41 Colt Automatic Cartridge

Does anyone know of, and preferably have a picture of a properly headstamped (showing the maker and caliber) experimental .41 Colt Automatic Pistol cartridge? Very few of the pistols, a converted Model 1902 Colt re-designated the Model 1903, were made in that year. The highest serial number known is “5.” A picture of the cartridge exists, typical of Winchester catalog art but is not shown in any Winchester Catalog of which I am aware. The headstamp on the cartridge as it appears on that drawing is “W.R.A.Co. 41 CA.”

I have a NUPE cartridge of the .41 Colt Auto (Official Designation as stamped on the pistols was “Caliber 41 Rimless Smokeless” even though the cartridge is semi-rimmed, indicating a likely John Browning design). However, my Boxer-Primer type case is unheadstamped. It was reported to be a copy of the cartridge prepared by or for the H.P. White Laboratory. Considering the era when the pistol was designed and manufactured, I cannot think of a reason why the H.P. White Lab would bother with such a product. Further the case looks like it is of drawn brass. This would, to me, indicate more than the production of simply a few “lab specimen” years after the project was history. Can anyone confirm, with documentation, that the unheadstamped cases are actually a product for or of H.P. White Lab?

Measurements of my case are as follows:

Case Length: 0.8920" (22.69 mm)
Case Head Diameter: 0.4185" (10.62 mm)
Extractor Groove Diameter: 0.3266" (9.30 mm)
Base Diameter: 0.4045" (10.27 mm)
Case Mouth Diameter: 0.405" to 0.409" (10.29 mm to 10.39 mm) (note: The case mouth appears to have been slightly squeezed into a oval shape, albeit minor. Thickness of the case mouth wall is only 0.135" (0.45 mm).
Primer Pocket Diameter: 0.1710" (4.34 mm)

John Moss

John, Dick Fraser in the IAA Journal # 381 1995, Jan./ Feb. Issue , page 18, states the only know specimen has no head-stamp , with a U on the primer indicting manufactured by UMC. Dick may have more information since 1995.

Interesting information. Now I need to research this in the UMC Shop Notes. My impression was that it was totally and solely a Winchester/Colt project. I had no previous inkling of any connection with UMC, which I now find as wrong. I never bothered to look this up in UMC Material as everything I had heard or read (damned little) indicated Winchester was the ammunition supplier on this project.

The UMC ledger says:

41 Automatic Colt

Mar. 1903. Commenced making samples for the Colt Company. Headless shell same length as the .38 Automatic. 6-1/2 gr. Walsrode Shotgun powder, metal case bullet 150 grains, .386 diameter, cartridge same length as 38 Automatic, diamer of head .417 to .422.

That is the sole entry for this caliber of ammunition.

Because of the picture of the Winchester catalog drawing (not a “specifications” drawing, although it does not appear to have been in an of their catalogs), I had assumed that they were the developing company. Now, seeing Dick Fraser’s thoughts as expressed by the Editor, Dale Hedlund, in reviewing the book “The Government Models, The Development of the Colt Model of 1911,” by William H.D. Goddard, I see that what I had taken to be a factory drawing was not at all. It was commissioned by Goddard, based on evidently a mistaken belief that Winchester was the producer, to match the style of Winchester’s catalog drawings. The headstamp is purely the artist’s conception. It was Goddard’s book where I found the drawing in question (top of Page 83). In the two pages on the .41 Colt Model 1903 Pistol, Goddard actually never expresses any opinion at all on who made the cartridges.

I welcome any more information or thoughts on this subject.

John Moss

Thanks for the info, and the reference. I will look up that IAA Journal issue.

I am already missing Woodin Lab. If not in Dick Fraser’s collection, likely it would have been in that at the Lab. I never researched that caliber on any trip down there. Think I should have. I have had my unheadstamped case for at least 30 years. I don’t even remember where or from whom I obtained it.

Edited due to reading the references given by “AmmoOne” after I wrote this response, so that part I have totally revised.

John Moss

Remember, by January of 1902, John M. Browning and Winchester parted ways when they refused Browning’s request for a royalty deal on his autoloading shotgun design, so he took it to FN, and eventually to Remington as well. Given the frosty relations with Winchester, it is not surprising that anyone else would have been tasked with ammo development.

