If as a serious hunter you’ve already got a good .375 H&H Magnum rifle, you may still need a really big rifle to complete your hunting battery. If you’ve got a good .416, you probably don’t need any bigger rifle, and will have precious little need for a .375. That’s the nature of the various .416s. They’ll do pretty much what the biggest .458 Winchester Magnum and larger rifles (large bores) do with less recoil, and will also do everything the smaller rifles (medium bores) do, but you’ll get kicked harder.
The oldest of the .416s is the .416 Rigby, introduced in 1911 by John Rigby & Co. The .416 Rigby cartridge looks extremely modern, with its sharp shoulder and barely tapered case. The Rigby was designed to be an all-purpose, heavy-caliber rifle for the man who wanted to hunt Africa with a bolt-action rifle. Before the Rigby round was introduced, serious hunters who needed powerful rifles used large-bore single shots or double rifles. There were no large-caliber cartridges for bolt-action rifles. John Rigby ensured his ammunition was loaded with excellent bullets, including a superb steel-jacketed “solid” for elephant. Also, the workmanship on his rifles was as good as it gets. The rifles and ammunition performed admirably, and the result was that the .416 Rigby soon achieved a stellar reputation in Africa. The availability of repeat shots over the then-common single shots for about the same cost, and the much lower cost of the Rigby over a comparable double rifle also helped Rigby’s sales.
The cartridge holds the same excellent reputation today, but not a whole lot of rifles that can handle it are available. Rigby’s own rifles in that caliber sell for well into five figures. However, Ruger makes both a single shot and a bolt-action rifle in the caliber. CZ-USA imports an inexpensive but sound rifle in that caliber in its 550 Magnum. If you don’t like those but still want a .416 Rigby, you can have one custom made. The cost of a rifle from a custom maker will probably run well into four figures.
Another cartridge that has seen great favor in some circles over the past few decades is the .416 Taylor. This was named after Robert Chatfield-Taylor, who developed it in about 1972. Based on the .458-length belted case, it slings a 400-grain bullet about 200 fps slower than the .416 Rigby. Many shooters try to make it into a .416 Rigby, but that may not be the best way to go. The Taylor has to be loaded to much higher pressure than the Rigby to get anywhere near its ballistics.
Some have stated the .416 Taylor is a good alternative to the .458 Winchester Magnum, and there are good arguments in favor of that opinion. The .458 Winchester can easily achieve 2,500 fps with a 350-grain bullet. The Taylor gets about 75 fps less, with maximum loads, and its sectional density is better. The .416 Rigby gets up to 2,700 fps with a 350-grain bullet. Without picking hairs, we believe the .416 Taylor ought to be considered an easy-bullet substitute for the .404 Jeffery (which takes 0.423-inch diameter bullets, of which there aren’t many choices) instead of a poor-man’s .416 Rigby. In that guise it excels. The Jeffery made its enviable reputation by driving 400-grain bullets at 2,150 fps, a velocity the Taylor easily reaches. Keep pressure down and the Taylor’s cases will last indefinitely, the rifle will be more fun to shoot, and it’ll still have enough power for nearly any rifleman’s tasks.
Although the CZ 550 sells for around $650, we could not obtain one in time for this report. One of our shooter’s experiences with several CZ Brno rifles in the past indicates they are a sound rifle in need of a bit of massaging inside the stock and on the trigger, and we have no doubt the new rifles are very similar. The old ones were bargains, and the brand is well worth a good look, but not everyone will like their new stock design. We’ll let you know more when we get our hands on one of the new 550 Magnums.
To see what gun in this class can do, we gathered a production Ruger and a custom FN Browning in .416 Rigby, and a .416 Taylor built on a pre-’64 Winchester Model 70 action, and shot them side by side. Our primary objective was to see if Ruger’s production gun offered enough performance for us to comfortably recommend it in the potentially life-or-death conditions it would serve. The two other guns gave us a framework against which to compare what you can go out and buy (or order) today. Here’s what we found:
Ruger Mark II Magnum .416 Rigby
Our recommendation: We gave the classic-looking $1,550 Ruger a very strong Buy It rating. We thought the excellent accuracy, fine workmanship, strong-grained wood, balance, outstanding iron sights, smooth operation, and reliability far outweighed the need for trigger massaging and a softer recoil pad. This is one for Africa, or for down-loaded handloading for lots of shooting fun. Take it after whitetails, elk, or bears if you want, and experience the grand nostalgia of the .416 Rigby round in a classic and classy rifle.
A brother to the .375 H&H Ruger we tested recently, the .416 Rigby Ruger appealed to us just about as much as the smaller version. The balance was superb, but here the too-small and very hard buttpad made a distinct impression on our shooters’ shoulders. It was not a favorable impression, just a deep one. We didn’t mount a scope onto the Ruger Rigby, but chose to use its excellent Express-type sights of wide-V rear and small bead front.
