Model 629 44 Magnum Sixguns from the Smith & Wesson Performance Center®

by Boge Quinn

photography by Boge Quinn

November 13th, 2020

Full30 Video Link

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Model 629 Deluxe



Galco "Miami Classic II" Holster System.



Galco SCA Cartridge Case.



Smith & Wesson has been at the forefront of American firearms design and manufacture since Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson formed the company in 1852, with the purpose of manufacturing firearms capable of firing a fully self-contained cartridge. Their initial offering, the "Volcanic" pistol, was the first American firearm to accomplish this milestone, and the company has not looked back since, maintaining its position as a worldwide leader in firearms design and manufacture. Although S&W currently makes a wide variety of rifles and handguns, they have always been best known for their beautiful and innovative revolver line, especially their Double-Action revolvers dating back to the early 20th century.

For those who are uninformed about such things, a brief explanation of the difference between Single-Action and Double-Action revolvers is in order. Simply put, the trigger of a Single-Action revolver completes one action: the release of a manually-cocked hammer to strike the cartridge primer, or in the case of revolvers with a frame-mounted "floating" firing pin, to strike said firing pin and transfer the force of the hammer fall to the cartridge primer, thus igniting the cartridge. The trigger of a Double-Action revolver completes two actions: first, it cocks the hammer, and then it releases the hammer on its merry way to get the fun started.

Some years ago, Smith & Wesson decided to up the ante a bit by forming the Smith & Wesson Performance Center. The Performance Center is basically an in-house Custom Shop operation, taking classic S&W models and updating them with the modern touches desired by today's shooters, such as more aggressive styling, custom features, accuracy upgrades, and specially-tuned actions. We have reviewed several S&W Performance Center products in the past, including the Model 325 Thunder Ranch 45 ACP Sixgun, the T/CR22® Semi-Auto 22 Rifle with Altamont® Laminated Thumbhole Stock, the Model 327 TRR8 Eight-Shot 357 Magnum Revolver, the SW1911 Pro Series® Sub-Compact 9mm Pistol, the Model 19 Classic 357 Magnum Revolver, the Model 19 Carry Comp® Revolver, the Model 686 Plus 7-Shot 357/38 Revolver, the Model 686 357/38 Revolver, the M&P®10 6.5 Creedmoor, Big-Bore Hunting Revolvers, the Ported M&P®45 SHIELD™ Pistol, the Model 637 & 642 38 Special Revolvers, the 629 Hunter 44 Magnum Revolver, and the Jerry Miculek Signature Model 929 Performance Center 9mm Revolver. Looking back over a few of these past articles and videos will leave you with a pretty good idea of the scope and quality of the Performance Center's work. While the offerings from the Performance Center are somewhat more expensive than similar offerings from the regular S&W line, the end cost is still far less than having such custom work done aftermarket.

Here we have two similar but divergent variants of a classic S&W revolver: the Model 629 44 Magnum. The classic Model 629 is basically a stainless-steel version of S&W's famous Model 29 (of "Dirty Harry" fame, once touted as "the most powerful handgun in the world"). Fans of the Model 29/629 are legion - I proudly count myself among them - and these two offerings take the wonderful Model 629 in different directions. Both of these variations of the Model 629 are designed as powerful weapons for personal protection, both in the field and on the streets, and either would serve very well for protection against four-legged or two-legged beasts.

The Model 629 Deluxe harkens back to the excellent versions of classic S&W N-Frame (large-frame) sixguns sold exclusively through Lew Horton distributors, dating back to the 1980s. Although they have regrettably ceased operations, Lew Horton's was run by shooters, they knew what shooters wanted, and they were able to get manufacturers such as S&W to make special runs of firearms to be sold exclusively through Horton's. There were a great variety of Horton guns produced, generally in very small runs, and currently these sixguns rightly command a premium price from shooters and collectors. I have always been extremely enamored with the wonderful 3" Round-Butt N-Frame sixguns, the 24/624 (44 Special) and 29/629 (44 Magnum). Their compact rounded grips, coupled with their shorter barrels, made these Horton sixguns as easy-packing and concealable as a sixgun large enough to handle Magnum cartridges can be; they were what my friend and brother Shootist John Taffin refers to as a "Perfect Packin' Pistol (PPP)".

