Episode 22 – Reimer Johannsen Safari Rifle .416 Rigby

PART 1 {Virginia and Roger sitting behind table} {Rifle on rack, Scope off}

VIRGINIA: My name is Virginia Hall and I’m here today to introduce you to Roger Rule, author of The Rifleman’s Rifle, and host of this series of episodes, Special Guns with Roger Rule.

ROGER: Thank you, Virginia, and welcome, …and welcome viewers to my 22nd Episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule.

VIRGINIA: What do we have today?

ROGER: In the last episode, we featured the Beretta 687, a very popular Italian shotgun in America. Today, I have a German rifle well known in many parts of the world but very rare here in America. This is a handmade magnum Mauser with a double square bridge, made by Reimer Johannsen, spelled with a “J” but pronounced as a “Y”

VIRGINIA: Is this a new rifle?

ROGER: Although it is in mint condition, I believe this rifle was made sometime before 2003.
In Episode 3, we covered the new Heym Martini Express Rifle. That was a fine example of a magnum Mauser made in Heym’s custom shop where they use the latest CNC and computerized technology with much custom hand craftsmanship. The gun we’re covering today is another magnum Mauser, but this one is a best gun. It is made with all the attention of a handmade gun, and is arguably the most adored by professional hunters worldwide as the best of German-made magnum Mausers. The maker, Reimer Johannsen, is located in the city of Neumunster, in Northern Germany. The actual company name is Reimer Johannsen GmbH where GmbH stands for a four-word phrase which means company with limited liability. It is the German version of our LLCs (Insert photo of Dirk and Reimer Johannsen)
Since this is a magnum Mauser action, you might recall from Episode 3 that we explained the differences for the use of the word magnum.

VIRGINIA: I remember it’s not the same as magnum bullets.

ROGER: That’s right, in this case, a magnum Mauser is simply a Mauser type of action that is larger than the regular Mauser action and has little to do with the word magnum as used for cartridges. Episode 3 covered how the magnum Mauser action came about, as a request from the John Rigby Company of London for their big proprietary cartridge, the rimless 416 Rigby (not even called a magnum cartridge).
To briefly summarize here: This was at the turn of the 20th Century when Great Britain was empirically in control of India and much of Africa. Safaris for large dangerous game had been very popular with English aristocrats known then as “The Great White Hunters.” But these lands were also protected by Britain’s military and many of the officers who were stationed in those same game-plentiful countries were intrigued by safari hunting. Although an officer’s pay might not handle the big ticket for an expensive double rifle, as that used by the aristocracy, a bolt action rifle without engraving was another matter. The bigger picture was that the Rigby company felt they could offer a bolt action rifle for the most dangerous game at a much more affordable price. And it was this market, and the professional hunters, that Rigby had in mind.
Following that plan, Rigby then developed their big rimless 416 cartridge intended to be delivered in a bolt action. At the time, Rigby was already building rifles using actions made by Mauser of Oberndorf so they made an arrangement with Mauser to manufacture a larger action for their big cartridge and supply it to Rigby exclusively. The result was the magnum Mauser action.
Although the.416 Rigby cartridge was developed in 1911, by the end of 1912 Rigby’s exclusivity with Mauser expired, and other rifle makers in Great Britain joined in to catch this market for a magnum action bolt rifle. These included makers such as Greener, Westley Richards, Jeffereys, Gibbs, and Holland & Holland, just to name some of the more popular ones. However, WWI and WWII stopped the production of Mauser magnum actions by the German manufacturer, which had become busy building German military rifles for both wars.
It wouldn’t be until 1966, that Mauser resumed manufacture for sporting rifles, and even then, they did not continue making magnum actions during the remainder of the 20th Century. But, the demand was still there and others answered the call. The name “magnum Mauser” soon became synonymous with any oversized Mauser-style action. I don’t have a complete list of magnum actions as a type. One of the earliest ones after the Mauser-made version, was the French Brevex action, today recreated as the Granite Mountain action, but there are many others: Bnro ZKK 602 (now the CZ 550), Bauska BBK-02, Vektor, Noreen Magnum, and proprietary ones like Heym, Sako L691, and others.
For our session today, I have located this example which is the top-of-the-line best magnum Mausers made today, and the maker, as I’ve said, is Reimer Johannsen.

