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.
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
How many cop or detective movies have you watched where the hero had a .38 revolver?
Damn near all of them, right?
That’s because the .38 revolver is a ridiculously reliable gun. You won’t be winning any long distance sharpshooting challenges with it, but you will feel safe carrying one. Just look how confident those old-timey cops and private dicks were.
First off, let’s talk about what makes the .38 caliber and a revolver worth carrying. Some people might consider the .38 and even the .38+p ammo to be outdated.
The .38 ammo is pretty much the same size as a 9mm. Where it IS different is the actual weight: a .38 is heavier than a 9mm.
Both have their benefits. The .38 is a little slower-moving but has more mass. The 9mm has more punch to it and travels faster.
One of the main reasons you’d want to carry a .38 this because it predominantly comes as a revolver. Revolvers, as we know, are very reliable. There are less moving parts and there’s less to go wrong. That’s why a lot of the police and other agencies used it in great quantities before the advent of reliable semi-automatic pistols.
Agencies eventually moved to the more common use of semi-automatic pistols but it wasn’t necessarily because of a lack of confidence in the caliber, it was more because of the greater number of rounds in each gun that semi-autos provide.
If you have the option of carrying five rounds vs 15 rounds, there’s little choice as to which one is better to have in a gunfight.
Choosing a spot to carry your gun is almost as important as the gun you carry. When it comes to choosing a concealed carry location, the ideal place for you is where ever you have easy access to at the time.
I know that kind of sounds confusing, but one location isn’t an end all be all for carrying a gun.
Being able to access your gun quickly depends on the situation, the place you’re in, and what you are wearing. What I mean is, if you are in a vehicle and have to draw your weapon, would it be easier to access your CCW if it was on your hip versus at the 6 position?
If you are wearing clothing that’s more form-fitting, it’s harder to hide a concealed carry weapon. In these cases, you might want to look into an off body carry. While the most common place is on your hip or by your kidney, take a look at some of the other options as we go through and see if they may be better for you depending on your day-to-day activities.
We’re going to cover 9 of the most essential carrying positions and our favorite holster for each. If you’d like more choices once you narrow down your position, check out Best Holsters.
Carry positions around the waist are usually referred to by the location on a clock face. For example, if you’re carrying on a hip, this would be referred to as the 3 o’clock position. That being said, all of these positions have two options.
There different levels of holsters for your OWB carry depending on where along your body you are going to carry. The 3-9 o’clock positions are where you’ll usually see an OWB holster.
IWB is probably the most common concealed carry choice. Because it’s inside your waistband, you can get holsters that allow for you to tuck in your shirt which hides the weapon even more.
Placing the holster and weapon inside your waistband lets you carry at pretty much any position around your waist. This opens up the door for an appendix carry, which is in front of your hips and off to one side. The appendix carry offers a very quick draw, but if you have a larger weapon, it can make it uncomfortable to sit or squat.
A belly band is an ideal carry option for those of you who don’t have a belt. This could be your wearing basketball shorts, or you are out running and don’t have the option for a belt or off-body carry.
At first, I wasn’t too sold on a belly band. To be honest, it kind of reminded me of a girdle. However, they’re surprisingly comfortable especially if you have a smaller concealed carry gun. If your gun is a little heavier, like a compact or a subcompact with a double stack magazine, it might not be the easiest weapon of choice to wear when being active.
If you have a smaller gun, like a bodyguard 380 or an LCP, you can easily wear a belly band and have your full range of motion and an easily accessible CCW in case your life is threatened.
To ankle carry your CCW, you’ll need a specialized holster. Typically these holsters have some sort of fur inside, often rabbit fur. The holster is securely attached is around your ankle and lower calf. Obviously, you’ll have to wear pants that are a little looser fitting when choosing an ankle carry.
The ankle carry option offers you a unique opportunity. It frees up your shirt choice to anything you’d like, and you don’t have to have a belt either.
Another benefit of an ankle carry is that if somebody comes up from behind and knocks you down, it’s much easier to reach for your ankle in many cases than it is to grab a gun that’s behind you in the 4 or 5 o’clock position. It’s also less likely that someone will try and grab your gun from you if they see it.
