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20 Years With .416s

by Layne Simpson   |  February 14th, 2011 4

I can easily recall a time when the two most popular .416-caliber cartridges among American hunters were wildcats.

Left to Right: .416 Ruger, .416 Remington Magnum, .416 Rigby, and the .416
Weatherby Magnum

I can easily recall a time when the two most popular .416-caliber cartridges among American hunters were wildcats. One called the .416 Taylor was designed by writer Robert Chatfield-Taylor and is the .458 Winchester Magnum case necked down. Another called the .416 Hoffman was formed by its creator, professional hunter George Hoffman, by necking up the .375 H&H Magnum case and blowing it out to less body taper and a sharper shoulder angle. During the 1970s there were rumors of Winchester loading the .416 Taylor, and that prompted Ruger to build a couple of rifles on the Model 77 action chambered for it. The factory ammo never came, so the rifle never went into production. Like the .416 Taylor, the .416 Hoffman remains a wildcat today, although the .416 Remington Magnum is quite similar to it.

The .416 factory cartridges we have today got spooked from the bushes when Kimber of Oregon introduced its Model 88 African in .416 Rigby in 1987. During the very next year the .416 Remington Magnum appeared in the Model 700 Safari Classic, and it was followed closely by the introduction of the .416 Weatherby Magnum. Other .416s, such as those from Dakota and Lazzeroni, eventually came along, with the latest being the .416 Ruger from Hornady.

.416 Rigby
The .416 Rigby and I first got to know each other on a safari in Zambia in 1988. My hunting partner was Greg Warne, who in addition to being a close friend had founded Kimber of Oregon with his father (Jack) during the 1970s. The Kimber rifles we took along were in .270 Winchester, .416 Rigby, and .505 Gibbs. I shot most of my game with the .270, but did manage to give the .416 a good workout on Cape buffalo. That hunt was literally packed with excitement. I never knew exactly why, but elephants seemed to be on the rampage in that particular area and prior to our arrival, one of the professional hunter’s skinners had been plucked from the back of a Land Rover and killed by a cow with a calf by her side. We spent about as much time dodging elephants we could not shoot as we did looking for something we could shoot.

Buffalo also seemed to be mad at the world. One morning we were startled by the loud scream from a tracker who had wandered off into the tall grass. On his way back he bumped into a buffalo bull that decided it might be fun to toss him around a bit. The poor fellow was lucky to escape with nothing more than severe bruises where the buff’s boss had smashed into his back and ribs. Speaking in his Tonga dialect, he pleaded with my professional hunter, Johan Potgieter, to restore his dignity by allowing him to track down the great beast and have me shoot it with “the big rifle.” And of course, I was most happy to oblige him.

In the .416 I used handloads with two 400-grain bullets, the Swift A-Frame and the monolithic solid from A-Square, both at 2,375 fps. Before those wonderful days in Africa were over, I had literally fallen in love with the .416 Rigby, and when it became available in the Ruger Model 77 Magnum in 1990, I immediately added one to my battery. Rifles chambered for the big cartridge are also available in the CZ 550 Safari Magnum as well as rifles made by various English makers, and I have a rifle barrel made by SSK Industries for the T/C Encore. Federal has five great .416 Rigby loads with various 400-grain bullets at velocities of 2,350 to 2,400 fps.

The author took this Cape buffalo with a Kimber Model 88 in .416 Rigby during a safari in Zambia in 1988.

.416 Remington Magnum
In 1987 Kenny Jarrett built the very first rifle in 7mm STW, the case of which I formed by necking down the 8mm Remington Magnum case. At that time I had also necked the same case both up and down to various other calibers, including .25, 6.5mm, .416, and .458. Since I have long had a soft spot for switch-barrel rifles, we decided to add a second barrel chambered for the .416-caliber cartridge to that rifle. I still have the barrel, and it is marked “.416 Experimental.” We must have been on the right track because preproduction .416 Magnum ammunition sent to me by Remington in June 1988 worked perfectly in that barrel.

