Lovely Pair of James Purdey Gold Name Heavyguns Made for Neil Sheehan, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, Journalist and Receiver of Pentagon Papers With Case, Extra Stocks and Travel Cases

Premier Fine Art & Antiques Auction

August 29, 2023

Below is just a small portion of the massive selection of high quality art & antiques to be featured in our upcoming August 29th 2023 auction! This auction will span multiple genres of collectibles, including Fine Paintings & Art, Jewelry & Silver, Orientalia, Rare Glass & Lamps, Early & Victorian Furniture, Decoys, Carvings, Coin-Op, & MORE!

Lovely Pair of James Purdey Gold Name Heavyguns Made for Neil Sheehan, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, Journalist and Receiver of Pentagon Papers With Case, Extra Stocks and Travel Cases


Cal. 12 gauge, 2 3/4″
S# 29230/1 and 29230/2

Cornelius (Neil) Mahoney Sheehan (1936-2021) received a BA in history at Harvard University (cum laude) in 1958. He was in the Army until 1962 and then covered the war in Vietnam as UPI’s Saigon Bureau Chief. In 1966 he became the Pentagon correspondent. In 1971 he obtained the classified Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg and broke the well known story of America’s secret dealings in Vietnam. The New York Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the publication of this exposure.

Mr. Sheehan published his first book “The Arnheiter Affair” in 1972 and then started work on a book about John Paul Vann, an early Vietnam era hero. After a car accident and other reversals, his book “A Bright Shining Lie” was published in 1988 and received the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. Shortly after this, Mr. Sheehan ordered the first Purdey and had it paired in the mid ’90’s. He enjoyed shooting and made many trips to England.

These fine guns have 28″ chopper lump barrels with slightly raised narrow game ribs engraved “J. Purdey & Sons”, “Audley House South Audley Street. London. England.” on tops. Breech ends of ribs are gold inlaid either “1” or “2” with matching numbers on top levers and forend tips. Gun number “29230/1” has barrel flats stamped with 1990 London nitro proofs for 2 3/4” chambers at 850 bar. Bottoms of barrels are stamped with serial numbers and bottom of left barrel with makers initials “SW” (Sam Wood). Tube numbers “75593” and “75594” are on loop. Barrels of gun number “29230/2” were proofed in 1995 to the same specifications. Tube numbers are “77237” and “77238” and barrel makers initials are “RR”(Robin Roley). In order to formalize this later pairing, these guns were given the “/1” and “/2” designations.

Case hardened Beesley patent self opening sidelock actions are made with side clips and third fastener for enhanced strength and today is now only considered necessary for Express rifles. This is a fairly expensive option today, an ex Purdey worker has estimated this would add 25,000 pounds to each gun. Actions also feature automatic safeties (“SAFE” inlaid in gold), gold line tumbler end cocking indicators, bushed strikers and single non selective triggers. Actions and lock plates are engraved in Purdey House style rose and scroll. The execution of this engraving is very well done. This miniscule scroll is cleanly cut and nicely shaded. Another extra cost feature is the name “J. PURDEY & SONS” inlaid in gold on bottom of lock plates as well as on bottom of actions where followed by “LONDON: ENGLAND”. Blued top levers and small bow trigger guards are engraved with matching scroll, serial numbers are in gold on long trigger guard tangs. Fairly well matched, well marbled and lightly figured European walnut straight grip buttstocks measure 14 7/8” over dark brown pigskin leather covered pads.

Drop points are classically shaped, and usual well cut point pattern checkering is on semi diamond hands. Bottoms of stocks are inlet with gold ovals engraved “N.S”. Matching splinter ejector forends have Anson releases. Irons are also inlaid “1” and “2” in gold and actioner’s initials “IB(Ian Brunt)” are on gun number “/1”, and “PB”(Phil Butcher) are on gun number “/2”.

MEASUREMENTS: Gun number “/1”: Bore diameter: left – .725”, restriction: .016”(mod.) Bore diameter: right: .726”, restriction: .005”(IC). Wall thickness: left – .032”, right – .032”. DAH: 2 3/16”. DAC: 1 ½”. Cast: ½” on. Weight: 6 lbs., 15 oz. Gun number “/2”. Bore diameter: left – .725”, restriction: .016”(mod.) Bore diameter: right – .725”, restriction. 002”(IC). Wall thickness: left – .032”, right – .032”. DAH: 2 ¼”. DAC: 1 ½”. Cast: ½” on. Weight: 7 lbs.

Although made for a left handed shooter, triggers only have a slight turn and are essentially neutral and stocks could most likely be bent to accommodate a right handed shooter.

UNATTACHED ACCESSORIES: guns are housed in their original best tan leather case with leather trimmed canvas outer cover having snap closure, leather medallion on top of outer cover and top of case with circular brass medallion are both embossed “N.S.” Interior is lined in royal blue cloth and silver embossed black leather James Purdey label is in lid along with charge card for both guns. Bottom compartment is semi French fitted for both guns and barrels and contains cocobolo and brass two piece cleaning rod with mop, brush and jag, two rosewood handled turn screws and matching striker key, two pair of “PURDEY” marked snap caps, two striker bottles with spare strikers for each gun, “J. PURDEY & SONS” marked square oil bottle and a Purdey instruction booklet. Also included are extra stocks made by Paul Hodgins with recoil reducing “Soft Touch” butts, a pair of Brady leather and canvas slip cases embossed “N.S” on flaps and three Kalispel heavy duty aluminum travel cases. Guns are also accompanied by a Griffin & Howe appraisal dated March 10, 2022 for $140,000, Wikipedia information on Neil Shaheen and a copy of his prize winning book “A Bright Shining Lie”, First Edition, first English printing (1989). 


Share This Page