Author Scott Perkins and his latest dugga boy taken with
Rigby’s Big Game rifle in the long-proven 416 Rigby caliber.
When I was 12, my dad took me to an Issac Walton League banquet at the Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs. While waiting for the banquet feast of wild game from all over the world to open, we stepped into the Abercombe and Fitch store to gaze over the many rifles and shotguns they had on display. A&F catered to the global hunter and we almost felt under-dressed walking into the store wearing a tie and sport coat. Having poured over the many hair raising hunting stories of Africa that were found in the numerous magazines and books that adorned my grandfathers and fathers libraries; I immediately went to the African rifle section to see what all of these shoulder canons were all about. There were some new and highly engraved offerings in the smaller magnums from 338 to 375 along with numerous used doubles from 375 Rimless to 450-400 to 600NE; but the one rifle that caught my eye had a dark walnut stock that had been well oiled over the years and had a few nicks and dings showing it had been used and well care for. The barrel and bolt that had the bluing worn off where a rifle that had been handled and used would show wear and tear. I asked if see that one?
After my father reassured the stolid salesperson that I could be trusted to safely and carefully handle a rifle, I had the opportunity to hold and shoulder an original Big Game in the highly regarded 416 Rigby caliber. If memory serves me correctly, the rifle was made in 1922 and had never been fitted for a scope. I clearly remember my dad saying that the rifle was offered at a price that equated to the average man’s annual salary. That rifle fit me like a glove. The very moment that I sighted down the barrel and held that well-worn pistol grip and forearm in my hands, I closed my eyes and could smell the heat of the day in sub-Saharan Africa that I had read so much about. I knew right then and there that one day I’d do whatever it took to be able to afford to such a fine-working piece of craftsmanship and follow my dream to Africa and hunt dangerous game, namely Cape buffalo. I remember Dad looking at the price tag and telling me that is more than most men make in a year and carefully hand it back to the gentleman.
Flash forward from 1966 to 2016 and I’m wandering around the block-long halls of the Dallas Convention Center surrounded by countless booths of African, North American, and European outfitters with hunting/shooting vendors from around the world. I was in manly-man heaven!
Navigating through the pressing crowds of people I wound my way around through the rows of booths and eventually found the Rigby display. While being introduced and nearly putting his freshly-mended broken arm back in a cast while shaking his hand, I had the great pleasure of meeting and discussing the logistics of acquiring a second generation Big Game Rigby with Marc Newton, Managing Director of Rigby. As soon as Marc returned to the UK following the US hunting convention show circuit, the funds were wired and the order was placed.
Nearly a year later, the US-bound rifle consignment arrived at Rigby’s importer in San Antonio, Texas. I made the 2-hour trip from Houston to the consignee’s office and made my selection. Trust me, it was hard to select just one rifle, as they were all superbly built. I was the second person in the US to take possession of the famed Rigby Big Game. I called my Dad to tell him that, “by Godfry, it took me fifty years, but I finally own a new version of the version of that Rigby rifle that I held over 50 years earlier – the famed 416.” I got the ‘make sure you break the barrel in properly’ lecture and he hoped that my shoulder could handle that big-assed rifle. “I don’t know why you want one of those things…” My dad never sugar-coated anything, but he respected my dream to finally hunt Africa with a Rigby in my hands. All the way I home I shook my head in disbelief that I now owned the same rifle that had not been made on a true Mauser action since 1939.
Having held an original Big Game, the second generation of the famed rifle did not disappoint. The machinists and artisans in the Rigby factory lovingly followed the original blue prints to the smallest of details. I couldn’t wait to get to the range and break in the barrel with factory ammunition. To be perfectly honest, I was not impressed with the accuracy of the factory ammunition offerings that the rifle was proofed with. After using rifles with trigger pulls in 4 pound range, it took me some time to get used to the butter smooth, 2.75lbs trigger pull. Having no take-up or creep, the trigger broke cleanly and exactly at the factory setting and it’s a pleasure to press the trigger and send nearly a quarter of a pound of lead down range. However, the wide, hockey-puck-hard butt pad, which is designed to spread the effect of the felt recoil leaves much to be desired for a slender-built person such as me. That cussed butt pad made shooting the rifle off the bench a punishing ordeal. Not wanting to put layers of coats on the Houston heat and humidity, I had resort to dreaded wussy shoulder pad to diminish the bruising effects from the 58lbs of recoil. For whatever reason, I never feel the 58lbs to 70lbs of recoil when I’m on the shooting sticks with my heavier magnum rifles. I cussed that recoil pad every time I put a round down range, but I got the rifle dialed in with the factory loads that the rifle was proofed with.
