What .22 Rifle did Bella Twin use to Kill a World Record Grizzly in 1953?

By Dean Weingarten

Bella Twin is shown with the hide from the world record grizzly bear
Bella Twin is shown with the hide from the world record grizzly bear
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- In this famous photograph by Bruno Engler, Bella Twin is shown with the hide from the world record grizzly bear that she shot in 1953 with a single shot .22 rifle.  The question is, what rifle is she holding?

It has been written that Jack O'Connerheard” that it was an old Stevens single shot.   But as he only “heard” this, I do not think it is at all definitive.  This is said to be from page 304 of “The Hunting Rifle”, published in 1953.   Given that the bear was shot in 1953, and the reference was near the end of the book, it is just possible that O'Conner was referring to the same incident:
“One of the largest grizzlies I have ever heard of was killed by an Indian woman with one shot from an old single-shot .22 Stevens rifle.”

Another account says that the bear was dropped with one .22 long cartridge, but that another 7 or 8 shots were used to be sure that the bear stayed down.  In my research, it appears that somewhere, there is a picture of the bear's skull, showing 8 or 9 holes.  Note that a .22 long has about 10% more power than a .22 high velocity short, and a good bit less than a .22 long rifle cartridge.

H.V. Stent seems to have one of the best descriptions of the event on the Internet.  From “Grizzly Guns” by H.V. Stent:

Bella Twin, an Indian girl, and her friend Dave Auger were hunting grouse near Lesser Slave Lake in northern Alberta. The only gun they had was Bella’s single-shot bolt-action .22 Rimfire rifle. They were walking a cutline that had been made for oil exploration when they saw a large grizzly following the same survey line toward them. If they ran, the bear would probably notice them and might chase, so they quietly sat down on a brush pile and hoped that the bear would pass by without trouble. But the bear came much too close, and when the big boar was only a few yards away, Bella Twin shot him in the side of the head with a .22 Long cartridge. The bear dropped, kicked and then lay still. Taking no chances, Bella went up close and fired all of the cartridges she had, seven or eight .22 Longs, into the bear’s head. That bear, killed in 1953, was the world-record grizzly for several years and is still high in the records today.

Here is a close up of the rifle.   It appears to be a “boys” type inexpensive .22 bolt action single shot.  There does not appear to be a butt pad.   The forearm is quite short.  For a while, I thought it might be a Tobin, but it clearly is not.

Bella Twin's 22 Rifle
Bella Twin's 22 Rifle

A source on the net says the picture is in the book, Bruno Engler Photography by Vera Matrasova-Engler.  The photograph there might show better details, and the skull photograph may be in that book as well.

Different accounts have given Ms Twin's age from “girl” to 63 or 67.  Perhaps someone in Alberta has access to records that give us more definitive information.

c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 40 thoughts on “What .22 Rifle did Bella Twin use to Kill a World Record Grizzly in 1953?

    1. I own à cooey ace1 my self ans let me tell you that is an accurate 22 caliber for it’s size.

      Weight only 2 pound….

      Pretty short with only 18″ canon.
      I believe IT is possible to kill a big Bear with that type of riffle.
      But that women sure got big Balls.

    2. The Rifle used by Bella Twin is a “Cooey Ace 1”.
      The rifle and the Grizzlies hide are both currently in storage at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton (as of current date March 2017)
      Before that they where in long term storage at the Reynolds Alberta Museum.

      I have been in contact with the curator of the museum and requested a nice color picture of the gun and he will get me one once they move to their new building and unbox all the exhibits.

      he has said the gun is (in his words) in ‘deplorable condition’ as Bella Twin used it for many years on her trap line.
      She was 65 years old when she shot the bear in 1953.

      here is a newspaper article from 1957 telling some history about her and the shot.
      the article is on page 51.
      https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Hx6RvaqUy9IC&dat=19570316&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

      here is a quote from the curator of the museum about the gun when i talked to him via email:
      ” I can tell you that the rifle is a .22 caliber single shot Cooey Ace 1. I can also tell you that the rifle’s condition, which has remained as it was when Bella Twin shot the bear, leaves a lot to be desired. There is corrosion on the receiver and barrel, the front screw that holds the stock to the barrel is missing and has been replaced with hockey tape. There is a piece of rubber under the barrel – probably as a method of “free floating” the barrel. There is no finish left on the wood. The stock is missing a part by the receiver and there is a wood screw reinforcing a crack in the stock.”

