Richard Purdey

Director and former chairman of London gunmakers James Purdey & Sons and the sixth generation of the Purdey family to have worked in the business since it was founded in 1814 by his great great great grandfather James Purdey (1784-1863).

Do you get your kit ready the night before?


Do you have a lucky garment or accessory?

No, but certain items, like my 1899 Purdey 12 bore side-by-side, and great grandfather's cartridge bag of about the same vintage, mean a lot. If only they could talk.

Which shoot - do you have your own, belong to a syndicate or take days?

My old syndicate disbanded in 2008 after many years together, and I now take a day every year close to home in East Sussex, to which I invite friends. I am also very fortunate to receive one or two invitations every season through the kindness of Purdey customers, as well as from various friends who live in other parts of the UK so I get to shoot at a wonderful variety of locations.

Your favourite day's shooting?

Every shoot day is a favourite because each and every one is different. But a perfect day would be spent with old friends, ideally where we walk from drive to drive, and enjoy a good lunch.

As a famous personality of the gunmaking world, do you find people regard you differently in the shooting field?

God forbid that I should be regarded by anyone as either famous or a ‘personality', but for anyone who mistakenly expects my name to endow me with an above average ability to shoot consistently straight, I fear I will be a serious disappointment. I wish!

When and how did you take up the sport?

I started shooting in 1949, aged 7, with an uncle's rather wheezey pre-war .177 Diana airgun and then a slightly less asthmatic BSA. I then graduated to my step-father's damascus-barrelled 12 bore Tolley when I was 15, shooting rabbits, pigeons and grey squirrels, and very occasionally at pheasant. Once I was married and children arrived, shooting took a back seat, and I didn't get back to it until I became chairman in 1996. 

Was your father a shooting man?

Only while in the army from 1936-1954, after which he never fired a gun again.

Do many gunmakers shoot?

More than you might think, but I have no data to provide an accurate answer.

How do you see the future for English gunmakers?

It would be foolish to pretend that the world's current economic problems haven't impacted upon the gunmaking industry, but shooting sports are still thriving and demand for all types of sporting gun is still there.  New market opportunities are emerging and while I can only speak for Purdey's we are sufficiently confident of the future to be increasing investment in production facilities and training new craftsmen.   

Do you enjoy the company of ladies in the shooting field or prefer ‘men' only?

I love having ladies on a shoot whether they're shooting, loading, picking up, or just being there. 

Where does your Purdey role take you?

I retired from being chairman in 2007 but remain a director and  continue to run the annual Purdey Awards. I am also on the Court of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers, was Master 2008/9, and currently chair the Gunmakers Company Charitable Trust, one of whose aims is helping to fund training of  new gunmakers.  

Your favourite gun?

Probably my 1899, 12 bore side-by-side 30" barrelled Purdey which was restocked for me in 1995. It is a faithful friend, but I also have a soft spot for our 20 bores and still have happy memories of a very pretty 1876 island lock Purdey hammer gun loaned to me for a week's dove shooting in Argentina. I shot 600 shells a day and it never missed a beat, which is more than could be said of its operator.

12 or 20?

If I had the choice of ordering any gun I wished, it would be a 20 bore side-by-side Purdey with 30'' barrels.

Are you tempted by the selection of Purdeys available to you?


Are you tense on the first drive of the day?


Does a mid-morning drink help or hinder?

Interesting question, because sometimes a mid-morning sharpener achieves just that, whilst on other occasions it undoubtedly blunts my performance.  Probably depends on how much you took on board the evening before!

Do you prefer to eat at lunchtime or shoot through with a meal at the end of the day?

My personal preference is to have lunch at 1pm then one or two more drives in the afternoon, light permitting, and be homeward bound by 5pm, following a cup of tea and seeing the keeper.

Honestly - do you always clean your gun afterwards?

Yes, truly, and thoroughly, cleaning the action and oiling where required,  as well as the barrels inside and out.  I actually enjoy the task while I reflect on the day's shooting and I know too the gun is always ready for its next outing.

Do you have regular shooting pals - who are they?

Yes, longstanding friends who farm locally, as well as many from other parts of the UK with whom I shoot every year at home or away.

Favourite quarry?

Odious comparisons, but grouse, partridge, pheasant - in that order.

What, if anything, disappoints you on a shooting day?

Missing birds one shouldn't have missed.

What makes a good day?

Good company, good weather, good birds, with shooting well being the icing on the cake.

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