Confirming the zero after removing and installing the Recknagel quick release system.
I promised myself to not change the factory recoil pad until the rifle had been properly initiated in Africa. I figured if it was good enough for all the writers I had followed for many years, it would be good enough for me and I just had to man-up.
The groupings were okay, but I knew I could do better with my hand-loads. Using 400 grain Federal Triple Shock (TSX), I worked up a hand-load that will cut the same bullet hole at 75 meters – every time.
Having returned from a very successful Cape buffalo hunt in Mozambique, this skinny hunter is in the process of replacing the original recoil pad with a recoil absorbing model that is more bench friendly for slender-built guys like me!
I first hunted Cape buffalo 15 years ago with my best friend Frank Fowler, in Coutada 10 of the Marromeau hunting district located on the Zambezi River delta in east central Mozambique. Frank and I contracted our new best friend Gordon Stark, co-owner of Nhoro Safaris to guide our first Cape buffalo hunts for us. Gordon and his partner, Chris Gough, run a highly-respected safari company hunting on the best-managed concessions found in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Hopefully they’ll get back to Tanzania this coming year.
My John Robert’s-built Rigby in 416 Rem was my firearm of choice for those first two hunts in Coutada 10; but I always wished I had the classic 416 Rigby in my hands. Frank took his Dakota 416 Rigby and I was quite envious of that rifle and caliber. Compared to my 416 Rem, with the lower chamber pressures, the 416 Rigby is more of a hard push than a sharp crack to shoot. Frank and I love working up handloads for our doubles to replicate what they were originally regulated to and to have the most accurate ammo chambered in any of our shoulder canons.
To say that the swamps of the Zambezi delta ain’t for sissys is an understatement of profound proportions. I’ll always cherish the experience of seeing the awe-inspiring herds of hundreds and hundreds of buffalo splashing through the reeds and the oppressive heat shimmering in the distance as the cattle egrets danced in the wind over the feeding herds of buffalo. Wading through chest deep papyrus reeds and pulling feet out of the black, fetid mud, knowing full well there were large crocs and hippos nearby is an experience I will never forget. Fifteen years is a long time to diminish the relentless torment of our arms and legs to the hordes of hungry tsetse flies and black clouds of mosquitos.
It wasn’t long enough, however, to forget the time we got lost trying cross one of the Zambezi River channels in an overloaded Argo as I was sitting atop a buffalo carcass, in a constant drizzle, no stars or moon, no waypoints on the GPS (after someone who’s initials are Gordon pushed the wrong button) to help us navigate our way back to camp. After two hours of trying to find the crossing, one of Gordon’s trackers told us that the local tracker ‘does not know his way in the dark’. After a long four hours of swatting tsetse flies, skeeters, and three sets of flashlight batteries later, Marco finally found the crossing and we made it back to camp at 2:30 in the morning. We were drenched and totally drained and fell into bed and didn’t stir until noon. Fifteen years wasn’t long enough to forget the three days we spent shivering under rain-saturated rain gear holding palm fronds over our heads as the one and only storm in the entire delta dumped monsoonal rains on us. That storm system would dump on us then drift out over the Indian Ocean long enough for us to hunt a few hours only to return and dump more rain late in the day to end a long day in the bush. The most notable day of C10 hunting memory was my first day in the delta when I nearly died from heat stroke tracking my mortally-wounded bull who just wouldn’t die, in 52C/124F temps with heat indexes in the deadly-to-humans range. I wasn’t about to let monsoon rains, blood sucking tsetse flies or the back-jarring ride and artery cooking temps of engine heat from Argos (intended to be used in the tundra of the Arctic), nor the late season oppressive delta temperatures and a little heat stroke sway Frank and me from our hunts in the delta.
Land Rovers don’t float over axle-deep mud!
