• The .378 Weatherby; The Magnum's Magnum

    I've wanted to write an article on the mighty .378 Weatherby for some time, but felt I lacked the experience with the cartridge to do it true justice. One of our members, Wbypoor (Glenn), has added his wealth of experience with the .378 to this article supported by 30 years of use, which is more than anyone I know of and, as co-author, certainly adds considerable depth and breadth to this important cartridge in the Weatherby line-up.

    For those who must have the most of everything, there is the .378 Weatherby Magnum; truly a magnum’s magnum. Isn’t it interesting that when discussing the merits of the 378 the first thing to tackle is the recoil rumor? It leaves precious little space to discuss the history of the cartridge, how and when Roy developed it, and the fact that Federal developed a special primer just for the project.
    Yes, the .378 Weatherby will generate considerable free recoil, an average of 77 ft. lbs. from a 9 lb rifle. This compares to 20 ft.lbs from a rifle chambered for .30-06 Springfield, but is only 10% more than the recoil of the .375 H&H Magnum while having 22% more energy. There are some shooters who can handle recoil extremely well. Not because they don’t feel it, but because they know the recoil is coming and they can go right ahead and squeeze off a good shot. When some joker tells you he never feels recoil, he is either too dumb to be walking around, or he is a damn liar. There are an awful lot of hunters who are scared stiff of recoil and just plain can’t help it, some admit it and some don’t, but you’d just as well face up to it and either learn to whip it or shoot something you’re not afraid of. The .378 has less recoil than almost all cartridges of its energy class. While the recoil is stiff, exaggerations have likely done a lot to reduce the popularity of this caliber. Case in point: The Hodgdon Data Manual No. 26 describes it as, " . . . far too vicious for all but the most seasoned shooters." The Barnes Reloading Manual No. 1 reads, "This cartridge will develop literally tons of energy, but it is also known as perhaps the hardest kicking round there is." In fact, most of what you hear about the recoil of the .378 is purely exaggeration and usually comes from those passing along Old Wives tales. Here’s how I look at it: Currently there are 5 Weatherby cartridges based on the same case: the .30-.378, .338-.378, .378, .416, and the mighty .460. Some say that the recoil of the .378 may make it the hardest recoiling rifle on the planet because of its recoil velocity. Others say that it’s the hardest kicking of all Weatherby’s cartridge creations. Thought through logically, none of this makes any sense at all. Why would it? There is no magical property about the middle child in the big case line-up that makes it recoil harder than factory loads on the same case that are smaller, and also recoil more than factory cartridges on the same case that are larger. Recoil progresses as Newton predicted as you move up through the line-up from the .30-.378 to the .460. Period. Here’s what Glenn has to say about this: “Whenever a fellow shooter hears I’m shooting a 378 they invariable begin shaking in their boots! I don’t know who started the misguided rumor that by some voodoo the 378 is an unmanageable beast but I remember reading about it as a young boy. My first Mark V was a 460 and when luck finally brought cash and a good used 378 together I had a great opportunity to tangle with this beast. Imagine my great surprise when I found it was just like any other cartridge and behaved accordingly. Interestingly those who have not read of the 378’s reputation as a kicker find it easily managed. Even my 71 year old father finds my unbraked DGR easy to shoot ,but balks at a M77 in 416 Rigby and a 416 Ruger No. 1. Personally I find that those so straight combed rifles (classic? I think the Mark V is a classic!) generate more felt recoil than they should. I had a custom No.1 in 378 some years ago that punched the shoulder much harder than a Mark V, at least for me”.
    Moving past that, I have always been enamored by the .378 Weatherby. I also hold the same fascination with the .340 Weatherby. Something in their names just do it for me, I guess. An argument can be made that they are the two most versatile worldwide cartridges in the entire Weatherby family. I would be one to support that. In the same way that the .340 is the .338 Win. Mag. on steroids, the .378 is the .375 H&H on steroids. As one can argue that the .338 and .375 are extremely versatile cartridges for anything worldwide, the Weatherby variations make it even more so. The same can be said about any standard cartridges when compared to its Weatherby counterpart. Although the .340 and .378 are versatility kings, there are noteworthy differences. Glenn supports this by saying, “The 378 reaches similar velocities with larger diameter bullets; giving the 378 the unique ability to simplify shots to 400 yards when needed yet qualify as a dangerous game rifle in the African jurisdictions that restrict hunting dangerous game to rifle above .375 caliber. Of course the newer Remington 375 Ultra Mag can fill this role as well, 50 years late. Though very versatile, unfortunately the .338 caliber cartridges cannot meet the DG restrictions thus could never be considered a sound choice as a single rifle for a world wide hunter….Very few cartridges can match the 378’s effectiveness at a quarter mile”. While it shares the same bullet diameter as the .375 H&H, the velocity is in a different realm; the .378 pushes a 300 grain bullet at close to 3000 fps. That is an amazing statistic by anyone’s standards.
    And so it is with the .378 Weatherby. While the .378’s prowess against dangerous game has been highly touted, it’s greatest potential has almost been overlooked. With a trajectory comparable to a .340, and double the horsepower of a .30-06 at any distance, the .378 becomes an extraordinary long-range cartridge for any rifleman pursuing elk, moose, big bears, and larger African game. The .378 Weatherby is a monumental cartridge in its size, power, and capabilities. While the statistics of the .378 are heroic, Glenn reminds us, “As we’ve read, there are many stories floating around the big game hunting circles of the 378’s bullet failures on heavy game. With any cartridge bullet selection is always critical, even more so for dangerous game and high velocity cartridges. All of the troubles associated with the 378 can be directly traced to the root cause of using improper bullets for the quarry. Since the introduction of the Barnes X bullet and its later evolutions, the 378 has come into a world of its own. The effect of a high velocity 375 caliber bullet on flesh and bone is devastating and gone are the worries of bullets self-destructing. Shoot these 375 Barnes mono-metal bullets as fast as you wish, they will not fail. Neither will the 378”.
    There are many who consider this their favorite Weatherby cartridge. My favorite is still the .340, but I’d welcome the chance to see if the .378 can replace it. Well, not really, but I think it can be a valuable addition. A .270, .340, and .378 Weatherby would make for a very well rounded trio. Top it off with a varmint caliber and a charge stopper, and you’d have it all.
    I like this quote best from Weatherby himself when it comes to the .378 Weatherby Magnum:

