The S&W Model 57 .41 magnum


The S&W Model 57 revolver is the large N frame revolver chambered in the under appreciated but superb .41 magnum cartridge. It was introduced in the mid 60s with the idea to fill the perceived need of a police round that gave performance between the .357 magnum and the .44 magnum. A few big name influential gun writers at the time pushed this idea till Remington and S&W bought into the idea and introduced the round and the gun.

Showing just how much opinionated gun writers know, it has more or less flopped since day one. Cops liked their 38spls just fine and if they wanted more they have the 357 magnum. Users of the time complained about the recoil of the 41 compared to the 38/357 loads. I think these cops must have been the fathers of the men who now complain the .45ACP has too much recoil because I think the 41 is pleasant to shoot.

It was adopted by a few places and I’m sure a few individuals carried them here and there but it never became what it was intended to be. One has to wonder if S&W started to question the judgement of the gun writers at the time when it comes to market demand. Elmer Kieth and Bill Jordan were two of its proponents and it must have been a blow to those huge egos to learn they didn’t have a finger on the pulse. Or maybe they didn’t care and just wanted a .41. The gun never received the adoration of the .44magnum in any event. That is a shame because the 41 really is the best of both worlds in my humble opinion. Long story short, it was overshadowed by the 44 magnum. Dirty Harry putting the final nail in the coffin so to speak.

The gun pictured has the 8-3/8 length barrel. It came with the adjustable target sights, wider hammer and trigger. The grips are the wider over sized target grips.

170 gr (11 g) JHP Cor-Bon1,275 ft/s (389 m/s)614 ft⋅lbf (832 J)
210 gr (14 g) JHP1,560 ft/s (480 m/s)1,135 ft⋅lbf (1,539 J)
240 gr (16 g) FMJ+P Winchester1,250 ft/s (380 m/s)833 ft⋅lbf (1,129 J)
265 gr (17 g) HP-GC Buffalo Bore Heavy1,350 ft/s (410 m/s)1,072 ft⋅lbf (1,453 J)

The Model 57 was produced 1964-1991 when it was discontinued then brought back in 2008. The model 57 above is one from the original run and is a 57 and not the 57-1 etc according to its markings.

No shooting tests today but will try to get that done. I know several of you have been asking for more revolver stuff so here is the start of that with the new production Colt python coming soon.


  1. The .41 Magnum is in the same class with the 10mm and all of the various 6-7mm assault rifle cartridges that people have thrown up, and which haven’t ever been adopted. On paper, it’s an ideal solution, but somehow they never really achieve success–Despite all of the “experts” agreeing that they’re the Best Thing Evah ™.

    It’s either that we “experts” don’t know what the f**k we’re talking about, or something about the installed base, and half-ass solutions getting a head start on things. Instead of “better is the enemy of good enough”, it’s more like “good enough murders best in its sleep”.

    Seriously–Look at all the other cartridges and so forth that are similar to .41 Magnum. It’s not an insignificant number of them, at all–People have been raving about how something around 6.5mm is the ideal bore for military use since I don’t know when, but when you get down to it, the .276 Pedersen, the .270 and .280 British, and all the rest have died on the vine with major military powers. Hell, even the 7X57 Mauser got left by the wayside for the arguably over-powered 7.92X57 Mauser family.

    Either a lot of people are really bad at this, or we “experts” are full of shit. Pick one.

    • all major 1911 makers offer a 10mm now, Kriss Vector is doing a 10mm, you can buy AR15s in 10mm, glock offers currently at least 3 different models in 10mm. SW and Ruger both make 10mm revolvers. I think your estimation that the 10mm is not a success could use a reevaluation. Its popularity is bigger now than ever and its gaining popularity every day. its popularity eclipses thr 41 magnum and the 357 SIG round. The 357 SIG round is more accurately put in the 41 category

      • Hell, I carry a 10mm. So far as I’m concerned, it’s an ideal caliber for what I need, but the raw fact is that you and I are in the minority. Most people are unwilling to pay the price in terms of weight and recoil, despite the obvious benefits.

        The point I was trying to get at was not to attack the 10mm or any of the other cartridges, either–Merely to point out that the general run of “ideal” cartridges hasn’t been too bloody successful in the marketplace, and that what actually makes it into service seems to be stuff that is theoretically “less than ideal”. Analyzing why that is might make for some interesting lessons, and point to probable failure for the NGSW program.