VIRGINIA: So they are they still in business?

PART 2 {Audio only – show photos} {Photos 20-RJ-01 thru -08 (includes -01a)}

ROGER: Yes, my first encounter with the name Johannsen came about from an unusual set of circumstances. Sometime in the early ‘80s, I had gunsmith friend, Bud, who use to discuss rifles with me and he knew I thought the Winchester pre-64 Model 70 was the best action type of all bolt actions. He said to me one day that it was too bad Winchester didn’t make it in a magnum action to handle cartridges longer than .458 Win Mag. He introduced me to the Mauser Oberndorf magnum actions and told me the most preferred heavy rifles were made with that action, not only by English makers, but also by custom makers.
A decade later, my cousin Randy, had a very lucrative business that afforded him the opportunity to hunt big game around the world. One day when he was planning a trip to hunt big bears in Kamchatka Russia; he was going to purchase a special rifle for it and called me for advice. I hadn’t been on top of the magnum Mausers so I called Bud for his suggestion, explaining my cousin could afford the best. Bud said if money were no object, then Hartmann & Weis or Waffen Jung were probably the most expensive big bolt action rifles made, but they would come with engraving, gold enlays, color case-hardening and other frills. Bud said if my cousin just wanted the best made magnum Mauser without the decoration, it was Reimer Johannsen. At the time, they were advertised as being imported by New England Custom Guns. I passed this information on to Randy.
I didn’t hear back from him for maybe another year or so. Then one day he called and wanted me to write a business plan for him for a new enterrprise in Las Vegas. I had written business plans for him before. As we talked, I asked him about his Kamchatka hunt and that’s when I found out he had never gone, but had purchased a Reimer Johannseen as I had suggested and had ordered it in .416 Rigby. He described the gun and told me how much he paid for it with the Swarovski scope. But now he was getting out of guns, and knowing my interest in them, said if I did the business plan for him, he would give me his guns: 3 rifles and a shotgun which included one Winchester pre-64 Model 70 rifle and the Johannsen. With a little research of the proposed business, I took the deal because half of the business plan work had already been done.
After I finished the assignment, when my cousin’s Reimer Johannsen rifle arrived, I was impressed with it to the point that I thought it was the best rifle I had ever owned.
But after a few years, I came to the conclusion that I probably would never have a use for it, so I considered trading it. When I mentioned it to Steve Barnett of Barnett Fine Guns, he was familiar with the maker and told me that he thought Johannsen rifles were second to none. If I remember his words correctly, his description was, “as fine a rifle as any made.” After talking to other experienced dealers and even some hunters who had seen these rifles in Africa, I developed a renewed appreciation for my rifle and decided to keep it.
Then, another few years elapsed without my using it and I finally ran an ad in GunsInternational.com, which generated multiple interest immediately and within a very short time, the rifle sold.

PART 3 {Roger and Virginia sitting at table} {quotes coming}

VIRGINIA: Is this the same rifle we have here today?

