It is a spectacularly beautiful gun with fabulous wood and, rather atypically for Purdey, deep scroll engraving.
Though it is rather different to the house standard fine rose and scroll, no complaints are being made; it looks wonderful.
The action is sculptured with bolsters and beautiful fences. There is also a rounded bar, a refinement of the original Woodward form reflecting a fashion for this style of action. The overall aesthetics are excellent.
If you wanted a gun to make a statement you would not need to look further. This Purdey is not over the top, though. There are no unnecessary bells and whistles. It is just a supremely beautiful example of modern English gunmaking based on what many would argue was the finest over-under action ever devised.
At £77,625 including VAT with standard engraving it is certainly not inexpensive.
The engraving shown might add another £10,000 or £12,000 to the bottom line, but at this level it is not uncompetitive when compared to the top Italian guns.
You can pay no less than £110,000 for an un-engraved Fabbri, which some think the greatest gun of all.
The engraving and VAT can put the final price up to £150,000 or more.
You would have to try very hard to convince me, however, that any better gun than this Purdey exists.
Mechanically, it is a slightly modified Woodward. Purdey acquired Woodward (famous for their best side-by-sides and groundbreaking over-under) in 1948 for a nominal sum.
Like the Boss over-under, the Woodward has been surprisingly influential. The former inspired Perazzi and many others with regard to its bolting, but the latter has been even more imitated as far as its hinging arrangement is concerned.
The majority of modern over-unders now have stud pins near the knuckle like a Woodward.
The Boss, by contrast, has an unusual, rather complex, arrangement near the knuckle involving rotating bushes. Like the Boss, the Woodward has bifurcated lumps, i.e. no lumps project beneath the barrels as seen in most side-by-sides and Browning style over-unders.
The Boss design also has draws and wedges in the lumps and action walls, as copied in Perazzi and Kemen guns amongst many, many others.
The Woodward, meanwhile, is distinguished by unique tongue and groove locking.
The side lumps interlock by means of dovetails on the inner action walls.
That great authority Major Sir Gerald Burrard noted of it: ?…of all the actions which I have seen, I must confess the Woodward seems to combine best the maximum strength, neatness and ease of manipulation.?
He might have added it is also one of the most difficult to make. The barrels of this test Pudey are demi-bloc as one expects at this price.
They are superbly crafted, without perceptible flaw or blemish. The chambers are 2.3⁄4″ and the gun is proofed in London.
Both tubes are stamped at 18.5mm (0.728″), which is just a little tighter than my preference.
The gun has a practical and well proportioned solid rib like the majority of modern Purdey over-under sidelocks.
There is a metal bead at the muzzles and fixed chokes: three-quarters and full in the test gun awaiting regulation to the customer?s requirements.
Peter Blaine of Purdey notes: ?Our over-under is arguably the most refined of all. Mechanically it is very strong, the tongue and groove system is unique to the Purdey Woodward, the bob-weight trigger is extremely reliable, and the grace and form of the action speaks for itself.?
I am not going to argue with any of that.
Peter also told me that Purdey can supply this magnificent gun in both square and round bar form and as a true Woodward, with that name on the finished gun if so desired. Most favour the round bar version these days, which is, without doubt, elegant.
My own preference, however, would be for a 30″ square bar 20-bore. I just love the looks of the classic Woodward style.
The gun would normally be supplied with fine rose and scroll engraving, colour case hardened or bright finished. Beyond that there are few limits but your imagination and bank balance.
The stunning deep scroll engraving on the test gun adds significantly to the bill but there are even more ornate options available.
The gun is, of course, available in all bore sizes on dedicated frames. It also goes without saying that it is made to measure, though you might find a gun on the shelf at South Audley Street if you were very lucky.
This was a splendid gun to shoot. I put it through its paces at the West London Shooting Ground and could not fault it.
It pointed naturally and was most forgiving to shoot, even with tight chokes.
There was a notable absence of recoil and vibration.
The trigger pulls were superb.
One had the impression of a very smooth-shooting gun that shot targets unusually well even with light loads.
You are paying for more than decoration in a best London gun.
In fact, as past writers pointed out rather more frequently than modern ones, engraving and flashy wood can distract the eye and mind from more important qualities.
It does not matter how much a gun costs or how dazzling it looks, it must handle and shoot well to succeed.
This gun has that rare quality of harmony when form and function come together.
The action is incredibly strong and low in profile, trigger pulls are as good as they get, the barrels are near perfect, and the stock is beautiful and ergonomically efficient.
The best must be superior in all respects. This is.