Carrying your CCW in your pocket is another common option. Many of the smaller guns like a .380 or .22 will fit easily along with a holster into a front pocket. Well, the draw it is a little trickier, you can carry a weapon in many more circumstances than you might have with an IWB carry.
If you think a pocket carry option is right for you, look into some of the holsters available. Many times there are generic holsters that fit a specific caliber or shape weapon.
These holsters have a stickier material on the outside of the holster and a slicker material on the inside to make the draw quicker. Something to practice with a pocket draw is pulling out just the gun and not the holster and the gun then needing to remove it from the holster before you can use it.
I’m sure you’ve seen a shoulder harness before on TV. Many times detectives, police, and government agents will have a single or dual shoulder rig. This puts the weapon on the opposing side of your body because you’ll have to draw across your body.
So if you’re right handed your shoulder rig will put the gun on the left side of your body that way you reach into your coat or shirt or whatever the case, and draw the weapon. This can be an extremely quick draw, but it’s very obvious draw as well.
Some bras are made with holsters built in. Some fit more like a standard bra with the holster typically situated between and under the breasts, while others fit like a sports bra with the holster on the side, under the arm. There are also specialty holsters that can be affixed to most regular bras, though many multipurpose holsters with loops will also work with most bras.
The quickest access holsters have the gun horizontal below the bra. This allows you to pull up your shirt a little, reach up, and draw the weapon quickly. There are videos from manufacturers showing a pretty consistent 1.6-second draw and shoot times from under various style shirts.
This carry option is predominantly used by women but is an underrated choice for men as well. While most people think of thigh carry with skirts or dresses, it can also work with loose shorts.
A thigh carry holster is meant for a smaller weapon like a 380. You could probably get away with small 9mm, but it would depend on the weapon. In most cases, thigh holsters are used because there’s no pockets or firm waistband. Using a thigh holster also keeps the weapon on you, unlike an off the body carry in a purse or something similar.
Off the body carry options are plentiful and have their own set of considerations and training needed to use them successfully. When you have a weapon in something like a backpack, you need to keep that backpack on or near you at all times. Otherwise, it’s like setting your gun on a counter and walking away.
Some of the off the body carry options are:
For me, I consider having a gun in your center console or glove box to be in off the body carry as well. You don’t want to just toss a non-holstered weapon in your glove box because you never know what will happen. If you have some way to mount a holster into your glove box or console, it’s much more preferable.
Choosing where to carry is a personal preference. If you like an ankle carry or OWB, go for it. There’s no need to be uncomfortable just to make sure you have a gun on you, there are a lot of options. You can try a few to see what works best for your daily activities.
Are you a jogger? Then I’d recommend a belly band and a small 9mm or 380. They are light and comfortable. Do you wear a suit with a jacket all day? How about out a shoulder harness, ankle holster or a horizontal OWB holster at the 6 o’clock position?
The place you carry isn’t as important as the fact that you are carrying.
Check out our full recommendations of the Best Concealed Carry Holsters.
So, where do you carry? What do you carry? How often do you carry? Tell us all about it in the comments!
There is a lot of love for semi-auto pistols nowadays, but it is hard to beat the reliability, power and clean manufacturing of a revolver. In this TFB Review, we take a look at the stout Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum with a 2 3/4″ barrel.
The Smith & Wesson Model 66 comes in two different configurations of barrel lengths from the factory. Consumers can either choose a 4.25″ or a 2.75″ barrel option. The specific variation of the Model 66 that we took to the range is the 2.75″ option.
The rundown of specifications for both Model 66 revolvers follows as such with only the barrel and overall length differentiating the two options:
The MSRP of the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum is $849.
The Model 66 is a K-frame revolver by Smith & Wesson. The K-frame was originally introduced in 1899 specifically for the .38 S&W Special cartridge. So to see the Model 66 in a K-frame size as a .357 Magnum is pretty unique even if the outward appearance is pretty unassuming. It also boasts a 2-piece barrel, a full-length extractor rod, and a ball-detent lock-up mechanism.
Overall, the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum is very close in size to a Smith & Wesson Model 686. Most people should appreciate the leaner K-frame of the Model 66 versus the beefier L-frame of the Model 686 if you are contemplating purchasing a shorter barrel length like this revolver we reviewed.
