Ruger’s New Hawkeye African .375 Ruger


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

February 6th, 2007




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I have always liked Ruger bolt action rifles, but never loved Ruger bolt action rifles. From the beginning since the introduction in 1967 of the Model 77, they have been rugged, reliable, and accurate enough for hunting. The Ruger was a very good design, with its flat-bottomed receiver and angled receiver bolt anchoring it to the stock. The lines were classic, without the white-line spacers and Monte Carlo cheek pieces that were popular in that era. Thankfully, it wore real cut checkering, while most of its competition used machine pressed checkering that looked as if it had been designed by some second-grade school kid. Then around 1989 a few changes were made and the Model 77 Mark II was born. It was a bit trimmer, wore a different safety, and was or was not an improvement upon the original design, depending upon whom you asked.  It had a better safety and cleaner lines, and was offered in more configurations than ever. I never disliked the Ruger bolt guns at all, but I never bought one either, preferring their single shot Number One rifles instead. Part of that could be that for many years, Ruger never offered a left-handed bolt action, and that is the way that I am wired. Bill Ruger himself told me once, to my great disappointment, that Ruger would most likely never make a left-handed bolt gun, as the market just wasn’t there. Thankfully, Ruger does now, as has for a few years, offered left-handed bolt guns, in a limited selection of rifles and chambered for a select few cartridges. They also never had been extremely accurate, as a group. They were perfectly serviceable for their intended purpose, they just didn’t usually produce the kind of groups that you cut out and carry around in your pocket to show your friends. The Ruger Model 77 rifles are, and always have been, very good rifles, they just failed to excite me very much…….until now.

A few months ago, I heard that Ruger was introducing a slightly redesigned rifle called the Hawkeye. Being a rifle shooter and jack-leg gun writer, I was interested. When I also heard that they were introducing a new .375 cartridge along with it, I became very interested. I have always been a fan of the legendary .375 Holland & Holland Magnum, and knew that if Ruger had the nerve to challenge that grand old cartridge, I wanted to see for myself. After seeing a photo of the new Hawkeye African, I was elated. I had seen the pictures, read the specifications of both the rifle and cartridge, (Hornady claimed that its numbers equaled or bettered the .375 H&H Magnum, even from a shorter twenty-inch barrel), and wanted to see for myself if the performance was there, and if the accuracy would make the Hawkeye African as special as it looked.

Let's start right there, with the looks of the new rifle. After a couple of agonizing months awaiting the Hawkeye to go into production, I finally got the call that the rifle had arrived at Brigham Hardware in Dover, Tennessee. Brigham’s is one of those hardware stores that is still the way a hardware store should be. It is family owned, carries hardware, tools, lumber, sand, roofing, plumbing supplies, well pumps, and among a world of other stuff…….firearms. Shotguns, rifles, handguns, ammunition, and most of the stuff needed to go along with them. It is like all hardware stores used to be, and its kind is quickly disappearing. Anyway, I got the call and headed to town.  Aesthetically, the Hawkeye African is one of the best looking rifles, to my eyes, that Ruger has ever made; almost as handsome as their Ruger Magnum Rifles, but at half the retail price, and with a weight savings of over two pounds.

The Hawkeye African wears a beautiful stock made of real American walnut, just as God intended. The forearm is slender, and has cut checkering all around.  The pistol grip is graceful and trim, is finished with a blued steel grip cap, and the buttstock has clean, straight lines. The rifle wears a good, soft recoil pad, which is a very nice improvement. The blued steel is a semi-matte finish, and the one-piece bolt/handle is made of stainless steel. The magazine floorplate is made of blued steel, (I checked it with a magnet just to be sure) and has a machine-cut Ruger logo on its surface. The sights are both functional and aesthetically pleasing; the wide V rear sight mated to the large bead on a ramped barrel band front just looks right on a rifle of this type. Also, the stock crossbolt, while placed there for strength, adds to the handsome classic appearance of the African.

The African wears a medium-weight twenty-three inch long barrel that measures .667 inch at the muzzle. The stock has front and rear sling swivel studs, as should every hunting rifle. The magazine floorplate is released by pressing a latch inset into the front of the trigger guard, and it works perfectly. It takes a concerted effort to drop the floorplate. It never drops open from recoil, and is not in a position to be accidentally released. Like all Ruger centerfire rifles, the heavy duty receiver has integral scope mounts, and Ruger supplies every rifle with a set of steel scope rings, which is another added value to Ruger rifles.

