Demon Rum and Charles Askins

Col. Charles Askins

As an amateur history buff, I’m always interested to see how perspectives on topics change over the years. When reading through a 50 year old gun magazine recently, I ran headlong into one of those views that I daresay would never be found in print today.

Col. Charles Askins, a semi-mythical figure to some in the shooting industry, penned a piece called Demon Rum and the Shooting Man in the April/May 1966 issue of GUNsport magazine. In this article, Askins puts forth why he believes drinking alcohol and shooting do mix.

Wait, what?

Askins states that while at Camp Perry winning national championships “Demon rum was my crutch and ally.” Further, he stated:

If this sounds like I condone the cup that cheers at shooting events that is exactly the way I want it to sound. I do.

Askins continues over the next five pages to explain how he used alcohol during matches to help calm the nerves, improve concentration and steady the hands – not just as a social lubricant at after match gatherings.

In fact, Askins stated:

I was the habitual consumer and as the team captain and coach of the U.S. Border Patrol pistol team, I persuaded the other members to imbibe.

Askins went on to describe in detail the amount of alcohol over what period of time seemed to produce the best improvement of scores. He claimed that drinking alcohol during matches helped him improve the Border Patrol’s match scores 8.7% for the team as a whole.

Interestingly, Askins does draw the line somewhere when mixing guns and booze. Competition shooting is clearly ok, but hunting is not. He stated:

Liquor and match shooting mix nicely, liquor and hunting does not.

I guess every man needs to know his limitations. Even so, the article states that Askins would remain “brightly incandescent” throughout the entirety of the 10-day Camp Perry National Matches.

Reading this particular article was a bit surreal. At first, I thought it might have been some kind of April Fool’s article, but I could find nothing the magazine that would suggest this was true. Additionally, other references to the article I have seen all treat this as a legitimate work by Askins.

As a fellow that has seen everything from accidental shootings to DUI fatalities, I would never suggest or condone the use of alcohol or other drugs during shooting activities. While I can appreciate that “calming the nerves” might help a shooter on the line, the consequences of an unintentional discharge are simply too great to allow Askin’s crutch to be used.



Richard Johnson

An advocate of gun proliferation zones, Richard is a long time shooter, former cop and internet entrepreneur. Among the many places he calls home is http://www.gunsholstersandgear.com/.


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  • Askins wrote a similar article for January 1956 issue of Guns Magazine.

    http://www.gunsmagazine.com/1956issues/G0156.pdf#page=24

  • Jeff Smith

    I would rather deal with the lower score than the horrific heartburn and hangover that occurs every time I drink rum.

    • Tassiebush

      That’s what hair of the dog is for.

    • John Yossarian

      Barrel-aged liquor hurts my stomach – You might want to try white rum, if you haven’t already.

      • Jeff Smith

        I can do about anything other than rum. And mixing anything sugar based with alcohol instantly makes me feel like someone is standing on my chest.

        Perhaps it’s the natural reaction of my body due to the first time I got drunk – on hurricanes in New Orleans.

        • Kivaari

          Instant hangover from surgery booze. I find it easy to avoid contact.

    • Lee Attiny

      easily remedied with more rum

    • Anonymoose

      I’ve never had that problem with rum. My main problem is having to eat a lot to absorb any alcohol I drink more than a few beers, though.

    • milesfortis

      Others advised bourbon or scotch, depending on individual preference.
      The amount that the legend advised was only a single shot (no pun intended) before each relay. Just enough to slightly depress the nervous system.

      • William Johnson

        I can’t do gin or whiskey, I had a bad experience once. Rum is on the otherhand the primary ingrediant in my boatdrink of choice. I do reserve adult beverages for post range social time, the risk is just too high.

        • Kivaari

          Gin is like going in the woods and eating a pine tree raw.

    • rayward

      Try a good Scotch , never a hangover.

      • Jeff Smith

        As a teenager, my parents would buy me a new gun every year for Christmas. Once I got a little older, I started getting a nice bottle or bourbon or scotch every year. I’m currently working on a nice bottle of Lagavulin 16. I have a great family.