Like the .375, the rear sight was set onto a matted quarter rib. We would have liked a central white line, which the next test rifle had. An engraver could install one easily enough. The front sight had no protective hood, but the blade was dovetailed longitudinally, and was easily replaceable. The sight picture was, well, “out of Africa.” We liked it a lot. The rifle came with scope rings for those who need them. If you choose to install a scope, be sure the eyepiece does not protrude rearward beyond the end of the bolt, unless you have a very short neck. Otherwise you’ll get hit by the scope.
The fit and finish were outstanding overall. The wood was adequate in figure and excellent in grain. It appeared to be sawn with the grain in the most favorable direction through the pistol grip and into the forend to give the best strength. The wood finish had all the grain filled and the figure showing through a soft matte-finished glow. Inletting was excellent throughout. The stock was tied to the steel by five bolts, just like on the .375. The ironwork inside provided what looked like good protection against stock splitting. All that iron between the hands gave the rifle excellent fast-handling characteristics and a weight of 9.8 pounds unloaded.
The bolt was just as slick as that of the .375, and we looked forward to rapid-firing the big rifle. Unfortunately, the trigger pull was stiff and heavy at 5.0 pounds. That of the .375 Ruger had been perfect. Pity.
We attempted to get a supply of Federal ammunition for this test, but none was forthcoming. However, we had some excellent handloaded ammunition in a variety of types to try, so that is how we proceeded. At the range, those of us who were used to some recoil found the Ruger to be pleasant enough. One of our handloads was mild, and an inexperienced shooter fired two rounds with it. It proved to be too much for him to continue. Any rifle of this power needs getting used to.[PDFCAP(2)].
We obtained 2-inch accuracy with iron sights at 100 yards with our test loads. A scope would have probably reduced those, so by any measure, the Ruger shot extremely well. One of our staff, who was used to heavy recoil, fired the Ruger rapid-fire in three-shot bursts, and enjoyed it immensely. There were no feeding problems whatsoever. The Ruger fed and fired perfectly, but all who tried it wanted a better trigger pull. That was the only other flaw we found on this rifle, the first being the small and hard recoil pad.
We didn’t entirely like the three-position safety, in that it was difficult to find it when it was fully on. It could have been larger, or higher, we thought. Like on the .375, it was possible to wipe it on with the hand while working the bolt quickly, but that didn’t happen.
Custom Browning .416 Rigby
Our recommendation: Although this was an extremely nice custom rifle that would likely sell for about $3,000, we felt the money that would have to be spent to duplicate it would buy a good Ruger, plus either a lot of ammunition or a down payment on a serious hunting trip to a place where the Rigby’s power could be put to good use. We would have to recommend, Don’t Buy It.
The owner told us he had wanted an original Rigby, but didn’t want to spend the necessary money to get one. This was his attempt at acquiring an “English” .416 Rigby. The owner did most of the work, including all the stock work, rust bluing and engraving. He confessed he would not have paid someone else to get this done. We thought this rifle was very close to an English rifle in all its appointments, and so the owner got what he wanted. However, unless you absolutely have to have a custom .416 Rigby, we’d pass on this idea. If you want a custom Rigby, there are better actions than the 98 Mauser around which to build it, even though John Rigby & Co. did just that when Magnum Mauser actions were unavailable right after WWII.
Paul Roberts, the former owner of the Rigby Co., confirmed this had been done, but also said the company didn’t like to cut up the relatively short standard Mauser action. However, with a high-quality action, which this FN Browning was, there was no reason not to build it into a .416 Rigby, and that is what the owner of this magnificent custom rifle did.
The details of the rather immense task of converting the FN-made Browning action into one that would handle the huge Rigby case were written up in the 1997 issue of Gun Digest, if you care to read about it. In a nutshell, the action was fitted with a 24-inch Douglas 1:12-inch twist barrel and chambered for the big case. Then the owner tackled the immense feeding problems inherent with the fat Rigby rounds.
He removed lots of metal from the action under the rails, but left everything above them essentially alone. Part of the right side of the magazine wall had to be removed to make room for the lower cartridge in the magazine. The metal was removed to get the lower (right-side) cartridge wider within the magazine so it wouldn’t force the upper one out past the rail. A lot of grinding, testing, regrinding and filing went into the job before it was done, but the finished product feeds perfectly, extremely smoothly, and reliably. It fed for us with the rifle held upside down, on each side, and right-side up, and with the bolt worked quickly or slowly.
The magazine held only two of the Rigby rounds. We tried putting a third up the spout and closing the bolt over the two in the magazine. The altered extractor went over the chambered round very reluctantly, and we didn’t like doing it, so we concluded this was a two-shot bolt-action rifle. If you’re going to Africa, you’ll probably want more shots in your rifle. However, two shots will get most jobs done, and we though this concept was better than a single shot.
