September 4, 2021

The Art of Being Winston Churchill: Firearms

By BARRY SINGER

Winston Churchill remained an avid hunter all his life and acquired, through both gift and purchase, a small armory for sport shooting. Which weapons he owned—their details and when they were acquired—has become patchy with the passage of time, but enough evidence survives in the Churchill Archives and the records of the firearms manufacturers who supplied him to piece together a good picture.

Churchill’s usual practice was to buy from one elite source until his tab became unsupportable and then bounce around to others, juggling them all. He did it with his tailors, booksellers, vintners, shoe/bootmakers, stationers, tobacconists, etc. Not surprisingly, he also appears to have done the same when it came to purchasing rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

As a young MP during the Edwardian Era, Churchill had accounts with both John Rigby & Co. and James Woodward & Sons. After the Second World War, Woodward was taken over by James Purdey & Sons, which thus inherited Churchill as a client. Since Churchill had a tendency to be slow at settling his accounts (when he settled them at all!), his retailers usually held on to his records even before Churchill achieved his greatest fame during the Second World War.

Purdy & Sons still has a reference to Churchill owning a .500 double rifle, which was collected from Woodward’s in 1922, apparently having been in storage. John Rigby supplied the infamous Mauser C96 pistol that Churchill brought to the Boer War in South Africa. When it came to ammunition, Churchill purchased from a wide range of suppliers.

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Last year, The Field, the venerable British field sports magazine published since 1853, ran a lengthy article about the many different firearms that Churchill possessed, which you can READ HERE.

Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.

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