Gun Review: Smith & Wesson Model 41 Pistol


(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)


What is one of the world’s most popular small game hunting calibers? It is, of course, the venerable .22 lr. While not the most suitable caliber for self-defense, the .22 lr is more than capable for accurate shooting, plinking, small game hunting, and other applications. Over the years, there have been many platforms that have fielded the .22 lr to great success.

Normally, when you hear Smith & Wesson, what comes to mind is quality firearms, striker-fired M&P handguns made in the USA, and the expansive array of different model revolvers. Today, while it’s not the cream of the crop of top most popular Smith & Wesson firearms, is still a firearm revered by many in small circles centered on rimfire accuracy. The gun in question happens to be a Smith & Wesson Model 41.

Going back to the 1950’s — well 1957 to be exact — is when this fine piece of craftsmanship arose from its days on the design board at Smith & Wesson. With its introduction to the market, there’s been a backorder on these ever since.

model 41 e1

This weapon is not like your everyday plastic Tupperware. Under the correct lighting conditions, the fit and finish turns this firearm into eye candy. With such a fine firearm, you’re sure to attract interest from other range-goers.

Fit and Finish
The wood and metal on this firearm makes the handling feel like something premium. It reminds you of a time when firearms were made of wood and metal.

model 41 e6

Ease of Use
Ease of use on the Model 41 is like operating a 1911. It’s as easy as inserting a magazine, racking the slide, flipping the safety to the off position, and you’re ready to shoot.

model 41 e3

The disassembly procedure on a S&W Model 41 is similar to that of a Makarov pistol. For basic disassembly and cleaning, pull the trigger guard down, lock the slide to the rear, and then the barrel simply pulls out (no pun intended). For further disassembly and taking the slide off, simply pull back, lift the slide a little, and release forward.

Of course, once you disassemble a firearm, you’re going to have to put it back together. The re-assembly is just as easy. Simply put the barrel onto the frame and hold barrel in place while you swing the trigger guard up against the barrel. After that, you have a full re-assembled gun. Because of its blowback design and ease of disassembly, you won’t have to feel like an Engineer trying to disassemble your way through a maze of small parts. Because of that, the Model 41 can be cleaned with ease.

Handling Characteristics
Upon the action of gripping the Model 41, it instinctively becomes an extension of one’s hand. If you’re in the market for a firearm to always remind you of the 1911 and its great inventor, then this is the gun for you. After shooting it for a while, it dawns on you that it’s designed to mimic the 1911 quite closely. The grip angle is almost exactly the same as that on a full size 1911. While not quite a good a design as the 1911, the slide release and manual safety are just about in the same place.

A five-and-half-inch barrel, along with 41 oz. of heft, makes poking holes in the center of a target look like child’s play. Part of its accuracy can be attributed to its trigger. As it stands, a crisp 2.7 to 3 lb. trigger pull with almost no over-travel makes accurate shooting all that much more fun. Trying to please people on a trigger’s over-travel isn’t as easy as it seems. So, the good folks at S&W had the novel idea of putting an over-travel adjustable stop screw to match your heart’s content.

model 41 e2

To date, I’ve had no problems with cycling and feeding. The Model 41 was been superb. Even after lobbing a few thousand rounds at the range, there seem to be no hiccups on the part of the gun.

Because of its accurate shooting, the Model 41 is mostly used in target shooting and competition. However, it could serve other purposes like plinking, small game hunting, and other applications. Self-defense was not mentioned here; however, even the .22 lr is still better than a stick.

Available Aftermarket Options
There is a decent aftermarket covering the Model 41. It’s nothing like the GLOCK aftermarket, but it’s big enough to sufficiently allow you to customize your gun to your liking. Finding what you need in a gun shop could be a bit difficult, but everything from holsters, parts and accessories can easily be had online.

By now, I am sure you’re well aware of the pistol’s feats and abilities. If winning rimfire pistol matches is your forte, then the Model 41 is an excellent option for the job. From a shootability standpoint, the gun prints one-inch or less patterns at ten yards. From a hand held rest, I am able to consistently put five shots in around an inch at 25 yards.

model 41 e4

Favorite Feature
Of all the features on this gun, my favorite feature is the quick detach barrel. It’s so easy, all one has to do is lock the slide to the rear, pull the trigger guard down and pull the barrel out. Because of that, cleaning is a breeze.

