Gun Review – Smith and Wesson 629 .44 Magnum Revolver

My not-entirely-thrilled-with-guns wife recently decided that hiking would be fun. When she casually remarked that it might be prudent to bring along some form of protection, quid pro quo was go. So, what to carry? In my neck of the woods, most of what we’d be likely to run into would be making tracks in the other direction when they hear us coming. But we are talking about Black Bear county. Rabid animals can’t be discounted either. And some predators are two-legged . . .

My current collection includes handguns chambered in 9mm, .38 Special, .40 S&W, .357 Sig, and .45., .22 and .380. Not. Enough. Gun. I wanted a handgun that could give a bear paws for thought even if I wasn’t super accurate. Another consideration: contact shots from automatics tend to foul up the slide reset and can leave you with a gun that requires a tap and rack to clear—not something you want to do when you’re using your weak hand to fend off/feed a bear.

My research led me an obvious conclusion: bear spray. And the biggest gun I could handle. Up to this point, I had only shot a .44 Magnum once. At the end of a trip Alaska, a guide set up some cans. I’d been pretty decent with the gun. The passage of twenty years suggested that machismo may have accounted for the self-serving self-assessment.  So it was off to the local range to try out a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson 629 with 6″ barrel.

The 629 is no 642; the N-framed behemoth weighs more than three cans of beans (48.3 ounces). Holding the handgun in the firing position may make your arm sore, but it’s got a sight for sore eyes. Smith equipped their mondo-revolver with a large fixed front sight blade painted bright orange.  The adjustable solid black rear sight has a thin white outline around the three borders. The orange and white combo makes it easy to pick up a sight picture.

With some trepidation, I cocked the hammer and touched off the first shot. For fans of ballistic sturm and drang, the 629′s noise and muzzle flash do not disappoint. On the positive side, you can use the fireball to determine if you’re dropping the barrel at the last minute. On the negative side, the detonation obliterates night vision. Here’s hoping I don’t come across a bear roaming in the gloaming.

The 629′s recoil wasn’t as bad as I feared. As always, proper stance and grip go a long way towards mitigating the inevitable shock, awe and yes pain of a large explosion detonating in your hand. The handgun’s heft doesn’t hurt. Much. The big Smith’s composite grip also evokes the law of diminishing gun returns. FWIW, the 629 is a more comfortable shooter than my S&W 624 featherweight shooting .38 Specials.

There are flea species that are heavier than the 629′s trigger pull in single action mode. It’s so light that lusting teens need not apply, lest heavy breathing occur near the go-pedal. On more than one occasion, the 629 went off—I mean, I pulled the trigger—before I was expecting it. Accuracy is assured. Assurance not so much. Which is why Inspector Harry Callahan shot his Model 29 in double action.

Here in the real world, the 629′s double action pull is longer than a speeding locomotive and harder than leaping a tall building in a single bound. My trigger weight scale tops out at 12 lbs. I’m guessing that the Smith & Wesson 629′s DA trigger requires something in the neighborhood of 15 lbs. That’s a tough neighborhood. Fortunately, the pull is smooth with no noticeable stacking. While a bit longer than I’m used, the trigger reset is perfectly predictable.

I picked my gun up last week and managed a couple of hours of range time this past Saturday. My revolver felt even better than the rental gun; I quickly emptied a box of 240 grain FMJs. As I wouldn’t be carrying FMJ in the field, I also loaded up with six rounds of my field ammo choice.

Corbon Hunter launches a 260 grain hollow point at 1,450 fps with a muzzle energy of 1214 ft/lbs. The official term used to describe the effect: yowza. While I definitely felt the difference in terms of recoil, it shot very well. I managed to land five of six bullets into a 1″ x 2″ square at 25 yards.

Since I plan to carry this hand cannon in the field while hiking, I wanted a holster that would allow me to use either strong side or cross draw depending on what other gear I happened to be hauling. After a little research, the Galco Outdoorsman DAO128 fit the bill nicely with a belt loop that allowed either carry option.

If there’s a knock on the 629, it’s ammo cost. Twenty rounds of the aforementioned Corbon runs $34.74. Practice ammo runs around $30 a box, or nearly three times what I pay to shoot my 9 mm.

That said, revolver reloading rocks; empty cases are easily collected. As a reloader, you also have the option to load both lighter ammo for practice or introducing a new shooter to “the [once and not even then really] most powerful handgun in the world.” Then you can load up with Hornady 300 grain round for your perforating pleasure.

The Smith & Wesson 629 is not a handgun for a beginning shooter. But it’s a great gun for ending a bear. If you can bear the recoil, you can place shots with ursine-discouraging directness. In theory. In practice, you need a lot of practice. And courage. And luck. And an understanding wife.


Overall Length            11.63 in
Trigger Type                DA/SA
Trigger Weight           15 lbs DA/ 3 lbs 12 oz SA
Barrel Length              6.0 in
Weight                           48.3 ozs
MSRP                               $949.00

Ratings (Out of Five Stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
The long sight radius certainly helps here. No problem for even an amateur like myself nailing five out of six shots into a 1″ x 2″ square. Easily the most accurate handgun I own.

Ergonomics (carry): * * * *
With a six inch barrel, this is not going to be a concealed carry weapon. At nearly 3 lbs, it’s a lot of gun to tote. On the other hand, the .44 Magnum is one hard kicking cartridge so the weight is a major plus.

