The Rigby Rifle, 1864

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The following text is extracted from “Notes on Rifle Shooting” by Captain Heaton (2nd Edition, 1864, London). It provides a useful contemporary description of the early John Rigby match rifle.

The Rigby Rifle

Mr. Rigby has kindly furnished me with the following description of his rifle, which made such a favourable impression on the minds of all riflemen, by its extraordinary performances at the late Small-bore trials at Woolwich. Mr. Rigby was rather unfortunate at 500 yards, mainly owing, I believe, to his rest being too light; but his diagrams at 1,000 yards are quite sufficient to prove that the rifle possessed more than ordinary merit.

Diameter of Bore – Smallest diameter, .451; largest diameter, .480. One-half of the original surface is untouched in rifling. Shape of bore, octagonal.

Spiral – One turn in 18 inches.

Weight, &c. of Projectile – Mechanically fitting, made of hardened lead. Weight, 530 grains; length, 1.42. The hollow in rear of the bullet is filled with plaster of Paris, which remains in its place during the flight of the bullet, and prevents the paper, lubrication, &c. from being lodged in the cavity. This forms Mr. Rigby’s patent.

Charge – 86 grains Curtis and Harvey’s No. 6, at all distances.

Lubrication – An octagonal tallow wad, lightly tempered with wax.

The excellence of the rifle consists in the friction between the bullet and barrel during its exit being so reduced that a very low trajectory is obtained without increasing the recoil. At the late trial at Woolwich, the last diagram made by Mr. Rigby’s rifle at 1,000 yards was shot with an elevation of 2° 44′, which, corrected for the height of the point of mean impact, gives 2° 27′ as the actual elevation, which is wonderfully low. This plan of rifling is very durable, as one-half of the original surface remains untouched in rifling, and presents great resistance to abrasion in cleaning or to accidental injuries. It is also very good for expanding bullets, as the grooves are easily filled, and, from their shape, have a most efficient grip, which renders stripping impossible, while the resistance of the air to the rotation of the bullet is reduced by being received on inclined surfaces.

Mr. Rigby supplies his rifles at the following prices:– Best match rifle, 36-inch steel barrel, with Vernier back sight and improved wind-gauge fore sight, 22 guineas. Plain rifle, straight handle, barrel and sight as above, 17 guineas. Aperture sights, 3 guineas extra. Plain military pattern rifle, heavy steel barrel, wind-gauge fore sight, 10 guineas.

All the above are tested at the range and mean elevation marked on sights to 1,000 yards.

Mr. Rigby’s patent mechanical projectiles are supplied at 6s. per hundred.