Welcome to the first in a series profiling each of our exemplary guns and rifles. We kick off with the Purdey Sporter – a recently relaunched classic-in-waiting that belies its ‘entry-level’ status.
For even the flushest sportsman, owning a Purdey gun is, objectively, an enormous privilege. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime purchase – a functional work of art crafted by some of the world’s most skilled artisans, designed to be passed down through generations.
Beautiful, yes, but also unattainable to a sizeable portion of the shooting community. Enter the Purdey Sporter. The brand’s version of an ‘entry-level’ gun rather belies that description; this is an exemplary piece of country kit, with a few subtle (but fundamental) differences to its ‘best’ guns.
Some context. The Purdey Sporter was first introduced in 2007. Back then, it was made in collaboration with the esteemed Italian gunmakers Perugini & Visini. The intervening years saw a desire to bring production of the model entirely in-house to the Purdey factory in west London; a relaunch that saw the minutiae of the gun overhauled over three years of rigorous research, development and testing (including a gargantuan 84 changes to the design – based on that of our Purdey Trigger Plate model – in the pursuit of building the best gun possible). In April 2022, the next-generation Sporter was formally revealed.
Fundamentally, the ‘introductory’ status of the gun comes down to price. The Sporter isn’t a budget model by any means – at around £45k, it’s still a luxury, reflective of Purdey’s exactly standards. Another upside for the tentative client is that lead times are also substantially shorter than normal; around 12 months compared to a ‘best’ gun’s two years. The Sporter’s relative egalitarianism, explains aftersales and product line manager Jim Bryan, further substantiates Purdey’s intention of having “relationships rather than just customers” – welcoming an adjacent vein of sportsperson into a brand they might once have been excluded from.
The production is streamlined by slightly reducing the spec range, but maintaining the same exemplary Purdey handling and balance. There’s a fixed trigger in place of a PTP-style drop trigger. A cyanide/silver action rather than a colour case hardened one. A satin finish in place of slacum oil (but still with Turkish walnut for the stock, bespoke fitted to the customer’s measurements). Teague removable chokes, making the gun far more adaptable to what a single day on the drives might bring and thus changing the dynamic of a shoot. An anti-rust coating to extend the lifespan of the mechanism (a first for Purdey). And an original riff on the marque’s classic ‘rose and scroll’ engraving design. (“It’s quite simplistic, but still nice and elaborate,” says Bryan. “It’s instantly recognizable; still quintessential Purdey.”)
In short, it’s a perfect inception to the brand; created with a purposefully leaner craft process, without the hyper-customisable uniqueness of a top-end Purdey, but which still provides a gun of exceptional quality.
Historically, it’s based on an old Woodward over-and-under design – but the mechanics have been streamlined, the style incrementally refined and reinvented over the years so that, in a classic ‘Ship of Theseus’ style, it is now indisputably Purdey.
“It uses the same style of hinging as the Woodward design, with hooks on the barrels which fit onto trunnions [supporting pins or pivots] inside the actions to allow the gun to hinge open,” explains the Gun Sales Team’s Dr Nicholas Harlow. “This style of hinging is most famously associated with Woodward, and reduces the overall height of the action as far as possible, to create a particularly pleasing shape to the overall gun.”
“A baseline of design,” elaborates Bryan, “to move forward with what we now see as the Sporter.”
In performance terms, it’s Purdey through and through – the perfect option for someone seeking a super-versatile ‘all rounder’ that’s just as at home on the clay ground as it is in the field. “There’s no difference between the Sporter and a ‘best’ gun in terms of the experience you are going to get with it,” says Bryan (and that includes the company’s meticulous after-sales and customer care).
At heart, its remit is simply to be more accessible – opening up a rarefied brand to a wider and receptive audience. Perfect form and function at a democratic entry point? It’s just another day in the field for Purdey.