Stuart Wilson gets a sumptuous slice of quintessentially British manufacturing in his hands as he takes the Purdey Bolt-Action Rifle out into the field.
Purdey are world renowned for their reputation as shotgun manufacturers, and, to channel the M&S advert for a moment, not just any shotguns. They have been producing the finest London-made guns for over 200 years. Purdey have actually built both shotgun and rifle for a long time, but there’s no doubt the former are better known – but why should that be?
The simplest way for them to solve that was to pull out the drawing board, and after some uncompromising development, the BAR rifle was born. My understanding of the brief, or perhaps more clearly, the mission statement, was to create an aesthetically beautiful rifle that performed like a target rifle, from the quality and figuring of some fine walnut, to the deep blued engraved metal surfaces and the very highest quality mounts.
The customer can also have the barrel threaded, along with a beautiful blind thread cap, to allow the use of a moderator – quite a break from tradition, and a welcome one in my eyes.
Normally review rifles are sent up to me, the Purdey BAR was to arrive with a chaperone, Nigel Musto, who it turns out had been heavily involved in this rifle’s creation – and with its hefty price tag, I was more than happy for the responsibility for this rifle not to come entirely down to me.
With Nigel arriving the evening before the planned day of shooting, we sat down to a curry, and ironed out the details of what we would try and cover, with the emphasis on some longer-range gong shooting, with an early morning highseat session thrown in for good measure.
At 6am, with darkness still on us, I and Nigel made our way as quietly as possible into one of my hunting boxes, the wind direction was favourable, and safely ensconced in our ‘hedge top’ hide, Nigel armed with the Purdey BAR, myself armed with video camera, I gingerly lifted the front and side shutters for our first look before the sun broke the horizon, the available light was allowing us to see out to 50 yards with binoculars.
The curse of the camera is an ever-present risk for quarry to not show, which would turn an early morning stalk into a bird watching session, with a hearty breakfast being the only option to lift the spirits of a couple of failed modern hunter-gatherers. I always text the farmer as I pull onto the ground, out of courtesy, but also security considerations.
Occasionally I get a reply, and as my phone vibrated silently in my pocket, this morning’s reply contained a mention of a deer that had been spotted limping along the hedgerow that we were sat on. The cold of the morning quickly disappeared as a roe doe was spied, plainly limping as well, camera pointing in the right direction and rolling, Nigel positioned himself for an awkward shot in a less than spacious hunting box, grassing the doe in short order with an authoritative chest shot.
Gathering the necessary shots to complete a Shooting Show feature, we exited the box, carefully approached the doe, gralloched and extracted, and slid the carcase into the truck not much later than 7am.
Sometimes the planets align, and everything comes to fruition. The carcase received final prep before being hung in the chiller, and we headed off for a well-deserved breakfast, before heading over to my zeroing ground to test the Purdey BAR on a gong.
With the gong in place at 475 yards and a slight cross reverberated back at us, and I was suitably impressed, I am not sure if it was a mix of surprise at the result or just plain pleasure from good kit doing what it should do from a cold barrel.
We both laughed. What a rifle! Now some target shooters may scoff at hitting a 6-8in gong at 475 yards, but first-shot accuracy rules when stalking, and be assured the Purdey was shooting considerably tighter, with the only miss coming from myself because of a rushed shot without properly shouldering the butt.
We were whacking the gong so hard it fl ew from its chain three times, losing one of the threaded pegs from a u-bolt. It is during daylight hours that you can really appreciate the finish of the Purdey, the woodwork is an oil finished walnut, with beautiful figuring, and reassuring signs of plenty of use, which would be easily remedied with some conditioning oil.
The metal work is superb, it not only works, it is machined for tighter tolerances, with the final blued finish set off the contrast between the deep brown walnut and barrel, action, and trigger guard and floorplate, with delicate rose and scroll engraving topping the aesthetic feel with confidence. The shooting experience is sublime.
The action is not just a step away from the old Mauser action, it is, dare I say, a paradigm shift into a fully CNC machined, gloriously smooth and deadly accurate barrelled action. The mounting system is a swing-off design, very similar if not identical to Apel, which allows the shooter to take one rifle for driven shooting and hill stalking, simply swinging optics off to suit each scenario.
The safety catch is the tried-and-tested flag style, sitting to the back of the bolt, effectively blocking the firing pin from forward travel when engaged on safe, sporting the fine London blued finish. Cycling the loaded action is slick, with rounds stripping from the magazine well, feeding effortlessly, with all the machining of the bolt, action and the geometry putting the shooter at an advantage; effortless function of the tools needed to do a job result in a deeper feeling of immersion.
With the Purdey BAR loaded and pointed at the distant gong, it is really easy to completely forget the safety and trigger as the next thing you remember is the gong singing out as the bullet connects, or as your stag folds to the precise impact.
The trigger is factory set to break at a clean 2.5lb, and the broad blade does a fine job. I can’t impress on shooters enough, if you remember a trigger, it’s usually far too heavy or far too light, in other words, wrong.
The Purdey BAR trigger is also adjustable if the shooter so desires. In the shoulder, shooting at a target slightly uphill, using a rucksack and jacket for support, this .300 Win Mag model was sweet to shoot with the lightweight moderator taming the recoil, the fall of shot was easy to see through the scope, the pistol grip is substantial, which didn’t bother me, but there has been a slight tweak adjust this in future rifles.
The hidden magic
Usually a wooden-stocked rifle will present problems as weather and humidity shift. The wood will also move, action screw tension will vary, the barrel channel will alter, and the action has the potential to shift in the stocks wooden bedding.
Over the last 20 years or so a greater prevalence of synthetic stocks have found favour with shooters; durability and stability offer significant gains in accuracy and to consistency, which is the name of the game – accuracy should always be more important than aesthetics.
But Purdey have created the perfect solution, taking accuracy as the primary goal while holding on tight to their heritage and pulling the aesthetics to a high standard without compromising, using a CAD-designed, CNC-machined titanium chassis that is bedded into each stock.
The titanium chassis stabilises the action, removes the variability of the beautiful wood that effectively wraps the chassis, which runs from pistol grip all the way into the forend of the stock, even allowing the machining of a socket to take a Javelin bipod, removing any wood from the structural role now taken by titanium.
Undoubtedly the budget for this rifle is beyond myself and many others, but I suppose it’s okay to dream, and it’s certainly okay to appreciate and admire the craftsmanship and uncompromising efforts Purdey have done in creating their new BAR rifle.
It is quite hard to get across what I feel is the essence of this rifle, you have a stunningly beautiful rifle, that is seriously accurate; a wooden stocked rifle with a traditional blued barrel and action, complemented by the rose and scroll engraving, I have found it impossible to sum the rifle without blending the two main accentuating traits, accuracy through technology, and beauty borne through tradition, Purdey put it most eloquently ‘innovation meets tradition’.
The Purdey BAR starts at £25,000 plus VAT, and you’ll have to wait approximately six months between ordering one and actually receiving it. All the more reason to order straight away, then!
More information: 020 7499 1801, purdey.com