If you think the .357 Magnum is too small, but you also think the .44 Magnum is too powerful, is there a revolver cartridge out there for you? Yes there is, the underappreciated .41 Magnum. Developed in the 1960s by famed cartridge designer Elmer Keith (who was also instrumental in creating the .357 and the .44), the .41 Magnum was intended to bridge the gap between the .357 and the .44, offering a high-powered hunting load for handgun hunters, and a lower-powered more controllable load for law enforcement and self defense.
What ended up happening, however, was that neither of these concepts came to fruition. As powerful handgun cartridges gained popularity during the 1960s, Remington decided to offer the 210-grain bullet at 1,500 feet per second for hunting versus the 1,300 to 1,400 feet per second envisioned by Keith. And the police load went from a 210-grain bullet at 900 feet per second to one at 1,150 feet per second.
While this made the cartridge much more powerful, it also made recoil much more difficult to manage. And with .41 Magnum rounds being chambered in revolvers whose frames were often designed for the .44 Magnum, the firearms were often very heavy. As a result, the .41 Magnum didn’t really offer anything that couldn’t already be attained by the use of other existing cartridges, and it never gained the popularity that it could have.
With modern powders, the .41 Magnum is capable of launching a 210-grain bullet at over 1,600 feet per second from a 10” revolver barrel, and even the 265-grain bullets can be launched at over 1,550 feet per second. That gives over 1,400 foot-pounds of muzzle energy from a revolver, equaling or exceeding the muzzle energy of 5.56mm NATO from a 20” AR-15 barrel.
That’s pretty impressive performance from a revolver, and underscores the .41 Magnum’s ability to shine as a hunting cartridge. The drawback, however, is that it is only chambered in six-shot revolvers. And because of its relative obscurity, and the continuing popularity of both .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, finding both firearms and ammunition for the .41 Magnum is no easy matter.
For those who already have a .41 Magnum, it can play an important role in hunting, self defense, or survival use, especially in areas in which you might expect to confront bears or other predators. But if you’re concerned about long-term viability, it might be worth checking out something like a Glock 20 chambered in 10mm Auto. The 10mm may only get about half the muzzle energy of the .41 Magnum, but with more than double the magazine capacity, easier portability, lighter weight, and greater ammo availability, it’s a much more practical firearm for those looking to use a powerful handgun in a survival scenario.