Fine London ‘Best Guns’ are legendary for their graceful lines, balance and impeccable workmanship. I have taken some pictures of a Purdey (c-1920) and another Purdey (circa 1875) showing some of the amazing work seen when the guns are taken apart.
The degree of skill taken to achieve this level of craftsmanship is partially explained when we are aware that 20 or more individual workman, each specialized in a specific area, were involved in the completed gun. On average, each gun requires 2000 hours of labor.
Consideration is given from the outset to the required dimensions of the gun and the shot charge it will be designed to shoot. The completed gun will weigh 96 times the shot charge and will balance at the hinge pin.
Published about 10 years ago, ‘Purdey, The Guns and The Family’ by R. Beaumont, is easy and insightful reading on these great guns.
Below are various pictures of the action and locks and an explanation of their function.
#1 Shows the ejector rod in the fired position. At this point the other end of the rod protrudes from the front of the action contacting the ejector sear in the forend. #2 White arrow points to a round ‘boss’ on the striker/tumbler which controls the position of the ejector rod. The larger round portion to the lower left of the arrow is the axle or center of the striker/tumbler upon which it rotates. #3 The ejector rod in the unfired position. #4 This is the other (outside) end of the striker/tumbler axle, the filed indicator line is parallel with the barrels showing that the lock is in the fired position.
The ejector rod in the fired position protrudes from the front of the frame, activating the respective ejector cam in the forend. The spring under tension is then released activating the ejector hammer which strikes the ejector rod under the barrel. By design, if both barrels are fired, the timing and pressure of the ejectors will expel both fired shells causing them to fall within 2 feet of each other on the ground.
The pivoting cam on the lockplate receives pressure from a cocking rod on the front of the action upon closing the barrels on the frame. This pressure causes rearward movement of the cam and therefore downward pressure on the upper limb of the mainspring compressing it and putting the spring under pressure. When the toplever is activated to open the gun, the pressure of the spring is relieved through the cam to the opening rods and finally to the bottom of the barrels causing them to open smartly under pressure from the mainspring. The term “Self-Opening” is used to describe this mechanical function. Notice the small roller bearing fitted into the top limb of the mainspring. This arrangement results in very little friction between the spring and the cam.
These pictures illustrate perfect wood -to- metal fit. The two small protrusions on the rear of the forend wood fit into mating mortises in the forend iron. The dense and hard walnut is thus resistant to any lateral movement and the chances of splits or cracks greatly reduced. The ‘head’ or end of the buttstock also has 4 of these protrusions where the wood fits up to the action. Notice the many dimensional changes and complexity of the fitting where the stock meets the action. A goal of the stockmaker is to achieve a perfect fit so that recoil and other pressures are dissipated without any movement of the wood. Precise fit of the triggers in the trigger plate are complimented by a polished finish on all parts allowing for smooth operation.
These pictures are of a circa 1875 gun.
Here we can see the wonderful fitting of the lock.
This picture shows the ‘head’ of the buttstock….see any toolmarks? The rough spot is a build up of debris.
Notice that the lockplate has been bent and shaped to conform to the shape of the stock wrist. Additionally the main spring of the lock has been shaped to reflect this bend.