Least Favorite Feature
While this gun is near the top when it comes to precision .22s, it also has some downsides. The most notable is the safety. Sticking out an eighth of an inch from the gun’s frame, the safety looks like any other safety. However, upon operating the safety, it quickly becomes clear that it’s very stiff – it surely isn’t your everyday M&P Shield style safety that’s easily flicked on and off. Another minor negative is the weight. At a hefty 41 oz., it’s not the lightest gun out there, but it has a solid feel in the hand. Lastly, the price is also not its best attribute.

Specifications: S&W Model 41

Operation: Blowback
Caliber: .22 lr
Capacity: 10+1 rounds
Barrel Length: 5.5″
Overall Length: 10.5″
Trigger: A crisp 2.75 to 3.25 lb. trigger pull with adjustable trigger stop
Sights: Micrometer click adjustable target rear sight with undercut patridge front sight
Safety: Frame-mounted manual safety
Weight: 41 oz.
Type: Full-size
MSRP: $1369

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * * * *
Better than the shooter. This gun will let you know your shortcomings in pistol shooting.

Ergonomics * * * * *
The Model 41 is of similar proportions to a 1911 in terms of grip angle. The grip itself is molded to fit your hand exceptionally well.

Reliability * * * *
Reliability has been superb for a .22 rimfire. I must acknowledge that some people have complained of receiving Model 41’s that are ammo sensitive – for that, I am giving it four stars. Those with ammo sensitive S&W model 41’s tend to agree that running CCI SV 40 is the best option. However, mine has had no trouble whatsoever in the ammo department.

Customization * * *
There’s not a lot of customizations and accessories available. For those who have to absolutely have custom grips, then they will be pleased to find many offerings to suit your needs.

Value * * * *
There’s no denying that it’s expensive. However, you’re paying for top quality.

Overall * * * *
Despite the stiff safety on the Model 41, I really liked the gun. If you enjoy fine rimfire target pistols, the S&W Model 41 is not one to pass over. While it’s not the best of the best, consider it a cut above the rest.


  1. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    Hubba Hubba!

    The only Smith 22s I’ve shot were the disgraceful 22a, and the decent M&P Compact.

    Neither holds a candle to the beauty of this thing.

    1. avatar RandallOfLegend says:

      I own a 22A1, picked it up for $150 + transfer fee. It’s personally hard for me to spend $1400 on a 22lr pistol, as nice as it is. I feel like the review is a bit too glowing, but no one wants to spend that much money on a firearm and think negative thoughts.

  2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

    Model 41 performance center has been on my dream guns list for a long time. Amazing.

  3. avatar gs650g says:

    Inflation has taken its toll on the price of the 41. I’ve been lucky to have shot one and it’s all that and a bag of chips.

  4. avatar Specialist38 says:

    These are nice pistols. Never owned one but shot a few. Always a little (lot) pricey back in the day.

    Never shot a 5 inch, a friend had two with 7.5 inch barrels – one in 22 LR and one in 22 short.

    He squirrel-hunted with the 22 short. It was almost boring to shoot since it was so easy to hit your targets.

    I always liked this and the Model 52 in 38 special. If you miss, it’s not the pistol.

  5. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    If I have a safe Queen. Its my Model 41. Its a 50 some odd year old gun with a 7 inch compensated barrel.
    It is a thing of beauty.
    I was given it when my Uncle passed. I thank him every time I open the safe and see it.
    Ohhhh it shoots and handles like no other gun Ive ever owned. Its bluing is as good as Old Colts on any given day. Maybe better then most days too.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      You know it’s a sin not to shoot it….right?

      Life’s too short to not shoot a fine pistol.

      Somebody else will when you’re gone or they’ll just sell it.

      Bust a rim.

    2. avatar Ed says:

      My dad gave me his from when he was on a police shooting team…7″ported and comped…a beauty.

  6. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Wow. That is a beautiful pistol.

  7. avatar jwm says:

    The barrel is not fixed to the frame? I know this pistol is accurate. But i wonder how much more so it would be with a fixed barrel? If at all.

    My makarov has a fixed barrel and for a smallish service pistol it’s way more accurate than you would expect.

    1. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

      I believe it means the barrel is fixed, just not permanently attached.

    2. avatar Stinkeye says:

      The barrel assembly is locked into place (and thus “fixed” to the frame) by a lug on the front of the trigger guard. I think this review could really have used a “disassembled” photo, because the 41 is a somewhat odd design. The reciprocating part of the slide is the lower part. The upper and forward section with the sights on it is fixed to the barrel and doesn’t move.

