In this month’s Campfire blog, we catch up with Maria Gil, Rigby’s export manager, who joined the Rigby team in early 2016. Maria ensures that the Rigby office runs smoothly and she is a key link between clients and the firm’s team of gunmakers.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My career began in my home country of Spain, as an economist working in private banking. I then moved to London five years ago and started a new career in real estate. While I was working in London, I met Marc, the managing director of Rigby in a restaurant. A year after our initial encounter Marc got in touch, asking if I remembered him and when I said yes, at that point he offered me a job working for Rigby.
I really loved the thought of a new challenge and I was very impressed that Marc had remembered me after so long, so I thought why not, let’s give this a shot.
I started out as Marc’s personal assistant and I am now Rigby’s export manager. Rigby has given me a fantastic opportunity to work in a completely different industry and next February, I will have been working for the company for four years.
What does your job at Rigby involve?
As export manager, I complete all the paperwork to import and export guns. I’m also responsible for organising Rigby’s attendance at numerous conventions across the world. Plus I’m the link between Rigby customers and the workshop.
What is it that you love about your job?
That it’s a family, we all get along and everyone really looks out for each other. On Monday morning there is no dread of having to go into the office.
I also love the fact that my office is pretty different from the norm. There are animal mounts on the walls and guns on display, it’s really outside-the-box in comparison to anywhere else I’ve worked.
Can you tell us about some of the exciting opportunities you’ve had working for the company – what has been the highlights of your career to date?
The opportunity that it gives me to travel around the world, for example attending two conventions in South Africa and Germany, and the amazing opportunity you get to meet so many interesting people along the way.
Not only that but our trip to the Scottish Highlands in September 2017 for the launch of the Highland Stalker rifle was incredible. We got to host some fantastic people who’ll I’ll never forget, I got to share their incredible experiences stalking with the rifle out on the hill. These are lasting memories. There’s not many jobs where you get to experience moments like this.
When did you first learn to shoot and how did this come about?
Before I joined Rigby, I had no experience with guns or hunting, I didn’t even know the difference between a shotgun and rifle, but the team has taught me everything I know today.
I can be very insistent, I asked Marc to take me game shooting or to the range and one day he gave in and took me partridge and pheasant shooting. It was really amazing and that was me hooked from that first moment.
Since then, I’ve been a few times to the range with Jamie Holland, who test fires our rifles and with David Miles, our gunroom manager. They taught me how to shoot and handle a rifle properly.
I’ve shot everything now from a .275 Rigby Highland Stalker to a .470 Rising Bite. For me, the most impressive gun to shoot was the .470 Rising Bite. However, I really enjoy shooting the .275 Rigby Highland Stalker because it’s so comfortable to shoot.
Tell us about your first hunting experience.
I’ve shot game birds in the UK with Marc and David from Rigby, which was a really nice experience, but quite cold. However, last year I had the most incredible opportunity to hunt in South Africa. After attending HuntEx convention with Rigby, I went to the Kalahari with some friends, Ivan Volschenk from Els & Co., the leather manufacturers and Pierre Pretorious, who owned the camp. It was really amazing – one of the best experiences of my life.
We camped out in the middle of the desert, sleeping under the stars, with no electricity, no water, it was just the desert and us, silence. I stayed there five days and I hunted two springboks, which was really cool – the hairs on their back smelt like caramel!
I also hunted oryx and a blue wildebeest, which was very difficult. I had seen the blue wildebeest on my very first day, we walked a lot of kilometres trying to find the best opportunity to take the beast, but he kept outsmarting us. Then on the very last day, two or three hours before I had to leave for the airport, we saw him again and I said let’s try one last time. We set off in pursuit and then finally my moment came where I could take him with a Rigby .275 Highland Stalker.
The hunt was super exciting. To put into practice all of the training I had received working at Rigby and then to hunt with a Highland Stalker really was the cherry on the top. For a first-time hunting experience, to hunt the Kalahari was truly something special and carrying a gun our company had made was incredible. It really taught me how to control my emotions and breathing.
For me it was important to do it well, I didn’t want to fail and that had made me quite nervous, but it worked out so well. My friends taught me how to skin and butcher the animals, and then we had braai’s for dinner each evening. One of the best steak tartare’s I have ever had was there, using the filet of the springbok. We made an amazing steak tartare using my family’s special recipe.
Did that first hunting trip inspire you? Do you have any other hunting trips planned for the future?
I’ve since been to France to visit Olivier Leclercq from Rigby and he took me to hunt my very first roe deer. I would love to hunt in Spain at some point to do a Monteria. As I’m Spanish, a lot of people have been telling me about it and now it’s on my bucket list.
Also with the game season underway, I’ve just purchased my first shotgun and I’m hoping to get out to use that more.
Finally, if you could choose one Rigby rifle, what would it be and which calibre would you choose?
It would have to be a Highland Stalker in .275 Rigby.