By David Tong
David gives AmmoLand readers a short history and review of the .416 Rigby Magnum cartridge.
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- In the annals of big-bore, repeating rifle cartridges, perhaps none have had such a lasting significance as the .416 Rigby Magnum.
The advent of smokeless propellants in the late 1880s meant that rifles could now be made with smaller bore diameters to achieve the dual needs of expansion and penetration. In the past, a giant black-powder “Express” double-rifle would have been de rigueur for hunting Africa’s largest and most dangerous game.
The year was 1911,,, enter the .416 Rigby Magnum .
The .416 Rigby Magnum benefited from the advent of the new powders. It’s standard loading is telling – over 100gr of slow burning powder behind a 400gr steel jacketed solid, or soft-point bullet, at a nominal velocity of 2,350fps for over 5,000ft-lbs of muzzle energy. Today, those ballistics have only been slightly improved, with standard loads right at 2,400fps.
Due to the case length of 2.9”, as well as a base case diameter of 0.589”, the round was too long for a standard bolt-action rifle action. The German Mauser firm was the first to build an action to accept the new cartridge, and it too was outsized. These are mostly found in a so-called “double-square-bridge” design, whereby the receiver ring and rear bridge have a flat profile contour, leaving extra material in case a telescopic scope mount base needed to be machined into them.
Probably the most famous book written about the use of the .416 Rigby Magnum was written by a Brit, Commander David Blunt, whose book “Elephant” is a long out of print classic. That said, others including our own Jack O’Connor, the famous American author also used the caliber during his trips to the Dark Continent while after buffalo and the large pachyderm.
I had the opportunity to own and shoot one for about six years. There is nothing about it that is small. Its powder consumption per round has already been mentioned. Bullets are expensive, I always used Federal 215 large rifle magnum primers, and IMR-4350 Powder. Each reloaded round probably cost close to $2.50.
That may sound excessive. However, a box of Federal Premium ammunition at the time ran the princely sum of $135 for 20, and that was over fifteen years ago.
My rifle, a Ruger M77 Safari Magnum, with a Circassian walnut stock, heavy profile barrel, integrally machined recoil lug at six o’clock in the forearm, and express sight base above at twelve, weighed in at almost eleven pounds, empty, sans scope and sling.
Oh, for a gunbearer.
Inexplicably, Ruger did not see fit to install any kind of recoil pad on this nearly $2,000 MSRP rifle, only using one of their rubber buttpads. Just a few initial shots to familiarize myself with it on my first range trip dissuaded me of that folly, and I soon fitted up a Limb Saver internally vented pad.
I used a Burris 1.5-5 X 24 Riflescope in the factory Ruger Scope Rings, and could easily manage 3 shot groups measuring a bit over an inch at 75 yards from the bench. No doubt it was capable of better than that.
The recoil level is not for the faint of heart. I am fairly recoil-proof, having cut my teeth on short-stocked, metal buttplate military surplus rifles as a teen, and shot both a .375 and a .458 Winchester Magnum as well. The .416 was a bit sharper than the .458 even though heavier in weight, while it has roughly 1/3 more recoil than the .375 Holland.
.416 Rigby Magnum Today
Obviously, the .416 Rigby Magnum caliber is not for any North American game and is a specialty round for the dwindling hunting opportunities for which it was designed. It requires patience to master.
Yet, the .416 Rigby Magnum cartridge case itself spun off two progeny. Most of the Weatherby Magnum cartridges are based on the Rigby. Roy Weatherby added a less-than-useful case head belt, but otherwise copied the case diameter and length for his cartridge line, as well as its small case shoulder and long neck for heavy bullet seating. The sharp shoulder is a boon for precise headspacing and accuracy, but all of the .375” and above cartridges in my limited experience are good shooters.
The other round that has Rigby “parentage” is the current darling of the long-distance shooter or military sniper, namely the .338 Lapua Magnum. In its essentials, it is little more than the .416 case necked down to accept the .338” bullets, and is also known for gilt-edged accuracy at distances over a mile.
In the U.S., having one is an affectation unless you are a man or woman of some means, and can afford to take one over to Africa. Some of us though are incorrigible romantics, and enjoy our shooting implements as a historic notion (with all due consideration to the dwindling numbers of the animals for which it was designed to vanquish).
So, I say, if the .416 Rigby Magnum tickles your fancy, have at it. It is fun on a grand scale.
AmmoLand friend Ron Spomer gives a great look at the .416 Rigby Rifle.