Let’s be honest. The .44 Magnum is a fraud, being a .429 in true caliber, while the .41 Magnum is the real McCoy. With comparable loads, the .41 Magnum can do anything the .44 Magnum can do, and it is a real survivor.
The popularity of the .41-caliber Magnum seems to ebb and ﬂow, but those who have stuck with it make it as versatile a choice as its siblings. I’ve carried the .41 Magnum for personal protection, killed a couple of deer with it, shot long-range targets (it’s a favorite among silhouette shooters) and had it in the backcountry as a utility gun.
I like to think the really smart handgunners prefer this to the everybody’s-got-to-have-one .44 Magnum. And a lot of guys who have been around the block a few times have come to the same conclusion I did more than 30 years ago: It’s a damned ﬁne cartridge.
Last year, I visited my friend Jim Zumbo at his place in Wyoming, and the former hunting editor for Outdoor Life magazine had a Ruger Blackhawk in .41 Magnum parked near the front door. Veteran gunwriter Dick Metcalf and the late Bob Milek also wrote often about this caliber, and I always ﬁgured that this trio of wordsmiths were on to something.
IT’S A GEM FOR HANDLOADERS too. Thanks to modern powder research, there are more than a few propellants that make this round sizzle. My two favorites are Hodgdon’s H110 and Alliant 2400.
There are several good bullet choices in the 200- to 220-grain ﬁeld, and I’ve had great results with the 210-grain XTP from Hornady, the 210-grain Nosler JHP, and the 200- and 220-grain halfjacketed semi-wadcutter projectiles and a 210-grain Gold Dot JHP from Speer. In addition, Barnes offers a 180-grain solid-copper hollowpoint, and Sierra has two pills, a 170-grainer and 210-grain bullet, both hollowpoints.
Thanks to updated reloading data in the Speer, Nosler and Hodgdon manuals, I’ve been able to tinker with the cartridge over the past couple of years, and especially since last summer when I bought a little-used and nearly new-inbox 1980s vintage Smith & Wesson Model 57 in .41 Magnum.
There are plenty of factory loads available, including Winchester Silvertips, and JHPs from Remington, Federal and other manufacturers. When I acquired that 4-inch S&W last July, it came with four boxes of factory BVAC (Bitterroot Valley Ammunition) loaded with 210-grain semiwads.
I’VE OWNED RUGER BLACKHAWKS and two S&W Model 57s, the ﬁrst of those being a 6-inch version I’ve shot a few times in the annual Elmer Keith long-range handgun shoot just south of Spokane.
Keith is largely recognized as having been primarily responsible for the .41 Magnum, along with a man named Bill Jordan. It was originally intended as a law-enforcement caliber, but it proved to be a bit much for some lawmen, especially those of smaller stature, to handle. If that sounds like a similar story to that of the 10mm Auto, it is. But while the latter round led to the development of the .40 S&W, nobody bothered to create a .41 Short, so the original cartridge has remained the same since birth.
Of the two deer I killed with a 6.5-inch Blackhawk single action, the muley was the more memorable. Two shots downhill dropped the forkhorn. One bullet went clear through and the other was a perfect mushroom recovered just under the hide on the exit side.
While I prefer the longer barrel for precision shooting and hunting, in recent years I’ve opted for shorter-barrel versions. They’re lighter, they can ride on my hip in a truck, and they’re more concealable. A couple of years ago, I swapped out the alloy ejector rod housing on my 45/8-inch Ruger for one made from steel.
One thing I’ve noticed is that my loads lose 50 to 100 feet per second out of the shorter barrels, though that probably won’t make a lot of difference to anything I shoot within, say, 100 to 150 yards.
THE .41 MAGNUM IS CAPABLE of some impressive ballistics. With lighter bullets, it can warp along at more than 1,650 fps, and my favorite handloads zip out in the 1,250 to 1,600 fps range, depending upon the bullet weight, powder charge and barrel length.
