Issue 28 October 2021

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Long Tail Lever

A Purdey with a very early version of Jones lever work.

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Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

 Here we have a Purdey 12-bore made in 1862 for a Captain Bailie of the Horse Guards.

It was originally a pinfire and was later converted to centre-fire by having teh pin holes welded closed witha dovetail of new material and new hammers fitted. The breech may also have been strengthened at teh time of conversion.

Aside from the conversion, the most notable feature of the gun is the long under-lever. Instead of forming a lever-over guard in the usual manner, some early Purdey breech-loaders like this one made the guard itself into the lever.

The rotary screw-grip was patented by Henry Jones in September 1859 and became hugely successful, though not making Jones a wealthy man, due to non-renewal of the patent rights. Perhaps the freedom to use the design without financial penalty was part of the appeal to other gun makers but it is undoubtedly a very secure system and deserved to be well-used.

The long lever provides a great deal of leverage but also requires a lot of space to swing outward to ninety degrees and un-lock the barrels. It was soon replaced at Purdey by more the more conventional lever-over-guard operation.

Being made early in the life of breech-loaders (The first pinfire in Britain had only been exhibited at the Great Exhibition eleven years earlier), this Purdey looks a great deal less refined than their guns of the 1870s. The hinge pin arrangement still looks to be a work in progress, the lever is awkward and the face of the action and fences appear flimsy by comparison.

 In all, not a very satisfactory arrangement but an interesting transitional piece which shows the stages by which our leading gunmakers developed their new models as technology, experience and invention provided year-on-year improvements. The gun has had a hard life,as the stock repair plates show (these are very beautifully made in themselves) but it does still function.

Historically, the date of manufacture is interesting, as it was not until 1863 that Joseph Lang advertised that he was making breech-loading pinfire-guns in the press and he is widely credited as the first to do so. Lang was married to Purdey's daughter, Eliza and the families were close in business as well as personally, so it is not particularly remarkable to think that whatever Lang was doing, Purdey was a party to.

 

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Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

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