Everything about the rifle was altered in some manner, except for the Browning-engraved, hinged aluminum floorplate. It stayed closed during our testing, and was easy to open when needed. The action and the rear of the barrel were engraved in a fine scroll pattern. The bolt handle had oak leaves running down it, and the underside of the bolt knob held a small flower. The caliber designation was engraved into the barrel on the left. The forend lug was soldered to the underside of the barrel in front of the shortened and reshaped forend.
The well-figured dark walnut stock was given a stand-off cheekpiece, and finished in oil. The forend was checkered completely around in an English-style point pattern, and the pistol grip had a large panel of checkering on each side. The checkering was as good as any we’ve seen. It looked appropriate and did its job well. There was no forend tip or pistol grip cap. We’d have liked a “skeleton” steel grip cap, but that’s getting picky. We also thought the gold-filled Browning engraving on the aluminum floorplate didn’t match the rest of the rifle, and the owner assured us a matching-engraved steel floorplate will be installed as soon as he finds time.
The steel was all rust blued, and was very attractive. It had a rich, dark, blue-black glow that complemented the engraving very well.
The bolt had been lapped to the action. We found it to be very easy and reliable in operation, but it worked better and faster for us with the scope out of the way. It was possible to gouge our fingers on the eyepiece when we were in a hurry. It was easy to remove the scope via two levers. The bolt came out of the rifle by depressing a button on the left side of the shroud, standard Browning treatment to the FN action.
The owner assured us the internals of the stock had been treated in a manner that would not permit it to crack. This included hidden cross bolts embedded in Brownells’ Steel Bed, and relief between stock and metal where recoil could drive the steel as a wedge into the wood. There was an external through-bolt as well. Joy of joys, the stock had been fitted with a brown Pachmayr Decelerator pad.
The rear sight was by Wisner’s Precise Metalsmithing. It had a wide-angle V, and a platinum centerline had been inlaid into it by the owner. The sight base was held to the barrel by two bolts, and was also soldered in place. Elevation was adjusted by a small wheel, and windage by drifting. The foresight was a rather large replaceable bead on a ramp having an integral band that encircled the muzzle, ensuring that the foresight would stay there. The sight hood, or dust cover, was removable by means of a push-button. Its forward end was knurled.
The rifle was fitted with Warne bases and detachable rings that held a 2.5X Weaver scope, something of a surprise. The owner explained that he had had excellent results with old Weavers, and had another of them on a nine-pound .458 Winchester Mag. The reticle was a flat-top post. The scope was set far enough forward that we thought it would be safe to fire this rather light rifle without fear of imbedding the scope into our skulls. With two rounds in the magazine and the scope fitted, the FN Rigby weighed 8.9 pounds. With the scope removed, the rifle weighed 8.2 pounds.
The trigger pull was very light and crisp, breaking at 1.5 pounds. We tried to get it to drop by banging the bolt closed, but it held. We thought it should have been heavier for general use, but the owner liked it as it was. The manual safety was a three-position rocking lever located to the right of the bolt shroud. Forward was fire, and the middle position permitted the bolt but not the trigger to move. It was possible to put the safety on during rapid fire with the scope off the rifle. It never happened to our test crew, but the owner had it happen a time or two and warned us to check it.
At the range we expected to get kicked, and we weren’t disappointed. Our first shot got the expected reaction of, “Ye gods!” This rifle was not for those unused to recoil, make no mistake about that.
The owner had chronographed factory Federal 410-grain ammunition at 2,430 fps and, with the scope off the rifle, that produced 65 foot-pounds of recoil. We all felt this fine rifle needed more weight if it were to be shot as much as it deserved to be shot, but as it was, we’d have to say that it now sets our all-time standard for portable power. The rifle was very easy to carry, perfectly balanced with or without scope, and had two shots available, each of which could kill an elephant. The accuracy was as good as the Ruger’s, and we got 2-inch groups with a variety of our ammunition. Other than our problems dealing with extreme recoil, we had no malfunctions with this rifle.
Pre-’64 Winchester Model 70 .416 Taylor
Our recommendation: Our test rifle’s costly action, Marquart barrel, stock work, special bedding and sights would run the value up to about $1,000 to $1,200, depending on sources, but you can beat that a lot if you rebarrel a less expensive rifle chambered for any short-belted case, like a .458, .338, or even a 7mm Mag. or .300 Winchester Mag. We think you could get a .416 Taylor for about $500-$650 with loading dies, if you shop around. The Taylor has a lot going for it. Buy It.
Start with one of the world’s best actions, install a 22-inch Marquart cut-rifled .416-caliber barrel, chamber it for the .416 Taylor, put an aperture sight on it, rework the original stock, and you end up with a lightweight, powerful rifle that is mighty handy and very easy to feed.