When I shoot Alliant 2400, I stick with standard large pistol primers, but with H110, I always use magnum primers. Other powders are also good choices, including Winchester 296, H4227, Blue Dot, Lil’ Gun, Unique and Vihtavouri N110.
The cartridge case should measure 1.290 inches, and the overall length for cartridges should not exceed 1.590 inches. I have two sets of carbide dies, one from Hornady and one from Redding, with the seating die from each set for a different bullet, because they each crimp at a slightly different depth.
I’ve built gunbelts with ample cartridge loops for the .41 Magnum. One needs to use a slightly tighter loop for the .41 than the .44 (.429), and they need to be well-oiled. Mine are all individually hand-stitched rather than looped in and out of the belt.
AS A FIGHT-STOPPER, the .41 Magnum is no slouch. A cartridge that will knock down a black bear, big buck, caribou or bull elk is also fully capable against predators of the two-legged variety. This is a defensive round that should be approached with a little caution, of course, due to the potential for overpenetration.
When it was ﬁrst introduced, proponents suggested it would be a good load for law enforcement officers to shoot through the windshields of ﬂeeing getaway cars or to foul up an engine block on similar vehicles.
When I carried my 6-inch Model 57 in an old Safariland shoulder holster, I always had a couple of HKS speed loaders stoked with factory Remington ammo because the bullet shape contributed to quicker reloading than a wadcutter. Under a winter parka, that big gun disappeared, and nobody was any the wiser.
So why doesn’t the .41 Magnum get more respect? The reason is probably as simple as Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan ﬁring a .44 Magnum on ﬁlm. But even if it won’t ﬁre out of the “most powerful handgun in the world,” it has become something of a cult favorite with people who like to shoot metal chickens and rams, as well as discerning handgunners who don’t choose to follow the herd. ASJ
The innovative LCR design has been a hit with shooters since the original Ruger LCR .38 Special +P was released in 2009. That design was optimized for concealed carry with a ﬁve-round cylinder, 1.875-inch barrel and hammerless, double-action-only trigger. Since that time Ruger (ruger.com) has expanded the line by chambering the gun in new calibers and adding new features. The LCRx model added single-action capability by introducing an exposed hammer to the available options but retained the short barrel length.
In late 2014 Ruger released the LCRx with a 3-inch barrel. This variant is again chambered in .38 Special +P with an exposed hammer that allows both double-action and single-action activation. The 3-inch tube has a full-length rib and fulllength underlug. The black rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage. The serrated front sight features a white square to aid in sight acquisition. The sight is pinned to the barrel and can be easily removed and replaced with one of the other front sight options available from Ruger. The package is completed with the installation of a full-size Hogue Tamer grip in place of the shorter grips on the previous models.
The rest of the gun follows the general LCR pattern: The two main structural components are the aerospace-grade aluminum frame mated to a polymer ﬁre control housing. The lock work includes a patented friction-reducing cam that eliminates stacking and reduces the perceived trigger weight. The stainless-steel cylinder is heavily ﬂuted for weight savings with a durable black Ionbond Diamondblack ﬁnish. The push-button cylinder release is in the normal Ruger location on the left side of the frame behind the cylinder.
THE BARREL UTILIZES a stainless-steel liner and aluminum shroud with a polished muzzle. The ejector rod is the same length as on the 2-inch barreled models. The one-piece grip ﬁts onto a shorter grip peg molded as part of the ﬁre control housing. The grip can be removed and replaced by unscrewing a single screw in the butt.
The ﬁrst thing I noticed about my review model was the size. While the LCR heritage is evident, this is no pocket gun. The extra inch of barrel, full-length rib, and larger sized Hogue grip add enough to the physical envelope to push it into the small side of the medium-frame revolver category.
The 3-inch barrel increased the overall length to 7.5 inches, while the full-length rib and larger Hogue grip make it taller at 5.8 inches. The LCRx 3-inch weighs 15.7 ounces. For comparison, the standard 2-inch-barreled .38 Special LCR is 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches high, and weighs 13.5 ounces.
