Story Slim Smith | Photograph Micah Green
The only thing that prevents Steve Barnett’s business from being a museum instead of a shop is a sign on the door at his location on Commerce Street in downtown West Point.
It reads: “By Appointment Only.”
It is not as though Barnett isn’t an affable country boy from Georgia. Certainly, he takes great pride in his shop, which likely is the largest, best collection of rare guns in Mississippi, if not the South.
It’s just that Barnett, 56, has a business to run, with an international clientele and a thriving online trade, which accounts for 99 percent of his sales.
In short, he has no time for the curious, the gawkers, the window-shoppers.
It is understandable why folks would want to come in just to look around, though. The shop, formerly a jewelry store, is packed with hundreds of guns, along with hunting trophies that tell the story of hunting expeditions around the world — lions, bears, water buffalo, exotic species of deer, waterfowl, etc.
“Every day, just about, somebody will come by, try the door, ring the bell, knock on the door,” said Barnett, who moved to West Point from Cummings, Ga., 14 years ago, soon after marrying a Mississippi girl. “Most of the time, if they’re polite about it, I’ll let them in. Mostly, of course, they just come in and look around. I don’t do hardly any business from walk-ins.”
One look at the inventory at Steve Barnett Fine Guns and it’s easy to understand why.
The price range?
“Oh, anywhere from $1,000 to $300,000 or more,” Barnett said, matter-of-factly.
Indeed. The most expensive item is a two-gun set of shotguns manufactured by James Purdey & Sons of London, est. 1814, and it’s for sale for $350,000.
Although some of the guns in his shop are antiques dating to the 1800s, many are new models produced by such companies as Purdey or Holland and Holland, also of London.
“They may only produce about 300 guns a year,” Barnett said. “So they are definitely rare.”
Given the cost, these are the kinds of guns most people would only see at a museum.
“You definitely won’t see any of these guns in a pawn shop,” he said.