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America in
Chains

INVENTING THE .41 SPECIAL July 31, 2006

By L. Neil Smith <lneil@lneilsmith.org>

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise and to
“L. Neil Smith At Random” at www.bigheadpress.com/lneilsmith

I wonder how many folks reading this site know that a favorite revolver cartridge of mine (possibly yours, too) was never supposed to exist. While a theoretical .41 cartridge — which could, and perhaps should have been called “.41 Special” — had been advocated for many years by such experts as Elmer Keith and Bill Jordan, as a substitute for the pathetically inadequate .38 Special used by most policemen up through the 60s, the one that was developed and released was called .41 Magnum.

And acted like it.

In some ways it’s like the way that Norma presented us with the 10mm Auto cartridge, twenty-five years ago, instead of the milder centimeter-sized cartridge that Jeff Cooper, “Yoda” of the .45 ACP, envisioned.

What, I pretend to hear you ask, is — or would have been — the difference? Well, let’s look at .38 Special for an idea about that, and at its more potent sibling .357 Magnum (they’re both actually the same diameter, 0.356-.358″, the latter name simply being a matter of marketing).

38 Special was a gradual evolutionary development that began in the late 19th century with various shorter .38 cartridges (some interchangeable and some not) made by or for Colt and Smith & Wesson. The cartridge that failed to do the job out in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and the subsequent Moro Uprising was one of these. In its way, when .38 Special arrived, it was seen as a sort of magnum.

For decades afterward, sixguns from the big N-framed S&W “.38-44″ (meaning a .38 Spl. on a .44 frame) through a number of K-frames (like the famed S&W Models 10 and 15), to the diminuitive five-shot J-frame Model 36 (now 60) “Chief’s Special, were all intended for .38 Special, and after the mid-30s, following the invention of .357 Magnum, even those guns were meant to be used with .38 most of the time. It was believed that a steady diet of the spiffier cartridge would destroy them.

Although more modern (if not more effective) variations exist now, .38 Special is traditonally loaded with a 158-grain round-nosed lead bullet going about 800 feet per second. This yields 225 foot pounds of energy and achieves a modest, if not downright embarrassing 22 on my own scale of “Efficacy” where F (for “efficacy”, of course) equals kinetic energy times the cross sectional area of the bullet in square inches.

Or, F=EA.

I regard F=50 as minimal for adequate self-defense. Weapons that generate a lower number may be handier, lighter, or more concealable, but they require tactics that are very different from those of larger capabilities.

.357 Magnum, which came along much later than .38 Spcial, was a big improvement. The same 158-grain bullet could be pushed faster with more (and better) powder in a case lengthened by a mere 1/10″ to make it impossible to get the more powerful cartridge into a .38 Special chamber — which might convert an otherwise useful weapon into a highly user-unfriendly hand grenade. Velocity was 1300 feet per second, energy was 593 foot pounds, and the Efficacy was a solid 59, exactly the same as that achieved by the world-famous man-stopper .45 ACP.

Now let’s look at another pair of cartridges, .44 Special and .44 Magnum. The former was a product of the late 19th century, replacing the .44 Russian and .44 American that S&W had made big break-top revolvers for. These weapons are making a huge comeback as this is written.

44 Spl., too, was regarded as a sort of magnum. It’s still a fair choice if you avoid the lead round-nosed factory loads. Those bullets weigh 246 grains. They travel at 800 feet per second, generate 350 foot pounds, and barely squeak by at a 51 on my scale of relative schrecklichkeit, proving that my “F-scale” isn’t just about bullet diameter. .455 Webley/Colt is an even worse contender on the very same scale. Without much work or risk, you can load .44 Special to an adequate velocity, fully on par with .45 ACP. However, it was by hot-loading .44 Special in what was supposed to have been an especially strong model of large-frame S&W called a “Triple Lock”, that the legendary Elmer Keith and his buddies invented what would later become known and regularized as the .44 Magnum. The common factory load is a 240-grain bullet at 1350 feet per second, for 971 foot pounds, and an “F” of 140.

