Making His Case

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

fit does not have to be exact. But I wanted French fitting, where there are no partitions and the contours are followed exactly. I cut from the exact tracing of the gun that will go into the case. Using the actual gun is one of my secrets ... that and experience."

Almost all of his cases have French and English fittings. "Don't misunderstand, the English fitting isn't sloppy, it's just not as precise."

A closer look inside one of Huey's cases reveals his methods: accessories and custom-made tools usually contained within the French fitting with the actual gun resting snugly in either French or English partition fittings. There are also polished wood top partitions, a technique that hasn't been seen since the flintlock era in the late 18th century. A lot of customers also bring accessories to be fitted in and around their guns. Huey has designed schemes that include pocket watches, flasks, hunting knives and handcuffs.

Huey first makes his cuts in plywood, using a jigsaw to outline the gun, barrels or scopes. He then painstakingly lines the cutout with felt or Ultrasuede to form an exact inlay. This fit is so precise that before the gun settles into its berth, it is momentarily held up as the air oozes out around the bed. This interior then slips precisely into the case frame. The ensuing days are spent lining the lid, fitting hardware, polishing and lacquering. One of the final labors is placing brass plates with serial numbers on the outside.

Horace Greeley, Jr. owns case No. 284 (one of a dozen). The Sultan of Brunai has No. 366. Numbers 600, 648 and 707 belong to former president George Bush.

The story goes that the president first discovered Huey's handiwork when he was given a finely engraved over-and-under shotgun in the Oval Office. The famous shotgun manufacturer wanted to make sure its gun was properly presented so it spared no expense and commissioned the Kansas City case maker. But when company officials handed the package to the President, he removed the gun, put it aside and examined the case instead. Shortly thereafter, he ordered two more of the cases.

Huey has been building his world-class cases for about 18 years. He started out as a bank investigator before becoming a stained-glass artist and finally a case maker. "I left the bank in 1969, bought some bell bottoms and let my hair grow out," he says.

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