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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was looking in my safe when I came across a old colt I bought a long time ago and realized I know nothing about it other than I cant find any ammo for it.Its a COLT army special in 41 cal.sn.4537xx,5" barrel.Sq.butt hard rubber stocks,with a big "C" around the screw.Does anybody have any info on this pistol? Is any ammo around?To me this gun points/feels very good in my hand.What "era" is this gun/caliber from?
 

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Your Army Special was made in 1920. The Army Special evolved into the Official Police. The .41 Long Colt cartridge has been obsolete for decades, but may have been brought back to life by the Cowboy Action Shooters. Check with the companies that cater to those shooters as many old cartridges have been given a second life by that group.
 

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Combat, yes several companies now make .41 Long Colts. I use Ultramax which you can get from Cowboy Shooters Supplies on the web. They are a very good company to buy from. Problem is the .41's are over $50 a box. There is a Colt Forum member who does make them. If he sees this post he can get in touch with you. Rick
 

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Many years ago I nearly purchased a .41 Army Special that had a cruddy aftermarket nickel finish but passed on it. I probably was wise to do so but have wanted the challange of owning, handloading and shooting a .41 ever since.
 

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Don't expect the gun to shoot very accurately. The 41 Colt cartridge had bad things happen to it during it's working life. It started out as a heeled bullet cartridge - like a 22LR the bullet's diameter is the same as the outside of the case, then a small stepped down section or "heel" fits inside the case. Most of the bullet, including the grooves that hold the bullet lube, stuck out of the case. Later (and currently) the diameter of the bullet was changed to match the "heel" and the case lengthened to enclose the lubrication grooves. Unfortunatly this means that a .386" bullet is going down a .401-.403" barrel. Even though the typical bullet used for this cartridge is very soft lead and has a hollow base designed to expand and grip the rifling, it really doesn't work that well. I think the problem is due to the cylinder throat being full case diameter (for the old heeled bullet) it allows the bullet to tip slightly before it hits the forcing cone of the barrel, ruining it's accuracy.
 

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I've always wondered why Colt persisted in introducing revolver cartridges in the 19th century that featured the heel bullet. They proved to be such duds. The 148 grain hollow base wadcutter will shoot most excellently in my Model 1901 .38 Colt revolver with a .363 bore.

I'd still like to play with a .41 Colt.
 

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Greetings bmcgilvray!

You said:

"I've always wondered why Colt persisted in introducing revolver cartridges in the 19th century that featured the heel bullet. They proved to be such duds."

This is interesting! I just returned from our annual week long hunting trip and one of our "discussions" concerned this very topic. One of the guys brought along his 41 Colt Army Special... A little earlier than the one above... He wants to use it for his "house gun". We went throught all the same questions and answers as above... we even told him an unfired .41 bullet will fall through the barrel of a .41 Colt by gravity! His gun did shoot ok at across-the-room distances, but the question you posed also came up... "why..." ... Here is my opinion on that:

First off Colt didn't make the .41 ammunition it was other companies, and, consider how many rounds of heeled bullets were still around in the 1920s and 30s. (I still have perfectly good ammo from the 1950s that I shoot now) so if you reduced the barrel diameter drastically for the Army Special, and if you tried to shoot the older ammo, you may have a liability problem... bad press etc. The .41 caliber was dropped from Colt's line about the time they introduced the Official Police Model. I know there were a very few OPs chambered for it...and a couple New services, but by in large it was gone before WW II... So, 50 year shelf life on the heeled bullets would bring you into the mid 30s..That's why I think Colt didn't bother to change the barrel diameter in the AS and OP... Not sure about the two New Services... what their barrel diameter was that is... :) Just my opinion! Bob
 

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I'd wondered if some Official Police revolvers were chambered for the .41. I'd love to find one of those or the New Service in .41. Never heard of the New Service in .41 Colt.

In the case of the .38 and .32 Colt rounds I'd kinda figured it had something to do with cartridge conversions of .31 and .36 percussion revolvers or at least the tooling which was set up to make barrels for the percussion revolvers continuing to be utilized to make cartridge revolver barrels. The heeled bullet design would have worked with those conversions. The .41 was a puzzle as it didn't correspond to a similar percussion conversion that I could think of.

