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August 31, 2006

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Rifles I Don’t Own (But Wish I Did): The G&H-built .416 Rigby

Back in the 1980s, Field & Stream had its offices at 1515 Broadway, right on Times Square, before they cleaned it up. This meant that you could see a Class A felony every day, and that you could walk to the Griffin & Howe showroom in 5 minutes. Bill Ward, who was one of the nicer guys in the gun biz and who owned G&H, would call me whenever they had something real good, and I would come trotting over.

On one occasion, the rifle du jour was a G&H-built .416 Rigby that the company had probably turned out in the 1950s. It was based on an Enfield P17 bolt-action, and was a dead plain working rifle. It may seem strange now, but at one time actions that could fit big cartridges like the Rigby were scarce, and the P17 made an excellent conversion. It had two big “ears” that protected the rear sight, and you had to grind those off and convert it to cock on opening instead of cock on closing, and install a single-stage trigger, but then you really had something. It was strong, and slick, and had a terrific safety.

I saw this gun only once, and then only for 15 minutes or so, but I’ve never forgotten it, perhaps because it was a perfect rifle. The stock was dead-plain, strong walnut, stained reddish with the alkinit root die that G&H was so fond of, it had a heavy barrel (it weighed about 10 pounds without a scope), and the metal was blued in the beautiful cold-rust bluing that G&H did so well.

It was an honest working gun in one of the best African calibers of all, and I hope that whoever owns it has hunted with it over there, and is taking good care of it.


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mike shickele

My uncle has an Enfield action converted to 358 Norma mag, much the same way that you say that this 416 was converted. I understand the allure. This was the rifle that caused me to learn to flinch as a child, and that could be part of the attraction.
Naw! I think that it just causes me to dream of other continents; Lord knows that it's far more than what's needed in North America!

Ralph the Rifleman

I like big bores,and all that recoil that goes with them! I have shot production grade rifles in the large calibers,375 H&H,.458 WM,and .460 Weatherby finding them all nicely made,but the Weatherby by far was the sharpest one to handle-Nice rifle!
For most of us,these calibers are just not necessary to own, but when dealing with the wants-vs-needs dilemma, I will probably purchase a large bore (.416 Rigby?)in the CZ model priced in the $600 range; a very affordable,working rifle.


I love the big-bore, dangerous game rifles too. Love reading about them. Handling one just tells you these rifles are designed for heavy drama. I don’t shoot my 458 Model 70 Express much, but I doubt these rifles are meant for casual plinking. I still wouldn’t be without it. I do practice with my 458 with reduced cast bullet loads and then with hunting loads. I scared myself.

When of the mind, I would set three-targets at 80, 40 and 10 yards. I would then try to hit all the descending targets…starting gun down….within 8-secs to simulate a charging lion or grizzly. I was told these animals charge covering 10-yards a second. I could get two-shots off hitting the targets solid, but at seven-eight seconds I’d be feeding or closing the bolt on the third round. Starting this exercise at 40-yards and within 4-secs gives a new “insight”.

O yeah. …Gotta hold that forestock down!!!!

I had a chance to pick up three or four Enfield rifles from a local American Legion. These actions need a lot of work to make a sporter. The “ears” have to be milled off because the steel is so hard. I debated if I could live with the ears or not. I did wonder how that big hole on the action’s left side is civilized. However, the action is meant for mag cartridges with that LONG bolt throw and the deep magazine well.



The article refers to "lkinit root die?" that Griffin & Howe used to die their stocks. What is this? I googled it and came up with nothing.


Alkenit root is a red colored root (big surprise) that when left soaking in either oil or alcohol, imparts a reddish color to it. This oil or alcohol is then used as either a colorant on the wood, or an addition to home made varnish, which then colors the varnish. It gives a nice color, but you have to know how to do it, and it takes time and effort. Much easier to just purchase the appropriate stain without getting into the Harry Potter magic and potions. But for some, that's part of the fun.

Retired Hunter

A question" Why is a cock on opening preferred to a cock on close?