I hunted Alaska with the .416 Remington Magnum for the first time a few months before it was officially introduced in November 1988. The Remington ammo I hunted with was loaded with Swift 400-grain A-Frame bullets at 2,400 fps. Since I had no bear permit, I settled for a moose.

The Alaska moose can weigh upward of a ton on the hoof, so the hunt turned out to be a great field test for a new cartridge. Regardless of what cartridge you use or how precisely you place a good bullet, it always takes a moose awhile to discover he is dead. After taking my bullet through the lungs, the huge bull stumbled forward for a couple of steps and then paused for what seemed like a very long time before toppling over like a giant, four-legged bowling pin.

I still have the Model 700 Safari Classic I used on that hunt, and it has since been to Africa on a couple of occasions. It has also spent some time in Australia where it did a great job of reducing the Asiatic buffalo population. I have also found it to be deadly on nilgai, a Texas import that might just be the most bulletproof animal in North America.

As might be expected, I am as fond of that rifle as I am of the cartridge for which it is chambered. Oddly enough, Remington no longer offers a standard-production rifle in .416 Magnum, although the company still offers its excellent factory load with the Swift 400-grain A-Frame bullet. In addition, five loadings with various 400-grain bullets are available from Federal, and Blaser, Jarrett, and Sako chamber rifles for it.

This Model 700 in .416 Remington Magnum has served well, from a 1988 moose hunt in Alaska to a recent Asiatic buffalo hunt in Australia.

.416 Weatherby Magnum
In the past, Shooting Times would occasionally run sweepstakes that awarded some really nice goodies to readers whose names got drawn from the pot. Most coveted of all the prizes were hunts in various parts of the world with the winner accompanied by a staff writer of the magazine. I was fortunate to host a half-dozen or so of those hunts, and one that
will always stand out in my mind was a 14-day safari in Zambia in 1990. The reader who accompanied me on the hunt was William McQueen from La Mirada, California, and a nicer person you will never meet. As I recall, he used a rifle in .375 H&H Magnum. Since Weatherby was a cosponsor of that particular adventure, and since the company had only recently introduced its .416 Magnum, I decided to try the caliber out in a Mark V rifle. Prior to heading to the Dark Continent I replaced its wooden stock with a Griffin & Howe-style fiberglass stock made by McMillan. I also took a rifle in .577 Nitro Express, but it was always in the wrong place at the wrong time, so I ended up shooting everything with the Weatherby.

I took three different handloads on that wonderful adventure, and the one I used most consisted of the Federal 215 primer and 117.0 grains of Reloder 22 behind the Swift 400-grain A-Frame for a muzzle velocity of 2,675 fps. It hammered everything I shot so hard I ended up using only nine cartridges to bag nine animals, which included lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, zebra, and various antelope. The .416 Weatherby Magnum is far more cartridge than actually needed for leopard, but it proved to be ideal for what turned out to be a one-rifle safari with buffalo at the top of the menu. I have since used that rifle on other hunts, and its performance on game has yet to fall below excellent.

The Weatherby Mark V is still available in .416 Weatherby Magnum, and the company continues to offer ammo with various 400-grain bullets loaded to a velocity of 2,700 fps. That’s a good 300 fps faster than is needed for maximum penetration with solids, even on game as large as elephant, but when using softnose bullets capable of holding together and penetrating, the effect of extra speed on game up to the size of buffalo is easy to see.

.416 Ruger(s)
Bill Ruger was an admirer of many things classic, and among them was the grand old .416 Rigby. Introduced around 1911 as a proprietary cartridge by English rifle builder John Rigby, it eventually became a favorite of Harry Selby and other African professional hunters who used big-bore rifles to prevent their clientele from being eaten or gored by dangerous game. Aware of Ruger’s fondness for the caliber, James Bell–who owned a custom cartridge case manufacturing company called Bell Brass–made a limited run of cases with the .416 Ruger headstamp. The headstamping also included “16” to indicate Ruger’s birth year of 1916 and “97” to indicate the year the cases were made. Employees who worked for Ruger secretly built a custom rifle on the No. 1 single-shot action chambered for the cartridge and presented it to him on his 75th birthday.

