The Ruger GP100 In .41 Special Part 1

A one of six revolver

I was planning on exchanging Skippy’s snowblower for a grapple a week ago. I am eager to get started cutting up trees that were blown over during this winter’s severe storms, and getting the range cleaned up. I also planned on picking up Corrina from the dealer’s winter storage. There is a lot of tech prep, and some equipment changes to be made prior to an extended summer run. Fortunately, I did neither.

Oh… sorry. Skippy identifies as a 1025R John Deere sub compact tractor, and Corrina identifies as a Suzuki GSX-S1000 GT+. A few days ago, following seasonably warm weather and the onset of mud season, Mother Nature played one of her dirty tricks on us, dumping 18″ of snow, while bringing back freezing temperatures. No one confused my procrastination as a visionary act of weather forecasting, but I feel some credit is due.

Yes, all of my machines do have names, as it would be rude to routinely communicate with one another without that presence of familiarity. Skippy often reminds me that I could not, at my age, exist in the Maine boonies without his assistance. So I thank him by keeping up with maintenance and using only clean diesel fuel with stabilizer additive.

Corrina also speaks to me, “Old man, what in the world are you doing on a motorcycle?” And I feel compelled to remind her, that if it weren’t for me, Bob Dylan and/or Boz Scaggs, she could have been named Betty, and ridden by a 500 pounder.

In any event, I huffed and puffed my way through blowing and shoveling the late season snow, deposited yet another layer of sand and rock salt on pedestrian walkways, while trying to come up with an interesting firearm idea for the coming week’s article. It was then that I slipped on some ice, fell on my butt, and a project idea came to mind.

Good things come in small packages

A Ruger GP100, chambered for the .41 Special wildcat, had come, temporarily, into my possession. It is one of six such guns produced by Bowen Classic Firearms, in collaboration with John Taffin, Lane Pearce, Hamilton Bowen, and  Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. The objective was to examine the potential for volume production .41 Special firearms and ammunition. The guns look like this…

Ruger GP100 .41 Remington Special +P
Newport, NH USA
Base Model
GP100 DA
Modified By
Bowen Classic Arms, Corp.
Caliber .41 Special – Wildcat
Capacity 6 shots
Overall Length 8.5″
Barrel Length 3.0″
Actual Weight
33.8 Ounces
Sights Front / Rear
Ramped / Adjustable
Frame / Barrel
Stainless Steel
Trigger Pull Lbs
SA 2 Lbs 13 Oz DA 8 Lbs 4 Oz
Rubber – Hardwood Insert

The result of the exercise was a compact revolver, with full six shot capacity, moderate recoil, and a good ballistic bump over the 357 Remington Magnum. Much softer shooting and easier to handle compared to the .41 Remington Magnum.

Cartridge Bullet Weight
Muzzle Velocity
Muzzle Energy
357 Mag 180 1080 466
41 Rem Special +P
180 1138 518
41 Rem Special +P
210 1129 595
41 Rem Mag
.41 Rem Mag

Another good reasons for the .41 Special…

Most medium frame handguns produced in .41 Remington Magnum would have reduced capacity, five shot cylinders, or an anticipated shortened useful life. A steady diet of .41 Rem Mag 36,000 psi ammo in a six shot, medium frame is not a recipe for reliability and longevity. The .41 Special, not a slouch, can produce 180 grains –  210 grain muzzle velocities in a range of 900 fps – 1200 fps, without exceeding 22,000 psi chamber pressure.

The 3″ barrel Ruger GP 100 .41 Special is compact enough, and light enough for concealed carry, while still producing more power than a 357 Mag.

In pursuit of .41’s Special

A cartridge with a “Special” designation, suggests a larger capacity and more powerful version of an existing cartridge. Yes, sort of a pre “Magnum” nomenclature. As an example, the 38 Special of 1902 was developed for the military, adapted as a military standard, and chambered in Smith & Wesson’s Military & Police model revolver.

The .38 Special was intended to replace the less powerful 38 Long Colt cartridge, which was then in use by the U.S. Army. In reality, the 38 Special also replaced numerous under powered .38 caliber cartridges that had been in military, law enforcement and civilian service.

Cartridge Case
H20 Case
Capacity Grains
38 Short 0.765 11.0 13.0 1887
38 S&W 0.765 12.0 14.5 1877
38 Long 1.035 17.3 13.0 1875
38 Special 1.155 23.1 17.0 1902

The 44 Special, introduced in 1907, was intended replace the 44 S&W Russian of 1870. Both were originally black powder cartridges, however, the 44 Special’s 0.200 longer length was able to accommodate the industry’s transition to smokeless powder. Subsequently, the 44 Special continued on, where the 44 S&W Russian fell to obsolescence.

Bigger, Better, Faster!..!!

In 1935, the 357 S&W magnum was introduced, and the 38 Special began its journey to becoming defined by many as a reduced power load for a 357 Magnum Revolver. In 1955, the 44 Remington Magnum was introduced and the 44 Special became a junior. My point is… oh, you bet there a point to all of this, most Specials begin life as a more powerful version of a cartridge, but are relegated to a less power status as newer, more powerful cartridges evolve.

