Smith & Wesson Big Bore .44 MAG Revolver Review

The Smith & Wesson Big Bore .44 MAG is a new life for a classic Model 29-5 revolver thanks to the folks at S&W!

One of the all-time classic and iconic Smith & Wesson revolvers, the Model 29 in .44 Mag has achieved enduring fame in the writings of the great Elmer Keith, the exploits of San Francisco’s most infamous cop Inspector Harry Callahan, and the hands of generations of big game hunters who used it (rightly or wrongly) on everything from jack rabbits on up to cape buffalo and coastal grizzly. From its introduction in December of 1955 as a joint collaboration between S&W and Remington, the M29 in all its subsequent variations has achieved a near legendary reputation as a supremely powerful handgun capable of shooting through tall buildings, stopping speeding locomotives in (or on) their tracks, and blowing public enemies clean off their feet and into the nearest holding pond.

While the truth doesn’t quite live up to the M29’s elevated publicity, and the .44 Mag having been far eclipsed in power since Harry called it “…the most powerful handgun in the world…” back in 1971, neither the revolver nor the caliber has sat still during the past 38 years since Clint Eastwood and his Malpaso Company turned what was then a relatively obscure hunting revolver into the Holy Grail of big-bore hand cannons for generations of pistoleros, whether they could handle the big gun or not.

The original M29 and subsequent 29-1 and 29-2 versions each offered slight engineering changes over the years, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that metallic silhouette shooters started raising a fuss over their high mileage M29s wearing out prematurely, and some were exhibiting a phenomenon where the cylinder would actually unlock under recoil and spin backwards slightly. S&W at first discounted the unlocking claims, but after analysis of high-speed video footage confirmed it, the company put its engineers to work on the problem, and changes began to appear in the M29-3 and M29-4 that subsequently lead to what S&W calls the Endurance Package in the M29-5 and successive versions on the .44 Mag N-frame guns. The Endurance Package incorporates relatively minor internal changes to resist cylinder backspin and parts wear under the repeated pounding of heavy magnum loads, and aside from the lengthened bolt stop notches in the cylinder the alterations are not visible from the outside. They do make a difference in overall longevity for owners who shoot their newer S&W .44 Magnums.

Load Comments
  • loprofile

    I’ve put over 3000 rounds through my 29-10 in 4 months with no issues beside some tight cases on some handloads from bad prep and over-pressure. It has handled everything from light popgun loads of a 200gr LRFN over 11.0 grains of Autocomp to my so far favourite of a Hornady 180gr XTP over 30.3 grains of H110. I’ve shot this thing until my hands were raw and bloody and it the closest it’s come to a failure is the cylinder getting harder to rotate after 300rds of dirty lead ammo. A quick spray of oil and fixed. I clean it thoroughly after each session and it still looks and works like new.

  • jxhjbc

    My 29-5 had both endshake and the cylinder rotating under recoil. Shim and a new cylinder stop spring remedied it.