Visitors to the February 2016 SCI Convention will have the chance to bid for a truly exceptional rifle built by London gunmaker John Rigby & Co., which shares the DNA of one of the most famous hunting rifles of the 20th century.
SCI Convention is known as the Biggest and Best in big game hunting, and is the “Ultimate Hunters’ Market.” The lots donated each year for its annual auction are no less exceptional. This year, the auction will feature the second in a series of five specially commissioned rifles, known as the World Heritage Rifle Series, each celebrating a different continent.
Rigby’s donation piece celebrates the Indian subcontinent, and is an homage to the legendary .275 Rigby that was used by the renowned Jim Corbett to dispatch numerous man-eating big cats in the Kumaon region of India.
The first rifle in the series was created in celebration of Africa and was auctioned at the 2015 convention. It was made by John Bolliger Sr. and Jr. and its sale raised $140,000 for SCI’s projects. It’s hoped that the second in the series will go even further.
Rigby’s original plan was to produce a London Best bolt-action rifle in .350 Rigby. Speaking to SCI about how delighted the firm was to be involved in the World Heritage Series, Managing Director Marc Newton said: “The rifle will be engraved with exquisite jungle scenes to capture the spirit of India and will have the complete feel of a pre-war classic Rigby,” Newton explained. “We will be creating a rifle that would have felt at home in the hands of Jim Corbett chasing a man eater or two.”
By a fortunate coincidence shortly afterwards, Rigby managed to track down and acquire Corbett’s own .275 for its London museum, as previously reported here. As a result, the firm decided to change its donation piece to a rifle of the same caliber, to be built as a tribute to Corbett’s original.
The resulting bolt-action London Best will be a labor of love, taking the Rigby team of artisan gunmakers and engravers an estimated 850 hours of work to produce, with painstaking attention to detail to ensure that the result captures the spirit of Corbett and shows the art of modern gunmaking at its finest.
To maximise space for engraving, the donation piece will be a single square bridge, and, just like the original, will be built on a classic Mauser action. It will have a 25-inch classic Rigby barrel, a claw extractor, three position Mauser-style safety, and classic Rigby-pattern sights. It will also feature engraving inspired by Corbett’s achievements and illustrations from his books on the barrel, action, magazine, bolt, grip cap and metal butt plate.
The specifications to which the team is working were taken from the firm’s original ledgers, where the details of the rifle that was to become Corbett’s were recorded, and which can be viewed along with the rifle at Rigby’s London headquarters.
Work began this spring, with Marc Newton personally selecting the wood for stock from a choice of several hundred blanks of exhibition-grade Turkish walnut. Since then, the team has been working on the action and barrel and the stocking, which is being finalised this autumn.
All the work on the rifle is being undertaken at Rigby’s London workshop, with, among others, gunsmith Olivier Leclercq crafting the metalwork, Vladimir Tomascik stocking and Mark Renmant chequering and finishing.
The design and execution of the engravings is being driven by one of the newest members of the Rigby team, the exceptionally talented young French engraver Geoffrey Lignon. Geoffrey’s passion for big game animals is akin to Corbett’s own, and he has a rare ability to capture their beauty and power.
The donation rifle will be auctioned with a specially made case, crafted from buffalo leather by London firm Traditional English Guncases.
As part of the World Heritage Series, the .275 will be sold with a stunning display credenza manufactured for the convention by specialist woodworkers Julian & Sons. It will also be accompanied by a limited edition commemorative set of Corbett’s writings, which will feature a new foreword by vintage gun specialist Diggory Haddoke.
The firm originally planned to produce only 100 sets of these special editions, however, the level of interest in the books has surpassed even Rigby’s expectations and 275 sets will now be printed, all of which will be numbered and bound in Rigby blue leather.
Profits from the sale of the remaining 274 sets will be donated to the Jim Corbett National Park in India.
The auction will take place at the SCI Convention in Las Vegas, which will be held from 3 to 6 February 2016.
For more details of the 2016 Convention and auction, visit www.showsci.com.
For more information on the Rigby donation piece, the original Corbett rifle and John Rigby & Co., contact Marc Newton at email@example.com.