Hammer Time

Peter Jones makes a bid for an English Sporting Rifle at Holt’s Auction in West London.

Holts Auction

(Just how easy is it to buy a rifle at Auction?)

So you have just been granted a slot on your FAC that allows you to head out and purchase a rifle in your chosen calibre.

In order to do so, many of us will head excitedly straight for the local gun shop, where a rifle can be purchased straight off the shelf. For those that are more considered and like to do their research, the process will involve requesting that your local gun shop, or Registered Firearms Dealer (RFD), place an order for your chosen rifle, that is of course assuming that one can be found to match your chosen model and calibre.

In fact this can be harder than you might suspect, especially amongst models that are new to the market. In these circumstances some rifle makers fail to meet initial demand.  Sadly this was true of examples such as the new Sauer 404. Here the lead time from order to delivery was agonisingly long and if, like me, you are the impatient type, a wait of several months is usually enough to convince you to shop elsewhere.

Medwell Perrett b

(Above: A beautiful English Sporter made by Suffolk based gun makers Medwell & Perrett in .416 Rigby)

This problem can be exacerbated when you have chosen an unusual calibre. So what are the alternatives?

Well, just recently I have been granted a slot on my ticket for a rifle in the iconic calibre .416 Rigby. Designed in 1911 by John Rigby as a calibre for dangerous game, the 416 Rigby has had a long and proud history, especially in Africa, where it was used by legendary hunters such as Jack O’Connor, Harry Selby and others.

In a letter to John Rigby & Company J.A Hunter wrote of the calibre: “You will be pleased to know that the rifle which accounted for all the rogue lions on my last Government Expedition was the 416 Bore Magazine Rifle you supplied me with. I cannot speak too highly of it. Its stopping power was extraordinary, and the fact that all the lions, rhino, buffalo, etc., were shot at comparatively short range, and no other rifle to back me up, speaks volumes for the accuracy and efficiency of your rifle.”

Needless to say, with provenance such as this, I have always wanted to own one, however, unable to locate a rifle across the entire length and breadth of the country that was not going to involve me taking out a second mortgage, I turned my attentions to an email that frequently drops into my inbox from Holt’s Auctioneers.

With one of their quarterly sales in just a few days, the timing was impeccable. What is more, a quick phone call to the team revealed not one 416 on the books but three!

416 Rigby Capreolus Club

With ‘small child at Christmas syndrome’ rapidly taking hold, now was time to stay calm and carry out a little research.   

First of all, it is important that you take full advantage of the viewing day, with a phone call to register your interest and some photo ID it is possible to turn up at the viewing room to make a closer examination of your desired lots. There is brochure on hand to provide a brief description of each lot and also a guide price, the minimum of which is usually the reserve. Staff are on hand to offer advice and with thousands of firearms passing through their hands each year, this is advice that is well worth heeding.

It is important to then go away and do some research of your own. In my situation I was able to rule out one of the three firearms straight away, which left two remaining, either one of which I would be delighted to have in my gun cabinet.

With research carried out you then need to decide how you are going to bid. It is possible, as with most things these days, to do this online, however the majority of people will take advantage of one of the following three methods. 

Bidding in Person

This is the simplest way to buy at auction. All you need do is turn up, register your intention to bid and collect your bidding number. This can then be used in the room to attract the attention of the auctioneer the manner in which you have no doubt witnessed in countless episodes of day time television.

Telephone Bidding

This method is almost as good as being in the room. Having registered for a telephone bid one of the team will telephone you on the day of the auction, and act on your verbal instruction in the saleroom.

Commission Bidding

This is the method I used. If you are unable to attend the auction on the day, but still wish to bid, you simply register a commission bid. This is a straightforward process where you let the auction house know the lot number, and the maximum amount you are prepared to offer. The auction house will then execute the bid on your behalf up to your maximum. Of course your maximum bid is not automatically taken as your bid, but is treated as though you were bidding in person and as such is executed incrementally. If the bidding stops short of your maximum, you will be successful at that level. If the bidding exceeds your maximum you will not be successful.

So back to my 416 and how I got on?

416 Rigby CartridgeWith my eye on two lots in particular and being content with either, the order that each lot was to come up was not going to be too important. So the day before the sale and with the intention that my offers were for ‘either/or’ of the two firearms made clear, I tendered an offer for the maximum that I was prepared to offer for both lots.

And here the scarcity of demand for this type of calibre in the UK paid dividend. At 5pm on the same day of the auction and with no other bids having been made and paperwork completed, I found myself nearly skipping out of the Auction house in Hammersmith, with a mint condition, beautifully crafted, English made sporting rifle from Suffolk rifle makers Medwell & Perrett, complete with sling swivels and scope mounts, for a reserve price that was some considerable sum less than I had been prepared to pay. 

However, before you charge off to the auction house, a few words of caution. Clearly bidding on a calibre of this type is not going to be routine. If you are looking for a .308 or similar, you may find that you are in for some stiff competition. Furthermore there are the auction fees to consider. At Holt’s these are 25% up to £5,000, 22.5% on the balance between £5,000 and £30,000, 20% on the balance between £30,000 and £50,000 and 15% on the balance over £50,001. That, and of course the VAT mans slice payable on the fee.  

Needless to say, auctions are not going to be for everyone however, if like me you are struggling to find an unusual firearm, or if you fancy something a little out of the ordinary, then it is well worth a thought and what is more it’s great fun to boot.

Range day WLSSIf you’d like to try this calibre and others we are delighted to be able to offer monthly range days at the West London Shooting School via the capreolus-club. At these events club members have the opportunity to try out calibres in .243, .308, 30-06, 300 Win Mag & 416 Rigby in a variety of different rifles.

The clubs next event is our ‘Dangerous Game Morning’ at the West London Shooting School on Saturday the 9th April when members will have the opportunity to try out this beautiful English Sporting Rifle fitted with a Swarovski scope. We will also have club representative and African PH Giles Allcock on hand to answer questions and provide advice. If you’d like to enquire about this event and others, then email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone: 0208 239 7311. 

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