Smith & Wesson Classic Series Model 29 .44 Magnum


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

June 13th, 2009




The Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum. There was a time when the Model 29 was the most sought after revolver on the planet. Made of blued steel, polished to perfection and wearing checkered walnut grips, nestled into a wooden presentation case, The 29 was the flagship of the Smith & Wesson fleet, hard to find and priced accordingly. Made famous by “Dirty Harry Callahan” on the movie screen, touted by that character as “The Most Powerful Handgun in The World”, it did not matter that it was not, it only mattered that folks perceived it to be so. I remember being a teenage kid, working after school sacking groceries, about the closest that I could come to a Model 29 was peering through the glass case at Grandpa’s Discount Store in Clarksville, Tennessee. In that huge glass case was a Model 29 resting in its presentation case for all to observe, but very few were allowed to handle that sixgun, and there was no need for a broke, pimple-faced kid to even ask. I did know one guy that owned a Model 29. Hargis Chadwick had one that he proudly carried when making bank deposits and such, and he even allowed me to fondle that big sixgun a time or two, but it would be decades before I ever got to fire one.

The original Model 29 was improved with a few upgrades over the years, but eventually went away, replaced by the stainless Model 629. Many shooters lamented the demise of the Model 29, but it was discontinued because buyers preferred the stainless model. Gun makers often receive abuse for discontinuing certain models, but the fact is, a gun that is selling well does not get the axe.

Anyway, for whatever reason that the Model 29 disappeared from the lineup for a season, it is back, along with several others in the Classic Series, like the .357 Magnum Model 27, and the .45 Colt Model 25 Classic and .44 Special Model 21 Classic that I reviewed a few months ago. The Model 29 is offered in both four and six and one-half inch barrel versions, with the gun shown here being the latter. The six and one-half inch version comes with the same style of gorgeous walnut grips as did the Model 25, but the Model 29 also comes with a lined wooden presentation case, which is a nice touch. The 29 has the excellent S&W adjustable rear and red-ramp front sight, and also wears a wide, checkered target hammer and a wide, grooved target trigger. Both parts are case-hardened, and contrast nicely with the polished blued finish. The frame is also drilled for a scope mount. This newest 29, designated the 29-10, has all the changes made up through the years, and is of square-butt configuration like the .44 Magnum 50th Anniversary Model of 2006. Of course, it has the internal key lock that was introduced in 2001 as the Model 29-8 150th S&W Anniversary gun.

The test gun is very nicely fitted and finished. The bluing is flawless. The wooden grips are thin in comparison to the target grips installed on earlier Model 29 square-butt revolvers, are much superior for shooting heavy loads, and fit my hand quite well. They extend below the grip frame about three-quarters of an inch, and wear a checkered section on each grip half. They fit the frame perfectly, and are well-matched in color and grain pattern. Smith & Wesson made an excellent choice in grip design and execution for the Model 29 Classic.

The barrel/cylinder gap measured an even five one-thousandths (.005) of an inch, and the cylinder exhibited no perceptible end shake, with minimal rotational play at lockup. The double-action trigger pull measured a butter-smooth ten and one-quarter pounds, and the single action pull measured a crisp four pounds even, which was surprising, as it feels more like a two-pound pull, due to the wide target trigger.

Shooting the Model 29 was a pleasure, as expected. The big sixgun weighs in at 47.8 ounces, and the excellent grip design makes the weapon easy to handle and comfortable to shoot. With magnum loads, you still get the immediate feedback that you are shooting a .44 Magnum, but there is no pain involved as can be experienced with a lighter .44 Magnum, such as the Model 329. Every type of ammo tried functioned perfectly, firing instantly, and ejection of the fired cases was smooth, with no hang-ups or sticky extraction experienced. My friend Rob Lemke showed up to help with the shooting of the Model 29. Rob is a Special Forces type, recently retired, and is a good shot with a handgun. Like most recently retired Green Berets, he likes semi-automatic handguns, but he also appreciates the qualities of a fine revolver, and was well-pleased with the performance of the Model 29 Classic. We mostly plinked at a steel plate, and other targets of opportunity like rocks and such. That was the fun stuff. Later, the mundane chore of trying out the Model 29 for accuracy proved to be rewarding, as the big sixgun exhibited good accuracy with everything fed it, and excellent accuracy with some loads. My favorite .44 Special load using the Mt. Baldy 240 grain Keith bullet would cluster into one and one-half inches at twenty-five yards from both the Ransom Machine Rest and from a hand-held rested position.

While bringing back a nostalgic feeling for the time when most sixguns were made of polished blued steel and walnut, the Model 29 Classic is also a very practical revolver, accurate enough for hunting small to medium sized game, and powerful enough for hunting the big hairy things that fight back.

Check out the Model 29 and other S&W products online at

For the location of a Smith & Wesson dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the 29 online, go to

Jeff Quinn


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:




Our friend Rob Lemke was taken with the Model 29 Classic.







Sights are the familiar, classic Smith & Wesson adjustable.





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Smith & Wesson Classic Series Model 29 .44 Magnum.





The Model 29 Classic comes with a beautiful lined wooden presentation case.





Checkered grips are well designed, well executed, and perfectly fit.