Bror Blixen’s ‘Loan’ Rifle

In the history of African safari there are the names of individual hunters that should need no real introduction, F.C.Selous, Captain James Sutherland, W.D.M.Bell and J.A.Hunter to name but a few. Whilst some hunted professionally for ivory, others hunted as professional guides taking the emerging elite of the world on lavish safaris into the heart of East Africa.

Amongst this elite group of Professional Hunters can be counted one Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (1886-1946), Swedish aristocrat, serial womaniser and husband of famed writer Karen Blixen who wrote one of the greatest books ‘Out of Africa’, so immortalising what many consider the golden age of safari hunting.

The J.Purdey & Sons sidelock underlever double rifle in .500/.465 calibre.

Now Blixen was not your usual run of the mill professional hunter. His reputation for securing huge elephant trophies and for ensnaring beautiful women came in equal measure, only surpassed by his legendary drinking skills! That all said and done, he was without question one of the toughest, ethical and courageous big game hunters who ever lived who had a client list booked many years in advance to hunt with him.

As with all professional hunters of the time, Blixen had at his disposal an assortment of both bolt action and double rifles with which to tackle the multitude of game that inhabited the vastness of the African continent.

Whilst he clearly owned several rifles of his own, legend has it that he also borrowed the occasional rifle including the rifle shown here. This particular Purdey double rifle in .500/.465 calibre was originally built in November 1908 for the Earl of Landisborough, before finding its way into the hands of a Swedish businessman who regularly took to hunting in East Africa. It is said that rather than travel back and forth from Africa with the rifle that it was left in the capable hands of Blixen ‘on permanent loan’.

Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke on safari.

The rifle certainly seems to have seen some ‘bush use’ judging by the many subtle knocks and scrapes that it displays, all suggesting that it was used, not abused. The rifle has fantastic crisp rifling and appears as tight today as the day it was made. Interestingly the rifle features a bold scroll engraving pattern as opposed to the more traditional house rose and scroll engraving design found on the large majority of Purdey guns and rifles. The ‘bolted’ safety was a common feature of Purdey rifles, a double safety mechanism to stop the accidental discharge of a rifle should the safety button be innocently pushed off.

The rifle undeniably makes for an interesting piece of history and Africana, we only wish that it could tell a story or two!

The ‘bolted’ safety system as used on the majority of vintage Purdey nitro express double rifles.

‘African Hunter’ by Bror von Blixen-Finecke published in 1937.

6 thoughts on “Bror Blixen’s ‘Loan’ Rifle

  1. A fantastic piece of history Trigger. Out of Africa came out in the U.S. in 1985 and I have seen it many times. Assuming that the movie is historically accurate, Von Blixen, Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen’s life in Africa became permanently in grained in the minds of hunters world wide. This movie played a major roll in many of us placing southern Africa on our personal bucket lists to one day hunt there. I have been twice now and hope to go again. The makers Holland & Holland and John Rigby were specifically talked about and that is what started me in researching those and other English guns and rifles. As you referenced, if this Purdey could only talk, what wonderful stories it could tell!

  2. Hi Trigger

    What a great looking rifle the “Earl” had built for himself, it must have been his personal preference to retain an ‘under lever’ when most were using top levers at this particular time.
    What is the purpose of the arrow indicator on the left hand lock, ‘cocking’, ‘safety’ you have the benefit of being able to handle it to find out??
    There are lots of great little details with this gun and even the case that set it aside from the norm!
    What fabulous provenance this particular gun retains not forgetting its particular place in history!

    Best regards

    Peter.

  3. What a wonderful rifle with an incredible heritage.

    If only we could get it to speak

    Then again, perhaps it would maintain a gentlemanly silence about von Blixen and his clients exploits 😉

    On the purely technical, there seem to be a lot of pins in those lock plates, does it have intercepting sears?

    And does that underlever lock directly into the bites in the barrels? or does it operate a locking bolt that allows the rifle to be snapped shut?

    I’m not familiar with Purdy rifles of this vintage. Were the side clips and reinforcing bolsters a usual feature? Purdy seem to have built the gun to be very visibly safe and secure.

    Thank you for sharing the gun with us.

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