More than 240 years of experience

  • 1758

    The founding John Rigby is born

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    The founding John Rigby is born.

  • 1775

    Official founding date of John Rigby & Co

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    In the latter part of the 19th century, Rigby advertisements claimed that the business dated back to 1735. However, the John Rigby who founded the company was not born until 1758 and opened his gunmaking business in Dublin, Ireland, in 1775. Either an older company was bought out and the name changed or the reference to 1735 was simply a printing error. We now use the 1775 date, which places us as the oldest gunmaking firm in continuous existence in the English-speaking world.

  • 1798

    The irish rebellion

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    The 1798 Rebellion was a turbulent time for Rigby, as described in Rigby: A Grand Tradition: ‘Although [John] Rigby was an upstanding member of Dublin’s merchant class, the police, led by the notorious Town-Major Henry Sirr, raided the premises during the short-lived Irish Rebellion of 1798. A record, possibly by John Rigby’s daughter Frances, noted: “Wagons under military escort seized his stock of arms and those entrusted to him by country gentlemen without warning and took them to Dublin Castle. They were retained there for a long time and, when returned, much was worthless and a good deal missing. No compensation was paid.”’

  • 1816

    John Rigby & Son

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    The founding John Rigby took his elder son, William, into partnership with him and the company name was changed to ‘John Rigby & Son.’ One of the oldest firearms currently in Rigby’s museum collection – a flintlock magazine pistol engraved ‘Rigby & Son’ – is thought to date from this period.

  • 1818

    William and John Rigby

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    The founding John Rigby died and the firm passed to his son William. William invited his brother, John Jason, to join him, and the business continued to grow. The company name changed to W&J Rigby as early as 1823.

  • 1851

    Rigby at the Great Exhibition

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    The Great Exhibition of 1851 was the idea of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband to showcase inventions and art from across the world. The exhibition was held in the 773,000 square foot Crystal Palace that had been specially built for the event in London’s Hyde Park. Many firearms makers had displays there, including Rigby. The following is from the exhibition catalogue:
    “ – 236. RIGBY, WILLIAM and JOHN, 24 Suffolk Street, Dublin — Manufacturers. Complete Indian or Highland outfit, consisting of a double rifle, double shot gun, and pair of extra barrels, forming, when required, twin double guns, with additional rifle barrels, and the locks, stocks, etc., all adjusted to one fit. Double rifle with extra shot barrels, back-action locks, and single removable hair trigger, with cases and equipments. Bar-lock double rifle, single trigger, cases and equipments complete, with or without telescope attached. Double-shot gun, with bar locks attached. Double gun, back-action locks, and double rifle on improved plan, with cases complete. All constructed with continuous mountings, lift-out triggers, and solid slide-bolts. Bar-lock double gun, without ramrod. Bar-lock single rifle and back-action; cases complete. Double-rifle pistol for bison shooting, with single hair trigger and cases. Small horizontal double pistol and case; and various other pistols. Improved six-shot revolving pistols, with detachable barrels, safety-bolt, and other improvements, in case, etc. Cavalry officer’s holster pistols in case. Bar-lock single rifle, in unfinished state, prepared for adjusting in the field. Different parts of a gun in preparatory states. Specimens of bullet moulds, with improved mould, in which a solid bullet can be cast. Single gun, back-action locks, in case.”

  • 1865

    John Rigby & Co. London shop opened

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    Rigby opened a London shop on 72 St James’s street, continuing to work between its Dublin and new London premises. Rigby remained at 72 St. James’s Street until 1908, and the firm’s Dublin office at 24 Suffolk Street was closed in 1897.
    The illustration shows the announcement of the new London premises in an 1866 edition of The Field.

  • 1873/74

    Match rifle success

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    With the founding of the National Rifle Association of the UK in 1859, a new emphasis was given to accurate long-range rifle shooting. The NRA’s inaugural match at Wimbledon was held in 1860, with Queen Victoria firing the first shot. The third John Rigby (1829 – 1916) won the individual prize at Wimbledon in 1864, and the Irish Team, using Rigby rifles and with him as its captain, won the Elcho Shield match in 1873. The Irish team then challenged the Americans to a match at their new Creedmoor range in New York. The American team won what is now the Leech Cup on the last shot. A few days later, the Irish team won the Bennett Cup with Rigby having the highest individual score. The Leech Cup match is held annually at Camp Perry, Ohio and is the oldest competition in US shooting sports.

  • 1879

    Rising Bite guns and rifles

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    Between 1879 and 1910 approximately 1,000 guns and rifles were built using the Rigby Bissell patent action (1141 of 1879). Rigby described the action as their ‘vertical bolt’ but it’s better known as the ‘Rising Bite.’ It was the basis for ‘best guns’ and was renowned for its strength, but the cost of the hand fitting required for manufacture was likely the reason Rigby switched to the ‘screw grip’ just before World War I.