    "Because there was a definite need for a large bore, heavy bullet traveling at high velocity, we developed the .378 Magnum. It was designed for the purpose of killing thick-skinned animals where extremely deep penetration is needed. This is truly the rifle for the man who wants the utmost in killing power when concentrating on the world's largest and most dangerous game."

    Another quote from Glenn is a fitting way to end this article about the Magnum’s magnum:

    “….I can’t help but get excited about a cartridge and rifle I’ve been using for 30 years now. In fact as time has passed I have learned to enjoy the 378’s notoriety as the big bad boy on the block, it always makes me chuckle when I seem them shaking like the world might stop spinning when I pull a 378 out of the case….”
    Comments 60 Comments
    1. dråparn's Avatar
      dråparn -
      There is no problem with that. If it comes to a hunt i can take friends with me,at no cost only an open mind to have a good time. / dråparn
    1. Crullho's Avatar
      Crullho -
      I have a 378 and I absolutely love it. It's a Japanese Gun. I have no problems with recoil. Ive found 3 1/2" Turkey loads are about the worst, but I grew up hunting ducks and Canada Geese with Magnum loads, think thats what has me accustomed to the recoil. We have a range setup at the neighbors house and I took it there right after I got the gun. Mine is a factory ported barrel. The neighbor was afraid to shoot it, but he nearly cries at shooting his 30-06. He is a small guy and in his 60's. I shot it multiple times and he couldn't handle it, he had to try it once to just see what it was all about, three shots later, he wants to know how much more ammo I got. He had no problem with it once he got over the reputation. I don't think the 378 is any worse then my 300Wby. But it sure looks alot worse on the recieving end of the 300 grain end then the 300 does with the 180 grains. Anybody in my area wants to give it a go, come on by.
    1. Wbypoor's Avatar
      Wbypoor -
      Crullho....welcome to the Forum and thanks for sharing your experience with the 378!
    1. JB257460's Avatar
      JB257460 -

      You made some good points about the .378 and recoil in general. It mainly comes down to attitude and frame of mind. I grew up hunting ducks and geese on the Illinois River and also shot the Trap circuit, so I understand what you mean about the recoil similarities, and I agree. Where is Fieldon, Illinois? My family is from the Peoria area.
    1. natehunts's Avatar
      natehunts -
      JB, well written article. I love reading articles on Weatherby's big stuff. I do have to share the 'other' point of view on the so called vicious recoil rumors of the 378. A point has to be made that those rumors were generated by the German and Japanese 378 Weatherbys. These rifle barrels are not the same #3 contour barrel that exists on USA 378's. I don't fully understand the contours because they are both called #3 contour barrels yet they are visibly different in size. The USA barrels are clearly larger barrels. That was a mistake Weatherby made with the German and Japanese 378's, their barrels were too thin (fyi: the old guide books claim the 378 and 340 weigh the same, 8.5 lbs.). The stocks on the German and Japanese 378's are also lighter than the USA stocks. Weatherby corrected this with the USA's. The USA 378's are much more appropriate in size and weight for the cartridge.