The African has Ruger’s new LC6 trigger, which is an improvement over previous Ruger hunting rifle triggers. It released crisply with no take-up or overtravel at a weight of just over four pounds. I like a trigger a bit lighter for bench work, but it is a very good field trigger as is. Chambered for the new .375 Ruger cartridge, the African holds three in the magazine in addition to the one in the chamber. The African has a controlled-round feed system, and the huge extractor is as tough as they come.  The bolt works smoothly, with no sign of binding, which is very important on a rifle built for hunting the world’s most dangerous game. Also meant for dangerous work, the rear sight does not fold down. It is a very rugged unit, is drift adjustable for windage, and is quick to get on target.

As stated earlier, Hornady claims more performance than the .375 H&H, but from a standard length action. The .375 Ruger case is the same length as the .30-06 and similar cartridges, so it will work through Ruger’s standard length action, with no need to use the longer, heavier magnum length action. Also as mentioned earlier, the Hawkeye African weighs significantly less than their .375 H&H Magnum rifle. The magnum is listed at ten pounds, while the test rifle weighed in at just over seven and three-quarters pounds, 7 pounds 12.6 ounces to be exact, unloaded and without a scope. Some consider this to be too light for a .375 dangerous game rifle. I do not. Adding a scope, sling, and ammunition adds about another one and three-quarters pounds to the rifle, minimum. That brings the total ready-to-go weight up to nine and one-half pounds. At that weight, the African has plenty of heft, but is not so heavy as to become unbearable to carry all day as would a heavier rifle. Years ago, the great African hunters did not mind a fourteen pound rifle, as they had gun bearers to do the rifle packing, just taking hold of it long enough to make the shot. Me, I have no gun bearer available, and must, like the common man, carry my own rifle. I do not want to carry a twelve or fourteen pound rifle. The price of lower weight is heavier felt recoil. However, the African is not made for dove hunting, and a hunter will most likely fire half a dozen or fewer shots on even a good day afield. I also fired the African without a scope attached, and even at just seven and three-quarters pounds, the recoil is not punishing at all. I find the recoil of the big .300 magnums to be much more painful than either this .375 Ruger or the .375 H&H magnum. Recoil velocity is very important in felt recoil, and the thirty caliber magnums seem to recoil much quicker, or sharper, than do these .375s. We took a video to demonstrate the recoil of the Hawkeye African. Looking at the short video clip, you can see that the recoil is more of a big push than a sharp hit. In the video, the Ruger was fired with Hornady’s 270 grain factory load, which clocks from this rifle at 2758 feet-per-second (fps), at twelve feet from the muzzle, which calculates to 2767.9 fps at the muzzle. Firing from a standing position, the recoil did not hurt at all. Long sessions at the bench are a totally different story, however.

I received the rifle before Hornady got the production going on the ammunition, but I was able to get a set of Hornady dies, and someone at Ruger acquired ten empty cartridge cases for me, so I proceeded to work up loads for the .375 Ruger. I had absolutely zero load data on the cartridge, but knowing that the case capacity was a bit larger than that of the .375 H&H magnum, that is where I started. The case is similar in capacity to the .375 Dakota, but it is not the same case. The capacity falls between the .375 H&H and the .375 Weatherby cases. I worked up loads slowly, judiciously measuring case head expansion with a micrometer after each firing, and also watching for primer pocket expansion and sticky extraction. I at first hesitated to list any of the loads that I found to work well in the .375 Ruger, but I will with the warning to the reader that none of these loads have been pressure tested by me nor anyone else. They proved to be safe in the test rifle, and I did not try to push for the highest possible velocity.  My goal was to see if the new cartridge could indeed exceed the performance of the beloved .375 H&H, and do so safely, which it certainly did. In all loads listed here, extraction was very easy, and the bolt could be retracted with one finger. Bolt lift was easy. Case head expansion did not grow at all after the initial firing. Primer pockets remained tight. However, once again, I do not know how these will perform in your rifle, and you would be wise to back off a few grains, and put in the effort to work up to a safe level in your individual rifle. Reliable load data will be available soon from the powder and bullet companies, and I am sure that Hornady will share some data if you need it before published data is available.

