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Chronograph Session with .41 Long Colt

2441 Views 5 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  bmcgilvray
I spent an afternoon at the range chronographing a bunch of different .38 Special loads through some "brand X" revolvers of five different barrel lengths.

I thought to take my Colt New Navy .41 with 4 1/2-inch barrel along so shot it over the chronograph with 10 rounds from each of two boxes of Winchester Western ammunition. Here is my learned paper on the results.

Both boxes were of Winchester Western manufacture. One is the "white box" ammunition from the production run made for L. M. Burney in the mid-1970s (as I understand it to be). The other box is a typical yellow Western box as was commonly sold in the late 50s/early 60s.

Both boxes of ammunition feature the 200 grain copper-plated lead "Lubaloy" round nose bullet. Cases are headstamped: WESTERN .41 LONG COLT. The cartridges look absolutely identical as they come from the boxes.

They didn't share common shooting characteristics except for very similar velocities.

Ten rounds of Winchester Western "white box" ammunition performed as follows:

Muzzle velocity 709 fps
Muzzle Energy 223 ft./lbs.
Extreme Spread 107 fps
Standard Deviation 46 fps

Ten rounds of Western ammunition in the yellow box performed as follows:

Muzzle Velocity: 720 fps
Muzzle Energy: 230 ft./lbs.
Extreme Spread: 16 fps
Standard Deviation: 6 fps

It is curious that the ammunition yielded such different results though it looks exactly the same. The Winchester Western in the white box gave very inconsistent velocities and was all over the place. The yellow box Western ammunition gave outstandingly consistent velocities; even better than a good performance from some factory Remington 148 grain hollow based wadcutter ammunition fired later in the afternoon.

The revolver has a good bore and was squeaky clean before the test. I didn't fire a series of shots to "foul the cylinder" before beginning the test as I didn't want to waste precious ammunition. Most revolvers don't display much difference in velocities between a fouling shot and subsequent shots. The white box ammunition was fired first. Either the old revolver had to get "leaded up good" before it would shoot with consistent velocities or else the white box Winchester Western was not up to the standards of previous years.

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Interesting. I favor your latter theory (ammo standards lessened). No basis for it though.

Thanks for posting the data

Not too far off

That doesn't appear to be much difference. My reloaded ammo will have a 50 FPS spread. Lots of factors involved. You have to factor in the age of the ammo and how it was stored. If any of it was subject to temperature extremes and humidity changes, it may perform more erratic. Some powders and primers are more sensitive than others. For the yellow box to have so little of a spread is outstanding, it compares to match 38 ammo.
How was the accuracy? I don't put much stock in ES, it's somewhat interesting to measure, but what really matters is what's on paper.
I'm enjoying (vicariously) your adventures with the .41LC and your New Navy. Are you trying to interest me in another "obsolete" caliber besides the .38 S&W? (I'm sorry, on this forum I should say ".38 Colt New Police"! :)

Ballistically, a .40 caliber, 200g, flat-pointed bullet at 700-750fps should be plenty effective for HD, and easier for most folks to shoot than any .45 or any magnum from .357 on up.

Wouldn't it be sweet to have such a load in a 5-shot snubbie?? That would be the famous big-bore snubbie everybody covets, w/o the bulk and recoil of the .45s or .44s. And--importantly--without the .357 snubbie effect, i.e. holding a cherry bomb in your hand! :)
Yeah Dana, the .41 Long Colt definitely died before its time. It could have easily been rendered as perhaps a 5-shot gun on a Smith & Wesson K-Frame or even on a Police Positive Frame. OOOooo...think of that; a 5-shot .41 Long Colt Detective Special. That'd be "one-in-the-eye" for all the snubby competition: S&W, Ruger SP101 and LCR, and the also-rans. One wouldn't really have to tweak the velocities of the original round very much but only provide some up-to-date bullets. I would like to see the .41 Long Colt revived, rather than see the .41 Special take off, for selfish reasons. That way we would have a new supply of ammunition and handloading components for all the great old Colt .41s out there. Guess it wouldn't be practical though. All present Colt .41 revolvers are old, some are wheezers and could be in poor condition too. Shame it won't happen.

Hi Dragon 88;

The only record of accuracy I can provide is in a photo found with this link:

I thought it was a decent group at 10 yards for a gun with a hard trigger and with me shooting it. Considering the velocity variation of the ammunition used, it is pretty good.

I'm finding that the .41 Long Colt hasn't proved to be as inaccurate as its reputation suggests. I had the revolver along on a April jaunt down to deep southwest Texas for a shooting blow-out and we all shot it. It was easy to hit some 5 1/2-inch spinners out to 25 yards with the old revolver and some junk ammo I have on hand.
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