How much would you spend on a rifle, even a potentially great and beautiful rifle? The idea of dropping the price of a car on a custom bolt-action gun probably seems a little crazy to most people, but in the corner of our minds, gun people can understand that—but paying the price of a house? A nice house?
Well, someone set a new Safari Club International auction record on the final night of the 2016 SCI Convention last week by spending $250,000 on a rifle that was a collaborative effort between John Rigby & Co. and SCI in the World Heritage Rifle series. Dubbed the Asian rifle, it was built by Rigby as a tribute to Jim Corbett’s legendary rifle, according to this story from huntforever.org. The price is the most anyone has ever paid for a bolt-action rifle at any SCI Auction.
To put that in perspective, you could buy 115 Kimber Gold Combat II Stainless 1911s, one of the company’s most expensive pistols. Or, you could buy a Knight’s Armament SR-25 MKII MOD O, a top-of-the-line sniper rifle used by the U.S. military…32 of them. (In case you’re wondering, gunbroker.com has a civilian-legal one on sale for a little over $7600.)
You could almost buy two of John F. Kennedy’s M1 Garands, if more than one existed. That semi-auto sold at auction for $150,000 in October 2015.
On this safariclub.org post, John Rigby & Co. Managing Director Marc Newton describes the rifle as “the best Rigby .275 bolt rifle ever made” and has chronicled the painstaking detail and craftsmanship that went into the building of the rifle each step of the way.
The original bolt gun, emulated by the heavily engraved Asian rifle, was awarded to Jim Corbett, the legendary hunter, writer, and conservationist, for “dispatching the man eater of Champawat.”
You can read about the hunt for the man-eating tiger here in the full text of Corbett’s Man Eaters of Kumaon.
Other notable guns have fetched similarly lofty prices. The .44 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver that was used by Robert Ford to kill Jesse James sold for $350,000 in 2003. Teddy Roosevelt’s double-barrel shotgun made for him by The Fox Gun Company, which TR carried during his year-long Smithsonian African expedition in 1909, sold for $862,500.
The highest priced auction guns, according to this story from thereichest.com, were the twin saddle pistols that rode with George Washington, and then later Andrew Jackson, sold for just shy of $2 million. But all of these guns had deep historical significance, making the price of the Asian rifle even more exceptional.
One production gun that’s in the neighborhood of the Asian rifle is the Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe Double Rifle, which prices out at $228,000 and up.
Rigby began producing special one-off collaboratively built rifles as part of its World Heritage Rifle Series last year when John Bollinger Sr. and Jr. created the Africa Rifle, which brought $140,000 at auction during the 2015 SCI Convention. The series will ultimately consist of five rifles, one to be sold each consecutive year at auction during SCI’s convention.
The third in the series will be a rifle honoring Europe, to be created by New England Custom Gun for the 2017 convention. The fourth will be a rifle honoring Oceania.
The fifth and final rifle in the series will be a rifle honoring the Americas, to be created by John Bollinger’s Mountain Riflery for the 2019 convention.
The rifle was awarded to the highest bidder with a custom credenza for display (made by Julian & Sons) and an original oil painting depicting the “Last moments of the Champawat man-eater” by artist David Southgate.
Proceeds from the sale of the rifle will help fund the SCI mission programs. Additionally, the purchase price of the painting was paid by Rigby to the artist, who is donating that fee to the Jim Corbett National Park in India.
“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,” said SCI President Larry Higgins in the post. “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.