    3. Looks just like my Pop’s old Springfield 15Y he got from Sears Roebuck for $2.98 before WWII and used on his trapline. Also the first gun I shot ! The Stevens and Springfields looked alike , assume the “Y” was for youth , as it was shorter than my own first .22 .

    4. Another story of a woman surviving a grizzly attack using a .22, this time with a Baretta .22 pistol. She and her husband were hiking through the woods, when they came upon a mother grizzly with a cub. Immediately, the hugh bear began to show hostility. The woman took out her little Bareta, shot her husband in the knee, and was able to stroll away unharmed.

    5. I have a cousin in Canada that as a guide would secure a cow Moose for camp meat every year with .22 – three shots pop pop pop behind the shoulder.
      The Moose would trot 40-50yds and fall dead. This way loud centerfire shots would not affect other Moose in the vicinity for the clients ~!

    6. I believe the rifle to be a cooey ace and for the doubters I use 22lr at the slaughter house each week to dispatch evrything from lamb to old 2500 lb beef bulls all one shot.

    7. My money is on it being a Cooey…good ol’ Canadian classic. My father gave me a Marlin 783 in.22wmr that will give anything breathing a bad day…hard to find rounds though.

    8. I remember the story about a girl berry hunting and shooting it in the ear.I can see a shot like that working. A .22 for a hog is O.K. if you are going to cut the main arteries and veins in the neck but I think that at least a .38 is used on cattle.The only safe shot would be in the ear hole going right to the brain.

      1. Never used anything but a .22 on and butchered animal from a 200lb roasting pig to a 2500 +lb beef.One shot into the brain =goodnight

    9. some few years ago i came across a blog that told of an Inuit grandmother taking down a brown bear that was trying to claw it’s way into her cabin (seems ineffectually). the story went she calmly put a a 22 LR from a pistol while it was stuck in the window through it’s ear and it dropped. any substantiation?

    10. I lived in Slave Lake when Bella shot this bear. The bear was brought down with a single shot but she took a a few more shots for insurance. A photo of the skull showing some of the bullet holes can be accessed at: http://www.albertaoutdoorsmen.ca/record-book.html

      A very popular 22 calibre rifle used in Alberta in 1953 was manufactured by H. W. Cooey Machine & Arms Company in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. My father owned a Cooey and, as I recall, his would not take a 22 “long rifle”. It’s been a while but I think Bella shot this bear with a Cooey using 22 “short” bullets which were more suited to grouse and rabbit hunting. The ammo was cheaper to purchase and caused less damage to the prey.

      At one time, this rifle was on display at the Stan Reynolds Museum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds-Alberta_Museum.

      1. Indeed a Cooey 22 which is held by the Royal Alberta Museum, bedded in a piece of bike tire and attached to the stock with hockey tape, the museum has the hide of the bear as well, neither are on regular display

      2. I read from a seemingly knowledgeable source that it was a .22 long cartridge, which is different than long rifle, lr… much less powerful, closer to a short (I’ve read 10% more than a short).

    11. Bella Twin was a close friend of my grandfather’s, and my father has possession of the skull displayed in my grandfather’s trophy museum. A very neat skull to have, It has been a conversation piece for years!

    12. While the grizzly was a world record the method of shooting Polar and Grizzly bears is not uncommon. I was told the Eskimos and native Indians use the single shot 22lr riffle to kill the big bears like this because of a natural trait the bears have of standing on their hind legs when they attack, growling and opening their mouths. At that point the hunter, at very close range, shoots the bear in the roof of the mouth and the bullet goes right into the brain and kills the bear instantly, they hope.

      1. I cant remember where i heard of this; perhaps somewhere on the Alaska Highway many years ago, but twas an old native woman (would be Bella) was in a Hudsons Bay Outpost when the bear came in for food. She hid among the stores stock with the .22 single shot bolt action; and while he was literally gnawing through cans of food, she slipped the gun over the isle for him to gnaw on. And when he did, she put a bullet through the soft pallet of the roof of his mouth, into the brain, killing him instantly. Ive never even looked it up until today. And my take looks pretty accurate considering.
        Hudsons Bay Outposts were all over the North back then. The bear was some 1800 lbs. I havent seen anything about weight yet on the net.