No, it’s not “the world’s most powerful handgun” (and it wasn’t, even in the days of Dirty Harry), but it’s absolutely formidable, effective, and vastly easier to shoot than most people anticipate. I’ve never introduced a new shooter to it who hasn’t ended up with an ear-to-ear grin on his or her face after firing it. A big western mule deer shot with a .44 Magnum drops as if a meteor fell on it. For poor little Bambi and his mommy, .44 Magnum is a personal Extinction Level Event.

Since the introduction of the .41 Magnum in 1964, there have been two power levels available over the counter. A 210-grain “hunting load” at an advertised 1500 feet per second yields 1049 foot pounds and an Efficacy of 139. I suspect that 1300, 788, and 104 are more accurate figures. If there’s a difference in recoil and noise between this cartridge and .44 Magnum, I’m not sensitive to it. Ballistically, .41 Magnum will do anything in a 8 3/8″ barrel that .44 Magnum will do in a 6 1/2″ barrel. I have a 4″ “Win Bear” Model 58 in this caliber, an 8 3/8″ Model 657, and a customized 3″ Ruger three-screw Blackhawk. I’d be happy to hunt game with any one of them, anywhere in North America.

The other commercial variant is the so-called “police load”, put up in the same length case as the hotter load, and delivering a 210-grain lead bullet a velocity of 1150 feet per second, an energy of 617 foot pounds, and an Efficacy of 81. That’s still a touch hot for present purposes. It was an attempt to create a load that would entice police departments to buy .41 caliber S&W revolvers, and it didn’t work. For some reason, it hurt almost as much to shoot as the hunting load, leaded barrels badly, and I’m not sure that it’s even made any more.

Now if we wanted to build a true “.41 Special”, an objective still desirable today, what would it be like? First, we would shorten the magnum case by a tenth of an inch. (Later, an outfit like StarLine might manufacture the real thing.) Presumably revolvers (or at least cylinders) could be made for such a cartridge and it would be more accurate and cleaner, if fired in a chamber of proper length. Also, lighter weapons like the Colt SAA could be converted, that would be damaged by the power of the magnum load, and this would help prevent that.

If we wanted to mimic the performance of .38 and .44 Spl., we’d average the bullet weight to 202 grains and drive it at the same 800 feet per second the other two achieve, producing 287 foot pounds, and F=38.

That’s too weak for my taste, but I still want to stay within the non-magnum range. Raising the velocity to 923 feet per second produces 382 foot pounds and a minimally adequate F=50. Raising it to 1000 feet per second produces 449 foot pounds and the same 59 we get from .45 ACP.

I’ve had a lot of fun with the new .45 Colt “cowboy” loads, which vary from 250 to 255 grains in weight, and from 750 to 850 feet per second, all of them very modest, but highly effective and worthy for self-defense. The proposed .41 Special falls into the same performance range and would nicely fill a gap accidentally left by ballistic progress.

It would also make a fine alternative for individuals with small hands or those afflicted with arthritis, osteoporosis, or similar problems.

==============================================

Award-winning author L. Neil Smith, among other things, is a retired gunsmith, ballistician, and has been called one of the foremost experts on the ethics of self-defense. He is available to write articles and columns on those and related topics. For rates and other details, contact him at <lneil@lneilsmith.org>.

Comments

1. sockrotter - July 31, 2006

Too late; Midway has two boxes (of 50 each) in stock. It’s frightfully expensive, but with a minimum order of 50,000 or so, Star Line would make a bunch at a much more reasonable price.
Rob

2. Administrator - July 31, 2006

….Thanks, Rob, I’ll look into it — ouch! Over a buck per case! Guess I’ll trim brass, myself. If I had the money to spend, I’d rather spend it on my .375 Auto project.

3. Eric Oppen - August 3, 2006

One thing that bugs the daylights about me about guns is the bewildering array of ways to designate ammunition. Metric vs. English measurements, case length vs. powder load—and then you get into cartridges with names.

If there was _one_ method that _everybody_ used, (like I think there is in the NAC) we’d all be a lot better off.

4. Administrator - August 3, 2006

….I confess that I actually like our messy system and have tried, myself, to make it even messier by mixing English unanimous consent dimensions with the forcible Napoleonic (propagandistically called “metric”). An example would be the wildcat rifle cartridge I want to build, which I call .375×68. The caliber is .375″ and the case is adapted from the German 8x68mm S Magnum, I believe that .41 Action Express also was known as .41xSomethingmetric at one time. Almost too bad it was supplanted by the .40 we call “Liberty” around these parts.
….The various designations are useful and interesting because they all tell us stories and afterward help us to remember them. .45/70 was the descendant of .50/70, both cartridges. among the first used in m ilitary rifles (which had been muzzle loaders before then), using 70 grains of black powder.
….On the other hand, .30-40 U.S. (Krag) and .30-30 W.C.F, (Winchester), respectively the first military and first commercial bottlenecked high velocity rifle cartridges manufactured in America, used an early smokeless powder that isn’t around any more, although you could probably find one that would give good performance at 40 and 30 grains, respectively. Check your friendly neighborhood loading manual.
…..250-3000 Savage was actually a .257″ cartridge that, in its carefully-calculated for advertising purposes 87-grain bullet load, got an unprecedented (at the turn of the last century) 3000 feet per second.
….I also have a .375 pistol cartridge I want to create for the Browning High Power (the parent brass will be 8mm Nambu), and when I do, you can bet its case length will be designated in millimeters, just for fun!

5. Eric Oppen - August 5, 2006

You misunderstand. What I’m talking about is having a bunch of different names for the same cartridge—or cartridges with similar-but-not-quite-the-same names.

In 9mm alone *pausing for the inevitable reaction* you have, off the top of my head: 9mm Parabellum, 9×21, 9mm Kurz (aka .380 and 9×17, speaking of bunches of different names) 9mm Largo, 9mm Glisenti, and, no doubt, others that I haven’t heard of. I know a guy who nearly dropped a bundle on 9mm Largo, not realizing that he didn’t have anything to fire it from.

Add in the various “government” *boo, hiss* models—I’ve seen .30-06 _and_ .30-40 called “.30 Government” before.

Part of the trouble is that you have one system used by the military, and others that are more usual among civilians. It gets to be like trying to make sense of an old chemistry book…”WTF is ‘sugar of lead,’ for the gods’ sake?” You, maybe, can keep up with this, but for us laymen, it can get a trifle con-fooz-eling.

6. MRJarrell - August 8, 2006

The plethora of cartridges out there are definitely a confusion, (they give me huge headache and pause at the shop). All I know is, I like my .41 Mag (and the 6 inch flame out the end of the barrel!) and I have a most certain fondness for my trusty little .44 Special Charter Arms Bull Pug.
This article makes me think, tho. I might need to do some exploring…

7. Jesse - August 9, 2006

I’ve been thinking that since we have:
1. The .30 Luger which is essentially (I know it really came out first) a 9mm Luger necked down to .30
2. The .357 Sig which is essentially a .40 Liberty necked down to 9mm.
3. The .400 Corbon which is a .45 ACP necked down to .40

I want a .50 GI or .50 AE necked down to .45 to finish the progression. I can’t think of a plausible rationalization for why such a cartidge is necessary though.

8. Administrator - August 9, 2006

….No rationalization necessary, Jesse. If it entertains and amuses you, then it can serve no higher purpose. I loved .38/45 when I was still shooting it (an amateur gunsmith — not me — ruined the barrel trying to “improve” it).
….I had a good friend, my mentor in gunsmithing, who always dreamed of necking .50 BMG down to .22, although he never got around to it. About the same time, somebody took one of the big belted magnum cases (I don’t remember which), necked it down to .22 and actually made a rifle for it. It was called “.22 Eargeschplitten Loudenboomer” and I imagine he got about half a dozen shots out of it before it ate the rifling.
….But what fun!
….We get too hung up on the practical — it’s the non-fun dour survivalist in each of us, I think — and forget the pleasure we all first found in guns. I bought a Henry .22 Magnum last year for no reason at all except that I’d never had a .22 Magnum, and the Henry was tiny and light and slender (hmmm … what else do I like that way?) and absolutely irresistable.
….For a while, I was a kid again, and it felt good.

9. Jac - August 9, 2006

Jesse,
Cor-Bon has the .440 Corbon. .50AE necked down to a .44. Not quite a .45 (.429″ is kind of stretching the term “big-bore, I think), but a fun idea, nevertheless.

‘Course, try finding a firearm chambered for it. :)

10. Administrator - August 9, 2006

….Sounds like a job for a customized Desert Eagle.
….Although any number of single-shots would work, too.
….And didn’t I hear somewhere that the L.A.R. Grizzly’s being made now in .50 AE? Which means you could do a custom 1911oid barrel for that, as well.
….All things considered, I’d rather have the .50.

11. Jac - August 10, 2006

Mr. Smtih,
Because of our discussions here regarding cartridge design, I’ve
been researching the field lately and came across — on the day you
posted this article, oddly enough — mention of a .41 ACP
that Colt and Mr. Browning were working on prior to the Thompson-LaGarde
tests. Also, there was a mention of a 9.8mm cartridge Browning was
developing for the European market that, as far as I can tell, sounds
like a ballistic sibling (or cousin, at least :) ) of your .375 design.

It’s curious (and kind of sucks) that we’ve been stuck with the
small-bore “wonder-nines” all these years, when medium-bore, high
capacity pistols were being developed over 80 years ago. And when people
finally do start working on medium-caliber autos, the concept is
dominated at first by the Sellout Company Whose Name We Do Not Speak. I
mean, the .40 Liberty is great (I think I’d prefer the power of the 10mm
Auto if/when I get a medium-bore auto), but why did it have to be made
by *them*?!?

But, if/when you get your .375 developed, I’ll be happy to buy a HiPower
or CZ75 and new barrel. :)

Anyway, just some random info I thought you’d be interested in… if you
haven’t heard any of it already. You probably have; I’m only 21, so I’m
trying to catch up. :)

–Jac

12. Administrator - August 10, 2006

….First, Jac, I’m Neil. Mr. Smith was my dad.

….I was unaware of .41 ACP. 9.8mm was the chambering the High Power was originally meant for (screwed up by the French, oif course, who ordered it in 9mm), and most folks see it as ancestral to the various .40s and 10s. The actual unanimous consent measurement (as opposed to Napoleonic-coercive) is .0.386″, so either call, yours or theirs, is good.

….I confess that I generally subscribe to the view that “If it doesn’t start with a 4, it’s inadequate for self-defense”. But I was interested in getting the Browning up off its knees any way I could — without overstressing it, or altering its marvelous handling characteristics. I chose .375, because so many big cartridges are already of that caliber, and we’re all pretty familiar with it, since it’s also 3/8″. Also, there’s a wonderful bullet design available — a 145 grain round- nose flat-point — in molds meant for .36 percussion revolvers.

….The medium bore concept is actually about 130 years old, starting with .38/40 Winchester (.38 WCF). As you may know, that’s .44/40 necked down (sort of) to .400″, and why they called it a .38, I’m not entirely sure. It usually has to do with the different way they measured caliber in the 19th century (land-to-land) as opposed to the 20th (groove-to-groove).

….But the important point is that it’s a splendid cartridge in which many revolvers, both single and double action, were chambered, by Colt, Squiggle & Wriggle, and others. Buckeye Sports had Ruger Blackhawks made a few years ago with two cylinders, 10mm and .38/40. Somebody else had a .38/40 and .40 Liberty combination.

….Me, I’d want all three calibers — and maybe the rarer 10mm Magnum, as well.

….I also meant to say in the previous paragraph that, although it’s a much bigger case (meant originally for black powder), the ballistic performance of .38/40 is amazingly similar to that of .40 Liberty.

