There seems to be a lot of interest in the .375 cal recently in regards to long range hunting. Until quite recently there were no true comercial high b.c. bullets, Nosler released the 260 grain accubond whcih had an improved b.c. over most commercial offereings and followed with a 300 grainer. Sierra has done limited runs with the 350 smk, but its supply seems to be hit or miss at the very best. However there seems to be no shortage of botique bullet mfgs. making aluminum tipped sleek 370's and even more wild machined solids. The obvious conclusion to drive these bullets would be something along the lines of the Allen magums or the Snipe-tac/chey tac cases, or even the 375 VM. Sadly for most of us young, just outta college-recently married-starting a buisiness guys, we are on a .308 budget in a 338 lapua world. If I had the money, I'd like a couple of those 375 vm, but for me I needed to find a .308 priced soulution to some of these .375 projectiles.
The project started with the necessity for a packable brown animal whacker, my wife and I spend a lot of time in areas where really large hungry furry things live. For most of my life it has never posed a problem, and I doubt it will in the future (not a treadwell fan, when there are big bears, don't touch them) however there is no point in pushing ones luck so I set about to build a .375. I limited my choices to the more popular .375 offerings, the RUM, the H&H, and the new 375 ruger.
Having the full throttle mentality in my brain because of being a mid 20 something male. I went straight to the RUM, however the project was to be built off of a savage action and I was unable to find a stainless ultramag for less than a small fortune so it was vetoed. The obvious conclusion would be the H&H, family members have them I already have dies, piles of brass, its the "gold standard" etc. etc. etc.. Never mind a stainless savage 375 H&H is about $579-619 in almost every wal-mart in the state of Alaska, oddly enough they are more rare than fish legs in the states where I'm currently banished. I have shot more than just a few 19-20 inch H&H's
they are ridiculously comfortable to pack but loose more oomph than what I deem acceptable when cut down from 26.
I first noticed the 375 ruger on a trip to Kenai, my wife wanted to stock up on fruit before we headed back out to the middle of nowhere. I had briefly noticed the articles on it but had honestly ignored them. There have been more failed attempts to do a modern equal to the H&H, than failed holywood marriages. I figured if factory ammo made it to a box store in the bustling metropolis of Soldotna then it must have some following, heck even Kodiak mal-wart has it. When I returned to civilization I started doing a lot of digging on the cartridge and ultimately decided that it was the right fit, here are the reasons it was selected.
-Fits in a 30-06 action, mine was built on a Used stainless savage 7 rem mag.
-Brass is reasonable about 45$ locally cheaper on the net from time to time
-Factory offerings have permeated most of the continental US, they are limited but acceptable
-Supposedly far excedes the grand ol h&h in a short barrel
-Not belted (a personal thing which was a big sell to me)
The end product was built with a shoe string budget, but the stated goal was maximum horsepower for the smallest possible rifle and as cheap as possible. I wanted minute of bear at 25 yards and had not considered shots past 100 aside from an errant rabbit or ground squirrel.
-Savage Stainless 116 Action
-ER Shaw 20 inch ss heavy varmint barrel
-B & C duramaxx stock
-Williams fire sights of a savage ml2 muzzle loader
I went straight to load work with the goal of a 300 grain Hornady dgx to 2600 fps. For those who are honest, that is a significant amount over an h&h in an equal barrel, but from whats listed it is supposed to be attainable.
I started with the ol reliable Imr4350 as it has served me well in many cartridges, it gives good velocity is fairly to clean and best of all it meters terribly.... On the bench was a couple pounds of RL 17, it gave better velocity prior in a 243 but not enough to rationalize 5 dollars per pound price increase. Same with the 300 wsm
, its posted numbers are astounding especially in the 150 and 208 grain weights. But my current loads for those bullets are so consistant it hasnt been used much. I figure it would be a good opportunity to burn it. Usually the reccomendation of the experts on the ol' interweb is that Rl 17 uses similar data to Imr4350 and ususally can excede it by about a grain. Personal experience has taught me that rl 17 shows no signs of pressure and then lots really quick which I'll expound upon later. Hornady 300g DGX bullets were on sale locally and though Id rather shoot almost any other bullet they would work for pressure/velocity tests and to get a feel for the rifle. The barrel was broken in with a mid load of h414 and speer 235s, a good load that showed promise, it will be a duesy of a ground squirrel load. The barrel cleaned surprisingly easy, better than most factory rifles.