  • Tassiebush

    I disagree most vehemently with this unrepentant sinner. Liquor and hunting do mix…
    :-p

    • David H.

      Ha! I see what you did there – Askin’s autobiography is entitled “Unrepentant Sinner.”

      Yeah, I’ll take a firing line of drunk tough guys over the nanny state of today, any day.

      • Tassiebush

        hehe glad you picked that up.

    • Bill

      I couldn’t count the number of drunken hunters I’ve had to help haul out of deer camps, either on a stretcher or in cuffs.

      • Tassiebush

        So it even has the positive spin off of employment for police and paramedics…

      • Tassiebush

        Sounds like an interesting dynamic to have to be involved in. What sort of offences or injuries are occurring?

  • LG

    P. Sharpe and C. Askins were two of a kind.

  • Division Charlemange

    Not fully familiar with the National Match course of fire, but I understand that it is fairly well regimented? Seems like the four rules could be easily enough followed while not just a little buzzed from occasional swigs from a hip flash (as I imagine would’ve been Askin’s condition) but really even while quite drunk indeed, especially by disciplined on-edge veterans of combat against America’s enemies overseas and at home (as the Border Patrol team would have been).

    I don’t know if he ever competed in IPSC, but I imagine he would have had the same opinion towards mixing alcohol and more dynamic shooting events as he would hunting.

    • Bill

      Landing an airplane is a fairly well regimented process with checklists and instruments and all; want to fly with a pilot who’s a little buzzed?

  • Bill

    The Akin’s Avenger is my absolute favorite style of holster – how much he had to do with it’s design I do not know.

    History is murky, but my understanding is that shooting while drunk may have been the least of Askin’s issues. His own writing self-describes a psychopathic murderer who’d be in a federal pen today. But his writings, those of Bill Jordan, and studying the history of the Southwest Border down past the Punitive Expedition, the sundry wars, Indian or other, Manifest Destiny and the Westward Expansion through the Spanish settling of Mexico paint a picture of the region that’s really no better or worse than the cartel land of today.

    • He was a character no doubt about it. Bill Jordan on the other hand was a good guy.

    • Tassiebush

      Yeah he was a colourful and violent character from what I’ve read. I recall reading his description of knocking a fellow paratrooper unconscious and pushing him out of the door of a plane when the man froze in the doorway during a skydive. He basically figured the guys altimeter thingamy whatsit would make his chute open which apparently it did. This was just during training too. Seriously callous.

      • William Johnson

        I have seen soldiers forcibly ejected from aircraft on more than one occasion. Judging by the screams none were uncouscious. These were static line jumps, so barring a malfunction the chute was going to deploy regardless. A jump refusal is a cardinal sin amoung paratroopers.

        • milesfortis

          Refusing to jump at the beginning or the middle of a stick can foul up the location on a drop zone, possibly putting people into trees, water or rough/hard ground. None of the above is desirable.

        • Tassiebush

          Haha I’d scream if it was me but I can understand the harsh reaction to it. Something about being dispersed kilometers apart due to a supposedly trained persons loss of nerve would cause a loss of sympathy

    • Kivaari

      He was a serial murderer. He loved stray cats. That was supposed to make up for his murderous nature.

      • Edeco

        Hmmm, loving cats does go a long way with me, but serial murderer… hmmm…

  • Wolfgar

    When our nation was free and life was worth living. I’ll take the hazards and dangers of years be gone to this nanny state of safe zones, political correctness, open borders and perbs in bathrooms. I know this will upset the uninformed but there is nothing like living in true freedom.

    • Gary Kirk

      Although not religious, I’ll give you an amen there

    • Bill

      Yeah freedom! Let’s get drunk and shoot guns!

    • Don’t remind me–it hurts to remember those days.

      • Cattoo

        Right?

    • AD

      It seems to me that the issue here isn’t about freedom, it’s about being intelligent and responsible.

