The .41 Magnum — Alive and Kicking

Ruger Blackhawk .41 Magnum with ammunition boxes

The .41 Magnum is a useful, powerful, accurate, and well-balanced cartridge. Perhaps, it is one of the best revolver cartridges ever designed. Yet, it seems to be almost on its last leg, and far down the list in popularity compared to the .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. This is understandable in some ways, but the cartridge is just too good to die.

I have noted lately that even single-action revolvers are chambered for a relative upstart—the 10mm Auto. I understand the popularity of revolvers chambered for readily available self-loading cartridges. I can see the popularity of the 10mm in a double-action revolver intended for personal defense, but not at the expense of the .41 Magnum.

A revolver cartridge is designed for a heavy crimp and headspaces on the cartridge rim. They are more efficient with the heaviest loads. The .41 Magnum with proper handloads will jolt a 210-grain Hornady XTP bullet to 1,400 fps. That’s Magnum performance. The .41 Magnum has a shorter history than most handgun cartridges coming along almost 30 years after the .357 Magnum and eight years after the .44 Magnum.

Unlike the other big-bore magnum cartridges, the .41 has no parent cartridge. There is no .41 Special, at least not originally. There is a custom .41 Special cartridge that must be handmade. The .41 was purpose-designed as a cartridge mid way between the .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. It really isn’t, as the .357 is a .357, but the .44 is a .429 and the .41 is a .410.

Bob Campbell shooting a .41 magnum revolver with a two-handed grip
Firing from a solid rest, the Ruger .41 Magnum is very accurate.

There is little the .44 Magnum will do, that the .41 will not, but in absolute energy the .44 is the king. There are those who state that the .41 has greater penetration with heavy 220-grain bullets than the .44 with 300-grain bullets, but this is difficult to prove. Suffice to say, the .41 Magnum is a grand cartridge, but it is definitely a specialist or handloaders cartridge if the greatest versatility is to be enjoyed. There are but a fraction of factory loads available for the .41 compared to the .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. I think the ammunition shortage of a few years ago really hurt the .41 Magnum.

The Birth of the .41

The .41 is the result of hard campaigning by Elmer Keith ‘The Dean of American Handgunners’ at the 1963 NRA show. The revolver went into production in 1964. The idea was to offer American Police a superior revolver. The .44 Magnum was too much and some wanted more than the .357 Magnum.

Others wanted a big bore revolver that would offer good wound ballistics without Magnum recoil and penetration. Frankly, I have always been amazed at the history of the .41, as far as this goes. At the time, the .38-44 heavy frame .38 Special was in production. This is a heavy-duty fixed sight revolver.

Barnes hollowpoint bullet
Barnes offers an all-copper hollowpoint for the .41 Magnum, in both bullets and loaded Vortex ammunition.

The Smith and Wesson Combat Magnum is a K frame revolver that chambers the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge. It is light, powerful, and reliable. A standard handload at the time, put in .38 Special cartridge cases, involved a cast 150-grain lead SWC hollow point over enough #2400 powder for 1,200 fps. This load proved excellent in both wound potential and penetration with little left to be desired.

The big bore fixed sight .44 Special, .45 Auto Rim and .45 Colt revolvers were in production. Demand was so low they were discontinued in the 1960s. For some reason, a large number of writers and Smith and Wesson executives felt that agencies not adopting the obvious solution—a big bore revolver—would adopt the .41 Magnum.

While I agree that the .38 Special 158-grain RNL was among the most worthless of service cartridges, we had good alternatives as early as 1950. The Smith and Wesson M57 is a deluxe revolver identical in appearance to the .44 Magnum and even heavier. The M58 is a heavy barrel, fixed-sight revolver, chambered for the .41 Magnum. The M57 is often seen; the M58 is far less common.

