The 41 Long Colt cartridge was created in 1877 for Colt's double action
"Thunderer" revolver. The front of the bullet was about 0.406"-0.408"OD.
The barrel was about 0.404"-0.406" groove diameter. The case was short at
0.932"-0.937" long and the bullet lubrication was outside of the case. The
base of the bullet was smaller in diameter at 0.386"-0.388"OD to fit
inside the case. This is known as a "heel-base" bullet.
In the mid-1890's, Colt redesigned the cartridge. They reduced the entire
diameter of the bullet to 0.386"OD and lengthened the brass case to
1.130"-0.138" in order to put both the bullet and its lubrication inside
the case. The bore of the revolver was also reduced slightly to match the
more popular 38-40 at 0.400"-0.401" groove diameter.
The newer soft lead bullet was made with a large hollow-base like Civil
War Minie' balls. The base of the bullet expands with the pressure of the
burning gunpowder to grip the rifling. It works surprisingly well, but by
the beginning of WWI the 41LC was in decline and by WWII it was gone.
Starline has started making cases for this caliber and it can now be
reloaded. Hollow-base bullets (Rapine 386185 or Lyman 386178) are the
easiest to load and the easiest to get reasonable accuracy from. Black
powder works best with all bullets. Heel-base bullets are harder to load,
difficult to crimp, and hard to get good accuracy from, however, they are
marginally more accurate than hollow-base when everything is just right.
Remember, ALL bullets must be cast from 40:1 (soft) lead or there is no
accuracy at all.
The only smokeless powders that work at all are small amounts of the
fastest pistol powders (such as Bullseye or WW231), however, they are not
as accurate as BP. Slower powders (such as Unique) give even worse
This text is based on information from “Cartridges of the
World”, Hodgdon reloading manual, the cartridge designer and/or