On its first safari, this Weatherby Mark V in .416 Weatherby Magnum bagged nine animals with nine cartridges, including lion, leopard, and Cape buffalo.

Fast-forward to the present, and we have a second .416 cartridge to wear the Ruger name. Whereas the first .416 Ruger was quite similar to the .416 Rigby, the one we have today was codeveloped from scratch by Hornady and Ruger. It and the .375 Ruger case on which the .416 is based had long been needed by Ruger due to the fact that with the exception of the limited-production Magnum version of the Model 77, which is considerably more expensive than the standard version, the company has never had an action long enough to handle cartridges such as the .375 H&H Magnum and the .416 Remington Magnum. Hornady solved the problem by eliminating the belt of the H&H case and increasing body diameter to the same as that of the belt. The increase in capacity allowed the case to be about 0.28 inch shorter than the .416 Remington case, yet powder capacity of the two is close to the same. Loaded by Hornady with 400-grain DGX softnose and DGS solid bullets, the .416 Ruger is rated at 2,400 fps in a 24-inch barrel, which is standard for the .416 Remington Magnum and the .416 Rigby. According to Ruger, velocity is reduced to 2,200 fps in the 20-inch barrel of the Model 77 Hawkeye, and while there are times and places when and where a short barrel is nice to have, I’d like to see an optional 24-inch barrel offered for that rifle.

I have not yet tried the relatively new .416 Ruger in the field, but since it duplicates the performance of the time-proven Rigby cartridge, I don’t have to try it on game to know how good it is.

The .416s are popular today because they are more effective on game than smaller calibers and more comfortable to shoot than those of larger calibers. They can also be incredibly accurate. Years ago I shot a couple of Jarrett rifles in .416 Remington Magnum and both consistently squeezed three bullets into half an inch for five shots at 100 yards. That’s darn good for a cartridge powerful enough to handle any big-game animal on the planet.



  • buckshot george

    please give an opinion:if taking 1 rifle to Africa only and with access to the best ammo, would you take a .416 Rigby or a .458 Lott,for the big 5?

  • rich

    Just bought a 416 Alaskan. Love it! I think there were some stock problems with walnut stocks in the early years with this cartridge. I doubt that I will have any problem with the new stock design.
    I did notice that Howa chambers a rifle for the 375 Ruger. I hope that others follow suit with the 416. The short action prevents the age old problem of short cycling for a second shot only to hear a click. Although with the 416 a second shot shouldn’t be needed as it often was with the 375 H &H.

  • Jean AArouet

    This story sounds extremely stupid from one end to the other ..’A tracker’ has ‘wandered off’ into the long grass…. and meets a Buffalo…” he pleaded with my professional hunter, Johan Potgieter, to restore his dignity by allowing him to track down the great beast and have me shoot it with “the big rifle.”….. ‘And of course, I was most happy to oblige him’. Wow, macho macho

    An utterly stupid and inexcusable kill….for the ‘dignity’..i.e. stupidity …….of a Buffalo that gave him a warning, didn’t stamp him into the ground, didn’t mortally wound him….The rest of the information in the article is interesting but that kill, has no sense to it…..You would have been more constructive and a better leader if you’d said ‘call yourself a tracker, you head into dangerous ground and only get injured with a few bruises!! by a large Buffalo… … be grateful to the Buffalo for your life ….. wake up to yourself you dumb bastard….or go home, you are a menace to us all if that’s how you behave and how much awareness you have…’

    As for short barrels….more than one of the old hunters and Taylor (from memory) particularly spoke of the danger of the longer barrels when in scrub country and if spinning fast to the sound, catching in the scrub…. when really stalking an animal or taking the risk of following a wounded one into scrub that 4 inches off the barrel could be life saver….It’s easy enough to have done and re-sighted Other than that safety situation what’s the point?..

