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Image courtesy S&WI’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.

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      • Yup I see that. Would love to hear the Smith execs try to justify continued incorporation of this lock. Hard to believe the contract when they bought the company still requires it. That there is no termination or buyout that would end this stupidity.

      • I am in no way interested until that lock is gone. There are between 5 and 8 S&W revolvers that I would buy if they didn’t have the lock. Until the, S&W is missing their chance to make a profit off of a huge segment of the market. I’ll buy a GP100 MC instead this year.

    • Removing the lock is a ten-minute job. I know because I’ve done it. And it doesn’t leave a hole in the side plate since only a small, internal leaf is removed.

    • Seriously? I think you forgot the “/sarc off” tag…. the 44spl will fit just fine in a 44mag chamber…..the whole point of the 44mag cylinder boring is so that the… nevermind…. just look it up.

      This looks like a great revolver for a first 44Magnum, light enough to carry, light enough to save on the ammo bills….

      • I think he wanted a .44Spl only cylinder so he could get back that sixth hole in the wheel. .44Spl is shorter case length than .44 Mag, a la .38Spl/.357 Magnum.

        • “I think he wanted a .44Spl only cylinder so he could get back that sixth hole in the wheel. .44Spl is shorter case length than .44 Mag, a la .38Spl/.357 Magnum.”

          That makes no sense since the diameter of 44 Special is the same. Buy a 24, 624, 29 or 629 if you want a gun with six shots.

        • .44spl being shorter wouldn’t make it any easier to squeeze a 6th round into an L frame. The diameter is the issue, not the length. Besides which, I would think that having both a 6-shot and 5-shot cylinder wouldn’t work because of timing issues.

          Dangit Tom, you beat me to it.

        • I don’t think it’s possible to have a 6 shot cylinder and a 5 shot for the same gun.

        • I can’t say for certain, but it is possible that one could fit the sixth hole back using the 44 special. The pressures being lower, one could afford less thickness between the cylinders and to the outside diameter of the cylinder. This may make enough room to add that extra hole.

        • Paul G,

          You are correct. The greatly reduced pressure of .44 Special may allow thinner chamber/cylinder walls and thus 6 chambers in the same size cylinder.

        • @Uncommon_sense: It still would not fit. My math is a little rusty, but beginning with the rim size on a .44spl (0.514″) it’s fairly simple geometry to determine the diameter of the cylinder needed to contain 6 rounds (~1.7″). An L frame cylinder is 1.56″ in diameter. It does not matter how thin you make the cylinder walls, you cannot get the rounds closer together than the point where their rims butt against one another.

        • No, I’d just like to shoot .44 Specials without going through the issues of cleaning the copper/lead fouling out of the front of the chambers in the cylinders.

      • S&W has made a 44 Spec medium frame revolver. Take a look at the model 396 you’ve got it. However, I don’t know if they ever made a non-lightweight variant.


        • Yes, I know. They’re thin on the ground in the secondary market. If I were going to CCW a .44 Special, the 396 would be my choice.

        • Wait a second. Might it be possible to to just rig it up for belt feed? Wow that is plum brilliant! I’m gonna see if I can patent that idea. LOL

  1. I was lusting after the S&W Model 629 and the new Model 69 is definitely attractive. Will it have any problems being fed 44 Special? 44 Magnum is too powerful to be practical IMHO.

    • Any .44 magnum revolver will shoot any .44 special load. The only issue could be that if you shoot enough of them you could get a build up of lead, copper, soot, etc. in the cylinder that could prevent the longer .44 mag loads to fit all the way in. Simple solution is just to use the cleaning brush on the cylinder.

      By far the most accurate hand gun I’ve ever fired is a Ruger Blackhawk .44 magnum. Don’t expect quick follow up shots, but then you won’t need any anyway.

      • “Don’t expect quick follow up shots, but then you won’t need any anyway.”


        This is a really big advantage that I think a lot of people overlook. I guarantee that the right load/ammunition coming out of that revolver will immediately incapacitate a violent human attacker if you can hit him/her just about anywhere in the chest. If you have a single armed attacker, the .44 Magnum’s recoil is no liability whatsoever as long as you can shoot where you intend to.

        I have a hard time seeing .44 Magnum recoil as a liability even if you have multiple armed attackers. Suppose you have a semi-auto 9mm pistol and you face three armed attackers. Can you get one shot into all three attackers in one second? Maybe with lots of practice. But those are single shots with a 9mm and even if you shoot them in the heart with that 9mm, they can still shoot back at you for at least 10 seconds. So, now you would have to consider trying to double-tap (or even triple tap) all three attackers to have any chance of incapacitating them quickly. How long will it take someone shooting a 9mm semi-auto pistol to put between 6 and 9 shots on three targets? I have to think that putting just one .44 Magnum bullet into three targets is just about as fast, but those bullets are orders of magnitude more effective.