      Because of these factors the German and Japanese 378's were considered 'vicious kickers'. That being said, Does the 460 generate more recoil? Just as you have stated, absolutely! If all 5 of the big Weatherby cased cartridges were shot out of the same gun,(everything being equal ie. heaviest bullet for each caliber, same barrel length, same total weight of the rifle, etc.) the recoil scale would be somewhat gradual step by step from the 30-378 to the 460. However, they don't make rifles equal like that. When comparing the 8.5lb-ish German 378 to a 10lb-ish 460...recoil can become hard to determine which 'kicks worse' for many people. To take this to an extreme, shoot a 378 in a 5 lb rifle and a 460 in a 20 lb rifle. Which will kick more? The point fo the analogy is just that rifle and barrel weight play a huge factor in 'felt recoil'. It is because of this that the early 378's were regarded as 'vicious recoilers'. it is understandable to surmise why some would consider the sharp and fast recoil of the early 378's to 'feel' more wicked than the 460. Felt recoil is a mysterious phenomenon that for some can seem completely manageable, and for others a major butt whooping.

      Anyway, I really enjoyed your article along with Glenn's excerpts. Very well written and interesting.
    1. natehunts's Avatar
      natehunts -
      I forgot to give my personal opinion about the recoil. I know that the 460 will undoubtedly generate more recoil. But the Jap/German 378 also kicks pretty hard and fast. For me, I can't say that the Jap/German kicks harder...to me it's just faster and sharper. I don't know if the best description of the 460 recoil is slow and more of a push, but at max loads it's just big.
    1. JB257460's Avatar
      JB257460 -
      Nate, you bring up some very valid supplemental information to the article. You are absolutely right! The older .378s were lighter and had thinner barrels and I guarantee the recoil woul've been vicious indeed! I neglected to account for the earlier versions of the cartridge/rifle combination, so I thank you for making sure that was considered when discussing this cartridge. You are also right by saying recoil is affected by gun weight and design and the only true way to compare cartridges is with identically set up rifles. I have no desire to get behind a .378 weiging in at 8.5 lbs. Personally, an unbraked .340 shooting 250 grain Partitions is close to the top of my comfort range. The newer .378 with a brake should be a piece of cake and I find my .416 to be exactly that.
    1. Mike378's Avatar
      Mike378 -
      I have owned in the past and/or being directly involved with 3 of the Jap 378s. I regard the recoil as extremely high. The problem is the way you shoot a 378 because of its long range potential. Calibres like 458 Lott of the 460 tend to invite you to shoot a few shots offhand at a rock or a tree.

      But in my opinion if a 378 is to be used to its full potential then a muzzle brake must be used. Without a brake the rifle simply has far too much movement from an improvised field rest if the goal is to shoot it as you would a 270 or 300 Winchester.
    1. skipper's Avatar
      skipper -
      I don't have brake on my japanese .378, but with a big scope/mount (about 1kg) and full magazine it is to handle :-)
    1. JohnnieB's Avatar
      JohnnieB -
      I can fully vouch for the difference in felt recoil between all the big 3...378, 416, and 460. My 378 is one of the lightweight Japanese versions and it weighs the same as my US 340. Now the recoil on that one is very fast. Shooting it with the brake makes it a pussycat. Definately less "felt" recoil than a 300 Win Mag, but the noise it makes and the muzzle blast is something out of this world and must truely be experienced to be enjoyed. Now with the brake off...for me...it just takes regular practice to manage that gun's recoil. I've discovered that the 378 unbraked recoil is just about at my upper limit of comfort for regular shooting, say once a month or so.

      Now, shooting the 460 changes things for me, mine, presently up for sale, is also a Japanese gun and it weighs in at 11 pounds, scope and all. Now they "say", that with the brake this thing recoils like a 375H&H. But I've got one of those and I see no comparison in "felt" recoil. I feel the 11 pound, braked 460 kicks a whole lot harder then a 375. Just my opinion. Now unbraked, even with the weight of this rifle, I will admit that the felt recoil is nowhere near as fast, or quick in its impact to your shoulder as the 378...but...it hits with so much more force that I simply find it uncomfortable to shoot. To me it feels like being hit in the shoulder with a sledgehammer. I'm just not comfortable with it.

