Charles Askins’ .44magnum Kill

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This is a guest post originally from Supervel on instagram. I am a big fan of Charles Askins and have been meaning to post about him here for a long time but always get distracted. If you don’t have his autobiography shown below, I highly recommend it. Askins was and still is a very controversial figure. Mainly because of the glee he took in very carefully describing in loving detail nearly every man he shot. And he killed a lot of guys. Much speculation still exists that he may or may not have helped his best friend commit suicide. While dying from a very painful terminal cancer, Charlie “helped” him go out with his boot on. A lot of people believing he didn’t so much hand him the gun as deliver the mercy shot himself. If you have read Charlie’s writings and his biography, you would probably agree that the idea isn’t too far fetched.

Col. Charles Askins pitched up in Saigon in April, 1956, assigned as the chief firearms instructor for the entire Vietnamese Army which at the time consisted of 10 under-sized divisions of 5,000 men each. The hard-bitten colonel, a former Border Patrol officer and NRA National Pistol Champion, did not arrive unarmed. As a prominent gun writer, Charlie was given one of the first Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums, a five-screw N-frame, and he brought the big magnum with him.

Charlie being Charlie, he immediately decided to accompany some patrols on the hunt for Viet Minh communists, and this led to the opportunity, which Charlie relished, to kill the first man with the new .44 Magnum: “Down the trail came a single Viet Minh. He had the MAS 49 over his shoulder and a bag of rice in his left hand. When he got even with me, he chanced to look down and there in the mud of the path were my big paratroop boot prints.

I was watching him, not being more than three to four steps from the little bastard. I saw the wild look come in his eyes and he glanced around fearfully, meanwhile swinging the French 7.5mm off his shoulder. Instead of shooting this Viet Minh with the service rifle, I shifted the gun to my right hand [Askins was left-handed] and pulled out the big .44 Magnum.

I let this ambusher have the first 240 grain slug right through the ribs on the left side. It was probably the first man ever killed with the .44 because it was quite new in those days. The effect of the bullet on this pint-sized Oriental was indeed impressive. It literally swept him off his feet. It lifted him off the ground like he had been struck with a huge club and dumped him four to five feet away. I had shot him double-action. I deliberately cocked the big revolver and put another bullet in him, this one aimed at the throat.

I gathered up the old MAS 49 rifle, turned and meandered back to the highway.” Col. Askins wrote for me when I was editor-in-chief of GUNS Magazine and American Handgunner. Charlie was always lively and animated during our frequent phone calls…

A couple of other factoids about Askins. He was a believer and proponent of the “Fitz special” Colts. The revolvers with the front of the trigger guard removed and a fan of the Auto 5 with buck for use on Mexican bootleggers while he was in the Border Patrol.

17 COMMENTS

  1. In some part of his works he wrote of killing X number of ‘Men’, X number of ‘Mexicans’, and X number of ‘Negroes’. That says something about the times and attitudes too.

  2. “It literally swept him off his feet. It lifted him off the ground like he had been struck with a huge club and dumped him four to five feet away.”

    Imma gonna have to call “Bullshit” on this one. Physics being what it is, in order for that to have happened, there’s a little thing called Newton’s Third Law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”.

    Maybe if he’d been firing a tank cannon at the guy, but even a .44 Magnum ain’t picking up a 100lb Asian dude and throwing him five feet. That ain’t how handguns work. The amount of energy available to be imparted to the target in anything you’re going to be able to fire and not break your own limbs…? Yeah. No. Just… No.

    Shit, I’ve shot small game with that caliber, and it hasn’t been “…lifted off the ground…” and “…thrown five feet…”. Every time, it’s been a through-and-through, or essentially vaporized.

    Hell, we used a .44 Magnum one time slaughtering pigs, and there was no such event accompanying the body shot that had to be taken after the idiot with the .22 flubbed his killshot to the head. Pig grunted, and fell over, never moving an inch. Said shoat dressed out at about 150lbs.

    So, yeah… Askins is a fabulist and a bullshit artist. I got about a chapter or two into this book, back in the day, and threw it against a wall after about the fifteenth time I had to willfully suspend disbelief.

      • The only guy from those days whose work has stood the test of time, in my opinion, is George C. Nonte. His “Combat Handguns” is prescient, because he describes the direction that the industry was going in the 1980s and 1990s in what he wrote in the late 1970s.

        I think Glock may have used his book as source material when he was designing the G17; there are a lot of “interesting” coincidences between it and Nonte’s “ideal combat handgun”.

      • Every time I see that crap in the movies or read it in a book, I’m done with whatever work that bullshit is in. I don’t care how good the cinematography is, or how lucid the writing is, I see guys getting thrown across the room by a pistol bullet, I’m done.

        Imagine how I feel coming across it in what is purportedly an autobiographical work, one that is meant to impart real-world experiences to the reader for their benefit…

        • I don’t mind it in an action movie. If I couldn’t suspend disbelief around guns in movies, I would t be able to watch movies with guns in them. [Glock cocks]

          But in an autobiography? By someone who’s supposed to be a serious gun writer? Yeah, not good for credibility.

          • no doubt he fancied that tale up , but the man had the shooting skill and experiences to prove his skill and many of his exploits were witnessed by others, especially in the border patrol. You can make your own judgements on the honestly of those other gun notables who saw his actions in gun fights.

    • I thought the same thing, and given the overall writing style I’d agree it’s overly exaggerated for dramatic effect, but playing advocate that little liberation fighter might have simply jumped at the sound of the pistol more so than some physics defying wonder bullet.

  3. A bit off topic, I have handled a couple of .38 “Fitz Specials” and they were very nice.
    I think the trigger guard gimmick was just that, a marketing gimmick, bobbing the hammer was a practical improvement and the two together made an easily identifiable profile.
    And don’t forget that the master gunsmiths that modified these pistols also paid attention to the internals.
    I’d be happy with one for an EDC.

  4. I remember reading this story in American Handgunner from Col Askins.Was something on the lines of revolver vs auto.
    I think Cameron Hopkins was the Editor then.
    Man I loved that magazine in the late 80s!

  5. The terminal effects description of the story is definitely exaggerated, but wow, that was interesting to read the detail of the events. If it was true, then he was most likely reliving that event step by step as he wrote it, all the way down to shifting the rifle to his non firing hand so he could deploy his pistol.

  6. “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” isn’t just an archaic legal principle carried down into modern times from the Romans; it is a pretty canny observation of human behavior.

    Askins may have been a good shot, but what I read of his writings led me to the opinion that he was a blowhard boaster that lied his ass off whenever it made for a story to make him look good. There’s only so much of that shit I can take, and then I’m going to ignore the source as irrelevant to reality. Cooper at least had the virtue of being relatively entertaining.

    Other thing about Askins that just disturbed the shit out of me was the sheer glee with which he described making his kills, like a nasty little boy pulling wings off of butterflies. That was not a well man, in a lot of respects. His self-assessment that he was probably a psychopathic killer strikes me as being pretty damn accurate, and after all, who knew him better than himself?

    Not a fan of the man, or his writing. He’s always struck me as creepy.

  7. I’m not saying that the story is true or untrue…but it would help his credibility immensely if Askins had half a dozen guys as witnesses to this event. People who could corroborate his claims. As I understand it, the now deceased Askins was the only one telling the story and the alleged “other guy” is dead too, obviously.

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