James Purdey & Sons, Audley House, South Audley Street, London
12 bore Back Action Hammergun
no. 12191

Date of manufacture: 1885

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Heritage Guns' Comment

Throughout its centrefire era, Purdey has been famous for its well defined house styles: it did what it did superbly and rarely diverted from its normal designs and styles. By 1885, the Beesley patent, self-opening, hammerless sidelock was already in production and the hammergun's heyday was slowly coming to an end. However, shooting sportsmen have always been a traditional bunch and many carried on ordering hammerguns well into the 20th century so Purdey was obliged to humour them. Contrary to popular belief, Purdey therefore chose to outsource some of their production to trusted members of the outworking gun trade and gun no 12191 is a fine example of this business model.
The gun is in the normal Purdey style of 'Island, Backaction lock' but there is an interesting difference between this and most of their other 'Island' locks: the position of the lock's through-pin. Normally this would be at the front of the lock plate but here it is located in the very centre of the lock plate. Secondly, the barrel and action flats exhibit an unidentified trademark and letter 'C', presumably from the outworker who built the gun. I have no doubt that the gun was finished, stocked and engraved by Purdey themselves but the initial auctioning and barrelling was done by another.
So this gun gives us a fascinating insight into the workings of the very top of the late 19th century gun trade and with its beautifully TIG sleeved barrels, lovely wood and excellent dimension, it would make a fine gun for any discerning clay or game Shot.



The action is of traditional hammergun design and features:
Much original hardening colour;
Double triggers;
Back action, 'Island' locks;
Low, rebounding, 'Dolphin' hammers;
Sprung strikers;
Top lever operating a Purdey Bolt by way of a Scott Spindle
and Hackett's snap-on forend catch.
Gun weight 6lb 8oz
Engraving style Best fine foliate scroll. Unusual ball shaped fences.
Trigger pulls measure approximately: Front trigger 3 ½ lbs Rear trigger 4 ½ lbs
The TIG sleeved steel barrels are 30" in length, chambered for 2 3/4" (70mm) cartridges and are of brazed dovetail lump construction with soft soldered ribs.
Top rib
is of the smooth, concave game type.
Birmingham reproof for 70mm nitro powder cartridges in 2016.

Approximate barrel measurements at date of publication:

Nominal Proof Size
Bore Diameter 9" from Breech
Minimum Wall Thickness
Choke Constriction
Right Barrel
18.5mm (0.728")

0.012" (IC)
Left Barrel
18.5mm (0.728")

0.021" (Mod)

The Straight Hand Stock and Splinter Forend are crafted from well figured walnut. The stock is cast-off for a right-handed shot, features a vacant white metal oval and is finished with a chequered ½" Ebonite butt plate secured with engraved screws. The forend features a finely engraved steel forend tip. There are small infill repairs to dents in the upper left horn and lower right horn.

Well Figured Walnut Stock & Forend

The very fine 26 lines per inch chequering is freshened to its normal sidelock pattern.

The stock is finished with a traditional linseed oil based preparation as used on best guns by one of the top English makers. This finish uses no grain fillers to achieve its deep, smooth lustre, only many hours of alternate build and flatting off of the surface.

Approximate stock measurements at date of publication:

Pull to Heel
Pull to Bump
Pull to Centre
Pull to Toe
14 1/2"
14 3/4"
14 5/8+"
15 1/8+"
Drop at Comb
Drop at Face
Drop at Heel
1 1/2"
1 3/4"
2 1/2"
Cast at Comb
Cast at Heel
1/16" (approximate)
1/4" (approximate)

For the purposes of these measurements, 'Drop at Face' is the 'drop' measurement taken on a line perpendicular to the
line joining the trigger and centre of the butt at approximately 8" from the trigger (front trigger on a double trigger gun).

Patents Exhibited include:
'Purdey Bolt' patent no. 1104 of 1863;
'Scott Spindle' patent no. 2752 of 1865;
Stanton's rebounding lock patent no. 367 of 1867;
Hackett's forend fastener patent no. 964 of 1878.