    Fortunately at least one person has written against the neurotic obsession with really high velocity cartridges in BGR done to death through boredom in forums and forever being recommended quite unnecessary in fact dangerously. 2400 at barrel is plenty and it will still hit hard enough at 50-100 yards which is the ideal.200 yards is ridiculous. The idea surely is stalking skill…isn’t it? and in fact camera is more manly than a rifle/gun and a lot cheaper to bring home the photos showing your ability and courage to get close with the PH as your guardian angel.

    As for the other question….The 458 Lott has a much wider range of
    loads than 416 and therefor has multi- purpose. Thus probably a better all-around-e,;;;rhowever make sure the stock has been professionally
    reinforced if using 500/504 projectiles. Same story with 416…more recent CZ 505’s probably have reinforcement but attention by a well known to be competent gunsmith with BGR experience probably costing $3-400 for porting , bedding, reinforcing and polishing and making sure extraction is faultless and the rifle itself (without the menace using it) sighted-in at 100 yds zero and a test list of deviations with different loads and say 50 yards , 150yards, 200Yards is a good investment and for you to have confidence-in that when you approach the figures you are going ok. That’s not to say you will not shoot the moon or some other wild shot in the excitement when facing a big set of extended ears or deadly looking horns with their eyes fixed on you. For Christ’s sake too, use iron sights even peep sights sighted-in on your BGR.

    Taking one rifle isn’t sensible. Your PH might lend you one of his or keep a couple on hand for mishaps with clientsbut even if just two 458Lott….that’s ok with a good range of cartridges but don’t get excited and load the wrong ones….have some logical system such as lighter loads at the side/rear of your belt…500 softs at left top pocket loops if righthanded and 500 solids at right top pocket loops …if right handed and conversely if left handed.
    Practice, practice, practice every move every cartridge pick in the beginning talking yourself through each selection and each move until you assimilate it….dot on command without thinking. Then practice doing it very slowly and very fast until you are smooth and faultless and then keep practising…use an unloaded rifle and trees in a forest to practise… turn point and squeeze the uncocked trigger…shoot, …raise…. point and shoot until the rifle is dead sighted on the spot you first looked at on any tree as soon as it hits your shoulder.
    You as a shooter pose almost like a boxer, not tense, weight about 55-60% on leading foot don’t jam the rifle into your shoulder smooth and just snug is best. Aim with both eyes open …and make sure your sights are on 100yards…worry about 150 later…when you have all the rest absolutely fluid

    Breath in as you lift, the rifle should be automatically in perfect aim at the chosen area of the animal breath out and squeeze the trigger as your breath completes. Your other eye ill have fed all other information you need (such as another animal about to cross the path)
    It’s all in the preparation long before you get to the destination and then it’s confidence that when you see the target your rifle/gun comes up automatically the moment your brain says…”this is it”…don’t waste any time on other live targets unless just practising the move and save your ammunition for the real thing..

    The important thing is the hard work…..putting effort into standing shooting accuracy well before you go to destination and then again at destination at which your PH will/should make to show him your skills and train you as much as he can can to make sure you are not a menace to all and sundry when out shooting..
    If he sees you are fluid and correct he can take you a step further if he wants. Remember the (paraphrased) words of the great swordsman Musashi…do not go to battle with thoughts of winning or losing but to do your best” . If you are already prepared and match fit to hunt not by gym work but raisin and lowering that rifle in complete control, complete breathing control …you are match fit to do your best. The fast slow and normal rates of practice are very important in all aspects of fitness mentally and physically…so do it….over and over and over and with your wits about you even as it becomes ‘old hat’ and an automatic response.

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