Ergonomics (firing): * * * * 1/2
The trigger pull in DA mode is a bit long, but certainly manageable. The SA pull isn’t quite hair trigger, but I’d suggest women with long manes tie up their locks. The 629′s composite grips make for a solid hold and the long barrel helps tame muzzle flip.

Reliability: * * * * *
This is a tried and true platform that’s been on the market for ages, so no concerns there. Don’t forget to clean it.

Customization: * * *
There isn’t a whole lot you could, would or should do to customize this Smith. Alternative sights are your best option.

Overall Rating: * * * * *
Deeply desirable destructive device.

82 Responses to Gun Review – Smith and Wesson 629 .44 Magnum Revolver

  1. avatarspymyeyes says:

    I would like to be humble and PLEASE request you do the exact same review for a taurus Raging Judge Magnum.

    It can handle 45. longcolt and 454 casull bullets up to 300 grains.

    the weight and trigger pull on this gun sounds about the same as what you have in the S&W, the extra red-strip of hard rubber on the butt helps with the control issues of recoil better than any gun I have ever fired and this is the biggest handgun I ever bought because I don’t care if it a charging bear or a wacked-out druggie bearing down on me in a car, I wanted to be able to kill it with one of my 6 bullets.

    This handgun has been fed every different kind of ammo I could find from different manufacturers to shoot through it and I have yet to suffer any kind of malfunction. Since this is my 1st taurus I did not believe all the bad press about their guns because this one is a gem and retail it was $899.

    A custom made all leather holster from frontierleatherworks dot com was also the best choice I have made for my boulder-holder and ammo pouches all in one rig.
    That rig set me back $400. but it was totally worth it and if anyone out there has a special gun that they want to carry protected everyday, check them out. You will not be disappointed with the quality ALL MADE IN AMERICA products from this family business who are one & all patriots!

    • avatarWiebelhaus says:

      I agree.

    • Ask and ye shall receive. Just exchanged emails with our contact at Taurus and in response to your request, we’ll be getting a Raging Judge for an upcoming review. Watch this space.

    • avatarJim Barrett says:

      Love to, but unfortunately, I have not yet made the list Mr. Farago uses when deciding who is going to get manufacturer-supplied guns to review. Since I have to pay for every gun I review out of my own pocket, I would not look for a review of the Judge any time soon – at least not from me. Unless of course Taurus wants to ship me a loaner for comparison.

      • avatarSoutherner says:

        Reality check:

        Firearms, ammo and accessory manufacturers tend to withdraw advertising when a publication has the audacity to compare like products from different companies.

  2. avatarJason says:

    Yeah, the ammo’s 3x as expensive, but you have 3x as much fun, so it works out. That’s an heirloom-quality piece right there. Congratulations.

  3. avatarL. Y. says:

    Unless you were aiming for that spot, it looks like you were consistently anticipating the recoil.

  4. avatarHere Iam says:

    Note: Thee are still 30+ year old Mod.29s out there that have had 1 box or less rounds put through them. Thank you Dirty Harry!!!

    Beautiful old S&W bluing, recessed chambers, double action triggers like butter…


  5. avatarfreeport56 says:

    I have the 50th Anniversary Model 29 .44 Magnum (Dirty Harry’s Gun). Ditto to everything you said. My wife likes to hike the Sierras and when we do I carry two guns. A .45 ACP and my S&W Model 29 for the Black Bears. The last five hikes we have encountered Black Bears. Thankfully, all running away from us. At that point the hike ends as we do not want wonder into a cub we did not see.

  6. avatarChris Dumm says:

    Nice review! The Model 29 (and stainless 629) are works of art just like the Model 10 or Model 19, executed on a much more grand scale. They’re the most refined and elegant pistols ever made in this caliber, and with factory ammo they will still be shooting in our great-grandkids’ hands when they grow up.

    They’re not the best .44 Magnum for handloaders who want to push the big .44′s performance envelope. Hot-rodders should choose the Redhawk or Super Redhawk for their offset cylinder notches and solid frame, but they’ll pay a penalty in increased weight and sloppier triggers.

    The Model 29 deservedly ranks among the dozen or so most important handguns ever designed, and it deserves its success. It’s a gun I wish I owned.

    • avatarMoonshine7102 says:

      “pay a penalty in increased weight”
      All the better to soak up the recoil, my dear.

      “and sloppier triggers.”
      Absolutely disagree. Maybe box-stock, from the factory you might see a little creep or stacking, but anyone who can watch youtube and spend 5 minutes with a stone can clear that up.

      There’s a reason you hear the phrase “Ruger-only load”. I’ve never heard anyone say that their pet load is “Smith-only”.

      • avatarMike says:

        But Rugers are so UGLY. Model 29s and 629s are aesthetically pleasing. I appreciate the design of the Super Redhawk is necessary to make it stronger, but danged if that’s not an ugly revolver.

      • avatarDon says:

        I hear this all the time that Redhawks are stronger, and maybe they are… but I’d offer that people *could possibly* believe they are stronger because they look stronger (they have bigger frames). It’s one of those things that is said but never really qualified. When it comes to making things from steel, forgings are MUCH stronger than castings for equivalent geometry parts due to the affects on the molecular grain of the metal each method imposes. Could it be that the ruger is larger because it has to be because it is made by investment casting and the S&W is as big as it needs to be for a hammer forged frame? They both have to meet the same SAAMI spec + a safety tolerance.

        I’d love to see a mythbuster investigation doing a blow up test on each of these models, however I would mourn the destruction of two of my favorite handgun models.


