As I have written before the 41 magnum is special in the magnum class for me. The first game I took with the 41 was a record class feral pig at 400 plus pounds. And it has been exceptionally effective since that day in early 1970. But there is a class of bullets that most donít think of for the 41 magnum...and that is the heavy weights...
What is a heavy weight in the 41 magnum? Most quickly think of the 240
grainers...and that is heavy but only moderate compared to 250 grain thru the 300 grain bullets this caliber can shoot with power and accuracy. For example 19 grains of H110 will push a NEI 300 grain cast bullet at over 1260 fps for over 1050 ft. lbs. of muzzle thump...thatís over half a ton. And I get that from my Ruger 4 and 5/8ths barrel....21 grains H110 under a 250 grain cast bullet will give just over 1400 fps in a six inch barrel..and near 1100 lbs of punch. That is basically a 44 magnum load...but with a flatter trajectory over long range. Am I suggesting the 41 is better than the 44s. Never, they each have excellent qualities...liking the 41 over the 44 or vice-versa, is really personal choice. And part of that choice is that Iím a 45 caliber fan.
I also like the flatter trajectory and handloaded, the near equal power to the 44 magnum... but one thing the 41 has... it is more efficient, it uses less powder and give flatter trajectory.
The 41 mag has been good to me in the hunting fields. I have never lost an animal I have hit with the 41....not to say I havenít missed a few completely. The tank of the American animal kingdom is the wild hog. Either the feral pig or the wild hog or the Russian boar or a mix breed of any of them...some called in the southeast...í Ruíshon (phonetic) they are the tough, squat, but brute built tanks, of the wild U.S. Though I have taken them with 180 and 200 grain .357 magnum rounds, I like 41 for this kind of hunting. When range gets long.
I have an old mold from NEI for a 270 grain Keith shaped bullet in this caliber...Walt Melander the founder of NEI made it up for me when the company was still in Texas....21/H110 under this cast bullet pushes it well over 1320fps and over 1000 lbs of punch. It is my pig killing load, and it will do for elk also. The penetration of this bullet and the cast 300 grainer on large animals, has to be seen to be appreciated. In the 70s we used to rid the range of TexMex feral cattle, that mixed their gene pool with very expensive Black Angus and Brama beef cattle stock. The ranchers were not pleased with Tex/Mex cattle, and a number of ranchers and their help have been hurt by these animals. I used to get to test bullets and loads of all kinds on very heavy animals..some up to 1800 to 2000 pounds. Though at weight they were the exception not the rule...most were around 1300 to 1500 lbs, but nasty and aggressive. That ended when the dog food companies began to buy them so they could advertise beef in their dog food....
The 270 grain cast 41 doing 1320 fps broke both shoulders on a bull I caught in a dry wash one day...(a wash is a dry stream bed). At around 40 yards I nailed him directly on the point of the right shoulder, and the bullet crossed over and ripped a two inch hole thru the left shoulder and exited. The internal damage was amazing on such a large and tough beast. I have never had a problem hunting anything with the 41 magnum from that day on. Between heavy pigs and heavy cattle...nothing much exists that canít be taken cleanly with this caliber. I might have to pause at taking the big bears of the north...personally I wouldnít use anything less than a 454 on them..better still Iíd rather use the 475 Linebaugh on them.
But for all the rest in between the 41 is an excellent caliber heavy loaded. Marlin has made a run of the their octagon barreled 41 mag leverguns again so we have a perfect companion piece to the handgun. Any time you can push a 270 to 300 grain cast bullet at 1800 plus fps and 1900 to over 2100 foot pounds of muzzle energy from a small carbine length rifle, youíre in lion country power. And even the big bears would fall to that level of power.
The best produced cast bullet by a cast bullet company I have found in this caliber is the 255 grain WFN hard tempered by Cast
Perfomrance Bullet Co. (
www.castperformance.com ). The wide flat nose on this number will get the job done on the heaviest of game. The honcho of the company Kelly Brost (307-857-2940) tells me it is his hunting bullet of choice for all the large game of WY and elsewhere.
Elmer Keith was presented with two four inch barreled S&W 41 magnum revolvers (mod. 57s) in the 1960s. He took them with him to Alaska and shot two caribou with them. I know of one hunter that cleaned out of a pack of baboons in Africa with a six inch 41 mag S&W...and also I know of a grizzly that weighed near 800 lbs that was taken in Canada with a 41 magnum...but I donít know the load used, (in the Western States of Canada the harsh gun laws are ignored to a great deal by some) . Certainly there are a number of animals of very heavy weight that are taken every season with this fine caliber.