        • I kind of agree, but I look at it from the other side of the coin, sort of. If you’re going to limit yourself to just 6 rounds (or 5) you should be much more concerned with the mythical ‘one shot stop’. Revolvers are not particularly compact, a 4 inch revolver is about an inch longer than a Beretta 92 (or 1911) with a 4.9″ barrel, albeit with a more rounded profile on top. Chop an inch and a half off the barrel and most .357 loads won’t hit with much more energy than a good +p 9mm and you’re giving up 10 or 12 rounds in the gun. The .44 magnum would be a good trade off, but has a few down sides of it’s own. For one, .44s are LOUD. I think you’d do less damage to your ears shooting the whole magazine out of your 9mm without plugs than one round from a .44. Another issue is what the local DA is going to think of you running around like Dirty Harry looking to ‘blow a man’s head clean off’. Then there’s the speed of reloads. Over-penetration. Tactically a high capacity 9mm probably still makes more sense.

        • There have been numerous studies which show that 9mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, .44 spl, .44 mag and .357 mag all have about the same chance of stopping an attacker with one shot.

          The problem with a .44 mag as a SD weapon is that it will blow
          Right through the target rather than expand causing multiple wound channels;
          and it will not stop inside their body like a weaker cartridge. It has infinity more penetration than a 9mm of course, but that is actually a liability with a target as thin and weak as a human.

          Personally, I’ll take my 9 (or a .45) for two-legged threats and a .44 mag for four-legged threats and hunting.

        • Definitely good points Gov and Ben,

          In my mind what I picture as the perfect .44 Magnum cartridge for self defense against human attackers may not exist yet. I am picturing a 165 grain bullet which is designed to expand “properly” with a muzzle velocity of 1600 to 1800 fps. “Properly” means that bullet will expand as much as necessary to prevent over-penetration just like other bullets are designed to do. Given the size, weight, and velocity, that could mean the bullet has to expand to 1.0 inches or more. Who knows, maybe that isn’t even possible.

          I also have to wonder how loud such a cartridge would be when fired from a four or five inch barrel. As the Governor pointed out, it could quite literally be deafening.

        • I know I once shot two rounds from a 6.5″ .357 without plugs and my ears were ringing for 2 hours. There were a couple of walls for the sound to bounce off of but you’d likely have that in a self defense situation. I can’t imagine a .44 being quieter but I wear plugs and muffs now.

          I would definitely use 180gr or lighter for self defence. Energy alone does not necessarily mean penetration. A 5.56 will hit with more power than most .44s but even the 55gr FMJs usually won’t penetrate more than 12″.

        • It all depends on the bullet and the load. There are .44 Mag loads which fragment violently shortly after impact (e.g. Buffalo Bore’s “Deer Grenade”) – those will make a huge mess of anything they hit.

      • Which is why I’d like a cylinder chambered for .44 Special.

        When you have to mess about, constantly cleaning the muzzle end of the chambers on a revolver because you’re shooting short cartridges (eg, .38 Spl in a .357, .44 Spl in a .44 Mag), you’ll eventually start to break down the edge at the front of the chamber and possibly widen the chamber mouth. I’d like to avoid that.

        Plus, when one is paid to clean lots of guns, cleaning your own isn’t the pleasant task it is for some of you. I like to do what is necessary to minimize my unpaid work up front.

        • As far as cleaning goes you should clean the cylinder with a brush every time you shoot the revolver regardless of which load you’re shooting. It gets pretty filthy after even a couple cylinders. I don’t and have not yet ever owned a double action revolver, but I take out the cylinder and even clean the center bore with a .22 patch and oil it up every time as well, and it’s always filthy. I don’t see any disadvantage to firing the shorter rounds unless you’re very negligent about cleaning and then you might just find out that the cylinder won’t close (or turn with SA) or might be hard to eject with the magnum loads. Nothing wrong, you gun is just filthy.

          As far as damaging the lip in the front of the case, I can’t see that ever happening either. The cylinders are bored a little big so there is no drag and the .44 magnum’s case is only 1/10th inch longer and 1/8th inch with the .357, so the bullet is still protruding into the bore. The only way the bullet could strike the lip would be if the bullet was loaded all cocked or something.

          The biggest downside is that the slower non magnum bullets will hit considerably higher than the magnum loads (because the magnum loads leave the barrel so much faster that the gun hasn’t pitched as much as the special loads). I solved this on the Blackhawk by painting a white bar on the front site with nail polish. The light .44 special load hit at point of aim by using the top of the front sight, the +P special loads and the 240gr. magnum loads hit at POA using the top of the white bar and the 180gr magnum load work with the bottom of the white bar. Much easier than adjusting the sights all the time.

        • No I haven’t shot any cast lead bullets. You still need to clean your gun though. If cleaning the lead fouling out is too much of a drag, don’t shoot them.

  2. Fishermen? Those are some aggressive and huge fish!

    I think this would be more of a concealed carry cannon than something I would bring fishing.

    If you need more than EDC for fishing, then I hope you’re getting some good fish.

