Skip to main content

.416 Rigby for Brown Bear

.416 Rigby for Brown Bear
All bears are built stout, but coastal grizzlies--or brown bears, as they are commonly called--are more than stout, they are built like tanks.

As hunters, we are all familiar with the black bear species, which is clearly nothing to be trifled with. Yet, to compare a black bear to a grizzly is to contrast a bike to a tank.

Everything seems to be excessively overbuilt--muscle, bone, teeth, claws and a white-hot temper that could curdle 100-proof whiskey.

Even more awe-inspiring, an Alaskan coastal brown bear can weigh twice what an interior grizzly would. The brownie is truly a beast of mythological proportions, with a temper to match. Without question, it is one of the most formidable and ferocious animals to ever draw breath on this planet.


When I first started hunting brown bears more than 25 years ago, the .338 was very popular with Alaskan hunters. Gradually, I saw more and more rifles come north chambered in the .375 H&H. However, even this, the world's most versatile big-game cartridge, fell to the .416 with brown bear guides.


In Alaska, when you talk .416 it is going to be the Remington. If you were to land a bush plane at any lodge on the Alaska Peninsula, a spare box of .375 H&H or .416 Remington could be easily obtained, but not the Rigby. Yet in this state, more than thrice the size of California and with the fortunate deficiency of all but a handful of roads, the .416 Rigby is my favorite.

The superb English gun-making firm John Rigby & Co. was the sole agent for Mauser in England before WWI. In the summer of 1912 the .416 Rigby rifles, with Mauser actions, became available as a less expensive alternative to a double rifle. Although Rigby built less than 200 such rifles at this time, their extraordinary reputation swept through the sporting world. Today, just shy of 100 years later, those original magnum Mausers are the most coveted actions in the world. As logic would dictate, Rigby's .416, with modern

bullets, powders and primers, enjoys even more swagger than it did in the glory days of safari hunting.


Frank C. Barnes confided in his book Cartridges of the World: "The .416 Rigby is probably the best magazine big-game cartridge ever offered."

With a more voluminous case than necessary, the Rigby is a handloader's dream. However tempting, there really is no need for hunters to push the 400-grain bullet downrange any faster than the standard 2,400 feet per second. You may be agreeably surprised to find that the Swift Bullet Company reloading manual reveals that at that velocity, its 400-grain A-frame is just less than three inches high at 100 yards and 4.7 inches low at 250 when zeroed at 200 yards.

Now, a cultured eye of ballistics, such as yours, will immediately reference the .30 calibers with 200-grain bullets. At 2,900 fps, the magnum .30s are 1.7 inches high at 100 yards and three inches low at 250 yards when zeroed at the same 200 yards. However, the boasting of these sheep rifles must end there; the flatbased, roundnose .416 weighs in at twice the credence of the heaviest .30. As Anthony Hober, Swift's manager of company operations, puts it: "That makes the .416 an honest 250-yard rifle." No small praise for a caliber with such bone-crushing, shocking power.


Do you really need, or desire, such power in the new world? After all, such a stout rifle and accompanying ammunition are going to be heavy. Well, consider this: With the price of today's big-game hunts, and careers being nearly all-consuming, it just is not possible to spend anywhere near the days in the bush that old trappers and prospectors did. On the last day of a bear hunt that cost you five figures, you spot your brownie quartering away from you. Would you even consider a shot knowing that your .30-caliber deer and elk rifle was going to have to drive through the bear's hair, hide, ribs and muscle to reach the opposite shoulder? It's doubtful whether you, or your guide, would entertain such silliness. Without a question, there is no substitute for a well-placed shot, but regardless of your skill, you may never get that perfect angle on a trip of a lifetime.

If you have ever taken a brown, you know they don't go easy and they can come at you, hard. It is a dreadful undertaking to be contemplating the lack of your rifle's consequence when a half-ton brown bear is popping his teeth only 40 yards distant with all the unmanageable personality of a stepped-on mamba. It will be a not-to-be-forgotten time in which no contented thoughts will come to you.

Sure, you can add more powder in that old Dark Continent standby, but it will mean additional punishment on your end of the rifle, too. Personally, I could never understand handloading "light" loads. Candidly, I was always trying to push the performance in every big-game load I threw. The .416 Rigby cured me of this folly. A .416 will not smash your shoulder to atoms, but when going to the range and shooting .40s, it is a good idea to put your wristwatch in your pocket, should you be desirous of keeping it in good working order. If you start sending 400-grain bullets downrange at a scorching velocity, your enjoyment of shooting this superb caliber will disappear faster than a Thermos full of hot coffee in a duck blind.

All of the .416s have cases of far nobler proportions than the cartridges we are accustomed to in North America, and they are a family not renowned for beauty. Unlike the other two .416 cartridges, the Rigby case is not belted. In theory, this should make it more advantageous when expeditiously feeding the round for something I guarantee you will need with a brownie--a second shot.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

.500 S&W vs. the King of the Beasts

Smith & Wesson's Tony Miele and host Kevin Steele track an African lion across the Kalahari for the ultimate handgun showdown with the King of the Beasts.

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Hunting Coues Deer South of the Border

Former Delta Force Operator Kyle Lamb hikes the rugged desert mountains of northern Sonora in pursuit of the diminutive Coues species of whitetail.

Moon Phase Rut Tips

Moon Phase Rut Tips

John Dudley, technical writer and host of Nock On TV discusses why it's imporant to follow moon phases for the rut.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Salty capers add a burst of flavor to the sauce, which pairs beautifully with the grilled venison loin in this recipe.Grilled Venison Loin with Caper-Mustard Sauce Recipe Recipes

Grilled Venison Loin with Caper-Mustard Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Salty capers add a burst of flavor to the sauce, which pairs beautifully with the grilled...

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong Optics

3 Ways You're Using Trail Cameras Wrong

Tony J. Peterson

Chances are good that you're not getting the best out of your trail cams.

We're deciphering new deer data for rut success.Daylight Deer Movement During the Rut Whitetail

Daylight Deer Movement During the Rut

Jeff Johnston

We're deciphering new deer data for rut success.

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study. Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber? Ammo

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Mike Schoby

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study.

See More Trending Articles

More Guns

Here are our choices for the five best hunting handguns on the market right now.The 5 Best Handguns for Hunting Guns

The 5 Best Handguns for Hunting

Brad Fitzpatrick - November 30, 2020

Here are our choices for the five best hunting handguns on the market right now.

The newest model — the Marlin 444 — is the latest of the iconic American lever-action rifles.Happy Anniversary: Marlin Celebrates 150 Years Guns

Happy Anniversary: Marlin Celebrates 150 Years

Keith Wood

The newest model — the Marlin 444 — is the latest of the iconic American lever-action rifles.

Beautiful beasts should not be hunted with ugly rifles.Hunting with Classic Rifles Guns

Hunting with Classic Rifles

Mike Evans

Beautiful beasts should not be hunted with ugly rifles.

You've got options when it comes to hunting small game. Let's break them down!Best Rifles for Small Game Hunting Guns

Best Rifles for Small Game Hunting

Craig Boddington

You've got options when it comes to hunting small game. Let's break them down!

See More Guns

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now