    3. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The barrel is clamped by a lug inside the trigger guard. But that’s not really the issue.

      The issue is “does the barrel move with respect to the sights?” and the answer is “no.” Please look at the third and fourth photos above. See how the rear sight is mounted to the tang that extends rearwards off the rear of the barrel? The sights are fixed to the barrel. Even if you have an optical on your 41 (as I do), the sight and barrel are one.

      The action is purely blow-back; the slide has a long movement on a spring. The slide is the part with the serrations that extends forward on the low side of the barrel, above the trigger guard.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Got it, now. Thanks.

      2. avatar =BCE56= says:

        Correct as usual, DG. I always appreciate your comments.
        Design of the M41 is similar to Ruger MKs and Browning Challenger, but differ from High Standard, Colt Woodsman and other blowback semiautos which have fixed barrels, and sights on the slide.
        Theoretically a perfectly fitted 1911 should approach this condition at lockup. But it is more likely that only the barrel and slide/sights will be solidly linked when in battery.

    4. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Hard to get more accurate than a lazer beam. Most can’t shoot its full potential anyway.

      Hell, I’ve got a Pre-War S&W Outdoorsman K-22 that has more potential than anyone I know.

      That’s what you want. If you’re on your game, the pistol or revolver is not going to be the limiting factor.

  8. avatar lasttoknow says:

    Wow ! $1369 for a .22 paper punch? For a rat-killer? Wish I had the money for that level of toy. Really, I would buy one.

    1. avatar Right to Arm Bears says:

      Add to the lottery wish-list and the Bugatti Veyron I’ll never own.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    At the time that S&W started selling this pistol, all the classy .22 competition shooters were using High Standards, Brownings and Colts. The Ruger Standard (1949) was dearly beloved as a plinker, but for reason unknown not as a competition pistol.

    A box-stock S&W M41 was actually more accurate than my beloved High Standard, but the M41 didn’t penetrate (no pun intended) the target market like you’d think it would. I guess some people thought of S&W as a revolver company exclusively.

    I know that the M41 comes at a dear price, but it compares very favorably to the justly-venerated Colt Woodsman Match Target. For a hard-core target shooter, the M41 is probably worth the price.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I’ve put a Clark Custom barrel on my 41, and at 50 feet, it will punch a single ragged hole with sub-sonic match ammo off a rest.

      When I’m shooting bullseye with the 41, If I miss the 10 ring, it’s always my fault, never the pistol’s. Most of my fellow competitors in the bullseye matches in the winter are also shooting 41’s.

      High Standards in good shape have reasonable prices vs. the cost of a Colt or S&W target .22. I still prefer the 41. The only way, IMO, to substantially improve on the 41 for bullseye or target work is to step up to something like a Hammerli or Pardini. Now you’re up into the “thousands” of bucks for a target pistol.

  10. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    As an aside, people who don’t gunsmith on a regular basis should limit themselves to merely field-stripping/cleaning the barrel & slide on the 41. Do not try to disassemble it further.

    Unless you are highly gifted with a broad and deep knowledge of obscenities, vulgar curse words and can swear fluently, you’re just going to humiliate yourself by pulling the lockwork out of the frame.

  11. avatar WarsawPactHeat says:

    My father-in-law had a 1973 NIB, never fired Model 41 with all paperwork and accessories which he just gave to my wife last month. My jaw hit the floor when she told me what she was given. It is truly a remarkable pistol and an incredible gift.

  12. avatar ropingdown says:

    My model 41 remains my favorite pistol to shoot. I usually leave a 5.5 inch Clark STC (and with optional threads…) barrel on the gun, and rely on an RMR LED red dot sight. I keep spare springs and a spare firing pin in the box. Now and then I’ll put the 7.5 inch barrel with adjustable metal sights on the piece just to torment my eyes.

    The 41 is an accurate, solid, and beautiful joy.

    (I didn’t used to have to type my moniker below….but something changed.)

  13. avatar c4v3man says:

    I’m assuming not all of the pictures are the authors, but that is a sweet looking gun. I love my high standard, but I’ll have to consider picking one of these up if I ever see one. I’m just glad I can still get parts for the High Standard.

  14. avatar wareagle says:

    Model 41,IMHO, has the sweetest factory trigger I’ve ever used. An absolute joy to shoot and accurate way beyond my capabilities.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      As nice as the 41’s trigger is, you really need to check out a S&W Model 52-2.