    • Fishermen? Those are some aggressive and huge fish!

      Not fish, Craig. Gators. Snakes, too, maybe, since there are some 18′ Burmese Pythons lounging around the ‘Glades these day, and I’m not sure that a .410 revolver would do the business on one of them.

      • Ralph, I’m glad I fish in Rhode Island where the biggest danger is falling off a rock into Narragansett Bay. The nice thing is, no dangerous animals.

        • I used to fish the Bay when I lived in RI. The most dangerous thing wasn’t falling off a rock (the exception being the rocks at the end of Newton Avenue). The biggest danger was the morons who couldn’t handle their sail boats. And for them, I think that a .44 Mag is just too much gun.

    • I think he was referring to people who fish in bear country that would need something with a little more ass than your average CC piece.

    • As an unfortunate (and temporary) Floridian, the only time I can open carry is fishing, and since I’ve got a few months before I can get my CCW, it’s pretty much my only chance to carry outside my car. I’d love to get my hands on one of these lil gals for gators and water moccasins.

    • Craig,

      Millions of people go fishing in locations where there are feral/wild hogs, black bears, brown (grizzly) bears, and even protective moose with yearlings. A good sized hog or black bear can easily weigh over 350 pounds and people have shot and killed specimens as large as 600 pounds. Of course brown bears and moose can weigh-in over 1000 pounds.

      Your average concealed carry firearm in .38 Special, .357 Magnum, 9mm, .40 S&W, and even .45 ACP are inadequate for such beasts. Will they kill such critters? Sure, eventually. But the wounded critters will still be able to kill you before they die. The challenge is incapacitating a charging hog or black bear with one shot. And for that, you need the largest gun possible. Believe it or not, the .44 Magnum cartridge is potentially even marginal for charging 600 pound hogs and black bears. And .44 Magnum is definitely marginal for a charging brown bear or a 1000 pound moose.

      • An extended family member of mine spends half the year working in Alaska. He says that a lot of the guys that go into Brown Bear and Grizzly country carry rifles on the order of .300 Win Mag or 12 ga shotguns loaded with 3″ Magnum Slugs.

        • Charles,

          No question about it, there is no handgun that will definitely put down a large charging grizzly. Revolvers in .44 Magnum and .454 Casull will definitely kill a grizzly fairly fast, but not fast enough to stop them from mauling you before they expire.

          I am not sure which long guns are best suited for that job. The front runners in my mind are a 12 gauge with slugs or a rifle in .45-70 government shooting hot loads with hardcast lead bullets. While .300 Win Mag has plenty of energy, I question the relatively tiny diameter and mass of the bullets.

          I would also consider the best pepper spray that money can buy … although using such pepper spray inside a tent will at best be excruciating and at worst actually kill you. Speaking of a tent, it would be next to impossible to use a long gun inside a tent while a grizzly is mauling you. In that situation a .44 Magnum or .454 Casull revolver might actually be preferable.

        • @Uncommon,

          The .460 Smith and .500 Smith can generate 2800+ FPE out of
          an 8 3/8″ barreled handgun. The big Smith revolvers are too heavy for a hip holster, but can be carried in a shoulder rig. I’ve shot deer with the .454 Casull (240 grain XTP at an advertised 2000 FPS) and a .45-70 with the 325 grain LeverEvolution. All were definitive single shot stops.

          The short version is that the biggest Smith revolver can nearly match heavy .45-70 loads from a rifle. Grizzly and Buffalo bore can hit 3800+ FPE from a 24″ rifle. Muzzle blast, on the other hand, is considerable. The .45-70 from a rifle is loud, but not deafening. The .460 Smith Buffalo Bore from a handgun can cause measurable hearing loss from a single shot.

          I love a good revolver, but they are all freakishly loud. Still, this could be a sweet carry option due to its size, reliably, and power.

        • >> No question about it, there is no handgun that will definitely put down a large charging grizzly. Revolvers in .44 Magnum and .454 Casull will definitely kill a grizzly fairly fast, but not fast enough to stop them from mauling you before they expire.

          Wasn’t there one case where a guy used one of those .454 Ruger Alaskan snubbies to stop a grizzly that was charging him?

  3. That is one interesting revolver. Obviously Smith and Wesson is going for thinner (because the cylinder only holds 5 rounds) and lighter. I wonder if they had concealed carry in mind?

    While those features make carrying it more comfortable than model 629s, it also means the inherently robust .44 Magnum recoil will be even more stout. I’m not sure which is more important, carry comfort or reduced recoil when shooting.

    I love the idea of a .44 Magnum for open carry. I think the ideal revolver for such an application would have a 5 inch barrel, a 6 round cylinder, and weigh around 48 ounces. Sure, it’s a little heavy and thick, but who cares for open carry? And then load it with 180 grain hollow points to reduce the recoil.

