416 Rigby Overview
The British firm of John Rigby & Co. is older than the United States. Founded in 1775 by John Rigby, the Dublin, Ireland, gunmaker manufactured elegant flintlock rifles and pistols. Some 23 years later, Rigby’s facility was raided by Town-Major Henry Sirr and police force. Virtually every firearm in his place was seized and kept for a lengthy time. By the time they were returned, the firearms were virtually worthless, most having been disassembled and cannibalized for parts.
In 1816, Rigby, now 58 years old, brought his son, William, in as a partner. Two years later, John Rigby died, and William brought in his brother, John Jason Rigby, into the business. The brothers ran it—now called W&J Rigby—until 1887 when John Jason was appointed superintendent of the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock. The Rigby name was always identified with the finest quality in firearms, and as the 19th century came to a close, firearm technology was skyrocketing.
Cordite—a double-based smokeless propellant that looks similar to spaghetti—was patented in Britain in 1889. The burn rate of Cordite was modified by the surface area early on. Thin strands burned at a faster rate, while thicker strands had a slower rate of deflagration. Big-game hunting was still popular among the privileged class, but those gorgeous examples of the gunmaker’s art—double rifles—were terribly expensive.
Too, the idea caught on among some that a magazine rifle could hold more cartridges and therefore be rather valuable when things went sideways with an animal that can bite, claw or stomp a hunter, as well as his entourage, in the event of a poorly placed shot. However, magazine rifles can be problematic in feeding the rimmed cartridges used in double rifles. W.J. Jeffery & Co. and Westley Richards each came out with proprietary heavy-game cartridges in 1905 and 1909, respectively.
The .404 Jeffery was initially loaded with either a 300-grain bullet at 2,600 f.p.s. with 4,500 ft.-lbs. of energy or a 400-grain bullet at 2,150 f.p.s. and 4,100 ft.-lbs. of energy. Westley Richards developed a .425 Westley Richards launching a 410-grain bullet at 2,350 f.p.s. with 5,010 ft.-lbs. of thump. Each of these cartridges easily outshined the .450 Black Powder Express cartridge that they replaced. The .425 Westley Richards features a rebated rim , allowing it to be built on a standard .30-’06 Sprg. length Mauser 98 action.
The .404 Jeffery needed a Magnum Mauser action to accommodate its overall length. John Rigby wasn’t sitting on the sidelines. In 1897, he negotiated an agreement with Mauser-Oberndorf to be the exclusive source for all Mauser-made rifles, barreled actions and parts in Great Britain; an arrangement that extended into the first 40 years of the 20th century. Rigby then set about designing a cartridge that worked well in a bolt-action magazine rifle and perform as well or better than the Jeffery and Westley Richards cartridges.
He started from scratch—no parent case and no existing bullet—a rather expensive way to develop a new cartridge. Rigby’s cartridge turned out to be slightly rebated-rim case, 2.900″ long, .589″ in diameter at its base tapering to .540″ at the shoulder with a bullet diameter of .416″. Such a huge case could only be contained in a Magnum Mauser No. 5 receiver. Rigby’s magnum magazine rifle was an instant success, though the raw numbers made it seem paltry. This was a custom rifle for those who traveled the world in search of big game, so rifle and cartridge were proprietary.
Too, while the magazine rifle was popular because of its cost—about half that of a double rifle at that time—and lighter weight, Rigby still continued to crank out double rifles for those who wanted the best and could afford it. From 1912 until World War II, Rigby turned out just 169 rifles on the Magnum Mauser receiver. Over the following 59 years, just 364 copies were built. A resurgence of interest in the .416 Rigby rifle and cartridge came from Jack O’Connor in the 1960s.
|Condition||New in Box|
|Manufacturer Part Number||P416T2|