Elmer Keith, together with Phillip Sharp and DB Wesson developed the 357 Magnum in 1935 which was a stretched 38 Special and that set the standard for handgun performance for many years, until Keith developed the 44 Magnum from the lengthened 44 Special case in 1955. During the early 1960’s Keith started working on an ‘intermediate’ round as he felt at that stage that law enforcement could do with better that what they had. He was of the opinion that the 357 Magnum over-penetrated targets with the bullets that were available at the time and the 44 Magnum was too powerful for the average law enforcement officer to use. Keith and law enforcement officer Skeeter Skelton started working together and came up with the .41 cal. round that fired a 200gr bullet at 900 fps that could be used for law enforcement. This lower powered loading is basically a 41 Special load to be used for law enforcement that gave better ballistics than the 357 and less recoil than the 44 Magnum, but Keith also wanted a higher powered hunting load that travelled at 1300 – 1400 fps.
They approached both Remington and Smith & Wesson in 1963 and they were interested; Remington offered to develop the cartridge if S&W built the guns for it. The 41 Magnum was launched in 1964, but only the higher powered loading and not the law enforcement loading that Keith hoped for. Similarly, S&W only launched the large N-framed Mod. 57 and the 4” Mod. 58 aimed at the law enforcement market. This did not work out very well; the Model 57 was roughly the same size and weight as the 44 Magnum Model 29, a gun already carried by some law enforcement departments and the full size 41 Magnum loads had too much recoil in the 4” Model 58 which weighed almost as much as a 44 Magnum so it was only adopted by a very few law enforcement departments. Hunters on the other hand already had the 44 Magnum that they could download to 44 Special. (Erlmeier, Brandt Ref. 394)