    Now if someone made .44 Magnum ammunition in 165 grain hollow points with a muzzle velocity of 1700 fps (assuming a 5 inch barrel), that would be a wildly effective man-stopper at a manageable level of recoil. I have to believe such a load would be even more effective against human attackers than the infamous Federal .357 Magnum 125 grain hollowpoints.

    Of course any .44 Magnum ammunition used to stop human attackers would have to expand properly to avoid over-penetration.

    • “I love the idea of a .44 Magnum for open carry. I think the ideal revolver for such an application would have a 5 inch barrel, a 6 round cylinder, and weigh around 48 ounces. Sure, it’s a little heavy and thick, but who cares for open carry?”
      I agree about the thickness being ok for open carry, but the weight still matters. A 3lb gun is still a 3lb gun whether you conceal it or open carry it.

      • Or 29-4 with 5″ barrel, unfluted cylinder carried in DJ Johnston chest carry with Hornady 300 grain XTPs or Garrett 310 grain

  4. A practical .44 Magnum load in a revolver that’s lighter than it’s .375 Magnum cousins?

    No thanks.

  5. Firing full-on .44 mags from a light-ish revolver sounds painful. .44 Mag recoil from the M629 is manageable; 629 recoil with .44 Spls is absolutely sublime. I’m thinking that most people who buy the 69 will shoot Specials at the range and carry the gun with Mags.

    • That’s the other thing, Ralph, that lots of people here don’t understand.

      OK, so here’s the deal:

      Most of you probably have never actually lit off a “full house” .44 Mag load. Ever. I’m talking the .44 Mag as Elmer Keith envisioned it, not as you actually got it. I have, in my younger (and dumber) days.

      It was a handful, and that was in a 8+” barrel 629 S&W, with comp ports on the barrel near the muzzle.

      Now put it into a smaller framed, lighter revolver and you’d better hang on for the ride, lest you get a serious dent in your skull.

      The .44 Special is a highly capable round, and uses the same pills as a .44 Mag – only at a reduced velocity and pressure. The net:net of the .44 Special is that you can load it to toss a 240gr pill downrange at oh, 900 fps (muzzle) which is right up there with a good .45 ACP or .45 Colt load, neither of which are slouches in the defensive gun game. What more do you need? Really? You could load a .44 Special to about 1,000 fps with a 240gr pill in modern guns – and what more do you need? If you really need more, then go get a rifle. If you’re a serious handgun hunter, then drop all pretenses of using a light five-shot revolver and go get a Freedom Arms or Ruger single-action revolver with the mass and barrel length to do the job right.

      The other thing that I’ve brought up before, and perhaps people have forgotten, is that I have tinnitus. I’m talking about never being able to hear silence again. Not a little ringing in the ears, but a situation where I increasingly have to actively avoid being around high pressure loads in handguns, especially on covered ranges or indoor ranges. When someone shows up with a .357 on a range, and s/he is going to shoot factory .357 ammo, I leave. I have nothing against the person, and I think the .357 is a fine round. It is just that even with custom earplugs in, and David Clark muffs over those, after about six rounds from a .357 or .44 in close proximity, my tinnitus is jacked up to the point I feel like I’ve become Quasimodo.

      Go look up the pressures for .44 Mags, .41 Mags, .357’s, 9×19’s, etc…. and then look up the pressures for .38 Special, .4 Special, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, etc. Lower pressures means less muzzle blast, and lower sound pressures. When people look at the SAAMI pressures for various handgun rounds, they will understand why I like the old rounds – they’re MUCH lower in pressure. We’re talking of about half the pressure for a .44 Special over a .44 Mag (18K vs 36K PSI).=

      To my mind, a well-made, light(er) 5-shot .44 Special has a lot to recommend it as a CCW or all-round “packin’ gun” for the mountains here in Wyoming. I need a “magnum” handgun round these days about as much as I need a head cold.

      • My condolences on your hearing loss. Shooting a deer with a .454 Casull and no hearing protection gave me tinnitus for 2-3 days. It was a running deer which I nicked twice before putting it down for good with a lung shot. Throw in 2 clean misses. Not my best shooting.

        My dad has shot deer with his .44 Mag revolver, and my buddy has taken several with his .357. They don’t hunt with hearing protection. When I’m handgun hunting, I always were SureFire or similar ear plugs. I don’t ever want to touch off a magnum revolver round without hearing protection again. If I do, it’ll be a life or death situation. I have a bit of hearing loss myself.

      • So nice to hear a voice for not-so-magnum. I was greatly relieved when PA made the use of sound-amplifying hearing protection legal when deer hunting. I prefer .45ACP to 9mm and .40 cal simply because the muzzle blast for some reason (max pressure?) does not aggravate my very minor tinnitus. Keeping my hearing is more important than super-gunning: I’ll eventually be a 70- or 80-year-old. I’ll be lucky at that point to hear or see a threat…or game.

        • .45 ACP has a significantly lower MAP (max average pressure) than either 9×19 or .40 S&W.

