The saga of the Rigby Big Game rifle has taken remarkable twists since Aug. 29, 1912, the day Col. Sir Aubrey Woolls Sampson, hero of the Anglo-Boer wars, took delivery of the first of the famed dangerous-game guns. The big .416 Rigby, built on the Mauser Magnum action, was slow to catch on. Only 189 are believed to have been produced through 1940, at which point World War II halted supply of the key component from Germany. When post-war manufacture resumed, relatively few could be produced, so the London gunmaker attempted to modify surplus 98Ks or utilized derivative actions such as the French-made Brevex or the BRNO from Czechoslovakia when they could be obtained.
Help came unexpectedly when American writer Robert Ruark made the Rigby a virtual character in his popular works, Horn of the Hunter (1953) and Something of Value (1955), in admiration of the way professional hunter Harry Selby wielded his Rigby during safaris in East Africa. Around campfires worldwide, that spotlight elevated the .416 over other magazine-rifle calibers, accruing acclaim that would pay dividends in future demand.
Rigby remained a London fixture until the 1990s, but then a series of ownership changes, along with a trans-Atlantic legal fight, resulted in competing production in both the U.S. and in England. The turmoil came to an abrupt halt in 2013 with the acquisition of Rigby, and all of its marques and records, by the Swiss/German L&O Group, whose portfolio includes SIG Sauer, Blaser and Mauser. In effect, the clock was turned back a century to when Rigby, as Mauser’s exclusive London agent, persuaded the Germans to enlarge their action so that it could compete with big-bore double rifles.