I still think of that 4-inch nickel Army Special I nearly bought in that pawn shop years ago. Wished I'd bought it it now.

It's fun to consider such "important" questions.
 

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I apologize... I didn't mention that the .41 Colt centerfire round was based on the .41 Rimfire... I am not super well versed on this line of cartridges, but Ed Cox at Coltparts.com can give you all the details. That is his collecting speciality.

Just a very few of the early OP models were chambered for .41 Colt. I didn't know just how few until I casually mentioned to Ed that I had turned one down! As for the New Service, if memory serves correctly (I'm still in Nevada after our hunt and all my reference notes are in CA) there were only a couple New service .41s chambered as prototype guns...

I LOVE pondering "important" questions! :) Take care, Bob
 

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Thanks Bob;

I'd be tickled with an Army Special in .41 but would love to find an Official Police in .41.

Such questions beat out questions I ponder at the office, like whether or not to lend some guy some money or whether the examiners will compel me to classify an impaired credit or not. You see, I'm one jaded banker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
THANKS, for all the info.It really helped a lot.Since I started this thread, I was talking to a guy at work about old calibers when he remembered he had a gallon can of different cal. bullets someone had given him 20+ years ago.He was tired of moving them around his garage every time he cleaned up,so he was glad to give them to me.Yep,you guessed it,out of the 250+ bullets there were 6 41.cals.They are strange looking and would have to really really expand to fill the big hole at the end of the barrel.Also there was some 41.rimfire so I could see the difference in the way they were made very plainly.
 

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I hve found that the .41 Colt is much more accurate when loaded w/ BP. Why? I don't know.
 

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Bisly 06:

Army spl. & a .41 cyl. for my SAA I also hve a mod.1877 D.A.

Due to age and a slight endshake I have never fired the mod. 1877

I have shot the others and they are much more accurate w/ BP ammo. I have read this would be true and it is.

Why? I don't know. I'm not a reloader and .41 ammo is spendy so I have not experimented a great deal.
 

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.....In the case of the .38 and .32 Colt rounds I'd kinda figured it had something to do with cartridge conversions of .31 and .36 percussion revolvers or at least the tooling which was set up to make barrels for the percussion revolvers continuing to be utilized to make cartridge revolver barrels. The heeled bullet design would have worked with those conversions. The .41 was a puzzle as it didn't correspond to a similar percussion conversion that I could think of. .......
It does sorta have to do with conversions...in that the early conversion cartridges were made to fit "bored through" chambers as specified in Rollin White's patent. The .41 was made just the same way. It took the Russians waving a buncha gold (not money, GOLD!) under S&W's noses to get an American gunmaker to go to a stepped chamber and an all-inside-the-case bullet.
Which, incidentally, is how modern .44s come to have .429 bullet diameters. The Smith 44/100 or.44 American was a heeled bullet cartridge. With an inside-lubed bullet it became the .44 Russian- the .429-.430 dimension matched the ID of the case.
 

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"I hve found that the .41 Colt is much more accurate when loaded w/ BP. Why? I don't know."

Black powder according to Paul Matthews in "The Paper Jacket" is an explosive that will bump up the diameter of a lead bullet to fill the barrel grooves, while
smokeless powders do not ignite with enough force to do the same.
 

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buy .41 lc ammo from bernold at gad custom catridge. it's on the web, and the last time i checked they were $37 for 50.

as for accuracy, the .41 is accurate enough on man-sized targets out to 25 yards, which is what it was made for. interestingly, a fella shooting a .41 bisley won the 1908 palma match as well. it was a popular cartridge in its day, and elmer keith said it was a better defensive round than any .38 special.
 

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My 1902 Bisley in 41 Colt is quite accurate shooting 2.5 to 3 inch groups at 15 yards. I have the Lyman hollow base mold and cast my own from plumber's lead. 4 3/4" bbl or it might do better. Red dot will expand them but ffg is better. Black is just a little more "sudden" than even quick burning smokeless. Starline makes and sells the brass.
 
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