          .40 S&W is one of the higher pressure semi-auto rounds out there. I find it almost as objectionable as .357, .44 or 10mm. For some reason, .357’s are the worst of the lot to my perception. It’s a sharper, laser-like crack that causes me serious discomfort.

          Here’s a table of SAAMI pressures of many common rounds. NB that the old, slow handgun rounds are so much lower than the modern rounds.

      • “The other thing that I’ve brought up before, and perhaps people have forgotten, is that I have tinnitus. I’m talking about never being able to hear silence again.”

        I suffer the same thing. Some days it is so loud in my ears that I’m surprised other people near me can’t hear it. I also wear plugs AND David Clark muffs when shooting. I’ve been ribbed about it, but I’m just trying to protect what I’ve got left of my hearing.

        • The irony about my tinnitus is that it wasn’t shooting that caused it. It was angle grinders used in welding, running farm tractors with the cab open (or without a cab at all), etc. But the real proximate cause, the thing that tipped me over the edge, was working in a welding shop. Big, loud low-frequency rumbling from air handlers, angle grinders, TIG welders… for four to eight hours a day, week after week.

          The damage on your hearing is cumulative – and one day, you are around something really noisy and when you go to bed that night, your ears are ringing. No big deal, this happens to lots of guys. You go to sleep, wake up the next day and the ringing is gone, right?

          Well, maybe not…

          One day, you wake up and the ringing isn’t gone. And you go through another day, and another night… and wake up on successive mornings and the ringing isn’t leaving. It isn’t getting any softer, either.

          After about a month, it sinks in that you’ll never hear silence again. And most people don’t understand that that really means…

        • Years of being the cut man on the framing crew, tattooing, and friends with loud cars/bikes (one with a dodge 318, Holley 4 barrel carb, and 4″ side pipes…on a van. I don’t remember what silence is beyond *eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee*. I can still hear things that others cannot, but I have a terrible time carrying a conversation with others talking in the background. It can be irritated when I get caught by a new shooter not waiting for the “range hot” call.

      • “Most of you probably have never actually lit off a “full house” .44 Mag load. Ever. I’m talking the .44 Mag as Elmer Keith envisioned it, not as you actually got it. I have, in my younger (and dumber) days.”

        As have I. I suspect I was quite a bit dumber than most when I did it. For a time I had a 329pd, up to that point I was a big bore recoil junkie, Ive shot 500s, 460s, 454s, and owned two 44s, and a few J frame 357s. I took the 329 to the range once. Loaded it up with 44 special, LOVED it, one of the most pleasant to shoots pistols I had ever fired. Next, 180 grain PMC, not to bad. Next was 240 grain Winchester, not pleasant at all, but doable. Next came some Corbon 300 grain loads. These were quite painful and I wished I hadn’t done it. What possessed me to put the 240 grain Keith style loads my uncle had worked up for my Redhawk into that 329 I do not know. What happened next was my ulna came off my carpal bones in my wrist. I sold that gun shortly after. That was two years ago and now at 26 I have rather notable arthritis in my right wrist. I don’t enjoy recoil anymore, those days are over. I was actually after a S&W 624 when I found this pistol. I plan to purchase one as soon as I pay off my 1892 in 44 magnum. I suspect the 69 will make an excellent 44 special. I may get froggy one day and put a few 180 grain magnums in it, but I highly doubt that.

        • Just get a 10mm and practice practice with full power 180gr. Practice makes perfect and 16 rounds of 740 flbs should work better than a 5 shot gun that you can’t practice full power loads. If you can’t handle mag power then buy the SPL!! Practice, practice.

          • There is a pretty substantial difference between “not being able to handle mag power” and not having any desire to be an idiot. If you put full house loads in a 25oz gun its because your an idiot, I know this because I have personal experience doing just that. I can handle a 44 just fine, but putting full on max pressure loads in a gun that light is just foolish. My steel frame guns are quite pleasant to shoot with the modern 44 loads and tolerable with the old school max pressure loads. Regarding a 10mm, I will stick with wheel guns thanks, I detest semi automatics.

  6. This would make a nice companion piece to my Marlin 1894 campfire gun.
    I shoot .44 special as I don’t live in bear country and the .44Mag is a bit much for my wife.

  7. Holy crap, I now know the world is about to end. Remember the the story “9 Billion Names of God “? Talk of this for EDC either open or concealed? We have cycled back 50 years to the late great Elmer Keith ! Next can only be the return of the .41 mag. It too was a gre…..

    • Me too. You’re giving up a round for a smaller and lighter round and getting one that probably shoots much worse than the ones before. Just a bad idea.

      Just get a .357 if you want to go down in weight a bit…

  8. I got a pig tag on my new CA hunting license. A .44 mag that was easy to carry might be a good idea. It would also be a spur to return to reloading. Have to talk about this to my son.

  9. I have a model 65 w 3in barrel. This might be a winner since I may be able to use the same holster.

  10. Imagine a Model 69 with a 3″ barrel. (Way too short to be effective IMHO)

    But it would Chief’s Special on steroids.