Are there other reasons besides the fact one can hit the primer twice on the same cartridge?

mike shickele

retired hunter
Cock on opening is preferred to cock on close because most people find that it is easier to do with the rifle shouldered. at no time other than when the firing pin falls does it come into contact with the primer, weather it be cock on open, or cock on close.

Lloyd L. Smrkovski

I just returned from South Africa, where I took 3 nice trophies (Water Buck, Cape Eland and an Oryx) with my new .375 H&H magnum Winchester Model 70. I was using reloads consisting of 300 grain Swift A-Frame bullets sitting atop a near-full case of RL-15. The thousand pound Cape Eland was taken at 270 yds with a single shot through the lungs. The Oryx was downed with one shot at 170 yds. On the other hand, the Water Buck was hit once at 300 yds, a second time at 200 yds, a third time at 250 yds. He then entered an area of 4' high grass. My PH, tracker and I spread out at 50 yds apart and zig-zagged into the grass to find and/or flush him out. My PH spotted him at 50 yds....facing him. Just as he yelled for me to shoot, the Water Buck charged him. I swung on the charging
trophy as he closed the distance to my PH, fired a single round that hit him through both shoulders, landing within 10 feet of my unarmed PH. A close inspection of the multiple entry/exit wounds indicated that all 3 of the initial hits were potentially fatal hits. This Water Buck was, like the Black Wildebeest(see below), one tough trophy to down. Needless to say, my PH remained armed for the remainder of the safari.

I also took my 7mm STW Remington 700, using 175 grain Swift A-Frame and Nosler Partition bullets, also re-loads. With the STW, I took a nice trophy Blue Wildebeest (182yds:3shots, Black Wildebeest (180 yds: 1 shot), Impala (70 yds: 1 shot), Red Hartebeest (220 yds: 1 shot), and a Blesbok (225 yds: 1 shot).

For my return trip for Cape Buffalo, I just purchased a CZ-550 American safari magnum, in the .416 Rigby caliber. The recoil is very manageable, to my surprise. Unfortunately, CZ-USA has had some problems in manufacturing and quality control. My particular weapon's barrel and receivers are not parallel, thus I have to use a 0.031" shim to raise the rear scope ring enough so that I can sight in the rifle. CZ-USA's solution to this problem was to send me a scope base that allows for vertical adjustment of the rear scope ring w/the use of shims. I'm not happy with this "fix", as I want to use "Quick Detach" scope rings, that Cabela's and Warne manufactures. CZ-USA will not tell me how many weapons are involved, did not do a "recall" on the affected products, nor have they alerted dealers that sell their weapons as to the potential problem. Thus, I plan to return the weapon to the dealer where I purchased it and replace it with a Ruger, unfortunately at 3-times the price tag. So much for a "foreign-made rifle".

I also picked up a new .375 H&H mag. Remington 700 XCR this summer. It's my weapon of choice for a Brown bear/moose hunt in Alaska. Recoil is tame, the metal is rust-proof, thus the perfect weapon for the snow/sleet/rains of Alaska.

I live to hunt. If anyone wishes more details regarding my safari, you can contact me at

My African trophy-mounts will arrive in Dec./Jan. I am having them done by Highveld Taxidermy, in Pretoria, S.A.

Total price tag for the entire safari (air fare, lodging, trackers, food, spirits, tips, trophy fees, taxidermy and shipping of same = less than $24K. Which comes out to less than $2,700.00/trophy....a far cry less than what one would pay for a trophy elk hunt....where the chance for a trophy is less than 5%.

Lloyd L. Smrkovski
Commander, USN-retired

Jim Farrar

Another plus for cock on opening is that the firing pin travels a shorter distance. Therefore, the time is shorter from the time the firing pin is disengaged from the sear to the time that the firing pin engages the cartridge primer. This was a major consideration when building custom sporter rifles from military rifles in the 40's, 50's & 60's.

Rick Hughes

I have a Model 30 Remington Express that was rechambered from 35Rem to 35 Whelen sometime in the past. The rifle has asked to be re-barrelled to 416 Rigby. I would like to put it in a G & H express rifle type stock. Soemthing about these big rifles that make you dream.

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