Is The .41 Dead?

Will Lightning Strike Me Down For Saying That?

By Mark Hampton

I sometimes ponder why some cartridges climb the ladder of public acceptance while others struggle. For most of my adult life I ignored the .41 Magnum and I can’t come up with a good reason why. Most gun cranks know the .41 was introduced after the popular .357 and .44 Mags. The law enforcement fraternity didn’t embrace it like it was anticipated, leaving the middle magnum as basically a hunting round. But I didn’t jump on the .41 Mag. as a hunting cartridge because, like many folks, I could do everything I wanted or needed with the other two. Does that mean the .41 is dead in the water?

Dedicated shooters and hunters who’ve spent considerable time with the .41 Mag. will attest it’s a sorely under-rated cartridge. Several of my close friends — and .41 Mag. aficionados — have told me the cartridge will handle anything in the lower 48. I finally heard enough talk and I wanted to get a .41 Mag. to finally see for myself.

After some searching, I stumbled across a Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter with 7.5″ barrel. This was not a regular catalog item from Ruger but an exclusive distributor model. The game was afoot, as they say.

There’s plenty of factory ammo available, and the .41 Magnum is easy to
handload with common powders and bullets.

Custom Work First

The big Ruger was sent to my friend Ken Kelly of Mag-na-port International. Ken performed an action job, smoothing up the trigger, installing a Weigand base and three rings, and tossed in some other embellishments. I fitted a Leupold 2.5-8x scope and I was ready for the range. I had stashed several brands of factory .41 Mag. ammo aside while waiting. I also got Redding’s Competition Pro Series die set, quality starline brass, and a bunch of Hornady, Sierra and Nosler 210-gr. bullets.

If we’re going to do this we might as well do it right. My friend, Dick Thompson, sent me a bunch of his powder-coated cast bullets weighing 230 and 250 grs. Dick was most helpful steering me in the right direction with loading data as he has years of experience with the .41 Mag. It’s also easy to load.

I spent a lot of time working with the .41, shooting both factory and handloads. The Ruger performed well even though I’m not much of a bench shooter with revolvers. I witnessed some tight groups at 50 and 100 yards — in the “few inches” range — especially with Dick’s cast bullets and Vor-Tx 180-gr. XPB loads. After punching paper until boredom sunk in, I went to the farm and shot steel targets out to 100 yards. I liked what I was seeing so much I then ordered a Freedom Arms Model 83.

Two excellent .41 Magnum hunting revolvers, both topped with a Leupold 2.5-8x scope. A Freedom Arms
Model 83 with 10″ barrel and tan micarta grips sits at top. Below is Ruger’s Super Blackhawk
Bisley Hunter customized by Mag-na-port wearing a 7.5″ barrel and Weigand base and rings.

A 10″ Barrel

The Freedom Arms arrived with a 10″ barrel, inverted crown, trigger stop, tan micarta grips, trigger job and Lovell mount/rings installed. Again, I mounted a Leupold 2.5-8x scope on the revolver as they are bullet-proof. In my opinion, Freedom Arms manufactures some of the best, if not the best, single-action revolvers today. After several lengthy shooting sessions, the Model 83 performed as expected and I’m convinced the .41 Mag. is a shooter. I was two-for-two now.

After shooting several different loads at 50 yards, I was impressed (surprised might be a better word) so I stretched the distance to 100 yards. Those same Vor-Tx 180-gr. XPB loads also shot well in the Freedom Arms. While I can’t do it this every time, when I did my part, 3-shot groups at 100 yards fell inside 2″. That’s pretty darn good for me, and it gave me confidence for hunting season.

It’s difficult for shooters to talk about the .41 Mag. without comparing it to the larger .44. Honestly, there’s not much difference between .410″ and .429″. When you look at the performance between the 210-gr. bullets in the .41 and 240-gr. bullets in the .44, I doubt seriously if any game animal would distinguish between the two. And the .41 will provide a tad bit less recoil in the process. In reality, unless you jump up to heavier bullets in the .44 Mag. like those in the 300-gr. class, the .41 Mag. will tackle medium-sized game just as well. Sorry, you .44 shooters, but it’s the truth!

While there are some great factory offerings available, handloaders can make the .41 Mag. incredibly versatile. Bullets from Sierra, Nosler, Hornady, Swift and Barnes provide plenty of options. For hog and deer hunting, those 210-gr. Hornady XTP’s and Barnes 180-gr. XPB bullets shine. Swift’s 210-gr. A-Frame would be my choice for larger game like a black bear or even elk. Powders I have used so far include H-110, A#9, good old Unique and Universal.

I’ll be heading to Africa shortly to hunt big-bodied plains game and a .41 will be going with me. Swift’s 210-gr. A-Frame and Vortex 180-gr. XPB bullets will be in the pipe. I’ll let you know how it works out, later.

For now? Repeat after me: “Keep an open mind.”

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