As the first reviewer to fire Purdey’s new shotgun, Michael Yardley is delighted to find that it’s a wonderfully made big beast that shoots exceptionally well
In the very first review of the new Purdey Trigger Plate over and under, Michael Yardley is delighted by this big beast of a gun – finding it well presented and forgiving to use.
Have you ever been tempted by a vintage Purdey? Read Michael Yardley’s review of a pair of 1930s Purdey side by sides for a superb pair of guns from the Golden Era of fieldsports.
PURDEY TRIGGER PLATE OVER AND UNDER
Purdey’s new over-and-under, the Trigger Plate model, is made entirely in England. It is a side-plated, 30in-barrelled gun with a detachable trigger-lock, intended for both game and clays. It hits the scales at a beefy 8lb 11oz (although the design allows that figure to be reduced to around 8lb). Clearly no lightweight, first impressions are unequivocally good even with a bottom line of £55,000 plus VAT (about half the current cost of a Purdey-Woodward sidelock over-and-under).
There is a clear, familial similarity with the Purdey Sporter that was made in association with Perugini and Vissini for more than a decade (itself inspired by the Perazzi MX8 generic-action type). But the new, Hammersmith conceived and crafted Purdey has some unique and interesting features. The re-profiled barrels are demi-lump (the over-and-under equivalent of chopper lump) not monobloc, as on the Sporter (or most other modern over-and-unders). The action mechanism has been refined with easily interchangeable main springs, a modified and strengthened box for the trigger unit and an improved, user-friendly release catch towards the rear of the trigger guard bow. There is also an electronic shot-counter in the butt, which may signal when servicing or key part replacement is required.
The gun is well presented. Apart from the positive bling of the side-plated action, the first thing I noted were the beautiful stock shapes. A classic Purdey butt with a slimish full pistol grip is complemented by a rounded fore-end of near ideal proportion. The action itself, made from an EN36 steel billet, is elaborately sculpted at the fences (“Purdified”, as Nigel Beaumont once described it to me) and profusely hand engraved inhouse with classic Purdey rose and scroll. The barrels – made from EN24T steel and expressly designed to cope with the long-term rigours of heavier loads and modern shot types – not only look but feel like London best. Well struck up and impeccably presented internally, they are fitted with a 9mm to 6mm rib of near ideal pattern. They are equipped as standard with Teague chokes and are steel shot compatible.
The Purdey Trigger Plate, like the Purdey Sporter, has bifurcated barrel lumps and Woodward-style stud pins near the knuckle for hinging (long since copied by many of the world’s great gun-makers). Lock-up, as also seen in the Sporter, is achieved with Boss-like primary bolting to the rear (where substantial, radiused projections either side of the bottom chamber mate with slots to either side of the breech face), combined with draws and wedges to the sides of the breech/chambers (Woodward used a more complex tongue-and-groove system for supplementary bolting – many modern guns, for economy, don’t bother with extra bolting at all).
The popularity of this Woodward-hinging/Boss-bolting arrangement may be attributed to Ivo Fabbri when he collaborated with Daniel Perazzi to create the ideal trap gun for the 1968 Olympics (hence the Perazzi designation MX8 – Mexico Olympics 1968). The new gun didn’t win gold (that honour went to the established Browning B25 and Bob Braithwaite), but the MX8 went on to dominate international competition (as, in its variants, it still does to this day) and inspire many gunmakers.
This new Purdey is part of that evolution. It takes the best of the previous Sporter (and of guns such as the Perazzi and Kemen) and moves on with the concept. Not only easing production issues with an all London build but making the gun substantially better with demi-lump barrels as favoured by the London trade and significantly improved mechanical design and revised barrel geometry. The London trade, and Purdey in particular, can do things that no other gunmakers can. They have mastered the computer-controlled machinery but they can also add something unique to a gun with their hand work that, in key areas, does make a real difference not just to a gun’s aesthetics but to its feel and performance.
Design of the Trigger Plate began five years ago with a prototype made in 2016. It is a combination of all things good. A fixed lock design might have saved a little weight but this is a technical tour de force. The action body is beautifully machined by multi-axis CNC. Indeed, much of the gun is made with high-tech machinery but, critically, bench finished to Purdey standards gaining the best of both worlds (especially with regard to barrel balance, trigger pulls and subtleties of stock shape). The Trigger Plate is a more original design than the Sporter. It retains a covered cocking central cocking bar (a notable difference to the MX8 and clones). The box for the detachable trigger lock is modified with a collar on it to better support the mechanism it contains. Swivel-type mainsprings replace those with roller springs allowing for simpler replacement. The other big change is the move to demi-lump barrels, which required significant new engineering.
I shot the gun at the West London Shooting Ground with Jonathan Irby and Tom Nicholls of Purdey. It had impressed in the gun room, with excellent dry handling and neutral balance making it feel lighter than it was. The ergonomics of the stock were excellent. For my hand, the grip was small (but still good), the fore-end would have been hard to better (as a bespoke gun, you may order what you want). Shooting easy targets, none were missed. Confidence was gained. It was similar as we tried various simulated game stands. The Purdey had two outstanding qualities: wonderful, crisp trigger pulls and very low felt recoil. It was still heavy but over 50 or 60 birds, I only missed a couple and did not feel fatigued. It had that great quality of being forgiving to use. Overall, it’s a wonderfully made beast that shoots exceptionally well. For high birds and serious clays it’s about as refined as it gets. The cost is (almost) attainable. It comes with a five-year, 100,000 shot guarantee.
PURDEY TRIGGER PLATE OVER AND UNDER
♦ RRP: £55,000 + VAT
♦ James Purdey & Sons Ltd, Audley House, 57-58 South Audley Street, London W1K 2ED.
♦ 020 7499 1801