In our latest Campfire blog, Craig Boddington, the globally-respected outdoor journalist shares his impressions of the .275 Rigby cartridge and Highland Stalker. Craig has over 40 years’ experience exploring the world as a hunter, writing dozens of books, articles and essays. A decorated Marine and award-winning author, he’s seen as a leading voice for conservation and ethical hunting.

Like so many of us, I was introduced to the .275 Rigby (7×57 Mauser) in the school library, reading the well-written accounts of Walter Bell and Jim Corbett. Clearly, it was an interesting little cartridge with more than its share of famous fans, but I was not an early convert. Reaching my teen years in the 1960s, I was a child of the first magnum era, and I wanted it big, bad, and belted… never mind that it hurt.

Fast-forward to the late 70s, I was a magazine editor for the old Petersen Publishing in Los Angeles, escaping as often as I could. One of my favourite escapes was Dye Creek Ranch in northern California dispensary, which had great blacktail and fantastic hog hunting. Ranch manager Mike Ballew, an astute rifleman, became a friend and mentor. Like Bell and Jack O’Connor, Mike wasn’t ashamed to admit he didn’t like recoil.

For blacktail deer in his lava-strewn canyons he liked the .257 Roberts, but in those days he guided scores of hog hunters. He stood a number of charges and had plenty of respect for hogs, so for backup he always carried his idea of a “big gun.” Sometimes it was a .270, but most often a 7×57 (.275 Rigby).

One weekend I was trying to take a pig with an open-sighted handgun. The hunting was pure spot-and-stalk and the crumbling lava footing is noisy, so it was hard to get close. We were running out of time when we closed on a big boar. Just at the last second it spooked and ran across our front. Without a word Mike passed me his rifle and I rolled the hog. That was the first animal I took with a 7×57 (.275 Rigby). It 35 years ago, and I haven’t been without one since. Right now I have several. Some are marked 7×57; others are marked .275 Rigby. The names are different; the cartridges are the same.

The .275 Rigby (7×57) cannot compete with the several magnum 7mm cartridges but it doesn’t need to. As loaded or handloaded today it is fast enough and flat enough and powerful enough for a great deal of the world’s non-dangerous game. Its moderate velocity ensures excellent bullet performance, and it does its work with minimal fuss: Little recoil and muzzle blast, yet definitive results on game.

As Walter Bell proved, there isn’t much you can’t do with a .275 Rigby (7×57) and the proper bullet. The late Fred Duckworth, a veteran African PH, told me a story about, as a boy, accompanying his dad, a British colonial in India, on a hunt to the “northern hill country”—what we now call Pakistan. He recounted watching his dad take a markhor with his .275 Rigby. Okay, I’ve hunted markhor. That’s a tough one, and I didn’t take a .275 Rigby (or a 7×57). By either name I love the cartridge, but I don’t usually take it into the highest mountains or the most open plains, nor do I match it against the largest game.

This is where, because of the legend and legacy of greats such as Bell and Corbett, the .275 Rigby (7×57) is misunderstood. I am a reasonably well-read student of the greats, and there are certain myths that drive me insane. I lack Bell’s experience with elephants and have none at all with tigers, but it is impossible to write about cartridges for pachyderms or great cats without someone writing that “Bell took all of his 1011 elephants with his .275” and someone else writing “Corbett took all his tigers with his .275.”

No, and no! Bell bought six .275s from Rigby and shot many elephants with them – but nothing close to all. He also used early 6.5mms, and he shot a lot of elephants with the .303 British. By his own account his largest one-day bag was with a .318 and this was not the only day he used it. After WWI he had a .450/.400 and used at least one of the two .416s he purchased from Rigby. But he did love his .275s, at one point asserting that the barrel of his .275 had never been “polluted by the passage of a soft-nosed bullet.” I assume this was not the case during his final 30 years stalking red stags in Scotland but who knows?

Jim Corbett is easier to pin down. He did, in fact, take man-eating tigers with the .275 Rigby presented to him in 1907, after he accounted for the voracious Champawat Tigress. Some of Bell’s rifles survive, but since he owned several it’s hard to be certain which was used where. Corbett’s primarily rifles were a .450/.400 double and his .275. Both still exist, the latter in the Rigby collection. I have held them both, and I rate them, perhaps after Roosevelt’s .500/.465, as the world’s most famous sporting rifles. Corbett’s .275 had great influence on Rigby’s new Highland Stalker rifle, which I think Jim Corbett would have approved of (as would Walter Bell). Corbett was always clear in his writing: His preference for tiger was his .400 double but he used the .275 if that was what he had, and it worked. For leopards and meat for the pot Corbett preferred his .275, and used it from 1907 until his death in 1955.

