The guns of Charles Askins Jr.


March 7, 2008, 04:06 PM
I've been reading more and more about this guy an find him very interesting. Unlike a lot of writers he never seemed to have clung to one caliber or gun ala Keith, Oconner, Cooper, but rather continued to test and use new guns as they came out. From what I've read he was a real gun junkie and I like that about him. I know he was fond of the 1911 platform and was wondering if anyone knows any other favorite pistol/rifle/shotguns he had throughout his life, particularly his later days since my books are dated. Or any other unique stories about him you'd care to share. Thanks

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Joe Gunns
March 7, 2008, 06:26 PM
If you haven't read his memoir, UNREPENTANT SINNER, it is worth a read. Colorful character. HE tells of various guns he owned, but its been too long since I read the book to remember. He was a guy who marched to his own drummer and did what he wanted to the best of his ability. Like the majority of the males of his generation he had no patience for stuffed shirts, petty regulations and stupidity and bulldozed right along despite the potential consequences. If he'd been a boomer he'd probably be in jail. The book is out of print and kinda pricey. Check out for used copies, paperbacks seem to start @ $28.

Old Fuff
March 7, 2008, 07:01 PM
I met the man, and knew him for some years. To say the least he was... well ... interesting. Understand that he liked to pick fights in his magazine articles by making outrageous statements like, "The .30-06 is worthless," or ".45 pistols are going to be gone within 5 years." He knew that enough readers would be outraged and make a fuss, and that would sell magazines and attract more assignments.

But he was the real thing. A genuine man-killer that I believe never felt any remorse. He obviously wouldn't fit in today, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

He believed that any man that went into a fight armed only with a handgun was a fool (he used stronger language, but this is the High Road), and having an argument over the size of bullets was stupid because bullet placement was the critical thing, and while in the Border Patrol in Texas during the middle-late 1930's he carried a Colt New Service chambered in .38 Special, even though he had an early registered S&W .357 Magnum - that was engraved too boot.

He also "field tested" an early S&W .44 Magnum by counter-ambushing someone that was placed to ambush him, and then wrote an after-action report that was published in the American Rifleman. That riled some members, so he quit.

Like him or not he was perhaps the last of the gunfighter breed, and I think he would like to be remembered as such.

Mad Magyar
March 7, 2008, 07:05 PM
Understand that he liked to pick fights in his magazine articles by making outrageous statements like, "The .30-06 is worthless," or ".45 pistols are going to be gone within 5 years." He knew that enough readers would be outraged and make a fuss, and that would sell magazines and attract more assignments.

I recall some of those articles...He didn't mind picking a fight with anyone when in came to firearms....I liked his read....

Joe Gunns
March 7, 2008, 08:11 PM
He obviously wouldn't fit in today, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Exactly! My crack about him being in jail was meant in reference to the PC baloney that my boomer generation has embraced. I think that there is a place for men with the bark on within the normal range of human behavior, and a need for them in society.

He also "field tested" an early S&W .44 Magnum by counter-ambushing someone that was placed to ambush him, and then wrote an after-action report that was published in the American Rifleman. That riled some members, so he quit.
I remember that he believed that his use of the S&W .44 mag whilst an advisor in Vietnam in this incident was likely the first combat use of that weapon, making his adversary the first man killed with that round.

March 7, 2008, 09:00 PM
I quite enjoyed his "Six Guns are Clunk" article, along with Bill Jordan's response "Come now charlie" :D

March 7, 2008, 09:01 PM
I know his tastes in firearms was pretty varied. From an old Guns magazine article he wrote about holsters, he mentioned his Pachmayr-tuned M1911 that he won the National Pistol Championship with before WWII. Some of the other guns he had were: a Colt New Service .45, a S&W Model 39 9mm, and a .45 caliber derringer.
Something interesting that I found in a Guns and Ammo magazine from October, 1977, was his introduction back then as their new Handgun Editor. They listed his accomplishments, including: 534 shooting medals and 117 trophies from competitive shooting matches, numerous national and state pistol championships, 10 years of service with the U.S. Border Patrol, 23 years as an U.S. Army officer through three wars, firearms instructor for the Border Patrol, and Instructor of Infantry Weapons for the South Vietnamese Army. He was also the second recipient of the Outstanding American Handgunner Award. This man not only knew guns and wrote about them, but also used them in every sense of the word. In combat, law enforcement, competition, and sporting activities, Col. Askins was the real deal.

