Your forever kit!
A remarkable shotgun that is a marriage of tradition and modern innovation worthy of the maker’s name, as WLSS’S Mark Heath explains.
James Purdey & Sons gunmakers should need no introduction but the history is quite interesting in understanding the heritage of the guns that Purdey now makes, including the new Trigger Plate reviewed here.
The gunmakers was founded by James Purdey on Princes Street, London, in 1814. He had been the head stocker for Joseph Manton, who was one of the best-known gunmakers of the time. Twelve years later, Purdey moved his gunmaking business to Oxford Street, taking over Manton’s former premises. Purdey’s son James took over the company in 1858, just at the start of a critical time in English gunmaking. James the Younger, as he is known, was an innovator, driving advances in design that resulted in him taking out several patents. In 1882, the company moved from the Oxford Street premises to the current building on South Audley Street.
Purdey went through a rapid period of development, moving from flintlocks to percussion caps to hammer guns to the self-opening hammerless gun of 1880. The last evolution, which survives in principle to this day, was designed by Frederick Beesley, one of Purdey’s workers. V-springs operated the selfopening system and the internal hammers. Ejectors were added 10 years later. Beesley sold the original patent to Purdey for £55. Since then there has been some refinement, but very few changes have been made to the Purdey side-by-side best gun.
In 1900, Athol Purdey took over the business from his father and was responsible for the success through the prosperous Edwardian years. He also delivered Purdey’s manufacturing of gun parts and ordinance for the War Department during World War I. His sons James and Tom both survived serious injuries from the fighting in France and joined Purdey in the 1920s, taking over from Athol on his retirement in 1929.
In 1913, Woodward took out a patent on an over-under shotgun and was incorporated into James Purdey & Sons in 1949 when Purdey purchased J. Woodward & Sons. Purdey still makes “a best” over-under shotgun in addition to the Purdey Sporter, which is a Cnc-manufactured and hand-finished gun. The Sporter is a joint enterprise with Perugini & Visini together with Purdey craftsmen.
Purdey was granted its first Royal Warrant in 1868, though Queen Victoria is recorded as having a pair of Purdey pistols as early as 1838. Currently Royal Warrants are held for HM the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales.
The Trigger Plate gun we are reviewing has been designed
with the modern shooting world in mind, both clay and game. Both sectors of the shooting world are more competitive in different ways than ever before; in the competition world targets are faster, further and trickier, while in the game shooting world there is an element that seeks to shoot pheasants and sometimes partridges that are extremely high and fast, requiring the highest levels of skill and heavier loads with higher speeds. The consequence is that guns, and the shooter’s body, are taking a lot of pressure, so the requirement is for a gun that can withstand the heavier loads and absorb the recoil.
Purdey decided to evolve its product by developing a gun that catered for both the game and clay shooter, to be produced entirely in the Purdey factory. The project has been a team effort, with everyone from Purdey – including chairman James Horne and the factory craft team – committed to the development and delivery of a product that met the modern requirements of shooting yet still reflected the heritage that goes with the Purdey name.
When you go to the Purdey factory and watch the craftsmen at their benches, you realise why Purdeys cost what they do – the work and passion that goes into each gun is truly incredible.
The mechanism for the development prototype was made entirely in London by the Purdey team. A great deal of work was done to ensure that the stock and fore-end profile was effective – this meant a slightly broader comb to assist with comfort when shooting heavier loads. The team also tried to test the prototype to destruction, pushing through in excess of 160,000 cartridges of between 21gram and 42gram, both lead and steel shot. The gun suffered no adverse effects. I have taken it out with a number of potential customers and it has performed exceptionally well.
The gun contains a shot counter that indicates when the gun needs a service. There is a five-year warranty that can be extended to 10 years provided the gun has been serviced in accordance with the requirements of the service indicator.
The prototype test gun was a little heavier than the production version, which will come in at or around 8lb – a nice weight for use on the West Country pheasants or any other use that you choose. The test gun was fitted with Teague chokes; there is also a fixed-choke option. Stock dimensions in this test are of no consequence for this review as when you place an order, you will come to the shooting school and either Alan Rose or I will do the bespoke fitting for you. The stock will then be made to these dimensions by the Purdey team at the factory from a stock blank.
The gun’s finish is a credit to Purdey’s workforce.
The action’s engineering is outstanding.