And did all quite well. He was descended from a well received line of shooters and gunmakers, stretching back to the late 1700's. His grandfather won many awards as the top shooter of the Independent Dublin Volunteers. John took over the family business of gunmaking on the death of his father in 1858. His rifles are legendary, and had achieved local fame in Dublin, but were soon to be showcased on a larger stage, Wimbledon and Creedmoor for shooting contests, and Africa, as the taker of big game.
In 1860 John invented the coiled brass case, used by Snider firearms, an important step to the introduction of the drawn brass case. Colonel Boxer used this case for the Snider, denying they came from John Rigby who was but an Irishman, but his patent stands for itself. His rifles went against the best at the time at the shooting contests at Wimbledon, where the NRA had just started shooting contests to get it's country's riflemen in shape. His rifles won the Queen's Prize in 1865. He was chosen, along with 7 other Irishmen to go to Creedmoor to shoot against the Americans. It was as close a contest as it gets.... the Irish lost the match by 3 points, with Rigby being the highest scoring shooter for the Irish. The Irish used Rigby rifles exclusively, and the Americans a mixture of Remington and Sharps rifles. Before going home, the leader of the Irish Team, Arthur Leech, presented a fine grade Rigby Rifle to General Custer, whose command shortly came to grief at the Little Big Horn, and the rifle disappeared.
Rigby Label by Wikimedia contributor Bisselbite
1887 Became superintendent of the Enfield Small Arms Factory. He oversaw the introduction of the Lee Enfield, and the development of the small bore cartridge. At the time, the Lee Enfield Magazine System rifle suffered early erosion failure of the Metford designed barrels. Rigby designed the rifling for it's successor, and while not mitigating the problem completely, did give satisfactory barrel life. He was shortly booted from Enfield due to the age rule, around 60 or 65 years of age was the limit for working at Enfield.
Mauser based Rigby by Flickr contributor Mosi Lager
Towards the end, Rigby realized that as a modern rifle went, it would be hard to beat the Mauser system, and to that end, a number of game rifles have reached a sort of legendary status. Also introducing the cordite .416 and .450 Rigby cartridge, loaded with solid nickel covered bullets in a double gun would take the largest African game animals. The last Rigby that ran the company died in 1951. Since then the company changed hands in a somewhat bewildering fashion, only to be bought my Mauser. Seems a fitting end.