I’ve long wanted a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, but the considerable size and heft of their marvelous Model 29 and 629 revolvers have been among the factors that have kept me from ever owning one. S&W’s engineers have put the mighty .44 Magnum cartridge on a diet, and shoehorned it into their medium-large L frame. They had to shed one round to make it work, but the 5-round Model 69 should be an ideal wilderness sidearm for hunters and fishermen . . .
After all, this big-bore is powerful, accurate, reliable and weatherproof. It’s also a half-pound lighter than a 5″ barrel Model 629, so your pants won’t droop quite so low when you wear it. In fact, the empty Model 69 tips the scales at 37 ounces empty, which is an ounce and change lighter than an empty all-steel Government Model 1911, or even an L-Frame 4″ Model 686 in .357 Magnum.
The Smith & Wesson L-Frame was developed to handle a steady diet of full-power .357 Magnum rounds. The earlier Model 19, 65 and 66 revolvers were built on the medium-sized K-Frame. They remain elegant and classic handguns, but their svelte frames lacked the strength to fire thousands of rounds of heavy .357 Magnums without stretching and eventually going out of timing. The Model 69’s frame is milled from forged stainless steel, instead of investment-cast stainless like Ruger frames.
But the Model 69 ain’t no .357. Will this L-Frame be sturdy enough to handle thousands of rounds of full-house .44 Magnums? I can’t say, although I doubt many owners will ever spend enough ammo to learn for themselves. The Model 69 is clearly optimized for lighter and more comfortable carry, rather than indestructible brute strength. If hot-rod handloading is your hobby, you don’t want a ‘lightweight’ .44 anyway because you need a Super Redhawk.
Like all larger Smiths, the Model 69 has a hefty price tag: $850 MSRP, with a street price in the low-mid $700s.