The .416 Taylor cartridge is formed by necking down .458 Winchester Magnum brass, which is both cheap and plentiful. The RCBS reloading dies we had on loan with this rifle were all we needed to make ammunition from .458 cases. We ran new .458 cases through the sizing die, trimmed them to uniform length, and had .416 Taylor cases. This is about as easy as wildcatting—making non-factory ammunition—gets.
We loaded 350- and 400-grain bullets, using Speer 350-grain flat points and Hornady’s 400-grain soft-noses. We stayed well within prescribed limits and ended up with useful ammunition that gave very lengthy brass life. Our Oehler 35P chronograph told us we were pushing the 350-grainers out at about 2,350 fps with our load, and the 400-grainers came out at 2,200 fps, giving us just about the power of the .404 Jeffery, though we could have loaded both loads hotter. Reliable data from responsible sources gives a 400-grain bullet 2,300 fps, not far off the .416 Rigby.
The rifle was nicely put together. However, the checkering was not fully completed when we tested the rifle. The steel had been glass-bead blasted and hot-dip (conventionally) blued, and it looked very much like the rust bluing on the Browning/Rigby. This treatment requires a fraction of the effort and cost of rust bluing. How durable it will be by comparison remains to be seen, and we’ll tell you about it in, oh, 50 years or so.
The woodwork consisted of modifying the original Model 70 stock, reduced in overall thickness and length. It was recontoured at the pistol grip area into a much trimmer configuration than Winchester had put onto it. The buttpad was original Winchester, and although it appeared to be quite old, it was softer than many brand-new pads we’ve seen recently on hard-kicking rifles. We’d have preferred a still-softer pad.
Two stainless cross bolts were hidden within the wood, one near the trigger and one behind the main recoil lug. The bedding compound was again Brownells’ Steel Bed. Neither the Taylor nor the Browning/Rigby were free-floated.
Our test .416 Taylor came with a dovetail-slotted rear sight base, and there was also a two-leaf rear sight to fit the slot, but we never installed it. We would have liked a filler installed into the notch in the rear base. That base was silver soldered to the barrel, and there were no screws or screw-holes in it. The front sight was a flat-topped blade with a brass insert that gave us an excellent sight picture. The front sight base was also sweated to the barrel. We liked the Redfield aperture sight. It had an insert for precise shooting, or it could be removed to give a larger opening for more speed.
The pre-’64 Model 70 action, upon which this rifle was built, probably needs little description. This action, like all pre-’64s, was controlled feed. The rear of the barrel had a cone-shaped breech, and the bolt was very slick and smooth and totally reliable in this rifle. The trigger mechanism—one of the best in the industry—gave a crisp and clean let-off at 3.0 pounds with a bit of overtravel. The three-position safety worked well. The hinged floorplate was steel, as were all the action parts on this rifle. The bolt had a protrusion on its side that aided smoothness. The bolt was removed by pressing forward a tab at the left-rear corner of the action. We noticed that the cut-rifled barrel was very easy to clean.
There were no sling-swivel studs fitted to the rifle. The owner told us the stock had been refinished with Purdey’s Warthog oil finish. The wood looked good. The pores were well filled and the stock had a pleasant sheen. The alkanet-root stain of the Warthog finish left the stock a dark, rich-looking red.
The rifle, as tested, weighed right at 8 pounds. We guessed we wouldn’t like lengthy shooting sessions, but were eager to try it out. Our first shot again told us we had a very powerful, light rifle in our hands. Pressing onward with our test session, we got a best group at 100 yards of 2.5 inches for five shots, more than good enough for any hunting we might do.
Any rifle that can be chambered for the .458 Winchester will prove to be ideal for rebarreling to .416 Taylor. If you can make do without a classic .416 Rigby and all its nostalgia, the Taylor might just be for you. It’s a wildcat, but in truth not all that wild, and it’s easy to make out of .458 brass. It makes more sense to us for general use than the .416 Remington Magnum. RCBS stocks more-or-less standard dies for the Taylor, and bullets are easy and greatly varied. It’s easier to load down than the Rigby, and after a few full-power shots, you’ll want to do that.
Gun Tests Recommends
Ruger Mark II Magnum .416 Rigby, $1,550. Buy It. Accurate, finely put together, easy to look at, smooth, and reliable. Quibbles: Needed a better trigger and softer buttpad.
Pre-’64 Winchester Model 70 .416 Taylor, $1,000 to $1,200. Buy it. This cartridge is flexible and easy to load, if you handload. The rifle can be built on most magnum actions, if you want to go to the time and trouble of getting the action, chamber, and barrel together.
Custom Browning .416 Rigby, about $3,000. Don’t Buy It. The Ruger did nearly everything we wanted as well as this gun for half the money.