In the wake of the First World War, the London gun trade was struggling. James Purdey & Sons, widely regarded as the benchmark for best British guns and rifles, knew that many of its old customers would not be returning. Seeking new markets, in 1922 the firm sent senior partner Athol Purdey to the US. The trip would fundamentally change the company. Now Purdey has created a commemorative 20-bore over/under that pays homage to Athol’s efforts.
The action of the US Centenary Gun is based on the Woodward that former Managing Director Harry Lawrence improved after the rights were secured, in 1949. The choice of the lightweight, ultra-round-bodied Woodward acknowledges the model’s continuing appeal in the US. The 30-inch barrels have 2¾"chambers, are proofed for superior steel and have Teague chokes. The single, non-selective trigger features a beaded edge guard, and the stock has a pistol grip with a cap engraved with the dates of Athol’s trip.
Inspired by archival photographs, the lockplates are engraved with the steamship RMS Olympic, on which Athol traversed the Atlantic, and with the Commodore Hotel, where he stayed in New York. The underside features a portrait of the man himself. All are the work of British engraver Phil Coggan.
According to former company President Richard Beaumont in the book Purdey’s: The Guns and the Family: “The wealth of the United States, comparatively untouched by war, seemed the most likely source of customers in the numbers Athol required . . . . The orders he took were impressive and filled the factory for some months.” More significantly, Athol observed American tastes firsthand. This led to the development of two new types of Purdeys: the single-barreled trap gun and the company’s first over/under.
The US Centenary Gun comes with a lightweight period motor case made by Vince Rickards. As to what Purdey plans to do with the gun, Sales Manager Dr. Nicholas Harlow said, “It is intended to sell it, although by what method and at what price are still to be confirmed.”