This Sporter is almost affordable, but is it a true Purdey? The editor of Sporting Gun finds out.
Overall Rating: 96%
Price as reviewed: £39,500
The renowned English gunmaker, Purdey, is known for its high quality, high performance and… high prices. You will be looking around the £150,000 mark for a London best gun made to your precise requirements. However, the famous gunmaker does have a gun called the Sporter which, at £39,500 plus VAT is relatively affordable.
Purdey Sporter – an entry level Purdey
Alastair Bowles at Purdey describes it as an ‘entry-level Purdey’ enabling more shooters to hold a gun made by the famed company. Some might call this a ‘poor man’s Purdey’, just as Porsche’s excellent Boxster was called the ‘poor man’s Porsche’ – usually by people who could not afford it.
This is unfair to the Sporter because at its heart lies the fabled Purdey action, handmade in London like every other Purdey. You might ask how the company has kept the price down. Has it cut any corners? Yes and no is the answer because the Sporter has been made in collaboration with Italian gunmakers, Perugini & Visini.
You might be forgiven for thinking that the Purdey Sporter is an Italian gun badged as a Purdey, but you would be wrong. Alastair Bowles explains: “We want to be upfront about our collaboration with Perugini & Visini. The Purdey Sporter is based on a generic Perazzi-style action with modifications from us. Parts are machined rather than handmade in London and the gun is assembled and stocked in Italy with finishing taking place in London.” (Read more on the making of a Purdey shotgun.)
Some might think Purdey has cheated by copying the Perazzi drop-out trigger mechanism, but Alastair is keen to explain that its roots go back further. “The Purdey Sporter design has links with the Edwinson Green, an early over-and-unders design of the 1900s. Essentially where Perrazi probably got its design from.”
Perugini & Visini is skilled at building this type of gun and has capacity at its factory to assemble them quickly, making the whole process more efficient so more affordable. Other ‘efficiencies’ include the excellent scroll engraving, which is done by machine, rather than by hand. So this is where a corner has been ‘cut’, but the result is still stunning.
Most of the gunmaking operation takes place in England. The Sporter is proofed by the London Proof House for steel or lead shot and hand-finished and regulated in Purdey’s factory in the capital. (Read more about proofing guns here.)
Other services are similar to what you get with all Purdeys. You will be able to choose the grade of wood in the Long Room at Purdey’s Audley Street showroom. There is a choice of barrel length – up to 34in – and these can have fixed or Teague chokes. Customers can opt for 2¾in chambers or 3in. You can have a straight stock or a pistol grip with single or double triggers.
Alastair says the Sporter incorporates all the traditional features of a side-by-side shotgun into a modern over-and-under. The Purdey Sporter has a detachable trigger group – like some Perazzis and Berettas – which makes for easy cleaning and repairs. You can buy a spare trigger group in case of a malfunction in the field. After all, you wouldn’t want to waste that expensive driven day because of a malfunctioning gun. Consumables include things like V-springs that, unlike coil springs, cease to work when they break.
I got the chance to compare the trigger group from the Purdey Sporter with the Purdey trigger-plate and I could not discern any difference between them. Both used V-springs for a better trigger ‘feel’ and, when it came to shooting the two guns back-to-back, I really couldn’t tell the difference in terms of handling or performance.
I tested the single trigger 12-bore version of the Sporter with pistol grip. It is available in 20-bore with 28-bore barrels.
Naturally, the actions are scaled to provide perfect balance and handling. It is available in 2¾in chambers and 3in for those who enjoy high bird shooting. You can choose from 25in barrels up to 34in with fixed or Teague chokes. Ribs can be ventilated or solid and have a matted finish.
When I tried the Purdey Sporter on some challenging targets at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School under the expert guidance of Nigel Muir, I found it moved easily through the target without being too ‘whippy’.
At around 8lb, the gun is not a lightweight, but the weight is evenly distributed with the balance around the hinge pin, which meant I was not aware of it. The detachable trigger helps move the weight of the gun back into the shooter’s hands giving great handling.
With Nigel’s help I got my eye in on some very long crossers. They were so far away that it took a long time for the clay to break, so much so that on the first attempt I pulled the trigger twice thinking I had missed with the first shot. This got me thinking that the Purdey Sporter with 32in barrels and a 3in chamber would bean excellent high bird gun.
Joy to shoot
With a gun like a Purdey the pleasure of shooting lies beyond hitting the targets. It’s using a gun that is a joy to shoot that makes you want to keep shooting.
The crisp, perfectly weighted trigger pulls, combined with the superb balance, meant everything felt right. Add the mechanical finesse of the way the gun opens and closes and you have a truly gratifying experience.
The only way I can describe it is like driving a sports car with a gear shift as slick as a rifle bolt and steering that is weighted perfectly. With a gun as good as a Purdey Sporter there is no need to spend more money than you have to – unless you want something even more luxurious.
Editor’s verdict on the Purdey Sporter
Purdey has created a gun at the fraction of the cost of one its Best guns, but which shoots just as well. You might be wondering why Purdey would produce such a gun because surely everyone will go for the more affordable option? True, but if you think of it like a wristwatch, some will want an excellent timekeeper made from steel, while others want a solid gold diamond-encrusted version. For me it’s all about the passion for the gun in your hand. It doesn’t have to be embellished, it just has to feel right for you and work well.
- Build quality 25/25
- Handling 24/25
- Styling 24/25
- Value for money 23/25
Purdey has created a gun at the fraction of the cost of one its Best guns, but which shoots just as well