41 Magnum the Lonely Cartridge

By Doug Gilmer
41 Magnum Ammunition / Cartridge Review.

41 Magnum
41 Magnum the Lonley Cartridge
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA –  -(Ammoland.com)- The 41 Magnum ammunition is the most underrated, and unappreciated of all magnum handgun cartridges.

While still maintaining a healthy following, it is widely overlooked. This is unfortunate, it is a widely capable handgun cartridge. It is a far better big game cartridge then the 357 Magnum and a better defensive cartridge then the 44 Magnum.

With the right loads, there is not much the 41 Magnum ammo cannot do.

Famed shooter Elmer Keith and lawman Bill Jordan persuaded Smith & Wesson and Remington to develop the cartridge in 1963. Fellow lawman Skeeter Skelton jumped on the 41 bandwagon believing it to be a better cartridge for law enforcement than either the previously introduced 357.

Interestingly enough, both the 357 and 44 magnums had forerunners, the 38 Special and 44 Special, from which the magnum loadings were developed. The 41 Special would come later.

The 41 Magnum saw law enforcement use in the Smith & Wesson models 57 and 58. It found favor in San Antonio, San Francisco, Detroit. and in many North Carolina jurisdictions. While a proven fight stopper, like the FBI’s 10mm, the 41 would prove to be too much for many officers to shoot effectively and it was soon replaced. Had the 41 Special been introduced first, shooting a 200 grain bullet at 1000fps the story might be different.

Elmer Keith saw the 41’s potential as a hunting round. While on a polar bear hunt he shot a caribou in the head at 100 yards. Elmer figured out, as have many after, including sixgun expert John Taffin, the 41 shoots flatter than the bigger 44 Magnum. My experience confirms this. J. Scott Rupp, Dick Metcalf, and Dave Workman are among modern gun writers with an affinity for the 41 Magnum.

Classic Special and Magnum Cartridges: .38 Special and .357 Magnum, .41 Special and .41 Magnum, .44 Special and .44 Magnum.
Classic Special and Magnum Cartridges: .38 Special and .357 Magnum, .41 Special and .41 Magnum, .44 Special and .44 Magnum.

While its easy to understand how the bigger 41 surpasses the 357 Magnum in power and performance, how it stacks up against the bigger 44 Magnum is misunderstood. Their differences are not as big as one might think. The 44 Magnum is actually .429 caliber where as the 41 is a true .41 caliber. Many ballistic tables show the 41 outperforming the 44 in velocity, energy and penetration depending on bullet weight. Companies like Underwood Ammo and Buffalo Bore have used modern powders to push the 41 beyond traditional factory loadings while maintaining SAAMI specs.

Underwood Ammo 41 Remington Magnum 210 Grain XTP Jacketed Hollow Point
Underwood Ammo 41 Remington Magnum 210 Grain XTP Jacketed Hollow Point

My favorite 41 Magnum deer hunting load from Underwood pushes a 210 grain Hornady XTP out of a 6.5” barrel at about 1560fps and develops 1135 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy.

The 44 Magnum’s advantage is with heavier bullets. The heaviest standard load one can buy for the 41 holds a 265 grain bullet while bullets for the 44 exceed 300 grains. Still, the 41 delivers enough power and penetration for North American big game. It’s doubtful an animal will notice the difference in bullet weight and diameter.

The shooter will, however. The 41 Magnum recoils noticeably less than the 44. Less powder, lighter bullets, and lower pressures make for a more pleasant shooting experience. The 41 is also accurate. Accuracy is subjective and dependent upon the shooter as much as the gun and load but my open sighted 41’s are most capable of game taking accuracy at 100 yards.

For the reloader, a great deal of information is available for those who want to tailor their own 41 Magnum loads. The 41 Special is another option. To the 41 Magnum what the 38 or 44 Special is to their magnum counterparts, the 41 Special is not loaded commercially but brass is available. The 41 Special makes an excellent defensive round or woods load. A 200 grain bullet at 1000fps should offer enough power for most situations.

RUGER New Model BLACKHAWK Handgun in 41 Magnum.
RUGER New Model BLACKHAWK Handgun in 41 Magnum.

Ruger leads 41 handgun manufacturing today, particularly in its single action Blackhawk line. New for 2016 is a 4.2” double action Redhawk. Smith & Wesson currently lists a six-inch barrel Model 57. Their stainless 657 and Mountain Gun are hard to come by but are excellent shooters. Freedom Arms chambers the 41 in their Models 83 and 97 single action revolvers.

My 41 collection includes three Rugers and a custom 10” MGM barrel for a Thompson Center Encore frame. Topped with a Trijicon RMR this gun is quite the shooter. “Maude”, as I’ve named her, has traveled with me to the whitetail woods, bear hunting in Maine, and to southeast Alaska to hunt deer and bear. Never once did I believe the 41 not be up to any task it may face. Loaded with hard cast bullets, many in the north country depend on the 41 for protection against big bears.