    • I was gonna ask for 2.5 inch barrel and short round butt grip, pretty much a .44 mag version of the S&W 696 or 396 Night Guard (but with a steel frame).

      I think doing it in a .44 mag is a good idea too. The .44 special is an old load, so most of the SAAMI spec loads are pretty weak. There are some .44 special +P loads (and even more “Ruger or magnum only” handloads) but I wouldn’t want to risk blowing up my .44 special with them. A .44 mag would eat .44 special +P all day long without a problem, with a high margin of safety.

      And of course, you could always run some the of Hornady .44 mag Critical Defense. It’s a nicely downloaded .44 mag for personal protection – 180 grains at 1200 fps, for about the same punch as a .45 ACP +P. Snappy, but as bad as an S&W Airweight firing 38 +P.

  11. Losing one round in order to be the same size as a .357 is a lousy compromise. If a .357 wont stop it you need to grab your rifle anyway.

    • See my earlier comment about needing to promptly stop 600+ pound charging beasts with one shot. I don’t care what you shoot in a .357 Magnum, the .44 Magnum will do it better on critters that large.

      Let’s compare …

      .357 Magnum:
      .357 inch diameter bullet
      0.1000 square inches frontal surface area
      180 grains
      1200 fps muzzle velocity

      .44 Magnum
      .429 inch diameter bullet
      0.1445 square inches frontal surface area
      300 grains
      1200 fps muzzle velocity

      I’ll take 67% more mass and 45% more frontal area every time if I might be facing a 600+ pound beast.

      • If I am tromping around areas with 600 pd beasts I have my .45/70 Marlin lever action in my hands, not a pistol. But you go ahead with your Dirty Harry gun, to each his own.

        • There’s always a bigger gun, and handguns with massive power can ruin your hearing quickly. I’d take my Marlin XLR into bear country any day, but this .44 might be a sweet backup. YMMV.

  12. Looks like a great idea, but I hate the S&W locks. They do nothing to make anyone any safer and add one more component that can cause a failure. You can secure a revolver with just a padlock around the topstrap or around the triggerguard.

  13. I won’t by a new S&W as long as they continue with that side lock. If/when they eliminate the lock on production grade guns, I will buy at least 5 new S&W revolvers. I bet I’m not alone.

  14. Just bought a Model 60 pro-series Talo edition .38 spl with three inch barrel. Most comfortable, accurate revolver I’ve ever owned, what a gem. It now replaces my 640 as a secondary weapon. Smith & Wesson makes the best revolver on the planet.

    • Sweet, the TALO editions are cool. I read in a gun rag years ago the .38 Spl was responsible for more US casualties than any other caliber.

  15. What? Lightish 44 Mag? My masculine need for more powah’ may compel me to buy my first revolver…for carry none the less. Carrying the most powerful round I can has turned into quite entertaining romantic theatre.

    • I agree with you. I can fire 6 rounds of 220 grain 10mm WNFM gas-checked hard-cast lead much faster than I can fire three .44 magnum rounds, not that I’ve tried the later more than once. I may be revolver-challenged, though.

  16. I thought that investment cast was stronger than milled steel?

    I would really like an article explaining the metallurgy of firearm manufacture, and what we should look for. Every firearm company out there spouts off their three word, 15 syllable manufacturing process as if it is THE best way to make metal a special shape, and I think that the average firearm consumer has no clue what they are hearing.

    • This isn’t a simple task, even for engineers. I could try to write up something, but I know a priori what is going to happen: a bunch of fellow engineers and I will get into debates about very detailed issues, and the rest of the TTAG audience will sigh and mutter “Engineers. The only men on earth who are capable of screwing up a perfectly good erotic dream.” And they’d be correct – we are.

      The problem starts with metal & alloy selection. In guns today, we have basically two families of metals: aluminum alloys and steel alloys. In the past, before “fluid steel” became common, guns were sometimes made from malleable iron and “damascus” steels. That’s a whole ‘nuther level of details, about which there’s a lot of misinformation and nonsense propagated in the gun community. Let’s just say that those who believe that damascus guns will blow up at the slightest whiff of smokeless powder aren’t familiar with the data generated by the proof houses of England for the last 100+ years, and they should probably seek out the writings of W. W. Greener on the subject. But let’s leave that aside for just now.

      The strength requirements of firearms have pretty well been established, and in most applications, 4140 chrome-moly steel alloys are entirely sufficient for receivers/actions or barrels. There are some who are now making receivers/actions for some bolt guns out of 4340, which takes yield strength to a whole new level, but one sacrifices the ability to weld on the material easily – and for what? It isn’t as tho guns competently made from 4140 up and fail for no good reason. 4140 is a very versatile and common steel, and properly executed, there’s no reason to want for anything more in a gun. In stainless steels, 4xx series steels are used for machinability, and in higher-strength applications, 17-4 precipitation hardening steels are found. These aren’t the highest strength stainless steels available, nor are they the most corrosion resistant.

