.41 Colt

Sharp eyed readers at this point may have noticed I have made no mention of .41 Colt. That old caliber is a story in itself. It started out with a case length of about .93" (nominally) with a heel-base bullet of about .40". That was considered the “short” version. Then in the 1890s ammunition companies changed it to a “long” version. However this time they wanted the bullet diameter to fit entirely inside the cartridge case. That required a reduction in bullet diameter to .38". Case length was made 1.13".

Now get this. Colt always used the same barrels for both .38 WCF and .41 Colt. In fact I have never seen a Colt .38 WCF barrel that did not have a tiny “41” stamped into its bottom just in front of the frame. Those barrels were nominally .403" in the grooves. How did a bullet starting out .017" small ever shoot well in those Colt barrels? They relied on the hollow base method I detailed above. The amazing thing to me is not that .41 Colt SAAs shot those bullets point-on, but that they shot them so well. I’ve owned several .41 Colt SAA revolvers and all were decently accurate.