March 7, 2008, 09:23 PM
Judging from his memoir (which I'm lucky to have - asked for it for Christmas :D) Askins was a stone-cold killer, discussing his fights like a cook shares recipes.

Certainly not somebody you'd want as an opponent.

Old Fuff
March 7, 2008, 09:39 PM
Askins was a stone-cold killer, ...

I didn't get that impression, and I knew him.

During his lifetime, and in the occupations he chose to follow, killing sometimes became necessary. He did what he did, and lasted long enough to die in bed of old age. A lot of others in his line of work didn't.

The Lone Haranguer
March 7, 2008, 09:44 PM
I know he was fond of the 1911 platform and was wondering if anyone knows any other favorite pistol/rifle/shotguns he had throughout his life, particularly his later days since my books are dated.
In Col. Askins on Pistols and Revolvers (c. 1979; I got mine via NRA Publications but don't know if it is still in print), he favorably mentioned the Smith & Wesson Model 52 (the .38 Spl. wadcutter target pistol) calling it "sweet-shooting" IIRC. In little sidebars between the chapters he would write about various gunfights he had had. In one he wrote calmly, dispassionately and somewhat graphically of shooting a fleeing German soldier, hitting him in the back of the neck. ("... the bullet came out his mouth, taking out a handful of teeth ... ") :eek:

He had a way with "creative" use of language. "I plugged the jazbo spang thru the brisket ..." "But there's them as likes lots of ca'tridges in the clip ..." And muzzle energy was "muzzle smash" or "muzzle geewhiz," expressed in "ft lbs" :D Don't mistake this for lack of literacy or intelligence. Rather, it makes the narrative fun to read. When anyone else tried to copy his style they fell flat.

Old Fuff
March 7, 2008, 10:19 PM
In bullseye match shooting -something he excelled at - as he was a National Champion - he preferred to shoot the .45 match with the Colt pistol rather then a revolver. And for a time he carried a Government Model as a Border Patrol duty sidearm. But I don't think he was particularly fond of it for that purpose...

Because he was left handed. :uhoh:

March 7, 2008, 11:08 PM
There is a gun shop in San Antonio that has a few of his old handguns for sale; that is if their website is still current.

Joe Sacco
March 7, 2008, 11:22 PM
About 20 years ago, when I was still with the feds, Col. Askins son helped us out with a case (he's not slouch either) and introduced me to his Dad. I've visited his house, which was a among other things one of the nicest privately owned safari and arms museums I'd seen.

He was definitely the real deal and had the memorabilia to back up his statements. He was an old gentleman at the time but I wouldn't have wanted to be on his bad side. I'm privileged to own an autographed copy of Unrepentant Sinner. Best, Joe

The Lone Haranguer
March 8, 2008, 10:31 AM
In Stephen Hunter's Pale Horse Coming, one of the "old gunmen" who comes to the aid of Earl Swagger is a thinly disguised version of Askins, by the name of "Charlie Haskins." :D

March 9, 2008, 04:09 PM
Askins seemed to favor revolvers for combat duty. Autos were available to him but in police work and in his military career he always seemed to pack a large caliber revolver. He carried a 44-40 Colt New Service during WW II and in the early days in Vietnam he carried a S&W .44 Magnum.

It was Mas Ayoob who called Askins a "stone cold killer" in his piece about him following Askins' death. If you read his book, you have to get the impression that Askins was quick to kill and felt absolutely no emotion afterward. He once caught a group of American Indians trespassing and poaching so he shot all their horses. During the war a German soldier was disabling surrendered vehicles so Askins shot him in the back. He could have simply ordered him to stop but he preferred shooting the man in the back. He wrote of gunfights in the Border Patrol that would get an officer charged with murder, today. If that's not a stone cold killer then I don't what is.