ROGER: Yes, the buyer was good enough to lend it back for this video.
Before we examine it, here’s a little information about Reimer Johannsen. You can check out their website at www.mauser-rifle.com and translate the page. Their address is given as Reimer Johannsen Company (GmbH), Haart 49, 24534 Neumunster, Germany.
The Company was formed on August 1, 1968 by the Master Gunmaker Reimer Johannsen after he completed his apprenticeship with Sig Sauer in Eckernforde and improved his skill working for gunmakers in Lippstadt and Ferlach. The company history does not identify the makers he worked for in those two well-known gunmaker cities. When he began his own business in 1968, they only manufactured custom magazine rifles on the basis of existing M 98 military actions working to the customer’s specifications. Near the end of the 1990’s, new magnum actions came on the market from other German makers. Johannsen, first using those made by Orth, then began making their own. On their website, the Company history states, (and I quote)
“It soon became apparent that not all action sizes were available in the necessary quality. This is why we started producing actions ourselves. Today, our customers can choose from 4 different action sizes…”
(close quote)
In 2003, the man, Reimer Johannsen, passed the family company to his son, Dirk, who had learned every nuance of the business. The firm then entered its second generation but its operation is still based on the same principles that have made it successful for the past 50 years. The new motto is, quote: “We start where others stop!”and,
Their mission statement is: “We manufacture our Johannsen bolt action rifles on customer requests as “custom made” on the highest level,” and their vision is to build (quote) “big game rifles that set new standards — hunting weapons of the magnum class for the safari in Africa or worldwide stalking.” (close quote)
I have a testament reported to me that their vision statement presented here has been achieved. I was contacted by a Texas oil man who owned a Reimer Johannsen and had gone on several safaris. When he returned after his first trip having taken his Johannsen rifle, he wrote me an email and said his guide had seen Johannsen rifles before and thought they were the finest in the world. He said his rifle performed well and he loved it.
From the maker’s website, we find their own description: (quote)
“Johannsen’s 98 bolt actions are manufactured in Germany and milled from solid material. The basic material is tempered steel that is hardened according to purpose. The action is machined from high-grade 42CrMo4 (Chrome Molibium) alloy steel. Standard features include an adjustable trigger and a traditional box magazine with standard floor plate (pushpiece integrated into the trigger guard). The magazine box/floorplate unit is of course milled from solid material.”
Also, still quoting:
“Johannsen’s Mauser M98 bolt actions have all the safety features of the original Mauser system with its more than one hundred years of safe service. This included a particularly reliable lateral extractor, two locking lugs just behind the bolt head with an additional rear safety lug, a lock on the firing pin, the firing pin’s gas deflection device, the gas discharge feature in the bolt design, and the bolt sleeve with its buttress thread and fire shield.”
(close quote)
Similar to Mauser of old and Sako of Finland, they now have four action lengths and are making their own actions: a mini (for the.222 Remington class), a short (.243 Win. class), a medium (for.30-06 class) and a magnum for the largest big game cartridges.
So this one here today shows the results of the company’s claims and for those fortunate enough to examine it in person, one can easily see that those claims have been well met.
I have been asked who imports these rifles from Germany and while I knew New England Custom Guns used to, I called an owner, Mark Cromwell, and was told he can still get them but his marketing efforts declined when their price structure increased dramatically. He thought the rifles are still worth their cost, but the buyers in America are not familiar enough of their reputation as a best rifle, as are the hunters in Africa and Europe. NECG is located in Plainville, New Hampshire and they have a professional website.

PART 4 {Roger sitting, will stand up, adjust camera for standing} {Rifle racked, scope off}

