The best all-round Africa caliber
If someone had the intention of only taking one rifle to Africa to shoot mostly plains game, but would also like to hunt buffalo, elephant, and lion, would you say that the best all-round affordable caliber is the .375? The .375 was recommended to me for both distance and capability to kill (understanding that the PH would be able to “stop” an elephant or buffalo with his rifle), but I would love your input on the matter.
I think you have been given the right advice. The .375 H&H is the best all-rounder for a mostly African plains game type hunt with the odd big and dangerous species thrown in. What is critical with the .375 H&H is to use the right bullets for the species to be hunted. On large bag, plains game hunts, one must be really careful about clients being subjected to too much recoil (because some shots may be taken prone) and then becoming gun-shy or developing a flinch. This can occur from a lot of shots with 300-grainers. So, for all the antelope species, with the exception of eland and giraffe, I’d recommend using just one good bullet, like a Swift A-Frame or a Barnes Triple-Shock in the 235- to 250-grain weight range or maybe a 270-grainer, sighted in for the expected shooting distances, say 200 paces. For this type of hunting a 3-9X scope is best.
Then, when buff and elephants are on the menu, you need to go to heavier bullets--at least 300-grainers, but my preference is heavier bullets like 350s; and you’ll need both solids (for all elephant shots and buff backing ones) and good softpoints for the initial shot at buff, lion, and for eland. If the rifle has QD scope mounts, I find it useful to have a second scope, like a good 1-4X or 1.5-5X sighted in especially for these bullets so that they impact dead-on at 100. That way, whatever species is being hunted, you simply have to fit the appropriate scope and load up the rifle with the right ammo. This way all the bases are covered. In the past I have had clients shoot buffalo while we were stalking impala, and kudu while we were tracking buffalo.
If the emphasis of the hunt was the other way round--i.e. a dangerous game hunt with the odd plains game animal thrown in now and again, then one of the .400s would be a better option, but they recoil quite a bit more than the .375 H&H and for this reason, they are not the best option for a lot of plains-game type hunting.