All loads tested were done so on a cold few days, with temperatures ranging from eighteen to thirty-six degrees Fahrenheit. Chronograph readings were taken with a PACT chronograph set at a distance of twelve feet from the muzzle. To keep things as simple as possible, I used only CCI large rifle magnum primers, and three Hodgdon powders: H4350, H414, and Varget. These three powders will nicely cover any weight of bullet made for the .375 Ruger, and offer excellent performance. If I had to pick one powder for this cartridge, it would be H4350, without hesitation. It is an extremely stable extruded powder, and increases in powder charge resulted in predictable and linear increases in muzzle velocity. With H4350, it is hard to get into trouble with this cartridge, as with every load listed, it filled the case well, and adding more powder would result in the bullet having no room to be seated. I like it. Overall cartridge length is dictated by both the magazine length, and the bullet’s relation to the rifling. I did not seat any bullets out long enough that they engaged the rifling. Listed cartridge length for the .375 Ruger is 3.430 inches, with a maximum of 3.40 inches.  Bullet and powder weights are listed in grains. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Cartridge overall length (OAL) is listed in inches.

Bullet Powder Charge OAL Velocity
Hornady 225 SP H414 90 3.41" 3068
Hornady 225 SP H4350 86 3.41" 2938
Hornady 225 SP H4350 88 3.41" 3019
Hornady 225 SP H4350 89.7 3.41" 3100
Hornady 270 SP H4350 85 3.413" 2783
Hornady 270 SP H4350 86 3.413" 2828
Hornady 270 SP H4350 87 3.413" 2875
Hornady 300 FMJ H4350 84.7 3.349" 2782
Barnes 210X Varget 76 3.297" 2965
Barnes 210X Varget 78 3.297" 3029
Barnes 210X H414 88 3.346" 3085
Barnes 235 XLC H4350 88.2 3.361" 2940
Barnes 235 XLC H414 88 3.351" 2970
Barnes 270 XLC H414 86.1 3.357" 2975
Barnes 270 TSX  H414 86.1 3.331" 2856
Barnes 300 TSX H4350 84.7 3.366" 2757
Sierra 200 JRN  H414 87 3.16" 3032
Sierra 200 JRN  H414 88.2 3.16" 3055
Sierra 200 JRN  Varget 85.2 3.16" 3300
Hornady 270 SP (Factory Load)       2758

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

Accuracy testing with the African was done at both 50 yards with the open sights, and at 100 yards with a scope sight. With the Hornady 270 grain Spire Point factory loads , the open sights were dead on at fifty yards, and that was my reasoning for shooting with them at that range. I wanted to determine their impact point, and fifty yards is the perfect range for which to regulate them. I congratulate Ruger for doing so. Out any farther than that, and I want a scope. When I first heard of the .375 Ruger African, my one and only consideration for a scope is also the one that I choose for a .375 H&H rifle; the Leupold VX-II 2 to 7 x33. This scope is perfectly sized in both power and physical dimensions to the African rifle. It is perfect for both the cartridge and the game with which it will likely be hunted. It has wonderfully long eye relief, which is always a plus on a rifle that backs up a bit when the trigger is pulled. I like a low powered scope in brushy areas, as it allows the hunter to pick a clear spot in the brush through which to shoot accurately.  While the Ruger comes equipped with an excellent set of rings, I chose to use the superb Warne quick release rings. They attach with a lever on each ring, and quickly detach without tools if the need for the open sights arises. They also reattach quickly with no discernable change of impact. I believe that they are the ideal rings for such a versatile rifle. Some might try to pigeonhole the .375 Ruger into a dangerous game only role, and that would be a mistake. It is also an excellent choice for large deer such as elk and moose at longer than normal range. The .375 Ruger, with the proper bullet, shoots as flat as a .270 Winchester and flatter than the .30-06, and hits a lot harder than either when it gets there.  The cartridge also exceeds its goal of duplicating the .375 H&H magnum. Again, the loads listed above were safe in my test rifle, and no other, unless you work up the loads from starting data for the .375 H&H magnum yourself. I did not try to go farther, though with a few of the bullets listed, I believe that I could. There is nothing to be gained in killing power by adding more speed, and very little to be gained in trajectory.  My goal was not to exceed Hornady factory .375 Ruger loads. When working up these loads, the factory ammunition had not yet arrived, and all of these were developed using the ten once-fired cases that were sent to me. No cases were lost due to firing. I bulged one trying to seat a bullet over too much H4350, and another I stuck in the sizing die and ripped the rim off of it. I had it very well lubed, or at least I thought that I did. Apparently, I was wrong. Had I already chronographed the factory loads, I would have stopped load development after reaching their velocity, as Hornady has a huge ballistics laboratory and an engineering staff to pressure test this stuff, while I use a cruder form of estimating pressure.