        • avatarTom says:

          Investment cast steel is OK, problem is that the stuff shrinks bad upon solidification and can have voids. Gated and Risered effectively and X-Ray or Ultrasounded and the stuff is not that bad.

        • avatarSlab Rankle says:

          You have to parse what people mean when they say that Redhawks are stronger than Model 29s. It’s not just that one model is more or less likely to blow up in your hand than the other (though it might). It’s that one model, the Smith, is more likely to loosen up over time and hundreds or thousands of rounds fired. The Ruger has an inherently stronger design because it has no side plate and no screws to loosen up over time (except the grip screw and rear sight.)

          So, we’re not talking about the raw strength of the components, but a better design with more integrity.

          However, I just happen to have both a Redhawk and a Model 629 in front of me now, so I think I’ll take some measurements.

          Topstrap Redhawk: .275″
          Topstrap Mod. 629: .225″

          Cylinder wall Redhawk: .130″
          Cylinder wall Mod. 629: .100″

          Cylinder notches on the Redhawk are offset to a thicker area of the cylinder.

          Weight Redhawk 5.5″: 49 oz.
          Weight Mod. 629 6.0″: 45 oz.

          Weights are from factory published specs, closest match configurations.

          These are significant differences in terms of weight and thickness of steel, and I’m willing to bet there’s nothing wrong with Ruger’s steel. Combine that with the Redhawk’s newer, inherently stronger design and most reasonable people could confidently state that the Redhawk is the stronger gun. The ammo manufacturers certainly think so, and they’re not stupid.

          BTW, when you say that forgings are MUCH stronger than equivalent geometry castings, can you quantify that or is that a conventional wisdom that is no longer true?

      • avatarChris Dumm says:

        Redhawks have legendary strength, but I owned one in .44 Magnum about twenty years ago and I sold it because the double-action trigger sucked and accuracy was poor in either trigger mode. (Really bad: 5-inch groups at fifteen yards with a variety of factory ammo.)

        Nobody would describe my Redhawk’s D/A trigger as a little bit creepy or stacky; it was like dragging a dumpster across a gravel parking lot with your index finger. If YouTube had been around back then I could have cleaned up the trigger, but that wouldn’t have fixed the single-action accuracy problems.

        I remain disappointed by Ruger double-action revolvers because even after forty years they still haven’t really gotten the triggers right. Whether a $750 gun like the Redhawk should require a Bubba gunsmith ‘fluff and buff’ is a whole other question for a whole other day. I’ve heard that centerfire LCR triggers are much better, and I hope they incorporate that ball-bearing design into the GP, Redhawk, and SP-101 lines.

      • avatarsteve neale says:

        I have the utmost respect for my 629. Ive never shot a more accurate pistol of that caliber or larger. Since smith started porting its only become more accurate. Just ask that nosey brownie in 2010!!!!!!!

  7. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The 29/629′s with the longer barrels are both accurate and (when originally produced) very nicely executed DA revolvers. The shorter barrel versions can start to test inexperienced shooters with their muzzle flip. People can work up to shooting “full house” .44 Mag rounds by starting with .44 Specials. Elmer Keith and other revolver advocates discovered over the years that the .44′s seem inherently accurate – and the .44 Special was widely known as a highly accurate round in revolvers before the .44Mag came about and is still the revolver aficionado’s choice in load for a highly accurate revolver to this day.

    On a serious note, .44Mag owners should NB that the .44 RemMag is already a rather high pressure cartridge for a stock, mass-production handgun. Don’t be trying to push the pressures much higher than factory loads on a 29/629 or other mass-produced double-action revolvers.

    If you want to push a .44Mag to “all it can be,” you need to look at Ruger’s single action revolvers as a starting point, then a customized Ruger or a Freedom Arms revolver as the ultimate in revolver strength.

    • avatarJim Barrett says:

      Don’t know about you, but I found the 260 grain Corbon to be plenty powerful enough. If I were that hooked on pushing the envelope, then I’d have bought a S&W 500.

  8. avatarbontai Joe says:

    If you think the S&W .44 is heavy, then go pick up a Ruger Super Redhawk. With a 7 1/2″ barrel. it weighs 53 oz. My Dan Wesson .44 is also well over 50 oz. in weight. But the Smith is a beautifuly finished gun in blue, the lines are just more elegant, I’ve shot a couple S&W .44s, one with a 6″ barrel and one with the 8 3/8″ (I think). I prefer the longer barrel myself, both for the weight and for the longer sight radius. And you are 100% right in that it is NOT a gun for beginners, it’s more like something to graduate into after shooting other stuff for a few years.

  9. avatarAharon says:

    Nice review. I always enjoy reading the wheel gun reviews here at TTAG just like I did those wonderful knife reviews a few months ago (hint hint).

    “give a bear paws for thought”
    Not sure if that was a play on words or a typo. Either way, I got the message.

    • avatarpsmcd says:

      Definitely style, nicely worded, and word played review Jim. Best shooting revolver I’ve ever shot and that was comparing it to my 6″ Python.

  10. avatarBen Eli says:

    Bears are awesome. I wouldn’t worry too much if you are in black bear country. The only (near) incident I had was when I was hiking in NM and we saw Momma bear to the right and heard Baby bear to the left. At which point we ran. A few days later another bear ransacked a campsite nearby and we had to clear out. Other than that, I’ve never had a problem.