….Thank you for writing again. You bring up some very interesting points. The more we talk about this stuff (and direct more people to the site) the more likely it is that we’ll eventually get some support for the .375 concept. If it actually becomes a shooting reality, we may have to call it “.375x19mm BigHeadPress”.

13. Jac - August 10, 2006

I didn’t realize the .38/40 was so close to the “new” .40. Makes sense, though, since it’s a decent combination of power, caliber, and controllability. Though I’m a .4x guy myself, I do see the benefits of the medium bores, especially in the HiPower. Lovely little machine, that.

I like the name for the .375… a BHP cartridge only makes sense for a BHP gun. :)

14. Lawhobbit - August 11, 2006

Of course, when you get around to that 8mm Nambu conversion you could always add even more confusion to the pot by developing a new standard of measurement. I’m thinking fractions of a cubit, perhaps, so we could call this one (counting on fingers, figuring a cubit at 30 inches, allowing for centicubits and millicubits for convenience sake) the 12.5MC ElNeil.

This also means, if ballistics are decent, that we could call it – that’s right – the “MC Hammer.”

15. Administrator - August 11, 2006

Lawhobbit mused:
> figuring a cubit at 30 inches …

….A cubit is traditionally the distance from one’s elbow to the end of the exended finger — any finger you prefer — making it more like 18 inches.
….And not much bigger around than a beer can.

16. Lawhobbit - August 11, 2006

I have metric arms.

But accepting the correction, that would make the new cartridge a 21MC ElNeil, then. We’ll use the 12.5MC for plinking.

17. Jac - August 11, 2006

Okay, I’m going to revise my position a little…

I will be happy to buy a .375 pistol, as long as we agree to never call it the “MC Hammer”. :)

18. Lawhobbit - August 11, 2006

The Gun That Dare Not Speak Its Name?

19. sockrotter - August 16, 2006

Jac,
Iirc, the 10mm was first made by combining a 180 grain bullet from a .38-40 and a shortened .35 Remington case.
Although I shoot a few .32-20 guns, I much prefer to reload straight walled cases; I ruined a fair number of .44-40 cases back in my long ago youth.
Rob

20. Roberta J. Barmore - August 19, 2006

Lawhobbit, The Gun That Dare Not Speak Its Name was the short-lived British-built Wilde, the first “clever gun.” The projectile was, uniquely, both pointed and barbed, and tended to go right for the jugular.

Of course the Brits were *hideously* embarrassed. They jailed the designer and spread layered rumours in classic counterintelligence defense in depth style: that he was actually a writer rather than a gunmaker and then something lurid about his personal life, I cannot for the life of me recall just what on a non-age-limited forum.

Jesse, is not the .50 GI in production, fired from a weapon that’s about 99% 1911? (And 1% rear sight stuck in forehead!)

I’m presently lusting after a used Colt “Delta Elite” 10mm 1911 at one of the local candy stores — for me, that would be a fine platform to convert down to .41 Special. To be sure, it hasn’t the capacity or elan of a BHP, but it’s a heckuva lot more purse-friendly. And it would annoy the bejazus out of the “more power” types, too.

Ooops, here they come now, carrying an unflattering effigy, an insultingly thick rope, and freshly-filled Ronsons!

21. Lawhobbit - August 22, 2006

I think the .41 Special would be a rollergun, not a shufflegun, though I suppose if you wanted to use a Desert Eagle as a platform you could get the job done. I’d have to say, though, that the gunsmith (not to be confused with our host here) in question should have expected that occurrence – hadn’t he, afer all, said, “Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”

22. Roberta J. Barmore - August 24, 2006

Ewww, you said “wheelgun!” Sort of.

Point taken.

And just as soon as I’m a good enough shot to get the job done with six rounds (+/- 1), I’ll consider owning one of the things.

