James Purdey & Sons English Shotguns
History of James Purdey & Sons, an English gunmaker and a description of their manufacturing process.
The individual construction and artistic craftsmanship of James Purdey & Sons shotguns have earned Purdey a rightful reputation as one of the world’s leading gun-makers. By aiming to produce exquisite products that exceed government safety standards, meet exacting quality levels and fulfill the demands of the most ardent collector, Purdey & Sons has reached a benchmark that few other companies (in the gun-making world or beyond) have equaled.
Purdey’s reputation for quality work is so strong that they can require each prospective buyer to travel to London for proper measurements. Purdey will not build a gun for anyone without first getting proper measurements (including chest size and distances between various body parts). This assures that their guns will function optimally and naturally for each user. Building each gun individually for its owner may take longer and cost more, but it results in a weapon which automatically points where the user wishes—in purchasing a shotgun, little could be more important than its targeting ability.
The stocks of Purdey shotguns are made from walnut that has been imported from the Dordogne forest in France. French walnut is preferred for its color, strength, grain, and density. It arrives in blocks and is then cut to match a mold made from the individual buyer’s measurements. The rest of the gun is made from steel and steel tubing that is supplied directly to Purdey—the company does all of its metalwork in house to assure the highest in quality production. Each part of the gun is crafted by a specialist (who began his training during his mid-teenage years) in the making of that particular section of a gun, which results in the highest level of combined skill possible for the manufacturing process.
Twice during the production of the guns, they are sent to be tested for safety by the English government, but Purdey endeavors not just to meet, but to exceed all of the country’s safety requirements.
At the completion of the project, each gun is tested for balance and accuracy by the expert staff at Purdey & Sons.
Though Purdey & Sons has undergone considerable financial struggles since its inception in 1814, it has emerged from them all and continues to produce fine shotguns. Its first royal commission, a pair of pistols to be given by Queen Victoria to the Imam of Oman in 1838, launched a powerful share in the upper-class sporting market. While it is in this arena that Purdey & Sons feels its mission to lie, over the course of years, it has been necessary to adjust according to the times of the age. During World War I, a huge and predicable decline in profits led to their contribution to making wartime materials. Purdey & Sons received commendation as Member of the British Empire and earned a Medal of the British Empire for its role in World War II, for which not only helped to make war materials and tools by working night shifts, but also provided space for conferences of military leaders.
Fortunately for Purdey & Sons, several economic crises (including one near the end of WWII) were averted due to outside financial backing, without which the company might have gone insolvent.
Collectors and sportsmen alike are thankful that Purdey & Sons still exists. Though it may take quite a bit of effort to obtain one (a trip to England at the very least), Purdey shotguns are among the finest guns one can buy. And on top of their technical excellence, their graceful curves and fine engraving cannot be over-appreciated. Whether as a work of art or as a functional sporting weapon, the guns of James Purdey & Sons have reached a point of absolute excellence. Their desirability can only increase over time as the company continues to provide their high quality service to those who seek it out.