        I don’t know how many times someone’s reworked the “Platonic Ideal” for an intermediate cartridge, but precisely zero of them have ever managed to actually be fielded. Soviets did it, we did it, the Brits did it, Spaniards… All centered somewhere around where Tony Williams has laid out what he sees as the proper characteristics for an intermediate individual weapon. Yet, nobody has actually ever adopted any of them, ever. I can’t think of a solid reason why not, either, but here we are, stuck with the epic half-assery of our current two-cartridge system. Which I will lay money on not going away for a long, long time. Miley’s little dream is going to die on the doorstep of the budget crunch that’s coming, and I’ll bet money the “just-good-enough” M16/M4 family is still going to be the primary infantry individual weapon out to around 2050.

  2. Let’s start here: what was wrong with the .357? Underpowered for police work? That’s nonsense. The cartridge is ~90 years old and still has plenty of power for police work. Terminal ballistics, intermediate barrier penetration? It has it all.

    And what’s wrong with .44 Magnum? Too much recoil? Download it. That’s is a trivially simple problem to solve in the revolver world.

    So where does the .41 Magnum sit? You’ve got me.

    Don’t get me wrong, that’s a gorgeous revolver, and de gustibus non disputandum est, and I’m looking forward to your review. But I have no idea what purpose .41 Magnum serves on planet Earth.

      • I can think of uses for all of those cartridges other than .355 SIG. that one is very much like .41 Magnum: squarely between two cartridges that are good at what they do.

    • The .41 Magnum delivers a 200-220 grain bullet at 1000 fps out of a 3″ round butt, heavy barrel, fixed sight revolver (preferably smaller than an N-frame, but the Model 58 was good enough). At least that’s what mr. Keith, Bill Jordan and Skeeter Skelton had in mind when they created the idea. Something big bore, but still moving fast enough to expand with bullet technology du jour, BUT at lower recoil levels with factory loads. Downloaded .44 would not work due to different expansion velocity thresholds for preexisting bullets or police agency policy for using factory ammo (keep in mind this is the world where the .38 treasury load and .38 only k-frames exist to keep officers from shooting .357). Big bore cartridges simply worked for many decades, so you can’t blame people for wanting a modern big bore police cartridge with modern bullet technology applied to it.
      Problem is ammo companies failed to deliver. The slower, police loads were either still a 100 fps too fast and leaded terribly (Remington) or very difficult to find in the pre-internet days (Winchester). Basically there was no good expanding police load until the introduction of the 175 grain Silvertip in the 80s, but by then automatic pistols started getting into vogue and the whole idea became moot.
      So like .280 British, 7mm Mauser, etc., more of a victim of circumstances than a flawed idea.

    • did you read a different article than the one I wrote? I dont recall saying anything about 44 magnum much or the 357 being under powered. I even went back and read what I wrote. Are you addressing that comment to me or the gun writers who thought up the 41?

      • Are you replying to me? I was replying to John.
        Curse this mobile layout, can’t see who’s replying to whom. Wish there was a way to use the desktop site on the phone.

      • I was addressing the gun writers who came up with a compromise that nobody actually needed.

        The .357 was fantastic for police work, and the .44 is fantastic for hunting if .357 won’t get it done for you. That leaves the .41 squarely in between two cartridges that are fantastic at what they do.

  3. I’m going to hazard a guess that frame size and ammunition availability/cost hindered widespread police adoption. Same reasons that 10mm duty pistols never seem to end up on holsters in squad cars.

  4. OK, so here’s the deal with the .41 Magnum and why it didn’t take off.

    As originally envisioned by Keith & Buddies, they were thinking that S&W would come out with a .41 in a K or L frame.

    When it came out in a N frame, they knew that it wasn’t going anywhere. The N’s are just too damn heavy to pack around all day on your if you’re a cop with a bunch of other stuff on your belt. That’s why the .44 Mag didn’t take off. There’s nothing that the .41 can do that the .44 cannot – so why didn’t the .44 take off as a duty piece? The weight of the N-frame, that’s what. The whole idea behind the .41 was to “get as close to the .44 in a K or L frame as possible” – that’s it.


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