Smith & Wesson Model 69 Combat Magnum Five-Shot 44 Magnum Revolver

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 6th, 2014


Click pictures for a larger version.









Bolt notches are placed between the chambers.





The top strap of the frame is drilled for a scope mount.



Synthetic rubber grips fit the author's hand very well.





Ball locks crane into the rear of the barrel shroud.





Smith & Wesson has been in the revolver business for over one hundred and fifty years now. Several times during that history, "experts" have proclaimed that the revolver was obsolete. While semi-automatic pistols are certainly more popular these days, the revolver is far from being relegated to the museum. Revolvers are still the weapon of choice in many situations, and S&W continues to serve that market, with many variations of their double-action design, chambered for cartridges from the 22 Rimfires through the big 500 S&W Magnum.

While at the Media Day event preceding this year's SHOT Show is Las Vegas, Nevada, S&W had at the range two revolver introductions that piqued my interest. One was the 929 9mm revolver, built primarily for competition, and the other was the subject of this piece; the Model 69 five-shot 44 Magnum that is built on the L-frame platform. The L is sized between the medium K and large N frame sizes, and was introduced as a beefed-up six-shot duty gun in 357 Magnum back in 1980. The Model 69 is the first 44 Magnum to be built on the L frame, and is a bit more compact than the 629 six-shot 44 Magnum N-frame revolver. The Model 69 is not the lightest 44 Magnum from Smith & Wesson, which is the N-frame 329, but the Model 69 fits that "just right" category somewhere between the larger-but-lighter 329 and the heavier 629. The Model 69 is a full quarter-pound lighter than a comparable Model 629, but most importantly, it is a bit smaller, and the five-shot cylinder places the bolt notches between the chambers, instead of directly over the chambers, which effectively weakens the chamber wall.

The Model 69 is built primarily of stainless steel, with black screws, sights, grip, hammer, trigger, and cylinder latch release, for an overall very good look. The stainless is finished in a satin bead-blasted exterior. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation correction, and the black serrated ramp front has a plastic red insert.  The firing pin is mounted in the frame, and the 69 has an internal hammer-block safety, to prevent the weapon from firing if dropped. There is also an internal lock that is activated by a key inserted just above the cylinder latch release, if the owner desires to use it. At no time during testing did the lock activate while shooting. I have only experienced that on the lightweight Model 329. Even while shooting Magnum 320 grain loads, the Model 69 lock did not activate under recoil. The Model 69 uses S&W's two-piece barrel design, with the actual barrel inside of the outer shroud.

The detailed specifications of the Model 69 are listed in the chart below. All linear measurements are listed in inches, and the weight is listed in ounces. The trigger pulls are listed in pounds of resistance. SA is the single-action trigger pull. DA is the double-action trigger pull. Height includes the sights.

Weight 36.6 ounces
Barrel Length 4.23 inches
Trigger Pull SA 4.1 pounds
Trigger Pull DA 10.2 pounds
Cylinder Length 1.682 inches
Cylinder Diameter 1.56 inches
Chambers 5
Overall Length 9.62 inches
Overall Height 5.7 inches
Barrel / Cylinder Gap 0.005 inch
Ammunition 44 Magnum & 44 Special
MSRP as of June 6, 2014 $849 US

I fired the Model 69 for function using a variety of 44 Magnum and 44 Special ammunition. Velocity testing was done at a distance of ten feet from the muzzle. Velocities were recorded at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, and are listed in feet-per-second (fps). Velocity testing was done at a temperature of eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit, with one hundred percent humidity. I also tested the Model 69 for accuracy at a distance of twenty-five yards, with the weapon secured into my Ransom Master Series machine rest. Group sizes are measured center-to-center of the two farthest-apart shots in each five-shot group. Group sizes are the average of the groups recorded with each type of ammo listed. Group sizes are listed in the chart below, and are listed in inches. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. TAC-XP is a homogenous copper hollow point bullet. LFN is a cast lead flatnose bullet. LHP is a lead hollowpoint bullet. Bullet weights are listed in grains.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity Accuracy

44 Magnum

Buffalo Bore TAC-XP 200 1476 1.60"
Buffalo Bore JHP 180 1398 1.75"
Bruin LFP 295 1203 2.63"
Cor-Bon JHP 165 1271 2.05"
Cor-Bon LFN 320 1145 2.75"

44 Special

Buffalo Bore LHP 190 1077 2.20"
Federal LHP 200 802 1.12"
Speer JHP 200 683 2.60"
Buffalo Bore TAC-XP 200 1023 1.90"

As can be seen in the chart above, accuracy was excellent with most loads tested, and superb with others. Overall, I was very impressed by the accuracy of this Smith & Wesson revolver. Also notable is the wide variation in the velocities of the different brands of 44 Special ammunition. The 44 Special, properly loaded, is a very good cartridge for social work or for hunting medium game.  The Buffalo Bore 44 Special  ammunition is very impressive, has low recoil, and offers excellent performance. I particularly like the TAC-XP Lead-Free stuff.  In 44 magnum, again I like that same bullet for whitetail hunting, and it is also a great choice for defense, when more velocity is desired than is offered by the 44 Special ammunition. With heavier bullets at magnum velocities, recoil is a lot stiffer than with the 44 Special ammo, but the Model 69 is very controllable, even with the 300 grain class of Magnum ammunition.

Functioning of the Model 69 was flawless. Every cartridge fired and ejected with a push of the extractor rod. The 320 grain Cor-Bon ammo was a bit sticky on extraction, but again, it ejected with the extractor rod. Primer indentations were well-centered and positive, and as noted above, recoil was easy to control, even with the hottest magnum loads. The trigger pulls are as expected on a S&W revolver, with a very smooth double-action and a crisp single-action pull. The Model 69 carries very well, being more compact and lighter than the larger Model 629, but still much more controllable than the lightweight 329. The Model 69 is an ideal size for a hunting gun when  pursuing whitetail and hogs, and it packs plenty of power to handle much larger game, as well.

The Model 69 is in production now. Check out the Model 69 and the extensive line of Smith & Wesson firearms and accessories online at

To order quality 44 Magnum and 44 Special ammunition online, go to,,, and

Jeff Quinn

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Smith & Wesson's Model 69 comes with a lockable hard case.







Internal key lock.



The cylinder has plenty of length to handle even the long 320-grain bullets.



Buffalo Bore's Lead Free ammo is an excellent choice for hunting and social work.



Accuracy testing was done at 25 yards from a Ransom Master Series machine rest.