      “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should” I think is the point here.

  • John Yossarian

    “Slow is smooth…” but liquor is quicker!

    • Gary Kirk

      Liquor normally winds up sicker.. And smooth is fast.. Nothing against a little Kentucky windage.. At a line range, now dynamic shooting…. NOT GOOD, already multiple targets, don’t need any extra

      • PK

        If you’ve got double vision, just aim for the middle one or use two guns.

        • Gary Kirk

          If you have double vision.. Technically, you’d aim between the two.. If you got triple vision, you have my Irish respect.. Never been that wrecked

        • Gary Kirk

          Oh, and nice doc Holliday reference.. ” I got two guns, one for each of you”

  • I come from German stock, I essentially can’t get drunk on beer; there are still lines that need to be drawn and defended, though, and it’s an hour after every drink before driving or shooting for me, no exceptions. Blurring the lines is how shooting buddies get driven to the hospital in a pickup bed awash in blood.

    • People get drunk from beer? How does that work?

      • I believe membership in something called a “frat” may be required.

      • oldman

        It only happens when imbibing extremely large quintiles in an extremely short time. As TexasUberAlles said membership In a “frat” may be required.

  • gunsandrockets

    Fascinating!

  • Goosey

    People do have a tradition of drinking and shooting in other countries. In Switzerland many ranges sell beer and wine!

  • Brian Fulmer

    “Group Tightener” is an OLD synonym for whisky, I must have heard it three decades ago. STILL not a good idea, and read up on when shooting with a hangover fell out of favor at Perry for High Power.

  • Dan Atwater

    I have a book on pistol shooting published in 1973 that also advocates drinking during matches.

    • Rnasser Rnasser

      It was a known trick for oldtimers… the point is, for most people that did it, it was a small dose of alcohol.

  • Southpaw89

    If you had a good airsoft gun you might be able to test this theory with little risk, don’t know how accurate those things actually are but it would be interesting to see. Would certainly never encourage trying it with the real thing.

    • Anonymoose

      Try it with robitussin instead of booze, maybe? I’ve also heard that smoking a cigarette beforehand can calm nerves enough to improve shooting, but that might just be an excuse to keep smoking.

      • milesfortis

        No, smoking was always frowned upon. The nicotine increases the heart rate and blood pressure.
        Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and does just the opposite.
        I heard of the booze trick from National Champion (and my team coach) Bonnie Harmon over 25 years ago.

        • Bill

          Back in the day I had a supervisor who would invariably be smoking a cigarette during the qualification course.

          • Kivaari

            Psychological dependence. Going into with-drawl was harder to control than the “negative effects” nicotine gives people. Like a drug addict, needing a fix. Give a kid a chew of Redman, and see how hyper they get. Then again, don’t do that.

          • Bill

            As long as I don’t have to be around them, I feed little kids a steady diet of Pixie Stix and Mountain Dew.

            My precision work has improved noticeably since I cut out caffeine.

          • milesfortis

            Oh, I’ve seen that as well.
            In the higher levels of Bullseye competition though, every one of the shooters and the team coaches (many, as in my case, former National Champions) would make the same statement. You want to be competitive? Stop smoking.

  • Bill

    Ok, how about shooting while high or on pills? Xanax or weed to cut the trail, a little Adderal or amphetamines to get you down it.

    I’m banned from International competition, or at least I was when I was on propranolol for hypertension. It regulates pulse rate and could really give precision shooters a boost.

    • randomswede

      It’s all down to dosages and in what way the shooters physiology is lacking.
      Some people need Adderall to function “normal” and some take it to get from “normal” to something else.
      It’s entirely feasible that part of what we consider talent is having a physiology suited to the activity in question. An argument could be made that forcing you to compete without Propranolol is like forcing a nearsighted person to compete without glasses.

      “I’m an Alpha male on beta blockers.”

