Remembering Bill Sell

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to you today to talk about our friend, Bill Sell. As many of you know, Bill passed away in Feb, 2022 and this remembrance is long overdue.

Bill led an extraordinary life. He was a veteran, engineer, a musician, and a family man. You can read about some of his many accomplishments in his lovely obituary. For this remembrance, I will talk about how I knew Bill, the marksman.

I met Bill in the mid 2000’s when I first started shooting long range with the Palomino Valley Gun Club. Initially, to me, Bill was just one of the old guys, a seemingly constant fixture at the range alongside his close friends Tim Erwin and Heigo Orav. It didn’t matter what day or which range I went to, there was Bill, Tim and Heigo, sighting in rifles, testing ammunition, and scrubbing out bores. At the range, their conversations revolved around four main topics: primers, bullets power and brass. I’m quite certain that if Bill could visit the range just one more time, the first question he’d ask is, “what load are you using?” The old guys may have not been the quickest to the line or pulled the targets up and down with any expediency, but they always found the middle of the target when it was their turn to shoot.

Like most new shooters getting into the game, my first rifle was a scoped Remington 700 with a Harris bipod. Bill, however, shot a target rifle, which meant he used a shooting coat, glove, sling, and iron sights. The rifle I remember the best was his 22-250, outfitted with a Redfield Palma rear sight, 22mm front sight and gray stock.

On one particular Friday practice, I was shooting at 600 yards and Bill was in the pits with Mike Schreier pulling targets. It was an overcast, fall day. The air was cool and there wasn’t much wind to speak of. After I had finished shooting, Bill called down on the radio and said, “hey Ben! I left my rifle, coat, glove, and a box of ammo on my shooting mat. Go put the coat on and take a few shots with my rifle.” I liked the old guys, so I thought I’d humor them and give it a try. I’d never used a target rifle and sling before, but I’d seen Bill, Mike, Heigo, and a few others do it so I was reasonably confident that I’d be able to wrestle the rifle into position. Fortunately, Bill and I are about the same height and arm length, so everything more or less fit.

Once I was in position and lined up the sights on the target, I said to myself, “how the hell does he hit the target with this thing?” The bullseye was bouncing around like a pinball in the front sight and I felt like the sling was going to snap my forearm in half. But I did my best dryfiring a few times before loading the rifle and taking my first shot. I closed the bolt, lined up the sights, and when I saw black, I pulled the trigger. The gun recoiled and by the time I found the target again, it was going down into the pits to be scored. When it came back up it was a “9”. At that point the radio erupted with cheers over which I heard Bill yell, “Do it again!” I don’t remember how many more shots I took, but there were a few 10’s and X’s. From the moment I took my first shot and saw a 9, I was hooked.

Fast forward to today, I’m now on the United States Palma team preparing to shoot in South Africa at the 2024 World Championships. To this, I owe much of my success to my friend, Bill Sell.

I miss seeing Bill rolling up to the firing line in his red Blazer (license plate BLZNBIL), talking about loads and shooting and whatever topic of the day led the conversation.

Thank you, Bill, for your friendship, mentorship, and putting a target rifle in my hands so many years ago. I’m doing my best to follow your example, introducing kids to shooting by coaching for a youth marksmanship program. I’ll let you know how it goes one day, and I’ll catch you up on what loads are working well for me.


Ben Lucchesi