A custom rifle made by a father-and-son team from Pocatello sold for a record $260,000 at auction during the Jan. 12 Safari Club International Hunters Convention in Reno, Nevada.
Proceeds from the sale of the one-of-a-kind .338 Winchers Magnum rifle, made by John Bollinger Jr. and his father John Bollinger Sr., will support the club’s global conservation efforts, as well as its mission to “protect America’s hunting heritage.”
Officials with Safari Club International reported the sale marked the highest known amount of any custom rifle sale in North America.
The auction featured some of the best artistic pieces made by the world’s top gun makers. Mountain Riflery, of Pocatello, which donated the record-setting rifle, has a long history of exceptional craftsmanship.
John Jr. managed the overall project of building the rifle, and John Sr. came out of retirement to work his magic — checkering the stock and working with his son on specific tasks.
“There are people who appreciate the art and creation of fine firearms,” said Steve Comus, Safari Club International’s director of publications. “The Bolligers’ rifle is one of the most exceptional rifles in every way, and the bidding showed it.”
It is a work of art, from its gold and silver engraved inlays, intricate checkering, to its butt plate artist rendering of a grizzly bear attacking a moose, set on a stock of exhibition-grade Turkish walnut. Built on a Pre-64 Winchester Model 70 action with a Swarovski Z8i 1.7-13.3x42 scope, it showcases the imagination, skill and artistry of the Bolligers..
While the rifle is unique, it is one of many rifles they’ve crafted throughout four decades.
They estimate sales of their donated rifles have generated $1.47 million for conservation causes.
In 1992, John Sr. crafted a rifle that sold for $225,000 at auction, setting the highest price paid at the time for an American sporting arm.
They’ve built firearms for royalty, including the king of Spain. Their clients have flown their private jets to Pocatello Regional Airport to be specially measured for a custom-fit stock.
Though they’re among America’s most celebrated gun makers, they acknowledge they’re not well known in Southeast Idaho.
Does the lack of notoriety bother them? Not in the least, they say. They enjoy going about their craft where they appreciate the people and environment around them. They hunt and fish in Southeast Idaho and are proud to call it home.
“Southeast Idaho is great place to live and work,” said John Bolliger Sr. “We have some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world to inspire us and many good friends in the community.”
Their rifle was the fifth of five in the “World Heritage Rifle Series” sponsored by Safari Club International for conservation projects. Each of the five rifles was created by a different craftsmen to represent the best work of gun makers on five different continents. The Bolligers’ rifle represented the Americas.
Once the bidding started, it was apparent that a record could be set. The bidding captured the crowd’s undivided attention when it hit $200,000, and two interested bidders emerged. When the final gavel fell, a new record was set at $260,000.
What now for the Bolligers? John Sr. has some serious fishing in mind and John Jr. has a ton of work to do, befitting the career of a custom firearms craftsman who works in wood, steel and precious metals.