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Hemingway's Guns: The Sporting Arms of Ernest Hemingway Hardcover – November 16, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


This intriguing book is effectively a biography of Ernest Hemingway, told through his extensive collection of shotguns, rifles and pistols. Unsurprisingly for a man who served in the First World War and was an embedded reporter during the Second World War, Hemingway's life was one of excitement and action. The tree authors reveal Hemingway owned many guns, which in many ways defined his life and death. For example, an early anecdote informs the reader Hemingway was taught to shoot when he was just two-and-a-half years old, and was able to shot a pistol by the time he was four. Though written for the American market, those with an interest in firearms of all types and the man himself will find much of interest within these 184 pages. There are over 100 0photographs of Hemingway, his family and his collection from various archives, including some particularly hair-raising photographs of the great author shooting cigarettes from his associates' mouths and hands with rifles. (Shooting Gazette)

About the Author

A writer, editor and publisher for more than 30 years, Silvio Calabi lives on the coast of Maine and hunts around the world.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Down East Books (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892727209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892727209
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.6 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a lifelong Hemingway buff, I really looked forward to reading this book, and of course, the touts in the gun magazines (the guys who never tested a gun they didn't like and recommend) can't praise it enough. Unfortunately, in the first 41 pages, there occur two major errors about Hemingway's life...things that anyone who had examined that life in any degree of detail would know better.

First, the authors include John Steinbeck in the Lost Generation gathered in Paris in the twenties. He wasn't there. Steinbeck himself, in his landmark work, "Travels with Charley (in Search of America)" discusses what he was up to "when others were being a Lost Generation in Paris." It seems Steinbeck was in California attempting to learn the writing trade, and he did, as evidenced by the publication of "Cannery Row." This is something that any sophomore English major would know and certainly should exist in the knowledge base of some one holding themselves out as knowing anything much about Hemingway.

Later on, the writers state that Hemingway's Idaho "gang"...folks he hunted and partied with in Sun Vally...included Clark Gable. It didn't. Though the "gang" numbered some pretty tony company - folks like Gary Cooper, Anna Roosevelt, Ingrid Bergman, etc. - Gable was never a part of it. There is a Lloyd Arnold photo in "High on the Wild with Hemingway" of son Jack on the slopes at Sun Valley with Gable and others. But at the time it was taken, in 1944, Papa was off covering the allies' landing in Europe when he wasn't a clandestine participant in it.
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Format: Hardcover
Hemingway's guns is well written and informative, both about Hemingway himself and about his guns, as well as about guns in general. Each chapter is about a gun or related group of guns, from .22 Woodsman pistols to a Thompson sub-machine gun. For strictly literary people, the technical terms are sometimes confusing but more often are clearly explained. The terminology should be familiar for people experienced with firearms. By the same token, those who are more interested in the history of firearms than in Hemingway should not be confused about the particulars of his life referenced in each chapter. Indeed, this book contains the only credible discussion I have ever read regarding the infamous shotgun with which Hemingway sadly ended his own life. The black and white photographs (which are for the most part not the typical reruns from so many other books about Hemingway) and the often extensive captions are very helpful. The biggest surprise for me was how much I learned (and how interesting it was) about the history of firearms technology, inventors/engineers, and manufacturers--kind of a social history of the gun. A bibliography is included, and the volume is handsomely printed and bound. I found one proofreading error and one book in the bibliography mistakenly attributed to Carlos Baker. Overall an impressively researched and executed book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whatever one might think of Hemingway it can't be denied that he was one of the literary giants of the mid-20th century. Love him or hate him he left his mark. His legacy is still felt today despite the efforts of some to disparage him and his writing.

Though I've never been a fan of Hemingway or his writing I've always had something of a passing interest in him and his pursuits. Perhaps it's because I am an Idahoan and Hemingway is so intertwined with my state's history. Perhaps because in spite of myself there is just something about his life that just interests me.

Hemingway was a wealthy man. His wealth allowed him to live a life of leisure and the freedom to pursue whatever interested him. Among those interests was deep sea fishing,firearms and big game hunting. So not only did Hemingway write about the adventurous life he lived it. Not surprisingly he was an avid gun collector and owned (possibly) hundreds if firearms during his lifetime.

The authors have attempted to track the better known of the many firearms that Hemingway owned and used throughout the course of his life. Since it is believed that he probably owned several hundred firearms during his 60 (+) years they have chosen to look at approximately 20 (give or take a few) of those firearms. The ones that he wrote about, was photographed using, others remembered him using etc. Each chapter covers Hemingway's use as well as a history of the respective models and the companies that made them.

If at all possible the authors have determined what happened to those individual firearms. Sometimes they found them (such as Hemingway's famous .577 Nitro double barrel rifle) and sometimes the firearms have been lost forever (such as Hemingway's Thompson sub-machine gun).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Overall, I enjoyed Hemingway's Guns, and would recommend it. However, since the authors took time to provide instances of Hemingway referencing various models of guns, likely similar models to what he himself owned and used,to add authenticity to his works, and to show his love of fine firearms, they totally forgot Hemingway's most memorable short story character, Nick Adams. It is believed by many that many of Nick Adams'experiences were drawn from Hemingway's own. While the exact make and model of the firearms may not be given in the Nick Adams stories, Hemingway obviously felt it important enough to include them, as to add authenticity and to highlight his love of shooting, hunting and the guns of such.

The authors devoted an entire chapter to the Colt Woodsman pistols. While the specific model, Colt Woodsman, is not given, they surely missed the boat when they could have at least alluded to the Nick Adams short story, Big Two Hearted River. In it, Nick recalls a .22 caliber Colt automatic pistol, given to him by his friend Hop. I would bet that Hemingway had the Colt Woodsman model pistol in mind when Nick recalls his friend Hop.
Just as Nick did, Hemingway took to the Michigan northwoods, with some of his young friends following his return from WW I. He may not have been alone, in that instance, but as Nick did, perhaps he journeyed alone, at some other time.

Lastly, since they took great pains to point out Hemingway's lifelong love of bird hunting and pigeon shooting competition, and his mastery of the Winchester Model 12, it would have been insightful to include a quote from the Nick Adams short story, Fathers and Sons, "When you have shot one bird flying you have shot all birds flying. They are all different and they fly in different ways but the sensation is the same and the last one is as good as the first." This about sums it up for all of us who love bird hunting and wingshooting, as I think Hemingway meant it to, for himself.
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