, or developing a flinch.

I’m convinced part of the reason the .375 is so popular for dangerous game is that people of average build and modest shooting experience can fire it accurately. A bolt rifle in .375 works well for lesser game, too, because it needn’t be a heavy rifle, and its bullets fly quite flat. Versatility boosts trigger time, and familiarity breeds accuracy. Hunting in southern Africa, I usually carry a .375 by the Montana Rifle Company. A Model 70 clone fitted with a 1.5-5x Leupold, it has a nose for animals I want to shoot. Its enviable record on game is, I think, a result of excellent rifle design and workmanship, combined with the time this .375 spends with me in the field, and the many rounds I’ve fired from it. That bond made my Model 70 .375 an effective rifle, too. And in the past weeks, I’ve fallen hard for Sako’s Model 85 Kodiak.

No room for rivals?

A rifle that becomes an extension of hand and eye is one to be treasured. When on the trail of a leopard a few years ago, I kept abreast of trackers as they bent to the sand and wound in a great helix into cover that got increasingly thick. Dense grass and low-growing bush obscured the spoor, so the going was slow. Then, suddenly, a scream! I dashed through thorn, shouldered the rifle and swung where the boys pointed, mere feet away. The brush hid all but a black spot on sun-brightened hide. By great good luck, the leopard moved just then, and I fired even before the crosswire stilled. The bullet broke both shoulders. The cat vaulted into the air with a screech, came down hard and died.

A week later, with the same rifle, I knelt to aim at an eland bull quartering off after a failed stalk. The range was 250 yards–farther than I like to fire–but the Montana rifle and Federal .375 load urged the shot. Both 300-grain Trophy Bonded bullets landed well. The great animal spun, staggered and fell.

Perhaps no plains animal more thoroughly tests bullet performance–or bullet placement–than a giraffe. A big bull can weigh more than two tons, twice as much as a Cape buffalo, and the vitals are not where you think. The lungs lie very high and between, not behind, the shoulders. Shoot in the crease aft of the foreleg, and you’ll cripple the animal. Long legs, and a view that nixes any attempt to sneak up for a finisher makes a tracking job and a second shot most difficult.

“I’ve no desire to shoot a giraffe,” I said to my PH when he suggested it. Then he explained that he needed a dark cape from an old bull. “And we’ve a surplus of old bulls. No one wants to shoot them. They live long, with no natural predators. They reach the forage that could go to lesser animals, and they eat a lot. Biologically, shooting a giraffe can be a good deed.” We soon found, though, that bulls with no seeming concern for human traffic quickly figure out when they were the quarry! When, after hours afoot, the giraffe out-walking us turned and gave me a shot alley at 70 steps, I quickly aimed and fired offhand. The great animal turned and lunged away in that deceptive, slow-motion giraffe-lope. Thick bush nixed a follow-up, then came the crash. The bull had covered only a few yards before collapsing, dead. My .375 bullet had not exited but, as I’d forced myself to hold high on the shoulder, had torn through both lungs.

The .375 H&H is so good that for decades no rivals dared surface. In the 1940s Roy Weatherby came up with his own .375 Magnum on the same case, but blown out, with a

This gemsbok dropped instantly to a shot through both shoulders from a Blaser R93, .375 H&H
This gemsbok dropped instantly to a shot through both shoulders from a Blaser R93, .375 H&H

radiused shoulder. It hurled bullets about 200 fps faster than the Holland round, but it didn’t last long. (Recently, it has returned to the Weatherby stable, as a chambering and in ammunition, with a 300-grain bullet loaded by Norma to 2,800 fps). Hornady may have surprised everyone with the .375 Ruger, now just a few years afield. Developed to work in .30-06-length actions, the .375 Ruger has roughly 10 percent more capacity than the .375 H&H Magnum, thanks to a wider body with little taper. It can push bullets 5 percent faster from a hull .27 inch shorter. Its .532 head diameter is the same as that of the .375 H&H; but the Ruger cartridge is of beltless design. Both cartridges are designed to operate at a maximum average pressure of 62,000 psi. They reach that limit with pretty much the same charges, claims Hornady. The Ruger round makes more efficient use of most powders, and outperforms the .375 H&H in short barrels. “That, really, was our goal,” explains project leader Mitch Mittelstaedt. “We wanted the .375 Ruger to deliver from a 20-inch barrel what the Holland round could manage in a 24-inch.”

