Cape Buffalo: Ideal range for a 375 rifle? (H&H or Ruger)


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Jan 23, 2022
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Canada, USA, South Africa and Zimbabwe
How far from the animal is the first shot usually taken when hunting Cape Buffalo with a medium bore rifle such as a 375 H&H or 375 Ruger (loaded with proper ammunition, i.e. Swift A-Frame or Barnes TSX)? What is a typical average distance while on Safari?

What is the maximum range to be considered for an ethical first shot?

What is the best distance to sight in a 375 rifle for a Cape Buffalo hunt? (50 yard zero, 100 yard zero)?

My first buffalo was 80 yards and my second maybe 30. I wouldn’t plan to shoot beyond 100 yards at a buffalo, but your cartridge and bullet is good for further. Sight in 2” high at 100, you will be good at any buffalo, but can still shoot plains game out to 300 yards.
I have always liked a 75 yd zero using a 404 Jeffery or a 378 weatherby for hunting Buffalo. If you are using the same rifle and ammo for plains game also, you may want to zero the rifle for a bit farther. As long as you can hit a something the size of a grapefruit, you should be fine.
100+/- yds max is the general rule on DG. You need everything in your favor (incl. maximum V, E, bullet performance) and good shot placement can save lives. (The 375 is capable of much longer distances for PG which won't bite you.) Our 375s have always been zeroed in at 100, which has worked wonders at 20-80 on buffalo, 30-40 on elephant, 60 on hippo, and several PG species at 100 yds or less. An inch or two high at the midpoint (w/ the 100 zero) isn't going to have much effect on your (shorter) shots. And, it's not to difficult to learn holdover for 200, 300 yds on PG. By sighting in high at 100, you could really mess up a shorter shot between a buff's eyes, croc, hippo etc. (Hitting the horns isn't so great.) Not a problem to dial in a couple-few inches of elevation after the DG hunt is over, either (so you're dead-on at longer distance and extend your PBR.) 'Son dialed his in after our elephant hunt and managed to bag a nice, huge olive baboon at 320 yds across a lake, using my bipods.
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I agree with 50-75 yards. Mine was 72 yards with one shot. i shot an Australian water Buffalo at 100 yards, with many follow ups. These are very tough animals and must consider the bullet as well. Expect a follow up shot or more and practice for that fast second shot. Shot my brown bear at 300 yards so you have the distance if needed, but I doubt in Africa. The 375 is a great cartridge
I have shot buffalo as close as 25 yards and as far as 80. Most have been 40 to 60. I zero at 100.
My one and only was a single shot at 45 yards. I sighted in for 50 and practiced to 75. I had no intentions of anything beyond that and had talked it through with my PH well ahead of time. As it turned out I doubt there was anything like a 75 yard shot available where we found them.
When hunting buffalo, even if we are likely to bump into PG animal I want, I keep my .375 sighted a 100 yards. I am very familiar with the rifle and comfortable to 200 and a bit at that sight in range. I am all about making sure the first shot at a buffalo is as close to exactly where it needs to be as I can make it.. My buffalo have been shot from 25 to 80 yards.
Agree completely with the ranges above. 20 to 80 yds is just about average. I shot my last cape buffalo (cow) as a cull/meat animal at 200 yds last summer but that was out of a herd of 200 in the riverbed, so no chance to get closer as we were careful to get a dry cow. All three of my buffalo have been one shot kills with a .375 and 300 grain Barnes. A lot will depend on the foliage (time of year) and the terrain.
My 375 is sighted in with 300 grain Swift A-Frames at 100 yards with the scope. In addition to that, I routinely practice with iron sight from 25 to 50 yards. That being said, Dangerous Game isn't exactly dangerous at 100 yards. I'd prefer 25 to 50 yards for a first shot.
If you sight in at100 with 375
You should be about 1-2” high at around 50m
Your first shot on a buff will inevitably be on the shoulder or a frontal shot
So you are all good there
My 1st Buff Hunt (Cow), 2021, .375 H&H, PH handload, & centered @ 100-yards.

The +/- 20 Buff beat our stalk to the mid-day waterhole, we set-up @ 50M & the herd Bull & his evil eye looking cousin came over the small Dam 1st to graze. My target Cow was mid-herd, she came thru a small opening & stopped @ 45M. She either had our location “pegged” or “dumb-luck” :unsure: as she stared right at us!? I had to wait for Cows/Calves behind her to clear & what had me on the verge “!hitting my shorts’ was evil eye Bull slowly grazing in our direction & last check: 32M! Thankfully the PH gave me a ‘green light’ - she had not moved, 45M front quartering shot.

I’m on the search for my 1st .375 H&H, Barnes TSX fan so 300 or 350-grain handload & planning my next Buff Thrill Ride! Happy Trails.
The limitation isn’t so much about the cartridge, but about ensuring good shot placement and the experience of the hunt. From a terminal ballistics standpoint 200yds or 300yds isn’t a problem. But at those distances In field conditions, the likelihood of a poor shot is amplified. Also, it’s not so much fun to hunt Buffalo at long distance.

In general I think first shots should be under 100yds
, and much closer if possible. I usually sight the rifle in dead on at 100yds.
My .375’s scope is zeroed at 100, irons at 50. My two buffalo were 80 and 40 yards respectively.
Mine is sighted dead on at 40 yards and that works out to be pretty dead on at 200 yards. Bullet is still rising at 40 yards.

My iron sights are set at 50 yards because that’s what they came like from Chapuis and Joe Smithson.

I’ve never fired a first shot at a buffalo past 60 yards. A few have been launched at 100-150 yards on buff I 100% knew where hit with the first shot(s). The last three where under 15 yards with a 450-400 3inch.
Going for first buffalo in August, appreciate all the great advice.
It is the PH's duty to get you close enough for a clean kill.
It's the hunter's duty to make a good shot that will kill or put the buffalo down.
When you sneak to within 50 yards from a buffalo, you are hunting!
furthest first shot on a buffalo I have made is about 35 yards so... do with that what you will.
A lot depends on the terrain, if hunting the Zambize flood plains in Mozambique you may need to shoot out to 125 yards, mine was about 60. If hunting the thick Jess in Zimbabwe it might be 10 yards. Ask your PH and go from there.
I think there are pro's and con's to "getting in close". In theory you are more likely to make a good shot at 25 yards than you are at 100 yards, but you are also more likely to be shaking like a leaf up close and personal. I don't subscribe to the idea that you must get in as close as you can to avoid feeling ripped off.

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