I had my gunsmith measure the trigger pull with a Lyman digital gauge when I picked up the revolver. This revealed a pull weight of 11.5 pounds for double-action and 7.0 pounds for single-action.
I tested the gun with a variety of .38 Special loads provided by Hornady Ammunition. This included their Critical Defense Lite 90-grain FTX load, their Critical Defense 110-grain FTX standard and +P loads, their 125-grain XTP load, and their 158-grain XTP load.
I warmed up by shooting a few rounds at a plate rack at 15 yards to give me a general feel for the double-action and single-action trigger pulls. I then ﬁred for groups at 25 yards while seated at a table with my hands resting on the LCR’s zipper bag for padding. All ﬁring here was single-action.
The best group, measured from the furthest distances of the holes, was almost exactly 2½ inches.
Interestingly, it was almost exactly the same when measured from the top- to bottom-most holes as when measured from the furthest left to the furthest right. This was the standard-pressure 158-grain FTX load.
The second best group was from the Critical Defense 110-grain standard-pressure load that printed at just over 3 inches, from furthest edge to furthest edge, with pronounced left-to-right stringing.
Unfortunately, the deliberate single-action, slow-ﬁre shooting revealed a mechanical problem that I hadn’t noticed during the more casual ﬁring at the plate rack. The hammer was noticeably more difficult to cock on one of the chambers than the others. I later consulted with a gunsmith friend who said the likely cause was due to out-of-spec machining on the lobe of the star corresponding to that chamber. (I later cleaned the revolver and the problem was still there during dry ﬁre with the clean gun.) The one bad hammer pull made the precision testing more difficult. I only got the best two groups later in the test after I identiﬁed and compensated for the issue. At ﬁrst the heavier and grittier pull on that chamber both threw off my concentration and also caused me to break my grip. This also made it impossible to determine if any particular load was more accurate in the gun. A typical “bad” group was 5 inches or so, often with one ﬂyer that messed up an otherwise good group.
IN EXCHANGE FOR THE LARGER size and weight over the ﬂagship LCR, you get a revolver that is easier and more fun to shoot. The grip is large and comfortable, the hammer is easily accessible for single-action cocking, and the longer sight radius and more visible sights help practical accuracy. The extra weight over the standard .38 Special version helps make the gun more pleasant to shoot as well. While the +P rounds had some noticeable sting, they weren’t bad, and the polymer trigger housing and generous grip soaked up the recoil of the standard-pressure rounds nicely.
The only disappointment in the design was that the gun retained the short 2-inch ejector rod of the parent models. While it’s understandable that Ruger wouldn’t want to spend the money on a dedicated 3-inch ejector rod for this model, having that full ejector rod stroke would have been a nice touch. Note that I didn’t have any problems with the shorter ejection stroke; I just prefer the longer ejector rod when possible.
The Ruger LCRx 3-inch would make an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun, as a concealed carry gun in a belt holster, or as a home defense gun. As with most revolvers, the limited ammo capacity is an issue, but if you want a lightweight revolver that shots like a medium-frame gun, this is one to get. ASJ
As you can imagine, this revolver is very large for its caliber. You’d expect a double-action GP revolver from Ruger to be large and sturdy, and it is. If you are looking for some power when you go plinking, this could be the gun for you.
According to my trigger pull gauge, the single action broke at 6 pounds, while the double action broke between 19 and 20, which is certainly extreme. It has a 10-shot cylinder, and since it is a .22, recoil is virtually nonexistent. I wouldn’t recommend dry ﬁring it much, if at all, because, as with all rimﬁres, if the ﬁring pin hits the edge of the chamber some damage may occur.
