Overlooked, Underloved


The .41 Mag. is a great hunting round for most big game. Mark took
this ugly boar with his Freedom Arms .41 Mag shooting 210-grain
Swift A-Frame ammo.

Handgun hunters have considerable choice of cartridges suitable for hunting. Heck, I would hate to guess the number of rounds capable of taking deer and hogs. For over 50 years now, I have garnered interest in what makes some cartridges more popular and appealing than others. There are many effective handgun rounds available; some survive the court of public opinion — others not so much. Sitting in a deer blind for hours recently, I thought about two efficient rounds that have never gained a lot of traction. Let’s look at one revolver cartridge and another for single-shots that never won a popularity contest — and probably never will.

.41 Magnum

The .41 Mag will effectively handle most critters in the lower 48. When compared to the .44 Mag, there is little difference between .429 and .410 bullets. Only when heavier slugs are utilized, such as 300 grainers, does the .44 Mag hold any meaningful advantage. The standard bullet weight for the .44 Mag is 240 grains, while the .41 Mag is generally loaded with a 210-grain bullet. Under this scenario, the .41 Mag will shoot a bit flatter with slightly less recoil than the .44 Mag. Of course, you can skew the numbers and play games with different loads, but in practical applications, the 41 Mag will be just as effective on deer, hogs, or black bear — game most hunters pursue. While there is a greater selection of .429 bullets, there are some mighty fine premium slugs for the .41 Mag, including Swift A-Frame, Hornady XTP, Nosler 210-grain JHP, Sierra 210-grain JHC, Speer Deep Curl 210-grain HP, Barnes 180-grain XPB, along with others.

After taking several whitetail deer and hogs with the .41 Mag, I can’t detect any noticeable difference in performance compared to the more popular .44 Mag. I’m confident the game wouldn’t notice any difference either. No, I’m not knocking the .44 Mag by any account. I actually shoot and hunt with the .44 Mag a lot. However, the majority of game taken by most handgun hunters could have easily been achieved with the .41 Mag — an effective round that doesn’t get a lot of attention or respect.

This huge Livingstone eland, one of Africa’s largest antelope, was taken with an Encore in .338 Federal.

Mark took this Shiras moose in Utah with a Freedom Arms Model 2008 in .338 Federal. Federal factory ammo loaded with Nosler’s 180-grain AccuBond performed perfectly and filled the freezer with delightful table fare.

.338 Federal

In the single-shot arena, the .338 Federal is another very capable cartridge for big game. In the past, I’ve hunted with this round in both an Encore with a custom barrel from Bullberry and Freedom Arms Model 2008. Based on the .308 Winchester case, like .243, .260 Rem, 7mm-08 and .358 Win, the .338 Federal can be quite accurate and very effective on large critters inside sane shooting range. If there is a downside, bullet selection could be debated. The majority of .338 caliber bullets are designed for the more popular .338 Win Mag, which generates considerably more velocity compared to the .338 Federal in a 15″ pistol barrel. That being said, I have experienced stellar performance with Nosler’s 180-grain AccuBond. Hornady’s 200-grain SST would be another worthy candidate for whitetail and boar.

An African safari in Mozambique and South Africa convinced me of the effectiveness of this round. I was shooting Federal Premium ammo loaded with Nosler’s 180-grain AccuBond. Seven shots yielded seven head of plains game, including gemsbok, hartebeest, bush pig and an ancient monster of a Livingstone eland. The eland came on the last hour of the last day in Mozambique. We made a long stalk before the trackers set up the shooting sticks for me to take a rest. The shot was approximately 100 yards when the old bull finally turned broadside. With the Encore resting in the cradle of the shooting sticks, I tugged the trigger, and the 180-grain Nosler did the rest. The big bull didn’t go 50 yards. Even the seasoned professional hunter commented on how well the cartridge performed on this extremely large animal.

In Utah, I switched guns to Freedom Arms Model 2008 single-shot when I procured a tag for Shiras moose. These moose are not as big as the Alaskan-Yukon variety but still require adequate penetration from a premium bullet. Again, I was shooting Nosler’s 180-grain AccuBond from Federal factory ammo because of what I had experienced from that previous African hunt. When a decent bull provided an opportunity from inside 100 yards, the combination of Freedom Arms and Federal factory ammo was responsible for a punched tag. The real work begins when a moose hits the deck! Federal provides several offerings for non-handloaders.

It’s interesting to observe what makes some rounds more popular than others. There are a lot of factors driving popularity trends, including marketing, social media, word of mouth by fellow hunters, along with a plethora of other influences. I probably could hunt the rest of my life with the .41 Mag and .338 Federal and never look back.

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