Very few agencies, primarily in Texas and California, adopted the .41 Magnum. It was offered with two loads—a full-power, jacketed, hunting load at about 1,300 fps and a 210-grain lead SWC at 890 fps. In a blunder, several agencies issued the 210-grain JSP for training and scared recruits—male and female alike—to tremors! The heavy frame S&W is much slower on the draw than a K frame revolver. The .41 was not a success story. It became a specialist cartridge. The .41 Magnum is a fine outdoors cartridge, with very little in the way of demerit compared to the .44 Magnum. The .41 shoots flat at long range and offers excellent penetration. Recoil is less than the .44 Magnum, with most loads.

Bob Campbell shooting a .41 magnum revolver with a one-handed grip
Firing bullseye fashion, the Ruger is controllable and accurate.

My .41 is a well-used and well-worn Ruger Blackhawk with a 6.5-inch barrel. This is an accurate revolver that will place five Hornady 210-grain XTP loads into 2.5 inches at 25 yards. This load clocks 1,325 fps. It shoots flat over distance and is easier to hit with at 100 yards than most revolvers. The sights are excellent.

At three pounds clean, the trigger leaves nothing to be desired. As for recoil, well, this is a lighter revolver than most .44s and with the original grips it sometimes raps the knuckle of the first finger of the firing hand. I like this revolver a lot and find that it is accurate enough for most any hunting pursuit.

With a set of Lyman dies screwed into the press the cartridge is very versatile with handloads. The .41 Magnum is far from dead and the Ruger Blackhawk and Hornady ammunition offer an excellent combination in the field.

Are you a .41 magnum fan? What is your favorite magnum cartridge? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (38)

  1. Hey Bob, I have been to dozens of of stores to buy some 35 Remington ammo. It can’t be found anywhere but online. I don’t mind buying some stuff online but I prefer to buy my ammo in a store. What’s the deal with this ammo? I don’t shoot it enough to buy a whole case, but I would the to keep a couple of boxes on hand.

  2. Great article. I just found out about the 41. Mag this year I bought a ruger Blackhawk at a gun show. I got into hand loading because of not being able to find ammunition. My favorite load is 210 gr. Hornady hollow point. I have loaded probably 500 rounds, with Aliant 2400 powder, loading with a charge of 17.5 gr. And I love it and have shot it and it is very accurate.

  3. Awesome write up. I am a new fan of the .41 magnum. I had read quite a bit about it, researched it, and then was lucky enough to get a good deal on a Ruger blackhawk bisley in 41 mag with the 5.5″ barrel. That was my first single action revolver. Absolutely gorgeous, flawless revolver. I am a reloader of about 25 yrs so after loading some 210 gr. Hornadys in front of 16.5 grns. of 2400 I fell in love even more with both the gun and the round. I am absolutely impressed with accuracy of that gun and round. I truly am a new, dedicated fan of the 41 mag and rugers blackhawk line of revolvers. I did also recently purchase a model 57 smith, 6″ barrel that I have yet to shoot. I’m anxious to compare the two revolvers. Either way, excellent write up and long live the 41 mag!!

  4. Just purchased one at a gunshow. A Ruger Black hawk with a six inch barrel.Spent forty five dollars on a box of 210 grain LSW. I am ankshest to try it out.

  5. If you have large hands,consider putting a Hogue Monogrip on it.They really work.
    Personally I’ll stick with the Blackhawk 45Colt or Redhawks in 44Mag or 45Colt

  6. I’ve had a Ruger Blackhawk .41 mag for nearly forty years. Great shooter, especially with the Hornady XTP 210 grain in my handloads. Very accurate. Recoil is no problem since I had mine Mag-na-ported and switched the smaller grip frame for a Superblackhawk grip frame. This gun outshoots my Superblackhawk, hands down.

  7. My 1st big bore revolver was a RUGER Blackhawk in .41 magnum. I was a young airman stationed at Minot AFB, ND. I packed that .41 all over the state hunting & damn near had to shoot a belligerent bull moose with it near the Canadian border.

