Let’s address the magnum in the room first. It’s always important to get misconceptions out of the way, right?
The Smith & Wesson Model 629 Deluxe .44 Magnum is not (exactly) the famous Dirty Harry .44 Magnum Revolver, although it is close. As a Model 629, it’s a stainless-steel version of the Model 29. That’s a Smith & Wesson tradition, indicating stainless-steel versions of other guns by putting a “6” in front of the model number.
Detective Harry Callahan’s .44 Magnum in the 1971 movie “Dirty Harry” was a Model 29, although the actual guns used in the movie were a custom collection of parts from the Smith & Wesson factory. According to our friends over at the Internet Movie Firearms Database, the original Dirty Harry script called for a Smith & Wesson Model 29 with a 4-inch barrel. The problem was that specific gun wasn’t in current production at the time, so the company scrounged parts and came up with two hand-built guns for filming. One featured a 6 1/2-inch barrel while the other had a 8 3/8-inch barrel. If you watch closely, you can see both used in different scenes.
So, as a 629, this 6 1/2-inch Barrel Deluxe model differs in a couple of ways from the movie gun. It’s stainless, while Dirty Harry’s piece was blued, and this new 629 Classic sports a full-length barrel underlug. Other than that, the two guns are pretty close, and we can assume they’ll deliver about the same amount of punishment.
So, what about the famous movie line?
“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you better ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”
Technically speaking, at the time of the movie, the .454 Casull existed, and was a bit more powerful. In reality, there wasn’t much going on in the way of Casull production, so the .44 Magnum ruled the power roost for regular folks limited to buying guns and ammo off the shelf. So, using Mythbusters terminology, consider this one “plausible.” Of course, by now, there are bigger and badder calibers, but make no mistake, the .44 Magnum is no slouch.
So let’s talk about this new Smith & Wesson Model 629 Deluxe. As stated, it’s all stainless steel. Barrel, cylinder, and frame are all made of stainless and finished with a satin finish. Yes, it looks fantastic because it’s not too glitzy and shiny. Admittedly, that’s a personal preference thing, and I wouldn’t hold anything against you if you did like sparkly guns. What makes the overall appearance even spiffier is the textured wood grip. It looks like Rosewood, but I can’t be sure of the actual material. Carved into both sides of the grip are Smith & Wesson medallions, as well as attractive and functional checkering and textured patterns. Check out the photo for a closer look. Both trigger and hammer are blued with something resembling a case hardened appearance.
Considering that this revolver is designed to handle a really broad variety of loads from soft .44 Specials to full-power .44 Magnums, the rear sight is adjustable so you can tune point-of-impact to your most commonly used ammunition. Screws on top of, and on the side of the rear sight housing will adjust both windage and elevation easily. A moderately small flat-head screwdriver will do it – you won’t need a special tool. The rear sight blade sports a rectangular notch lined with a thin white outline. The front sight is a ramped black steel housing with a red insert for improved visibility. Below the red insert you’ll notice that the sight blade is serrated to reduce glare. The front sight blade is a separate piece that’s pinned in place, so if you ever want to change it out, you can. Between the front and rear sights, the barrel upper surface is cut with longitudinal lines, also to reduce glare.
Under the barrel, you’ll see a full-length lug. When shooting .44 Magnum loads, you’ll appreciate the extra weight up front to help control muzzle flip. The cylinder is fluted, holds six rounds, and features ever so subtle chamfering around each chamber. A push of the cylinder release on the left side of the frame easily flips the cylinder to the left, allowing loading and use of the extractor to remove spent cartridge cases.
The double-action trigger exceeded the capability of my 10-pound trigger scale, so I couldn’t get a reading on that, but I’d guess it’s in the 12-pound range. The double-action trigger motion was easy to stage, achieving full rotation of the cylinder with a clear pause before final pressure and clean break. The single-action trigger was beautiful, offering a crisp surprise break. Single-action trigger pull measured a consistent 4 pounds even.
