Tom Jeff Eley scouted up a piece from the John Rigby & Co. Campfire that he well knew would, well… trip my trigger. It is well-known that I am smitten with Rigby rifles, for their historical value, their aesthetic, and their legendary function. We were planning to visit the Rigby showroom in London on our COVID-aborted trip there in 2020. It’s still on the list. I also have a great appreciation for fine firearms that are well-used.
The piece is titled The Essence of Perfection. Here’s the caper:
A 120-year-old Rigby has recently resurfaced in the Alaskan wilderness and is looking forward to some spectacular 21st century adventures. Its new lease of life comes thanks to hunting guides Taj and Phil Shoemaker of Grizzly Skins of Alaska, both of whom have a long-standing love of classic firearms.
Taj is no stranger to vintage Rigbys: “My first familiarization with Rigby rifles was in Zambia, where I used an original .416 that belonged to Adrian Carr, my employer. Adrian had received the rifle from his father, Norman, and between the two of them it had killed over 1,000 bull elephants. Vintage Rigby rifles were still highly prized as high-quality tools there.”
Following his experiences in Africa, Taj quickly came to share this view: “In my opinion, Rigbys are the pinnacle of fine rifles – not always in an artistic sense – but as tools that are meant to be used. My 1903 .275 is a good example. It has no embellishments beyond a gold inlaid ‘SAFE’ on the safety and a silver or platinum line in the middle of the V rear sight. Both are more practical than an embellishment as the precious metal is still highly visible in good or low light and will never tarnish.
“The stock is of a plainer grade wood, dark with not a lot of figure. This is a good thing as it is obviously a high-quality and dense piece with straight grain. After all these years of use it has held up well; it has no cracks and still holds zero – and the rifle has been used plenty. The bluing has been replaced by the dull shine of well rust-blued metal that has been worn and cleaned 1,000 times. Even in costal Alaska the metal does not rust quickly due to this natural protection. A new rifle can turn red with rust overnight here, while this rifle will not show it. The stock does not swell or shrink with moisture or temperature due to the fine-grained wood, a good oil finish and years of oil soaking in.”