.41 Colt SAA for Army Tests

Is anyone on the forum aware of a .41 Colt Single Action Army revolver made up for testing by the Army. I have two fired bullets that came from the collection of C. Kenneth Moore, one of the authors of A Study of the Colt’s Single Action Army Revolver. The bullets were in an envelope on which Mr. Moore had written that they were from an experimental Colt .41 cal. single action revolver made for U.S. testing. Anyone ever heard of such a revolver?

I don’t do SAA’s but I think that if there is any truth to this, it would be mentioned in the book on Colt Single Actions authored by Mr. Moore along with SAA guru John Kopec and I believe one other gent. It is now in a second revised addition, so make sure you check the latest one.
Annual Reports of teh Chief of Ordnance may have more inof if you can narrow down a time frame to just a few years.

A perusal of the Graham, Kopec and Moore book revealed nothing, though I probably need to do a more thorough read. It would be great to find a site that provides the indexes for all the Reports of the Chief of Ordnance; if there was a test of a .41 SAA, it would most likely be covered.

My question would probably be more appropriate for the Colt SSA Collectors, but I was hoping to perhaps get information on the cartridge that might have been used. The bullets do not look like any of the standard .41 calibers, but look very similar to the .45 Colt Gov’t bullet with two grooves and the same profile, but on a slightly smaller scale. I’ll post a picture of the bullets when I have an opportunity to. As they are fired bullets, the measurements are a bit hard to get, but the base of the least damaged of the two is about .425", compared with the .453" of a FA .45 Colt Gov’t bullet.


I have no idea of an answer to your question.

But thank you for asking it. It’s overcast and snowing and I can’t go outside to play, so my day will be spent in trying to help you guys.

You say they are fired bullets. One thing I would do is closely inspect the rifleing marks to see if they are appropriate for a SA revolver. Twist, lands, gooves, etc. Does the fired diameter match a 41 Colt barrel? I would think that the first testing of a prototype would use an existing barrel.

Do you have any specimens of Moore’s handwriting to compare with what’s on the envelope?

Hope that helps a little.


Great questions and suggestions. Unfortunately, my knowledge of and access to early Colt revolvers is extremely limited. While I know that the rifling of the .45 SAA revolver consisted of 6 grooves with a left hand twist, I know nothing about the rifling in a .41 barrel. I would assume that a .41 SAA revolver made for Army testing would also have 6 groove left hand rifling, but I don’t know. In addition, there is no indication on the envelope as to when the revolver was tested. It could have sometime prior to commencing production of the SAA in 1873, or it could have been sometime later, as was the testing of a .38 SAA for the Navy.

I am having some difficulty seeing the rifling marks on one side of each of the bullets, as they have deformed a bit, so what should be a simple task of determining the number of grooves will probably be beyond my capabilities, as will determining the depth of the rifling.

I don’t have a sample of Moore’s handwriting, but then there is the very distinct possibility that he wasn’t the one who wrote the information on the envelope. The only thing I can say is that I purchased a number of fairly common cartridges plus this envelope with the bullets from an aquaintance of the Moore’s who was asked by the widow to help dispose of a portion of the Moore collection, of which the items I bought were a part.

Here’s a picture of the envelope and bullets - pardon the poor lighting.

Let me suggest that the SINGLE Action Army notation may be incorrect. The .41 seems to have been most popular (on the civilian market) in the DOUBLE action revolvers, the M1877 Thunderer (Lightning) model, and I believe in the New Army and Navy series which went thru many USN and USA generations betweeen 1889 and the Model 1903.

I will have to find my index to the Annual Reports of the Chief of Ordnance and see if there is any obvious reference there. However, it may be buried in a seemingly unrelated topic, or it could have been a much less formal evaluation more akin to the Colt sales rep taking them to the range “Let me show you this new gun/cartridge [we can get rich selling to you Army guys].”

I hope we don’t lose sight of the fact that if the bullets are about .425 in. in diameter they’re closer to the nominal .44 caliber family (American, Russian, Special, and the WCF) than they are to the Colt .41. JG

John S.,
As Mr Moore was a student (or perhaps a professor) of the single action Army, I wouldn’t expect him to make this mistake. Also, the bullets don’t resemble any of the standard .41 bullets as far as I can tell.

J Gill,
I had considered that the bullets might be .44 caliber also, although that .425 measurement may result from the bases of the bullets having expanded somewhat, as the bullets appear to have along most of their length. I did run across a .44 Martin primed experimental cartridge in Suydam’s U.S. Cartridges & their handguns that he shows as having a .425" bullet, and the profile of the bullet (at least that portion that is exposed) looks about right. However, I wouldn’t expect someone to make such a mistake with the caliber of the revolver - especially since the note suggests they had some knowledge of the revolver itself.

I recall reading (Arms Collector??) about a US tested colt single action revolver in an odd caliber.

As I recall it was a one/two off single action version of the Colt 1889 swing out cylinder DA revolver…

A little over 16,000 SAA’s were made in 41 Colt from the late 1870’s to the mid 1920’s IIRC. Colt did build a prototype 41 Special in the 1930’s.