Askins was tough. Period. He was also a racist and a contentious cuss.

I have no doubt that he was very pleasant to folks when he met them, but people who knew him intimately seem to agree that he was a very dangerous man with ice water in his veins.

March 9, 2008, 05:06 PM
I'd probably have gotten along with "Old Askins", as he liked to call himself, but I'd make darn sure I stayed on his good side. One Border Patrol Agent who was killed a few feet away from Askins during a gunfight barely got a mention in Unrepentant Sinner, saying he never cared much for the guy. He didn't say he was glad the guy was murdered by contrabadista, but he didn't have anything good to say about him either.

One thing I loved about the Colonel was his ability to poke fun at himself, making awful shots, stupid decisions or verbally shooting himself in the foot. He had a wry sense of humor, understated and clever.

As for guns, he used a lot of shotguns early on, but as was mentioned, didn't seem to have a lasting fondness for any one gun or caliber or gauge, he used whatever was handy, and used it well. One dark night on the Rio Grande found him with a white rag tied around the muzzle of his side-by-side shotgun, so he could tell where it was pointed!

But as for his cold-bloodedness, I guess he was. He was also a racist, in the worst connotation it carries. When asked about the men he'd killed, he said something like, "Twenty-six, not counting (blacks) and Mexicans."

But for all his ugly traits, he was a damn fine pistol shot, accomplished wingshooter, and no one to mess with while he had a rifle, and he unabashedly preferred the heavier calibers. All his books are good reads.

Just don't expect to get any warm and fuzzies from them!


Vern Humphrey
March 9, 2008, 05:30 PM
Bill Jordan, who knew Askins very well, said he was a man to drink with, but not to get drunk with. He was a racist -- when asked how many men he'd killed, he said, "Twenty-seven, not counting Mexicans and N*****s."

Askins favored Colt revolvers for much of his life (he set many a record in pistol matches with Colts.) In his final days, I recall a letter asking him what guns he carried and what his loads were. At that time, he said he usually carried an M1911 with factory loads. But in his law enforcement days, he usually carried a Colt New Service.

Being left-handed, he liked the 99 Savage as a rifle for law enforcement use. He also liked pump shotguns for that same purpose. Interestingly, for hunting and sport, he was a firm admirer of over-and-unders.

His lethal use of the .44 Magnum was more or less accidental -- he was hunting in "Indo-China" and heard someone on the trail, stepped into the brush and ambushed a Viet Minh.

March 10, 2008, 02:54 AM
I'm surprised no one mentioned the Colt Woodsman he had custom chambered in the centerfire ".221 Askins" by modifying cases from the 5.5 Velo Dog round. He used that gun to win the National Matches and after that they changed the rules to require a .32 minimum in the centerfire event.

Here's an article where he talks about it in his own words:

March 10, 2008, 08:37 AM

He briefly mentioned that gun in an article he wrote for American Hangunner magazine back in the late '80's. There were a couple of other things in that article, which was entitled, "Ride the River with Colonel Askins", that I found most interesting. In relating about various gunfights that occured while he was with the Border Patrol, Askins wrote the following:

" The service handgun was the old WW-I model 1917 revolver. It was made by Colt and fired the .45 ACP cartridge. This had to be loaded with two three shot clips. Pretty awkward. However, Border Patrolmen in those halycon days placed small faith in the belt gun. Gun fights were up-close affairs and everyone depended on the .351 Winchester auto rifle or the 12 gauge shotgun. The rifle, as issued by the Service, was the old service Enfield Model 1917, the old crutch issued to our troops during WW-I. It was pitiful in gun battles such as we fought. "

" I might explain right here that we had the lowest respect for the handgun in combat. If a Border Patolman was so stupid as to go on night patrol armed only with a pistol, he'd have been laughed out of the outfit. He carried, as did everybody, a revolver, but what he depended on was either the .351 Winchester auto rifle or a 12 gauge auto shotgun. "

And he should know, for in a 10 year period the El Paso subdistrict he was assigned to, had a gunfight on average every 17 days.

