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Magnetization reversal in transition-metal nanowires is investigated. Model calculations explain why magnetization reversal is localized, as opposed to the sometimes assumed delocalized coherent-rotation and curling modes. The localization is a quite general phenomenon caused by morphological inhomogenities and occurring in both polycrystalline and single-crystalline wires. In the polycrystalline limit, the competition between interatomic exchange and anisotropy gives rise to a variety of random-anisotropy effects, whereas nearly single-crystalline wires exhibit a weak localization of the nucleation mode. Model predictions are used to explain the coercive and magnetic-viscosity behavior of Co (and Ni) nanowires electrodeposited in self-assembled alumina pores.