Are you looking for handgun power and performance without punishing recoil? If so, give the classic 41 Magnum some consideration.

While its never been featured in a movie like the 44 Magnum, but its reputation in the field is nevertheless proven.

41 Magnum Resource:

41 Magnum Load Data:

41 Remington Magnum Load Data by Nosler

About Doug Gilmer,
Doug Gilmer is a law enforcement and military veteran with over 25 years of experience and assignments operating throughout the United States and around the world in a variety of investigative, protective, tactical and direct action roles. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fly-fishing, hunting with a handgun, backcountry adventures, and volunteering with various outdoor themed wounded warrior events. He has been a frequent contributor to outdoor media for for several years with numerous articles and photos published in a number of media channels. He is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association as well as a former board member and executive officer.

  • 35 thoughts on “41 Magnum the Lonely Cartridge

    1. Back in 1968 I carried a S&W revolver chambered for the .41 Magnum. This was my duty gun for 4 years until my agency required that all Game Rangers carry 38 cal or .357 magnum revolvers. Wish I’d never been required to change as the 41 was a great pistol to carry. Thanks for this reminder of a fine caliber and pistol.


    2. I’ve optimized the .41 Magnum’s capabilities as a reloader. It has been an accurate performer on the range, hammering metal plates at 105 yards and grouping tightly on targets. In the recent past, factory ammo has become prohibitively expensive and often difficult to find. The .41 Mag has served me well in the N-frame S&W Model 57, the Thompson-Center “Contender” with 14-inch heavy barrel, and the Ruger Blackhawk with 6-1/2″ barrel. It is, in my opinion, more versatile and “user-friendly” than the .44 Magnum. I’m usually pleased to see articles that praise the .41 Magnum because they accurately underscore the fact that the cartridge is best appreciated by those who can read a ballistics table and enjoy reloading for it.

    3. Glad to see my favorite handgun cartridge featured in a friendly article. The merits of the .41 Magnum are many and I’ve never really seen the advantage of buying a .44 Magnum, other than availability. The lonely .41 Mag is a delight to shoot with lower velocity loads. The old Remington “Police” load ran a 210 grain soft LSWC out of a 6″ barrel at 1100 fps and felt like launching a fence post downrange. It would certainly suffice for defensive work.

      On the high end, a 210 grain bullet at 1300 fps or faster manages to gets 100 yards downrange to ring the steel in an awful hurry. In between it runs like a freight train carrying a large load of gee-whiz with it. Pigs, Deer and Coyote drop with certainty.

      Thanks for the great article.

    4. After years of shooting 357, 41 and 44 magnum revolvers both for hunting and Silhouette Competition, I am a convert to auto pistols. First acquired was a Glock 23 in 40 S&W. Most recently a Glock 20 in 10mm.

      The 41 mag has some advantage in top end velocity, but I am finding that the 10 with a 180 JHP can achieve nearly 1500fps. So I don’t feel under powered, but most amazing, I find my off-hand accuracy with the auto much better than with the 41 in a revolver. I shot the 41 well taking 6 deer over the years with it at 100-120 yards (both rested and off-hand).

      Off a rest I shoot a consistent 3-4″ group at 100 yds with the 41 Ruger. I am finding I am able to shoot the 10mm Glock off-hand just as well. Now if they made an affordable auto in 41 Mag, I’d be shooting that, but the 10mm has really grabbed my attention and is replacing my interest in the 41.

      Now, if you want to talk 357 Maximum!!! ;-D

      1. Are you telling us that you just Can’t shoot the .41 revolver double action style? That’s Almost exclusively how I shoot mine. Every bit as accurate as single action. All it takes is practice. I must admit though, that mine has a Very smooth double action pull, Very smooth.

        I urge you to give double action shooting a chance, you may very well come to Love it.

    5. to the 41 mag in movies, I read in an article awhile back that the dirty harry movie actually used a 41 mag revolver because they could not get a 44 at the time, even though we know it made the 44 famous, could be wrong on this one, but I remember that part of the article sticking in my mind, great article

    6. The 41 Remington Magnum is kind of like the 16 gauge shotshell. It has some supporters/shooters but in reality it is a dying round.

      1. That’s funny Clark Kent. There are more loads for the .41 today from more manufacturers than ever before. Loads range from 160 to 265 grains for factory fodder. Most are geared to hunting though and there is currently a dearth of self-defense loads. Too bad as the sectional density of the .41 is superior to the .44 which means good penetration even with lower velocity loads. Couple a 200-220 grain medium-hard LSWC-HP to about a 950-1000 fps load from a 4″ barrel and it’ll be a hard hitting defense load.

