Walter Dalrymple Maitland 'Karamojo' Bell acquired his nick-name from the Karamojo region of north east Uganda where he hunted between 1902 and 1907. His life was one of profound adventure and he came close to death on countless occasions as he pursued dangerous game in remote and inhospitable areas of darkest Africa. In addition to his later activities as one of the greatest ivory hunters, he also, for example, (and before he was 21 years old), worked as a sailor, a bodyguard and a meat hunter for the fledgling African railway companies, as a meat-gatherer for the natives living on the shore of Lake Victoria where he was given a hut and food in exchange for killing hippos and, in desperation to recoup his losses from his first trip to Africa, as a gold-panner in the Alaskan Klondike gold rush. Subsequent adventures included his participation in the Boer War in which he was taken prisoner but managed to escape and labouring in Tasmania. By 1901, Bell had only just turned twenty-one and he was to use the following years to perfect his ivory hunting techniques with small-calibre rifles. These years were spent largely amongst the Karamojong people, a tribe with a well-earned reputation for ferocity; in one instance Bell defended himself and his few followers against an attacking force of over 400 with a ten-shot rifle and a Mauser broomhandle pistol. Bell's thirst for adventure continued during the First World War in which he distinguished himself as a fighter pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, winning the Military Cross twice and five times being mentioned in dispatches. After the Great War he returned to hunt the Ivory Coast and the Niger and Benne rivers. He retired to the Corriemoillie estate near Garve in Ross-shire where he hunted deer and rabbits whenever he was not cruising in his yacht Trenchemere. He died in 1957
The following short chapter is taken from his book The Wanderings of an Elephant Hunter and explain his theory regarding small-bore rifles in some detail:-
The question of which rifles to use for big-game hunting is for each individual to settle for himself. If the novice starts off with, say, three rifles: one heavy, say a double .577; one medium, say a .318 or a .350; and one light, say a .256 or a .240 or a .275, then he cannot fail to develop a preference for one or other of them.
For the style of killing which appeals to me most the light calibres are undoubtedly superior to the heavy. In this style you keep perfectly cool and are never in a hurry. You never fire unless you can clearly see your way to place the bullet in a vital spot. That done the calibre of the bullet makes no difference. But to some men of different temperament this style is not suited. They cannot or will not control the desire to shoot almost on sight if close to the game. For these the largest bores are none too big. If I belonged to this school I would have had built a much more powerful weapon than the .600 bores.
Speaking personally, my greatest successes have been obtained with the 7mm. Rigby-Mauser or .275, with the old round-nosed solid, weighing, I believe, 200 grs. It seemed to show a remarkable aptitude for finding the brain of an elephant. This holding of a true course I think is due to the moderate velocity, 2,300 ft., and to the fact that the proportion of diameter to length of bullet seems to be the ideal combination. For when you come below .275 to .256 or 6.5mm., I found a bending of the bullet took place when fired into heavy bones.
Then, again, the ballistics of the .275 cartridge, as loaded in Germany at any rate, are such as to make for the very greatest reliability. In spite of the pressures being high, the cartridge construction is so excellent that trouble from blowbacks and split cases and loose caps in the mechanism are entirely obviated. Why the caps should be so reliable in this particular cartridge I have never understood. But the fact remains that, although I have used almost every kind of rifle, the only one which never let me down was a .275 with German (D.W.M.) ammunition. I never had one single hang-fire even. Nor a stuck case, nor a split one, nor a blowback, nor a miss-fire. All of these I had with other rifles.
I often had the opportunity of testing this extraordinary little weapon on other animals than elephant. Once, to relate one of the less bloody of its killings, I met at close range, in high grass, three bull buffalo. Having at the moment a large native following more or less on the verge of starvation, as the country was rather gameless, I had no hesitation about getting all three. One stood with head up about 10 yds. away and facing me, while the others appeared as rustles in the grass behind him. Instantly ready as I always was, carrying my own rifle, I placed a .275 solid in his chest. He fell away in a forward lurch, disclosing another immediately behind him and in a similar posture. He also received a .275, falling on his nose and knees. The third now became visible through the commotion, affording a chance at his neck as he barged across my front. A bullet between neck and shoulder laid him flat. All three died without further trouble, and the whole affair lasted perhaps four or five seconds.
Another point in favour of the .275 is the shortness of the motions required to reload. This is most important in thick stuff. If one develops the habit by constant practice of pushing the rifle forward with the left hand while the right hand pulls back the bolt and then vice versa draws the rifle towards one while closing it, the rapidity of fire becomes quite extraordinary. With a long cartridge, necessitating long bolt movements, there is a danger that on occasions requiring great speed the bolt may not be drawn back quite sufficiently far to reject the fired case, and it may become re-entered into the chamber.
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