      The issue then proceeds onwards to debates that amuse me the most: “cast vs. forged vs. ‘billet’.” Again, I’ll put in my blanket correction that no one is using “billet” steel or aluminum to make gun parts, they’re using “bar stock,” which has been formed from real, actual billets and then heat treated. The cast vs. forged debate is the one that amuses me the most. There are advantages to both methods. Ruger handguns aren’t seen blowing up or failing, so investment cast guns aren’t crap. Forged receivers (such as one finds on a Garand, M1A and other older guns) are obviously quite good. Those receivers, BTW, are made from 8620 steel or the “War Department” equivalent in the era. The differences in the metallurgy and grain flow in cast vs. forged are where engineers can really start to make people’s heads nod off… but for the firearms consumer, just look at the results of properly cast gun frames: Look at the strength of the Ruger revolvers. They’re hell for stout, and will handle loads so hot that they’d stretch a S&W or Colt frame. Ruger has a whole side-business doing investment casting for other companies, they’re so competent at it:

      There’s certainly nothing wrong with forged receivers or frames, either.

      “Billet” (bar stock” material can be just fine too, depending on the application. The debates about “cast vs. forged vs. bar stock” approach the epoch of their silliness in the AR-15 receiver debates. People want to argue about the strength of an aluminum receiver in an AR-15, where the only parts really under stress are the bolt, bolt carrier and the barrel extension? Really? Ooookay. Whatever floats your canoe.

      In all of the above approaches (cast vs. forged vs. bar stock), it is entirely possible to put weakness into the final product with incompetent machining. Allowing corners to come to a sharp edge, for example, makes for a stress focusing point that can cause the metal, regardless of cast vs. forged vs. bar stock, to start cracking and then failing. At this point, some gun owners or ‘net “experts” will start flinging around pronouncements as to how cast/forged/”billet” metals suck and fail, when in fact an engineer or machinist looking at the failure for causes might point to the incompetence in the machining which allowed the stress point to form.

      Lastly, we have heat treatment. Both aluminum and steel are heat treated, steel especially so. Poor heat treatment protocols have been the the cause of many failures in guns over the years. The failure that started the systematic examination of heat treatment protocols and testing in American arms production was the Springfield ’03 prior to 1922, in s/n’s under 800K. You can read all about this in Hatcher’s Notebook in great detail and learn quite a lot about metallurgy and firearms manufacture right there.

      The upshot of heat treatment is this: improperly done, it can cause even high-dollar guns on which no shortcuts have been taken to fail. An example would be the Krieghoff K-80 failures on the right side of the receiver blowing out that you can see here and there around the ‘net on trap and shotgun websites. The K-80 isn’t a cheap gun – costing around $10K, and it is made by people who have never put out crap. Krieghoff puts out very nice guns and they care very much about quality and reliability of their guns.

      A little mistake in heat treatment, however, can set up a condition where all of that care and attention to detail is for naught, because the fundamental nature of the steel has been lost due to over-heating before the quench. It won’t matter at that point whether you have a cast, forged or bar stock piece of metal. There is such a thing as “too hot” in steel heat treatment, a point beyond which you cannot use the steel any more because you’ve basically ruined it. Blacksmiths have known this for centuries, and engineers caught up with them by about 120 years ago.

      Then we could get off into the rat-hole of MIM parts and a whole lot of other stuff… and then the real face-palming starts.

      Suffice to say, most of the nonsense out in the intertubes about metallurgy in guns is either highly amusing or infuriating, depending on one’s perspective, and I haven’t the patience to dispel such a tidal wave of the stupids all by myself.

  17. I agree wholeheartedly with Dyspeptic Gunsmith. The gun would be terrific as a .44spl and a painful beast with .44 Mag loads. On the bright side, I load my own and with IMR TrailBoss, can use the long brass to attain 900fps. Exactly as I have done with my Taurus Tracker 5 shot .41 Magnum. Turns a brute into a pussy cat. If Charter Arms produced a consistently high quality handgun, I would already own a Bulldog. This will be the cat’s whiskers for a guy who reloads.

  18. The new S&W 69 finally mates the K-frame size grip frame with the .44 Magnum. Frankly this should have been done when S&W brought out the round butt N-frame, just like they did with the huge X-frame.

    The long trigger reach on the current N-frame guns does indeed hinder double action fire for most men. Those with large hands can easily increase the trigger reach with the installation of larger after market revolver stocks on K, L and X frame guns – all of which have K size grip frames.

  19. I’m going to come at this from a different direction than most of you. This is likely more about sizing a 44 mag down to smaller hands. I’ve owned 2 629s and they were outright painful to shoot, even with honest 44 specials (44spec Blazer Gold Dots). I had to drop all the way down to cowboy loads to be comfortable shooting it, regardless of what grips I used.

    I know that I’m not recoil sensitive as I shoot a small frame 357 with full power factory loads using boot grips. Yeah, my hand stings a bit but that’s not a big deal.

