Hemingway's Suicide Gun

Photo courtesy of John F. Kennedy Library

A new book takes a closer look at the evolution of a legendary sportsman

When Ernest Hemingway took his own life on July 2, 1961, it was reported in Life magazine that he had done so with a “double-barreled shotgun.” Further reports specified the gun was a Boss that he had purchased from Abercrombie & Fitch, and for years this has been widely accepted as fact. But a fascinating new book, Hemingway’s Guns, by Silvio Calabi, Steve Helsley, and Roger Sanger (Shooting Sportsman Books), makes the case that Hemingway never owned a Boss, and that the suicide gun was actually made by W. & C. Scott & Son. It was Hemingway’s pigeon gun, a long-barreled side-by-side that traveled with him from shooting competitions in Cuba to duck hunts in Italy to a safari in East Africa. By all accounts it was a favorite.

Not long after that tragic day in Ketchum, Idaho, the gun was given to a local welder to be destroyed. “The stock was smashed and the steel parts cut up with a torch,” the authors write. “The mangled remnants were then buried in a field.” Roger Sanger visited the welding shop, which is still in business and being run by the grandson of the original proprietor. Amazingly, the welder still had a few pieces of the gun in a matchbox, and Sanger’s immediate reaction to the evidence was, “This is no Boss.” After showing pictures to a number of experts and collectors, he confirmed that it was most likely Hemingway’s beloved W. & C. Scott that had been the suicide gun.

Hemingway’s Guns has many more revelations, and it says a lot about a man who spent much of his life in the company of firearms, from the Markham King air rifle he was given at age 5 to the Thompson submachine gun he used to drive sharks away from a trophy marlin. The photographs alone are worth the price of admission, a unique look at the evolution of a legendary sportsman. To see a photo gallery of Hemingway and the Scott pigeon gun, including pictures of the fragments found by the authors, click here.

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