Shotguns, Cannons, and Cubans: Hemingway’s Seized Guns


Finca Vigía

In 1939, Ernest Hemingway purchased the now famous Finca Vigía on the island of Cuba. For twenty years he lived there and left on a trip back to the states in 1961. He never made it back to his house in Cuba and after hearing word of his passing, the Cuban Government would seize Hemingway’s home as well as its contents. Some of which were his guns.

Fined For Guns

Upon inspection and seizure, Hemingway’s widow Mary was fined on behalf of Hemingway for some of the contents in the home. These included thirteen khaki shirts that she was fined 100 pesos for as they resembled military uniforms, per the Cubans. She was also fined 25 pesos for unlicensed firearms, of which there were 10+. An odd list of priorities but it was the 60’s, I don’t know.

Hemingway’s Guns

Among the guns seized were a couple of 9mm pistols, to include a German P-38. He had a Hi-Standard Military Model .22 as well. Mostly shotguns and their accouterments, he did have a Mannlicher-Schoenauer Model 1903 rifle as well. There was also a Springfield Model 1873 trapdoor rifle that was shortened at the factory to serve as a line throwing and harpoon gun, which we know Hemingway used to kill at least a whale. In regard to shotguns, Hemingway had an unmarked shotgun with what was allegedly a “blown barrel”. He also had four Winchester shotguns, three of which were 20-gauge Model 21’s, one marked MCH. The other was a Model 42 12-gauge. The rarer shotguns were an Adamy 12-gauge, L.C. Smith .410 and a Líege 28-gauge. Among the weapons were just short of 8,000 shotgun shells, for personal use of course. The epitome of American.

On his 50th birthday in 1949, Hemingway ordered a wild bunch of items by mail. The unique list consisted of signal flags, cases of Mexican food, the clock from a US Navy ship, a waterproof flashlight, and some other items. Most notably and apparently his favorite present to himself were a pair of 10-gauge Winchester black powder signaling cannons that still reside at Finca Vigía today.

Hemingway was a once in a millennium man. Most would probably say there will never be another like him. He did what he wanted when he wanted and apologized for none of it. His stories and adventures will live on for eternity, as they should. Hemingway’s Finca Vigía still remains like a time capsule, set up almost exactly as it was when he left it, and some of his guns have been returned to be displayed at the property. Hopefully one day we can all get down there and check it out for ourselves.

– Jay Pelletier

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