Rigby Highland Stalker Review

Rigby Highland Stalker Review
Known for large-­caliber hunting rifles, John Rigby & Co. recently introduced a small-­caliber rifle after considerable research. Following a commemorative rifle honoring Col. Jim Corbett, Rigby recognized the demand for another vintage-­styled rifle. Hence, the Highland Stalker was modeled on the original Mauser 98 Standard with slim lines and a light frame.

Photos by Michael Anschuetz

Behind the blue door of an unassuming shop on 13-­19 Pensbury Place in London’s Vauxhall district, just a few miles south of downtown, a small number of gunsmiths work steadily on Rigby rifles and shotguns. Certain models and custom treatments require years to create.

Inside, Rigby’s showroom is overwhelming. Below the game trophies are elegant racks positioned against walls presenting the brand’s legendary long arms: Rising Bite double rifles and shotguns, Mauser-­based Big Game rifles and the latest Highland Stalker. Many shelves are ornamented with relics of an era where monarchs, the upper class and legendary hunters such as W.D.M “Karamojo” Bell, John “Harry” Henry Selby, Frederick C. Selous, John “Pondoro” Taylor and Col. Edward “Jim” James Corbett carried such fine guns in pursuit of adventure and exploration.

A glass display guards Corbett’s storied rifle, one that he used to defend against man-­eating tigers that terrorized India by killing hundreds during the 1920s. Notably, the new Rigby Highland Stalker was inspired by the design of Corbett’s rifle. Next to the original sits a rare copy of Corbett’s book, “Jungle Stories.” Only 100 copies were privately published in 1935.


Below the rifle racks is the library of Rigby’s ledgers, the oldest dates back to 1784. These ledgers document firearms purchased and repaired, organized by both serial number and listing the original owner’s name. They reflect English history that includes the scripted entries of Queen Elizabeth II, several kings, members of gentry and that of the late-­President George H. W. Bush. If you were to purchase a Rigby, your name, too, would continue the tradition.


The Craftsmen 

Rigby Highland Stalker Review
Marc Newton, Managing Director

My arrival at Rigby was welcomed by Marc Newton, the company’s managing director. Starting at the bottom after graduating college, Newton demonstrated a hard work ethic and an early passion for both guns and hunting. He successfully proposed a business plan and was selected to steward the brand following Rigby’s 2013 London homecoming by the L&O Group, the parent company of Blaser, J.P. Sauer & Sohn, Mauser and SIG Sauer. During the history lesson, Newton proudly opened a few ledgers to point out entries for former U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the reigning Queen, among others. His passion is undeniable.

Through a door at the back, I was led to a working shop and introduced to Ed Workman, head of production. His standards are high as he oversees a team of gunsmiths and engravers with diverse backgrounds. Moments later, I was handed a blue apron and tried my hand at filing and blending smooth the slot on the head of a hand-­made screw, to be used to secure a scope base, and done so that the customer doesn’t see graceful lines interrupted on a double.

Rigby Highland Stalker Review

Gunsmiths proudly wear the same blue apron, even the specialists. Most of Rigby’s ’smiths come from Europe’s last remaining schools in Liege, Belgium, and St. Etienne, France, so there exists a slight language barrier among a few, new employees. Their resumes are impressive with many having studied under artisan gunmakers. One apprentice possesses a mechanical engineering degree, while Rigby’s head of sales, Andrew Ambrose, brought 19 years of experience working for the well-­respected gunmaker, Holland & Holland. Stocker Vladimir Tomascik, a gunsmith, carpenter and cabinetmaker from Slovakia, came to Rigby in 2013. While I was learning how to checker a grip, he described the process of oiling a wood stock, which can require six to eight weeks.

Upstairs, I met Saija Koskialho, a new Rigby team member from Finland with a degree in Fine Arts. As an engraver, she brought along her experience studying goldsmithing in Italy and engraving in Finland before attending the Liege School of Gunmaking in Belgium. Later, Newton insightfully opined, “Engraving has never been better than it is now. Yes, there were more standard engravers 100 years ago, but game scenes were based on drawings in a book. Today, our artists refer to detailed pictures.”


Highland Stalker 

Rigby Highland Stalker Review

Introduced in 2017, the Highland Stalker was developed as a traditional deerstalking rifle. (In the United Kingdom, “deerstalking” refers to red deer or stag, the European equivalent to American elk.) Rigby produced such a rifle at the turn of the 20th century when it partnered with Paul Mauser. With these rifles, hunters like Bell and Corbett made a name for themselves. Given that Rigby regards the Scottish Highlands as the birthplace of stalking, the title befits the new rifle.

Like the original, the Highland Stalker is built on a made-­in-­Germany Mauser M98 action to original specifications. The fact that the L&O Group owns Mauser makes this relationship convenient. With the Mauser action, we get a controlled-­round-­feed (CRF) bolt, meaning that the bolt face picks up a cartridge from the magazine and holds it by means of a large claw extractor while the cartridge is guided to the chamber. There are two large locking lugs at the front of the bolt, 180 degrees apart, and a third lug is at the rear for added strength. The bolt throw is almost 90 degrees, meaning the handle is easy to lift. Though the bolt lift is taller than a three-­lug bolt, the Mauser design combined with the contour of the handle makes the Highland Stalker fast to cycle.

