Somehow, James Purdey and Sons started sending me emails, I guess in hopes I might be interested in buying one of their shotguns. I’ve held one or two of their guns over the years, and almost bought a Purdey black powder side-by-side built in the 1840s. The dealer only wanted $450, but I decided I didn’t necessarily want another gun to clean twice a year.

A new Purdey shotgun starts at $80,000, and used guns can fetch upwards of $20,000. That seems like a lot of money to me, at least. Anyway, Purdey’s email was interesting. They wrote that since England has stopped shooting lead shot, and even for clay target shooting, the country requires shooters to use non-toxic shot.

For what seems, at least to Purdey, a reasonable sum, they will test their shotguns to shoot the steel and other non-toxic shot now available. The early steel pellets tended to swell or otherwise damage older shotgun barrels, forcing older shooters with older shotguns to buy a more modern shotgun to shoot.

Purdey now offers a service to proof and clean older shotguns for the new required non-toxic shot. The only non-toxic shot that will be gentle enough for older guns is Bismuth, which is a bit lighter than lead but soft like lead. I’ve been shooting Bismuth in my old Parker shotguns for years, but the shot is expensive compared to lead. An 8-pound bag of Bismuth shot casts more than a 25-pound sack of lead shot. For those who don’t reload, five shot shells cost about what a box of 25 costs.

My friend, Todd, has already begun using non-toxic Bismuth reloads when hunting, not only ducks and other waterfowl, but also upland birds. He gave me a box to use this year to hunt pheasant, doves and grouse. I might as well start using the non-toxic pellets.

California already has non-toxic shot and even rifle bullets, and now England, so the writing’s on the wall. We’ll have to adjust.

Maybe, if we all have to use some type of non-toxic ammunition, the price should drop to a more manageable level.

If you want to know more about James Purdey and Sons, look on their website. They’ll also send you sale items, in case you’re interested. Recently, I saw a leather shotgun case for $1,100, and a small checked cotton shirt for $200.

They have some real nice silk neckties on sale for $600 with game birds printed on them, just in case you feel the need to wear a necktie while hunting.

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