March 10, 2008, 10:01 AM
I believe the "stone cold killer" appellation is a mistake. He was a guy who knew what he was doing and he didn't hesitate. A lot of people seem to fault him for that but I think it's because they would like to be decisive, but aren't.

He had a Browning/Rem autoloading shotgun full of what he called 'blue whistlers" with a white rag tied around the muzzle as a night sight. ;)

He liked the Savage 99 because as a southpaw he liked lever actions. He later got into the big magnums that Winchester put out 264/300/338/458.

March 10, 2008, 11:16 AM
IMO Askins went beyond "not hesitating." He killed when it wasn't necessary.

He liked killing.

March 10, 2008, 11:18 AM
Since neither of us probably knew the guy personally, I believe casual use of such appellations amounts to character assassination. We are all gun people and should not relish scandal.

Vern Humphrey
March 10, 2008, 11:34 AM
Askins' own accounts (in his autobiography, Unrepentant Sinner) tell of unnecessary killings. In one instance, a Mexican tried to take his gun, then gave up and ran back into the Rio Grande. Askins said he let the man get in knee deep, then put the front sight on the small of his back, "And he went down like he was smacked by a baseball bat."

March 10, 2008, 11:46 AM
Sure I got the book too. It may not be squeaky clean, but you may be judging by another days mores, imho.

Vern Humphrey
March 10, 2008, 11:52 AM
Even in Askins' day, that shooting would have been prosecutable. You note that by his own account, he did not report the shooting, and when the body was later found in the gates and his boss asked about it, he didn't own up to it.

March 10, 2008, 01:47 PM
Askins bragged of the incidents I cite. I am merely stating what I believe to be obvious fact based on his descriptions of hunting, enforcing the law and fighting wars. The man often killed people and animals when it wasn't necessary to do so. Then he bragged about these exploits in print.

I take that to mean he enjoyed killing. No "character assassination" intended. Simply stating fact.

He really belonged in the 19th century.

He was a true patriot who defended his country. He was a law officer during dangerous times in dangerous places. He was a national champion pistol shooter. He had many good attributes. But Mas was right when he described Askins as a stone cold killer. He was.

Well-Armed Lamb
March 10, 2008, 11:11 PM
Another recommendation for UNREPENTANT SINNER. Definitely a book to read. Askins pulled absolutely no punches about himself, perhaps because he wasn't ashamed of anything he'd ever thought or done. That honesty makes the book strangely refreshing, but -- given the nature of some of the things Askins casually cops to -- rather difficult to read in spots, as well. One does make allowances for his time, but there are a couple of racial comments in the book that I found frankly shocking, and his attitudes towards women seem not much better: he mentions getting married, but then lets several chapters pass before deigning to mention his wife's name.

In an odd way, Askins's autobiography actually gives me some hope. If there's anybody who could have gone insanely, irretrievably bad, it was him: he was angry, highly aggressive, very competitive, and prone to violence (by his account, when he was an adolescent he shot at a friend during an argument; the friend was wounded in the leg, and they made up afterwards), but he managed to channel his darkest instincts into a productive way and became a successful lawman, soldier, hunter, and writer. That Askins could succeed in life gives me hope for a lot of the angry young men out there, the kind of men we're often inclined to write off as irredeemable.

(On a societal level, I think Askins shows the importance of a father figure to boys: one thing that becomes clear as you read Askins's autobiography is that he loved and worshipped his father, with a depth of feeling that he doesn't express with regard to any other human being. He wanted to please and impress the old man, and I think that was a powerful motivating factor for him. By contrast, Askins frankly *hated* his mother, and resented having to share his father with her.)

March 12, 2008, 07:32 AM
I've heard the racist thing too which leaves an ugly taste in my mouth and I've always found the .44mag incident interesting. Wasn't he hunting tigers?

