An Interesting Calibre
Our eldest son, Keith, who is an established and well-known gunmaker here in the UK recently sent me some interesting photos. Interesting from a historical perspective as well as calibre perspective. He had been sent this specific rifle in .350 Rigby Magnum calibre by a UK customer who wanted it cleaned up, and in general shown a bit of TLC, prior to going on a safari to Tanzania. Keith immediately realised I’d be interested in this particular rifle because of it’s history. Firstly though, let’s look at the particular calibre.
Normally, when the Rigby name comes up amongst gun enthusiasts the first calibre which comes to mind is Rigby’s venerated .416, and rightly so, because it is a proven classic, however, it’s not the only calibre to bear Rigby’s name. Another proven Rigby calibre was their .275, more well known as the 7x57mm Mauser used by Col Jim Corbett in India, and by ‘Karamoja’ Bell in Africa. The 7x57mm Mauser was a favourite calibre of mine throughout my lengthy career as a game ranger, and then as a PH. Another Rigby cartridge which is now seemingly overlooked in our more modern times is the Rigby .350 Magnum, and yet at one time it was just as popular as the .375 H&H Magnum.
First released in 1908 the Rigby .350 Magnum was an entirely original cartridge and wasn’t designed from any parent cartridge as such. It predated the revered .416 by three years and was Rigby’s first cartridge to feature their hallmark sharp 45-degree shoulder. The .350 Magnum case length is 2.742 inches, with an overall cartridge length of 3.44 inches which makes it a comfortable fit in a magnum length receiver. Ballistically, the 225-grain bullets have a muzzle velocity of 2,625 feet per second with muzzle energy at 3,440 foot/pounds. The sectional density value of 0.251 would be considered a bit light for some dangerous game species, although it was used to good effect on species like buffalo. Most experienced professional hunters in Africa consider a bullet with a sectional density of 0.300 would be preferrable.
At time of release, the .350 Rigby Magnum cartridge was considered an all-rounder and certainly suitable for the more open plains type habitat found in what was then still German East Africa (Tanzania), and Kenya. Soft-nose bullets proved adequate on various antelope species, dangerous cats, and buffalo, whilst the solid bullets, termed full patch back then were said to be suitable for elephant hunting. East African hunters of that era who used and liked the cartridge were Denys Finch-Hatton whose name became known as a result of the book, and film, Out of Africa, and Pete Pearson. Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) hunter and author John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor also used the .350 Rigby Magnum, and like those in East Africa, he sung the calibre’s praises, although a heavier bullet may have been more suitable. Well respected veteran East African PH Robin Hurt, had extensive experience using the .350 Magnum from a young age, and he has always spoken and written highly of it.
The particular .350 Rigby Magnum which our son Keith was working on, has an interesting history. It was bought directly from Rigby’s by Harold Trollope in 1939 and imported into East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Trollope was the first game ranger appointed at South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park. Prior to that, I’m led to understand Trollope had served as a game ranger in the Kruger National Park, under James Stevenson-Hamilton, who served from 1902 until 1946 as the first Kruger National Park warden, although at the time the national park was known as Sabi Nature Reserve. A book titled, Harold Trollope: The Man They Called ‘Vukani’ was written about him but it is now out of print.