    I assume you know a lot about living in bear country, but there is a lot to know and simple ways to avoid a confrontation. Bears are a lot like people. It is easy to avoid a confrontation by staying alert and cautious. Unfortunately, it is very hard to diffuse a situation with a bear. Or run away.

    • avatarLevi B says:

      First you say you wouldn’t worry, then give 2 encounters where a gun clearly could have been necessary. Black bears are generally skittish, but they are also still wild animals. Saying not to worry about black bears is akin to the anti’s stance that you should just avoid “bad areas” if you want to stay safe. No: if you want to stay safe, keep something with you sufficient for stopping any conceivable threats you might encounter. Also, wear your seat belt, look both ways before crossing the street, and don’t run with scissors.

    • avatarAnonymous says:

      Just to clarify for other would be readers. I was taught for years by my dad and grandpa who grew up in southern Oregon in the 50s surrounded by black bears. I’ve also read a couple books and magazine articles that covered the previous 50 years of that magazines bear encounter articles, however rare they might be. You should never turn your back quickly and run away from a bear. You should slowly backup and make no sudden movements. Also this part is conjecture from what they used to tell me cause we used to camp a lot in bear country. Black bears in their opinions tend to be more dangerous than brown ones for this reason. They don’t care about you unless they are hungry. Brown bears will sometimes just play with you, smack you around a bit. I understand being in the middle of a cub and her mother might be a special situation but still shouldn’t bolt like that. I’m happy it turned out well.

  11. avatarAznMike says:

    “Which is why Inspector Harry Callahan shot his 629 in double action”, wait, I thought Inspector Callahan carried a Model 29?

  12. avatarDerek says:

    *Puts on NitPick Cap*

    Inspector Callahan carried and used a Model 29. Not a 629.

    • avatarJim Barrett says:

      And in the original version of this review, I pointed out that fact. In the interest of space, Dan trimmed a lot from the original text including that.

    • avatardave says:

      when DH first started filming no mod 29s could behad so a mod 25 in 45 colt was used
      even though harry carrie a 6″ 29 for real close ups and shots for effect a 8 3/8 ” gun was used only at the end of filming and in later movies did they use a mod 29
      this comes from triva facts about the DH movies

  13. avatarAnon in CT says:

    Cool. I recently shot .357 and .44 Magnums for the first time (Ruger Blackhawk SAs). Very neat, though my accuracy with the .44 was not great. I really liked the .357, especially one-handed (wasn’t prepared to try that on the .44).

  14. avatarDaveM says:

    29-4 with 5″ barrel and unfluted cylinder with Pachmayer decelerator grips
    Diamond D Guides Choice chest holster
    Hornady 300 gr XTP or Garrett 310 gr Defender
    Both loads around 1100 fps, much hotter is no fun at all and hand joints will ache for days.

    • avatarDaveM says:

      The 29-4 mentioned above is kind of pretty for a woods/fishing gun and with only 500 made does have some collector value.
      I am looking for a used 629-? with 5″ barrel which I think is ideal length
      Any suggestions ?
      Live in CA so Gunbroker etc might not work, only 629-6 is on the “approved” list

    • avatarDaveM says:

      Looking for pre lock 629-? with 5″ barrel
      I know that the – is a change, which of the pre lock series is considered the best ?

  15. avatarDon says:

    I have a 6″ 629 and a 3″ 629. They are my favorite guns, and extremely versatile. I have smooth wooden grips on both of them (thinner grips, like “Miculek” style).

    I reload for them and use them both for bullseye style shooting and the 3″ barreled one for IDPA style shooting as well. I mirror my 1911 bullseye load for in the 3″ 629, 4.2 gr. Unique under a 200 gr. SWC. This extremely light load coming out of a heavy steel revolver is impeccably accurate. You can conduct surgery with this load in this gun. For IDPA style shooting I use 4.5 grains of Titegroup under a 240 grain SWC. I also make actual magnum loads but I don’t usually push the limit, Sticking at 10 grains of Unique for a “soft” magnum and up to 18.5 grains of 2400 with a 240 grain SWC (hard cast lead alloy) for a true magnum.


    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      That’s a lot of Unique. Does it still burn dirty with such big charges, or does it start to get a little cleaner? I shoot a bit of Unique through my .45LC Blackhawk (with a decent factory trigger, FWIW) but the gun looks like I found it in a soot factory afterwards.

      • avatarDon says:

        Oh, it’s dirty… After about 200 of them you look like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. I actually enjoy cleaning my guns though so I don’t mind, and I do like the smoke and the smell of Unique. You can do up to 13 grains of unique in a .44 rem mag with with lighter bullets if you really wanted to (I don’t however!). That’s one of the reasons I like .44 mag so much. You can make it do whatever you want to, from 4.2 grains of bullseye to 13 grains of unique, depending on what your intended application is.


        P.S. Blackhawks are awesome. The trigger on mine is excellent and I’ve done nothing to it but shoot it a ton.

  16. avatarSoutherner says:

    With the introduction of the 629, S&W made a major error by not reducing the grip frame down to the “K” size round butt used on the K, L and X frame revolvers. The result was continuing the excessive trigger reach of the N frame for double action use by most handgunners.

    • avatarDon says:

      The trigger reach for DA is indeed problematic on N frames if you use grips which cover the backstrap like Pachmayrs. I don’t however think the N-frame grip frame is too large itself. If you are having problems there are much better open backstrap grip options. Hogue monogrips for the N frame as well as miculek competition grips made by BANG are perfectly comfortable, on par with a 1911 grip in size, and smaller than a glock grip (rough comparisons). Try them out on your 629 and you will definitely be happy with the DA reach.


