The Guns that Shaped Hemingway’s Writing and Life


Ernest Hemingway is a captivating individual – in addition to the praise bestowed on him for his writing, his life was particularly eventful.

He reported on different conflicts, pursued dangerous animals, became proficient in fishing, engaged in boxing, and supposedly even launched a hand grenade into the cellar full of Nazis.

He has been the topic of ongoing dialogue and analysis countless times and is among the most examined individuals of the last century. This examination showcases a highly intricate individual from a complicated period.

Hemingway enjoyed hunting and firing guns and had several weapons throughout his life. He did not enjoy collecting items. Instead, he favored using them and looked for more useful weapons than decorative or valuable ones.

Today we are examining some of Hemingway’s weapons.

The Guns of Ernest Hemingway

Beretta SO3

black semi automatic pistol with white smoke

Regarding the production of superior-quality over-and-under shotguns, Beretta is one of the foremost names in the industry. It was expected for Hemingway, someone who was passionate about bird hunting, to be in possession of one.

The Model SO3 had the Executive Monoblock craftsmanship, a durable one-part receiver crafted out of a single block of metal in the form of a shotgun.

Despite its impressive title, the design was unusually light for guns of its type at the time. These guns can be used for a long time because they were made to withstand being fired many times.

According to the company, the barrels on Beretta weapons are put together and polished by hand, leading to higher velocity and penetration of pellets. Beretta employed Italian walnut to make the stocks, which were then manually polished and glossy to achieve a truly beautiful look.

Hemingway was asked to join a duck-shooting expedition in Venice, but he did not have a suitable weapon. He fixed the problem by getting a Beretta SO3 for the hunting trip.

In December of 1949, he stumbled across a magnificent Beretta in Venice and kept it until the end of his life. Mary Hemingway relocated the gun to Abercombie and Fitch, which is currently situated at the Beretta Gallery.

Thompson M1921

Switching from a classic shotgun to a Thompson machine gun offers a considerable difference.

Ernest Hemingway was known for his courageousness, and what could be more daring than a Thompson Submachinegun?

Early guns like these were known for their striking navy blue color, beautiful wooden parts, and the classic handgrip at the front, which is often called the “gangster grip.” Earlier, Thompsons had a firing rate much greater than the later variants – capable of firing as many as 800 rounds of .45 ACP in one minute.

Hemingway’s M1921 Thompson had old-fashioned cooling fins and a well-made block rear sight, but the Cutt didn’t have a compensator.

It is said that he won the gun in a bet with the wealthy William B. Leeds.

Although Ernest Hemingway was a hunter, the Thompson machine gun was not made for hunting purposes; however, this did not hinder him from treating it as a hunting weapon.

He is said to have had the gun on his boat when he went fishing near Cuba and used it to shoot at sharks that were after the big marlin. Pictures of Hemingway often feature the Thompson, usually in locations near or on the ocean.

Unfortunately, no one knows where his Thompson is because history has forgotten about it.

The Westley Richards .577 Nitro Express

If you are a person of large stature and are hunting for large animals, you must have a firearm that is powerful and sizeable.

For Hemingway, the Westley Richards .577 Nitro Express double-barreled firearm provided him with contentment.

Westley Richard’s weapons were well-known for being used by prominent big game seekers, for example, Captain James Sutherland, 

who authored the book The Adventures of an Elephant Hunter in 1912.

These double rifles gave shooters two barrels, making it possible for them to shoot two powerful shots in rapid succession to take down hazardous animals.

The .577 Nitro Express propulsion pushes a 750-grain bullet at higher than 2,000 feet per second. They delivered a force of 7,000 foot-pounds in order to be able to effectively take down big animals such as elephants. The British people utilized these weapons against the Germans during WW1 to cut through the metal armor of that time.

Ernest Hemingway brought along a gun on his various excursions, including his renowned submarine tracking mission close to Cuba.

When tracking an animal that is massive in size, it is essential to ensure that your gun is reliable. The powerful kickback of dangerous ammunition will warp, snap, and split any weapon that is imperfect in the slightest.

Westley Richards’s weapons were of the highest quality in terms of craftsmanship. In addition to being strong, their guns feature lovely wooden elements and intricately detailed metal scrollwork. Every rifle is carefully made in limited quantities, even today.

When you check one out, it’s understandable why Hemingway would opt for the Westley Richards compared to all the other large caliber rifles accessible during that time.

Winchester Model 12

It is difficult to ascertain what Ernest Hemingway’s top gun selection would be, but if faced with a decision, I would bet on his Winchester Model 12.

It is said that he bought the gun when he was still young and kept it until the end of his life. He was very attached to his Model 12 and was believed to have had several of them over the course of his life.

The Model 12 was designed as an upgrade from the Model 1897. This gun featured an enclosed hammer and streamlined design. This weapon gained a reputation for its high standard, swift action, dependability, and ease of functioning.

The Model 12 was lauded as an ideal repeat shooter, setting the bar for pump-action firearms. Right up to the present time, the impact of the Model 12 on firearms such as the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 is still evident.

Ernest Hemingway was particularly fond of the Model 12 shotgun, which featured a 30-inch tube and a choke that was fully tightened.

He brought it along wherever he went, from Cuba to Africa. He followed an injured leopard into the shrubbery and brought a Winchester Model 12 along with him.

He spoke fondly about what he referred to as his “old, well-loved, once burnt up, three times restocked, worn smooth old Winchester Model 12 pump gun”. He stated that after thirty-five years of being together, it was like an intimate friend and confidante, only he and it knowing the secrets of their lives and the successes and failures they encountered.