      Now for the in-between 416. I do love the gun and its a US built rifle and weighs in around 10 lbs, I can shoot this one all day with the brake, the felt recoil on this one is really much more of a push, but a heavy push. Even the muzzle blast isn't too bad. When its unbraked, I find that I really need to practice with it weekly to be able to manage the recoil. But since I do love shooting the gun, I've switched over to shooting lighter loads in the rifle and find it much more manageable. Knocking 300 fps off the velocity really makes a difference in the recoil managability.

      Just a few thoughts.

    1. Bootes's Avatar
      Bootes -
      I had an early German 378 [which i sold ugh ]had a KDF and was great to shoot enjoyable ,addictive ! better than my 8x68.Im building a 378 on a accumark ,cant wait to use it ,its a mighty, balls and all round
    1. weatherbyman's Avatar
      weatherbyman -
      Ballistically speaking the 270 Grain in the 378 is superior to the 460 at 300-450 yards easily and has much better trajectory.

      Totally agree the mighty 378 is just one bad-ass Weatherby and one of my favorites... hell, they all are!

    1. gator378's Avatar
      gator378 -
      I hope to get one when funds are available. 30 inch barrel and #4 Weatherby Contour. I like long barrels and heavy guns. They shot so much better.
    1. Wbypoor's Avatar
      Wbypoor -
      Quote Originally Posted by gator378 View Post
      I hope to get one when funds are available. 30 inch barrel and #4 Weatherby Contour. I like long barrels and heavy guns. They shot so much better.
      I need to see that rifle!
    1. pop's Avatar
      pop -
      Well I waited 6 months for a new Krieger for my 378 Bee. It finally showed up last week.
      I was not overly happy with the performance of the rifle so I decided to deck her out. Fully blueprinted action.
      26" Krieger chamber in 378 WBY exact copy of Japanese (thinner than USA) contour.
      Williams brake steel bedded and pillar bedded and all the bells and whistles.
      Gunsmith said a week or two at the most. Should look exactly as below (before she went to surgery...)

      I had Daniel at cutting edge make me some Hunting match grade bullets 375/300 gr. The BC is .750 or so. Got them and the accubonds standing by.

      Wish me luck!

      300 CE BC .750 next to 260 Accubond.

    1. Wbypoor's Avatar
      Wbypoor -
      I am eagerly waiting to here how this little project work out!!
    1. gator378's Avatar
      gator378 -
      My next rifle. Hope I last long enough. Putting two kids through college to Masters and 1 to PHD used up the 378 funds.
    1. timlamca's Avatar
      timlamca -
      can any one please tell me if a 416 that was made around 1989 came with a muzzle break?
      thank you
    1. Wbypoor's Avatar
      Wbypoor -
      All Factory produced Mark V rifles in 416 Weatherby Magnum are equipped with muzzle brakes.
    1. johnny dawson's Avatar
      johnny dawson -
      I got my .378 in a trade, and it appealed to me because the fellow who had it claimed he had killed 6 elk with it, each time the elk dropping in its tracks. I love handloading, and it came with dies, so I thought I would experiment with this gun. Mine has no muzzle brake, and that is how I like it. The blast bothers me more than the kick.

      To reduce the kick, I wanted to add a mercury capsule in the butt. I wanted to add just enough weight to make the gun balance perfectly. So in the spirit of trial and error, I taped fish weights on the stock with duct tape, increasing the weight each time and finding the perfect weight for optimum balance. I bought the mercury capusule in that weight, and had it installed with the stock lengthened with an ebony spacer and Limbsaver pad.

      The result was a perfectly balanced rifle with tolerable kick. I load it with the military surplus WC860 powder and the 300 grain bullet in any brand. A smidgen under 3000 feet per second with one hundred percent load density and the Federal 215 primer. This gives a three shot group with usually two shots touching at a hundred yards.

      I put on a Burris fixed scope in six power, in their Eruo line, which is a scope with a 30mm tube. Weaver bases and rings. This scope has lots of eye relief and is more rugged than a variable. I couldn't be happier with my choice of scope.

      From a sitting position I can hit a one gallon jug at 250 yards 5 times out of six, without ear plugs. I am the first to admit that I am not a great shot, but that is good enough to kill game.

      Next I want to try the 385 grain Rhino bullet at 2550 fps.

      I wish Weatherby made it with a 28 inch barrel instead of 26. The .378 has a lot of powder to burn so the longer the better.