The finest firearms in the world are on display at the Safari Club International convention every year, and 2019 was no different. Exquisite work from Holland & Holland, Purdey, Rigby, BOSS, and more graced the aisles and tables along with taxidermy dioramas, fine art, and outfitters offering exotic adventures in exotic places. I walked the halls and fondled the firearms to my hearts content. Here are some of the most expensive, most historic, and most remarkable from SCI 2019:
300 HOLLAND & HOLLAND DOUBLE RIFLE
Founded in 1835, the H&H name became synonymous with top-quality shotguns and dangerous game rifles. Their rep at the SCI show was kind enough to unlock a display and allow me to heft and shoulder the rifle while my buddy snapped photos. I left feeling awed.
A member of H&H’s “Royal” double rifle line, this extraordinary work of gunsmithing art features deluxe grade walnut, royal scroll engraving, reinforced color-casehardened back action side lock ejector action, double triggers, and 24-inch barrels.
The front sight is standard, with combined night or “moon protector”. The fixed rear sight is regulated at 50 yards, with a fold-up leaf regulated at 100.
The stock boasts a beaded cheekpiece, classic pistol grip with cap box, 24 lines per inch chequering, and is complimented by a matching splinter-style forend. Total rifle weight is 8 lbs 14 oz.
This rifle was the most expensive firearm I personally have ever held, and the most expensive I found at the show. The price tag read $177,000 dollars.Is the rifle worth the price? That would depend on the size of one’s bank account. 177K will purchase a pretty livable house in many locales. But I’ll state this; that firearm felt like I’d just gathered up heaven and shouldered it in the shape of a rifle. And what is the price of one’s life, should one find himself in front of a charging lion with only three or four seconds to alter the course of fate?
RIGBY RISING BITE SHOTGUNS
Over a century has gone by since Rigby built their historic Rising Bite shotguns. Until now. Carefully protected inside a heavy glass case at the 2019 SCI Rigby booth was a perfectly matched pair of 12-bore Rising Bite side-by-sides.
“Rising Bite” refers to a vertical bolt that acts as a third locking point between action and barrels. Rigby still has the original 1879 patent papers, which were on display with the pair of shotguns. The Rising Bite is a very small, slender action for a 12-guage, rendering the shotguns very light – six and one quarter pounds each. Original design was perfectly replicated, and the firearms had an exquisite 19th century air about them – almost Victorian in nature. They balanced and shouldered beautifully.
The serial numbers inlaid in gold just below and aft of the wrist on each shotgun are consecutive from Rigby’s historic ledgers, dating back to Rigby’s 1775 foundation in Dublin Ireland. Incidentally, their order book is completely full, and were you to order a Rising Bite shotgun today it would take from three to four years before you had it in your hands. Price tag will sit right around $100,000. Note: Word on the street is that Gordy & Sons has some open orders in their books, and a savvy buyer just might get his Rising Bite side-by-side in a much shorter time.
SMITHSON PH RIFLE
Joe Smithson is one of America’s finest gunsmiths. He builds beautiful custom rifles to order, in addition to being known as one of the only ‘smiths in the region qualified to restore original “Best” firearms from Holland & Holland, Rigby, and the like. One rifle on his display caught my eye: Joe’s own personal “PH series” rifle. It featured straight-grain wood, a 22-inch .458 Win Mag barrel, Joe’s own two-leaf rear sight with Q/D dovetail for a Leupold or Trijicon Reflex sight, and a slightly modified New England front sight.
Built on a Granite Mountain Arms action, Joe’s rifle is sleek and graceful, with a capacity of five plus one. The magazine release is a double-lock affair that takes two hands to release, rendering it impossible to inadvertently dump the ammo from the mag during moments of duress. The trigger is a two-stage military trigger Joe reshaped and modified with two rollers.
The “PH” (Professional Hunter) rifle is beautifully made, slender and graceful in the hands, and balances like an Olympic figure skater. Best of all, it’s priced where a working-class man can, with some careful saving, afford.Retail $13,000.
BOSS O/U SHOTGUN
While conversing at the show with a friend far more educated on the nuances of upper-echelon firearms than myself, I wondered aloud what manufacturer was the very best. He opined that BOSS held the lead part on that stage. Whether he was right or not I’m not expert enough to know. What I do know is that when I was handed a shotgun from BOSS’s glass case, it was exquisite.
Traditional Rose & Scroll engraving graced the color-casehardened action and metalwork, breathtaking figure the wood. One curvaceous trigger fires both barrels. Its price was $167,000 dollars.
Other than subjective analysis, I have very little information about this shotgun. I know that it felt incredible in my hands and at my shoulder. I was told that one thousand four hundred man-hours were spent crafting it over the space of three years. Rumor has it that BOSS has stayed true to producing nothing but London “Best” firearms since 1812. It was enough: I was officially impressed.
“NEW” PURDEY MODERNIZED BOLT RIFLE
In a marriage of tradition and modern techniques and technology, Purdey has announced its “New Bolt Action Rifle”. They claim that it is “The most accurate Best London bolt action rifle ever produced”. In case you’re not aware, the surname “Best” in a British rifle designates just that; the finest among the very fine.
Bringing in modern machining processes was a critical part of this marriage. The New Bolt Action features a CNC-machined titanium chassis system mortised into the exhibition-grade Turkish walnut stock. A Mauser 98 design controlled-round-feed action is CNC machined from solid stock and bolts directly into the chassis, eliminating critical wood-to-metal contact and rendering the rifle immune to common ailments inflicted by temperature and moisture. The hand lapped and London blued barrel (available in 22 – 26 inches) is free-floated and threaded for a muzzle break or suppressor.
The Purdey New Bolt Action rifle is available in most standard and wildcat chamberings, and comes with a sub-moa guarantee. Swing-off mounts are standard, express sights optional. The trigger is factory-set to a crisp 2.5 pounds. Price starts at $32,250, and order time is about six months.
HEYM MODEL 89B DOUBLE RIFLE
Every man, at some time in his life, deserves a chance to own a fine double rifle. It’s a goal that I haven’t yet realized, but this lovely double from Heym gave me hope. You see, most double rifles are hopelessly out of my price range. This one is still out, but not hopelessly.
Touted as a proper British rifle made in Germany, the Heym 89B features an A&D British-style boxlock made in five different sizes to accommodate various chamberings. In-house hammer-forged barrels are joined with the time-proven shoe-lump technique, and every caliber has its own barrel profile. As a result weight-distribution, balance, and feel are very good. The stock is made from select European walnut (upgrades available) and in right or left hand. Available chamberings range from 300 Win Mag up to 577 NE.
The 89B sports a traditional ivory front flip-up night sight, optional multi-leaf folding rear sight, and is machined to accept a Trijicon RMR or a Doctor 3 red dot sight. Quick-detach Claw scope mounts are also available. Weight ranges from 9 – 13 pounds, and price starts at around $20,000.