The Model 629 Deluxe is basically today's version of the great old Lew Horton 629, with the major difference between the current version and the Horton version being the addition of S&W's Internal Key Lock system. Yes, I know - I don't like the Locks either, but it looks like they are here to stay. Yes, I know - the Locks were introduced in a vain attempt to placate Lawyers and Legislators by a myopic management team of the past, but once a "safety feature", no matter how dubious, is introduced, it seldom goes away for fear of inviting a flood of frivolous lawsuits and hollow posturing by Lawmakers. I don't like the Locks, but I will not let them deter me from owning a fine sixgun; if you do, that is your problem, and you are hurting no one but yourself.

The "Hillary Hole" notwithstanding, the Model 629 Deluxe is a fantastic sixgun, and one that I am going to keep. The stainless steel is finished in S&W's standard polish, and is very nicely done, with the top of the frame and 3" barrel matte-finished to reduce glare. The hammer and trigger are color-casehardened as on S&W's classic sixguns of the past; the hammer is of the wide "target" configuration, and the trigger is of the "semi-target" configuration, with a wide, smooth face. Sights are the familiar classic S&W ramp with red insert front, and white-outline fully-adjustable rear. The round-butt grips are very well-designed and beautifully executed: a reddish wood laminate with a fish-scale checkering pattern and S&W logo laser-engraved, with the perfect thickness and just the right amount of palm-swell; these grips fit my hand perfectly, and the round butt configuration makes the sixgun easier to conceal and easier to shoot well. For those who prefer the classic S&W square-butt grip feel, conversion grips are readily available from a variety of makers. The trigger is superb for a factory sixgun, free of creep and overtravel, with pulls measuring 7 pounds, 0.8 ounces Double-Action, and 2 pounds, 9.2 ounces Single-Action, as measured on my Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge

Specifications - Smith & Wesson® Model 629 Deluxe

SKU 150715
Caliber 44 Magnum, 44 S&W Special
Action Single/Double Action
Capacity 6
Barrel Length 3 inches
Overall Length 8.6 inches
Weight 39.6 ounces
Cylinder Material Stainless Steel
Barrel Material Stainless Steel
Frame Material Stainless Steel
Grip Textured Wood
Front Sight Red Ramp
Rear Sight Adjustable White Outline
Trigger Pull, SA 2 pounds, 9.2 ounces
Trigger Pull, DA 7 pounds, 0.8 ounces
MSRP as of November 2020 $999.00 US

For those desiring something a bit more modern, with the full custom Performance Center package, S&W has you covered with their Performance Center Model 629. Also an all-stainless sixgun, the Performance Center Model 629 bears a Matte Silver finish, which is quite attractive and should prove to be very rugged.  The 2.5" barrel is more aggressively-profiled, with flats milled into the sides and scalloped at the corners, and features a very nice recessed barrel crown. The barrel underlug is milled-out on either side, so the ejector rod is visible from the starboard side, which is a distinctive aesthetic touch. The six-shot cylinder is unfluted, which, coupled with the Matte Silver finish, gives the Performance Center Model 629 a very no-nonsense and businesslike appearance. While the 629 Deluxe's cylinder locks-up in typical S&W fashion, at the rear of the cylinder and the front of the ejector rod, the Performance Center Model 629 eschews the locking point at the front of the ejector rod in favor a more positive ball detent located at the front of the cylinder crane into a recess at the rear of the barrel underlug. The hammer and trigger are different from the classic S&W norm as exhibited by the Model 629 Deluxe; the hammer is wide and gracefully tapered from above, the trigger is slightly narrower and smooth-faced, and both hammer and trigger are finished to match the finish of the rest of the sixgun. The Performance Center Model 629 features the Performance Center's Tuned Action; trigger pull, as on the Model 629 Deluxe, is superb, breaking at 7 pounds, 10.3 ounces Double-Action, and 2 pounds, 4.9 ounces Single-Action The trigger is free of any discernible creep or overtravel, and is fitted with an adjustable overtravel stop. Sights consist of a dovetailed, windage-adjustable red ramp front, and S&W's familiar white-outline fully-adjustable rear. The grip frame of the Performance Center Model 629 is also of the round-butt configuration, with very nicely-finished wood grips having an interrupted-checkered pattern. The grips are cut-off flush with the bottom of the grip frame, which looks great and makes the butt a little easier to conceal; there are very comfortable finger-grooves for the first two support fingers, but the short grip means the pinkie finger curls underneath, which makes the Performance Center Model 629 a little harder to shoot well with full-Magnum loads. Still, I keep my N-Frame carry guns stoked with 44 Special loads for social work, so this shortened grip frame would actually be advantageous unless one needed to carry with stout Magnum loads in Bear Country.