As good as it is, the .375 Ruger is unlikely to unseat the .375 H&H Magnum. Few cartridges have survived 100 years; fewer still have sustained their popularity as long, or can boast a proliferation of new loads on their centennial. More to the point, the .375 has a place in history that can’t be matched. It’s still, too, a versatile round. It feeds silkily in bolt rifles, “thunks” with a note of authority into the double-gun’s breech. It defines the most fetching rifles–those with muscular cores but slender stocks, barrels just long enough to appear svelte, and just thick enough to carry quarter ribs and iron sights with grace. You’ll see more head-turning rifles in .375, I suspect, than in any other chambering. Even workhorses can become thoroughbreds in .375–the Winchester 70, surely, but also the Remington 700, Ruger’s 77 and No. 1, the Whitworth and Sako, the Dakota, the Montana, the Kimber.

Maybe it’s time you bought one. Or a second, or third. No need to wait another hundred years.–Wayne van Zwoll

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Two New .22’s from Ruger & CZ

Ruger's new American Rimfire
Ruger’s new American Rimfire

I’m sure that just about every one of us owns at least one .22 rimfire rifle, but with most of our attention being focused on big game hunting, sooner or later our little .22s are relegated to gathering dust at the back of our gun safes. And that’s too bad, really, because for most of us these guns were the catalyst for developing our passion for hunting in the first place.

Among our domestic manufacturers, Ruger has always been fairly well represented in the .22 rimfire market, but as the years have passed, the prices for those guns has increased to where there is no difference between the price of their Model 77/22 and their Model 77 Hawkeye centerfire rifle. In fact, the least expensive model in the 77/22 series in .22 LR carries an MSRP of $899; the other five models go for $969! In contrast, there are four Model 77s in the Hawkeye series that are genuine big game rifles in every sense of the word, yet cost no more than the least expensive 77/22.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the 77/22 and 77/17 series rifles aren’t worth those prices, for they were designed and are built to the same high standards as Ruger’s centerfire rifles. However, I think most people find it anomalous  that a manufacturer’s rim and centerfire rifles are priced the same. I don’t think that situation exists with any other gun manufacturer.

Anyway, two years ago Ruger decided they could no longer ignore the much larger budget/entry level centerfire rifle market. After all, Remington has its Model 770, Savage it Axis, Mossberg its ATR, Marlin its X7, all of which are priced in the 400-dollar range. So two years ago Ruger introduced the American, a bolt-action centerfire rifle that carries an MSRP of $449.

It proved to be a highly successful decision for Ruger, enough so that this year they’ve done the same thing in the bolt-action rimfire field. Called the American Rimfire, the new gun carries a strong family resemblance to its centerfire big brother. The bolt shroud and the rear of the receiver slope gently to the rear to blend seamlessly with the top of the grip to create a silhouette just like that of the American CF. It’s the same with the stock; it’s a black, injection molded job with the same lines and grip panels of its big brother. It also employs the same steel V-block system that provides consistent bedding dynamics for the receiver, while the barrel is free floated. The two-position safety is Sundrarugeramericanhnt4evr110113conveniently located on the tang.

The American Rimfire will be offered in .22 LR and .22 WMR. Whether it’s stout enough to digest the .17 HMR and the new Winchester .17 WSM that operate at 26,000 and 33,000 psi, respectively, we’ll have to wait and see. If it is, we’ll surely see these super .17s added to the list of the American Rimfire’s chamberings.

The example sent us for T&E was the Standard model chambered in .22 LR, and as it came from the box measured 41 inches in overall length with its 22-inch barrel, and weighed six pounds on the nose. There are several salient features that distinguish this rifle.  For one, the gun comes with two butt section stock modules, one with a comb height meant for use with the open sights provided, and one with a higher, Monte Carlo-style comb for use with a scope. There is also a Compact version of this gun, which comes with a stock module that has a 12-1/2-inch pull, an 18-inch barrel and weighs just 5-1/4 pounds. For $19.95 an accessory stock module is available that enables one to have all four of the possible options. All that’s required to switch modules is to remove the rear sling swivel, pull the one off and replace it with the other.

The receiver is grooved to accept standard 3/8-inch tip-off rings for scope mounting, but is also drilled and tapped for Weaver #12 bases, so scope-mounting options are virtually unlimited. Also standard is the same user-adjustable Marksman trigger as found on the CF version that can be set from 3 to 5 pounds. It also uses the same flush-fitting rotary magazine as Ruger’s semi-auto 10/22 and 10/17 semi-auto rimfire rifles.

Bolt rotation is only 60 degrees, so there’s plenty of clearance for the hand if a scope is mounted. Unlike most .22s, the bolt is removed via a separate release that doesn’t require pulling the trigger to withdraw it. Iron sights consist of a Williams fiber optic front, and a folding, fully adjustable “V” notch rear.

The American Rimfire carries an MSRP of $329, which is approximately one-third the price of Ruger’s Model 77/22.