As a brief overview: Looking at the rifle, Johannsen’s design is very similar to Ralf Martini’s version that he designed specifically for Heym. It is basically an English look again, with classic comb, open grip and tapered narrow forend. It is usually fitted with red or black recoil pad, this one is black; and in all respects, it is in keeping with the Safari styling. It has an ebony forearm tip, steel pistol grip cap, and a superbly beaded cheekpiece or a cheekpiece with shadowline.
It is chambered in the venerable .416 Rigby with a 23” barrel. Johannsen markets several models today. This one is an older one and would be closest to their current “Magnum Safari” with the exception that is has a few upgrades. Among those are: upgraded wood, a trapdoor pistol grip cap, a front sight protector with a spring lock, and an engraved bolt handle knob. It is serial number J028XX. As an express rifle, it has all the features popular with Professional Hunters. The action is a true modern German Mauser 98 Magnum double square bridge action and is very similar to the Prectl version now used by Rigby for their double square bridge magnum rifles.
Let me pick it up: I’ll first check for safety.
{STAND UP, pick up the rifle, check first to see if it is safe, close BOLT}
To release the bolt, pull out the front of the bolt release lever.
Being a true Mauser 98 design, it has the long Mauser positive extractor. So it is a controlled-round-feed action as we covered in my first video. It has the two locking lugs just behind the bolt head and an additional rear (3rd) locking lug or safety lug.
The magazine opens with the traditional hinged floorplate with center bow release.
We can’t see them here, but other features include an adjustable trigger, a lock on the firing pin, the firing pin’s gas deflection device, the gas discharge feature in the bolt design, and the bolt sleeve with its buttress thread and fire shield.
While the action retains the traditional Mauser straight down bolt handle configuration, it is curved outward a bit allowing easier operation {Photo -09}. The bolt knob is engraved with five tear drop panels. Similar to the Heym rifle shown in our Video 3, this one has been fitted with a Recknagel 3-position side swing safety made popular by Winchester on their Model 70.
Position 1 is SAFE with the bolt movement locked, Position 2 is still SAFE but the bolt can be operated allowing to load a round or to eject one; and Position 3 — SAFE OFF ready to FIRE.
The 23” barrel has hammer-forged rifling, made of the finest steel. It is fitted in the Safari style with a front sight of silver bead with a flip-up ivory bead {Photo -10} for fast cover in the brush or for low light conditions, protected with a skeleton hood with a spring lock, mounted on a banded ramp. The barrel also has a banded front sling swivel eye and a three leaf express rear sight (with two folding and one fixed) mounted on an island block. {Photos -11, -12} While the skeleton hood with spring lock is an upgrade, the basic model still has an H&H flip over moon sight. The fold-up leaves are marked 50 and 100 while the fixed leaf is adjustable for windage. All three leaves have silver vertical lines for quick eye alignment.
The bottom metal has a one-piece deep belly straddle hinged floorplate with center-bow release, {Photo -13}, which Johannsen calls a pushpiece integrated in the trigger guard. I have never heard that description before. Other metal accessories include a rear sling eye; and as already stated, a steel pistol grip cap with a hinged trap door to house an extra front sight. {Photo -14} The most prevalent feature when you first see the rifle, at least to me, is way the scope rings are machined into the action. {Photos -15 thru -18} The rear square bridge is dovetailed to accept the Recknagel rear scope ring and the front bridge is machined to accept a Recknagel front ring base that is inlaid into the high front square bridge. It is removable with two screws for a future replacement should one ever be needed.
This was the first rifle I ever saw that had these inlaid scope ring bases in the square bridges and I understand that Reimer Johannsen had been doing this since the late ‘90s when Recknagel came out with the system. It was also used then by other German makers, Hartmann & Weiss and Waffen Jung, but the first non-German maker that I know of to use it, is Rigby, only recently, adding it with the German Prectl action as a basis for their new magnum Mauser line. The Recknagel rings’ system affords a quick detachable scope with a very positive design to lock the rear base in place easily and to assure zero change in sight alignment. Let me demonstrate.
{Replace the scope, show locking it down}
Install the scope at 90 degree angle with front ring stud fitting into the base and then turn the scope body back 90 degrees until it stops. Then twist the serrated locking collar on the rear base clockwise to tighten it down and zero it in again.
That’s it, very simple.
Looking at the finish, all the metal parts are blued with rust blued process.
As to the stock, it is a true English pattern: classic comb not fluted, open grip which is a shallow radius preferred by professional hunters {Photo -07}, and narrow tapered forend. The maker has used an oil finish. Johannsen’s website states the standard wood is their Grade 4, but they offer grades going up to Grade 9 for additional costs. Based on the few I’ve encountered, my guess is that this rifle is carrying a stock of Grade 8.

