For one Texas native and passionate hunter, the decision to upgrade to a lifetime subscription of African Hunting Gazette delivered him something he’d never dreamt he’d own – a Rigby .416 rifle. In this campfire blog we hear from Steve McGrade about where his love of hunting and Africa stems from, what having a Rigby rifle means to him and how he intends to use it…
I live in Texas, around 80 miles east of Houston and not too far from the Louisiana border. My dad was a keen bird hunter and his brothers both hunted, one particularly enjoying his deer hunting. Dad made sure I was exposed to hunting from a young age, as he felt that was the right thing to do. I’ve loved deer hunting since my early teens and am lucky to have a deer lease in South Texas. Naturally, I’ve ended up becoming friends with fellow hunters and eventually one of them went to Africa to hunt and caught the bug. It intrigued me, and between hearing his tales of African hunting and meeting John Oosthuizen, Hunters and Guides, the PH I eventually used, I became convinced that I needed to go too.
In 2009 I visited South Africa for the first time alongside my wife Nancy. She’s not a hunter but loves adventure and travelling, and we had a superb time. We flew into Johannesburg then took a connecting flight to Kimberley. The concession was located about an hour of out Kimberley where I shot a blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, cape eland, southern impala, ringed waterbuck, Kalahari gemsbok, a black wildebeest and a zebra. We later moved to Vryburg where I shot my big kudu as well as a blesbok and another zebra.
I returned to Africa in 2015, but this time to Zimbabwe. We hunted in the Matetsi area outside of Victoria Falls. This time there were no fences keeping the animals in, and we were on the trail of dangerous game – I shot a buffalo, sable, crocodile, and a reed buck. In 2021, we had planned a large family trip to Africa, but when it drew closer, circumstances had changed. Our 19-year-old daughter was pregnant, and my sister-in-law was suffering from terminal cancer, so my wife decided to stay behind. Our 22-year-old son and I went to the Luangwa Valley area of Zambia, and I shot a leopard, bushbuck, and a buffalo. My son shot a hippo and zebra and fell in love with Africa too.
I had to warn my son that the only cure for the African blues is another trip to Africa. One way I make the time between visits pass a little easier is reading African Hunting Gazette. I’ve had a subscription since 2009, and before my son’s first visit to Africa, I transferred the remaining years of it to him and bought myself a life subscription. That meant I would receive a painting of the Big Five and a knife, but it also entered me into a prize draw – and the prizes were a hunting trip to Cameroon for a bongo and a .416 Rigby rifle.
I already own two Blaser rifles, a .416 and .300, and while they are excellent hunting tools and live up to the job, they are not a Rigby. Rigby is just in another league, with so much history behind it and a reputation for incredible workmanship. When I think about how long Rigby has been in London making rifles, I’m just blown away. I read a lot about African hunting from the early to mid-1900s. The authors are always talking about the calibre of rifles hunters were using and of course Rigby guns pop up a lot. I couldn’t even imagine owning a Rigby myself.
When I got the call to say I had been picked as the winner of the draw, I didn’t believe it. I knew the woman from African Hunting Gazette as I’d spoken to her when I transferred my subscription. But when the call came about the prize drawing, she referenced the hunting trip to Cameroon but didn’t mention the Rigby rifle until much later in the conversation, so I was thinking “this must be a joke”. My daughter was listening to our conversation and persuaded me it wasn’t. So, feeling as though I had embarrassed myself, I felt compelled to ring back an hour later and it turned out not only was I going to Cameroon, but I was soon to be the very proud owner of my own .416 Rigby!
I feel like I’m part of the Rigby family even though I won the gun in a prize drawing. I visited the Dallas Safari Convention in January and, of course, headed straight to the Rigby booth. The staff were so obviously passionate and so English and proper. I asked one of them if I could see a .416, and when he got it out you could tell it was more than just a gun to him. I held it, put it to my shoulder and told him, “do you know, I’ve won one of these!” He cocked his head to the side and said, “how does one win a Rigby .416!?” – and I’m still smiling now! The look on his face and the tilt of his head spoke volumes. He said, “do you know your serial number”, so I duly told him and after a moment’s thought he said, “we should be working on that very soon, I’ll look after it when I get back to England.” It was a real special moment. I’m just so honoured to own a Rigby!
I received the gun in mid-June, and it’s now neatly tucked in my gun safe. My kids have held it, they’re all over it and so supportive of my passion for guns and hunting! My friends, particularly those who have hunted in Africa, were almost as excited as I was and begged me to call them the moment it arrived – of course, I was happy to oblige. I have the Tudor rose engraved on the bolt handle and some engraving around that. On the bottom of the butt there’s an oval piece of silver metal which is currently blank. I decided not to have my initials engraved but would be honoured to have the Rigby ‘double R’ on there. The next step is to take it out hunting for the first time…
I’m not taking the Rigby .416 to the rainforest in Cameroon with me next May… I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’ve discussed this with so many friends and most of them (not all, but most!) agree with me. I’ve chatted with my PH John about booking a return trip to Africa to hunt a buffalo or maybe even an elephant with it. He agreed that this would be a fitting use of this special gun, so now I’m saving up my nickels and dimes for another African safari trip. I’m always balancing my hunting trips with my wife’s travel desires – which currently include Scotland and Ireland – so I’ll let you know when I’m booked up and ready to go. I can’t thank the teams from African Hunting Gazette and Rigby enough – it’s a dream come true!