The Beauty of the beast: Top-line Sporting Clays shotgun from Purdey

Mike Yardley, one of Britain’s best known shooting instructors, is blown away by the £75,000 Sporting Clays shotgun from Purdey.

“It’s a wonderful gun, and superbly made. If I had the money, I’d buy one”

It takes quite a lot to get me excited, but the new Purdey Sporting Clays gun has managed to catch my attention. It is a big, beautiful, 8lb 9oz beast dedicated to modern Sporting competition without making any concessions whatsoever.

The gun, into which there has been much R&D, is entirely London made and carries a price tag of £62K plus VAT. Yup, almost £75,000, give or take. That is an awful lot of cartridges and pitch discs.

You could buy half a dozen or more top-flight clay guns for that. Indeed, in some parts of the country, you could still buy a house or flat with such a capital sum.

Is any gun worth that much? I doubt the people who can afford a new Purdey will be troubling themselves much with the answer to that question. I’m just delighted Purdey are still making such things to their renowned standards and keeping ancient trade skills alive as well as developing new ones based in the most sophisticated tech. The firm make more expensive full sidelocks too.

This gun, however, is built around a V-spring powered trigger-plate detachable action not unlike a Perazzi MX8 and follows on from the Purdey Sporter model – still in production – made in collaboration with Perugini and Visini in Italy for more than a decade.

No shooting enthusiast seeing this new gun could fail to be impressed. Its large form is still most elegant. The slightly rounded action is beautiful. The entire gun is superbly finished as one expects from Purdey.

Barrels are best blacked, the exhibition grade wood has lovely figure, the side-plates are hand engraved with tight scroll in the Purdey fashion.

Pins are blued, a historical nod to Purdey’s past. The silver finished action (colour hardening is an option) has a quick-detachable trigger-lock with a release catch to the left rear of the trigger guard. Chokes are flush-fitting Teague with extended and ported chokes as options.

Beyond all the outward stuff, this is a gun that has been created with serious competition in mind. Within its specification is all the knowledge acquired by Purdey’s own international sales staff, who include a couple of outstanding clay shots, on their multiple sojourns to the USA.

As well as that, the famous firm have sought out the opinion of a number of high level competitors at home and abroad. This is a model that has had a lot of expert thought put into it.

The comb is relatively high and not too angled, helping to reduce felt recoil

To quote Purdey’s own descriptive material: “The specifications were developed by an in-house team, together with the assistance of Don Currie, professional shotgun coach, gun fitter and Chief Instructor of the US National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA).”

Mr Currie himself notes: “The balance and ‘pointability’ is every bit as good as we hoped, giving a quick, responsive feel, which is so essential for a Sporting Clays shotgun”.

Purdey came out with a similar gun for game shooters last year, but the new clay model has some significant differences. Purdey are particularly proud of the re-designed stock and a new raised, ventilated rib which is individually made from solid metal.

The stock has a thicker comb offering more facial support than previous models. The comb is fairly high as well, to match the new rib – 115/16 in at heel on the test demonstrator gun with a front of comb measurement for drop of 17/16. That means it is close to the classic 1 ½ in and 2in – my usual preference for most applications with my fairly standard 5ft 11in frame.

Notably, the stock comb is not excessively angled, potentially reducing felt recoil. There is an option of a Monte Carlo stock too. Length of pull on the ‘shelf’ measurement test gun is 151/8 in with a 5 degree pitch and 1/8 in cast-off at comb, ¼ in at heel, and 3/8 at toe. Apart from the high comb that’s pretty standard stuff. 

The grip has also been the subject of much thought. Full in form, it is tightly radiused with a palm-swell. The latter is not usually my thing, but, again, it was one of the best that I have encountered – and as this gun is entirely bespoke it will be fitted to the customer, so you don’t have to have it.

I also like the re-designed fore-end – a rounded pattern of near ideal form – for me at least.

The rib is also special. It is 9.3mm wide, with an initial ramp rather than a step. Again, it is one of the best high ribs that I have yet encountered. It’s not too high; the idea is it’s high enough to improve target visibility without losing the correlation between target and barrels as happens in some high-rib guns.

The top surface is beautifully matted. For the record, Purdey raised ribs go back at least to the 1920s, while their ‘pigeon’ ribs date back to the 19th century.

The action is similar to a Perazzi MX8, although there are significant differences

There are other rib options if you want them, but the raised rib presented is exceptional. Joining ribs – also hand made from solid and individual to each gun – are vented as you’d expect in a high volume clay crusher.

