Note: Originally published February 11, 2016.
The new Jim Corbett commemorative .275 Rigby built by John Rigby & Co. was auctioned off last week at the annual SCI Convention. Rare rifles are a common sight at the SCI gathering, but this bolt-action Rigby was a peculiar treasure: Not only did it celebrate Corbett’s bravery and heroics, it also sold for more than any other bolt-action rifle in SCI’s history.
The new .275 was built to the same specifications as Corbett’s original Rigby, which was bestowed on him after he killed a man-eating tiger in India, infamously nicknamed “the man-eating tigress of Champawat.”
The new rifle features extensive engraving depicting Corbett’s tiger hunts. It was built on a single-square-bridge Mauser action with a claw extractor, three-position, Mauser-style safety, and, like the original rifle, a 25-inch classic Rigby barrel.
When Rigby donated the rifle for SCI to auction, the firearms company valued it at $150,000, but the real-world, take-home price for the winning bidder was higher. Much higher.
Visitors to the show were able to gawk at the gun all weekend long—with armed guards standing close by—culminating in the lustful bidding that took place at Saturday night concluding auction. According to SCI’s Hunt Forever, bidding started off strong, with bids increasing by increments of $5,000 and 10,000. Bidding hit $100,000, then surged past $200,000 with no signs of slowing.
The winning bid? A whopping $250,000. The stunning amount will go to further SCI’s work around the world.
The Corbett rifle is the latest in a long line of speciality rifles auctioned by SCI. The hunting and conservation group has partnered with various riflemakers to create different series, with a new rifle auctioned each year. In 1982 the Big Five Rifle Series kicked off the tradition, with a rifle commemorating one of the African Big Five game animals auctioned each year. Each rifle in the series bested the year before it, with the first rifle—a .458 Winchester Elephant edition—going for $41,000. The last in the series, the leopard rifle, brought $201,000.
“This incredible generosity from Rigby and SCI members shows that SCI is the leading organization when it comes to raising the funds needed to protect hunting and being first for hunters”, SCI President Larry Higgins told Hunt Forever. “SCI members put their money where their mouth is” when it comes to raising money for to “protect hunting and the rights of all hunters” he added.
The current series honors five continents and their hunting traditions. In 2015 the auctioned gun was a African commemorative that brought $140,000; the Corbett rifle in 2016 features Asia, and the upcoming years will see a Oceania (Australia/New Zealand), European, and North/South America tribute rifle.