Book Review: 250 Years of Rigby’s “Grand Tradition”
Book Review: 250 Years of Rigby’s “Grand Tradition”October 3, 2012
No one knows when the first Rigby gun was fired, or who shot it. The company says that it opened for business in 1735. The oldest remaining records show that, by 1781, John Rigby & Co. was an established maker of fine arms from shotguns to pistols to blunderbusses and rifles. And in the years that followed, Rigby rifles would become the trademark weapons of well-to-do British explorers and discerning sportsmen the world over: not only were they used to shoot skeet in England, but they led hunters, colonists, and soldiers through the jungles of India and Africa and the plains of the western United States (Custer had one).
Rigby is now the world’s oldest gun manufacturer, with a history spanning four centuries. Its guns have played leading roles in the lives of characters like Jim Corbett, the British hunter who used his Rigby to kill man-eating tigers in India; Fateh Singh, 31st Maharana of Udaipur, who owned sixteen bespoke Rigby rifles; and Carl Mannerheim, who led the Finnish military during World War II and hunted large game with his Rigby .350. During the first shooting contest between the United States and another country, in 1874, the Irish team used Rigby muzzle-loaders and the Americans Remingtons and Sharps (the Irish lost by three points, but rallied at an identical competition a week later, winning by six, with John Rigby himself shooting the best of all).
Silvio Calabi, Steve Helsley, and Roger G. Sanger—authors of Hemingway’s Guns—combed through years of John Rigby & Co.’s records to write their new book, Rigby: A Grand Tradition, a comprehensive history of the legendary gunmakers and their larger-than-life clients. Its size and beautiful, full-page photographs make it look like a coffee-table book, but the information inside, which covers the history of the company and the evolution of its products, is substantial. Whether you’re a Rigby owner, a gun lover, or just a history buff, you’ll enjoy it.