      • Jeff Edwards

        When I consulted the neurologist about my newly developed essential tremor, her first question was “Does it get better when you drink alcohol?” Improvement with alcohol is diagnostic for essential tremor. Inderal (propranolol) a beta blocker, is the drug of choice for essential tremor. It’s known as “the musician’s drug”, endemic among performing artists as a means of steadying hands shaky due to stage fright.

  • Cymond

    I would never support drinking & shooting (I don’t drink at all, personally), but I do know a woman who gets significantly better at video games after half a beer. It helps her to just react smoothly instead of over thinking everything.
    I guess you could think of it as a “yips cure”.

    • randomswede

      A couple of my students, from back when I had some, did a study on board games and alcohol and found that there’s a balance point, essentially a little helps but it’s all downhill from there. I later found a larger and more professional study that had very similar findings.
      Just as you say a small dosage prevents overthinking and thus relies on the initial thought or instinct being a correct one. On higher dosages it just impedes thinking until all you are left with the basics of the reptile brain.

      • William Johnson

        Approaching half a century of gaming my impession has been that drinking improves casual gaming which is really more about socialization. Serious wargaming or gaming that involves complex rules degrades rapidly with alcohol.

        • randomswede

          My on the spot theory would be that complex rules don’t lend themselves to instinct and that someone very familiar with the rules (they are no longer complex to this person) could benefit from the same sip of drink to demote self doubt.
          However anyone who knows the rules that well, especially to complex games, is likely to whump you in most any state of consciousness.

          Stereotypically I should be good at and like wargames, the latter is kind of true but as the first really isn’t, so the latter suffers. ; )

    • phuzz

      I know my peak for playing pool is about a pint and a half. It’s enough to make my movements a bit more smooth, but not enough for me to start swaying.
      Of course, staying at that level is tricky.

  • Random Disabled Person

    I hope you and others are also noticing where the advertisers were located in those magazines. I read the old issues myself, kinda fun when you know what wildcat cartridge will become the a new standard. Those big gun surplus dealers in 1950’s were in states where they couldn’t do business today. I would have loved to get some of those grab bags of weapons from Scotland Yard.

    School shooting teams where kids brought the firearms to school were common place with championships being news, to now where a Poptart eaten in to the shape of gun is grounds to expel a child….. To suggest a even a high school shooting team today, would get you lynched.

    Let alone those $25 Mosins “…that no money went to a RED….”. Notice the vague threat of the “Red countries” aka the terror angle is old. Always a phantom blend in with the masses threat to manipulate the public with… Gotta have an enemy boogeyman.

    Now when I think about all those surplus guns and the decades they have been coming in, I wonder why there isn’t more available on the market? It would seem almost every person that wanted several should be able to have them? Ammo gets used but the sheer volume of firearms and the churn from estates for owners should have more available. Where did they all go?

    ……and where they talk about using the stocks of old weapons in military stoves…. In other issues is just depressing.

    The USA has been in a downward slide against gun owners from the gripes about the crap from the 1934 act, to Sullivan’s law in New York, to the 1968 laws that these original readers have no clue how bad it will become in 1968, and worse in 1986, then more stupidity in 1994 and many years in between. The magazines give an interesting insight to how we loose ground and the anti-gun folks have made little law after little law to achieve restrictions that are oppressive.

    To thinks kids could go off into the woods by themselves with a rifle & tent and the parents couldn’t check on them with gps in their cellphone….Oh Lordy would someone think of the children!

    • john huscio

      Highschool shooting teams still exist

      • Bill

        As do college shooting teams.

    • Kivaari

      Those $25 Mosins came out of Finland. They were war booty. Some were old M91s from before the 1917 Finn independence from Russia. Grandad, a Finn, was in the Imperial Russian Army and had his rifle.

  • Edeco

    I’m not surprised there’d be an increase in performance as one absorbs a drink or three, that’s how my musical skills work, but I’m surprised he could benefit for a whole day or days rather than coming down or getting sloppy.