    13. I smiled when I saw her holding her rifle. She has a very solid grip as if Shannon Watts is off camera ready to snatch it from her hands.

    14. Peter Capstick wrote in one of his African books about 2 young men taking a bull elephant with a .22 long rifle. They were hunting birds. They had a big rifle as a backup. They shot the elephant to make it turn so they could shoot it with the big rifle, but it just stood and then fell over. It was hit behind the shoulder and just stood and bled out. They tried it another time just to see if it was a fluke, but it worked a second time.

    15. Damn,she could be in age from a little girl to 67 years old ? Either this little girl or old lady sure got lucky (assuming this story is even true) shooting this huge ass bear dead with a 22,which I doubt. With facts like this about this entire thing how can you believe any of it ?

      1. Tex,
        I totally understand your skepticism. However, my dad is from Slave Lake and knew these folks personally and would verify every detail. In fact I remember him telling me this story in the 1970’s when I was a boy learning to shoot. He told the story to illustrate that the 22 we were shooting with was not a toy and could be as lethal. It was interesting for me to come across this post since I have myself questioned whether this story was exaggerated over the years.

        1. I dont find it hard to believe. A hunter knows her anatomy. That is often over-looked, or under-stated. When we talk about “shot placement” we mean understanding anatomy as much as we mean marksmanship. 22s were and still are used to cleanly kill cattle for butchering. One shot to the brain at contact distance will kill instantly. The story says the distance was “a few yards”, and so with a decent view of the target it would not be a tall tale at all.

          1. I have a friend that tells of dropping a bull moose with one shot from a .22 magnum from 100 yrds, right behind the front leg.

      2. This lady is my grandmother’s sister and I can assure you this story is true. I live in Lesser Slave Lake and this is a story that can be confirmed by many townspeople that have lived here since before 1950. It was a story that myself and all my cousins were told as little kids growing up in Slave Lake.

    16. As amazing as it may seem to kill a bear w/ .22, there is a story about an old indian gentleman that went on a buffalo hunt armed with a .22 rifle. The guide was dismayed, but took him out anyway. The guide located a qualifying bull at about 100 yards and pointed it out to the old gentleman. He waited until the bull grazed to within 75 yards or less and dropped the 1 ton bull with one well placed shot to the brain. You just need to know enough about your animal to know where to put the kill shot. As you might expect, the guide was absolutely amazed and told the story high and wide.

    17. i wonder where that 22 is now, certainly the collectors value would be much higher knowing its history with a grizz. and a record to go with it. also: who else can say they took a bear with a 22?

    18. It wouldn’t be the first choice for hunting large game, but nevertheless the lowly .22 can be seriously deadly in the hands of a moderately good shot.

      1. I carry a small 22 in my pocket all the time. I have had a few friends ask me who do you think you would hurt with that little thing, and I always say it will kill you just as dead as if I shot you with a cannon

        1. Mr.Carr next time one of your friends asks you who your .22lr could possible hurt, ask them how much they would like to eat one inside 7 yards haha. Almost my entire family (military vets included) carries a .22lr. 1 hit from that counts more than 6 misses with a 500S&W mag or 17 misses with an ugly Glock.

          1. You are oh so right. Had a High Standard Sharpshooter. I now am into powerful high end air guns. With air guns, pellets or cast slugs it’s about precision. Same as a .22LR. No hydrostatic shock. Brain through ear or heart shots.

    19. Before I read this story, I looked at the rifle with a magnifying glass, & thought, “That looks like the 1st firearm I ever owned, a Stevens single shot rifle.” It was given to me for Christmas when I was 14 y/o, in 1947. It was a very accurate little shooter, & accounted for many sparrows, starlings, & not a few squirrels.

      1. My Uncle Arthur, his Father also named Arthur. This was his Mother. He never knew her and visited her once, for he was in an orphanage until he was 12 when he left. His older brothers name was Samuel.

    Leave a Comment 40 Comments

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *