The All-Purpose .41

The All-Purpose .41

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Early in its existence, it was labeled as the “Middle Magnum”. Then it became the “Forgotten .41.” Despite its extreme usefulness, it was maligned as not needed or a solution looking for a problem. Among our current sportsmen, the .41 is about as forgotten as a carbureted and manual transmission vehicle. There is a group of handgun hunters who have used it for years and some who have recently become aware of its capabilities. The .41 magnum has a bigger brother, the .414 Super Mag. If the 41 Remington Magnum is the forgotten .41 then the .414SM  is on the endangered species list. Since we are all about hunting, the .414SM  and the .41mag will be covered here dealing with their hunting usefulness and practicality in the field.

The All-Purpose .41
Long-time Handgunner Dick Thompson loves his .41mag Freedom Arms and had no questions as to its effectiveness on African game.

The .414 Super Mag…

The .414 Super Mag, developed by Elgin Gates for the IHMSA competition, Starline Brass has headstamped its brass honoring the maker. The 414SM has more power than is needed for the IHMSA competition. The standard 41mag and 44mag were both doing this easily enough. The .414SM utilized the extra length provided by stretching revolver frames to accommodate the 357 Ruger Maximum or 357 Super Mag. The 41 Remington magnum has a well-documented reputation for having a flatter trajectory than the 44mag. The 414SM increases this advantage by moving bullets of normal weight 210gr. to 220gr. at velocities 200-300 feet per second faster. The biggest advantage is that it is better suited to use bullets heavier than normal. Bullets weighing 230gr. to 295gr. in weight. Yet push them at velocities the 41mag does with normal 210gr. bullets. The .414SM needs a special stretched frame to capitalize on its benefits. 

The All-Purpose .41
The length difference is shown here and quite apparent as to why a stretched frame revolver is needed.

Available platforms…

Ruger, United Sporting Arms, and Dan Wesson were originally the only revolvers made that would accommodate the round. Now S&W and Magnum Research both offer long-framed revolvers. Thompson Center offers their single-shot Encore and Contender with suitable barrels as well. The .414 Super mag using heavier bullets makes it suitable for any game animal in the lower 48 states. The guns it is available in provide excellent accuracy, which many would consider beyond their capabilities with a handgun. The heavier bullets are typically found available in cast bullet guise. Hawk Bullets offers jacketed bullets up to 400gr. An interesting development I noticed with my .414SM. I can push a 270gr. bullet as fast as I can a 250gr. bullet with none of the typical high-pressure signs. This works out well because the weight of that bullet is a great all-around one for hunting with the caliber.

The All-Purpose .41
Taken at 167 yards. with 414sm and Swift AF 210gr. bullet. He covered 50 yards after being hit.

The .41 Magnum…

The .41 Remington Magnum, from its inception, came out as a middle child. The 357mag was the smaller older brother, the 44mag was the bigger brother. The 41 Remington magnum had the best attributes of both. As a hunting caliber it excelled, the 210gr. soft points and hollow points provided all the performance the 44mag could with 240gr. bullets. It did this with less recoil and a better trajectory. Felt recoil in similar guns was slightly more than the 357mag was producing, and muzzle blast was not near as bad. Original bullet weights were 170gr. and 210gr. The 170s worked well on deer and antelope, and the 210s were good as a one-size-fits-all bullet. We currently have weights as light as 135gr. in solid copper from Cutting Edge Bullet Co. and cast bullets weighing 300gr.

The All-Purpose .41
Recovered 41’s L to R: 210gr Swift AF, recovered at 207gr. from mule deer. 210gr. Speer DC, recovered at 205gr. from feral hog. 250gr. LFN/HP, recovered at 148gr. from feral hog, high impact velocity from 414sm resulted in more weight loss.
The All-Purpose .41
Hawk 270gr. SP, recovered from large boar at 263gr.


Well-known handgunner George Nonte took a S&W 57 41mag to Africa in the 1970s. He along with his companion Lee Jurras took several head of plains game with it. Friend and devout cast bullet user Dick Thompson recently did the same using only cast bullets with no issues. These days the 41 magnums are a niche caliber. It gets overlooked by those wanting more bullets or more power. New handgun hunters tend to gravitate to the more popular 44 magnum as the usual starting point. This bypasses some useful calibers, the 357 magnum, 10mm, and 45acp just to name a few. The best-overlooked caliber is the .41 Remington magnum. It is not only overlooked by users but also by firearms manufacturers and ammunition and component suppliers. This, however, is of no consequence to those of us who have become wise to the magic of the the 41 magnum.

The All-Purpose .41
Fellow .41 mag user, Mike Mendez took this fine bull at 138yds. with a 265gr. LFN/PC cup point cast bullet. Complete broadside penetration was attained with a bullet he made himself.

Less is More…

In my opinion, the 210gr. bullets are the do-it-all bullet for game up to the size of elk. Provided of course, you use a good quality bullet. I prefer the Swift A-Frame for game bigger than South Texas whitetails and pronghorn antelope. I can also use heavier bullets that are available from cast bullet producers or jacketed varieties from Hawk bullets. If I were going after Elk or bigger game, like Mike Mendez, I’d choose a good 250gr. or 265gr. bullet. My most used bullets for the 41 magnums are 210gr. jacketed hollowpoints and 250gr. cast hollowpoints. My .41s are general-purpose guns for deer, antelope, feral hogs, etc. As such they get used for the vast majority of my hunting.

The All-Purpose .41
Even with limited choices there are a lot of choices for .41 users. L to R: 210gr. SWC, 210gr. Speer DC, 210gr. Swift AF, 210gr. Hornady XTP, 220gr. Sierra FPJ(discontinued), 235gr. Hawk SP, 230gr. WFN, 250gr. WFN, 250gr. LFN/HP, 270gr. LFN/GC, 265gr. WLN/GC, 270gr. Hawk SP. These are just the ones I prefer, there are quite a few others.

Hunting Favorites…

 I mentioned earlier that I had taken a big gulp from the .41 Kool-Aid. I called Jack Huntington and commissioned a custom .414SM. It is my favorite .41 and one I would not hesitate to use for larger game like elk, bear, or moose. It handles the heavier bullets with the same ease that the .41mag handles the 210gr. bullets. I use 250gr. and 270gr. bullets from it, both cast and jacketed. I also use the Swift AF 210gr. bullet for big medium game, like mule deer and bigger whitetails.

The All-Purpose .41
The first kill for my S&W 657 this fine-toothed boar from 65yds. using a Speer 210gr. Deep Curl bullet.

My guns consist of a Freedom Arms 97 that fulfills general-purpose field gun duties. Its short 4.2” barrel allows it to ride comfortably on a belt holster. It’s sights consist of a Burris FastFire 2 red dot that allows it to deliver 6” groups at 100 yards. It has taken turkey at 55yards, and feral pigs out to 75. My normal carry load consists of a Swift 210gr. A-Frame bullet. Another friend and fellow Texan has been a .41 aficionado longer than myself. He informed me of the effectiveness of the Speer 210gr DC bullet. Randy’s FA97 is set up strictly for hunting use, has a 7.5” barrel and small reflex sight. It is his favorite all-around hunting handgun.

The All-Purpose .41
Fellow Texan and 41 magnum shooter, Randy Miller with one of his many kills taken with his favorite Freedom Arms 97 in 41 magnum.

Versatility Extraordinaire…

Secondly, is my S&W 657. This gun also wears a Burris red dot, an RT-1. The accuracy provided is just as good as the FA97. The longer cylinder allows heavier bullet use more easily. It normally is used with Speer 210gr. Deep Curl bullets. It does shoot a 250gr. LFN/HP that I got from Dick Thompson very well also. The 657 has taken feral hogs from 65 yards. to 135 yards, all with the Speer bullet. My last is my Jack Huntington/Ruger 414SM.

The All-Purpose .41
My most used loads for .414sm and .41 Rem Mag cover all my needs from medium game like deer and antelope to elk and big feral hogs. The solid cast bullet or Sierra FPJ pull double duty when a turkey or grouse needs to be taken without tearing up the meat.

 It was built to replace my former favorite hunting handgun a Ruger 357 Maximum. I wanted something I could use for almost all my handgun hunting. Since the 414SM uses heavier bullets than the 357max it makes it better for use on larger game. I get to use 250-270gr. bullets at the same velocity that the 357max shot 180gr. bullets. Recoil with the heavy barreled custom revolver is about the same as a 41 Remington magnum. Accuracy from the 414SM is what you would expect from a custom gun, excellent. It proved to be prairie dog accurate out to 200+ yards. I used it recently to take a nice mule deer at 167 yards. using the Swift AF 210gr. bullet. Several feral hogs have fallen to its bullets, 250LFN/HP and 270 Hawk SP’s. 

The All-Purpose .41
Pig number 3 for 2023, was a large heavy-toothed boar. Still no match for a well-placed .41 bullet.
The All-Purpose .41
As he stood moments before taking the 270gr. Hawk bullet at 100 yards.

The Capable .41’s…

I came into the 41 club recently, and I have seen its positives way outshine its negatives. The only real negatives are its lack of attention by major ammunition manufacturers and component suppliers. I get it, the market is small and the profit margin is smaller. The users of the 41 would love to see a greater variety of bullet weights available in jacketed guise or a better selection of loaded ammunition. We can get by with what we have, and the limited selection does not diminish the cartridges’ usefulness. 

READ MORE: Hunting Feral Hogs in California Could Get Much Easier

The All-Purpose .41
My three .41’s…Freedom Arms 97, JRH/Ruger custom, and S&W 657, all wearing Burris optics and all amazingly accurate.

It has been and always will be a practical and useful big game hunting round. One capable of being suitable for beginners and experienced handgun shooters. The major manufacturers that produce guns suitable for hunting include S&W, Ruger, and Freedom Arms. My S&W and Freedom Arms, both have taken game at reasonable hunting distances with excellent accuracy. The custom Ruger in 414SM is simply more of an already perfect caliber for hunting North America. To me and many others, the .41 is no longer the “Middle Magnum” or “Forgotten .41”. It is and has always been the All-Purpose .41. 

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About the author: Retired Firefighter of 28 years, and a lifelong shooter, competitor, hunter, and outdoorsman. Currently an outdoor bum, taking advantage of all my free time, and enjoying our great outdoors.

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