Sometimes a great idea never gets the attention and appreciation it deserves. It can be a matter of poor timing or poor execution, or sometimes just plain bad luck. Such is the origin story of the .41 Remington Magnum, a high-powered handgun cartridge that, on paper, appears to have all of the best features of the esteemed .357 S&W Magnum and .44 Remington Magnum, and few of their drawbacks. It even shared the same developer as the .357 and .44: the legendary handgun hunter and writer Elmer Keith. This wasn’t some off-the-wall wildcat cartridge dreamt up by some unknown in his garage: Keith worked closely with Bill Jordan and Skeeter Skelton, both well-known American lawmen and firearms writers, creating an all-star development team with vast practical experience. And yet the .41 Magnum never really got off the ground commercially. Why?
Back in ’60s, at the time of the .41’s creation, the .357 Magnum served as the mainstay of many police agencies, but its limited factory loads left some to view its performance as lackluster. Conversely, the .44 Magnum was viewed as overkill for anything in law enforcement. The .41 Magnum was intended to serve as an ideal compromise for law enforcement officers looking for something more potent than the .357, but less punishing to shoot than the .44.
The cartridge was released in tandem with the six-shot Smith & Wesson Model 57 revolver in 1964, but few law enforcement agencies adopted it. The N-frame of the Model 57 proved too large for many officers’ hands and the recoil from Remington’s 210-grain semi-wadcutter—even traveling at a mild 1,100 FPS, was not well received.
Without the adoption by police departments, the .41 Magnum needed to gain traction on the commercial market to create a lasting foothold. But any chance of that happening was abruptly quashed by the .44 Magnum’s meteoric rise in popularity following the 1971 film “Dirty Harry,” wherein Clint Eastwood wielded the now-legendary Smith & Wesson Model 29.
Hunting and defense applications
The .41 Magnum has developed a small but devoted following in the handgun hunting and silhouette shooting communities. Its flatter trajectory and milder recoil than its bigger brother, the .44 magnum, make it comparatively pleasant to shoot while still remaining potent enough for everything from feral hogs and whitetail deer to dangerous game. Although the .357 Magnum can serve as an adequate cartridge in that role, its lighter bullets (100 gr. – 200 gr.) and more modest velocities don’t deliver the same decisive damage as the .41 Magnum’s larger-diameter, heavier bullets (115 gr. – 265 gr.). In a robust platform like the Ruger Super Blackhawk (shown above), hot .41 Magnum loads can even reach similar ballistics to the .44 Magnum.
Today, you’re not likely to find many factory rounds available for the .41 Magnum, nor will you find an abundance of bullet types and weights on the shelf at your hunting supply store, which pushes many handgun hunters to go with the far more accessible .44 Magnum instead. Unlike the .357 and .44 Magnums, the .41 Magnum doesn’t have a widely accessible “special” loading for inexpensive target shooting or training, either. If you take up shooting the .41, you’ll want to handload for it to save money and maximize the caliber’s versatility.
Still hanging on
Although the list of current manufacturers producing firearms in the .41 Magnum is modest, the chambering persists. Ruger sells Blackhawks, Super Blackhawk Hunters, and Redhawks in the caliber; Taurus produces a .41 Mag variant of their “Raging Bull” Model 416; and Henry sells a Big Boy Steel Carbine in the .41 chambering, as well. You can also snag a used .41 Mag by searching for Smith & Wesson’s older models—including their Model 657, Model 57, and Model 58—or Dan Wesson’s Model 41. Ammo manufacturers seem to have grudgingly accepted the caliber’s persistent endurance; you can find factory loads from Hornady, Remington, Winchester, Federal, and Underwood, as well as several boutique or specialty manufacturers.