For a number of years now the battle has been ongoing between those who cling to the tried and true, slow moving but heavy bulleted .45 ACP and the fast stepping, but relatively lightweight 9mm. There are those who would have us believe that the best 9mm is as good as the .45 ACP and the `records' show that they are equal in `stopping power', if there really is such a thing.

I have been shooting the 9mm quite a bit lately and I am impressed with the quality of a number of pistols that are chambered for the little nine. But just last night I watched the latest "Second Chance" video tape put out by Richard Davis of Second Chance Body Armor. One of the policeman interviewed, who had been saved by wearing Second Chance Body Armor, related how he had returned fire to the tune of 17 hits with 9mm hollowpoints in the torso of his attacker to no apparent effect. The last shot, in the head, put the attacker down.

Events like this are exactly what Evan Whildin had in mind when he designed the .41 Action Express. There are more varied 9mm semi-autos available than offered in any other semi-auto calibers. Most of these are top quality pistols BUT they are still chambered for the little 9mm. Whildin's idea was to come up with a cartridge that would get the 9mm up off its knees, and work in handguns originally designed for the Nine by simply changing the barrel, magazine, and possibly the recoil spring.

To make this idea work, the .41 Action Express uses the rebated rim idea, that is, the rim is 9mm size, but the body is 10mm+ size, or .41 caliber, allowing the use of .41 caliber bullets at 900-1000 fps. Yes, 9 'em 'ems will fire 115 grain hollowpoints at 1400 fps from the same sized semi-auto, but many experts agree that the key to either defensive or hunting handguns is caliber and penetration. The relatively slow moving, but heavyweight .41 Action Express is designed for penetration.

Handgunners who have been around for awhile well know the story of the creation of the .41 Magnum. In the early 1960's, Elmer Keith, Bill Jordan, and Skeeter Skelton got together at an NRA Convention and convinced Smith & Wesson and Remington to come up with the ideal peace officer's gun and cartridge. The original idea was a 200 grain bullet of .41 caliber at 900-1000 feet per second. What surfaced was a cartridge only slightly inferior to the .44 Magnum in a loading that was too powerful for police use and in a sixgun that was too large and heavy for everyday uniform carry. What began as a defensive cartridge, turned out instead to be a first rate outdoorsman's combination.

The original idea was a good one. That is a 200 grain bullet at around 900 to 1000 feet per second. And that is exactly what the .41 Action Express delivers. In fact, IMI Samson factory ammunition launches a 200 grain full metal jacketed flat-nosed bullet at 921 feet per second from my .41 AE, a TZ-75, and shoots into less than three inches at 25 yards. This is the cartridge Keith, Jordan and Skelton proposed 25 years ago. And it is now available, not in a sixgun, but a high capacity double action semi-automatic from Action Arms, F.I.E., and Taurus.

In addition to factory chamberings for the .41 AE, there are nearly unlimited possibilities for the .41 AE in 9mm's that can be converted over to the larger caliber. I am thinking mainly of the beautiful Browning Hi-Power and the latest line-up of Third Generation Smith & Wesson double action 3900 and 5900 semi-automatics.

During the testing of the .41 Action Express, both for this edition of Taffin Tests and for a feature piece on F.I.E.'s TZ-75, more than 1200 rounds were put through the TZ in its .41AE persuasion. The TZ-75 came as a 9mm, with an extra barrel, magazine, and recoil spring to convert over to .41 AE. While operating flawlessly as a nine, one problem surfaced with the .41AE version. Extraction is not 100 % reliable and 27 failures were recorded during the 1200 rounds. Either the extractor was not engaging the rim as a loaded round entered the barrel from the magazine or, more likely it was slipping off as the round was fired. As the gun fired, the slide came back but the fired round stayed in the barrel.

In talking with F.I.E. about extraction problems, they felt the problem was one of ammunition and that the problem could be solved by slightly altering the locking locks and slowing down the lock time. Some guns with the locking locks slightly altered no longer had extraction problems.

After talking with F.I.E, my first regret was that I had not kept track of what round was fired when extraction failed. Running a re-test using Samson 200 grain FMJ's, Samson 170 grain JHP's, handloads with 200 grain full metal jacketed bullets from Accurate Arms loaded over 9.0 grains of AA#7, Bull-X 215 grain SWC .41 Magnum bullet over 5.3 grains of AA#2, and NEI's 195 grain FN over 8.8 grains of AA#7, I kept careful track of exactly what was happening.

Firing a full box of 200 grain Samson factory ammo resulted in a muzzle velocity of 934 feet per second and two failures to extract. Switching to 170 grain Samson factory loads yielded a muzzle velocity of 1098 feet per second and two failures to extract, one in the first magazine of ten rounds, one is the second magazine, and then none in the next three magazines.

With my handload of 200 grain Accurate Arms FMJ over 9.0 grains of AA#7, I had one failure in the first magazine and none for the next four magazines. What is notable is the use of cast bullets. I had no failures to extract with cast bullets and it made me wonder if all the previous failures to extract were with jacketed bullets. Could the pressures with cast bullets be just at the right level for certain extraction? The muzzle velocities for the cast bullet loads in this last go round were 1018 feet per second for the 195 grain NEI bullet and 970 for the 215 grain Bull-X bullet.

