[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A CARTRIDGE TO DREAM ABOUT
By Johan van Wyk
I suppose every schoolboy that was raised on a mixture of the gospel according to Messrs Taylor and Ruark, together with a dog-eared copy of Cartridges of the World, and a fair dose of gunpowder and hunting opportunities thrown in for good measure – has a favorite cartridge – that special one that is idolised from an early age and the one that must be owned at all costs one day. For me, that special cartridge was (and is) the .416 Rigby, and I’m happy to report that it took just over thirty years for me to own a rifle in .416 Rigby since I first became aware of the cartridge’s existence.
My introduction to the almost mythical .416 Rigby came many moons ago when I was still in primary school. My old man had done a lot of big-game hunting in what was then Rhodesia, and I would listen to his hunting stories with a growing determination that someday I, too, would walk on the big tracks through the mopane forests. My dad’s big-game gun was a .375 and he used it very successfully on all manner of the big stuff, but every now and then he would turn to me and say: “Now, the .416 Rigby! There’s a grand rifle!” To the best of my knowledge my dad never used a .416 in anger on anything, but it certainly left an unforgettable impression on me, and I would often stare at the fired .416 case on my dad’s bookshelf, promising myself that one day I would have one as well.
To put things in perspective, the .416 Rigby dates back to 1912 and, as the name implies, was introduced by the venerated firm of John Rigby & Co in rifles made on the famed M98 Magnum Mauser action. Rigby clearly had great things in mind for their .416, and for starters they saw to it that the cartridge was loaded with what was, for the time, premium quality bullets. The rifles were extremely well made and soon gained a reputation in Africa and India for all the right reasons as well. Standard ballistics was a 410-grain bullet (available in either full-metal jacketed solid, soft-point expanding or hollow-point configuration) at 2 371 fps for just a touch over 5 000 ft/lbs of muzzle energy.
By the early 1980s, I was seriously pestering my old man to acquire a .416 Rigby of sorts. Not that we had a need for one, mind you, but someday we surely would badly need one! At the time, finding a suitable action to build a .416 Rigby on was a challenge, to say the least. Both the Magnum Mauser and the French-made Brevex had been out of production for decades, and examples of both were not only almost impossible to get hold of, but ridiculously expensive as well.
As my old man would not even hear about using a perfectly serviceable Brno ZKK 602 action (which was freely available) – we found an unused example in a Northern Transvaal gunshop for the princely sum of R 495 in 1988 – this left me in somewhat of a quandary and I made a habit of scanning the classifieds and keeping my ear on the ground. Rather annoyingly though, the only .416 that cropped up was a beautiful pre-war example by Rigby. It was a lovely old rifle, but my dad’s eyes started to water when he heard the price and I was back to square one in my quest for a .416.
Well, time went by, I finished school and eventually entered university. Along the way, priorities changed, and for a few years at least the search for a .416 Rigby was well and truly on the back burner. When Ruger introduced a version of their M77 rifle in .416 Rigby, I was astounded and soon thereafter rifles chambered for the .416 Rigby became almost commonplace in South Africa, as did .416 Rigby ammunition and reloading components.
When my time came to walk on the big tracks through the mopane forest for the first time, I carried a much-prized .375 and, with my dad’s advice regarding how to shoot a buffalo still uppermost in my mind, had a great time and a successful hunt. Over the years I’ve crossed paths with a great many .416 Rigby rifles, both custom-made ones as well as the odd original vintage rifle and, even if I have to say so myself, I’ve become a bit of a Rigby aficionado, being very susceptible to spending the odd afternoon taking apart an old rifle and marveling at its nooks and crannies. Being on friendly terms with a dealer or two who specialise in old rifles doesn’t help one bit, of course, as my long-suffering wife is wont to remind me every so often.
Not too long ago I spent a pleasant few days in the bush with the owner of a large European firearms manufacturer. To say that we got along well is a bit of an understatement and, to make a long story short, I became the owner of a beautiful Heym Martini Express in .416 Rigby shortly after returning home. Finally, more than thirty years since my path crossed with the .416 Rigby, I owned one. At last!
It is a finely-made, reliable and good-looking rifle, and I look forward to spending many years in its company. What makes it doubly special is that I will be carrying the Heym on the big tracks through the mopane forest in a couple of months’ time.
See? Boyhood dreams sometimes really turn into reality.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]