Rigby Highland Stalker Review
The Highland Stalker benefits from a traditional Mauser-style two-lug bolt. It features a three-position safety and a powerful claw extractor. The handle is contoured and polished for quick work.

A groove for the blade ejector is cut through the right side of the bolt as you look at the bolt face. As a result, the Highland Stalker can eject cases with authority if the bolt is pulled with speed, or they can be gently captured if drawn slowly. Regardless, this bolt design is well proven and has been often borrowed by many rifle designs. An extractor breaking on Mauser’s CRF bolt is almost unheard of. It can be argued, but I feel the action maintains its reputation as the strongest bolt-­action design extant.


Rigby Highland Stalker Review
The bottom metal is blued and engraved with the Rigby logo and rifle’s serial number, which is duplicated at the bottom of the triggerguard. Engraving and inlay options are available.

The bottom metal includes a pivoting floorplate to unload cartridges held by the magazine. The serrated magazine release button is at the front inside of the triggerguard. This is a great feature in the field for not having to cycle the bolt to unload. That said, the middle position of the three-­position wing safety allows the shooter to work the action with the trigger locked while unloading the chamber.

The trigger measured 2 ounces shy of 3 pounds, which is light when compared to other popular hunting rifles. The trigger enables the user to extract this rifle’s maximum accuracy potential, but in the field, if you carry a round in the chamber, I recommend that the safety be engaged until you’re ready to fire.

.275 Rigby 

Rigby Highland Stalker Review
Hornady loads a Custom line of .275 Rigby using a 140-grain InterLock bullet with soft point. The bullet has proved itself for hunting medium and large game.

The Highland Stalker is available in .275 Rigby, .308 Winchester, .30-­’06 Springfield, 8x57mm and 9.3x62mm. Americans may not be familiar with the “.275 Rigby” designation, but it’s the same cartridge as the 7x57mm Mauser developed in 1892. In keeping with the legacy of Bell and Corbett, I chose to evaluate the Highland Stalker in .275 Rigby and ordered Hornady’s Custom 140-­grain load, which advertises a muzzle velocity of 2,680 feet per second (fps). Using a LabRadar chronograph, I recorded a faster average of 2,743 fps. This produces a relatively flat trajectory with the soft-­point bullet only dropping 9 inches at 300 yards and 26½-­inch at 400 yards when zeroed at 200. The .275 Rigby produces moderate recoil, which is effectively managed by the rifle’s 1-­inch rubber recoil pad and overall weight of 9 pounds, 9 ounces with a Leica Visus scope attached.

A European Feel 

The Highland Stalker features a  14¾-­­inch length of pull, which is noticeably long to American riflemen. With a scope mounted rearward, an average-­build shooter has to stretch and crawl up on the stock to establish proper eye relief. It’s easiest to shoot this rifle from a prone position. In fairness, Rigby offers the option to specify the stock length in inches for no additional charge.

The selection of wood is simply incredible. Grade 5 Turkish walnut is standard for the Highland Stalker’s Mauser 98 Standard action. Should you want a higher grade of wood, Rigby also offers Grades 6 through 9 at a premium.

The barreled action is bedded into the stock, and the barrel on Guns & Ammo’s sample didn’t come in contact with the wood despite the thinnest of gaps. At the range, I observed that the barrel heats up quickly after three shots and could possibly come into contact with swollen wood and degrade accuracy potential. It is obvious to me that the Highland Stalker was intended for field use with a minimum number of shots required to harvest a game animal.

Rigby Highland Stalker Review
The barrel hosts an express-style sight assembly on an island with flip-up leaves for shooting accurately at extended distances. They are regulated for 65, 150 and 250 yards.

The Highland Stalker features a traditional front bead sight with a removable hood paired with flip-­up express leaf sights at the rear. The sights are accurately regulated for 65, 150 and 250 yards.

The action is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. I ordered a set of Talley steel bases and rings to mount a Leica Visus 2.5-­10x42mm optic. During mounting, I observed that the rear base had to be modified by careful filing to avoid interrupting the bolt lift, and I then reblued it. Medium-­size rings are as low as you can set the scope in. With the long length of pull, I maxed out the scope’s eye relief, but was still able to shoot effectively.

The Echo of Bagpipes

Following the tour of Rigby, I flew to Edinburgh, Scotland, and stayed at Gleneagles (gleneagles.com), a magnificent golf and spa resort where I brought my wife to celebrate our 10th anniversary. While I stalked the Highlands each day, she enjoyed various activities and relaxation. I highly recommend it.

The stag hunting was equally impressive. I carried the Rigby in .275 across many of the 78,000 acres on the Drummond Estate near Stirling. The land has been in the Drummond family since 1653.