    A M69 is on my list to get as a woods or hiking gun. I fully expect to carry 44 specials most of the time but it’s an easy trade to magnums depending on the situation. Or something as simple as JHP Specials for in town and magnums for the woods etc.

    I will completely agree that for anything big, scary and probably meat eating (moose as the exception here) a shoulder fired weapon is preferred. For that I’ll grab a 12ga and get on with my life.


  20. I Carried a 4 inch 29 (a 4×44) opened and concealed for a decade in Nevada, Arizona and Oregon -no problem. I really like the new Smith – with maybe a 3ish inch barrel – really is a viable carry choice for cold weather or wilderness type areas. Certainly ranks as the anti-.380 .

    Late night rambling. My gentle, but not tactically aware wife walked into a setup by two – very bad men. I was carrying a taurus titanium 450 .45 Colt with 5 hot 260 grain, hand load gold dots – easily the equivalent of anything my best acps can do. An armed opponent made them back off and bolt. But at every moment I wanted any 1911 and a couple of spare mags.

    Lastly, one well “trained” fan of striker fired tupperware described my (sold) 18 ounce, 2.5 inch barrel, K frame 450 T as “unconcealable”. Can you imagine a K frame snubby “unconcealable” wow!

    10 years I carried a N frame. Yeah I want a Model 69 – and some speed loaders.

  21. This is the perfect gun for wilderness carry in Canada. It meets the legal minimum barrel length and the lighter weight and compact size are easier to carry. Long guns are simply not practical for most forestry jobs such as tree planting, logging,surveying etc. where your hands are full of tools or equipment. A lot of times a loud bang is all that is needed to scare bears away but .44 mag is considered the minimum in Grizzly country.

  22. If you’re looking for something with more energy than the .357 Mag then I favor the S&W M57 in .41 Mag. It’s intermediate between the .357 and the .44, and a fine piece of Connecticut yankee workmanship.

    8 3/8″ bbl, nickel, 3 “T”s, presentation box and all tools and papers included please. 🙂

  23. Nice to see your post Paul McCain. I would like to see S&W come out with. Scandium version of the model 69. S&W, whatever their faults, still make great double action revolvers. God bless.

  24. I just bought one yesterday, and fired it today. Not as much recoil as I anticipated, but certainly more than my Redhawk. Perfect little big bore field gun. Fits nicely into a GP100 holster.

    I’ll carry it with either hot 44 Special, or light 44 Magnum loads.

  25. I bought one of these revolvers last week. Took it to the range twice. In this sample of one, the point of impact at 50 yards is 9″ high with the rear sight bottomed out. I will be calling S&W tomorrow and telling them what I think of their “two piece barrel” (actually its a one piece barrel with a shroud somehow attached to it, from what I can tell glued on). Brand new gun going back for a new “two-piece barrel”.

    • It’s a round butt. All of the Smith revolvers are now. I bought the 69 a couple of weeks ago for concealed carry and love it. I work around the internal lock on my Smith revolvers by removing it when I do the mandatory trigger job.

  26. I bought one 2 weeks ago and I love it. Shoots great. If the barrel was 3/4 inch shorter it would replace my .357 as a carry/conceal. I like it better than my old trail boss 629. Thank you S&W.

  27. I’m in a situation where I only want to own one handgun. I need it to be useful for backcountry protection, yet be of a reasonable size for conceal carry in an IWB. I carried a 4″ 686 years ago and was fine with it comfort-wise, so the 69 seems like the perfect compromise.

  28. I don’t understand why everyone gets so pissy about the hammer lock. Simply take the gun apart and remove it. It’s v we r u easy to do. I did it on my 686 and the gun runs perfect. And if you ever send it back to Smith and Wesson for a warranty issue put it back on. It’s not rocket science. And let me state removing the lock in no way impedes or affects the way the gun functions either. Trust me. I removed mine over 2 years ago and have put a ton of rounds through it and it’s never had a hiccup

  29. I just down load my 44 mag cases to hot 44 mag specs. 244 gr cast HP with a gas check over 8.7 gr of univ. clays.
    Accurate past 25 yards and expands to quarter size and travels about 16″ to 19″ in gel. A friend used it to take a large whitetail a few years ago at about 30 yards the round didn’t exit and the animal only ran about 5 yards. If you don’t reload a few custom ammo company’s still load the cast HP

  30. I have a friend who has actually had the experience of having a .44 mag fired at him and not be hit. At close range.
    He said that the muzzle blast knocked him down. Which most likely saved his life, as the shooter had every intention of shooting him dead.
    With that said, I like the 69. I’ve had .44 mags and I find the heavier/longer ones much more enjoyable to shoot.
    I had a S&W ‘Trail Gun’ in .44 mag and it felt too light for max loads.
    I’d get a 69 and load it to about 1100 to 1300 fps with 180g bullets that would suit me fine.
    If I need a powerful back-up gun for hunting where there are dangerous critters, I’d load it up.
    Good option for versatility.

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