VIRGINIA: This one does have beautiful wood. {Photos 20-RJ-20 thru -22}

ROGER: It is dense dark walnut with black streaks showing excellent figure for a big bore rifle. The figure shows on both profiles and is laid out properly to best show the figure while maintaining the strength to withstand recoil. The cheekpiece is a well-proportioned oval in the classic style with a quality shadowline or bead. It has a genuine ebony forearm tip.
The hand checkering is meticulous with wrap-around checkering on the grip, coming together over the wrist and generous wrap-around checkering with six point patterns on the forearm. Both the grip checkering and the forearm checkering have double borders perfectly done as one would expect on a best gun.
Looking at all the inscriptions, the first one that grabs your eye is the maker’s name engraved on the top ledge of the receiver wall, “REIMER JOHANNSEN GMBH in upper case font and “Neumunster” in lower case font. {Photo -23}. You can see this in the still shots accompanying our video.
On the right front bridge is the serial number, J028XX {Photo -24}. Being imported by NECG at the time, the left receiver wall is inscribed, “New England Custom Guns, Ltd.” {Photo -25}
When the stock is removed, there is another inscription below this, “Johannsen Neumunster, Germany.” {Photo -26}
Between the rear sight and the band for the front sling swivel, we see the caliber designation, “.416 RIGBY” is inscribed on top of the barrel. There are no other inscriptions on the exterior of the rifle.
Fit of wood-to-metal could not be better – it is perfect. The finish is executed without a flaw. Overall, this is a very appealing rifle, and while I thought the Heym .416 Rigby of Episode 3 was the most beautiful rifle in .416 that I had ever seen, I believe this one tops it in class with its more desirable wood, its ingenious scope system, and its perfection in hand craftsmanship.
The length of pull is 14 ¾” over the one inch solid black Schaftkappe recoil pad. Weight of the rifle without scope is 9 lbs. (4.1 kg) and 10 lbs. 3 oz. (4.6 kg) with scope.
Looking at the scope, we see this one is a top-end Austrian Swarovski Habicht 1,25-4 variable with 24 mm objective lens and a 30mm tube diameter. This scope is an African favorite. It has the unusual Reticle CD-1 with a full crosshair, three heavy bars (at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock) and a small inner circle (a reticle acclaimed for instant aim).
When I throw this rifle to my shoulder, the scope sight and the iron sights are immediately aligned with the eye, showing this rifle points naturally and exactly where it’s needed, ready for dangerous game. {set rifle on racks}

PART 5 {Roger and Virginia sitting at the table}

VIRGINIA: Are you going to share with us how much this rifle costs today?

ROGER: It would not be prudent to disclose the price the buyer paid. However, for this video, I emailed a friend of mine who lives in Hamburg Germany to find out how they are priced there. I only provided her with the model, caliber and their telephone number. She got back to me with the information that the basic Magnum Safari in .416 Rigby with no extras would cost 21,600 Euros without any taxes. At that time I looked it up, the conversion factor was 1.13 so that would be $24,489 US dollars as a base price. This particular gun has at minimum the extras of the upgraded wood, the trap door pistol grip cap, the removable front sight protector, the engraved bolt knob, and the Recknagel scope rings. Of course the scope, too, would be extra and I have no idea what is involved in the cost for getting a Johannsen rifle over here, considering shipping, duty and taxes. Basically, if you find one for sale, it will probably be a good deal!

VIRGIINIA: Another expensive rifle!

ROGER: Yep, and this one is well worth it after comparing it to all other rifles I’ve seen.
To sum up, Reimer Johannsen’s marketing states their rifles are already world renown, designed to handle the harsh environment of the African bush, crafted to the standards of the most discerning hunter, finished to perfection and built to withstand African conditions.
From examining this rifle, I would say none of that is a boast.
That’s it for today, thank you Virginia, and thank you viewers for watching, and if you enjoyed this episode, I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube channel and share with others. And, I hope you join me next week for another episode of Special Guns with Roger Rule.