This article ran in The Tribune on April 21, 2005.
Visitors to Ed Weatherby's Atascadero office get the tangible version of what's found in the book "Weatherby. The Man. The Gun. The Legend."
After stepping through the doors on El Camino Real, they are greeted by glass cases filled with elaborately engraved prototypes, racks filled with shotguns and walls decorated with celebrity photos and mounted animal heads.
It's a showroom meant -- like the biography of Roy Weatherby -- to communicate the history and reputation of Weatherby firearms.
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Company president Roy "Ed" Weatherby Jr. has it on good authority that it's working.
"We had some people here from Sweden who said they wanted to stop here at the showroom and at Hearst Castle, " Weatherby said.
Much of the memorabilia on display in the showroom dates to when Ed's father ran the company, evidence that when he took over Weatherby in 1986, the job came with necessary innovations, famous patrons -- and a big shadow.
The shadow was cast by Roy Weatherby -- a man who 60 years ago built a world-renowned empire from tenant farm beginnings.
Kansas-native Roy Weatherby started the company in Los Angeles with the belief that small, fast-moving bullets had more killing power than heavy, slow-moving ones.
The idea was novel at the time, and Weatherby capitalized on it.
Tenant farming was a thing of the past.
Before he died in 1988, thousands of customers a year turned to Weatherby Inc. for high-quality, high-performance guns.
Since taking the company reins and moving the business to Atascadero 15 years ago, Ed Weatherby has stepped out of his father's shadow and has his own successes and his own prominent clientele.
"I've introduced a lot more new products and been more aggressive than my father about bringing out those new products, " Weatherby said, noting the popularity of a half-dozen models spun off the Vanguard rifle.
But hunting is not the popular, everyman sport it was when Roy Weatherby went into business. And Ed Weatherby has looked for ways to modernize.
This includes introducing synthetic (nonwood) gun stocks, developing the conservation-focused Weatherby Foundation and designing a gun that comes with two sized stocks -- a "grow into" gun for youth.
"Hunting is a shrinking and, at best, stable sport, " Weatherby said. "It certainly isn't like it was when my father started. Hunting was (seen as a) very romantic, adventurous sport.
"There were a lot of actors involved in it, " he added, pointing to early customers such as Gary Cooper and John Wayne. "Probably today, it's the exception rather than the rule."
But that doesn't mean Weatherby has not had his share of famous run-ins.
In 1990, he built a custom shotgun for then-President George H.W. Bush and presented it to him in the White House Oval Office.
Last year, Weatherby built a very similar over-and-under shotgun for President Bush. He presented the embellished gun -- complete with presidential and Texas state seals -- to the president at his Crawford, Texas, ranch.
Photos of both encounters are displayed on the company's Web site and in its 2005 catalog.
Through the website, catalog and a list of authorized dealers, about 50,000 Weatherby units are sold around the world each year.
Visit the Weatherby Inc. website at http://www.weatherby.com.