I have also used the .275 Rigby (7×57) all over the world, and on all the continents. Over there (wherever “there” is) I’ve used it for red stag, Himalayan tahr, roebuck, hog deer, axis deer, and more; and for kudu, hartebeest, wildebeest – pretty much the full run of African plains game. Once with 175 grain solids, I used it to brain a huge water buffalo bull, and I suppose I’ve used it for wild swine on every continent. The .275 Rigby (7×57) is an exceptionally versatile cartridge that seems effective far beyond what its paper ballistics might suggest. This has been true since the days of Bell and Corbett, and remains true today.


12 responses

  1. Here in South Africa the 7×57 Mauser status since the Anglo Boer war which kicked off in 1899. The Boer republics ordered thousands of Mausers in 7×57 and the Boers bought them from the government. Those who couldn’t afford to buy were given a rifle and ammunition. These Boers demolished the British due to, among other reasons, the Brit policy of mass volleys and the Mausers 175gr bullet out ranging the 215gr 303 bullet. After the war the British determined the 7mm round to be the best for military use and they developed the P13 Enfield for this purpose but WW1 caught up too soon and they changed the P13 back to 303 which became the P14 manufactured under contract by Eddystone, Winchester and Remington. But I think we all know this as we also know that with the entrance to the war by the US the P14 was chambered for the 3006 and became the P17. But I digress. The 3006 actually resembles an enlarged 7×57 so it seems Paul Peter Mauser knew what he was up to when he designed the 7×57. The 7×57/275 Rigby is still extremely popular in South Africa today but the 3006 Springfield and 270 Winchester out sell it locally today.

  2. Craig,
    Maybe 10 years ago we met at the Eastern Outdoor Show. I was looking for a double rifle for my first safari. You talked me out of a 500 NE, in favor of a 470 NE. Of course you were right for all the right reasons. I still have that rifle and have used it on a number of safaris.

    Before and since then Ive had a lot of different rifles in a lot of the newest and coolest cartridges. Age has bestowed some knowledge upon me and now I find myself way beyond those newest and coolest, to 7×57. Im currently having a classic Mauser built for my specs. To make it easier on future owners Im having the barrel marked 7×57 on one side and 275 Rigby on the other.

  3. Great article on the 7×57/275 Rigby. We have several including a bench-rest rifle with an old Weaver K-6C, a drilling (7x57R/16×16) and I’m eagerly awaiting a new Rossler Titan 6 from Austria. Great selection of bullets for hand-loading, accurate and really light recoil. So it’s not for grizzlies or 600 yd shots (really? you can’t get any closer?)…works great on elk, deer, pigs and pretty much anything the majority of us will ever hunt. It’s the international version of the 30-06 with way less recoil.

  4. Let’s not forget to mention Hornady’s important contribution with their superb SuperPerformance ammunition for the.275. In my rifles it’s accurate and deadly out to 300 yards.

  5. Hi Craig.

    Bell purchased a Rigby Mauser in .22 Savage High Power (5.6x52R) and a Winchester Model 70 in 220 Swift.
    He apparently used them extensively for red deer in Scotland.

  6. Craig: As a 7×57 aficionado since my 20’s for deer and antelope I was raised on O’Connor and his many books and articles of the day and took his advice to heart. Now that I’m 70, I still hunt with the 7×57 (275 Rigby) and have added a couple more to the collection. You, Mr. Boddington, are the Jack O’Connor of the 21st Century and your books and articles are equally insightful and just as entertaining. It would have been a hoot to see JO’C on TV though. Thanks for your hard work and sacrifice over the years and I hope I can continue to enjoy what you share with us of your adventures.

  7. I am shooting this great cartridge out of a selfmade Safari Style Mauser 98 based on a DWM 1909 action. It’s hard to understand why in the German speaking world (the cartridge was developed by Mauser!) it has less reputation than in the Commonwealth and America.
    However the few who still use it – no matter whether flanged or rimless – are in general completely satisfied. In regard of meat destruction and effectiveness till 200 meters the 7×57 is a clear recommendation for deer and boar.

  8. My father used a 7×57 (as he referred to it) here in New Zealand and he was phenomenally successful with it. I always attributed his success to his exceptional marksmanship (I cannot ever recall him missing or losing an animal), however I think in all reality I under estimated how incredible well balanced the 275 Rigby was/is. Right bullet on the right game in the right place always leaves game on the ground.

  9. Craig, A great account of both the historical use and your own broad experience with the .275 Rigby and it’s validity as a hunting cartridge today. Clearly you understand both it’s attributes and it’s few limitations. I have found it to be like the others in the ‘moderate cartridge’ category, to be easy to shoot accurately. Surely this contributes to its success as an effective cartridge. Valuable insight into a classic cartridge that is as useful today as it ever was.

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