The Model 629 is a traditional double-action revolver with an exposed hammer. If you want to shoot single-action, that’s easy to do, especially considering the extra wide hammer spur. That’s both easy to find and easy to operate with either thumb. It’s aggressively checkered so you’re unlikely to slip.
Shooting .44 Special loads through this not small or light revolver could be best described as plinking. Even defensive .44 Special loads such as the Sig Sauer V-Crown 200-grain JHP was a total pussycat to shoot, as was the Federal 200-grain semi-wadcutter hollow-point. The moral of the story is simple: weight matters if you want to reduce recoil. Oh, the other moral? .44 Special rocks.
I did most of the shooting for velocity and accuracy with full-power .44 Magnum loads, because . . . why not? I had steeled myself for some self-abuse in advance of shooting a couple hundred or so rounds of very large, heavy, and fast ammo. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The 6 1/2-inch barrel, full underlug, and all that associated weight up front really made a big difference. In comparison, felt recoil was much less than a Ruger Super Blackhawk used with the same ammo. Of course, the generous and large grip helps too with all that grip-to-hand surface area.
Accuracy and Velocity Results
I set up a Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet downrange to check velocity of a variety of loads. Here are the average velocities measured.
(feet per second)
|Federal Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point .44 Special 200-grain||858.1|
|Sig Sauer V-Crown .44 Magnum 240-grain||1,235.3|
|Hornady Critical Defense .44 Magnum 180-grain||1,146.7|
|Federal Premium Barnes Expander .44 Magnum 225-grain||1,248.3|
|Federal Premium Hydra-Shok .44 Magnum 240-grain||1,260.3|
For accuracy, I didn’t go through the gyrations of trying to mount a scope. Besides, this gun is kind of a classic, so it felt a bit sacrilegious to not use the iron sights. To stabilize things, I used a Blackhawk! Titan III rest weighed down with two bags of 25-pound lead shot. The second bag wasn’t so much for stability of the rest, but rather as a steady platform on which to rest the butt. I shot several five-shot groups from 25-yards with each load listed below and averaged the results.
Average Group Size
|Federal Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point .44 Special 200-grain||1.8”|
|Sig Sauer V-Crown .44 Magnum 240-grain||2.32”|
|Sig Sauer V-Crown .44 Special 200-grain||2.59”|
|Federal Premium Barnes Expander .44 Magnum 225-grain||2.46”|
|Federal Premium Hydra-Shok .44 Magnum 240-grain||2.12”|
Not bad considering that the shooter endured all those .44 Magnum loads. What I mean by that is the gun and ammo combinations used will probably do better in smaller doses.
The real super-duper fun winning ammo of the day was the Sig Sauer V-Crown 200-grain load. These cavernous hollow-points are designed to expand even at .44 Special velocities, and that 200-grain weight will certainly help with penetration. The best part? They were supremely gentle to shoot; I mean like .22LR or 9mm in a heavy pistol kind of gentle.
The Smith & Wesson 629 Deluxe .44 Magnum is a big, heavy gun. Don’t tell my bride, but when I weighed it on the kitchen scale, I tipped the digital readout to over 3 pounds, 2 ounces. And that’s empty. So it’s heavy to tote around and wouldn’t be the ideal concealed carry gun. That’s OK as that’s not what it’s for. Certainly it makes a great hunter. It’s also a heck of a solid home defense gun, especially if you live out in the boonies and have to worry about sizeable four legged threats around the house.
As for me, I’m happy with it as a range gun. It’s way too much fun to shoot. If you’re in a mellow mood and want to burn a lot of rounds, use .44 Special. If you feel the need for a loud wake-up call, stuff it with .44 Magnum loads. It’s a good time either way.
Model: Model 629 Deluxe
Caliber: .44 Magnum, .44 S&W Special
Barrel Length: 6.5″
Overall Length: 11.6″
Front Sight: Red Ramp
Rear Sight: Adjustable White Outline
Action: Single/Double Action
Grip: Textured Wood
Weight: 51.2 oz
Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Frame Finish: Satin Stainless
Images by Tom McHale