A Royal Rigby

IMG_7698There are some rifles that have a history so powerful you feel chills when you simply hold the gun. Such was the case when I shouldered Hemingway’s .577 double and worked the action on Jim Corbett’s .275 Rigby. But no gun quite matches the feel of Harry Selby’s .416 Rigby. Selby hunted Africa during the glory days of safari, having trained up under Philip Percival, the “Dean of African Hunters” and the headman on Ernest Hemingway’s safaris. After hunting closed in Kenya, Selby began looking south and moved his operations to Botswana, then an untrammeled wilderness where lions roared and elephants were regular moonlight visitors in hunting camps. On all those hunts Selby carried his .416, a gun that, as the story goes, Selby simply picked up as a stopgap when another hunter ran over his .470 double with a pickup truck. But Selby was so fond of that Rigby that he never did order the proper double to replace his broken .470. Instead, the .416 became his primary weapon, the one he used when he led Robert Ruark on the safari that inspired Horn of the Hunter. Today, Selby’s Rigby is part of a private collection. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to examine the rifle closely, thumbing every worn scar on the smooth walnut and wondering how many times Harry looked over those patinaed express sights into the face of a charging lion. Harry Selby’s Africa is gone forever, but not his rifle, and for that I am thankful.

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