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S&W .41 Magnum

The Smith & Wesson .41 Magnum Cartridge

  • Greg

"I love my Smith & Wesson Model 58. It is a piece of history."

The Smith & Wesson .41 Magnum, introduced in 1964, stands as a unique yet often underappreciated cartridge in the world of firearms. Bridging the gap between the .357 Magnum and the .44 Magnum, it was conceived to offer a balance of power, recoil, and versatility for law enforcement and hunting purposes.

The development of the .41 Magnum was spearheaded by Elmer Keith, a prominent figure in the firearm community, alongside Bill Jordan and Skeeter Skelton. They envisioned a cartridge that could provide greater stopping power than the .357 Magnum while being more manageable in terms of recoil compared to the .44 Magnum. The result was the .41 Magnum, a cartridge that featured a bullet diameter of .410 inches and a case length of 1.290 inches.

Smith & Wesson launched the cartridge in tandem with the Model 57 revolver, which was a robust and finely crafted firearm built on the company’s large N-frame. The .41 Magnum offered two factory loadings initially: a full-power load with a 210-grain bullet at approximately 1,300 feet per second, and a milder police load with a 210-grain bullet at around 1,150 feet per second. The latter was specifically designed for law enforcement use, aiming to reduce recoil while still providing effective stopping power.

Smith & Wesson Model 58

Despite its well-thought-out design and versatility, the .41 Magnum struggled to gain widespread adoption among law enforcement agencies.

The primary reason was that the recoil, even with the milder police load, was still more substantial than what many officers were comfortable with, especially when compared to the .38 Special and .357 Magnum, which were more commonly used at the time. Additionally, the .41 Magnum revolvers were often heavier and bulkier, making them less appealing for everyday carry.

In the hunting and sporting realms, however, the .41 Magnum found a dedicated following. Its accuracy, coupled with its power, made it an excellent choice for medium to large game. It offered sufficient stopping power for animals such as deer and boar, with less recoil than the .44 Magnum, making follow-up shots more manageable.

Over the decades, the .41 Magnum has maintained a niche but loyal group of enthusiasts. Modern ammunition manufacturers have continued to produce a variety of loads for the cartridge, catering to both hunters and target shooters. Additionally, custom gunsmiths and smaller manufacturers have produced a range of firearms chambered in .41 Magnum, from single-action revolvers to lever-action rifles.

In conclusion, the Smith & Wesson .41 Magnum remains a testament to innovative thinking in firearm cartridge design. While it never achieved the mainstream success its creators had hoped for in law enforcement, its enduring popularity among hunters and shooting enthusiasts underscores its effectiveness and versatility.


My MOS when I served in the United States Army was 76Y. The Military Occupational Specialty of 76 Yankee means that I was a Unit Armorer. While on REFORGER 85, I trained with German Paratroopers and qualified as "Expert" with the German G-3 rifle, the Israeli Uzi 9mm sub-machinegun and the 9mm handgun.

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