Smith & Wesson 329PD .44 Mag, Great Choice for Defense Against Bears

Smith & Wesson 329PD .44 Mag, Great Choice for Defense Against Bears
Smith & Wesson 329PD .44 Mag, Great Choice for Defense Against Bears

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- I live in Idaho and do a lot of bear hunting, backpacking, backcountry flyfishing, and elk/deer hunting. So, I’m always around bears. A good buddy, Ed Sweet used to run the TV show Kid Outdoors. We’d take kids bear hunting. We’d film hunts for his TV show, and I’d write articles on the hunts. When 12-16-year-old kids wounded a bear we didn’t send the kid in the brush to track them, good ole’ Uncle Tom got stuck with that task.

WHY DO I CARRY A SMITH & WESSON 329PD WHEN TRACKING BEARS?

I’d like to carry a Remington 742 semi-auto 30-06 or a 12 ga. with slugs when tracking a wounded bear but every bear that I’ve seen shot immediately heads into the super thick brush. When you’re crawling down narrow trails on your hands/knees and tracking a bear a long gun will get caught up in the brush if you try to swing it around for a shot, so most likely, you won’t even get a shot off. What’s hard for you to plod through a bear can come crashing through at 40 mph, so that rules out tracking wounded bears with a long gun.

Twenty-five years ago, I carried a .357 mag but I have seen too many big bears in my time, so I bumped it up to a .44 mag. Once while still carrying a .357 I was tracking a big wounded buck I came upon him in some tall grass. He jumped up and charged. I ran backward firing as fast as I could, and tripped. He nearly ran over me. The .357 mag. had the same effect as passing gas at him.

After the above, I started looking for the perfect bear pistol. There are many options, so let me explain how I made my decision.

I always wear my SW 329PD .44 MAG. when riding in bear, wolf & lion country.
I always wear my SW 329PD .44 MAG. when riding in bear, wolf & lion country.

SINGLE ACTION REVOLVERS

Hopefully, everyone agrees a single action is automatically out due to the fact that when it’s panic at the disco, you’ll be lucky to get off one fast shot. Forget single-actions.

HEAVY 6-INCH REVOLVERS

If a pistol is super heavy, you’ll leave it in camp and not carry it when scrambling up mountains. A lot of the big double-action revolvers work fine for killing a bear, but if they are too heavy, then they’re not going to do you any good if left in the tent.

SEMI-AUTOS

Some are going to disagree, but I don’t feel any of the semi-autos are big enough. Let’s start with the worst, the 9mm. We had a cow once go bat crap crazy. I tapped her in the head, and she charged me. I dove under a trailer. She then saw someone else and went after them. I’ve been around some crazy cows and bulls, but this one was actually hunting people like a wolf.

In a minute, she came back to hunt me. Same scenario. This kept on for a while. Finally, I thought that was it. If you draw an X between the poll and the eyes and hit them in the middle of the X, I’ve dropped them before with a .22.

I told myself that I would hold my ground and keep shooting. I shot, and here she came at me again. I hit her in the head 3-times. I dove under the trailer again when she got to 8 feet away, charging me at full speed. Finally, on the 13th shot, she stayed down. I’m not too fond of semi-autos for dangerous game, much less the lowly 9mm.

I know some people have stayed alive with the 10mm, but here are a couple of problems I see with most semi-autos:

  1. They’re not powerful enough. Bears are not slightly built like whitetails. It would be best if you had a heavy magnum that will penetrate thick muscles, punch through stout bones, and still be intact to do damage in the boiler room.
  2. Most ammo for semi-autos is either target or self-defense ammo. Not adequate for hunting purposes.
  3. Semi-autos are more likely to malfunction in wet/dirty situations.

DISCOVERING THE SMITH & WESSON 329PD

Smith & Wesson Model 329PD. Img Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson Model 329PD. Img Smith & Wesson

After looking for the perfect bear pistol for quite a while, I finally ran across the Smith & Wesson 329PD .44 mag. With the Titanium Alloy cylinder, Scandium Alloy frame, and 4.1-inch barrel, I had finally found the perfect lightweight backpacking/bear protection pistol.

I was elated with my new pistol. But upon my first shooting, I had buyer’s remorse. I cannot tell you how bad it kicks. It was all that I could do to empty it. The next purchase was some Pachmayr grips. I haven’t found the perfect grips yet, but I can empty the gun without crying!