As indicated in Hemingway’s Guns, the famous Model 12 was purchased by a college student for $35, yet its subsequent ownership is unknown and shrouded in mystery.

Hemingway and World War I

Ernest Hemingway decided to enlist in the American Red Cross to drive an ambulance during the First World War in Italy. While operating a moving canteen distributing chocolate and cigarettes to military personnel in June of 1918, he was harmed by Austrian shelling. He remembered a sudden, brilliant light that appeared like when a smelting door was opened, accompanied by a loud noise that started quietly and then gradually got louder. In the letter he wrote home, he shared this recollection.

Although he wounded himself, Hemingway assisted a hurt Italian soldier in reaching safety, only to be shot again by a machine gun. He was rewarded for his courageousness with the Silver Medal of Valor from the Italian authorities – being among the initial Americans to get this honor.

Many years after having gone to war, Hemingway described it in Men at War as having felt a great sense of invincibility. Other people get killed, not you. When you experience injury for the first time, you learn that it can happen to anyone and this destroys the illusion that nothing bad will ever happen to you. I was grievously hurt two weeks prior to my nineteenth birthday and had a rough go of things until I concluded that all that was happening to me had happened to other people in the past. Men had always taken care of whatever I had to do. If they had achieved it, I could likewise do it, and it was best not to stress over it.

Hemingway spent six months in a hospital in Milan to get better. During that time, he fell in love with an American Red Cross nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky. When the conflict was done, he came back to his abode in Oak Park, Illinois, significantly altered. He saw things from a different point of view after he traveled, fought, and had romantic relationships. Even though his time in the war had changed him a lot, the same town was there to greet him when he got back.

In two stories that were written later, the author gives details about what it’s like to come home from the military and what it’s like for a veteran to make the change. Howard Krebs arrives home from Europe after a lot of his fellow soldiers have already returned. He was unable to reunite with those he had been separated from after missing the celebratory ceremonies, particularly his mother, who could not comprehend the ways in which his experience in the conflict shifted him.

“Hemingway’s great war work deals with the aftermath,” stated author Tobias Wolff at the Hemingway centennial celebration. “It deals with what happens to the soul in war and how people deal with that afterward. The problem that Hemingway sets for himself in stories like ‘Soldier’s Home’ is the difficulty of telling the truth about what one has been through. He knew about his difficulty in doing that.”

After living with his parents for a while and finding out that Agnes had feelings for someone else, he left with two companions to his family’s summer home in Michigan, which was where he first learned how to hunt and fish when he was a child. This journey could be traced back to the beginning of Big Two-Hearted River. It features Nick Adams, one of Hemingway’s most popular fictional personalities, who has recently come back from fighting in the war while going fishing in Michigan’s northern region.

Hemingway never says directly what Nick went through in the war or how badly it hurt him, but the war and Nick’s injuries are always there. In his first major collection of stories, In Our Time, Hemingway not only progresses the plot but introduces a fresh style of writing fiction.

“The way we write about war or even think about the war was affected fundamentally by Hemingway,” stated Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., another speaker at the Hemingway centennial. In the early 1920s, in reaction to their experience of world war, Hemingway and other modernists lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilization. One of those institutions was literature itself. Nineteenth-century novelists were prone to a florid and elaborate style of writing. Hemingway, using a distinctly American vernacular, created a new style of fiction “in which meaning is established through dialogue, through action, and silences—a fiction in which nothing crucial—or at least very little—is stated explicitly.”

“Hemingway was at the crest of a wave of modernists,” noted fellow centennial panelist and book critic Gail Caldwell, “that were rebelling against the excesses and hypocrisy of Victorian prose. The First World War is the watershed event that changed world literature as well as how Hemingway responded to it.”

World War II and Its Aftermath

In 1942, Hemingway said yes to taking charge of the editing of Men at War, a compilation of the top war stories ever written. Hemingway said at the beginning of the piece that the Germans’ lack of success in the war wasn’t because they were too strong or special in any way. They are efficient experts in combat who have dispensed with all antiquated views and who have perfected the most sensible utilization of arms and strategies. We can begin to take control if no outdated ideas related to the previous war are influencing the leadership.

Hemingway did not take a passive stance while dwelling in Cuba when World War II began; instead, he assumed the responsibility of patrolling the Caribbean seas in search of German U-boats, not adhering to old conventional methods. The Hemingway Collection includes a plethora of documents from his yacht Pilar’s daily log as well as typewritten reports to regional military administration expressing the detail in which he noted his observations and shared them with US intelligence authorities.

He went back to Europe in 1944 to observe important events of World War II, such as the D-day arrival. At the age of 44, a comparison between a photograph of the individual’s Certificate of Identity of Noncombatant and the portrait of him when he had volunteered in World War I at 19 shows just how much the esteemed writer had achieved over those 25 years.

Hemingway was there as US forces moved toward Omaha Beach, but since he was a reporter and not a soldier, he was not allowed to get off the ship. Several weeks after his departure, he rejoined the 22nd Regiment, led by Colonel, in Normandy. Charles “Buck” Lanham was heading towards Paris, where he was later able to experience the liberation and write about it. Prior to this, Hemingway initiatively, albeit controversially, gathered military information in the town of Rambouillet and, under the military agreement, joined in the fight himself with a small group of irregular fighters.

Based on the writings of World War II scholar Paul Fussell, Hemingway encountered difficulties while acting as a captain to a group of resistance fighters, despite doing a good job. This was because a war correspondent is not allowed to head up soldiers.