      • avatarSoutherner says:

        I respectfully disagree. Even with open back grip panels of any brand, the N-frame round butt has a substantially longer trigger reach than any other S&W revolver – including the massive X frame. Excessive trigger reach prevents centering the first distal joint of the index finger on the face of the trigger. This is fatal to optimum leverage for trigger control necessary in accurate rapid double action work.
        For those with larger hands, closed backstrap revolver stocks can be easily fitted. For those with “average’ hand sizes, optimum DA trigger reach can only be found by abandoning the N frame S&W revolver.

        • avatarDon says:

          Hrm… Maybe I have big hands? I do shoot double action IDPA with mine and I place my first distal joint on the trigger comfortably with open backstrap grips. I think the N frame length of pull is about 3″ and I measure 4″ from the web of my thumb to the first distal joint.


  17. avatarDanP_from_AZ says:

    My wilderness/mountain hiking tool for local excursions.
    Ruger SuperRedhawk Alaskan 2 1/2 inch “snubby” in .454 Casull. 43 ounces.
    Galco holster with a THICK leather cartridge belt.
    Whatever walks in North America is covered. If I can hit it.
    At ease.
    That is all.

    • avatarMontesa_VR says:

      Nice gun, and it has been used successfully to stop bears. It is interesting though, to compare handgun to rifle ballistics. The .44 magnum has roughly half the muzzle energy of a 30-30 or a .243. The .454 comes out of the muzzle about 300 ft. lbs short of a 30-30. Even the mighty .500 S&W is outdone by the lowly 7mm-08.

      The rifle guys talk about the .338 Winchester Magnum as a minimum brown bear gun, but a 30-06 is so much more powerful than any handgun that it’s in class by itself. Anyway, bear spray is probably a better idea.

      • avatarAnon in CT says:

        Well, all that is the difference between hunting the bear from a reasonable distance, with the goal of a clean and humane one-shot kill, and just stopping a bear from hunting you.

      • avatarAlex says:

        except for this summer in Yellowstone, two park rangers hit a charging grizzly with two cans of bearspray and the it still kept coming. Thankfully, it was just interested in playtime rather than dinnertime. Still, playtime cost one ranger something like 16 staples in the leg and 8 stitches in the head. I’ll use bearspray backed up by a hardcast bullet. Unfortunately the Glock 20 and the Smith 629 are too big for my medium sized hands so I guess that bullet will be 180 grains of .357 out of a 4 inch SP101?….I guess if it worked for Dan Wesson against a grizzly…

  18. avatarGS650G says:

    My Super Redhawk is a comparable gun and has scope mounts to boot.

  19. avatarKWAL says:

    I did not see any mention of the lock. Maybe I missed it. Seems that would be an important item to mention since RF had a .357 lock up on him and it was attributed to the lock. Looks like your six inch is a pre lock model. I would either remove the lock or look for a pre lock model if I was shopping.

  20. avatarScuba Steve says:

    Bear Defense is a “beat to death” topic on the internet. Gun people love to talk about it though and express their opinions on the subject. Well, for bear defense, you need a minimum of a 44 Magnum is what most will chime in with. I disagree. You won’t always need a 44 Magnum. You could load up a .357 Magnum with Hard Cast Flat Nose bullets and have a great bear defense gun, but also have more opportunities to practice with it because the ammo is cheaper, shoot .38 Special, etc. I was under the impression that with a Bear Attack, you might have approximately 3 seconds to draw, fire maybe 1 to 2 shots, and kill the bear before it will be on you. It also depends on what type of bear it is. An Alaskan Brown Bear is a different bear type than a black bear generally. I hear most bear defense guns in Alaska are .454 Casulls or a 12 guage loaded with slugs.

    Not discounting this beautiful revolver in this powerful caliber, as I may pick one up myself; although, I would rather shoot and hit the bear with a .22LR than miss with a .44 magnum that I cannot afford to practice with. I wonder what .44 Special ammo is running these days?

    By the way, this gun is an exact copy of the S&W Model 617 in .22LR that I just picked recently and am working on a review for. Would make a great practice gun for this 629 in .44 Magnum.

    • avatarDon says:

      For what it’s worth on the cost of shooting .44 magnum, you can reload light .44 magnum loads with about 7.5 grains of unique under a quality 240 grain hard cast SWC over Federal primers for about 7 bucks a box (50 rounds). If you are thinking about getting a .44 one, definitely get into reloading. In about 10 boxes of factory ammo you’ve already spent enough to buy all of the reloading equipment you need plus the components to build 10 boxes of your own .44 practice loads if you shop around and collect used brass.


    • avatarJim Barrett says:

      Believe it or not, I find that I can practice with my S&W 624 snub in .38 special thus keeping costs down. The double action trigger feel of both guns are relatively close to each other although the 629 does have a longer reach. As for recoil, the 624 is a much lighter gun (about 15 oz), so the subjective feel of both weapons is relatively close. It is actually more comfortable shoot the 629 than it is the shoot the 624, plus, if you can hit something with a 2.5″ barreled 624, you will have no problems hitting it with the 6″ barrel on the 629.

      As for what to use on the bear, the fact is that whether you miss with a .44 or hit with a .22, the result is going to be the same – you are going to be lunch. Bears are not tiny targets and if they are moving towards you in a straight line, they are not that hard to hit – you just don’t have a lot of time to shoot. A hit on a bear in most places with a .44 is going to slow them down somewhat – presumably giving you time to place a more accurate follow-up shot. With a .22 or other small caliber, your shot is going to have to be a lot more accurate if you hope to stop the bear.