The .41 Long Colt of 1877 was a cartridge of modest popularity with, by today’s standards, an oddly sized bullet. While there were numerous suggestions and attempts at producing a more powerful .41 Special by famous gun writers, famous firearm companies and  famous gunsmiths… dating all the way back to the 1920s, none resulted in volume production.

From a power standpoint, the concept of a .41 Special was rendered moot with Remington’s 1964 introduction of the .41 Remington Magnum. Ya’ snooze, ya lose.

The current .41 Special project & background

Both John Taffin and Lane Pearce have both written, in great detail, about the .41 Special and the precursor cartridges. I highly recommend anyone with an interest in the .41 Special read this work.

Ready For The .41 Special? – 2011, Lane Pearce
Taffin Tests: The .41 Special – 2009, John Taffin
Revisiting The .41 Special – 2024, John Taffin
Revisiting the .41 Special – 2021, Lane Pearce

John Taffin’s 2009 article details the history of .41 caliber centerfire cartridges, from black powder to .41 Remington Magnum. The .41 Special is covered extensively, history, performance and handload data.  In Taffins 2024 article, he credits Hamilton Bowen, of Bowen Classic Firearms, as the first gunsmith in modern times to revisit the concept of the .41 Special.

Around the 1987 +/-, Bowen made a number of .41 Special single and double action firearms for Taffin. Notable within these custom firearms, is that they are all medium frame, single and double action revolvers, with 6 round capacity cylinders. Taffin also had Gary Reeder and John Gallagher build similar gun. There was even one small Single Six frame with a five shot cylinder.

The John Taffin, Lane Pearce, Sturm Ruger, Hamilton Bowen connection…

Taffin credits Lane Pearce, working with Hamilton Bowen, Sturm Ruger, and Remington in a recent effort toward making .41 Special guns and ammunition commercial products. The pictured firearm originated from that effort. It was manufactured approximately a year ago as a Ruger GP100 357 Mag, and then it was transformed into a .41 Rem Special +P at Bowen Classic Arms.

I apologize for all of the Taffin / Pearce references. It is not an attempt to name drop, as neither has ever called me to hang, watch a football game or give me a writer’s attaboy. That said, they lived the cited history, so their experience Trump’s my hearsay. No, it is hearsay, not heresy and, yes, that capital “T” could be a little subliminal popup.

In any event, onto the real reason for writing this article. Yes, of course it is self serving.

For the handloading firearm enthusiasts, “No guns? No ammo? No Problem”

Currently, no manufacturer is producing .41 Special firearms, +P or otherwise. Nor is there factory production ammunition. Additionally, Starline has stopped producing ,41 Special brass for handloaders. Subsequently, it appears that neither .41 Special firearms or ammunition will come to fruition. For handloaders? All minor obstacles on the way to shooting a .41 Special.

Firearm enthusiasts are inventive, creative and capable. They either know how to make what they want, or they have a phone number for someone that can. The fact I have such a revolver, brass is easily made from .41 Magnum brass and dies are available from multiple sources are all aces for me.

Up next, Joe handloads and shoots the .41 Infinitely Special…

Comments appearing below are posted by individuals in a free exchange, not associated with Real Guns. Therefore RGI Media takes no responsibility for information appearing in the comments section. Reader judgement is essential.

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  1. Am about to purchase the GSX myself at 76 years old.

  2. Joe, I have 1000 rounds of loaded 41 Special on hand loaded in Starline brass with cast bullets or 170 Sierra’s. If Ruger is listing, make mine a 4″ Match Champion, but I would take the one in the article with a 3″ barrel. I’m still waiting for Hornady to make the .400PRC (perfect revolver cartridge) to go with my 10mm Match Champion. Just reinvent the old Herter’s Power Mag. I think the PRC moniker says it all. Put me down for a .41 Special. Bob!

    • Sounds like you’re all set on 41 Special ammo. Nice to have the correct headstamp on handloads. Ruger is not going forward with the project, so this is about the end of it. The problem was ammo makers not having an interest in producing it so that is a no starter for Ruger.

      I With no factory producing light practice level loads for the 41 Mag any longer, I would have guess firearms chamber for the 41 Special would have been not as attractive as making .41 Special handguns. I guess there are not enough .41 Mag shooters for sufficient demand.

      I don’t believe there are many new cartridge introductions that have a long future. Mostly just a rehash of older cartridges, and then primarily for manufacturing cost advantage; fewer process steps, less brass, less powder.

  3. I saw the lead photo and thought, initially, that Ruger was bringing back a 3” barreled .357 Magnum GP100. I was particularly interested since I had one put together recently using an eBay sourced factory barrel mated to a 4” barreled GP100. I’m not surprised that Ruger will not move forward with a .41 Special +P as a production run model. As a long time shooter, reloader, and gun-tinkerer, I’ve concluded that very few newly introduced cartridges offer a real practical advantage over established factory offerings. And those that do (i.e. the .375 Ruger) fill relatively niche applications. The configuration of the .41 Special GP100, however is very nice: compact enough for easy carry, but with ample cartridge flexibility for a wide range of applications.


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