It is a massive, well-built revolver made from stainless steel, which means that weight may be an issue for those who may plan to carry it a lot. The rear sight is adjustable, and the front is a ﬁber optic, which makes it easier to pick up, especially in less than ideal lighting conditions. It comes in the durable case and, of course, the ever-present lock is included. The grips have a wood center panel and rubber on the outside where you hold it, and they are both comfortable and attractive. It also comes with Ruger’s patented transfer bar mechanism, which provides an unparalleled measure of security against accidental discharge.
SINCE IT IS SO STURDY, I’d like to see it chambered for the .22 rimﬁre Magnum, either as a replacement cylinder or as another variation of the gun. While the cartridges will chamber, it isn’t a good idea to shoot .22 rimﬁres in a magnum cylinder. The .22 LR ammo may split, and wouldn’t be accurate even if they don’t.
This gun is built so well that I don’t think it could be worn out regardless of how many rounds are put through it, especially since the .22 is a low-pressure round that enhances the life of any gun chambered for it. Because the DA trigger break was so high, I did the majority of my shooting single action. I don’t possess strong hands and can’t get any accuracy shooting DA. Hitting cans is easier using single action even out to 25 yards, and better shooters will be able to extend that range, as the gun has excellent accuracy.
The sights are easy to pick up, which is always an asset when shooting or hunting in reduced light. I have chronographed many calibers in both riﬂes and handguns, and depending on the load and other factors, velocity is commonly from 200 to 400 feet per second faster in the long gun as the shorter barrel and ﬂash gap reduces velocity. During my testing of the GP-100, the ammo was about 200 fps slower than from a riﬂe.
Making reloaded rimﬁre ammo isn’t worth the time, trouble and expense involved, so factory loads are your best bet. As with any gun, this one will show a preference to a speciﬁc load or loads, and there are a variety of good factory ones to test what this particular revolver likes.
I consider the .22 RF round as one of the most dangerous in existence. Because it is small, people tend to underestimate it. But it is dangerous at longer distances, and you should never shoot it at a ﬂat surface, as it will ricochet like any other cartridge and the shooter has no control as to where it will go.
The .22 LR is a decent small game load. I have shot a lot of squirrels and rabbits with it, especially when using hollow points. The .22 is also good for training someone because the lack of both recoil and muzzle blast will not intimidate a new or younger shooter. In addition, the .22 RF remains less expensive than centerﬁre rounds, even though they have gone up in price in the last few years.
If you shop around, good deals are available, especially for 500-round bricks. Such purchases will cut down the cost on shooting and for most uses the inexpensive ammo works as well as the pricey stuff. I have shot a good amount of rimﬁre ammo, and the cheap stuff is nearly as accurate as the pricey fodder, especially in noncompetition guns.
When it comes to having fun shooting there is nothing like a .22 rimﬁre. It is easy on the ears and pocketbook, and a family can buy a 500 pack of ammo and shoot all day. Many shooters, including yours truly, started with a singleshot .22 riﬂe.
I always ask other shooters for input during a gun test, as people tend to have different preferences. For example, I have a single six with both cylinders and I prefer it for daily carry, as it is lighter and more compact. But the GP100 could be ideal for someone who shoots often because I don’t believe you can shoot it enough to wear it out. It is one rugged design, and most of the shooters I spoke with liked it.
At the conclusion of any gun test, I have the choice to either return the gun or buy it. But sometimes someone I know will purchase it if they want it, and that is exactly what happened to this gun. ASJ
Finally, a mere 55 years later, Dixie Gun Works has added the Uberti Cattleman Flat-top to their catalog, and it was worth the wait. In addition to being historically correct, this is a six-gun built for accurate and ﬁne shooting.
The details of that historical correctness begin with the cartridges this gun is chambered for. Currently (although things can change), the ﬂat-top Cattleman is offered only for the .45 Colt and the .44/40. Of those two cartridges, the .45 is certainly the most common today, just as it was years ago. If all of my wishes had come true, this new gun would be offered in .44 Smith & Wesson Russian/Special too. However, with the .45 Colt and the .44/40 to choose from, one of the .44/40s was my choice.
