Walter D.M. Bell aka Karamojo Bell

Kano

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"In hunting elephant, as in other things, what will suit one man may not suit another. Every hunter has different methods and uses different rifles. Some believe in the big bores, holding that the bigger the bore therefore the greater the shock. Others hold that the difference between the shock from a bullet of, say, 250 grs. and that from a bullet of, say, 500 grs. is so slight that, when exercised upon an animal of such bulk as an elephant, it amounts to nothing at all. And there is no end to the arguments and contentions brought forward by either side; therefore it should be borne in mind when reading the following instructions that they are merely the result of one individual's personal experience and not the hard and fast rules of an exact science.

As regards rifles, I will simply state that I have tried the following: .416, .450/.400, .360, .350, .318, .275 and .256. At the time I possessed the double .400 I also had a .275. Sometimes I used one and sometimes the other, and it began to dawn on me that when an elephant was hit in the right place with the .275 it died just as quickly than when hit with the ·400, and, vice versa, when the bullet from either rifle was wrongly placed death did not ensue. In pursuance of this train of thought I wired both triggers of the double .450/.400 together, so that when I pulled the rear one both barrels went off simultaneously. By doing this I obtained the equivalent of 800 grs. of lead propelled by 120 grs. of cordite. The net result was still the same. If wrongly placed, the 800 grs. from the .400 had no more effect than the 200 grs. from the .275. For years after that I continued to use the .275 and the .256 in all kinds of country and for all kinds of game. Each hunter should use the weapon he has most confidence in."

Right from the horse's mouth. In his writings, Bell is very matter-of-fact, and not much given to boasting or misrepresenting things.

He always stresses the importance of continuous training, and repeats over and over that one should choose the rifle and caliber that most suits him - no one-size-fits all.

He also states emphatically that one of the reasons he preferred his .275 above all others was that the ammunition was utterly reliable, and that in all his career he never had a misfire or other mishap with that particular ammo - whereas he had constant problems with any British ammo that was not in .303.

Now, if his general observations are faulty, I'd like to know where?
 

Kano

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That's from Wanderings of an Elephant Hunter, page 5. Can't edit the post to insert the reference, don't know why.
 

tarbe

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I will never have the experience necessary to either refute, or intelligently agree with, Bell's findings.

And I suspect we will never know with 100% certainty the accuracy of his writings (let alone his shooting).

So, I will not get too worked up one way or the other. My inclination is to be a Bell "fan-boy" just because if even 10% of what he wrote is factual, he had one heck of a career!


Tim
 

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I will never have the experience necessary to either refute, or intelligently agree with, Bell's findings.

And I suspect we will never know with 100% certainty the accuracy of his writings (let alone his shooting).

So, I will not get too worked up one way or the other. My inclination is to be a Bell "fan-boy" just because if even 10% of what he wrote is factual, he had one heck of a career!


Tim

+1 with Tarbe here on being a Bell fan (I own two of his interesting books) but, so as to avoid any confusion .. what I wrote earlier in this thread remains my skeptical opinion of whether or not he used primarily small bore rifles to shoot over a thousand elephants.

The specific purchase of not one but two .416s and over a thousand rounds of 410 grain solids, shipped to him in sealed "tropical tins" during his incredible career, smells more like the tools of a serious working man and not so much supplies needed for a field experiment on a few animals.

There were other professional ivory hunters about in those days and perhaps Bell needed a "something more exciting" in order to get his books to the top of the best seller list over his competition ?

My favorite deceased author of Africana is John "Pondoro" Taylor and more than one person in position to know has said he was a better shot with a typewriter than he was with a rifle.
Nonetheless, I read his books over again from time to time, as I do Bell's two books that I own.
Bell was an incredible man to say the least, and an excellent writer, no matter what caliber or calibers he used.
 

tarbe

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Agree, brother Dog.
 

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tarbe

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tarbe

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Also interesting how, in the 1950s, he seemed very high on the idea of mono-metal bullets.

I wonder if Randy Brooks was a Bell disciple?
 

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I also read that Bell's average earnings, in today's money, were $235,000 per year.
 

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i have put this on other threads but think its appropriate here as well

jeep and rifles at pauls 8 sept 2016 057.JPG


and just got this but not had chance to read it yet

http://www.safaripress.com/Incidents-from-an-Elephant-Hunters-Diary-Ltd/productinfo/BELL94Z/

Screenshot (115).png
 
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fourfive8

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I haven't seen any evidence yet to convince me he didn't kill a bunch of elephants and didn't
sell a bunch of ivory to maintain his wealth. Looking at the inventory of purchases and after reading his works it seems perfectly feasible and logical that he used the 7x57 for most of his elephant kills. I doubt he hauled all those rifles around on difficult and extensive safaris. He also writes quite a bit about trying all manner of calibers and ammo and bullets and it also seems perfectly logical that he would have settled on the 275 (7x57) with a good supply of reliable military full patch ammo. Also makes perfect sense, given the era, that much of the other ammo and to no small degree the bullets available to the civilian market in some calibers would have yielded very poor performance- as he writes about. No doubt he sold or traded off some rifles with ammo or ivory or meat or whatever else was coveted by the locals as was his MO when dealing with chiefs, gov. bureaucrats, hiwaymen and such. Note also that he ordered at least six Mauser 275s (7x57) from Rigby (1906-1936), with at least one example surviving today. I think it's fair proof he favored that combination.