The bifurcated lump 31in barrels on this new Purdey are bored at .728in with equally traditional short ¼in forcing cones. That measurement of .728 equates to a metric bore of 18.5mm – narrower than some modern competition guns, though it is the old British standard and wider than the old Italian one of 18.3 or 4.

The idea is that the gun will easily accommodate fibre wadded cartridges without obturation issues, which seem to be causing particular concern in some quarters at the moment. Chambers are 2¾in with a 3in option. Steel shot proof may be specified, as may other barrel lengths.

Purdey told me: “Sporting Clays shooters generally prefer longer forcing cones and over-bored barrels to reduce felt recoil. Sporting clays are frequently shot with plastic wads, as there is debate over the performance of fibre wad cartridges, alongside the fact fibre wads can potentially lose pressure when shot in a gun with longer forcing cones. However, more and more clubs are insisting on fibre wads.

This has led a wave of innovation that has improved the performance of fibre wads. With this in mind, and taking a long term view to the sport, we elected for shorter cones and tighter bores so all cartridges can be used without affecting pattern. So we needed to investigate a means of reducing recoil. We achieved this through the stock shape…”

The barrels are also thicker walled than previously, to contribute to steady handling. They are demi-bloc, not the usual mono-bloc – the standard for best London over-and-unders.

It is the equivalent of ‘chopper lump’ in a side-by-side and something only seen on expensive guns now, although also encountered on nearly all Belgian-made Brownings and older Browning 425s, as well as earlier mass-manufactured Japanese Brownings and Mirokus. The barrels are Teague choked with the option of extended and ported tubes too.

Technical

The Purdey’s action design follows a plan that is similar, though far from identical, to a Perazzi MX8 as developed by Ivo Fabbri and Daniel Perazzi. It has become favoured by a number of makers in recent years.

A latch to the rear of the trigger guard allows you to drop the trigger lock

There is trunnion hinging as in a Woodward (part of the Purdey family today). Mid-action Boss-style draws and wedges lock the gun up tightly in addition to conventional rear bolting.

Hammers are powered by V-springs, which require no compromise of sear angles and allow for exceptionally crisp pulls – triggers here are set
at 3 ½ pounds and 4).

The fore-end iron has been cleverly re-designed so that it also incorporates the chassis for the ‘snap-work’, and hence is less susceptible to heat distortion.

Shooting Impressions

Shooting the new Purdey was much anticipated. I have been lucky enough to shoot most of their new models in recent years and it has always been a treat and most interesting. The venue, as previously, was West London, where my serious shooting career began a long, long time ago under the watchful eyes of the the Rose brothers.

I was greeted by Jonathan Irby of Purdey who is an old pal and a great shot. Having had very little sleep the night before, I was not especially optimistic about the shooting initially. Happily, this was soon forgotten once we were out on the beautiful layouts. 

Cutting to the chase, the new gun, which is undeniably heavy but superbly balanced, shot brilliantly. Rather unexpectedly I shot straight for the first 50 or so birds, which were not especially challenging. I eventually came a cropper on a long, deceptive looper. I under-led it, but soon got back in the groove.

Mike found the gun a joy to shoot, and hit more than 90% of the West London targets

The tower also caused a glitch, but it was soon overcome with a new method I have developed and call ‘graduated swing-through’ – starting behind the bird roughly as much as you intend to go in front, which not only helps with the lead but the line too. 

Overall, I shot 90% plus on the day. I don’t think that I would have done as well with another gun. The Purdey really did make it easier. For the record, I always think shooting guns when you are not on top form – tired, ill, or whatever – tells you a lot about the gun, as well as highlighting any holes in your technique.

The new Purdey came up trumps and I had no issues with its weight. The triggers, set at 3½ and 4 lbs, were delightfully crisp. Felt recoil was low. Target visibility

 with the raised rib was excellent. The rib and high comb created a comfortable, relaxed, shooting position. 

This is a wonderful gun that has been cleverly conceived and superbly made. If I had the money I would probably buy one. After all, if you can’t buy a Purdey and an Aston with that lottery win, then what on earth is the money for?  

My thanks to Jonathan Irby. The team that were involved in this gun’s development include (and forgive omissions): Master actioner Phil Butcher, Don Currie (USA), Owen Hastings, Thomas Nicholls, Andrew Wood, Andrew Moore and George Juer.

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