There are many excellent bullets available for the .375 Ruger cartridge, and it is easy to match the bullet to the game. The lighter stuff should be ideal on whitetail. The Sierra 200 grain bullet throttled back to about 2500 fps would be a very good, mildly-recoiling load for such use.  Any of the Barnes X bullets, whether they be the plain shank, Triple-Shock, or XLC would serve quite well where both expansion and deep penetration are desired. The reliable Hornady bullets have proven themselves worldwide in the .375 H&H magnum, and they have a suitable bullet for any sized game. Other fine .375 bullets are available from Woodleigh, Nosler, Speer, and several others.

I was both surprised and delighted with the accuracy of this new Ruger. The day was cold, my fingers numb, the rifle was dirty, and a wind was blowing, but thankfully it was a steady wind at my back. The first 100 yard three shot group measured  .747 inch. The next three shot group measured .6095 inch. I believe that if I could have held steadier, the Ruger would have placed them all into the same hole! The rifle fired this same way for several more groups, until I had emptied that box of ammo. I made no effort at all to develop an accuracy handload for the Ruger, as time did not allow. I wanted to get the information published on Gunblast as soon as possible, as I have many anxious readers wanting information on the new rifle and cartridge. There has been a bit of information in the press about the new cartridge, but mostly just stuff gleaned from press releases thus far. The two groups pictured were both fired with Hornady factory 270 grain Spire Point ammunition, and were representative of the wonderful accuracy exhibited by the test rifle. As I further develop handloads for this rifle, it will be with the goal of adding versatility to the bullet selection available to me. I do not expect to best the accuracy of that Hornady factory ammunition in this rifle. I have varmint rifles that do not shoot this well.

My original plan was to review this rifle and send it back to Ruger, waiting for the left-handed version that is due out later this year. However, this one is so beautifully accurate, that I believe that I will be sending a check instead. I cannot recommend a rifle more highly than that.

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The .375 Ruger Hawkeye African exceeded my expectations. Ruger bolt action rifles are getting better all the time, and I have finally found one that I love.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Ruger’s New Hawkeye African .375 Ruger.



Cartridge case comparison: .375 H&H Magnum (left), .375 Ruger (right).



The Ruger's bolt features a huge claw extractor for reliable feeding and extraction.



Bolt stop is located on the left-hand side of the action.



Steel magazine floorplate is embellished with the Ruger logo (top). Floorplate release is well-located inside the trigger guard (bottom).



Ruger's new LC6 trigger is a great improvement over earlier versions.



Three-position safety is rugged ad positive.



The beautiful American walnut stock is nicely-checkered and well designed for use with iron sights or optics. The soft rubber recoil pad is definitely appreciated.



Angled receiver screw secures the action to the stock.



The stock also features a crossbolt for added strength.



Iron sights are rugged, easy to see, and perfectly regulated.



Scope base is integral, adding to its strength.



Warne detachable scope rings, available from Brownell's, are the perfect choice for a rifle of this type.



Jeff's first and only choice for a scope was Leupold's VX-II 2 to 7 x33 variable.



Loading dies for the .375 Ruger are available from Hornady.



Author tested the Ruger using a variety of bullets. Left to right are: Sierra



Cases loaded with Hornady 270-grain and 300-grain bullets.



Barnes' 300-grain Triple-Shock bullet mushroomed perfectly and retained 100% of its weight when fired into test medium.



Hornady's 300-grain Full Metal Jacket bullets are designed with a heavy jacket for use on the toughest game on Earth.



These Hodgdon powders are perfect for the .375 Ruger.



Ruger’s New Hawkeye African .375 Ruger proved to be superbly accurate, and would be a fine choice for a variety of hunting applications.