"If you want to see some of the finest shotguns in the country, first you have to ask"
The narrow heart-pine stairs ascend above the bustle of the sporting goods store in Thomasville, Georgia, the scent of gun oil growing stronger with each squeaky step. It’s the last few wooden treads that seem to draw back time’s curtain. Antique European mounts come into view. There are polished wooden cases of sporting arms, and paintings and portraits hung floor to ceiling. Hunters and shooters climbing the last steps share a similar sense: This is hallowed ground.
Kevin Kelly understands the feeling. “There are only two Long Rooms on the planet,” he explains. “Purdey had the first. But this place is pretty special, too.”
For more than a century, the Long Room of James Purdey & Sons has anchored the gunmaker’s headquarters in London’s historic Audley House. The sprawling parlor began as part craftsman’s workbench and part sales counter to the world’s most discriminating shotgun buyers. Bespoke long arms were displayed on a massive leather-topped table, crusted with cigar smoke and sawdust. Shotguns crowded cases, their barrels rising up like the masts above the wharves of the nearby Thames. The Long Room became a spiritual center of fine shotgunning. “There’s a sense of place there that is very, very special,” Kelly says. “You feel like you have come to a Holy Grail in the gun business.”