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.