Bird hunting and guns are an intricate part of the southern lifestyle. Even though we’re dealing with triple-digit southern summers, it’s never to early to prepare for hunting season. Garden & Gun has provided us with a preview of gun shops worthy of a visit.
Some of the best shops in the South and beyond for the bird-gun enthusiast
In the hierarchy of Southern heirlooms, Granddaddy’s trusty side-by-side or pump—worn to a handsome patina—ranks right up there with the good silver. Made by venerable old brands the likes of Ithaca, Parker, and Winchester, these vintage bird guns were often bought in a local hardware or sporting-goods store—a neighborly trans-action played out amid the musky aromas of everyday hunting life and settled with the ring of a cash-register bell. Today, whether you’re in the market for a wing or a clays gun, there are still a handful of shops below the Mason-Dixon (and above) that are built around family hospitality, encyclopedic know-how, and, of course, dreamy shotgun collections.
Albright’s Gun Shop
Come goose and duck season on the Eastern Shore, the quaint village of Easton is flush with waterfowl enthusiasts, many of whom stop in Albright’s Gun Shop to browse the impressive outdoor inventory and swap stories. (Bonus for overnight sportsmen: Albright’s is right across from the historic Tidewater Inn, which is happy to welcome your gun dog during the season.) The shop opened in 1973, and it hasn’t changed much since. Larry Albright, the owner and a Maryland native, still employs a handful of locals who are nearly as steeped in Old Line waterfowl hunting traditions, upland birds, and sporting guns as their boss is. During one ninety-day season, Albright hunted on eighty-seven of those days. Inside his shop you’ll find new shotguns from popular brands such as Browning, Beretta, and Caesar Guerini in addition to vintage side-by-sides from Parker, W. J. Jeffery, and L.C. Smith. The guys behind the counter can set you up with a hunting guide or help you pick out a call made by local legend Sean Mann. There’s even an in-house gunsmith for that emergency repair after a morning on the Chesapeake. albrightsgunshop.com
The Beretta Gallery
The Beretta Gallery keeps good company in Dallas’s Highland Park Village, where its luxe neighbors include Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, and Chanel. And like its counterparts in New York and Memphis, the store is a showcase for the five-hundred-year-old brand’s fashion and technology vision. Although the gallery’s Vintage Collection of European-inspired hunting apparel conjures images of Downton Abbey, Beretta views the world through a modern lens. That forward thinking drives the materials and designs chosen for its shotguns. There are wide-ranging options in the Dallas gun room, from the A400 Xplor Action semi-automatic to the 690 Field III to the mind-blowing SO Sparviere, Beretta’s gullwing over-and-under, with sideplates that open out to divulge mechanics of Swiss-watch precision. Gun fittings and gunsmithing are also available on-site. “It’s definitely a destination,” says the manager, Colleen Tishlias. “We carry luxury items that our online store doesn’t.” beretta.com/en-us/store/dallas-gallery
Vero Beach, Florida
You could say Hal du Pont was born into the firearms business. His ancestor E. I. du Pont de Nemours—founder of the chemical giant DuPont—got his start with a French gunpowder mill in 1802. More than a century and a half later, Hal opened his lavishly stocked Vero Beach shotgun shop and for nearly sixty years worked to establish the premium German gun maker Krieghoff as one of the dominant names in American clays shooting. Today, the shop is run by Hal’s daughters, Kemble du Pont and Virginia du Pont Whitehouse, who took over when their father retired in 2013. The store’s well-appointed gun room, called the Vault, displays the world’s largest collection of new and used Krieghoffs, ranging in price from about $6,000 to $195,000—some etched with Bavarian game scenes by the master engraver Gregor Stoegner, whose deep-reliefs embody the German style, others with contemporary fiery scrolls. “Our variety of custom-engraved Krieghoffs is one of the things that set our gun room apart from other dealers,” Kemble says. And if your aim needs work, ask her for a few pointers. She cinched a spot this year on the Krieghoff All-American Team. dupontkguns.com
J.E. Cauthen & Sons, LTD. Fine Sporting Arms, Art & Collectibles
Jim Cauthen is an oil-and-gas guy from Midland, Texas, with an affinity for fine shotguns. His wife, Brenda, is an interior designer who collects all manner of antiques. The pair fell in love with Fredericksburg, Texas. So, of course, the logical next step was to combine their passions by purchasing a rugged rock house (circa 1877) downtown, renovating it, and, in December 2012, opening the museum-quality J.E. Cauthen & Sons. The Cauthens typically stock some ninety investment-grade new and preowned shotguns, such as a sensuous Abbiatico & Salvinelli round body, a stunning Perazzi SCO grade in highly desirable .410, and a knockout Piotti BSEE side-by-side. They also carry Holland & Holland apparel, William Henry pocketknives, and a selection of army-issue Colt revolvers dating back as far as the 1800s. But next to the shotguns, the big draw here is the Cauthens’ collection of sporting art by such notables as Bill Anton, Robert Abbett, and Eldridge Hardie. jecauthen.com
Antiques and sporting art mingle with fine shotguns.