THE MOST OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE between this target model and the standard frame guns, in addition to the ﬂat-top frame, is the sights. At the back, the rear sight sits in a dovetail and it is easily windage adjustable, with a small set screw to lock it in place. The front sight is a blade pinned into a lug soldered to the top of the barrel. Originally, the front sight could be changed, and that should be possible on this gun too (simply drive out the pin), but a new front sight blade would have to be made.
Another feature I really like is the wide trigger. Instead of the standard narrow trigger found on most Colt Single Actions and their clones, this trigger is the same width as the trigger guard. That will give the trigger ﬁnger a much better “grip” while aiming for the shot.
Interestingly enough, in reviewing some original ﬂattops, I discovered that not all of them had the wide triggers. Additionally, a few of the models with wide triggers had their triggers checkered. To me, that’s an interesting detail about the rare original Colts, and likewise for these rather uncommon copies.
Shooting the Flat-top in .44/40 is like shooting a very rare piece. As you may know, Colt originally made only 21 of their ﬂat-top Single Action Army revolvers in this caliber. (Of course, that doesn’t count the 78 ﬂat-top .44/40 Bisley Models which were also made.) Most of my shooting was done with black powder loads, but that is certainly not
a requirement. I will even admit that my best shooting was done with smokeless powdered loads.
THOSE LOADS ARE GOOD ENOUGH to mention in detail. First, the bullets used for all of my loads were cast from Lyman’s mold #427098, usually out of a soft 30-1 alloy, sized to .429 inches, and lubricated with BPC lube (Black Powder Cartridge lube from Montana Armory). Primers used were always CCI’s standard Large Pistol.
The black powder load used 33.0 grains of GOEX’s Olde Eynsford powder, which ﬁlls the Starline .44/40 cases almost to the top. Then the powder is compressed simply by seating the bullet down on it.
For a smokeless powder load, all of the above remains the same except for the powder charge. Instead of using black powder, I used a charge of 7½ grains of Unique. That is basically a recommended load, not near maximum at all, and some very comfortable shooting can be done with it. That is an accurate load too, good enough for pleasing groups and controllable enough for Cowboy competition.
To make load identiﬁcation very easy, I load my black powder ammo in Starline’s nickel-plated cases, while the smokeless load go into standard brass cases.
Both of those loads seem to hit at about the same elevation. For my “accuracy check,” I posted a couple of pistol targets at 50 feet, and ﬁred the ﬂat-top from a rest. While holding the sights at 6 o’clock, right at the bottom of the black, very good hits were made, mostly in the 10 ring. The smokeless load did produce a somewhat smaller group than the black powder loads, but I only made this comparison once, and I’m certain a lot of “human element” was involved.
WHAT WAS A LOT MORE FUN, as you could probably guess, was plinking with the black powder loads. One particular small target was teasing me, and that was a clothespin hanging on a wire at a distance of 25 or 30 yards. There was a good dirt bank backstop behind it, and I could spot exactly where my shots that missed actually hit. It took me only three tries to hit that clothespin, and it disassembled quite nicely on my third shot.
AS FOR TECHNICAL INFO about the gun, the 7½-inch-long barrel is riﬂed with grooves .004 inch deep and a rate of twist at one turn in 20 inches. The groove diameter of the barrel is .429 inch. This gun’s front sight is a silver blade that is held with a screw in the blued steel base. The rear sight is a nice wide square notch that sits in a dovetail. It is windage adjustable and it has a set screw to hold it in place. This gun measures 13.25 inches overall, and it weighs about 2½ pounds. Dixie’s price, at this writing, is only $450.00, making this a lot of gun for the money.
Shooting with the Flat-top Cattleman is, for me, a real pleasure. And now, if they’ll bring back the ﬂat-top Bisley Model, I hope my name is at the top of their list.