    My buddy & I shot informal pistol silhouette matches out to 350 yards with the .41 mag with very good results. He had a RUGER Redhawk in .41 mag but my Blackhawk outshot his most of the time.

    One hell of a flat shooting pistol…….still regret selling mine!

  8. Thanks for write-up. I had the opportunity to pick-up a Ruger Blackhawk in .41 Magnum from a pawn shop back when I was in college. It would have been a big buy for a starving college student, but I often think back and regret not making that sacrifice buy. I inherited my dad’s Super Blackhawk, so the .44 has become a much more familiar shooter for me, with no real desire at this point to consider, a new buy; however if I find myself back in a pawn shop with a .41 Mag. Blackhawk under the glass … that will be too much to pass up again.

    I believe the Austin, TX PD officer that brought down the Tower shooter was packing the .41 Mag as the department issued sidearm, but ultimately used a shotgun to take out Charles Whitman.

  9. I was raised on the .44 Special,and own two. One day I found a good deal on a S&W 58, and then a .41 Blackhawk, The .41 is always with me, or near by. Great cartridge, nice to shoot ,accurate only handgun I really need. My other revolvers are getting dusty.

  10. I salute your combo ..but for me it’ll be 45Colt,44Mag or 357Mag combo.Ammo/ components are easier to come by.If I could as lever or slide actin in 45ACP,that would also be interesting.
    The thing I discovered about lever actions,is that they are more finicky [vs a revolver]re projectile weight and overall cartridge length.

  11. My first handgun was a S &W M57 .41 magnum. I treasure this gun and rarely shoot it now as it’s almost 40 yrs old and I don’t want to wear it out. Started out shooting factory 210 gr soft points but then had friends reloading custom loads. Best revolver ever made!!

  12. A pretty good discussion regarding the .41 Magnum. As I age, I find the full-bore magnum loads are more difficult to shoot well and have been “tapering back” on the power levels. A 210 grain slug waltzing out the muzzle at around 1,000 fps to 1,100 fps gives a nice thump and the impression of shooting a fence post downrange. I recently acquired some Starline .41 Special brass and will work up a good midrange self-defense load using it.

    I have a pair of Model 58s, a pair of 57s in 4 & 6 inch barrels, a 3″ 657 and a Marlin 1894FG in .41 Mag. Of them all, I like the Model 58 best and the lever rifle too. Recoil is mild from the rifle and it’s fun to shoot.

  13. My first 41 was a Ruger three-screw (serial number 707) 4 5/8 bbl Blackhawk that I bought with a 1988 tax return check while I was a college student (125.00 bucks – very gently used (faint cylinder drag marks,etc.) with box). This revolver remains the most accurate pistol I’ve ever shot and a sweetheart/joy to shoot/own. It was the catalyst for my lifelong affliction with the fabulous cartridge and hand-loading.

  14. I just realized something all my revolvers are .41 Magnum S&W 657 Mountain Gun, S&W 57-2 and a Ruger Blackhawk with 2.75 barrel. One rifle 1895S Marlin. Have owned a Model 57 & 58 in the past (regret selling them) Also regret never buying the Desert Eagle I once handled

  15. My first Blackhawk was of course the .357/9mm convertible back as a teenager in the early 80s. While stationed in Colorado in the 90s I bought a Super Blackhawk Bisley in .44 Magnum to carry as a bear gun while bow hunting out there (I carried it in a custom chest holster while hunting). A few years later I ran across a deal I couldn’t pass up on a Stainless .45ACP/45LC. While I carry the Blackhawks in the woods here in Florida or at the hunt camp in Georgia the Bisley stays in the safe these days. Having already owned the .357 and .44 Magnums the .41 seemed a little superfluous. While stationed in Korea prior to Colorado I read an article in Guns & Ammo or American Handgunner magazine about the custom Blackhawks & Super Blackhawks from Stoney’s Pistol Palace in Sarasota (long gone now) and they were my first stop on arriving home after that tour in Korea. I have loved my Ruger single actions since my father bought my first, a Super Bearcat, at a tender age!