  15. avatar ken says:

    For those grousing about the price, it ain’t a plinker,although it fills that bill quite nicely. Rather, the 41 is to bullseye shooting as a Perrazi is to Olympic trap, a Pardini is to Olympic rapid fire, and an Anschutz is to biathlon. You don’t see 870’s in intl competition. You pay the price if you want to play the game at the highest levels.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      That’s the thing that I think so many TTAG readers miss: In shooting competitions, gear that wins costs money. Same as most all other pursuits where equipment is involved.

      No one thinks of running a F1 race with a Toyota Corolla, and no one thinks that they’re going to win the Reno Gold Unlimited with a Cessna 172. I don’t understand why so many people think that they should be able to win shooting competitions with cheap guns.

      You won’t see a rack-grade Rem 700’s in F-class or benchrest competitions, you don’t see Rem 870’s in state or national trap shoot much (there was a guy years back who won the Grand with a 870, but it wasn’t one of today’s 870’s), and you won’t see Ruger MkII’s or Buckmarks in bullseye competition much. There’s limits to how good you can make those triggers.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        How many of us compete at all? Let alone at that level? I haven’t even spectated at a car or air race in decades.

        I fully realize it takes top pf the line, expensive equipment to compete in any sport. But for the other 99% of us the off the rack gear will work.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          But the 41 isn’t “top of the line.” It’s just in the “top 5%” of very good to excellent target pistols. There’s a reason why you see so many of them at bullseye competitions – they’re “good enough” to get you into expert+ classifications.

          The ‘top of the line’ will be pistols that are $2K and up.

  16. avatar bontai Joe says:

    I’ve owned my model 41 for over 35 years. I bought it used for $500 back then. Was still in the box with the warrantee card and extra mag. It is EASILY the most accurate handgun I have ever shot, and it easily has the best trigger I have ever pulled. And it fits my giant sized paw like it was molded for it with the stock grips. My safety flicks on and off easily but with enough resistance to remain where it is placed. If I was writing the review, it would have been even more glowing. I truly LOVE mine and would never consider parting with it. $1369 is a lot of money, but $500 was a lot of money back in 1980 and it was money well spent. This is the kind of firearm that I’d eat a year’s worth of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on stale cheap white bread for a year if I had to. Yeah, it is THAT GOOD a gun.

    1. avatar GD says:

      I agree, Joe! Sometimes, one has to handle the S&W Model 41 to fully appreciate its astute qualities.

  17. avatar mark bennett says:

    I looked at one of these but the price is a killer. I finally settled on a Browning Buckmark PLUS UDX that cost a 1/4 of the price. For me I couldn’t do better with the Browning than the Model 41. Maybe somebody else could but at 25yds I get a 1-2” accuracy every time and I’m sure any time the group goes large it’s me. So if you can afford then buy a Model 41 but if not there are some great semi-auto 22LRs out there for much, much less….

  18. avatar Michael Case says:

    It may not be the best gun out there but impact wise when you pull that thing out people would be running away from you.

  19. avatar PeterK says:

    My Dad has one of these. This review is not overblown in the least. It’s nigh impossible to stop comparing other guns to the thing, and they keep coming up short.

  20. avatar Tony J says:

    I bought a brand new model 41 a few months back and so far have no regrets. Its expensive and a tad heavy, but accurate and incredibly fun to shoot. its also a piece of art IMO as its a gorgeous looking gun and seems to be the “go to” pistol when showing off my collection to close friends. The one caveat is something that all manufacturers are currently doing…. packaging their product in the most horrific & cheap plastik gun cases that I have ever seen. it comes in a turquoise blue container that looks like it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. the children are not allowed to look directy at this case as i fear they’ll turn to stone.

    buts its really a nice gun.

    1. avatar Rudolf Rossmy says:

      You didn’t buy the case, you bought the gun. And still better than the cardboard boxes they used to come in. By the way, I love my Performance Center M41!

  21. In terms of looks, this is my favorite looking gun of all time, it is just bad ass.

  22. avatar Don Land says:

    I have managed to secure two 41’s. One is a 1991 and the other is a 1998. After much chasing I have gotten hold of all four bbls for the 41 22lr. They are the 5″ lightweight, the 51/2 ” heavy version with the drilled and tapped for a Pic rail, the 7″ and the 7″ with the compensator. Also have a Bully Barrel 5″ stainless threaded for competition. They all look great in a custom made display case.
    The only thing I am missing is the 22 short version.
    Love those 41’s!