Nosler gives 76 of Imr 4350 as a start with a final load exceding 80 grains for their partition, so that is where the loads on the first day started. 76 of rl 17 and 76 of 4350. Each session starts with 2 rounds of the aformentioned plinking round then all other shots were shot in a ladder with 3 minutes between each shot, the elevation was about 400 feet it was near freezing and lightly snowing. All shots were shot over a pact chronograph from 15 feet, ever time the chrony comes out it gets 5 rounds of 17hmr out of the same lot, from the same rifle at the same distance. Its not exactly an imperical control group but it has given me a good baseline. The 5 rounds of hmr confirmed numbers that are witin the norm for the last 4 years it has been used as a control. The shot data was as follows: ( numbers listed are avg fps for 3 shots, followed by es)
76g 2376 / 41
77g 2402 / 31
78g 2463 / 22
79g 2512 / 23
80g 2590 / 15
76g 2201 / 36
77g 2294 / 24
78g 2332 / 12
79g 2407 / 13
80g 2458 / 21
I was truely not expecting that much gain from rl 17, honestly I think it has to do with the shorter barrel in a 24 or 26 inch tubes 80 fps would be more on par with my experince in the .243. The 4350 had consistantly more consistant velocity, but at the time my goal was Minute of bear at 25 yards or less so I opted to continue with the rl 17, recoil in the 8 and some change lb. rifle was not bad in all honesty, way more bark than bite. I proceded to load with rl-17 in .3 grain increments starting with 80.3 until 81.5, the overall max is different for the diffent 300 grain pills out there but 81.5 is close my estimation of max to maintain consistancy. I was already close to my goal, but honestly who stops at their goal if the allure of faster is still out there. Next test was shot a 2 weeks later under sadly similar lousy weather conditions, 5 shot avg out of the hold hmr was 8 fps slower than previous but well in the realm of acceptable. (Same 300grain dgx with the 3 shot velocitys to follow)
80.3 2597 2599 2601
80.6 2597 2597 2598
80.9 2645 2634 2639
81.2 2642 2620 2621
81.5 2651 2648 2659
I did the shooting with my half frozen wife very patiently sitting in the car recording the numbers. When I reviewed the numbers I about fell over, its not uncommon for larger bore diameters to have great es (in my short lifes experience). But the sigle digit es of the 80.3-80.6 load blew me away, granted a 3 shot group is a little shy of gospel truth and accuracy in my mind. In the near future I would like ot run the remaining 40 or so dgx's through to see if it holds consistant it very well could have been a fluke. Regardless 3 of the 5 shot strings showed promise of consistancy. Most will notice the little dip around 81.2 in avg speed, the one thing I've noticed with Rl 17 is a dip at the high end followed by another increase and then in very short order a massive spike. I don't fully understand powder chemistry at higher pressures, but would hazard a guess that after 63-64k its pressure curve spikes. And had to put a theory forth, the coating on the kernals looses its effect rapidly after 65k (if someone has some imperical reasons why Id love to hear them). All i know is on 2 prior rifles I had a dip near the max of 4350 data weights, followed with an increase in velocity. Then of couse a sheepish look and a trip home to caress the bolt open with a rubber mallet, followed with an explanation to your wife why you tried to turn the volume dial to 11.
Sadly I'm still shooting iron sights, I have no idea what the accuracy is the entire point of this post was to demonstrate the velocity potential and es. It is my belief that any rifle/cartridge combo that can post consistant speed can also eventually maintain accuracy. On the first trial we were filming milk jugs exploding while doing the chrony work, it explodes milks jugs with 100% reliability. The 2nd outing I was shooting the same target that had just absorbed a pile of 223 and 30 cal, with a 4moa bead only so much is attainable. I have no idea what the b.c of the dgx is, probably close to a hand thrown bowling ball but it showed how fast a 300 pill can be chucked. I have loaded round nose dgx/dgs style bullets in the past, ususally the sierra game king, nosler accubond, partition and swift a frame bullets can be driven slightly faster even in equal weight.