And I just thought of an explanation that may be at the root of the fame of WDM Bell and his use of the 275 Rigby. Russia hacked the Ivory Hunter's Hall of Fame, expunged the records of his extensive use of the 416, 450 and other large bores, salted the votes then colluded with Bell to ensure his induction! :sneaky:
 
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Tom Hawk

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Hello fellow shade tree history buffs,

Sorry to be the party pooper here.
However, according to Rigby's records, Bell during his elephant hunting career ordered not one but two Mausers from Rigby, caliber .416 and at least 1,000 rounds of live ammunition for them.
These .416 cartridges were as per his instructions - loaded with 410 grain "solids" and delivered to him, sealed in "tropical tins" no doubt to resist the Uganda humidity.

Bell wrote very much about his own daring-do and the central theme was always how he was such a cool head and dead shot with small bore rifles in the face of huge and dangerous animals.
Bell did not waste much (if any) ink on why he then should need two .416s and all that 410 grain / "solid bullet" ammunition for them.

In spite of his self proclaimed prowess with small bore rifles against all manner of dangerous beasts, especially including over a thousand elephant, I smell a fish in his stories (a .416 Rigby caliber fish).

Bell was an incredible character to have been successful in ivory hunting, no matter what calibers he used.
But, every time I hear someone use Bell's name in support of small bore rifles for hunting heavy, ponderous animals, I automatically raise one eyebrow.

No disrespect intended here but, I am very suspicious of Bell's claim to taking over a thousand elephants with his small bore rifles.
Velo Dog.
W.D.M Bell used a double rifle and was unimpressed, as his .275 killed in the same time
 

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+1 with Tarbe here on being a Bell fan (I own two of his interesting books) but, so as to avoid any confusion .. what I wrote earlier in this thread remains my skeptical opinion of whether or not he used primarily small bore rifles to shoot over a thousand elephants.

The specific purchase of not one but two .416s and over a thousand rounds of 410 grain solids, shipped to him in sealed "tropical tins" during his incredible career, smells more like the tools of a serious working man and not so much supplies needed for a field experiment on a few animals.

There were other professional ivory hunters about in those days and perhaps Bell needed a "something more exciting" in order to get his books to the top of the best seller list over his competition ?

My favorite deceased author of Africana is John "Pondoro" Taylor and more than one person in position to know has said he was a better shot with a typewriter than he was with a rifle.
Nonetheless, I read his books over again from time to time, as I do Bell's two books that I own.
Bell was an incredible man to say the least, and an excellent writer, no matter what caliber or calibers he used.
@Velo Dog, my host and PH in Namibia owned these books too. And he had a different sceptical thought that went something like this -'How many bad shots on elephants did it take to get the right shots' That he shows in the books?
That said he had great respect for Bell. But he thought and understood the reason he used light rifles was strictly practical. He believed people overlooked Bell's platform. In many cases it was a simple chair to see over the grass, in others sitting on a man's shoulders. Only light rifles could be shot accurately in those circumstances.
 

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I am with Velo here...Bell ordered those .416s for a reason and one has to wonder how many elephant lost when not hitting the brain with those small bores..

I am also extremely sceptical to 1000 + elephant with a 7x57mm..
 

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@Velo Dog, my host and PH in Namibia owned these books too. And he had a different sceptical thought that went something like this -'How many bad shots on elephants did it take to get the right shots' That he shows in the books?
That said he had great respect for Bell. But he thought and understood the reason he used light rifles was strictly practical. He believed people overlooked Bell's platform. In many cases it was a simple chair to see over the grass, in others sitting on a man's shoulders. Only light rifles could be shot accurately in those circumstances.

Interesting.
 

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Great reads and most definately an interesting career.
This is simply my own question, but he had to wait many times for a perfect angle to use his light rifle, maybe he tired of passing on animals because of the caliber choice, and wanted a better stopping rifle.
 

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I have a question here about what rifles Bell actually used versus what has been written. I thought Bell used the .256 MS (6.5 x 53R) and not a 6.5 x 54 MS as I have seen written in articles.
Bell clearly states in one of his books that he used a .256 MS. Have people confused the two cartridges as time has gone by, seeing as they are almost the same thing? (one has a rim one doesn't).

Just as a side note, I have a double rifle which is stamped .256 MS which is actually a 6.5 x 53R, so you can see my confusion.

Also does any body know what happened to these old MS rifles Bell owned and who made them for him.
 

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