Skeeter Skelton, You Like to Got Me in Trouble

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 is the Cadillac of Snub-Nosed revolvers.In 1968, I went to work for a 50-man police department up in North Texas. We had to buy our own leather and guns. And the guns had to be either Colts or Smith & Wesson revolvers. We could carry magnum guns, but they had to be loaded with department-issue .38 Special +P ammo.

When I first signed on, the department issued Super Vel ammo with the 110 gr hollowpoint bullet. And I can tell you that these light bullets did not perform well on 180 pound (and up) critters. Finally, we went to some Smith & Wesson brand ammunition that used a 125 gr bullet. It was an improvement, but it sure wasn’t a magnum!

Our chief was a gun-savvy guy, but he just didn’t think that municipal police ought to be shooting magnum ammo. I know, because I wore myself out trying to con him into the change. Besides that, we wore open cartridge loops, so you couldn’t very well sneak the magnum ammo on duty. For some reason, the sergeant was also regularly checking my Model 19 to make sure that some of that nasty old magnum stuff hadn’t accidentally gotten loaded in the cylinder by mistake. Seems like things just ganged up on a young cop.

Then I remembered one of Skeeter Skelton’s articles on handgun reloading. He would stuff a .38 Special cartridge with enough 2400 powder to get something like 1250fps! Now that was the ticket.

I had a bunch of one-fired S&W nickel brass and, studying the issue-load bullet, I was sure it was a Sierra bullet. Wasn’t long before I had me some 150 Sierra hollow-cavity bullets, the nickel .38 cases, and a suitably large amount of 2400 powder. My carefully constructed handloads looked exactly like our puny issue stuff. I was ready Rock & Roll!

Then came the evening that I got the Mad Dog Call. The complainant said that a huge, mean dog was loose in the neighborhood and terrorizing everyone, especially the children. It wouldn’t be long before someone got hurt. It was my district and I checked enroute.

As I walked up to the complainant’s house, this huge 80+pound, mixed breed dog came flying around the corner and zeroed in on me. He wasn’t foaming at the mouth, but he was sure slobbering. His ears were penned back and he was showing me all his teeth, an indication that this was not a false charge. I drew and fired, and the dog was DRT… about six feet from me.

As I radioed my sergeant to report shots fired—well, “shot” fired—the neighbors all showed up. It was quickly clear that I was the new hero of the neighborhood. The sergeant arrived, heard my story, talked to the witnesses, and was satisfied. That’s when the Chief drove up.

The Chief also heard my story and then examined the dead dog. “Young man,” he said. “Come over here and look at what your .38 Special did to this dog! How in the world could you possibly need any more performance from a handgun cartridge? I don’t want to hear any more out of you about magnum ammunition.”

Thanks to Skeeter, we never did get to carry magnum ammunition. And I got really tired, when someone would bring the issue up, of hearing the Chief say, “Hell, you ought to see what Wilson did to that dog with a .38 Special!” I chose (wisely, I suspect) to keep the truth to myself.

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167 Responses to Skeeter Skelton, You Like to Got Me in Trouble

  1. Dave s says:

    Loved Skeeter’s Stories!

  2. Jim,
    I remember Skeeter writing about that load. And I still have the March
    1996 ST issue where you mention it in your article “The Sheriff’s Final Four.” Though I agree with you that Mr. Skelton was the best writer ever, your article mentioned has always been one of my favorites.

  3. Dave says:

    Like the old saying goes, “police policy is written in the blood of dead (or injured) officers.” Administrators need to see an officer get hurt before they’re going to make a change. If they could get away with putting you out there with a single-shot .22, they would.

  4. lloyd says:

    you naughty boy my cousin did that to me one day when we was shooting 38s slipped me some hot loads in . just to have a laugh he did

  5. Hoss Dugger says:

    LOL Sometimes it just works out that way…

  6. Chuck Haggard` says:

    I was lucky that we started with the 125gr JHP Remington .357mag loading when I got on the job. We never had any problems with that ammo except it sure beat up a model 66 quick.

  7. Morris Dressler says:

    Love this story.

  8. Tom Crawford says:

    What a great story. I tried some of the then Secret Service issue 110 grain .38 Special +P+ on a small Virginia whitetail deer at about 30 yards on a simple broadside shot from a 2.5 inch Model 19. It made a huge mess, penetrated about 10 inches, and fragmented with no exit. The little deer jumped into the air and ran 10 yards before collapsing. He was in my orchard with no woods in sight. I was lucky there was no tracking to be done, because there was no blood trail.

    But the wound that little cartridge made really impressed me for a .38 Special, even if it was a low-end .357 Magnum in disguise. I can see where it would not be ideal for barrier penetration or on a big perp loaded with prison muscle.

  9. mlr says:

    I did something like that in Viet Nam. We would find small caches of supplies, including ammo, stashed by the VC. When I was in base camp, I would take AK-47 rounds, pull the bullet, and fill the cartridge with as much powder as I could stuff in it. Replace the bullet, and when we found a cache site, stuff one of my special loads in as many magazines as I could – usually the 3rd or 4th round down. Hopefully we gave a few VC a very uncomfortable experience.

  10. Hank Sheffer says:

    . . .”discretion being the better part of valor” as they say.

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