23. Administrator - August 24, 2006

….Make that +/- 2, as Schmuck & Wormsoul make a .357 eight-shooter I wouldn’t mind having, and which you can see in Clint Eastwood’s _Blood Work_.
….At our stage of technology, revolvers still have their place. For one thing, it seems much easier to make a magnum sixgun than a magnum auto. Yes, I know about the Desert Eagle. I have owned AutoMags, and have a Grizzly I like a lot. But the first two are huge, clumsy machines, and even the Grizzly, which I can holster in the back pocket of my jeans just like any other 1911, doesn’t handle as well as the equivalent revolver.
….Plus they’re all hideously expensive, whereas the sixguns are more reasonable.
….Another point about revolvers: if you consult _Hatcher’s Notebook_, you’ll find that when you’re weighing a gun for the purpose of calculating its free recoil, you have to subtract the weight of its reciprocating parts, as they are not within the same frame of inertial reference as the rest of the gun. In practice, that means that you feel a _lot_ more recoil.
….And this certainly reflects my own experience.
….Finally, for reasons I can’t quite explain, revolvers tend to be a great deal more accurate than semi-autos. And I mean a great deal. I can very casually shoot right out to ram-distance in NRA HBunter’s Pistol (100 yards) with my S&W M610s (chambered for 10mm Auto and .40 Liberty), but none of my self-shuckers are accurate at that distance.
….Oh yes, one more thing. One reason the 10mm’s popularity has died off somewhat — although it may be the best pistol cartridge there is — is that it’s _very_ hard on platforms that weren’t designed for it. Sadly, it batters the hell out of the 1911 variant called the Delta Elite. I’ve seen this happen with my own eyes and felt it with my own fingers.
….There’s supposedly a 10mm kit you can get for the Grizzly, and I’d love to have it, but I’ve never even seen one. Because it has a longer, much heavier slide, the AMT Javelina should be fine, too, but they’re hard to find and get mixed reviews for reliability (although I’d risk it). But if you really want a 10mm autopistol, get yourself a Glock 20 or an EAA Witness.

24. Roberta J. Barmore - August 29, 2006

In re wheelguns: open mouth, insert foot. Somehow I conflated an obvious revolver round with something else Neil had mentioned as an upgrade for the BHP. Sheesh. I plead youth an’ inexperience and hope for a gullable jury.

I passed up a very pretty 10mm Witness at the local gunshow. Realistically, 10mm can only be a hobby round for me; I find the shorty .40 a bit much and would druther shoot .45 ACP or 9mm. More sailiently, I’m back on target a lot faster with either of them. A pity about the Delta Elite but it’s not unexpected. Colt hasn’t been good at coloring outside the lines for a very long time.

Passed up a Whitney Wolverine, too. Again. So nifty. So .22. I’m gonna regret this when Martians invade.

But I did fall for a Star SI: a mini-1911 in .32, the very thing for medium-large mice. Or small opossums. And now I have at least one Star in every auto caliber they built one for from .22 to .45. I blame the Savage for making me aware of .32 as a happy-fun round.

It turns out, by the way, that gun shows are not as much fun with a broken knee. Bedfast most of the weekend after spending Sat. am there.

So…how ’bout dat .41 Special? >blush

25. Hondo Valentine - September 3, 2006

R&D Guns makes a repro ’72 Colt open top revolver in .41 special and provides the cut-down Mag brass for it.

I luv my Scrape&Wallow 657 6-1/2″ Classic. If I had a pickup full of cartridges, I’d spend all day turning my wrists to jelly.

Thus, I dream of soon cutting down some of my spent Mag brass mahseff.

26. lee n. field - September 19, 2006

“….Another point about revolvers: if you consult _Hatcher’s Notebook_, you’ll find that when you’re weighing a gun for the purpose of calculating its free recoil, you have to subtract the weight of its reciprocating parts, as they are not within the same frame of inertial reference as the rest of the gun. In practice, that means that you feel a _lot_ more recoil.
….And this certainly reflects my own experience.”

Ah, HAH!

Is the Mateba (and the century old Webley-Fosbury) auto-revolving revolver the best, or the worst of both worlds? Elegant, or an overcomplicated solution to a non-problem?

27. Scott Friesth - September 24, 2006

Hey Neil,
Glad I found this site. Its been too long since my trip to the first LRT Conclave. It was a fun afternoon talking with you and Tom.

