Mike Yardley is impressed with the new Purdey Woodward .410. A dainty over and under it is one of the finest guns he has shot to date
The Purdey Woodward .410 is a dainty over-and-under. At only 5lb 2oz the Purdey Woodward .410 over-and-under is one of two exciting new Purdey guns I shot recently at the West London Shooting Grounds. (The other, a Damas 20-bore side-by-side – the first Damas side-by-side – will appear in these pages shortly.) And how does it compare to the Purdey 20-bore sporter?
No mincing of words: the Purdey Woodward .410 is one of the finest guns I have ever had the privilege of shooting. Superlatives hardly do it justice. It looks beautiful with quail and mourning dove engraving and shoots wonderfully well. It’s simply the best .410 I have shot. In the words of David Maynard of Purdey, “It’s a jewel.” I can only concur, but the snag is its price: £135,630. Can any gun be worth that much? If you have to ask you cannot afford it, and if you don’t, you should buy it. But if you’re heart is set on a .410 and the Purdey is out of range then go back to basics and read the Hushpower .410 rifle review.
Sculptured with classic Purdey bolsters and wonderfully embellished by Able Engraving, it is built on the Woodward over-and-under action scaled to a true .410. There is trunnion hinging with tongue-and-groove extra bolting in the middle of the receiver walls as seen in bigger-bore Woodward over-and-unders. It has a mechanico-inertia single trigger (not dependent on recoil for cocking) designed by Lawrence Salter some 25 years ago.
Demi-lump barrels – the equivalent of chopper on an over-and-under – are fixed choke (constricted three-quarters bottom and quarter top), firing bottom first. They are 28in long and equipped with a solid 8.5mm sighting rib with a matted top surface and silver metal bead at the muzzles. Chambers bear Superior marks for 3in magnum cartridges (although standard 21⁄2in loads work perfectly well). These were struck in 2010, which gives some idea how long a masterpiece such as this may take to finish (the normal Purdey wait is two years).
Aesthetically, the gun is a triumph. If I were to look for a negative, it would be that the delicately depicted birds are not deeply engraved – one might wonder how they would fare with hard use – but that comment might be directed at many high-end, finely engraved, guns. The scroll and game scenes are nevertheless superbly executed. The action is delightfully proportioned, too. The shapes of bolsters and fences are characteristic of the maker and most attractive. You could not mistake it for any gun other than a Purdey Woodward.
The woodwork is fashioned from richly figured walnut, neatly chequered and impeccably finished. Nothing can equal the beauty of Purdey slacum oiling. A gloss effect is achieved by an extraordinary amount of labour. It is highly durable, too, and relatively easy to repair or replenish should the need arise. The butt – and this gun was, unusually, made for stock – is 151⁄4in long.
The comb profile is slim, what Purdey would call a “thin English” comb. The grip is a steel-capped half-pistol, slim and well matched to the single trigger. The fore-end is rounded. All of it is near perfect – fit for purpose and elegantly proportioned.
Although my usual 12-bore measurement is 147⁄8in, this length of pull suited me. Many traditional British fitters used to add a little length to a light smallbore, just as they would reduce stock length on heavy, long, wildfowling guns. The moral here is not to assume that one size of stock fits all. It doesn’t. When you change bore, barrel length. weight or configuration you may have to change the length of your stock as well.
PURDEY WOODWARD .410 TECHNICAL DATA
Purdey used to make .410 over-and-unders on a 28-bore action. Only recently has it started using
a scaled action and few such guns have yet been made. It is a challenging and impressive piece of gunmaking considering the back-action sidelocks must be miniaturised as well as the bolting and trigger mechanism. The Woodward action combines stud-pin hinging with bifurcated barrel lumps. It is made especially strong by its extra tongue-and-groove lock mid-action bolting, a system rarely copied because of the difficulty of making it well. Sporting author Gerald Burrard opined of the 12-bore Woodward, “[it] seems to combine best the maximum of strength, neatness and ease of manipulation with lightweight and faultless workmanship”. One can only wonder what he might have thought of the 21st-century .410.
PURDEY WOODWARD .410 SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS
I shot the Purdey Woodward on a beautiful summer day at the West London Shooting School. We (George Juer of Purdey accompanied me) started the test on one of the 40ft towers. Test ammunition for the over-and-under was .410 Eley 18g 6s – an excellent high-performance load notable for using a felt wad. The little over-and-under immediately impressed. With a slightly forward balance, it smashed driven birds convincingly and felt unlike any other .410 that I had shot. Performing like a bigger gun, it inspired confidence and shot where one looked almost infallibly pointing really well with its 28in barrels (though 30in might work, too). Only one bird got away, and that was from misreading a target on the extreme right. We then went to the grouse butts where the gun continued to delight. Even with the 3in cartridges, felt recoil was not noticed. The single trigger operated faultlessly. Any criticism? A pair would be better.
Purdey Woodward .410 price: Currently (October 2014) £135,630 incl VAT.
Where to buy the Purdey Woodward .410: Visit the Purdey website or call 020 7408 7213.