  16. My first .41 mag. is a Ruger Blackhawk with very nice trigger pull and magna porting. I have sold it 2 times and I have bought the gun 3 times! LOL I won’t part willingly with it again! I am now the proud owner of a Henry in .41mag and love them both EXTREMLY compared to all my other caliber’s and I have most all of the hand gun caliber’s . I would recommend .41 mag to anyone for hunting self defense as long as loudness is not a problem!

  17. I modify a Ruger New Model Blackhawk Bisley frame with a 1:16 twist, 8” tapered octagonal barrel. The revolver is loaded with a 300 grain lead bullet in front of a sizable amount of 1680 powder. Sightseeing system is a custom mount for a Burris Fast Fire III. A sling swivel is mounted on the left side of the frame with the sling going around the neck and adjusted to arms length with tension. Makes a great deer or hog gun from 10 to 50 yards.

  18. Does anyone make the .41 Magnum in an automatic pistol? This day and age the technology ought to be available and demand would be pretty decent.

    1. I am not sure about current production, but I recall Coonan and Desert Eagle both having .41 Mag. Semi-Autos in the past. ~Dave Dolbee

    2. I have the .41 Mag Desert Eagle in my collection. Four magazines. It’s primarily a collector piece for me now, somewhat heavy and difficult to carry. However, it’s quite accurate, easy recoil, and reloading is simple. If I ever sell it I’ll do it as a package with all the bits an bobs. It is responsible for several hogs in past years! If one was to carry this platform effecently in the field I would now suggest an Alaskan Chest Rig holster system

  19. I agree the 41 mag is the best…for me. I have had Both the Ruger BN 41 and the Smith M57. I now just carry the Smith. Super accurate and recoil is easy to manage. Target Sports has ammo. I am thinking of purchasing the companion rifle from Henry with the big loop for deer and bear.

  20. Mine is a Ruger Redhawk. Great caliber. I think too many times, popularity is based on fads (can you say DirtyHarry?) and not on true performance. Thanks for the article. Can you do one someday on the .257 Roberts?

  21. I own all the Ruger magnums in both blackhawk and redhawk designs and would stack rate the calibers like this for hunting deer up to 300lbs…at up to 100 yards
    1. 44mag
    2. 41mag
    3. 480
    4. 454
    5. 357
    For general sidearm wear
    1. 357
    2. 41
    3. 44
    4. 480
    5. 454
    For brown bear country
    1. 480
    2. 454
    3. 44
    4. 41
    5. 357
    For elk from 75 to 100 yards
    1. 454
    2. .480
    3. 44
    I love my 41 as a reliable, relatively easy shooting revolver that tips its hat to the days of the cowboy. The ruger biseley pistols are best for recoil and better cocking leverage. I agree that ammo is limited but the 41 is a dream to shoot…try a 44 special in a 44 mag…feels close to that. Sure, i could just roll with the 44 but the 41 is just right for a general hunting sidearm or hiking/camping.

    1. James, what a nice list! But I am a bit confused why you have put the 454 where you did. If you are referring to the 454 Casull, then that is way more powerful than any of the other calibers you have listed, including the 44. mag. In my Ballistics file it shows that the 454 Casull ranges in power from about 1,000 ft. lbs. of ME to 2,302! The average comes in at 1,164. The .44 Mag maxes out at 1,533 Ft. lbs. (Buffalo Bore). The 480 maxes out at 1,453,bb but averages out at 1,293 (only 7 entries). This high average simply implies that manufacturers load it heavily routinely, probably because who wants a low power 480 load!

      However, the cost of the 480 cartridge varies from $1.37 to $3.22 per round, which is quite high. The 454 is also high – varying from $1.20 to $2.70 per round. The .44 Mag costs between $.50 to $2.09 (the max load of 1,533 ft. lbs.). I already discussed the .41 Mag costs and power in a previous note here.