I’m very proud of the dugga boys I took on those two hunts in the Zambezi swamps, but I wanted the heavy-bossed, deep curled, well swept-back dugga boys that existed further north in the delta. I wanted the classic buffalo that everyone sees in their minds eyes when they think of a dugga boy. The southern region of the Zambezi delta was very hard-hit during the 17-year Mozambique civil war and those classic Cape buffalo genetics were largely missing as a result of the 300 to 500 buffalo that were shot every week from gunships to feed the troops. The concerted effort by the 14 concession owners for the recovery of the entire ecosystem in the Zambezi delta is something that every game management student should read and follow as the way it’s to be done. It’s a remarkable success story worth the time and effort to learn about.
It took me nearly six years after acquiring my Rigby Big Game to take it to Africa and use it for the dangerous game that the rifle and caliber was intended for. Flying during Covid is not for faint of heart or for those of little patience. Frank and I were supposed to hook up in Atlanta and then continue our journey to Joburg and Beira as the deadly duo our co-workers had dubbed us. Frank’s flight was cancelled
and he couldn’t get to Mozambique until two days after I arrived in camp at Nyati Safaris in Coutada 14. The rustic and well-built Nyati Safaris camp is located on the banks of the Kunguma River.
The setting was photographer’s dreams. The crocs splashing into the water from the banks around camp and the hippo bulls were our nightly entertainment as they fought and bellowed into the early morning hours of first light.
After getting unpacked, we went to the shooting range and confirmed that the Recknagel mounting system left the Swarovski Z6 scope exactly where I left it at my home shooting range located in Divide, Colorado. Not wanting to waste any time waiting on Frank to arrive, the following morning, we quickly finished our breakfast and loaded our gear into the 50-year-old Series Two Land Rover named Elvis. The old Landy is so named because it shakes, rattles and rolls, but it gets you out and back.
We bounced and rocked our way out two hours from camp into the start of the swamps as the morning fog evaporated into steam and oppressive late season, bread-baking heat as the sun rose slowly above the horizon. Note: if there’s a bump, hole or rut in the trail that will rattle your fillings, Gordon will find it. Gordon has this bad habit of looking at the person he’s talking to rather than concentrating on where he’s driving. It makes for an interesting driving experience!
Being late in the dry season, we were able to drive around most of the waterlogged reeds and watch for the flocks of cattle egrets that followed the buffalo. Avoiding the big herds already cooling off in the water, the keen eyes of our trackers saw the cattle egrets feeding on the bugs kicked up by a herd of five dugga boys. After stopping and taking a hard look through the binoculars, we decided to take a closer evaluation. Staying down-wind, we made a two-mile, hour-long stalk to within 60 meters of the five bulls. They had no idea we were there and continued feeding toward us as they headed to the cool mud of the swamps to rest out the heat of the day. Comfortably resting on the sticks, I was able to evaluate all of the bulls except the one bull that immediately caught my eye.
One of the dugga boy’s bosses were completely worn off and the other three were a lateral move to what I had harvested years ago in C10. When the bull in question finally raised his head so I could see his right side, the trigger came off safe and as soon as he turned fully broadside, the Rigby barked in my hands as I chambered another round. He went down like a sack of bricks, yet managed to get back up and take another round before collapsing under a palm tree in an old wallow 25 yards from where he was first shot. Remembering that memorable quip that Gordon Stark coined years ago – bullets are cheap, hospitals are expensive and funerals are sad – two insurance rounds found their marks and my first bull of the hunt was headed to the salt. After six years, my Rigby had finally been properly initiated on the dangerous game and on the continent that it was intended for.
Part of the clean up crew.
Recovered 400gn TSX from the author’s dugga boy.
Arriving in camp two days later, Frank collected a nice bull on his first day of his hunt with his 416. Taking turns on the sticks, Frank took a very nice bull on the last day of our hunt. To date, this one of our best hunts ever; both of us using the venerable 416 Rigby cartridge.
The devastating power of the classic 416 Rigby is undeniable. Having a true Rigby in my hands and hunting buffalo in one of the last remaining truly wild places in Africa, is the thing that fills a young man’s dreams.
Frank Fowler with his second dugga boy taken with his Dakota chambered in 416 Rigby.
From left to right: Frank Fowler, Gordon Stark of Nhoro Safaris, Scott Perkins and the three dugga boys they took using their 416 Rigby rifles.