Two’s company, three’s a crowd. In the old days, when safaris were longer, bag limits were higher, and most safaris included opportunities at multiple varieties of dangerous game. The most common African battery included three rifles, based around a light, medium, and heavy caliber. Things have changed. Today’s safaris are shorter, and bag limits are lower. Baggage weight limits have dropped, and some African countries allow temporary importation of no more than two firearms. Regardless of restrictions in today’s Africa and especially for the plains game safari, two firearms are the maximum that should be brought.
The two-rifle battery. Most hunters today bring two rifles. This allows for a bit of specialization in that you can bring a lighter rifle for the smaller animals and a heavier rifle for zebra and the largest antelope. However, keep in mind that it’s difficult to predict when an opportunity might arrive for any certain species, so the light rifle probably shouldn’t be too light and the heavy rifle shouldn’t be too heavy—since we are discussing options for plains game. It’s probably desirable to have some overlap or redundancy between the two so that you’re “covered” in case of a mechanical failure or something catastrophic, like a stock breaking. While you may consider a second rifle primarily as a spare, keep in mind that some countries, including South Africa, do not allow temporary importation of multiple rifles chambered to the same cartridge.
The one-rifle battery. This is always an option and may be a good one, depending on the animals you intend to hunt and the rifle/cartridge you choose. If one rifle is chosen, it must be extremely reliable! Equally important, it must be powerful enough for the largest game you intend to hunt, and its scope must be suitable for the full range of shots you expect to encounter.
Shotguns and Handguns
Shotguns. If one rifle is chosen, then serious bird hunters might consider taking a shotgun as a second firearm. Most African areas have some bird hunting, and in many places it can be spectacular. Also, in thicker country the pygmy antelopes and smaller predators are often hunted with shotguns. Shotguns are usually available in camp, but adequate ammunition for a serious bird shoot may not be available (and baggage restrictions won’t allow enough to be brought), so these are discussions you should have with your outfitter.
Handguns. Regulations regarding temporarily importing handguns vary widely with the country, and they are also subject to rapid change. Unless one is serious about hunting with a handgun there is no compelling reason to bring one, but if desired this is an issue that must be discussed with your outfitter.