      So, why did you put the 454 so low in the list?

      Vincent (10-23-2018)

  22. I am retired Leo here I n the peoples republi of new jersey we are allowed 15 rd mags,if we have a carry permit,my favorite carry gun is my smith and Wesson 58 With 250 grain handmade, or my Remington rand 1911a1,with 230 grainfmj hardball, don’t think I am undergunned,

  23. Hi…
    I own several .41Magnum revolvers and shoot them regularly.
    It has been my favorite hand gun cartridge for at least 30-40 years and I have extensive experience with all of them.

  24. I think this article has really left us with the question as to why the .4 Mag never made it big, and today is hardly mentioned. I am an owner of two Ruger Blackhawks – a .357 Mg 6.5″ and a 5.5 .45 LC Flattop, both revolvers. When I purchased my .357 Mag in 1965 it had been out for 10 years already, and the cartridge for 31 years.. Whereas, the .41 Mag cartridge has just come out the year before, and the very first Ruger Blackhawk .41 Mag came out in 1965 as well. So, its cartridge AND handgun manufacture was not popular or even spoken at all back then. Ruger stopped making the .41 Mag Blackhack in 1973, and has started up a new one in 2011.

    So, the question is now why did it not go gangbusters and become popular, since it is a fairly powerful cartridge and not extremely expensive, like some of the esoteric .4 and .5 handgun caliber ammo are. I examined both its pricing (today’s) and its power relative to other nearby calibers, like the .357 Mag, .44 Mag, and the .45 Colt.

    I have a ballistics file I have created which shows ballistics for 32 handgun ammo type, and the .41 Mag averages (22 entries) $1.33 per round, whereas the .357 averages on $.74 per round, which is almost double. But of course, you can find some .41 mag ammo to be less than some .357 Mag ammo. This same file show the .44 Mag (63 different entries) to average in cost per round around $1.18, and the .45 Colt ammo (128 entries) averages around $1.15. So, definitely all of these other calibers are better deals.

    Now I looked at the power ratings – ft. lbs. of Muzzle Energy (ME). The .41 Mag varies from typically 675 ft. lbs. of ME to 1,107 (Hornady), with one low entry of 438, and averages around 850. The .357 mag cartridge has just about the widest range of power, varying from 354 to 906, although Armscor shows some ammo at 976 and even 1,170, which if true is probably from very long barrels, like 10″ or even longer, so it is not really what I would call handgun ammo. The .357 averages around 600 Ft. lbs. of ME. The .44 Mag varies in power from about 600 up to 1,533, and averages around 940.

    And finally, there is the .45 Colt ammo, which has been around in some form or another for over 140 years. This ammo varies in my ballistics file from about 400 ft. lbs. of ME, to 1,344(!), with a super low ME of just under 300 for a few ‘cowboy rounds that are used for shows and quick draws, and are not particularly inexpensive either!

    So, my conclusion is that for both of the other .4xx calibers, they are more powerful and less expensive, and of course, a lot easier to find and buy. The .357 mag come in close in the power rating (22-25% less powerful in the max and average MEs), but considerably less expensive (about half) and far easier to find!

    I think all of this goes a long ways to explain fairly clearly why the .41 Mag never made it big.

    Vincent (10-22-2018)

    1. Amen, Brother Vincent,
      There. Is nothing so special a out .41 mag to justify it’s continuation. It will live on among those who want a willdcat type of individuality. The rest of the world has moved on. It is just as well to write an article laminating the shortage of .44 rimfire.

  25. I own the .41 magnum revolver in the S&W model 57, and I shoot the 210 grain cartridges with great pleasure. It is my favorite sidearm and anyone that sees me shoot it at the range begs me to let them shoot it.