        1. Anyone who presumes the .41 Magnum to be a “dying round” has clearly never owned or hunted with one. The hand-gunners who are familiar with the cartridge and its versatility would disagree withClark Kent. Apparently, the .41 Mag needs an advocate or public relations program, because those who are revolver fans appreciate its merits. For the record, I do carry an autoloader (with a permit to do so), but I prefer revolvers for the field because I reload my brass – all chamberings – and revolvers permit better control and retention of brass for that purpose. I’ve been shooting sidearms for more than 50 years, and the .41 Magnum is one of my favorites.

          1. No matter what your personal preferences are, the 41 Magnum is a dying round. The truth hurts. I never owned an Edsel either, but can assure you it was not popular.

            1. Well as For the 41 mag being a dying round. You might wish it true but wish in one hand an you know what in the other up date Henry arms is now producing Henry lwveraction rifles in the Great 41 magnum round. I for one have been hounding them for about a year an one half. I recieved notification from Henry arms 3 months ago that their first production round was ready for the market My order is in. It will make a great companion to my Smith an Wesson 657 41 magnum.. Dead or dieing not so. Not even close.

            2. I saw a .41 magnum Henry the other day at my local gun store and wished I had the extra money right now. Real nice looking gun.

      2. Henry just added a 41 to their Big Boy Steel line-up and mentioned in the article Ruger added a new 41 mag to their line-up. Of course in your reality, you are Superman in disguise.

    7. The .41 Mag has been my favorite Round for over 40 yrs. An old Wheel gun fan from the “Dirty Harry” Days. I bought a used Model 57 from a friend. Back then The Nosler SJHP was the only Hollow point I knew of and was not let down.
      five or six years ago I bought a Taurus Tracker Mod 425 Compact frame 5 round cyl. (Discontinued right after I bought it) I could have gotten the model 445 Tracker .44 Mag for the exact same price. I`v never reloaded and tho the choices are limited I run Underwood`s 210 Gr. XTP in it as well as that old “57”. (My only two revolvers) “Buffalo Bore” has all the Bullet weights also. but Pricey.
      I gave up the unlimited choices of the .44 mag for this .41 & Tell everyone I know about the .41 Mag round, Most have never even heard of it. Why it never got off the ground Surprises me to this day. For We (Loyal) .41 mag fans, Even Article`s are hard to come by about the .41 Mag. That`s a shame, It deserves better. Great Article! Thanks!

    8. Great Article. I’ve got all the calibers talked about and reload for all but the 41mag. I do have a S/ W 58 that was built in 1964, and a model 57; in 1969. Both blued with 4″ barrels. They are my pride & joy, but I’ve never shot either.
      Since I was made in ’59, and having read this article, I think it’s about time I shot them.

    9. Re Dirty Harry movies. The blanks for the .44 Mag were horribly loud (no duh). The actors could not wear earplugs of course. So during film shots at any distance at all (not showing the cylinder front) a Model 27 .357 was used with .38 Spec blanks and if the .44 Mag had to be in then .44 special blanks in the .44- all not as loud and not so tough on the crew and actors. But still loud!

    10. I’ve had a S&W model 657 since 1990, pre-Clinton, i.e. No holes in the frame.
      I load 215 gr SWC, 17.7 gr Accurate #9 for 1150 fps. Very light load!
      I have recently gotten a Henry in .41 mag, one of the first. Just waiting for some time to run that gun.

    11. Any round that does what you want it to do is a good round. For killing paper targets, which is mostly what I do, I’m cheap. A 41mag reload at LAX Ammo is .48/rd, where .40 is .22/rd and .44mag is .42/rd. Even 6 cents a round, after 500 rounds, is $30.00.

    12. “While a proven fight stopper, like the FBI’s 10mm, the 41 would prove to be too much for many officers to shoot effectively and it was soon replaced.”

      I don’t think it was too much to shoot, but that the Smith N-frames were to much to carry, especially when you consider that they could carry the same size gun .44, a couple of ounces lighter.

      1. Jeff, the .41 and the 10mm shared a common problem, a gender problem. Girly girls and girly boys just could NOT handle it. And of course the Girly Administrators went along with them.
        I handload and shoot both of them. When I bought my 10mm, a LEO trade, the clerk told me I would NOT like it because “it recoils as hard as a .45 auto.” And it is pretty close. I carry my 6″ Model 57 in a cross draw holster when hunting or just woods walking.

        1. Not really Grey Beard. What kept the .41 magnum from becoming a classing police revolver had more to do with the ammunition and the macho attitude of too many officers.

