J. PURDEY & SONS
A .400 PURDEY (3IN.) LIGHT EXPRESS SELF-OPENING SIDELOCK EJECTOR DOUBLE RIFLE, serial no. 22707,
25 1/2in. Whitworth-steel nitro chopperlump barrels with matt sight rib, matt folding leaf sights for 200, 300, 400, 500 and 600 yards with silver sighting lines, ramp-mounted bead foresight with flip-up moonsight, rib engraved 'J. PURDEY & SONS. AUDLEY HOUSE. SOUTH AUDLEY STREET. LONDON. MADE OF SIR JOSEPH WHITWORTH'S FLUID PRESSED STEEL.', the breech end mounted with a Burris Fastfire red dot sight on a quickly-detachable rail mount, treble-grip self-opening action with side-clips, removable striker discs, bolted automatic safety with gold-inlaid 'BOLTED' and 'SAFE' details, cocking-indicators, best fine bouquet and scroll engraving surrounding finely engraved vignettes of red stag and tiger, retaining traces of colour-hardening and finish, some patches of light external pitting, 14 3/4in. highly-figured pistolgrip stock with cheekpiece, steel pistolgrip-cap, sling swivels and including 1 1/8in. rubber recoil pad, weight 8lb. 8oz. (without red dot sight) and 8lb. 14oz. (with sight), in a modern canvas case with some accessories
Provenance: The makers have kindly confirmed that this rifle was completed on the 10th December 1924 for the Maharajah of Kotah, as a .400 (3in. taper case 47 grains powder, 230 grain bullet) hammerless ejector double rifle, and engraved with a stag grazing on the left lock and a tiger charging on the right".
Umed Singh II was born 15th September 1873 and became Maharaja of the Princely 17-gun salute state of Kotah in 1889 on the death of his adopted father, Shatru Sal II. Umed Singh was educated at Mayo College in Ajmer before embarking on a long career with the Indian Army, where he attained the honourary rank of Colonel. He sent men from his state to fight in both World Wars and was considered by most a progressive a just ruler.
Singh was an avid big game hunter, as were most of his peers, and he is probably best remembered in sporting circles for his choice of transport. Barker, a reputable firm of coachbuilders, were often recommended to clients by Rolls-Royce during the 1920s, and this was the preferred marque of many of India's ruling classes (in spite of the fact that Daimler were the motor car of choice at that time by our own Royal Family). So it was that Singh commissioned Barker to build a special car suitable for hunting tigers and other large game. The body was built on to a Phantom I chassis and sported many unusual features; it had search lights front and rear, a special gearbox with low ratios and high-profile tyres so it could negotiate steep and uneven ground. More unusual still was the rear-mounted Bira .450 calibre machine gun and Lantaka cannon... it was perhaps due to these items of ordnance that Umed Singh had Chubb build a special safe for the car in which he kept funds to compensate the families of beaters accidentally shot during his hunts.
After a reign of 52 years, the Maharaja died 27th December 1940 and the title passed to his son, Bhim Sinhji II.
Exhibited: Sold through these rooms in March 2009 as Lot 918, achieving a hammer price of £17,000
Other Notes: In contemporary catalogues, Purdey describe the .400 Light Express as follows:
"The light 400 is an excellent firearm for deer, wild boar etc., and has gained great popularity for tiger shooting in India, having the advantage of being a really powerful firearm and no heavier than a heavy 12-bore gun. The bullet is lead with a nickel base, and at 100 yards, has a striking energy of 1443 foot-pounds."
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Sold as an exempt item under Section 58 (2) of the 1968 Firearms Act, to be held as a curiosity or ornament