I feel any judgement he needs I don't need to do, I didn't know him. I feel in my beliefs there is a final judgment that he and all of us will have to deal with.

Joe the Redneck
March 12, 2008, 05:54 PM
I read those stories as a kid. Him, Cooper, Keith, I'm never really sure how many of those stories I actually believed. That was very much the style of the day. Women are baby-making machines. Anyone who wasn't white was worthless. Ruff, tumble, hard drinking, two fisted manly men.


I suppose only God knows.


March 12, 2008, 07:44 PM
I trained under the Col. for several months and kept a running letter exchange going for a few years ,,two of his favorites I remember where the "Fitz" Colt New Service in 38-40 and a Remington Model -11 12 ga..

ONe thing about the ole man if he said he was going to shot ya,,make sure your will was in good stead.

March 12, 2008, 09:02 PM
Since the original point of this thread was about the guns of Charlie Askins, I'm not sure that some of these posts about his gunfight mentality or his occasional disregard for due process in some of his armed encounters, are all that relevent to the OP's query. So could we maybe get back to the question at hand, and talk about his guns, and not his gunfighting psyche.
I did find out that while he was in the Border Patrol, his favorite revolver was a Colt New Service in .44-40. He ackowledged that it was strictly non-issue, and that he had also "whittled" out the front of the trigger guard, perhaps emulating the modifications of the original Fitz-Gerald revolvers. Sometime later, he had another Colt New Service, this one in .45LC, which featured a 2" barrel and a cut-away trigger guard as well. His Remington Model 11 shotgun had the barrel cut down to 22", and he had Frank Pachmayr build an extended magazine for it, so that it could hold 9 rounds of 00 Buck.

Old Fuff
March 12, 2008, 09:22 PM
His favorite during his later days in the Border Patrol was a .38 Special, 4 inch barreled Colt new Service with a King Gunsight Co. rib that included an adjustable rear sight. As noted the trigger guard was cut off at the front (a modification he did to most of his handguns) and it had carved ivory stocks with a scrimshawed CA inside a shield on the off side. I believe Pachmayr worked over the action. He was instrumental in getting the Border Patrol to adopt the Colt New Service /.38 Special as a duty sidearm.

When World War Two started he carried it through the North African Campaign and in Italy, but then switched to a .45 pistol during his service in Europe.

March 12, 2008, 09:57 PM
Any of Askin's books that you can get ahold of are worth reading. As folks have mentioned his was a champion pistol shot. His works "The Pistols Shooters Book" and "The Art Of Handgun Shooting" are both good reads and useful today. As are his article, etc. They are useful for his advice to shooters of any generation.

He favored Colt revolvers, though he thought well of S&Ws. He came, awhile after the war to favor pistols. He writings are laced with his stories.

On the matter of him being a killer and a racist. Both are true. Not all men who kill are killers fortunately. If Askins made himself useful to anyone it was in spite of this. Killers are not to be trusted in battle.

On the racism, it's useful to keep in mind that back in the day many "two fisted men" stood up to racism in a variety of ways including gun in hand. Many died defending their rights and the rights of others. Ol' M.L. King and the many who proceeded him slept soundly at night because of the foot soldiers who placed their lives and all they had on the line defending him.


March 13, 2008, 06:40 PM
I think his shotgun had a white rag tied to the front of it as a sort of index/night sight.

March 14, 2008, 09:19 AM
I would much rather deal with men of Askins' caliber including his limitations than ones who talk bravely and then cower or lose composure during the moments that count or do not do what they have promised. There are more by far of the latter and I cherish the late Colonel and his writings.

March 14, 2008, 09:14 PM
Two of Askin's books in that pile.


March 15, 2008, 12:41 PM available in paperback for about $ 20 from Aamazon, so I just put in an order.

Be kinda intreresting to read the thoughts & tips from a guy whose actually "seen the elephant" vs some of our ...ahem...modern gunrag writers.

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