From their Mayfair headquarters in London, the two hundred year-old company has built a reputation for making some of the finest firearms the world has ever seen


Since 1814, the name James Purdey & Sons Ltd, Shotgun and Rifle Makers has been synonymous with quality gunmaking. From their Mayfair headquarters in London, the two hundred year-old company has built a reputation for making some of the finest firearms the world has ever seen.

With all their shotguns and rifles made to order, handcrafted and individually tailored in every respect, the manufacture prides itself on its beautiful traditional craftsmanship – it takes something like 700 man-hours to craft a Purdey gun – combined with modern computerized modeling and machining. From the very start of the careful, year-long build process until final delivery of each of the seventy or so guns they make every year, Purdey & Sons inspires each customer with a sense of heritage, luxury, and exclusivity. Not only is the workmanship sublime, but all raw materials brought in to make the guns have to be the best in their category.

It can be said that Purdey’s rise to the iconic status it enjoys today happened sometime in the 1870s, when they introduced a watershed side-by-side game gun with a revolutionary mechanism consisting of an easy-opening action and ejectors, which made it a real boon to hunters. By the 1880s, they had perfected the mechanism, and this design remains essentially unchanged in modern shotguns till this day. In fact, the marque’s excellence in its craft was such that there was a period in time when all nine monarchs of Europe were Purdey customers.


And then the great wars happened. During the era of World Wars I and II, Purdey, like all the great British manufacturers, were suppliers to the wartime effort. In all, 14000 Purdey rifles were made before the first World War. Between then and the end of WWII, another ten to eleven thousand were made. As such, not all Purdeys are necessarily the ornate items they are today.

In actuality, the era of ornate “art guns” really only began after the end of the 2nd World War. The market for bespoke firearms, however, is understandably a very small niche, made up of extremely discerning customers. The detail involved in making a Purdey results in a waiting time of about a year for one, and the exclusivity of their guns is such that there are just 30 – 50 individual orders each year.

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All Purdey shotguns and rifles are made to order, with orders for the side-by-side models outnumbering those for the over-and-under type. Every last detail is specified by the customer, who upon reception at the Audley House showroom is met with very fine examples of what the esteemed manufacture is capable of. Purdey guns exceed all current legislation and regulations regarding gun construction, and each handmade product of their West London factory is expected to last a hundred years or more.

The long, careful build process consists of seven parts, the first of which is to customize the barrel, which is the most prominent part of any firearm. Length and bore of the barrel are specified depending on intended use, be it hunting fowl or bigger game. Most importantly, all Purdey firearms are made with hand-filed barrels whose walls are thicker than mandated by legislature, for added safety as well as strength.

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…mechanical springing, and are elegantly simple in their action. The locks are of a tried-and-tested design, which is easy to use.

The next step is making the action, which refers to the orientation of the two barrels – be it side-by-side or under-and-over, if it is a double-barrel shotgun. The side-by-side barrel style was patented in 1880, and has only ever undergone minor changes since. Generally, Purdey customers prefer the side-by-side style to the over-and-under style.

You can then decide if you want a single trigger with sequential action, or a double trigger, one for each barrel, and of course they can be fine-tuned to accommodate both right- and left-handed operation. Both styles are operated on the principles of inertia and mechanical springing, and are elegantly simple in their action. The locks are of a tried-and-tested design, which is easy to use.


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Another tried-and-true mechanism, the Purdey side-by-side ejector system has been used in similar forms since 1880. The over-and-under system is similarly well-proven, and both are known to have powerful, synchronous ejection.

Another hallmark of Purdey’s finest is their intricate, and very fine, wood stock. Using only the finest Turkish walnut, the wood with its near-infinite choice of grain and long-grain, flexible nature is often decided upon by the customer’s own preference. Accessory materials are of course, entirely customizable, including optional gilded internals and monograms.


The most important part of any Purdey firearm, however, is the engraving process. This is what sets Purdey apart from lesser gun makers, since they have become the foremost name in luxury guns based on their ornamental prowess. With their pool of exclusive hard-metal engravers, Purdey rifles have some of the best engraving workmanship of any luxury collector’s item out there.

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Once engraved, the guns are finished and regulated – meaning they are tested for absolute reliability and accuracy. Safety is of paramount importance too, and the gun is duly tested for precision engineering out in the field. Once this is complete, the entire gun is polished and lacquered, with some parts receiving a mirror-like finish. The stock is treated to a daily cocktail of linseed oil, beeswax, and other polishing agents throughout a six-week regime of application and rubbing off, resulting in a durable waterproof and utterly beautiful wood luster.

With their long history of fine workmanship, timeless design, and durability, it is no wonder James Purdey & Sons has become the foremost luxury gunmaker in the business. With values holding steady, and an iron-clad reputation based on a very aspirational brand, Purdey guns are certainly not just the exceptional firearms they were designed to be. They are icons of their type.

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Via Luxury Insider

Amir Ali

Images courtesy of Purdey