Unboxing the revolver at the range, it comes with your standard issue of contents. You receive an owner’s manual, cable lock, red chamber flag (plastic disc to set on the cylinder facing when closed) and a key set for the internal lock. From the factory it comes clean and dry; not excessively oiled or lubed.
To get a good feel for this revolver, both .38 Special and .357 Magnum target rounds were fired. The .38 Special rounds were very enjoyable, controllable and light to shoot. The .357 Magnum rounds were still controllable but had a lot more snap. The snap was not surprising, but the fact that it was easily controllable with the moderate-sized handle was a pleasant surprise. The power of the .357 Magnum cartridge hit your hand hard, but the dexterity from the rubber grip and its length helped control it.
The single-action trigger pull of the Model 66 was very light and crisp. The break of the trigger was definitive and clean. Even with the shorter 2.75″ barrel, essentially anywhere I aimed I was hitting that mark perfectly.
The double-action trigger pull was consistently heavy from the initial pull up until the break of the trigger. So while it was heavy, there was no feeling of stacking or a compounding resistance that would make you squirm wondering when the double-action trigger may finally fire. The break of the double-action trigger pull, just like the single-action, was definitive and smooth.
After methodically firing 100 rounds (50 rounds of .38 SPL and 50 rounds of .357 Mag), I gained a few other impressions and thoughts about the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum.
After all of the firing stopped and the earmuffs came off I had a few more thoughts about the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum revolver. For one, I would have liked to have seen the rear sight have a white outline of some kind.
I hail from MN so this range day was conducted indoors and most indoor ranges (ironically enough) have really poor lighting in the shooter’s bay, but phenomenal lighting out by your target. As a result, even with young eyes, you have to work to drop that red ramp front sight exactly where you need it to be.
The Smith & Wesson Model 686, by comparison, comes with a white outline rear sight standard. I would believe these sights should transfer over easily enough and I would like to see those on the Model 66 as well.
I view the Smith & Wesson Model 686 as a benchmark of features and quality for revolvers chambered in .357 Magnum. So a lot of the comparisons I make will treat that as the yardstick.
A 2nd item that differs from the Model 66 in comparison to a lot of the other revolvers Smith & Wesson puts out is the black accents. On most Smith & Wesson revolvers the trigger, hammer, cylinder release and potentially other small pieces will be case-colored; that swirled look of almost running water on metal. It can be very beautiful when done well, but I thought the black accented features on the Model 66 was a refreshing change from what has become standard protocol for Smith & Wesson.
As you can see above, on the Model 66 the extractor rod, cylinder release, trigger, and hammer are all accented black. They appear more pronounced in a profile image like this and better match the black grips. In comparison to the Model 686, the case-colored pieces get almost washed-out when paired with a brushed stainless finish and are not as easily noticed or appreciated.
Another attribute of the Model 66 I liked was the satin stainless finish. You might be thinking that is not a big deal, but let me explain. Once again, a standard Model 686 provides a brushed stainless finish. Often times, you can see actual brush marks on a brushed stainless finish leading the user to almost believe a new revolver is… used. The satin stainless finish appears cleaner, exhibits no finishing marks and its matte appearance looks clean even after shooting a lot of rounds.
A final thought I have on the Model 66 is the black rubber grip. The rubber material is very tacky and gives you great dexterity when shooting .357 Magnum rounds. So all-in-all, the large grip accomplishes what it sets out to do which is give the user a sturdy purchase to control and accurately fire the revolver.
Since this is only a 2.75″ barrel, I would have liked to potentially see a little smaller grip even with all of those positive, previous comments. I would not put this specific variation of the Model 66 into the category of a range pistol even though it shot really well. Its outward appearance and likely intended purpose would be for carrying; whether that is concealed or open. So to have a shorter handle would benefit anyone trying to carry it.
In summary, I believe the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum revolver is a well thought out pistol. The MSRP of $849 is still within a tolerable range for most people’s checkbooks and my few complaints about a possibly shorter handle and improved rear sight are more personal opinions than engineering flaws.
If you are contemplating purchasing the Model 66, I can confidently say after spending significant time with one that you would not be disappointed.
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.