Ammo for the Forty-One

by
posted on October 22, 2015
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Back when I was shooting IHMSA and loading my own ammo, I became a devotee of the middle magnum—the .41. This was in the late ’60s and early ’70s, a time when the .41-as-a-police-round had pretty well run its course. In those times, SAECO was up the California coast in Carpenteria, where they made a series of superb bullet moulds. The firm is now a part of Redding, where the tradition of excellence continues. For my use, I was able to persuade the folks at SAECO to run the cherry deeper into the mold block and create an extra-heavy Keith SWC .41 bullet. It weighed 229 grains with the wheel weight alloy I was using. Loaded to about 1250 fps in Remington brass, this was a near ideal ram-slammin' load.

But the .41 was originally created to be a low-velocity police service round. The cops in San Antonio, Texas, swore by it and so did the ones (who used it) in San Francisco. A low-velocity 210-gr. lead SWC loaded to about 900 fps gave those big Model 58 'smiths a hefty punch. But the .41 in police holsters eventually died out. When I was loading Silhouette ammo one day, I had a couple dozen of my 229 gr. SWCs left over and tried them over some Unique. It proved to be an ideal load for all but the Magnum situations. I forget the actual powder charge used back then, but I remember clocking the combination at 945 fps. This may not be true Magnum performance, but it is way better than the LSWC load issued to police in the 60s. The heavier bullet does increase recoil, but not enough to interfere with fast repeat shots. In other words, it is an ideal lower velocity load for the .41, just as the .38 Spl. and .44 Spl. are good for .357 and .44 Mags.

Cruising a well-stocked gun store last week, I found new .41 Mag. ammo from HSM of Stevensville, Mont. It uses a 230-gr. LSWC, hard-cast bullet. I called the company to determine how fast they were loading this bullet and the sales manager told me that it was approximately 1250 fps. That is not the fastest .41 load out there, but it is closer the top end of the velocity range than the bottom. As a matter of fact, this is very close to what I was loading these many years past. The same bullet would perform quite well loaded down to the 900s as a defensive load. It a really interesting challenge.

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