  23. avatar Don Land says:

    See my earlier comment…like to hear your responses…maybe locate a 22 short version!

  24. avatar Tony J says:

    update to my recent model 41 purchase on this thread……………. stick to the older models………. nuff said.

    1. avatar Rudolf Rossmy says:

      Should have bought the Performance model. I have both!

  25. avatar Kevin Hash says:

    I have been a diehard fan of the S&W Model 41 since my first ownership of one back in 1979 at the young age of 14 when my dad bought me this and paid $325.00 for it brand new. I shot many thousands of rounds of all brands of ammunition through that gun for several years until selling it in 1986 which I’ll always regret doing. I remember many times going to the outdoor target range and placing a coke can at about 35 yards and shooting it multiple times, pushing it further out each time I hit it until it would be at around 50+ yards or further. All the years I shot it I never remember it ever jamming which said something for it. Now at 52 I own my 10th one and don’t ever plan on letting this one go. I bought this one back in April of this year and paid 1279.99 for it and am so glad to have been given the chance to once again purchase and own one. I haven’t shot it yet but I must say the look, fit, and feel of this example is totally as expected with these guns. PERFECT!! My favorite feature of these guns is the superb, crisp, light weight trigger pull and this example is no exception! When storing this and any .22 firearm I always keep a plastic snap cap in the chamber so that I can dry fire the hammer to keep it in an “at rest” position so the spring is under less pressure. I must admit the trigger pull on this example like all the others I have owned breaks like the snapping of a pencil lead. Just pure precision!! I am really surprised S&W still produces this model and IMHO look for it to be pulled from the line at any given point due to the cost of making it now. But I have thought that for some time now and they still keep on making it although it’s rather hard to find most of the time. For anyone interested and wanting a fine precision target pistol you absolutely will not go wrong with investing in the Model 41. I’ve owned both the Colt Woodsman as well as the High Standard Trophy and even though they are with no argument superb guns, I still prefer the Model 41. To me the Model 41 always seemed to show a little more heft and brawn in the build quality like in the thick, wide cartridge extractor as well as the robust appearance and feel of the trigger not to mention not having to worry about gold plating wearing off. They are a great investment to say the least and just keep rising steadily in price. The S&W Model 41 will always get my top vote!!!

  26. avatar Dave M says:

    …..GREAT review…thanks !!
    I worked at S&W in the late 70’s and I took their 6 month employee shooting program. The main gun used was the Model 41, We did shoot ALL ranges of calibers during that time….but fell in love with the M41.
    In the mid 80’s a friend won a raffle at her revolver club. The prize was a M41…she already owned one so was opting to take $500 cash in place of the gun. I said WOAH !!! Take the gun….I’ll give you the $500 cash !! So that’s how a M41 came into my life. Before taking possession of it I had a Red Dot put on it. After sighting it on a rest…I soon realized that I had the most accurate gun I ever shot in my hands….and it’s way better than me !!
    Yes…it’s definitely a heavy gun to hold out straight with 1 hand..especially with the Red Dot. But….look through the scope…the round will go where the dot is. I shot in leagues with it and held my own.
    I had a desk job….so would hold a 10lb weight straight out to strengthen my arm.
    An interesting tidbit for you owners (or soon to be owners)….there is a # on each barrel….from 1 to 9 (I believe 9). After a barrel is test fired….(not sure of the distance)…..each # stamped represents 1/10th inches of the size variance of the group. I happen to be a recipient of a 1 !! Lucky me !!! I also heard if requesting a barrel from the factory…and you are nice….you can request a low #.
    If you’ve never shot a M41…please do…you won’t be disappointed.. you won’t want to put it down.
    A quality work of art….to look at….fondle…or shoot. Remember they ARE meant to shoot….don’t store em…use em. I highly recommend this gun. Ready on the RIGHT…..ready on the LEFT…..FIRE !!! Peace

  27. avatar C. J. Nagel says:

    My 7″ + muzzel brake M41 , May 10, 1965, (cost $85.00, I sill have the recipet).
    Manffactured 1959, in 1966 the spring holding the slide release broke. It was a $.12 cent part from Gil Hebrad, Knoxville, Ill.
    Our daughters, now our grandaughter have grown up shooting this frist class insturment. My M41 and my 6″ barrel, nickeled Colt Python ($125.00 on July 14, 1964) still get a lot of casual use.

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