Specifications - Smith & Wesson® Performance Center® Model 629

SKU 170135
Caliber 44 Magnum, 44 S&W Special
Action Single/Double Action
Capacity 6
Barrel Length 2.5 inches
Overall Length 7.6 inches
Weight 37.4 ounces
Cylinder Material Stainless Steel, Matte Silver Finish
Barrel Material Stainless Steel, Matte Silver Finish
Frame Material Stainless Steel, Matte Silver Finish
Grip Wood
Front Sight Dovetail Red Ramp
Rear Sight Adjustable White Outline
Trigger Pull, SA 2 pounds, 4.9 ounces
Trigger Pull, DA 7 pounds, 10.3 ounces
MSRP as of November 2020 $1,093.00 US

For discreet carry of a large-frame revolver, one of the best designs out there is Galco's "Miami Classic II", based on their venerable "Jackass" rig and made famous by some stylish TV cops of the 1980s, who used to run around South Florida in a Ferrari Testarossa. I have used a Miami Classic with various 1911-pattern pistols for over 20 years, underneath a vest or jacket, and the rig is easy to access, well-balanced, and comfortable for long periods of time. Many years ago, I watched a Smith & Wesson Model 25 45 Colt Mountain Gun tumble end-over-end down a rainy street in downtown Nashville; I was trying to smoothly squire a young lady about town while wearing a cheap gun-show nylon shoulder rig, and I have never again repeated the mistake of going heeled in a cheap rig. So when the time came to jettison the Cordura and get a REAL rig, the Miami Classic II was the one for me; the Miami Classic is fully adjustable, solid, dependable, comfortable, and is a very versatile modular system. The sixgun carries horizontally, and is easy to get to in a hurry - which is the only way you'll ever need to access your weapon in a social situation. On the off-side, there are several options available; for a sixgun, I have always preferred Galco's SCA Cartridge Case, which carries flat and opens downward to dump a reload into your hands naturally. I have also come to favor a Bianchi "Speed Strip" reload, and for these, Galco offers their E-Z Loader Carrier. I also appreciate the ease and speed of Speed Loaders, and for these, Galco offers their SSL Speed Loader Case, which carries two Speed Loaders horizontally and can be accessed from either end. These Speed Loader Cases are obviously more bulky than carrying cartridges flat, either in a dump pouch or Speed Strips, but the E-Z Loader Carrier is very well-designed and comfortable. The Miami Classic II system retails for $249.00, and is available to fit a wide variety of sixguns and autoloaders.

For shooters looking for a great big-bore sixgun as medicine against anything that walks or crawls, it's hard to beat the N-Frame offerings from Smith & Wesson and the Smith & Wesson Performance Center. Either the Model 629 Deluxe or the Performance Center Model 629 would serve equally well for any purpose; I recommend either, or, better yet, BOTH.

Check out the Smith & Wesson Performance Center at:

To find a S&W dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at Lipsey's:

To order Online, click on the GUN GENIE at Davidson's Gallery of Guns:

Order Ammo Online at Lucky Gunner: , Double Tap Ammo:
PMC Ammo:,
and Lehigh Defense Ammo:

Galco Gunleather:

Lyman Products:

HKS Speedloaders:

Boge Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.





Grip comparison: Performance Center Model 629 (left), Model 629 Deluxe (right).



Performance Center® Model 629



Performance Center Model 629 secondarily locks the front of the cylinder crane into the rear of the barrel underlug, creating a very strong locking system.



Some of the ammo used for testing.



HKS Model 29-M Speed Loaders.



Galco SSL Speed Loader Case.