    • Kivaari

      Drink at the established rate of metabolizing alcohol. Having 5 drinks over time could keep a person from reaching 0.08% BAC. Do it in two hours, and you are drunk.

      • Edeco

        Yeah, I’ve tried a few, um… scientific ethanol dosage schedules. One could take a snort of liquor to get primed then do a beer every hour or so I guess. Probably depends on the individual, but I find the performance enhancement goes away after a few hours if just maintaining, like the brain glands stop squeezing out extra happy juices…

  • Will

    His drink of choice was 100 proof “Old Group Tightener” bourbon.

  • datimes

    Didn’t the Germans years ago drink beer and shoot .22’s in beer gardens for deciding on who purchased the round?

    • Some Guy

      >this isn’t a thing anymore

      why even live?

  • datimes

    Lithograph from Bar and Gaming Scenes New York 1875. One of the “Ten Commandments of the Tavern”.

  • leewardboy

    I remember reading this article way back when. I was a mere child you understand…
    PS: I really liked “Gunsport” – their reviews of firearms were often quite brutal. It’s a wonder they lasted as long as they did. YMMV

  • Renegade

    Go Askins.

  • Steven

    He mentioned this in his bio too. As someone that knew Charlie while he was still around, all the stories about what a hard case he was are true. As for Gunsport magazine, it is equally famous for stiffing most of its writers. Maybe Charlie was one that got paid as I don’t see him taking that very well.

  • oldman

    Rum is made from molasses not cane juice. There are some good Barbados rums out there as well.

  • Matthias

    greetings from Germany. When I started sportshooting about 30 years ago some of the old guys used to drink a glass of red wine before a match. They swear it would help for calm hands and tight groups.
    PS gettting drunk from american beer isnt possible ;-))

  • jon spencer

    I don’t he meant shooting while drunk, just enough to calm the vibration of the front sight.
    At least I hope so.
    This might be something like todays version of those who take Beta blockers.

    • Bill

      I’m pretty sure that beta blockers are on the banned list at least for international competitions.

      • Bjørn Vermo

        In Norway alcohol is considered doping at the national competitions.

        • Kivaari

          Don’t they have a 0.00% BAC for driving?

      • jon spencer

        Yes they are blocked for international.
        Many, many levels and categories of competition that do not require testing though.

  • Jeff Smith

    Have you tried Brazilian Cachaça? It sounds very similar. It’s fantastically smooth, but still makes me feel like death.

    • randomswede

      Have not had the chance to try that, and my understanding of the wikipedia article is that they are very similar indeed.
      Around these parts they make Caipirinhas with rum as the base, a bar can only stock so many bottles I suppose.

      It’s interesting how the sugar based alcohols poses a problem to some people. Being a Swede I probably shouldn’t admit that I’m not a big fan of Vodka, even the smoothest and simplest in flavor leaves me with a bad aftertaste. I guess I just have a sweet tooth.

  • Captain Obvious

    I think we are perhaps overlooking the obvious. Alcohol consumption was much more socially acceptable back in the day. Daily consumption of alcohol was very common. We’re talking cocktails or beer at lunch, perhaps an after work drink or before dinner drink. (I know people who still do that) Once you start imbibing on a daily basis, and I don’t mean drinking heavily, the body craves the alcohol even in small amounts. We all know that cops and others in the shooting fraternity were/are known to imbibe so it is likely that they (particularly those from Askin’s generation) needed to keep a bit of alcohol in their system in order to function normally.

  • Kivaari

    Askins was an absolute racist and murderer. When asked how many men he had killed he said “Thirty five, but I don’t count spi…s and nig…”. He shot men in the back for sport. He shot others front-on for sport. He was proud of having shot the first man with a .358 Win Savage M99 and a .44 Magnum S&W. He shot a German sergeant for breaking distributor caps, while everyone else was surrendering. He was a poor example of a good man.

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Since alcohol is a depressant/muscle relaxant, it actually makes perfect sense that it would help a shooter to score better.

    Not condoning the use… Just saying, there’s probably some real science to it.