My First Bullet – 38 Special

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

38 Special
My First Bullet – 38 Special
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Wisconsin –-( It was 1960 and I was in kindergarten in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

My father, the Navy Master Chief, was stationed in the middle of the no-where Idaho desert assigned to the fairly new Navy nuclear program. He worked shift work on nuclear reactors training for future deployment on one of the new nuclear powered ships.

Sometimes my mother would go shopping, leaving me home with my dad who was sleeping in the day time. I was good at being quiet but I wanted to watch Gene Autry cowboy movies on TV. They came on at 1:30 PM and I could not turn on the TV until the clock said it was in fact 1:30 PM.

The problem was I did not know how to tell time. The answer from my parents was we will teach you how to tell the time but you have to remember it. There was not going to be any turning on the TV early and disturbing my sleeping father. And of course this was in the pre-digital days.

Because I learned to tell when it was 1:30 PM (and no other time) I was able to watch Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and a host of other 1930s, 1940s and 1950s “B” movie cowboy westerns. From watching Gene and Roy reloading their single action Colt revolvers I learned what a bullet was and how it was loaded into a handgun.

Across the street from my house was an empty field that I was allowed to roam around in with my fellow five year-olds. Something no right-minded parent would consider letting their child do today. One day while playing I spotted a bullet lying in the dirt. It was shiny silver looking, like the ones that the Lone Ranger used and it said 38 SPL on it. I picked it up wiped the dirt off, put it in my pocket and continued to play.

That evening as I was changing for bed I showed my mother what I had found and she got very excited. Even though my mother was a farm girl and had grown up with guns she got very upset with me and took my bullet away. She put it in a draw of her jewelry box and told my dad when he got home what I had found. My father read the head of the cartridge case and that was when I learned that 38 SPL was a Smith & Wesson 38 Special round of ammunition. I was allowed on occasion to get my bullet out of the draw and look at it but only in front of my father.

Then one day a lady came to our home and in the conversation she told my mother her husband was a police officer. My mother went right to her jewelry box, took out my bullet and gave it to the lady. I was crushed. That was my bullet. Nobody took Gene and Roy’s bullets from them and gave them to the Avon Lady.

The 38 Special round of ammunition has been around since 1902 when Smith and Wesson introduced it to the shooting public and the military.

In the first 70 years of the 20th Century it was the industry standard for the law enforcement community. More American cops carried 38 Special handguns than anything else until the high capacity 9mm handgun became fashionable in the 1980s. I carried a 38 Special revolver in my early days as an Air Force cop. I had not owned any 38 Specials for a long time but happened to pick up two of these revolvers in the last couple of years.

Now both the Colonel and the daughter want to shoot when we go out to the farm. So they both have a Smith & Wesson 38 SPL handgun assigned to them and they both are pretty darn good at shooting them. The number one sold handgun in the US is a five shot small frame 38SPL. The problem is a new revolver that only shoots five times can cost as much as $700. So the man with a woman in his life who is trying to get her to learn to shoot and carry a handgun tends to go for the big, heavy 9mm automatic that shoots 15 times and cost $450.

Men your women may smile and say OK when you buy the big bulky handgun, but they will not carry it with them.

Woman’s fashions do not lend themselves well to “pistol packing mommas.” Buy them the demure 38 Special revolver and they just might carry it and stay safe.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:
Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret. , is a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Now retired, these days he enjoys camping, traveling, volunteering with the Girl Scouts and writing. [email protected]

  • 3
    Leave a Reply

    Please Login to comment
    3 Comment threads
    0 Thread replies
    Most reacted comment
    Hottest comment thread
    3 Comment authors
    Silas Longshotjerry sweetEthanP Recent comment authors
    Notify of
    Silas Longshot

    .38's & .357's are among my favorite toys. Can't be beat for simplicity and reliability.

    jerry sweet
    jerry sweet

    i was a leo in a reserve capacity back in the 70's and we all had service revolvers.38's and 357 mags,which i carried.we have had semi auto's since the model 1911 and well into the mid 80's all of a sudden every one started to go for clip guns.i did some research and one big reason was leo's were starting to train military style.thats exactly why we have the completely stupid SPRAY AND PRAY.i have leo's that go back to 1946 in my family.and for decades,we had two rules.first you pull your revolver,you shoot and hit your target.two you didn't… Read more »


    Major; If cost is a factor, I believe a Makarov (not Chinese) can still be had cheap. I found them (not Chinese) accurate and reliable and small enough she will carry it.