The Smith & Wesson 329PD comes with an adjustable rear sight, and the front sight is a Light Gathering HI-VIZ Red Dot. They’re nice, but I’ve had too many bears in camp at night. It’s hard to line up on a bear in the dark, so I put on a Crimson Trace laser sight.

You can see that the Diamond D holster holds your pistol firmly in place. A leather throng over the hammer keeps it from slipping out. The belt also has loops for 6 more rounds.
You can see that the Diamond D holster holds your pistol firmly in place. A leather throng over the hammer keeps it from slipping out. The belt also has loops for 6 more rounds.
When you're fishing in bear country in waders you absolutely cannot wear a conventional waist holster. You'd be eaten alive before you ever got it dug out. Wear a shoulder holster.
When you’re fishing in bear country in waders you absolutely cannot wear a conventional waist holster. You’d be eaten alive before you ever got it dug out. Wear a shoulder holster.

When hunting/backpacking/camping, I’ll usually wear an Uncle Mike’s canvas belt holster. But you’d never get your pistol out when in the backcountry or up in Alaska flyfishing and wearing waders. So, my go-to holster is my Diamond D leather chest holster. It keeps my pistol readily available and has leather loops to hold a few extra rounds. I also like it for when we’re packing in on horses.

Ed Sweet is the best bear hunter I know, and he likes solid core bullets for his pistol ammo which breaks their shoulders and knocks their wheels out from under them. I like good-performing Hornady Flex-tip/hollow point ammo, so I alternate a solid hunting bullet and a hollow point/flex tip to compromise.

You’ll for sure want two speedloaders and a carrying case. I’ve had good luck with HKS speedloaders, so I’ve never experimented with anything else. Here’s why you’ll want speed loaders. Let’s say you shoot 2-3 times and think he went down. In a panic situation, you don’t want to dig bullets out of your pocket. Dump the cylinder, slam in six rounds, and you’re now ready to take care of business. Some guys are fast with speed loaders. On a backpacking trip, I go with a full cylinder and two speedloaders.

I favor the canvas HKS speedloader cases. If you carry 2 speed loaders and have a cylinder full, you should be good to go on most bear hunts and backpacking trips. Notice how I alternate a quality soft point and a solid core Hornady hunting round in my cylinders.
I favor the canvas HKS speedloader cases. If you carry 2 speed loaders and have a cylinder full, you should be good to go on most bear hunts and backpacking trips. Notice how I alternate a quality soft point and a solid core Hornady hunting round in my cylinders.

The MSRP on the Smith & Wesson 329PD is $1,329.00. And as usual, we will close with the manufacturer’s specs.

Smith & Wesson combined a Scandium alloy frame with a Titanium cylinder to build the strongest and lightest weight .44 Magnum revolver made. The result…maximum power in a small, lightweight, easy-to-carry package. Smith & Wesson’s large frame revolvers are a favorite choice among handgun hunters.

  • Model: Model 329PD
  • Caliber: 44 Magnum, 44 Special
  • Capacity 6
  • Length 9.5
  • Front Sight Light Gathering HI-VIZ® Red Dot
  • Rear Sight Adjustable
  • Action Single/Double Action
  • Grip 2 Grips – Wood and Synthetic
  • Cylinder Material Titanium Alloy
  • Barrel Material Stainless Steel
  • Frame Material Scandium Alloy
  • Frame Finish Matte Black
  • Barrel Length 4.13″ (10.5 cm)
  • Weight 25.2 oz.


About Tom Claycomb

Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoors writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, Bowhunter.net, and freelances for numerous magazines and newspapers. “To properly skin your animal, you will need a sharp knife. I have an e-article on Amazon Kindle titled Knife Sharpening for $.99 if you’re having trouble.”

Tom Claycomb

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Deplorable Bill

There are things here that I agree with. A large heavy caliber revolver will get the job done. I do prefer the Smith and Wesson 629 but I have never fired a 329 so…. The holster you chose for it, especially on horseback is proper and will work. I also agree that a large caliber semi auto rifle or a 12 gage with slugs will get the job done. As silly as it sounds, a good speed loader or two is also a good idea. Things that I don’t agree with. A semi auto pistol of proper caliber with proper… Read more »

Matt in Oklahoma

They need a rail on this. As stated bears like the night. 10mm hardcast vs bear. You use the same ammo in your 44 for bear as you do in the 10. I get it that you like the 44 but to try and dis another cartridge without evidence and in fact evidence to the contrary is silly. Do you even read this sites articles? How much experience do you have with the 10mm? Let’s discuss back on target time of 44 vs 10mm especially this lightweight 44. Let’s discuss weight of the G20 with same barrel length vs the… Read more »