From left: Gleaming wood gun case; Jim and Brenda Cauthen outside their shop; antique leather chairs flank a restored stone hearth. (Photographs by Tyler Sharp)
Joseph’s Vintage Guns
Four generations of the Joseph family have done business on Morton Street in Richmond, Texas. In 2011, Michael Joseph took the reins, and today, Joseph’s is a historic mash-up of his family’s retail endeavors. His father held a coffee club at the store, and when you enter, you can enjoy pastries or panini at the coffee bar before you shop. Grandfather Emil sold cigars, guns, and ammunition, so Joseph’s has a walk-in humidor and cigar lounge. When it comes to guns, though, Michael is passionate about English side-by-sides. Through relationships with Holland & Holland and Purdey, he can easily order you a new bespoke shotgun from across the pond. Or you can shop the wide selection of used side-by-sides, including models from E. J. Churchill, W. W. Greener, or a 12-gauge William Cashmore hammer gun. josephsvintageguns.com
Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel
David Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch may have introduced the concept of an upscale sporting goods store in New York back in 1892, but with a healthy dose of Southern hospitality and service, Kathleen and Kevin Kelly have perfected the notion at Kevin’s Fine Outdoor Gear & Apparel, with locations in Tallahassee, Florida, and Thomasville. The Kellys purchased the 1885 saloon that houses the Thomasville flagship in the late 1990s. The original brick interior conveys hunting lodge meets Southern manse, stocked with clothing, sporting gear, furniture, art, and a beautiful collection of shotguns, which includes Kevin’s Plantation series. Made in Italy, the break-open shotguns, developed by Kevin and his team, come in popular gauges and configurations with a starting price around $7,500. This year, Kevin is introducing three new models to the series, including the Golden Quail, a 20-gauge over-and-under with a bright coin finish that starts at $2,195. The store is taking preorders for fall delivery. If you’re looking for a true collector’s gun, wrangle an invitation to the upstairs gun room (similar to the one in Purdey’s of London), where several hundred best-in-class firearms reside. The staircase is narrow and rickety, but once you reach the heart-pine inner sanctum, it won’t be the climb that leaves you breathless. kevinscatalog.com
Steve Barnett Fine Guns
West Point, Mississippi
You might not expect to discover one of the South’s most impressive shotgun collections in an old jewelry store on Commerce Street in sleepy West Point, Mississippi. During thirty-two years in the trade, Steve Barnett has built a network of insiders who help source his first-class catalogue of more than a thousand gorgeous high-end shotguns. A Fabbri 28-gauge costs $125,000. A pair of David McKay Browns sells for $79,500. And a Purdey hammer gun from 1881 sold for $45,000. But if you want a vintage bird gun on a budget, Barnett has plenty to offer, too. And if you’re into antiquing, the shop is crammed with old furniture, period art, and sporting bric-a-brac. Visit Barnett by appointment only. stevebarnettfineguns.com
From left: An engraved F. Lli Rizzini R1E; vintage shotguns and sporting art; a display of high-grade Browning Belgium shotguns. (Photographs by Graham Yelton)