I realize that not all bullets will shoot the same velocity and with the same consistancy, but if the Ruger is able to drive the accubonds or gamekings in a similar manner. It would be able to deliver a large bonded bullet at a good maintained velocity to mid distances (3-500 yards)
My .375 ruger was never ment for a long range boomer, however with the 260 & 300 grain accubond deliver bc's in the .473 and .491 range and the rugers ability to deliver moderate velocity it warrants a chance. If one were to add a 26 inch tube there is little doubt in my mind that long range acceptable velocity could be achieved, and the energy to 4-500 yards would be hard to duplicate in a smaller bore rifle. It in my mind holds a great deal of versatility, I have been in one caribou hunting situation several years ago where a bear showed up after the dinner bell was rung. I remember being about 16 praying the 7mm in my hands would magically grow in to a bigger bore. For those who live and hunt in an area that has both tasty deer/caribou/moose as well as large bears it would provide adequate range and back up horsepower. A scope base is on the way, and tests to 300 will follow soon.
The question of recoil is constantly in everyones mind. The rifle in its old fcp stock with 3 rounds weighed 8.3 lbs hanging from its sling. For a comparison thats almost a lb lighter than my brothers scoped and loaded marlin 336 in 30-30. A scope and rings will put it heavier, as did the addition of the duramaxx. The rifle has been shot by individuals rangeing from 5'6" 160lbs to myself at 6'3" and 230lbs and a lot of varience in between; the general consensus is the it hits you, but not outside the range of controlable or unshootable. Shot prone off a bipod I'd hazard a guess that my current rifle would be a bit more than the avg shooter would find comfotable. I let 5 go when shooting down a line of milk jugs from the prone position, I'll definitely do more practice from the sitting bipod. However if you were to add another 6 inches of barrel, and with the added scope weight Id estimate it to be shootable prone and all in a packable rifle package.
Some thoughts about the rifle:
The Savage action: It's stainless and I payed 300 bucks for it, what more can one say. They have the asesthetics of a teenage giraffe, the bolt throw is a little long, and has a large degee to close. But honestly, I've never met a savage that I did'nt like, they are accurate and take a beating with ease. The 7mm mag magazine did'nt feed at first, a hammer, screew driver and 3 minutes fixed that, 100 rounds later so far no problems. If you have an issue with the barrel nut, by all means have someone put the barrel on for you but for petes sake as much as some hate it its darn effective and here to stay.
The barrel: I went ER shaw for the budget and at that time Mcgowen didnt have a reamer listed.... In hindsight I would go Mcgowen budget or not next time beyond a shadow of a doubt especially now that they have a reamer. In all fairness the barrel cleaned easily and hasnt given an reason to doubt that it will shoot OK, but the finish was rough, that usually doesnt bother me but it was wire wheeled with a non ss wheel. It spent 2 days in the car before being mounted and had pretty significant surface rust while still in its origional packageing. After being bead blasted it has been great with no rust even when used on long we days, but for those who do not have a sand blaster it would have been annoying.
The stock, hey its a duramaxx... not a mcmillan. It's the cheapest most comfortable way to connect a pile of stainless steel that goes boom to your shoulder via a pachmeyer decelerator. I'll just leave it at that.
Scope, base, rings: Its going to either have a dnz integral base, or a egw with burris xtrs. depends on what makes it in to my local gun haunt first. Topped initially with ol reliable ( archaic 3-9 burris that has been on 90% of my rifles with no qualms so far) The rifle will be about 10.2 with a dnz and the burris in its current configuration, I would like to see how many shots can be shot prone before shooter fatigue sets in and accuracy goes to heck. If it shows promise the glass will be upgraded......... stay tuned.
(loads are for demonstration purposes as an example for my specific rifle, not gospel truth for the world. Always use data from a published source with pressure and start 10% lower and work up.)