      As for the Internet “experts”, I would tend to agree that there are a lot of opinions out there, however there are some truisms – one being that you should shoot the largest caliber you can handle. I can handle a .44 both in terms of recoil and ammo cost since I reload, so there is no need for me to drop to a .357. Secondly, while there is a fair amount of debate over whether the .357 is truly powerful enough, there is considerably less debate over whether the .44 magnum is. With that in mind, I’ll be erring on the side of caution.

    • avatarNichevo says:

      1-2 shots? Yeah, okay…This is a BEAR! You know, Rrowr!? Teeth and claws? Never BTDT myself, but I surely see myself emptying the piece then fumbling wildly for the reload if possible. If I ever saw a bear IRL I suppose I would want a grenade. I see no scenario where a bear is within my range of effect, charging, I shoot once or twice, and PAUSE TO EVALUATE EFFECT? This isn’t a movie. If I’m pausing it’s because there’s no effect whatsoever and I need to change my aim and stop missing. That bear scared me to death and I’m shooting till I’m not afraid any more. Just like I told the jury ;)

      Also, in terms of concern about reaction time, I wonder if a .44 snubbie is the way to go. Ported perhaps. Faster to bring into action, faster followup shots and again, this is bear defense not bear hunting. OTOH more MV with the long barrel. OT third hand, then I guess you should carry a Desert Eagle or other autoloader if you want max ballistic efficiency.

      Also, to reflect: 1200 FPE is about what you get out of the old 55-grain pill in the 5.56mm, if memory serves. Would you rather have a 629 or an AR?

  21. avatarJim Farmer says:

    The .44 Magnum has two advantages over the .357: handgun hunting of big
    game and protection against bear. A .44 Magnum, and perhaps more so a
    .454 Casull, is best suited for Alaska. Yet for the lower 48 states I’ll keep the
    .357 Magnum. Reason: Amply powerful for defense against predatory feral
    humans, practical for informal target shooting, and also for hunting small
    game: rabbit and squirrel. Even for dispatching vermin: raccoon, skunk, possum,
    etc. For small game hunting and dispatching vermin a .38 Special remains amply
    powerful. The 148 grain lead target wadcutter is desirable for such, even for
    butchering livestock. Considering a .357 Magnum will chamber and fire .38 Special
    ammo, is generally lighter to carry in both a belt and shoulder holster, and remains
    a versatile handgun for the average citizen who owns only one handgun ,I’d elect to
    choose the .357. However, if I were working, fishing, hiking, or hunting in Alaska
    or in bear country (Grizzly for instance) then I’d choose the .44 Magnum. It takes
    a seasoned and practiced person to learn to master a .44 Magnum vs. a .357 which
    can utilize .38 Special ammo. Those are my thoughts.

    • avatarScuba Steve says:

      +1 – Just because the author of this review can handle the 44 magnum does not mean everyone can. Plus, whoever may be with you while hiking or whatever, should be able to handle the same gun in the same caliber you are carrying. Something may happen to you out there in the wilderness and someone may have to step in and take over the protective role. My comparison between the 44 magnum and the .22lr was intended to prove a point, which is if I can handle a less powerful but still suitable caliber for the task at hand or purpose behind why I am carrying it, then that is what I would advocate. Ammunition selection is even more important – hard cast flat nose bullets is what is recommended for bear defense.

      Bottom Line – you pick your bear defense gun, pick your caliber, pick your ammo, hopefully practice as much as you can given a time table, and hope for the best if you ever come face to face with a bear and have to kill it. You simply won’t have time at that moment to think that you should have selected a bigger caliber.

    • avatarJames says:

      With a .44 mag revolver (S&W 629-5), you could also use .44 spl ammo.

  22. avatarDan says:

    for bear defense i’d rather have a 45-70 levergun.

  23. avatarMike says:

    I couldn’t bear all the puns in this article, other than that great review.

  24. avatarJim says:

    Gosh. We are all so afraid of bears. Need a big gun and big big gun and more big big ammo. Wish I could carry an AA12 on my walks in the woods. I was so scared of bears.

    Then I got online and learned there were 7 fatal bear attacks on the entire North American continent from 2000 to 2010.

    The four brown bear fatalities all occurred in national parks. The three black bear fatalities consisted of two old ladies and a guy who had been cited for animal abuse and had his license to keep exotics revoked for keeping an abused and starving black bear in a cage – guess the bastard got what he deserved – too bad the starved bear had to die.

    Meanwhile, looking at crimes by people (just in the USA – not counting Canada) we get about 16,000 to 17,000 murders (not counting all other forms of homicide) per year during that decade. So roughly 160,000 murders in the same time frame. If you look at violent crimes and rapes you are looking at over 1M violent crimes (excluding rape, property crimes, and murder) and roughly 90-100,000 rapes per year.

    So let’s see – 7 bear attacks on the whole continent during the decade v. roughly 1 million rapes, 10 million incidences of violent crime, and 160,000 murders by people. Huh. 7 by bears (or 6 if you consider circumstances) versus 11,160,000 by people (not counting Canada).

    Think I’ll buy a lottery ticket and stick with my home defense gun :)

    • avatarAnon in CT says:

      Even a non-fatal bear attack can be pretty ugly.

