Beretta is Madison Avenue’s stalwart sportsman shop
“Forty years ago, through the 1950s and ‘60s, there were 40 guns stores on the island of Manhattan. Now there is one. And that one is us.”– Ian Harrison, Director of Gallery Guns
Walking through the gilded doors of the Beretta Gallery, stepping off the concrete and shutting the hustle and bustle of Madison Avenue behind you, you enter another world. Frankly, you enter another era. Trophy heads are mounted around the lofted ceiling. There are rows upon rows of beautiful tweed coats and brightly hued, silk ties. Pewter mugs and rattan picnic baskets beckon your eye. It smells of cloth and leather, and just the faintest hint of something else. Steel. A staircase pulls you up through the late 1800s building to the prize possessions in this endangered shop––bespoke and ready-to-fire elite guns.
Welcome to the last premium gun store in Manhattan. Welcome to Beretta’s New York gallery, where you can hold Ernest Hemingway’s shotgun, outfit yourself from pheasant to big game safari, and even purchase a truly bespoke, custom long gun for yourself.
Beretta opened their store on Madison Avenue in 1995. From the outset, the famed Italian sporting company worked to create an experience rather than a shop. There’s a museum quality to the store, and even if you aren’t a hunter, you could spend a half-hour here, flipping through an array of hardback coffee table books, taking in the second-floor oil paintings, gazing up at the ducks on the wing or down at a polished ostrich egg. It’s like stepping into a Wilbur Smith novel or the set of an Indiana Jones film.
Or, perhaps, Hemingway’s favorite shop. They’ve got his SO3 rifle, after all, in a case upstairs. “He used to shoot ducks on the canals of Venice with it,” Director of Gallery Guns, Ian Harrison says, “and, like a lot of things in his life, he broke it. You can see the crack on the fore end.”
Papa’s shotgun is not for sale, but creating your own legacy in a fine firearm that would garner attention, as well as become a heritage, handed-down family heirloom, is on the docket. It’s the focus of the family of staff behind the New York shop. “Madison Avenue has always been a higher-end shopping destination,” continues Harrison, who looks every part the polished sportsman, in a linen jacket with rows of shotguns and rifles organized behind him. “But this street and New York City have changed a lot in the last several decades. When we were looking to insert ourselves into the marketplace of Manhattan in 1995, Madison Avenue was the street where premium, European brands were, and still are. However, in terms of buying a bespoke gun here in the city, we are the last of a dying breed.”
Beretta is far from the danger of dying out, however. The shop has become a true destination for those who love to hunt. “I’d say our main customer is the sportsman,” Harrison says. “It’s the older gentleman, with disposable income, who knows about the finer things in life. But we are more than happy to outfit anyone, from the younger generation starting out to our female clientele.”
You could easily spend six figures on a bespoke rifle or shotgun inside. Ed Anderson is their gunsmith. He’s also a professional marksman like Harrison and has been working at Beretta for more than 20 years. He and Harrison work in tandem to ensure that every gun is fitted to the person seeking it out. “Back in the day,” says Harrison, “a man would purchase a gun and fit his style of shooting and his body to that gun. That’s how you shot decades ago. We don’t look at it like that. Our customers come in, and we make the gun for them. We create the perfect fit for the individual.”
The customer who wants the bespoke, beautiful, hunting outfitter experience comes here from as far as Georgia, California, and Texas. Appointments can take hours or even a full day. “We cannot shoot here, but we do statistic pointing,” says Ed Anderson. “And, for the customer creating something on the higher end, we can take a trip about an hour-and-a-half north and make a day of it. We take a few guns up, do a proper fitting out in the field and then come back and recap at the store.”
This last gun shop in Manhattan is well-located for these day excursions, too. The private reserves and clubs north of the city are still plentiful, as is grouse and pheasant and shockingly beautiful, green countryside.
The guns are made entirely in Italy, and take about eight weeks, start-to-finish. In terms of selection, they have nearly every gun built by Beretta in the shop, with the exception of handguns, which they do not sell. However, you could find yourself a very pretty, $400 rifle. They stock Sako and Tikka, too, which are incredible rifles made in Finland.
The shop enjoys a loyal following, and newer clientele in need of a quick fix for a broken rifle will find there’s a pecking order and a wait list. Guns crafted in Italy, by hand, with painstaking engraving and custom-built barrels? Well, those things––like all good things––take time.
“We are unique not only for what we offer but for who we employ. There’s almost no one left like Ed Anderson,” says Harrison, looking warmly at his colleague. “The art of being a true gunsmith… making and repairing guns today is an art that’s being lost. There are people out there who can manufacture something from a machine and put the parts from that machine together. What we do here is just different. It’s hand-crafted in every sense of what that word means.”