Another interesting rimfire rifle to debut this year is from the CZ folks, which carries the rather ponderous moniker of Varmint Thumbhole SST Fluted. The SST stands for Single

CZ's Model 455 Varmint Thumbhole SST Fluted
CZ’s Model 455 Varmint Thumbhole SST Fluted

Set Trigger. The gun is based on the recently introduced Model 455 action, which features barrel interchangeability between .22 LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR. The barrels, which slip fit into the receiver, are secured with two rearward-angled hex-headed machine screws. A flat milled into the breech end just below the chamber must align with a corresponding shelf in the receiver for the barrel to fully seat and allow the locking screws to engage, so barrel switching is virtually idiot proof.

The stock is of a tri-color wood laminate of alternating brown/green/black veneers, which CZ calls Forest Camo. It’s quite attractive, and like all TH stocks, highly functional. The forend is a nice, hand-filling flat oval in cross section and vented with three elongated holes at either side of the free floating semi-bull barrel.  There are two swivel studs up front for simultaneous attachment of a sling and bipod. The stock, along with the fluted, semi-bull barrel that measures 20-5/8 inches long and .865-inch at the muzzle, give this gun a highly distinctive can-do look.

SundraCZ22onresthnt4evr110113We had the opportunity of examining this particular model chambered in .17 HMR, with an accessory barrel in .22 LR. Switching barrels took about three minutes, and point of impact changed less than 1-1/2-inch at 50 yards. The single set trigger was a joy to use, but to set it took three men and a boy. In fact, I couldn’t set it by simply pushing forward with my trigger finger, as is customary. It was just too stiff, so I had to place my thumb behind it to muster enough strength to push it forward. Once set, however, it took a mere five ounces to light the fire, and it broke like a glass sliver.

This model joins eight other models in the 455 line, which next year will grow to 11, once the transition from an earlier model is complete. Like all CZ firearms — rifles, shotguns and handguns — they are a product of Ceska Zbrojovka located in Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic, the largest small arms manufacturing facility in the world. The buildings alone occupy over 200 acres! If you’re not familiar with their products, check `em out at www.cz-usa.com. This company produces one of the best and most affordable dangerous game rifles on the market today in the form of their CZ 550 Safari Magnum.– Jon R. Sundra

Ruger Introduces the new SR-762 in .308 Win./7.62 NATO

Ruger SR762
Ruger SR-762

Now hunters and shooters have a new platform for the popular and versatile .308 Win./7.62 NATO cartridge! Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. has just announced the new Ruger SR-762, bringing the .308 Win./7.62 NATO cartridge to the popular SR-556 family of rifles. The SR-762 offers the downrange authority of the .308 in a two-stage, piston-driven rifle that runs cooler and cleaner than traditional gas-driven AR-style rifles.

The SR-762 is an ideal rifle for those who appreciate the familiar and ergonomic AR-style platform. The .308 Win./7.62 NATO cartridge is perfect for hunting medium and most large-sized game and enhances the capability of the AR-style platform in defensive or tactical roles.

The SR-762 retains the features of the original SR-556 that make it a solid performer among AR-style rifles. The patent-pending, two-stage piston delivers a smooth power stroke to the one-piece bolt carrier, which reduces felt recoil and improves the rifle’s durability. The four-position gas regulator allows the shooter to tune the rifle to function reliably with a broad variety of ammunition and in varying environmental conditions.

rugersr762hnt4evr102113A heavy contour, 16.12” chrome-lined, cold hammer forged barrel with a 1:10” twist features exterior fluting to minimize weight, yet provides outstanding accuracy. With the Ruger Lightweight Adaptable handguard in place, the SR-762 weighs 8.6 pounds and balances comfortably.

Three 20-round MAGPUL PMAG magazines are provided with the SR-762. Folding backup iron sights, a Hogue Monogrip, Picatinny rail sections and rail covers add considerable value to the package, as does the six-position stock, sight adjustment tool, and a soft-sided carry case.

The Ruger SR-762 has an MSRP of $2,195.

New Ruger Guide Gun

I recently had a chance to examine and shoot the new Ruger Guide Gun. Based on that, I believe the Guide Gun to be one of the very best, yet most affordable, dangerous-game rifles available today. I realize that’s a pretty tall claim, but there’s not a thing on this gun I would change, and I honestly can’t say that about any other rifle I can think of.

The Ruger Guide Gun as tested in .375 Ruger with a Burris C4 scope in a Ruger rings. All shooting was done with the muzzle brake in place.
The Ruger Guide Gun as tested in .375 Ruger with a Burris C4 scope in a Ruger rings. All shooting was done with the muzzle brake in place.