My first centerfire gun was a Ruger Blackhawk .41 magnum. 4 5/8 inch barrel. Fun to shoot and easy to reload. Shot it for a while before I learned to reload, and the high power JSP load was more common. Good training, recoil and muzzle blast never bothered me much after that. I mostly shoot my 1911′s now, but a nice 5 shot Taurus 41 mag revolver almost followed me home once. Once I started reloading, SWC .41 Special style loads are what I usually shot.

Larger caliber Hi-Power? Yes! I want one.

Scott

28. Donald Qualls - October 1, 2006

Wheee! I just found this place, too — via a link from Roleplaying Tips (for roleplaying games like D&D or GURPS, nothing age-limited about it), of all things.

I have to say, I’m pretty happy with my Dan Wesson .357 magnum. I especially like the interchanging barrel system, though I only own 4″ and 6″ tubes for mine. This machine makes me want to play with a resurrection of the Invicta system of the 1960s.

This is a system that’s very hard to find information about; I’ve seen reference to it a total of three times in the 25 years I’ve been reading about, shooting/reloading, and dreaming about altering handguns. To greatly oversimplify, it’s a case of putting a sub-diameter barrel on a standard revolver frame *and cylinder*, using the original cartridge (or one a lot like it, potentially altered to accomodate making the cylinder inaccessible to full-bore rounds), and loading a bulle that fits the barrel in a sort of sabot that travels with the bullet until impacting the barrel’s rear face (ideally, this travel distance should be extremely short — less velocity at this juncture is good), then seals the barrel-cylinder gap while the bullet continues. It allows packaging the ballistics of a necked cartridge in a wheelgun, without the fun and games that the .22 Jet reminded the world about (locked up guns, mostly, because of setback and brass expansion).

Why would I do this? I have in mind letting my Dan Wesson frame and 6″ barrel shroud give performance similar to an XP-100 with .221 Fireball ammunition — and still switch back to my .357 defense loads after shooting ground squirrels or targets. I owned an XP-100 once, and it was great fun to shoot, but a single shot isn’t my idea of a practical gun — I kept thinking, in those days, that a gas-operated action like a cut-down AR-15 would be just the ticket for that cartridge, but these days I tend to think about what I can afford, and a .22/357 Invicta is within my means if I can find a shot-out centerfire .22 barrel to rework.

BTW, I prefer a wheelgun over an automatic for another reason: a wheelgun won’t jam up on you if, for some reason, you can’t hang onto it tightly. Sure, it’ll flip all over the place, maybe even jump out of your hand — but if you manage to keep hold of it, there’ll be another round under the hammer when you pull the trigger again. If your gun hand is weak for some reason (perhaps, due to injury?), an automatic may just smokestack or feed jam when the slide fails to get all the way to the rear. I know my Excam .380 will do so, and I’ve seen it happen with 9 mm and .45 ACP pistols as well.

BTW, I suspect my favorite .357 round has a little better F factor than the factory loads — it was designed mostly for (when I lived in a good sized city) avoiding overpenetration. A 90 grain hollow cavity bullet designed for the .380 ACP round (and made to reliably expand at only 800 ft/s), over 20 grains of H-110. I haven’t ever had a chance to chronograph it, but it ought to run somewhere upward of 1500 ft/s from the 6″ barrel.

Why, no, muzzle blast doesn’t bother me, either. Why do you ask? ;)

29. jesse hunt - April 1, 2008

question for you guys? how about a 357 mag. loaded with 15.5 grs. of h110 with a150 gr. core loc. pulled from a 35 rem. ? to long for anything but a single shot wonder. a 058 h/r. it might fit some of the newer single shots but i`m not shure. i have loaded and fired quiet a few of them in mine and accuracy is fairly good. it does`t sound oror recoil like my other 357 reloads. it`s milder. by the way i have fired servel differant autos but laying every thing else aside i LOVE my 41 mag. blackhawk and am going to try some specials now that i have some loading data.