I had a four inch S&W I carried in law enforcement for awhile....it was slick as a whistle. But my short barreled Ruger SA is still the best of the lot for me. 90% of the game I have shot with the 41...the bullet has not stayed inside...it almost always exits. One of the all time great loads is 15 grains of 800X..take care and work up to this in your handguns....it generates almost 1800 fps with a light 170 grain jacketed bullet and 16 grains of Blue Dot will give near 1700 fps out of long barreled revolvers. These bullets at this velocity level just explode inside a deer...and rarely exit. It is my deer load and for less sized animals, like coyotes when I use the 41 mag. But anything larger... like black bear and up, I go to the heavy weights bullets.
It was 1971 and I was hunting across from a heavily treed ridge line. It was a
swale going up in a rolling fashion to the ridge line. I had been sitting glassing the area when I spotted a big fat, dark brownish, black bear...he was so fat he was waddling along in the late October morning sunlight. I had a black bear tag burning holes in my pocket...in those days Virginia hunting tags were two deer, two turkey and a bear tag for $7.50..yes theyíre are gone like cheap but tasty beer.
I was trying to figure out where I could get in front of him for an ambush when he passed thru some trees along the ridge.....I followed his pace thru the trees but he didnít come out! If he had changed course and went higher I would have seen it...and if he had reversed course...which they are prone to do often...I would have seen him..I started across the
swale wondering where the heck did he disappear too!
Very carefully with my Ruger 41 out and ready I followed the way he went into the trees...and there behind them was a den. It was small but rocky, like a slip cave. Thatís where a small fault in the under rock has slipped creating a triangular type cave. No I didnít even think of going in...I had a better way. I slipped out of my day pack and upper clothing and pulled my tee shirt off and laid it across in front of the entrance...itís scent would keep him from leaving. Got dressed and headed back to the camp about a half mile away.
When I returned I had half a road flare...when they are cut in half, the half without the igniter is very hard to light, canít do it with only a match. I always cut them in half...use them for starting fires with wet wood, works like a dream except for the smoke for a few minutes while they burn. I mix fast gunpowder and LePages glue together into a thick pasty mix and seal the cut end with it and a few heads of stick matches in it. Then when you need to light it, you can just hold a match to one of the match heads and it flares and sets the powder/glue off and the flare is lit. I then tossed it into the den and retrieved my tee shirt and moved back about 15 yards and waited. Smoke started coming out in wisps first then thicken up, and the first things out were hundreds of flies. Then I could hear him
gagging and growling like mad..he was not a happy camper at that point.
Only one thing worse than an old aggressive bear and thatís an ANGRY old aggressive bear.
When he did come out it was like a freight train.....I swung with him and the first shot hit him in flank..which got him up on his hind legs and bellowing at me. The second shot caught him in the right side of the chest and I remember at the shot also seeing a small but thick tree getting cut in half behind him. He dropped at that shot but I shot him in the neck to make sure. I sat down on a stump and ate a candy bar watching and waiting and catching my breath... it had been much more dramatic than I ever thought it would be....7 or 8 minutes and no movement...gun at the ready I went up and poked him in the eye with a stick...he was dead.
He was big...very big for the area....close to 300 lbs. The little tree that got hit with the second shot was the 240 grain bullet of the times, a jacketed soft nose...expanded no doubt exited the bear and then cut the little tree square off. A tough thumb sized little hickory trunk. The exit hole on the bear was a good 2 Ĺ inches...since I was shooting slightly upwards it just completely ruined the upper lung and shoulder blade. The neck shot broke the spine. If my excitement had been less and my shooting better...one shot could have killed him, the 41 magnum is that good...even on enraged bears.
A lung shot with any of the 170 grain bullets @ 1700+fps on anything deer sized explodes the lungs...itís all according to the bullet but most times they come apart in the animal..results in a quick kill. Speer makes a Keith shaped 200 grainer at 1500 fps and it will exit most times....but it is a deadly bullet. That Keith shape is just excellent...and Speer makes them in 357/41/44, I wish they made one in 45 caliber. It would be the berries for the 45 Colt long round.
The 200 grain Keith jacketed is the one bullet in the 41 that is relatively light weight... that I would use on heavy game. I havenít shot any bears with it...but I have taken a goodly number of hogs with it. Chest and side lung shots....a wild pig of any gene pool has no bacon...itís just gristle plate over the ribs...a bullet has to hold together to punch thru...this one does. I shot one feral pig a few years back, in the ribs from about 10 yards, unusually close for pig hunting, so the bullet had to be doing close to muzzle velocity...it tore up everything and exited out the lower off side ribs....dead hog in a 20 pace run and slide on his nose.
When the going gets hot the 41 magnum gets hot on it. Whether itís heavy bullets for big game or
light for small game...itís a for sure caliber... as I have said before. Itís Sundayís child... sunny and bright!