Today I am taking a break from the 30 days of preparing series to pay homage to Ireland’s most famous gun maker, John Rigby. Born in 1758, John Rigby established his fine firearms company, John Rigby and Co., in 1775 in Dublin, Ireland. Rigby served as a Grenadier Captain in the Independent Dublin Volunteers—the Irish militia that rose to defend Ireland after British soldiers left the country to fight the Revolutionary War. John Rigby was also an active Freemason and excellent marksman.
In 1816, John’s son joined the firearms company, and they renamed it John Rigby & Son. In 1818, John Rigby passed away and his son, William, took over the company, which stayed in Dublin for another 79 years before moving all production to England.
During its time in England, Rigby never supplied firearms to the British military. However, Rigby contributed much toward the development of those guns, including the .303 Enfield.
In 1897, John Rigby the junior established a close relationship with Germany’s Mauser firearms manufacturer. The two companies continued to work closely, with Rigby incorporating Mauser actions into its rifles. One collaboration especially is celebrated—the .416 Rigby cartridge; to this day, it is one of the most accurate big game cartridges in the world.
Known for their dueling pistols, Rigby is now synonymous with fine hunting rifles designed for big and African game.
After changing hands a few times during the late 1990s—even an American company established a John Rigby & Co. (Gunmakers), Inc.—Rigby has returned to England, and once again, proudly produces fine sporting and hunting firearms. It is the third oldest gunmaker in the world.
A marble Masonic memorial hangs in Dublin’s Saint Patrick’s Cathedral with the following inscription:
“To the memory of John Rigby late Sovereign of the Order of Prince Grand Rose Croix and Deputy Grand Commander of the College of Philosophical Masons of Ireland whose great Masonic zeal, manly honourable and independent mind and kind and generous disposition, placed him in those high ranks of Freemasonry and gained him the respect of Society. This tribute to his work is erected by his brethren of the original Chapter of Prince Masons and the First Volunteer Lodge No.620. AD MDCCCXIX”
Antique Rigby shotguns and rifles go for tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, today at auction. Rigby firearms are not only Ireland’s most famous firearms, but also one of the finest sporting guns in the world’s history.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! And remember, firearms and alcohol do not mix! Come back tomorrow, when I resume my 30 days of preparing series.