  • 1887

    John Rigby appointed Superintendent of the Royal Small Arms Factory

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    John Rigby’s expertise was well known and, in 1887, he was appointed Superintendent of the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock. His job was to transition their military rifle from single shots using black powder cartridges to smokeless powder bolt-action repeaters.

  • 1897

    Rigby collaborates with Mauser

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    During his time at Enfield, John Rigby had become very familiar with bolt-action rifles. After leaving the Royal Small Arms Factory, he began negotiations with Mauser in Oberndorf, Germany. He was awarded a 12 year exclusive distributorship to import and distribute all Mauser made rifles, actions, barreled actions and components into the United Kingdom and British Colonies. Rigby sold its first Mauser rifles in 1897. According to Jon Speed in Original Oberndorf Sporting Rifles: “Some of the first Rigby-Mauser sporters were made on the rare pre-98 Transition actions left over from the 1895-1902 German military rifle tests which had resulted in the adoption of the Gewehr 98.” The rifle pictured has an 1897 receiver date and carries Rigby No.1059 and Mauser 10.

  • 1897

    The Dublin office at 24 Suffolk Street closes

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    Rigby’s Dublin office at 24 Suffolk Street closed and the firm’s entire operation moved to London, where it remained until the 1990s at various addresses.

  • 1898

    450 NE 3 1/4" developed

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    In 1889, shortly after the development of smokeless powder, Rigby began work with the Curtis and Harvey gunpowder company on what became the .450 3 ¼” Nitro Express. When it debuted almost a decade later, testing by Kynoch revealed that with 70 grains of Cordite it could drive a 480-grain bullet at 2,200 feet per second, producing 5,186 foot-pounds of energy. The new cartridge was the ‘beginning of the end’ for the 8 and 4-bore black powder stopping rifles and would change big game hunting to the present day.

  • 1898

    Winston Churchill buys from Rigby

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    In September 1898, Winston Spencer Churchill (under the command of Lord Kitchener) was armed with a Rigby-Mauser pistol when he participated in the battle of Omdurman (Sudan). In a letter to his mother describing the battle he wrote: “I am sorry to say I shot 5 men for certain and two doubtful. The pistol was the best thing in the world.” Churchill was also armed with a Rigby-Mauser pistol the following year when he was captured during the Boer War in South Africa.

  • 1900

    The birth of the magnum Mauser action

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    In 1899, Rigby asked the engineers in the Mauser Sporting Arms Department to make a special action that would handle their popular rimmed .400/350 cartridge. When completed c.1900 it was the ‘birth’ of the magnum action which, in turn, provided the ideal platform for dangerous game cartridges like the .375 H&H, .416 Rigby and the .505 Gibbs.

  • 1907

    Jim Corbett is presented a .275 Rigby

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    Jim Corbett was presented with a .275 Rigby rifle by Sir J. P. Hewitt, Lieutenant, Governor of the United Provinces in India, in gratitude for killing the ‘man-eating tigress of Champawat’. The dreaded female tiger is thought to have killed an estimated 436 people before Corbett tracked it down and shot it. The .275 went on to feature prominently in many of Corbett’s subsequent adventures. In 2015, Rigby tracked down and purchased the rifle, which now resides in the firm’s London museum.

  • 1908

    Rigby develops the .350 No.2 and the .350 Magnum

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    The .350 No.2 was the successor of the well proven .400/.350. The only difference was that the new cartridge featured a 225gr bullet at a higher velocity. The .350 magnum as rimless had much the same ballistics but was chambered in Mauser magazine rifles.

  • 1911/1912

    The famous .416 Rigby is developed and the first rifle sold

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    Following the success of Rigby’s .350 rifles on the magnum Mauser action, there was demand for a bigger and more powerful cartridge to be built on the same platform. With other makers already producing larger bore magazine rifles on the standard length Mauser action, Rigby and Mauser collaborated to produce what is perhaps the firms’ most famous calibre: the .416 Rigby.
    The first rifle was supplied to Col. Sir A Wools Sampson on 29 August 1912 and is listed in the ledgers as a Mauser sporting ‘Big Game’. Between 1912 and the Second World War an estimated 189 rifles were built to the original design; today they are both rare and highly desirable. Today, Rigby is once again working with Mauser to produce large calibre rifles built to the pre-war pattern and on the magnum Mauser action.

  • 1912

    Rigby opens at 43 Sackville Street, London

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    J. Rigby & Co moved premises to 43 Sackville Street, London.

  • 1912

    1940 Guns and rifles continue to be produced under Rigby family ownership

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    Rigby continued to produce several thousand guns and rifles that went on to be used throughout the British Empire and around the world. Despite the firm’s Mauser agency ceasing in 1912, Rigby continued to supply hunters worldwide with excellent sporting weapons.

