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800 nitro express

800 nitro express

In our next section, we’ll look at the wonderful world of custom designed weapons of outrageous calibers. These are the true “exotics”, custom designed and built weapons whose sole purpose in life is to chamber the worlds largest rounds possible in a compact firearm without the risk of disappearing off the face of this earth. As we’ll see, the risk is not always from the round itself.

As for the cartridge and resuting rifle name, Nitro Express, the “Nitro” is in reference to the powder’s chemical composition of 58% nitrocellulose-based cordite. As for the “Express”, at the very time of Rigby’s development, the British had manufactured and put into service a sensational new steam train. The train began to make record breaking runs, appearing in bold headlines in all the country’s newspapers where it was named the Express Train. As such, John Rigby called his powerful new rifle, the “Nitro Express Train Rifle”. A short time later, the train rifle part was dropped, leaving Nitro Express as it stands to this day. [4]
1898 — Birth of The Nitro Express
In 1898 the cartridge that started it all, the Nitro Express came into being. It was the creation of the world famous London gun maker John Rigby, recognized founder of the Nitro Express and the .450 double rifle that fired the cartridge. This was the beginning of the “smokeless powder” era of c.1897, a nitrocellulose-based cordite that was far more effective because it gave off almost no smoke and was three times more powerful than black powder. Higher muzzle velocity meant a flatter trajectory and therefore more accurate long range fire, out to perhaps 1000 metres in the first smokeless powder rifles. At left is an image of John Rigby, a distinguished rifleman who had competed at international level with the Irish team. It was in the early days at St. James Street, London, that John Rigby & Co. pioneered the first Nitro Express rifles, bringing the Rigby name to the fore in riflemaking.

“The .825 G&S Online Express Magnum, with an actual bullet diameter of .823″, provides a realistic 0.323″ increase in bore diameter to kill elk and other North American big game animals and keep them dead. This is the cartridge that separates the girley men from the real men.”
Not to worry though, someone has your saturday bull & beer barrel meetings well protected.

Image: A Rigby .450EX double rifle

  1. .458 Winchester Magnum, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia June 19, 2009.
  2. ACCURATE RELOADING A non-affliated website developed by professional shooting and hunting individuals. Website offers historical, reloading, forums, FAQ’s and more. June 19, 2009
  3. Nitro Express The History & The Story © 2007 Nitro Express Ltd All rights reserved, June 19, 2009
  4. John Rigby & Co. – The Finest Custom Firearms in the World the history of John Rigby, Copyright © 2008 John Rigby & Co.
  5. The .416 Rigby article reprinted from the monthly publication The American Rifleman 2002 by Joe Coogan. Posting and article from the FreeRepublic website. FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
  6. Westley Richards | Gun Room information and images on metallic ammuntion from the The Westley Richards firm’s website. June 20, 2009
  7. .577 T-REX | Guns Lot website article posted January 3, 2009
  8. The NEW .825 G&S Online Express Magnum By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff, Copyright 2006, 2008 by All rights reserved. June 20, 2009

As for the .458 Winchester Magnum, the development was an effort to duplicate the ballistics of the .450 and .470 Nitro Express ammunition, but in a cartridge that would fit in a standard bolt-action rifle. In order to achieve this the designers used a .375 Holland & Holland case that they shortened to 2.5 inches, enlarging the case opening ( also referrred to as “blown out” ) in order for it to accept the intended bullet diameter of .458 inch. The resulting cartridge was a success and was offered with Winchester’s other successful package, the bolt action model 70 rifle. This heavy 300 to 500-grain bullet is a bit much for the typical North American game of elk or deer and as such, it’s main target was primarily in the African Hunt where there existed larger and more dangerous game like Cape buffalo or lions. Due to the closure of it’s leading competitors in the United Kingdom and of it’s proven ballistics, reduced cost and availability the .458 Winchester Magnum reached it’s zenith in the 1960’s and remained there as one of the most popular choices for big game hunters. [2]

I don’t know about you but I’m feeling mightly proud to be an American. The .800 Express has just pulled in and if you think for one minute that every red blooded american custom gun maker isn’t trying to figure out how to get this round into one of their own designs, then you can just stay home on Saturday nights and plunk at gophers in your backyard while me and the boys suck down brews and laugh at the online videos of the first novice and inexperienced shooter who squeezes the trigger on one of these suckers, thereby releasing well over 100 foot-pounds of scientifically proven recoil force.

The History of the World’s Most (Slightly Misunderstood) Ammunition