Issue 56 February 2024

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The Rigby Shikari

Rigby's new double rifle launched in Dallas.

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Guns & Gunmakers|February 2024

 Dallas Safari club was the venue of choice for Rigby to launch an important new model.

The first big show of 2024, and the last to be held in Dallas for a few years, (they move to Atlanta while the convention centre is re-built) was a good launch pad, with an enthusiastic crowd in attendance.

The new rifle, called the Shikari, after the Indian word for Safari, is a type of double rifle not available to the public from a British gunmaker since before the Second World War. The concept of a properly built, genuinely purposeful, British double rifle, built on an Anson & Deeley action and within the bugetry limits of the middle class has eluded the British trade in modern times. Rigby has broken through that barrier with the Shikari.

The New Rigby 'Shikari' boxlock double rifle.

The inspiration for the new rifle can be found in Rigby's archives. They once sold a boxlock double, built on a Webley screw-grip action and available in Second and Third grades, in addition to the best grade sidelock, built on the Vertical Bolt action, patented by Rigby & Bissell in 1879.

1930s catalogue entry for the original Rigby boxlock double rifle.

These more modestly priced boxlocks sold very well and performed their task beautifully. They served professional hunters and game wardens with distinction and many of the 1930s originals are still in service.

Rigby wanted to re-kindle this neglected part of the trade and offer customers a choice of style and price. The Shikari does just that. Available in four big game cartridge chamberings, from .400 to .500 calibre.

Marc Newton was on the Rigby stand at DSC to launch the new Shikari.

The project was headed by Jerome Lanoue and he was tasked with creating a modern version of the 1930s boxlock. What he has created closely resembles the original but modern materials and production methods have been allowed to play their part in improving it. For example, the doll's head is now a fully replaceable unit, which makes re-jointing far more straightforward.

This original Rigby .470 is still in regular use by a professional hunter in Botswana.

The prototype was an exercise in turning ideas into reality, only then could the fine tuning take place. With an actual rifle in the hands, the team, with Marc Newton closely observing progress and directing stylistic alterations where necessary, managed to create that genuire British aesthetic that no other rifle on the market has yet been able to master.

The prototype Shikari, built to test the concept.

The Shikari is fully customisable, with barrel length, stock length, cast and drop, engraving, calibre, ammunition for which it is regulated etc all being things the customer can specify when he orders.

A standard option is available, from which additional refinements can be specified, adding extras and cost to the order. The base version is £38,000 plus VAT (if applicable). I suspect most of the orders will be from non-UK residents, so VAT can be ignored.

The Doll's head in the prototype. This has been reduced by 2mm in the production model.

That base price of £38,000 is a world away from the £100,000+ cost of a new vertical-bolt sidelock from Rigby, so it opens ownership possibilities to a whole new demographic of aspiring Rigby customers. This is entirely consistent with Rigby's pricing structure in the 1920s and 1930s, when a best sidelock double rifle cost £147, with Second Quality boxlocks priced at £115 and Third Quality at £89.

Now, as then, Rigby contend that the Anson & Deeley model is 'a best rifle of its type and a thoroughly reliable weapon in every way'.

The Shikari project was headed by Jerome Lanoue, seen here fitting a custmer for a new Shikari rifle at DSC.

Judging by the reception the Shikari received at Dallas Safari Club, it will be a winner.  It is a clever combination of the right look, the right feel, the right brand and the right price. I spent some time on the Rigby stand during the show, at various times over the four days, and every time I was there, Jerome Lanoue seemed to be fitting a customer for a new Shikari.

Rigby's range now boasts magazine rifles from £10,000, double rifles at under £40,000, best double shotguns starting at around £90,000 and the iconic vertical-bolt double rifle at over £100,000, plus all the exhibition pieces and presentation grade special builds that form a significant part of their work these days.

The Shikari was not the only new model launched by Rigby at DSC. The Big Game Lightweight was also on show. Thsi is even closer to the original Rigby Big Game .350 rifles built in the 1940s than the re-launch of the big Game model; lighter, sleeker, more pared-down and for teh purists.

The new Big Game Lightweight .350 Rigby.

The team then headed off to Safari Club International in Nebraska. I'm sure the Shikari will get as warm a welcome there as it did in Dallas.

 

 

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