  26. Bob, If your looking to start a club in support of the .41 Magnum I’d like to become a member as soon as possible.
    As far as I’m concerned the .41 Mag is perhaps the most under rated handgun cartridge ever made and, fortunately, still in production as well as components for reloading. My first Ruger Blackhawk was a 4 5/8” in .41 Mag. I still carry it today when I’m in the Alaskan Bush even though I have a both a .44 and .454.
    The .41 is under utilized, unsung, and never seemed to recieved the praise it should have, and deserves to have. This caliber is more than suitable if needed in Brown Bear country. I also found it to be suitable for carry in Africa while hunting.
    Reloading is easy, components are available, and there are still a manufacture or two that produce factory munitions.
    The .41 Mag has survived years in the shadow of the .357 an .44 Magnums. This fine preforming caliber shouldn’t be allowed to exist in obscurity.

  27. Great load you have there Bob, 210 grains at 1,325 is a wonderful load. I too see all the hype with the 10mm. The 10mm sellers claim they are equal to 41 mag, I call BS. Just check the Buffalo Bore site, all three of the hottest 10mms barely get to 700 foot pounds, but ALL of the 41 mag loads get over 1,000 foot pounds. And this is with the shorter barrels. I own three 44 mag handguns and like them well. Most of my factory carry loads fall at 1,000 foot pounds and it is devastating on deer, so if 41 mag can do that, then for deer the additional recoil is just wasted in my view. Also, I really like to carry a single action cowboy gun usually a Ruger Flat Top in 45 colt which weighs only about 38 ounces, a full size Ruger will weigh nearly 50 or more, which actually will pull your pants down. LOL, my point? The short barrel Ruger 4 5/8 barrel also only weighs about 38 ounces while the 44 again adds another 8 ounces or so. Unless there are actual grizzlies where you are the 41 mag makes for the best weight power ratio of just about anything out there.. Check it out. Also, Charter Arms is again selling their little 5 shot, 22 ounce snubby in 41 mag. Gotta wonder about the recoil. Good article. If you need more than 357, there it is.

  28. I looked at the 41Mag decades ago but lack of readily available ammo and components dissuaded me.I stuck with heavy loaded 357s and 44s.For the last decade I’ve really gone over to the 45Colt.A mouse [shot capsules or round balls]to moose[330 and even 390 grain hard cast slugs.For a 41 caliber,I’d give thought to the 10mm auto…but then there is 45ACP+P AND the 460 Rowland[1200fps with 230gr slugs !].I have seen some Blackhawk combos in 41Mag/10mm.

  29. The author is marveling that the .41 Magnum offers magnum performance….um…why? It says “Magnum” right there on the box. It does nothing that cannot be done more efficiently by the .357 Magnum or more effectively by the .44 Magnum. And the .41 is NOT a big bore.

    1. Sometimes the subtleties of a fine wine, an outstanding bourbon, and a brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed firearm caliber, just escape some.

      Kudos to “Pete in Alaska.” Well said!

    2. Not to pick nits Bob, but the .44 Magnum is only 19 thousandths larger in bore than the .41 Magnum. So you are then arguing that the .44 Magnum is also not a Big Bore? Would love to hear your response to that.

  30. What this boils down to is that .41 mag is the strawberry ripple ice cream of the gun world.

    Perfectly good, just not the most popular, but stil, perfectly good for most people.

  31. The 41 was primarily designed as a law enforcement cartridge.
    If one is interested in a true hunting round, most will begin and end their search with the 44 Magnum. If you are looking for bear medicine, revolver power goes up dramatically from there (i.e. 480 Ruger, 454 Casull, etc.). In a service handgun, the 10mm Auto does everything and more than the revolver round, including packing more rounds per reload.
    The 41 was a novel idea when it came out and was never as popular as the loads on either side (357/44).
    I was told once that the sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. The 41 is interesting from a historical standpoint but so is the 6.5 Swedish. Today there is no credible reason to purchase the Swedish round except to feed a historic firearm. I put the 41 Magnum into the same category.

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