JIAZ

S&W 329PD: Kool to own, Easy to Carry, Joy to shoot with 44 Special, Absolutely BRUTAL to shoot with full power 44 Magnum. Notorious for incidents of frame lock (Hillary Hole) lockup when firing strings of heavy recoiling, magnum loads. In 44 Magnum every ounce of weight is your friend. I’ll take my Ruger 44 Magnums, double or single action, as well as my Taurus Raging Hunter 44 Magnum, over the 329PD for backwoods / boonies treks. The Rugers and the Taurus RH are built to absorb recoil while remaining shootable even with the heaviest magnum loads. Last, but not… Read more »

Montana454Casull

I prefer my Ruger Blackhawk or Redhawk .44 mags or my Tauras Ragingbull 454 Casull also . They have frames that handle the heavy loads !

CarlosDanger

The author’s arguments against semi-autos for bear defense are weak at best, because they essentially rely on poor caliber / ammo choice – as if there aren’t many good ammo options and many examples of bears being put down with 10mm and even 9mm. Shot placement with proper ammo will always be prime no matter what caliber you use, and personally, I’d prefer a round that is proven adequate (10mm) and which allows me to make faster follow up shots (due to less recoil) from a gun with much more capacity (15 rounds) than a revolver. Also, reliability from most… Read more »

Montana454Casull

I like a 10 mm shooting Buffalo bore hard cast ammo but a fail to feed can cost a person thier life in grizzley country, my revolvers never have that problem .

CarlosDanger

I have literally never had a malfunction when shooting my Glock 20. Could it happen? Of course. Does that mean it is an unreliable tool? Of course not. The reality is that ANYTHING mechanical can and eventually will fail, including a revolver. The question that must be asked in this context is, what is a more likely problem, that your gun will malfunction when you need it, or that you’ll have to make rapid follow-up shots and / or wish you had more than 5 rounds?

Camper

To me the best argument for having a revolver instead of semi auto is that a bear attack can be an extremely fast and close range event, ending up with the animal physically on top of you.
If you are forced due to proximity to press the semi auto into the bear you may push the slide back enough to bring the gun out of battery. Then you die.

Montana454Casull

Yep .44 Remington magnum for sure , been there done that when a wounded bull got up and charged me last year and I had a empty rifle . He took a 240 grain XTP to the head from my Ruger Blackhawk .44 mag . Saved my ass !

BobS

I’m curious about your assessment of semi-autos when used to deliver a suitable projectile? For example, Buffalo Bore and Underwood offer 10mm rounds sending a 220 gr. hard cast bullet with just over 700 ft. lb. muzzle energy. You probably wouldn’t use even the mighty .44 Magnum without a similarly constructed projectile, because even providing 70% more muzzle energy (1195 from Buffalo Bore or 1189 from Underwood) won’t penetrate if you’re sending target or JHP bullets. (You could enjoy shooting even more with their .44 Magnum +P+ offerings, but both Buffalo Bore and Underwood left your Airweight off their approved… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by BobS
Don

As a previous owner of the 329PD I say it is one of the most useless guns ever made. When stuffed with full power ammunition the 329 simply recoils too much. I found it to be uncomfortable with modest .44 Special loads.It is a nice gun to pack, a horrible gun to shoot

Ex18Delta

Nice article, I appreciate your time. I have the same holster and I really like it. As others noted, the hammer loop will take time to release, so I assume you use the loop when needed and not when you don’t… I like the ability to have my rifle and pistol using the same caliber. So I pack a S&W 629 and a Henry H012GR. The Henry has a 16.5-inch barrel and it really seems compact especially compared to my 45-70 with a 20-inch barrel. As for ammo, I like Buffalo Bore 305gr. Hard Cast. Out of my S&W FPS… Read more »

Ram

My first session with my new acquisition I dumped the remains of a box of 240gr. Norma carbine loads, then two boxes of Remington240gr., it was a good session. Then I got into a box of very serious (300gr.) intent. About half way into the ride home my jaw unlocked and I felt like I worked a bad double shift at the steel mill. Turns out that the 240gr. and the 300gr. had similar velocity so felt recoil became consequential. I immediately ordered a Kramer horsehide holster. Practice ends with one string of 300gr, which is the normal carry load.… Read more »