However, that is presuming that this was still a design being worked on by JMB, but as his forte was inventing, not bringing products to market, it may have been strictly a Colt call on ammo sourcing.

JohnS - Thank you. I had forgotten the timing of the dispute between Browning and Winchester. It most certainly is relevant to the manufacture of this cartridge by UMC rather than Winchester.

Regarding the role of Browning in its design, your point is well taken. However, since the cartridge is simply a slightly enlarged (in diameter) version of the .38 Colt Automatic cartridge, and semi-rimmed like the early Browning efforts, I would still consider it a Browning design. Frankly, there is so little difference in it and the .38 Automatic, that I don’t know why Colt even bothered with it at all. Of course, it was a failure, with only a very small amount of ammunition likely made, considering the low survival rate (to date, only two loaded specimens and one NUPE case known to me) and somewhere around five pistols of the Model 1903. Of course failed product just becomes more interesting to collectors because of the scarcity of specimens and information.

I have also confirmed that there is one of the .41 Colt Auto rounds in the Woodin Collection.

Thank you, John, for jogging my memory about the probable reason for UMC’s involvement. It is another piece of the puzzle now in place.

John Moss

Is this the same cartridge as the UMC made 41 S&W with 4 hole self lubricating bullet?

MRT - I am not sure I understand your question. Are you referring to the .41 Smith & Wesson Self-Lubricating and the .41 Smith & Wesson Long Self-Lubricating Cartridges?
If so, they have nothing to do at all with the .41 Colt Automatic Pistol cartridge. Both of the Smith and Wesson rounds were, to my knowledge, for revolvers, and date to May 1896, seven years prior to the experiment with the .41 Colt Auto c. 1903. I don’t have any knowledge of either a .41 Smith and Wesson Automatic cartridge. Smith and Wesson made no automatic (self-loading, semi-automatic) pistols prior to 1913 when they introduced the smith & Wesson .35 S&W caliber pistol, followed in 1924 by a .32 caliber pistol that chambered the standard .32 Colt-Browning-FN cartridge. They also were responsible for the design, evidently, of a couple of other small-caliber pistol cartridges, but none that approached .41 in caliber.

If someone knows of a .41 Smith and Wesson Auto Cartridge, please post it as a new topic, as it would not relate to the .41 Colt Auto cartridge.

edited to remove a typo only.

John Moss

Not my area of specialization so my 2¢ is probably greatly overvalued but…the .41 S&W & S&W Long with the self-lube bullet are rimmed revolver cartridges just like a .44 S&W Russian or American and were made by U.M.C. in 1896. The only example I’m aware of sold in Buttweiler catolog V. 9, n. 2, lot 464.

Date of manufacture for the .41 Automatic Colt is March, 1903 in the U.M.C. ledger. I can find no other reference to the round in in any catalog or book in my not-exhaustive library. I can’t account for the 1903-1913 discrepancy.

During my visit to the Woodin Laboratory I photographed one of the two .41 Colt Auto Pistol cartridges in that collection. Here are my photos.

Vidar - Thank you. One more piece of the puzzle put together.
This is the first I have heard of the specimen with 41 LC
headstamp! That is mentioned in Erlmeier-Brandt, but I thought it
to be an error because they also show a “REM-UMC 41 LONG”
headstamp for this caliber, which in my view, could not be
original as it is too late for the whole project. If it exists at
all, I would think it is on a replica case made up later for some
unkown purpose - perhaps even what we would call a fake. So. your
photo of Bill’s round is incredibly important to the story. My
thread has generated a lot of responses, many of them in personal
emails to me. I think maybe even though I have long retired from
writing articles, that I should synthesize the information I am
inquiring into a single article.

  May I have permission to use your photographs if I decide to do


John M.

Yes John, you can use my photos if you decide to do an article on the .41 Colt Auto.

Vidar - Thank you!


The second round in the Woodin collection is unheadstamped and by my notes has a tinned GM bullet, flat copper primer with a ‘U’ and Woodin catalog label #6475 on it. For some reason I did not mark down the contents of that card from his files. I might have an image of it somewhere…


Found them! - Sorry John, no image of the card.
%20White%20reproduction)%20both 41%20Colt%20Automatic%201903%20(no%20headstamp)%20both

Dwight – if you do have an image of Bill’s file card, I would like to have it. It may have information on it not covered yet.

Thank you.

John M.