Making His Case

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

Marvin Huey lives in Kansas City, on a typical mid-town street in a common 1930s-style bungalow that is characteristic of his neighborhood. Even Huey, himself, seems rather mid-America average: ex-Marine, 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, 50ish, soft-spoken.

But there is an uncommon side to this Norman Rockwell picture that would probably astonish his neighbors. Huey has distinguished himself like no other in the world by becoming a craftsman to presidents, kings and other assorted world aristocracy. His clientele are the rich and, sometimes, the famous.

Huey is the foremost maker of cases and trunks for shooting arms. The average cost of the firearm that goes into one of his cases is about $25,000. Nor will a Huey gun case come cheap. In fact, the typical hunter doesn't spend as much for a gun as Huey commands for one of his custom cases.

"If you've got a collectible gun," says Bob Lockett, a midwest gun dealer, "and it's not in a Huey case, then it's just another gun."

The process begins with the best possible materials. Ozark ash. Mahogany plywood. Solid brass. Ebony and horn. Rich, wool billiard felt or Ultrasuede. Four-ounce top-grain leather. These are the basics that go into world-class cases, but there are customers who prefer theirs a tad more custom.

One person had a case designed to look like a book. Another had Huey design a case for his .38-caliber pistol to look like a tiny coffin. The accompanying accessories were a small vial of holy water and silver bullets. The man explained that it was a vampire gun. There is a bidding war currently going on in Europe for the package.

"I guess the fanciest job I've done was for a .470 Purdey Nitro," Huey says. "I covered it in elephant hide."

But whether it's elephant hide or leather, ivory or horn, the materials are only part of the formula. It's the way Huey weaves his elements together that makes a case unique. Everything fits perfectly together.

"I started out repairing cases," he explains. "I'd have to take them apart to fix them and as a result I discovered how they were made."

Then, the finest cases were made by the English, but by closely studying the strengths and weaknesses of their methods Huey has been able to refine the trade even more.

"The English case makers usually work from templates of guns, not the actual guns themselves. Most of their cases are partitioned and, as a result, the

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