The terrain was tough as we attempted to close in on herds while climbing 3,000 feet in a day. Mountains between 2,000 and 3,000 feet are referred to as “Corbetts” and those taller than 3,000 are classified as “Monroes.” Guides wore traditional tweed patterned clothes in colors of the local heather and clan history. Also interesting was that we were always trailed by a horse and its handler whose use was to recover a stag, never to carry a hunter.

Rigby Highland Stalker Review
Hunting red deer in Scotland is a centuries-old tradition that is honored by harvesting the meat. The animal — not the antlers — is the trophy. The author took this stag with one shot from 264 yards using a Highland Stalker in .275 Rigby.
My guide, Paul Raffertey, affectionately referred to good stags as “beasts.” Though we were pursuing a herd of nearly 150 deer, it was an all-­day effort to stalk within 300 yards of them. On my last day, I managed to take a proper stag in velvet with a single downhill shot from my .275 Rigby. The trek out of the mountains and valleys was just as difficult as going in as I walked beside the horse to clear its path in the same Scottish hunting tradition. The Highland Stalker is now as much a part of that tradition. 
Rigby Highland Stalker Review
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, three-shot groups fired from 100 yards on a sandbag rest. Velocity is the average of five shots recorded by a LabRadar chronograph placed adjacent to the muzzle.

Rigby Highland Stalker Specifications 

Type: Bolt action
Caliber: .275 Rigby (tested)
Capacity: 5 rds.
Barrel: 22 in., 1:8.66-in. twist
Overall Length: 44 in.
Weight: 7 lbs., 8 oz.
Stock: Turkish walnut, Grade 5
Grips: Round, checkered
Length of Pull: 14.75 in.
Finish: Blued (steel); oiled (walnut)
Trigger: 2 lbs., 14.2 oz. (tested)
Sights: Bead, ramped (front); Express, regulated for 65, 150 and 250 yards (rear)
Safety: 3-position
MSRP: $8,600
Manufacturer: John Rigby & Co., johnrigbyandco.com

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Feeding Your Firearms with Aguila Ammunition

Feeding Your Firearms with Aguila Ammunition

A group of competitive shooters talk about new products from Aguila , the Aguila Cup, and everyone's favorite new guns launched at the 2019 SHOT show.

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Joe Mantegna talks about the origins of the 94 Winchester rifle.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Chambered in 7.62x39mm with components machined from extremely durable S7 tool steel, a chrome-moly 4150 barrel and a carburized 4140 steel bolt.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Crossbreed's new The Reckoning holster is a simple leather-Kydex combination with multiple points of retention adjustment and clip options. Accessories

Crossbreed's The Reckoning Holster

Eric R. Poole - May 13, 2019

Crossbreed's new The Reckoning holster is a simple leather-Kydex combination with multiple...

How-To

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms

Kyle Wintersteen

"Assault weapon." Sixteen-round "clip." A box of "bullets." When it comes to guns and gun...

Check out these great options for Dad on Father's Day! Accessories

2019 Guns & Ammo Father's Day Gift Guide

G&A Digital Staff - May 07, 2019

Check out these great options for Dad on Father's Day!

The one glaring weakness in the .30-­caliber magnum cartridge lineup is best highlighted by examining the requirement around which Hornady designed the .300 PRC; the requirement came from the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Rifle

.300 PRC Review

Tom Beckstrand - March 12, 2019

The one glaring weakness in the .30-­caliber magnum cartridge lineup is best highlighted by...

See More Trending Articles

More Reviews

The Taurus G3c offers an improved trigger with wider trigger safety lever; better sights; forward slide serrations; and scallops on the magazine extension and at the bottom of the grip frame. Worth the added price is that it now comes standard with three magazines. Reviews

Taurus G3c Review

Eric R. Poole - July 07, 2020

The Taurus G3c offers an improved trigger with wider trigger safety lever; better sights;...

The upgradable Tikka T1x .22LR rifle is a great place to start on the growth chart to precision shooting success. Reviews

Tikka T1x .22LR Review

Tom Beckstrand - July 29, 2020

The upgradable Tikka T1x .22LR rifle is a great place to start on the growth chart to...

The Nighthawk Custom Agent 2 Commander is an abbreviated version of the Agent 2, built on a forged slide and frame. The crowned muzzle is cut flush with the bushing, which was given flats around the edges. Few curves were left untouched by flats; even the bottom of the triggerguard has corners leading to the high-grip undercut. The scale motif adds striking functionality. Reviews

Nighthawk Custom Agent 2 Commander Review

Eric R. Poole - July 28, 2020

The Nighthawk Custom Agent 2 Commander is an abbreviated version of the Agent 2, built on a...

At 4.6 pounds, the T-­Bolt weighs less that what it weighed on introduction in 1965, thanks to the slender and weatherproof composite stock. Combine the stock with the fast-­cycling action, and the T-­Bolt promises to remain a favorite in the rimfire world. T-­Bolt models can vary from year to year, so if the Speed appeals to you, act sooner rather than later.  Reviews

Browning T-Bolt Speed .22 LR Review

Proofhouse - July 15, 2020

At 4.6 pounds, the T-­Bolt weighs less that what it weighed on introduction in 1965, thanks to...

See More Reviews

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now