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.

Shooting Gazette - - This Month -

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.

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