  • 1913

    Bell orders two .416 Rigby rifles

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    W.D.M. ‘Karamojo’ Bell ordered the 21st and 22nd .416 Rigby rifles made. Both were entered into the ledgers, with four months between them.

  • 1914

    Rigby develops .322 cartridge

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    John Rigby had further plans for his .416 cartridge case. When World War I began in June 1914, he was working with Kynoch to develop the Rigby .322 Nitro cartridge. They intended to use a .330 diameter bullet weighing 250 grains. The velocity should have been about 3,000 feet per second, which would have produced more than 5,000 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. Completion of the project was delayed until after the war, but with John Rigby’s death in 1916 all development ceased.
    In the 1950s, American arms designer Roy Weatherby added a belt to the .416 Rigby cartridge case for a number of his proprietary rounds. In the early 1980s, an American company called Research Armament, working with the Finnish ammunition maker Lapua, developed the .338 Lapua Magnum. Using the 416 Rigby case and a 250 grain .338 diameter bullet – it was almost identical to what John Rigby had conceived seven decades earlier. The .338 is generally considered the ‘ultimate’ for long range sniper needs.

  • 1916

    The third John Rigby dies

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    The death of the third John Rigby was noted in Arms & Explosives on 1 December 1916 as follows: ‘He was a remarkably fine target shot, and he added to this important qualification a special turn of mind which made him a master of mathematics of rifle and bullet behaviour. As a gunmaker he was able to cater for an important clientele amongst target shooters and big game hunters.’

  • 1922

    Bell orders one of his many Rigby rifles

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    W.D.M. Bell ordered a .275 Rigby, serial number 4890 – one of his many Rigby rifles in various calibres.

  • 1951

    Last family owner of Rigby dies

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    Theo Rigby dies, the last member of the Rigby family to own the company.

  • 1968

    David Marx buys John Rigby & Co

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    David Marx buys John Rigby & Co.

  • 1970

    J. Roberts & Son contracted to build rifles for Rigby

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    J. Roberts & Son – founded in the 1950s – was contracted to build guns and rifles for Rigby. This relationship would later lead to Paul Roberts buying the name and Rigby ledgers.

  • 1984

    Paul Roberts buys Rigby

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    Following an elephant hunting trip with a .416, Paul Roberts developed and released the first new Rigby cartridge for over 80 years. Using the same case as the .416 but with a larger 480gr .458 calibre bullet, the .450 Rigby is born.

  • 1995

    .450 Rigby rimless created

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    Following an Elephant hunting trip with a .416, Paul Roberts develops and releases the first Rigby cartridge for over 80 years. Using the same case as the .416 but with a larger 480gr .458 calibre bullet, the .450 Rigby is born.

  • 1997

    John Rigby & Co goes to the USA

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    John Rigby & Co is bought by Neil Gibson, a gentleman from Texas who moves production to California.

  • 2010

    Rigby bought by Dallas-based investment group

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    Following several investors coming and going, Rigby was sold to a Dallas-based investment group and rifle production was moved back to London. Paul Roberts of J. Roberts and Son once again was contracted to produce rifles.

  • 2013

    Company bought by the L&O Group

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    In January 2013, John Rigby & Co was bought by the L&O group, which also owns Blaser, Sauer and Mauser.

  • 2013

    Rigby and Mauser reunited

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    With management and production firmly back in London, Rigby resumed its historic relationship with Mauser to create aspirational but affordable rifles for use across the globe.

  • 2014

    Pensbury Place premises open

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    Rigby moved into its purpose built premises in Pensbury Place, London SW8. A fully operational workshop and showroom are on site, all ledgers and memorabilia are housed within the same building, along with Rigby’s museum of historic guns.

  • 2015

    Rigby re-acquires Jim Corbetts’s .275

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    John Rigby & Co. tracked down and acquired the original .275 Rigby that was presented to Jim Corbett in 1907 for despatching the man-eating tigress of Champawat. The rifle, which featured prominently in his best-selling memoirs, was given pride of place in Rigby’s London museum and is availabele for all to see.

  • 2015

    First new Rising Bite completed

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    The firm’s gunmakers completed the first Rigby Rising Bite double rifle to be made since the early 1930s. The rifle – a .470 Nitro Express – makes its debut at the Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas.

  • 2016

    Rigby's SCI donation rifle sells for a record $250,000

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    An exquisite .275 London Best, built as a tribute to Jim Corbett, broke records at the February 2016 Safari Club International Convention (SCI) selling at auction for $250,000, making it the most valuable bolt-action rifle ever sold in more than 40 years of SCI auctions. It was bought by husband and wife, Brian and Denise Welker, who are both life-long Corbett fans.

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