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Bill Bagwell was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on January 11, 1944. He grew up in rural northwest Louisiana and was introduced to the outdoors at an early age by his uncles, who were avid hunters and fishermen. Bagwell was also a talented athlete and lettered in football, baseball, and track during his high school career. His senior year at North Caddo High School saw him named to the High School All-American Football team as a tackle, and he attended Louisiana Tech University on a football scholarship. He also attended Northwestern State University and has an educational background in engineering, English, and history.
Bagwell has always been fascinated by knives. He made his first knife at the age of 10 from an old saw. While he was in high school he began to forge knives in the industrial arts shop, and by the time he was 15 he was forging hunting and Bowie knives as a hobby. He made and sold knives while he was in college and became a full-time professional bladesmith in 1969. Bagwell's skill and talent as a bladesmith is due in part to the fact that he grew up in an area that was rich in the lore of James Bowie and the early history of both Texas and Louisiana. The Bowie knife played a prominent role in the early history of the area, and the young Bill Bagwell wanted a good one for himself. Since none were available for purchase, he began to make his own. Bagwell has always sought excellence, and his early quest for a better Bowie knife has ultimately brought his knives to the point where they are today.
Bill Bagwell is one of the true pioneers in the making of Damascus blades in the United States. He completed his first successful Damascus blade on December 1, 1973, after about six months of trial and failure. In early 1976, with the late Don Hastings, B.R. Hughes and Bill Moran, Bagwell became one of the founding members of the American Bladesmith Society and wrote the original charter for that organization. He also served as the society's first secretary and was on its first board of directors.
Bagwell has lectured on blades and forging at the University of Wyoming at Dubois, the University of Florida at Tallahassee, and Texarkana College at its facility at Black's Forge in Washington, Arkansas. Bagwell has also made wootz steel and began work in that field in 1979.
In 1984, Bill Bagwell became the knife editor for Soldier Of Fortune magazine, and the monthly "Battle Blades" column was begun under his byline. He continued to write the column until 1988 when pressing family matters called him to Belize for 18 months. (This November, Paladin Press will release the long-awaited anthology of Bagwell's "Battle Blades" columns, entitled Bowies, Big Knives, and the Best of Battle Blades. Advance copies will be on display at the Soldier Of Fortune Convention in Las Vegas, October 12-15.) Upon his return from Belize, Bagwell resumed his knifemaking career.
In September 1995, Bagwell attended the prestigious Paris Knife Show, where one of his Damascus Bowies won the award for the best fixed-bladed Damascus knife at the show. The following spring he was commissioned to go to Theirs, France, and conduct a forging and knifemaking demonstration by the Theirs Department of Commerce and Industry.
Today Bagwell focuses his knife energies on his "Hell's Belle" fighting Bowies. The Hell's Belle is acknowledged by many to be the finest fighting Bowie knife ever made, and those examples hand-forged and made by Bagwell himself are, without a doubt, in a class by themselves. Bagwell's research and studies into tactics and application of the fighting Bowie knife in a combat environment have not gone unnoticed, and he currently serves as an instructor to selected units of the U.S. Army's Special Forces at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
Bagwell is also an accomplished rifle shot. His primary interest is in black powder firearms, and he has served as a consultant to GOEX since 1993. His love of the outdoors has remained strong over the years, and his interest in history has led him to study the arms and weapons of early America. While Bagwell's early studies were focused on muzzleloaders (which ultimately led him to good Hawken rifles), the last 10 years have seen him develop the knowledge and skills necessary to shoot the black powder cartridge rifles. The long-range marksmanship of the buffalo hunters of the plains was not just legend, and Bagwell can today take a Sharps rifle and hit a gallon jug at a quarter of a mile with cast lead bullets, black powder, and iron sights.
Bill Bagwell is a rarity in today's world. He is a man at the top of his game who is doing exactly what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. Happily married, he and his wife, Sidra, currently reside in Louisiana.