Educational Zone #58 – Great Cartridges – The .41 Magnum

In 1964, Smith and Wesson introduced their new .41 Magnum cartridge.

It was designed to be more powerful than the .357 Magnum, but easier to shoot than the more powerful .44 Magnum.

It indeed fell right between those two rounds, as measured in energy and recoil.

It had approximately 20% more power and recoil than the .357 Magnum, and about 20% less power and recoil than the .44 Magnum.

Here’s a picture of the .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, and the .44 Magnum.

e58-1
It was originally intended for the patrol officer, in the days when the revolver ruled.

S&W originally made an expensive and beautiful model called the S&W Model 57.

A cheaper version of the pistol, called the Model 58, was also made and marketed for police officers.

Both were fine pistols.

Smith & Wesson made a wooden box for their pistol.

It is a fine piece of work, in and of itself.

You can also note the Speed Loaders, which made loading the pistols much faster.

e58-2

Here’s Tman’s Model 57 in the box.

It is a beautiful pistol, with bluing that looks a foot deep.

This was made when folks at S&W took pride in their pistols.

e58-3

My buddy Tman has a fine example of the S&W Model 57 with a 6 inch barrel.

I have a Ruger Blackhawk in .41 Magnum.

Here they are.

e58-5

The idea of a more powerful pistol for police officers was a well-intended idea, but most officers were unable to handle the heavy recoil generated with full-power loads in these pistols. 

Lighter loads could be used that shot a lead Semi-Wadcutter bullet of approximately 200 grains driven to around 1,000 fps, but this made the pistol less effective than the .357 Magnum and it still had considerable recoil.

Here’s the two loads for the pistol.

e58-4

The round never “took off” in popularity and has languished ever since.

But that doesn’t mean that it is not a fine cartridge. With jacketed hollow point bullets in the range of 200 to 220 grains, and loaded hot, it is only slightly less powerful than a .44 Magnum.

Let’s see how it performs.

Here I am getting ready to shoot into the Waterbox O’ Truth with a heavy-loaded 210 grain Jacketed Soft Point.

e58-6

The recoil is indeed noticeably less that a heavy .44 Magnum load.

e58-7

We were amazed that the bullet penetrated through nine jugs of water for 27+ inches of penetration into BG.

Here’s all of the bullet that we could recover.

e58-8

We decided to try a JHP that was loaded “down” just a bit. 

Recoil was even milder.

e58-9

It penetrated 7 jugs for about 21 inches of penetration in BG, but the bullet did not expand much at all.

These rounds showed a problem with this round as it was introduced… the bullets available were of poor construction and were not reliable in expansion.

If they didn’t expand, penetration could be excessive.

e58-10

Let’s try a mild load of about 6 grains of 231 behind a 215 grain lead SWC out of my Blackhawk.

We only had 5 jugs of water left and hoped it would stop the bullet.

But no luck.

It penetrated all 5 jugs for 15 inches of penetration in BG and went through the back of the waterbox.

It was lost.

e58-11

Conclusion:
1. The .41 Magnum is a joy to shoot. Very accurate, and the recoil is not too bad.

2. Penetration was actually excessive with the bullets tried, as they were not well-designed. That is a problem with this fine old caliber. Good bullets are difficult to find.

3. It was too hot for police with the Magnum loadings, and did not bring much to the table with the milder lead SWC loads. It never reached the popularity hoped by the designers.

4. It can still be a fine hunting round, but one must look long and hard to find good bullets.

5. It’s fun to shoot stuff

 

2 Comments on Educational Zone #58 – Great Cartridges – The .41 Magnum

  1. .41 MAGS RULES !! PLEASE DON’T CALL REVOLVERS PISTOLS!!!!

  2. Robert jr K Williams // January 2, 2017 at 4:16 pm // Reply

    Thank you for the well written piece on the 41 Magnum I’m a rabid fan and handloader of this caliber since bullet technology has come along way from the sixties there is a nice selection of bullets to be used most being cast bullets of high quality being able to be pushed at velocitys over 1400 fps without any barrel leading I have documented a large number of hand loads for the 41 from paper punching to full throttle hand loading is the only way I can afford to feed it

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*