          The .41 Mag debuted with only 2 cartridges manufactured by Remington. The 210 grain LSWC “Police” loading and the 210 grain JSP load. Many officers familiar with the .38 Special and .357 Magnum were selecting jacketed bullets for duty use, believing them to be superior performers. With the .41 Magnum the JSP load was loaded to 1300 fps and kicked like a mule in a 4-inch gun. Yeah, that’s fun to shoot a cylinder full. But not as much fun when you have to fire 60 rounds of heavy magnums to qualify. As a result, qualification scores dropped.

          Even the cops or departments that used the 210 LSWC found some problems. The load was manageable by a lot of officers with the slower load (~1100 fps). But Remington had opted for a soft, swaged lead bullet. The soft bullet at the edge of supersonic flight caused serious leading issues in the bore. It was found that accuracy declined significantly after firing about 36 rounds without brushing out the bore. Remington was not interested in producing the load with a slightly harder cast bullet either.

          And the truth is not very many cops are shooting enthusiasts. For many it’s just part of their job training. Police spend more time training on legal matters and the moral/ethical uses of force than actually shooting. Now add in physical statures (5’8″ to 6’6″) and a large spread in recoil sensitivity you get a mismatch with the .41 Magnum’s grip size and power (especially with JSP ammo).

          Lastly, S&W and Remington screwed up by not creating a “.41 Special” (or as I would have named it, the “.41 Police”). A miss with a .41 Magnum could create considerable liability in an urban environment, especially with the JSP load. A .41 Special with an appropriate bullet design would have resolved many of the issues.

          1. I agree that ammunition choices contributed to the problem, but to say the 210 JSP “kicks like a mule” is exactly what I referred to as the “gender” problem. It does NOT. This is just like the guy that told me the S&W 1076 was too much gun because it “kicked like a 45 Automatic” story. Girly girls and girly boys demand a MILD recoil so they can qualify but Never remove their handgun from the holster in service. Giving officers their choice in calibers and firearms is the Only way to go.
            Shooting a swaged soft lead bullet at high velocities without a gas check is a recipe for horrible leading, as seen in practice. A 210 grain LSWC With a gas check is good to 1300+ Without leading, but you have to cast and load your own, as I do.

            1. And you are privy to the number of times officers remove their handguns from their holsters in what way? I call TOTAL B.S. on that claim.

      2. Hogwash. Many officers in the 1960s and 70s carried N-Frame revolvers. The Model 28 Highway Patrolman in .357 was often seen in holsters. It seemed that Sheriff deputies most often had the 6″ guns because they were more likely to need longer range. But I knew plenty of officers, especially motor officers who carried them. If it wasn’t a Model 28, some had a Model 27. In rural areas I’ve run across deputies with Model 24s (.44 Special) and Model 25s (.45 ACP or .45 Colt). The first new revolver I bought for duty carry was a 6″ Colt Trooper Mk III. Second was a 4-inch S&W Model 28 because it was more comfortable when I switched from the right seat to the left seat.

    13. Hell, Raylan Givens carried a 6 1/2 inch N frame in “Fire in the Hole”. He just switched to a Glock for TV. Product placement, I assume

      1. No, accuracy, since it wouldn’t have been an approved carry gun for the US Marshal’s service during the time period of the show.

    14. never had the 41 and since owning a 44 and 357 never saw the need. while its performance is impressive in a long barrel, it gives up much in a daily carry friendly 4in barrel. A G20 can get close to its performance from a short barrel and is a much lighter gun with 15 instead of 6 rounds

    15. I’ve been a HUGE .41 mag fan for YEARS! I have finalized 2 loads for all my .41 mag purposes. Both are cast loads where I cast almost all of my centerfire handgun bullets. The 1st load is soft pure wheel weights cast SWC pushed at a leisurely pace of about 1,000 fps that I use for plinking, edible small/medium game, etc. You can eat right up to the bullet hole! The 2nd is hard cast pretty hard heavier Keith style SWC driven around 1,500 fps that I use for hunting deer sized game and above. I know for a FACT this last load WILL go plumb through a mature bull elk from frontal chest, out through the butt not to be recovered at a measured 109 yards! In MY opinion, the .41 mag is the best & most versatile magnum of the so called “standard” magnums of .357, .41, .44 mags. My all time favorite .41 mag is my blued Redhawk with 5.5″ barrel that I went completely through it, hand fitting it, installed Wolff reduced power spring, oversize cylinder latch, reamed forcing cone to optimum angle, then honing it, adjusted endshake & barrel/cylinder gap, and uniformed & opened up the chamber mouths in the cylinder. Both of these loads are exquisitely accurate in this ice on glass smooth non stacking reliable sub 6# DA trigger pull revolver.

    16. I have to make a correction. I was checking my loading journal and the velocity of my warm hardcast SWC loads for .41 mag is 1,400 fps-NOT 1,500 fps as I incorrectly stated the other day!

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