Others have complained of accuracy problems and failures to feed with the .41AE; I experienced neither except six failures to feed which were traced to my reloading procedures. Wanting to see if the .41AE could be loaded without .41AE dies, I used a 9mm shellholder and Lyman .41 Magnum dies. They worked perfectly, almost. The sizing die worked fine, the expanding plug did its job, but the .41 Magnum seating die left the loaded .41AE round without a taper crimp, which resulted in a sharp edge that would catch on the feeding ramp of the TZ-75. If one already loads for the .41 Magnum, the addition of a 9mm shell holder and a .41 taper crimp seating die, ground off to the proper length, will result in all that is needed to load the .41 Action Express

When loaded with Lee Carbide .41AE dies no failures to feed were experienced nor were any experienced with factory ammunition. IMI Samson factory ammunition with the 170 grain jacketed hollow point is in the 1100 fps range and the heavier 200 grain full metal jacket load is slightly over 900 fps. These are probably good guidelines to stick with in reloading the .41AE.

Reloading the .41 AE is pretty much the same as for the other semi-auto cartridges, the 9mm, the .38 Super, the 10mm, and the .45 ACP. Loaded cartridge length is critical for magazine functioning. Don't believe the printed measurements. Instead try any loaded rounds in the magazine before running a large batch. The loaded round may fit the overall cartridge length specs but still not function through the magazine because of the shape of the bullet nose. A good case in point is NEI's 220 grain SWC .41 Magnum bullet. This is a beautiful wide flat-nosed bullet that feeds perfectly in the .41AE but the nose is so broad that more than two in the magazine and they wedge against the front sides and refuse to budge.

One would also expect to have a vast array of .41 Magnum bullets to pick from in the 170 to 200 grain range. Not so. Most .41 Magnum bullets have to be seated so deeply into the case for magazine function that the sides of the brass are bulged. I tried all the .41 Magnum bullets I had on hand and only the Sierra 170 grain jacketed hollow cavity is recommended for use in the TZ-75 .41 Action Express. Other semi-autos chambered for the .41 AE may have magazines that are different enough to allow the use of other .41 Magnum bullets. I especially wanted to use the Speer cup jacketed 200 and 220 grain soft-nosed bullets, but they also proved to be too long of tooth for the .41 AE.

Sierra's 170 grain jacketed hollow cavity proved to be quite accurate in the .41 Action Express. Favorite loads are 7.0 grains of AA #2 for 1060 feet per second, 6.5 grains of WW231 for 1053 feet per second, and 9.5 grains of Blue Dot for 1111 feet per second. All of these loads shoot into two inches or less at 25 yards. Both 7.0 grains of Unique and 7.5 grains of Herco also proved to be excellent loads grouping just slightly over two inches with velocities of 1100+ feet per second. With Accurate Arms 200 FMJ, I prefer 7.5 grains of WW540 or 8.5 grains of Blue Dot. These loads are in the 950 to 1000 feet per second range.

For cast bullet loads, I prefer the Bull-X 215 grain Semi-wadcutter. This is a commercial cast bullet designed for the .41 Magnum but it works beautifully in the .41 AE. `Perfect' defense loads can be assembled with this bullet in the 900+ feet per second range by using 8.5 grains of AA#7, 7.0 grains of WW540, or 5.0 grains of WW231.











LOAD                 MV         GROUP 

8.5 GR. AA#7         835

9.0 GR. AA#7         905

9.5 GR. AA#7         960         2 3/4"

10.0 GR. AA#7        1000

10.5 GR. AA#7        1065         2 1/2"

6.0 GR. AA#5          722

6.5 GR. AA#5          836

7.0 GR. AA#5          882         3 1/4"

7.5 GR. AA#5          928

8.0 GR. AA#5         1058           2 3/4"

5.0 GR. AA#2          835

5.5 GR. AA#2          898             3"

6.0 GR. AA#2          970            2 1/2"

6.5 GR. AA#2         1052            2 3/8"

7.0 GR. AA#2***      1060            1 5/8"

7.0 GR. WW540         838

7.5 GR. WW540***      946             2 1/4"

8.0 GR. WW540         963

8.5 GR. WW540        1035             3 1/8"

5.0 GR. WW231         859

5.5 GR. WW231         963             2 1/2"

6.0 GR. WW231        1047

6.5 GR. WW231***     1053               1 3/4"

5.5 GR. HERCO         879

6.0 GR. HERCO         937

6.5 GR. HERCO         993              3 3/4"

7.0 GR. HERCO        1086

7.5 GR. HERCO***     1160                2 1/8"

5.0 GR. UNIQUE         818

5.5 GR. UNIQUE         896

6.0 GR. UNIQUE         990                2 7/8"

6.5 GR. UNIQUE         1015

7.0 GR. UNIQUE***      1122               2 1/8"

7.5 GR. BLUE DOT         881

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT         945

8.5 GR. BLUE DOT          958             2 1/4"

9.0 GR. BLUE DOT         1030

9.5 GR. BLUE DOT***      1111               2"

5.0 GR. HP38              821

5.5 GR. HP38              945                 2 3/4"

6.0 GR. HP38              969

6.5 GR. HP 38            1053                 3 5/8"




8.5 GR. AA#7***           943

9.5 GR. AA#7              985

6.0 GR. HERCO             1025

6.5 GR. HERCO              971

5.5 GR. UNIQ               985

6.0 GR. UNIQ               992

7.5 GR. BLUE DOT           962

8.0 GR. BLUE DOT          1017

5.5 GR. AA#2               860

6.0 GR. AA#2               934

6.5 GR. AA#5               962

7.0 GR. AA#5              1007

7.0 GR. WW540***           938

7.5 GR. WW540               952

5.0 GR. WW231***            918

5.5 GR. WW231               970

5.0 GR. HP38                895

5.5 GR. HP38                952

5.0 GR.WW452AA              796

5.5 GR.WW452AA              916