The Smith & Wesson Model 629 is a heavy duty .44 Magnum revolver that's the perfect protection for city and country.
Smith & Wesson Model 629 Review Snapshot:
- A stainless steel .44 Magnum revolver, the Model 629 is based on the earlier Model 29
- The potent Model 629 offers users protection from bears and other predators
- The Model 629 produced adequate accuracy, with groups around 2 inches at 25 yards
- Rugged and dependable, the 629 provides what users need in a .44 Magnum revolver
For many years after its introduction in 1955, the .44 Magnum was often referred to as the most powerful handgun cartridge in the world. Several other handgun cartridges have exceeded its power since then, but it still remains a powerful round that is capable of taking most North American big game.
Smith & Wesson’s Model 29 was the first production revolver chambered for the .44 Magnum, and sales skyrocketed after Clint Eastwood’s portrayal on the big screen of Inspector Harry Callahan, aka “Dirty Harry,” who dispatched the bad guys with one. Stories still circulate about movie fans buying a Model 29 and a box of cartridges, then after shooting one cylinder full of six, selling the gun and the remaining cartridges because of the sobering recoil.
One feature that makes the Model 629 so versatile is that not only will it handle the most powerful .44 Magnum loads, it can also safely fire .44 Special cartridges because that round is less powerful, is .125 inches shorter than the Magnum and comfortably fits in the chamber. The .44 Special not only generates considerably less recoil, making it pleasant to shoot for fun or practice, it is also a popular self-defense round with ballistics about the same as those of the revered .45 ACP. And because it is less powerful than the .44 Magnum, it generates less muzzle rise, allowing the shooter to get back on target faster for follow-up shots.
Some people want that extra magnum power though for personal defense against human predators, and carry the Model 629 loaded with .44 Magnum rounds. Generally, the ammunition chosen is a hollow point design with a projectile weight of 180 to 240 grains. At the speeds generated by the magnum load, expansion and penetration both combine to deliver serious damage on the receiving end in order to stop felonious behavior.
But the 629 offers even more versatility. When loaded with heavy, hard-hitting, solid projectiles, it is an effective defense against bears and other wild predators. So why not use hollow point expanding projectiles against bears? The answer is lack of penetration.
“Penetration is key, so hard cast or solid bullets are recommended for bear defense,” says Il Ling New, professional hunting guide and Gunsite Instructor who teaches, among other classes, Predator Defense. She adds, “At Gunsite, we recommend that a charging bear be shot in the face—ideally between the eyes and nose—to stop a charge as soon as possible. Other shots may take too long to stop the bear before it can do damage.”
Many ammunition manufacturers produce .44 Magnum and .44 Special loads with a variety of bullets suitable for anything from punching paper to dropping big, tough game. So obtaining ammo is not difficult. Ammunition is supplied by major manufactures and smaller specialty manufacturers who specialize in certain loads and cater to select clientele. And the S&W Model 629 will handle them all.
Up front, the gun sports a blued steel ramp sight with a bright orange insert that demands attention when aiming. The rear sight is also blued steel and is adjustable for both windage and elevation by turning adjustment screws. It has a white outline to aid in acquisition when in a hurry. Since the gun can accommodate so many different .44 Special and .44 Magnum loads, an adjustable sight is an excellent feature because changing loads invariably shifts the point of impact. And an accurate zero is necessary, especially if using the gun for self defense or defense against wild predators.
A fluted cylinder on a swing-out crane has a six-round capacity, and the cylinder catch is easily activated to release the cylinder by pushing it forward. Older versions of the Model 629 were equipped with one-piece synthetic grips featuring a stippled texture and distinct finger grooves to anchor the gun in the hand. However, the newest model has a slightly different grip with less pronounced finger grooves and a cushioned backstrap to help reduce the effects of the stout recoil that the .44 Magnum can generate with heavy loads.
The Model 629 can be a very accurate gun in the right hands and is capable of delivering tight groups. The test gun delivered groups at 25 yards averaging just over 2 inches, and shooters with very sharp vision and the proper technique can probably get better results.
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the April 2017 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.