.375 JDJ

The Original Hand Cannon
; .

A close-up of Tank’s TC .375 JDJ handgun on the bench. Those are 270-grain
MP Molds HPGC slugs loaded over Hodgdon H-322.

Thanks to stalwarts JD Jones of SSK Industries and Larry Kelly of Mag-na-port International, the 1970s were the heyday for handgun hunters, the decade being filled with design and innovation.

Kelly came up with the idea of porting barrels using Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) to reduce recoil, muzzle blast and barrel flip while Jones brought us custom-quality barrels chambered in both standard and wildcat cartridges for Thompson/Center (TC) Contender single-shot frames. Later, they both designed cool, limited run, one-of-a-kind handguns for handgun hunters.

One of the most popular calibers Jones designed is his .375 JDJ cartridge. Made for the TC Contender single-shot handgun/carbine, this powerful cartridge is simply the .444 Marlin case necked-down to accept 0.375″ bullets. This is done by running fresh .444 Marlin brass through your .375 JDJ sizing die. With Starline Brass making .444 Marlin brass now, we are in great shape!

Both JD and Larry proved the .375 JDJ’s mettle by taking elephant, Cape buffalo, lion, bears and other large, dangerous game, most with a single well-placed shot. It was — and still is — considered the “original” hand cannon for good reason. It’s no wonder they’re best buddies. Ken Kelly said, “more like brothers, talking every morning on the phone for an hour or more.”


Double trouble! — Larry with a couple of nice Cape buffalo he took with the 375 JDJ.

Ballistically Speaking …

Bullets from 220–235 grains can be driven to 2,200 fps. These slugs are ideal for deer-sized game and are easier on the wrist while shooting. Mid-weight bullets in the 270-grain class can easily reach 2,000 fps and are a good all-around weight for practically anything. Lastly, are the 300-grain heavyweights driven to 1,900 FPS? These slugs are capable of taking any game on earth — and have. In my 20″ TC Carbine, a bona-fide crusher, velocities reach over 200 FPS more from the longer barrel.

Sadly, both the Hornady round-nosed bullets have been discontinued as well as the mighty fine 220-grain Interlock bullet. I stocked up on those bullets before they were discontinued. I’m stingy shooting them and plan on saving them for nostalgic hunts in the future. However, there are several other worthy bullets made today to fill the niche of those older slugs.


Here’s the fixins’ for .375 JDJ handload happiness — (left to right) 444 brass parent
cartridge; 220-grain Hornady bullet, MP Molds 270-grain HPGC slug, RCBS 270-grain
FNGC slug, Speer 235-grain bullet and 300-grain RN Hornady bullet.

Cast Bullets … Again

You know me — I cannot write about a cartridge without mentioning a load, or two, involving the use of cast bullets. And, with some Hornady bullets being discontinued, it only makes sense to shoot a lot of cast bullets. There’s a lesson there somewhere, eh?
I have two favorites for the .375 JDJ. The first is the RCBS 250 FNGC, or flat-nosed gas-check design. Cast from wheel-weights it drops from the mold at 270 grains. Loaded over a stiff charge of Hodgdon H322, velocities over 2,000 FPS are easily obtained.

The MP Molds 270-grain HPGC (hollow-point gas-check) gets the same loads of H322 for the same velocity. As with most Thompson Center barrel/Contender combos, accuracy is as good as you can hold. We’re talking 1–1.5″ at 100 yards! No wonder people love TC single-shots!


Here’s Tank’s TC G2 Contender carbine, above his original TC Contender hand cannon.
Those guns have a reputation for accuracy — and prove it with typical 100-yard targets.

Tank’s Rigs

My own 375 JDJ rigs are nothing short of spectacular, in a TC-factory sort of way. The hand-cannon consists of an original TC Contender frame with a factory .375 JDJ barrel. I added a Pachmayr forearm and grip with sling swivels. This addition is nice for absorbing felt recoil. I sure wish Pachmayr would bring them back as they are discontinued.

Scope-wise, I have a Bushnell Elite 3200 2-6X scope just like Larry used. I recently had Ken Kelly, Larry’s son, port it for me on my last trip to Mag-na-port. Shooting it for years in original factory form, I finally decided the reduction in recoil with “original” Mag-na-port porting just makes it right.

My carbine has the G2 Contender frame with the 20″ Carbine barrel attached to it. I have a Bushnell Banner 3-9X scope mounted on it. It is short, quick pointing and a joy to carry, as a carbine should be.


For Nostalgia’s Sake

Pulling these guns from my safe, I’m quickly reminded just how well TC guns shoot! Hardcore TC fans already know this — I just wish they’d make a resurgence in the manufacturing world. Still, it’s fun to shoot what our heroes did before us. If only we all could hunt the world over like Larry Kelly and JD Jones did …

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