The new Purdey Sporter caused a stir when it was launched in 2007 not least because it was partially manufactured in Italy in association with Perugini and Visini (two former employees of Perazzi). The new gun was based on the generic Perazzi MX8-style action as copied by Perugini and Visini, Kemen and others.
There was criticism in some quarters. This ignored the fact that the Perazzi-style action, wherever made, was possibly the finest over-and-under design ever conceived. It also ignored the CNC revolution which had long since crossed national borders. Most importantly, misplaced criticism of the “Perazzi Purdey” failed to recognise that Purdey was developing the gun considerably and making much of it in its own factory in London.
The British gun trade, in pursuit of perfection, has long since outsourced improved action designs. By way of example, the Anson and Deeley boxlock side-by-side has been copied by many, as has the Beesley sidelock (which Purdey purchased from Frederick Beesley in the 1880s). Admittedly, these guns were British in origin but we live in a global age and it seems reasonable that the famous London firm should have cast its net wide when looking for a design upon which to base a new over-and-under; after all, Perazzi was inspired by Boss and Woodward in making its gun.
When prototypes of the Sporter became available, we tested them at The Field first and were favourably impressed (especially with the 30in gun). We noted, with some surprise, that many of the components that one might have expected to have been made abroad were, in fact, made in Hammersmith. The action body, the trigger plate, the ejector extractors and the monobloc for the barrels, to name a few, were all made in London by Purdey craftsmen. Much work on the stock design was also undertaken in the UK, not to mention other re-engineering of the basic mechanics.
Production guns – which are 60 per cent made in the UK – are now available for testing. First impressions are positive, too. They look like Purdeys; in other words, they are elegant and appear to be finished to best London standard. They balance well. On bringing the latest version of the Sporter to my shoulder, my first thought was: “
This feels well sorted.” The stock shapes are elegant and functional. The barrels have some life in them. The grip shape and rounded fore-end are especially good. Nothing struck me as out of place or inferior.
There had been some small issues with the prototypes. One was vibration through the hand (now almost eliminated), another, the length of the stock to its heel. The latter was a small but important point. I have always believed that a gun needs a little extra length to heel or bump (the protrusion on the butt sole just below the heel) than to the middle of the butt. It helps to locate the gun securely at the shoulder, maximise control and prevent slipping due to recoil. English guns are usually 1⁄8in to 1⁄4in longer at the bump than they are to the middle of the butt (and 3⁄8in to ½in longer at toe). This small modification helped the Sporter achieve a near-perfect stock specification, as good as anything yet tested in these pages.
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