Once upon a time long, long ago in a place far, far away I wanted a new rifle. Specifically, I wanted a .416 Weatherby. Actually, the boys wanted it and I was just going along with the idea. Not buying that one, are you? That’s only happened once a couple of times, but the Weatherby would have to wait…….again. Since my lust was for something in the .416 caliber, I had a few choices other than the one I really wanted. Ruger and CZ both offered .416 Rigby chambered rifles, and Remington made their own .416 (the .416 Remington, of course), but they relied on a smaller case and more pressure than powder, which was relatively kinder to shoot. I did sight a .416 Remington in pretty easily for someone, and after having done that I knew there was a big difference between the Remington and the Rigby, not to mention Weatherby’s .416. Since English doubles were and always will be prohibitively expensive my buddy and I figured an $800 modern production rifle like the Ruger #1H was the only way we could afford to play with something in the historic .416 family. As it turns out “we” meant my wallet and his enthusiasm. Like everything else I’ve ever had to have I did eventually get what I wanted in a Weatherby. Man did I get it, but that story’s for another day.
I love Ruger’s #1 series of rifles. You don’t see them every day and they’ve produced them in calibers that you also don’t see every day. Throw in the fact that an original Rigby double, or Rigby anything, costs more than a house and I REALLY like the #1. Now no sane guide would ever recommended a single shot rifle for hunting dangerous game, as missing targets that can hunt back is generally frowned upon. Well, as I didn’t have an African hunt pending and still don’t, I went about preparing anyway and burned pounds of powder to tenderize my shoulder and work-up some good recipes.
I was and I guess always will be a recoil junkie, but I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable firing that thing from a bench with a scope mounted so close to my head, much less my eye. That .416 Rigby was the only rifle I ever came close to not scoping because of recoil. Each round held well over 110 grains of abuse producing powder, about double a 30-06, and as it was a medium burn rate powder the kick lasted longer than my .458 Winchester Magnum, which used significantly faster powder. It’s a little difficult to explain, but the .458 punches you quickly and kinda bounces off, while a .416 Rigby hits you and then attempts to continue the momentum. When you shoot enough you start to be able to notice stuff like that, and fast heavy recoil is comparatively easy to work through if you’re committed to doing so. I let the boys shoot full speed 500 grain .458 loads before they were out of third grade, but they wanted no part of that Rigby. The solution during that learning curve was a nice peep sight. I looked for my box of gun parts before remembering one of the boys had grabbed it, but if it’s still around there’s a custom peep sight in there that came off of that rifle. It’s the only peep sight I’ve ever bought, and it was for Rigby’s version of the .416. A peep sight allows for a faster picture anyway, which translates into less time between each shot. Being quick is important but secondary to being accurate. The boys and I like to blast away as fast as we can from time to time, but be it a 22 rifle or a salvo from the Missouri, in real life the tables can be turned quickly if the first shot doesn’t go where it’s presence is requested. Maybe that knowledge added to the romance and excitement of hunting on the dark continent.
On that particular project my shooting buddy and myself quickly learned that the cost of an original Rigby Mauser wasn’t the only .416 expense that was prohibitive. I usually budget about $125 when tooling-up for reloading a new cartridge. That covers dies, brass, bullets, powder, primers and a shell holder if I don’t already have one that’ll work. I surprisingly had no problem finding dies, and bullets in that caliber are easy to come by as well. The burn rate appropriate for the .416 Rigby leaves plenty of options for $20 a pound powder, and primers follow along the same trail. That all said, I probably should’ve checked on the availability of Rigby brass when buying a rifle in a caliber whose factory loaded ammo was $10 a round in 2002. I wasn’t going to be spending $200 on one box of twenty rounds, and I knew for the price of that gold-plated factory fodder there weren’t going to be any supplies of once-fired cheap brass as with other cartridges. Looking for the same stuff today proves that hasn’t changed much. The only new unloaded brass I was ever able to locate was for $2 each, as in for one piece of brass. As if that wasn’t spendy enough, I had to tack on postage from Sweden. Norma makes great quality brass, but it was still $2 a piece………and did I mention I had to get it from Sweden? I guess like owning a Ferrari and gas mileage, the guys that could afford .416 Rigby factory loaded ammunition weren’t as concerned with sourcing brass as I became, and the folks who can afford a Ferrari aren’t worried about the price of gas.
I don’t remember what got me going on that .416 project, but it may have been my zeal for all things Weatherby, and with a side of watching the boys step-up to the .458. In the late ’80s Weatherby topped the ballistic performance of the original .416 Rigby by a little with the .416 Weatherby Magnum. Like the .378 and .460 namesakes the .416 Weatherby was and still is only available in the Weatherby Mark V Deluxe, or a cataloged Weatherby factory custom which costs even more. The standard Mark V had a 2002 MSRP of around $1900, but unlike brass that does appear to have changed………..much. If you were to ask Weatherby you’d learn that $2400 today as their website shows isn’t the price for a new Mark V in anything above .340 Weatherby, like a .378, .416 or .460. And when I say Weatherby’s version of the .416 “topped the ballistic performance a little”, that’s important considering that Weatherby has made a name for itself with offerings that have significantly sped-up non-Weatherby cartridges in the same calibers. Been that way since the ’40s with the .270 Weatherby and .375 Weatherby, both of which are based on the 300H&H, but improved. “Improved” is a reloading/custom gun term denoting a donor cartridge improved upon, usually by blowing-out the shoulder of a standard case to yield more room for powder, thus “improving” the performance. It’s a simple modification to the donor rifle’s chamber and besides allowing for more powder room that yields increased velocity, it also allows you to shoot both the original chambering and the improved version.
No matter how much fun I knew we’d have and how much I NEEDED a .416 Weatherby, at the time common sense and a wife prevailed and I didn’t own the ONLY new example of a .416 Mark V I could locate in the country, with or without the internet. Well, I found another MK V Deluxe and now have neither it nor a wife, but I want another Weatherby. I had to let that temptation go for a period, but later after a second exhaustive search I found that one. I also found it about a 100 miles from where I lived in Arizona, so I considered that a sign and bought it. That Mark V is still the only rifle I ever bought new and sold even newer. The boys rode up there with me on a Sunday to pick it up. The store that had it was closed, but when I emailed and told them which rifle I wanted they magically opened on that particular Sunday. Kinda made me feel all special and stuff. I sure wish I had that rifle back, but I’d give it away for another 100 mile ride with the boys.