GRAND RAPIDS, MI USA -(Ammoland.com)- When it comes to .44 Magnum, the first gun that most people imagine is the Smith & Wesson Model 29, of course in the hands of Dirty Harry himself. The revolver is a huge part of American pop culture and is instantly recognizable, even to people who aren’t into guns. Today we are going to be taking a look at one of the modern variants of the old Model 29, the new Model 629 in stainless steel.
Because the .44 Magnum has deep cultural significance to the American shooting public, it has seen constant production since it was first introduced. The cartridge itself is on the upper end of what most shooters consider to be reasonable in terms of recoil and power. While not for everyone, the .44 Magnum has a widespread and loyal following and excellent guns are available at just about every gun shop.
Smith & Wesson has been synonymous with the .44 Magnum from the very start. This latest incarnation features a 4” barrel and is constructed almost entirely out of rugged stainless steel, including the six-round cylinder, which is a big plus for the outdoorsman and enthusiast alike. While not a small gun, the 629 weighs a manageable 41.5 ounces and is not difficult to fire, even for a new shooter.
In the course of my testing with this fine revolver, I fired about 500 rounds, most of the full-power variety, and experienced no failures to fire or eject. Only some of the most powerful and heavy loads showed signs of sticky extraction, which itself is the result of the higher pressures generated by the cartridges themselves, not any problem of the revolver itself.
For the accuracy and velocity portion of this review, I fired a number for factory loads over my Oehler 35P chronograph at a distance of five feet from the muzzle. The accuracy and velocity numbers here are the result of three, five shot groups. Accuracy was recorded at 25 yards.
- Buffalo Bore 270gr JFN .44 Magnum———————-1330fps, 2.5”
- Buffalo Bore 225gr Barnes XPB .44 Magnum———–1404fps, 1.9”
- SIG SAUER 240gr .44 Magnum V-Crown——————1213fps, 2.9”
- SIG SAUER 200gr .44 Special V-Crown——————–808fps, 1.5”
- Black Hills 240gr JHP .44 Magnum————————-1204fps, 3.3”
- Black Hills 300gr JHP .44 Magnum————————1015fps, 3.25”
- Black Hills 160gr HoneyBadger .44 Magnum———–1522fps, 1.5”
- Black Hills 210gr .44 Special Cowboy———————737fps, 3.5”
- Black Hills 125gr HoneyBadger .44 Special————-1233fps, 2.0”
- Hornady 300gr XTP .44 Magnum————————–999fps, 3.75”
- Hornady 225gr FTX .44 Magnum————————-1320fps, 1.8”
- Hornady 180gr XTP .44 Special—————————861fps, 3.25”
- Hornady 165gr Critical Defense .44 Special———–866fps, 3.5”
Overall, this revolver did extremely well with all rounds fired. While not particularly suited to any given bullet weight, the revolver did tend to do better as far as handling with the 240gr full-power loads. It was very easy to shoot with the .44 Special loads, but those rounds are better suited for practice and small game in a gun this size. I do think that the SIG SAUER 200gr .44 Special V-Crown was especially nice, offering high accuracy and low recoil. A shooter new to the gun would be very, very well-served with this round.
I noticed in the course of my testing that making follow-up shots at close range was very doable as compared to other .44 revolvers I have tried prior to this. While it is far too large a gun to carry on a daily basis for most people, the 629 is perfectly at home in a defensive role during outdoor excursions, being light enough to carry easily, but weighty enough to absorb recoil. This is a huge consideration because I have recently reviewed guns chambered in .44 Magnum that were either too heavy to be an advantage or too light to control with full-power ammo. This is a perfect balance.
While this is a modern take on an older design, the basic premise of the Model 29 is still valid today. At the time it was first made in the late 1950’s the Model 29 was, although briefly, the most powerful handgun in production. Elmer Keith, a name inseparably linked to the development of the magnum revolver and widely considered the father of big-bore handgunning, designed the .44 Magnum with the idea that it would be used as a sidearm for the hunter and outdoorsman. The 629 I used here is ideal for this role.
My impressions of the gun, and its corresponding theory of use, made me realize just how well suited the design is to the environment it was intended for. While I did not take it out bear hunting, it did ride in my chest rig while I was deer hunting and it proved to be a good companion for the field. The heavy bullet weight and excellent muzzle velocity means that Model 629 is an excellent hunting gun not just as a backup, but as a primary at close distances. It should be said that Keith himself landed some hits on a wounded deer at 600 yards using his own Model 29 in .44 Mag, although this is not something that should be attempted today.
I think that, for the right person, the Model 629 is an excellent choice. I can’t think of a better revolver for hard use in the field and I can’t name a better handgun cartridge for all game than the .44 Magnum. The range of power available to the .44 bore is hard to deny, and as a result there is lots of room for both the fans of wrist-wrenching loads and the recoil sensitive.
If you think that you may be in the market for a solid, hard-use revolver that is steeped in history and pop culture, look no further than the Model 629. For the shooter with an eye for the classics, Smith & Wesson also makes both a 4” and 6 ½” classic Model 29.
For more on Smith & Wesson go to www.smith-wesson.com. Ammo used in this article can be seen at www.hornady.com, www.sigsauer.com, www.buffalobore.com, and www.black-hills.com.
About Josh Wayner
Josh Wayner has been writing in the gun industry for five years. He is an active competition shooter with 14 medals from Camp Perry. In addition to firearms-related work, Josh enjoys working with animals and researching conservation projects in his home state of Michigan