I also hope that I don’t have to wait another 55 years. ASJ
Before telling you about this new gun, let me quickly present a little bit of S&W history. After the Russian Model #3 and the Schofield version of the Model #3 had been made, the New Model #3 was introduced in 1878. This single-action revolver proved to be fairly popular, although not as popular as their .44-caliber, top-break, double-action revolvers. S&W lengthened the #3’s cylinder from 1 and 7/16 inches to 1 and 9/16 inches, adding an eighth of an inch to the length of the cartridges that could be used. This was meant to make their revolver available for the popular .44-40 cartridge, and like Colt, they called it their Frontier version. The S&Ws in .44-40 did not prove to be as popular and several of their .44-40 single-actions and were converted back to .44 Russian. By 1908, the New Model #3 was discontinued.
One of the best options that could be found on the original S&W New Model #3 revolvers was target sights. Instead of having the tiny rear sight on the pivot point of the top latch, the target version had a very nice rear sight on the end of the top latch just over the hammer. Moving the sight to the back or rear of the top latch increased the sighting radius by over half of an inch, and it gave the shooter a very nice flat-top rear sight with a deep notch. The rear sight on the target version is adjustable for windage by loosening the screws that hold the sight in its slot and sliding the sight to the right or left, which is quickly and easily done. The new Taylor’s version copies the original model and the easy-to-see rear sight can be appreciated all over again.
Authenticity is very important to me and the profile of this New Model #3 is very good. Taylor’s selected the .45 Colt chambering because of that cartridge’s popularity in the cowboy-action arena; however, I loudly recommend they add more caliber options. For those of you who prefer maintaining authenticity, the original New Model #3 was made on special order and chambered for the .45 S&W Schofield cartridge. In fact, in the book Smith And Wesson 1857-1945, there is a picture of an original New Model #3 with target sights and a 6½-inch barrel in .45 S&W caliber, almost a twin to the replica we’re talking about now.
Even more important than authenticity is how well a six-gun shoots, and this revolver shoots pretty well. The first loads that I tried with this Colt .45 used 32 grains (by volume) of Olde Eynsford 1-1/2F under a 235-grain bullet. With that black powder load, I quickly learned to grip the gun a little tighter because the recoil caused the gun’s trigger guard to hit my middle finger hard enough to really make it very noticeable. Also, somewhat because of my relatively loose grip, those shots went high and the sights needed to be held even lower than a typical six-o’clock hold. It took a few shots to learn where the gun was hitting, and after that hits could be counted on.
John “Sepp” Weger was my partner for most of the shooting, and for him this six-gun shot much closer to his point of aim. John is younger, a lot stronger than me and he gripped the gun more firmly, which considerably decreased the muzzle’s ability to climb.
While most of our shooting was done using black-powder loads, some tamer smokeless loads were also tried. The smokeless loads had 7.5 grains of Unique under a 250-grain bullet, a comfortable load for the Colt .45. These bullets were cast from Lyman’s old standard mould, #454190, and even though we did not chronograph this load, it was definitely good for cowboy-action shooting and general use with this Colt.
Some finer shooting could be done if the easily adjustable rear sight was moved just a touch to the right to correct the windage, but an even bigger improvement would be to give this gun a better trigger pull. While Uberti is known for making fine guns, they really do need to tone down their springs a bit. This Colt has a very stiff trigger pull which simply must be fixed. This is my only critical remark.
In addition to asking for softer springs and a lighter trigger pull, I will not hesitate to ask Taylor’s to follow a bit more in S&W’s footsteps and release this revolver in .44-40 caliber as well as .44 S&W Russian, or even .44 Special. Adding those chamberings, in my opinion, would increase the options for buyers to select from, and that could only increase this revolver’s popularity. I will conclude my begging by saying I hope their first New Model #3 Frontier made in .44-40 comes to me. ASJ
Author’s note: If you are ready to own a perfect replica of history that you can pick up for about $1,053, visit Taylor’s & Co. at taylorsfirearms.com.