First off, it has the most basic requirement for a DGR in that it is a pure Mauser controlled-round feed action. Not that that is a mandatory feature, but it is generally considered the most foolproof, and therefore the best choice when facing critters that can stomp, claw, gore or chew you. The entire barreled action is matte finished stainless steel, including the action screws and hinged floorplate. It is the most non-reflective

The Ruger Hawkeye action is one of the very best examples of a pure Mauser-type action. It is also beautifully finished.
The Ruger Hawkeye action is one of the very best examples of a pure Mauser-type action. It is also beautifully finished.

finish I’ve seen, yet it’s very attractive. Another highly desirable feature on a DGR is that it should have a sturdy set of open sights, and here, too, the Guide Gun shines. The windage-adjustable rear sight is a standing leaf of solid steel with a shallow “V” and a vertical white stripe below. The front sight is of the barrel band type — the strongest kind — that’s quick to acquire and match up with the rear’s white stripe. For sling attachment there are two options, one of which is barrel-band mounted, a desirable feature because it keeps your off-hand from being bruised by recoil. If one prefers a stock-mounted stud, the forend is set up with a threaded nut in the barrel channel. One need only remove the filler screw and replace it with a standard swivel stud.

The Guide Gun is offered in six chamberings: .300 RCM (Ruger Compact Magnum), .300 Win. Mag., .30-06, .338 RCM, .338 Win. Mag. and .375 Ruger. All models come with a radial muzzle brake that can be replaced with a non-rifled barrel extension of the same length and weight, so that if the brake isn’t desired, replacing it with the weight won’t change barrel harmonics, i. e., point of impact. If neither is desired, a thread-protecting muzzle cap can be used. Barrel length with the cap is 20 inches; with the brake or weight in place it’s 21.5 inches. The gun sent us for review was chambered in .375 Ruger. When bench testing I used the muzzle brake, which tamed recoil considerably. For hunting, however, when I’m not wearing hearing protection, I want nothing to do with muzzle brakes.

The 270-grain Hornady load averaged under an inch for five 3-shot groups from 100 yards. Shown here are the two best. The 300-grain load averaged just over an inch.
The 270-grain Hornady load averaged under an inch for five 3-shot groups from 100 yards. Shown here are the two best. The 300-grain load averaged just over an inch.

Obviously, the Ruger folks believe a guide gun should be no less than a .30 caliber. Were I guiding for (or hunting) the big bears, I’d want one of the .338s as a minimum, and for Africa, the .375. For those unfamiliar with the RCM-series of cartridges, they were developed for Ruger by Hornady to duplicate or surpass the performance of full-length magnum cartridges like the .375 H&H and .300 Weatherby, but do it in a standard-length (.30-06) action. They succeeded admirably. In fact, the .375 Ruger not only matches the ballistics of the H&H, it surpasses it by 140 fps with a 270-grain bullet, and by 130 fps with a 300-grain slug.

Ruger-Guide-gun4
Spacers allow pull adjustment from 12-3/4” to 14-1/4” in 1/2” increments.

The stock is a tri-color black/brown/green wood laminate fitted with a reinforcing cross bolt just behind the recoil lug — another “extra measure” feature. To accommodate different climates (clothing thickness) and statures, the stock comes with three butt plate spacers that, when added or removed, allow pull lengths to be adjusted from 13-3/4 inches to 14-1/2 inches in ½-inch increments. Without question this is a highly desirable feature, but what I don’t like about it is the change in the butt section that must be made to achieve it. It’s strictly a cosmetic thing, though, and I guess I could live with it.

On the range the gun shot superbly. With one of the new Burris C4 scopes mounted, using the matching matte-finished Ruger stainless rings that come with the gun, I was getting 3-shot clover leafs ranging from .7-inch to 1.1 inches with the 270-grain Hornady loading, and almost as good with the 300-grain round nosed load.

The Guide Gun comes with a muzzle brake, a muzzle extension, and a thread-protector cap shown in place.
The Guide Gun comes with a muzzle brake, a muzzle extension, and a thread-protector cap shown in place.

When I said earlier that I’d change nothing on this gun, I take that back. The one change I’d make on this particular model would be to make the bolt handle ½-inch longer and bend it upward about the same amount. Right now I think it hugs the stock too closely, and in a crisis situation, you could miss it on the upstroke of the hand. A longer and less angled handle would make that less likely. Oh, and I would definitely offer it in .416 Ruger. The .375 version is a great choice for the hunter, but if I were the guy backing him up, I’d want the .416. The Ruger version matches the .416 Rigby and .416 Rem. Magnum, and it does it in a standard-length action. The Guide Gun carries an MSRP of $1,199, and what a bargain it is.– Jon R. Sundra