      I actually grew up with bears raiding our garbage cans and meandering through the yard every spring. These were black bears, and generally not prone to attack, but you still want to avoid getting between a mom and her cubs.

      Black bears would generally rather avoid you, so make sure to make some noise, bring along a dogs, etc. and likely you’ll never see them. But it still doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Methinks the author was looking for an excuse to get the .44 – and since his wife bought the story, more power to him

      • avatarScuba Steve says:

        Most of the stuff you will read about bear defense on the internet is really for entertainment and of little practical value.

  25. avatarMax says:

    The “29″ reached the high mark (accuracy) with the 629 DX. Yeah. Blue looks good, but SS is far more practical. SS would not be a good tacti finish, but then a .44 wheelgun is not tacti to begin with.

  26. avatarterry says:

    I used to collect Model 29`s,and had a total of around 4o of them in my lifetime. The engineering change 5`s are OK,but the older ones should have never been chambered for the 44 Magnum.I have seen them shoot loose in less than 400 factory rounds,and I have never seen one that didnt have burrs raised on the cylinder locking recesses.Up to change #5,the locking recesses seem to be added as an afterthought.In my opinion, the N frame Smith is fine with the 41 Magnum,but is too weak for the .44

  27. avatarRick Kozisek says:

    Had a smith m29-8-3/4″ buddy swapped me for a m629. liked the 29 bluing much not the SS. Both are good shooters. Anyone who complains about recoil or handling should buy a toy gun. Both tools are comfortable to use.Very reliable
    wimps beware these tools require some muscles no diiferent than a bag of spuds.
    This is a mans gun.

  28. avatared mcd says:

    i am looking for a model 629 with a 6″barrel. for fishing and a side gun for elk main concern so far is protecting the dogs from the occasional wolves in the river bottom in winter.i need a tool,not a show piece,price is a huge concern but would consider ruger or blued gun.any sellers?

  29. avatareli says:

    Just reload on the head about 1000 rounds a week and fire the same.u will do fine. The 629 with a 8and38 in will b fine. 2000 rounds a week will b much better.I have been shooting the 629 4 22 years.

  30. avatarDonnie says:

    I have owned a .44 629 with a 8inch barrel for years I use old computers for targets turned sideways I think they are about chest size I hit them at will at 100 yards.

  31. I had already seen “Dirt Harry” in 1974, and KNEW I had to HAVE , THAT GUN!!! I was 12 years old!!! After the Movie, the price skyrocketed, to 3 times the retail price, I would Never Own One! My Grandfather was a “Gun Guy”, my parents were NOT! He taught me to Re-Load at 8. I studied, and knew “what the Hell I was doing” by 12. Ive Re-Loaded Ammo ever since. Im 50 now… Durring the summer of 1978, I still secretly yearned for a Model 29! I took Summer Job outside Morro Bay, CA., as a Ranchers Helper. I Worked my butt off, and Learned so much from that man. He knew I was a “Gun Kid”, and my “Duties” included, at the end of the day, hed give me a couple boxes of .22 shells, and his rifle, to walk the 140 acres, and shoot Ground Squirrels. He would pay me .10 cents per tail, bonus,on top of my meager wage. I made more $$$ in squirrels than wage! At the end of summer, and it was time for me to go back to school, for reasons to this day, I dont know, He was unable to pay me what he owed me. He offered me a propposition, and came from the back room with a Walnut Box. He gave it to me, and I opened up. It was a SW Model 29-2, 8″,. .44 Magnum Handgun!!!! He then handed me a box of 47 shells. Said he” fired 3 rounds, and had NO use for it!”, and wanted to know, if we were square..Ive had this gun for 35 years now, and it is 2nd ONLY to the Python, reguarding fit and finish. Beautifully Hand Made, unlike the current production. I will ONLY part with it (it has survived 2 marriages) in Death!

    • avatarSandyFish says:

      GREAT story!! My Dad WAS a gun guy, but only let the boys shoot. They all hunted for dinner and the girls cooked! ha! The first time I fired a weapon was in the Navy. Didn’t really care too much for the auto but I did get a ribbon at the firing range. Then I got my hands on a 357. I’ll take a revolver any day!! Today my Dad actually has one of MY shotguns on loan. He likes it better than his. How things change…

  32. avatarJanet L. says:

    I have a 629 Mountain Gun – The 4″, short shroud version.

    It shoots beautifully, has one of the very best triggers I’ve EVER encountered in a factory gun and (with .44 Special, or Cowboy loads) shoots easily and accurately.

    Now with serious hunting or self-defense loads it gets what some writers might call a might snappy – in other words the grip makes your hand hurt when it goes bang.

    But at that, at a distance I’d be shooting Mr. (or more likely Ms.) Bear, I think the adrenaline would be enough I wouldn’t notice ’till after Mr Bear was dead and the Rangers called. Of course, getting it sighted in with those hot loads will be a major pain in the hand. . .

    Now, I’ve shot a Super Red Hawk, and it’s just enough heavier it really is a two-hands ONLY gun for me – three pounds at arm’s length, actually extending out beyond arm’s length is more than I can do, at least if it requires more precision than waving it around for exercise. The N-frame Smiths I can shoot one handed, not nearly as well as two handed, but I can get it on the target. . . That said, my all-time favorite centerfire target pistol is a model 25-2, 6″ barrel .45acp. An amazingly accurate gun.

    Too bad the thing can’t fit in my usual purse. . . Though I have to admit, it’s heavy enough I really wouldn’t want to carry it around all the time, but. . .

    • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The N frames are all heavy enough that even a guy my size doesn’t like packing them around all day.

      I wish that S&W would put out the 696 in .44 Special again. That would be a good carry revolver.

      S&W single action triggers are supposed to be about 2.5 to 2.75 pounds (from the factory) and the double action pull should be about 12 pounds. They’re very nice triggers. The double action trigger pull can be made smoother (but not that much lighter) by polishing the sliding surfaces in the lockwork – this is called an “action job.”

  33. avatarPatrick says:

    I have owned a S&W 629 since 1991 and I first started using Federal 240g 44-mag ammo until one day, an “old timer”-gunsmith/dealer recommended (44-specials) for “regular use”/target shooting and Winchester 44-magnum, 210-silvertips for “full force” and accuracy. The 210-silvertips cost a little more, but VERY well worth it and in firing the 210-silvertips, you and hear and feel the difference. I also have a S&W 4006, 40-cal. auto and I prefer the 629-44 for reliability.

  34. avatarDan Ess says:

    Why would I want to shoot 44 Special ammo for practice when it costs about the same as 44 magnum ammo and there are not as many choices available? Seems to me, if I want to be able to handle the weapon safely and accurately, I should shoot ammo similar to what I plan to use for self defense. If I am shooting a less powerful round, then I am not learning to handle recoil nor follow up as needed with the more powerful magnum loads. I shoot a 629 Talo 3″ 44 Magnum. I generally practice with 240′s, either S&B, Fiocchi, PMC or Federal. I also run some lightweight rounds to stay in tune, Hornady 180′s, 200′s, 225′s and usually finish with some 300′s. The 180′s are a Real Blast ! !

  35. avatargreg says:

    Kruger krh-444 not as crisp on the trigger as s&w.but try a steady diet of 300 grain buffalo bore on a s& way I live in Alaska ruger any day of the week.

  36. avatarSandyFish says:

    There’s a song with a line that goes something like, “never would’a loaded up a 44 and put myself behind a jailhouse door, if it hadn’t been for love”. Can’t stop thinking about a new pistol for days after I hear it!
    I had a 357 yrs ago, “traded” it for a 9mm – BIG mistake! I’m a revolver girl and that’s that! I knew when I met my future husband we would be married – he owned a 357! We’re going on 7 years now. By then I had sold the 9mm at the local range & only had a shot gun. We shared the 357 until last Christmas, he surprised me a LCR 38, with a “fancy” laser sight. (NO! not the pink grip) He says it’s more my size (5’2, 110 soaking wet). If it a FUN little devil to shoot, but I still eye the 357 and am really aching for a 44. Christmas is only four months away…

  37. avatarvallehombre says:

    Some have commented about bear threats as justification for a 44 carry option. In NM and CO backcountry I’ve met a few black bears and one was spitting close, since they can be very quiet when checking you out. With the possible exception of sow and cub or diseased animals situations black bears are like skunks in that you can talk to them if you have to. Really. Very rarely is there a need to kill the animals.

    That being said I have a Ruger and a scoped Marlin in 44 cal. simply because if I shoot “something” I want it to stay shot. And a 44 mag will certainly do that.

  38. avatarPaula Audette says:

    I am a proud owner of the S&W 629. I bought it about 12 years ago when it was a lot cheaper than it is now. I bought this gun for protection out in the Cascades, where I often hike or find myself off trail. After a few years of occassionally running into black bear, poachers (elk, bear and who knows what else?) and the odd marijuana plantation, I got sufficiently scared that I thought that it might be a good idea to have a good weapon to take down a bear or a person in one shot if need be. I talked to my male friends at work, including a couple who regularly hunt in Alaska, and also the guys at the local gun shop, and all of them recommended this gun as a highly reliable, unlikely to jam, manageable gun for me. I am a 130 lb 5’8″ tall woman in her forties, so I had to shoot the gun a few times at the range before I decided that I could use the gun effectively. The one I bought was even better than the range gun, and I am very happy with it. The ammo is expensive, and the gun itself is basically a solid piece of steel with a rubber handle on it. The sights are lovely, and the gun has never jammed. My only complaint is that the cylinder release lever gets stuck on occasion, and I have to use my knife or a nail or something to move it sufficiently to slide the cylinder open for reloading. I’ve cleaned this mechanism as much as humanly possible, and re-lubbbed it, but it still sticks when I haven’t used the gun for a long time. Some day I’ll probably have to take it into a gun smith and have them fix it right.

    The recoil isn’t all that bad. If only the bullets didn’t cost a million dollars each, it would be perfect!

    • avatarBrian says:


      Check the cartridge ejecting rod. The rod is threaded and over time it can start backing out. When it backs out to a certain point, it becomes too long for the cylinder to be opened. The rod is reverse threaded, so you have to turn it counter clockwise to tighten it. If you find this to be the cause, purchase a small bottle of loctite thread adhesive. Purchase the Blue (medium strength) not the Red (maximum strength) loctite. Place a drop of blue loctite on the threads, retighten rod. You don’t have to use loctite, but it will keep it from backing out on its own. Let me say again, Don’t use Red loctite. It’s considered permanent adhesive and you’ll have to use a propane torch heat your cylinder to make it release which will damage the springs and possibly weaken the cylinder.

      • avatarBrian says:

        When I said ” have to use a propane torch heat your cylinder to make it release”. I meant the heat will make the loctite “release” it’s hold on the threads but such heating will damage your firearm.

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