S&W Model 29 Performance Center Range Review

| August 7, 2010 | 1 Comments


The 44magnum Smith and Wesson Model 29 was first introduced in 1955. This weapon became very popular in 1971 perpetuated by Clint Eastwood in the movie Dirty Harry where he played a San Francisco Inspector going by the name of Dirty Harry Callahan. Though most movie buffs say, Clint was carrying a Smith and Wesson Model 57, which is a 41 magnum, though it is difficult to tell the difference on screen. This particular Model 29 is sourced from the Smith and Wesson custom shop known as the Performance Center. On introduction, the Model 29 was once the most powerful handgun in the world. With the advent of the X-Frame S&W 500 and 460 Magnum this is no longer the case. Even before these monstrous framed revolvers, Dick Casull introduced us to the 454 Casull. Though it has been a very long time since the 44 magnum has reined king, it is still very capable of taking and has taken every animal on the Northern Continent.

Those of us familiar with the Performance Center you would expect the older style aluminum case. This revolver came with a Performance Center gun sleeve as seen below.

Inside this case, there is a pocket securing the normal documentation but I also found in this pouch a gold bead front site. As seen below the front site installed by the factory is a clear orange site.

Fit&Finish Grade Excellent

The fit and finish is first class. The bluing is very deep, almost a black color. It has a very unique look with the unfluted cylinder, clear orange front site and barrel profile with pre mounted scope base. I also like the interchangeable front sights as mentioned it also comes with a gold bead front. It is only deserving of such a classy revolver with a great bluing job to finish it off with a beautiful yet functional set of wood grips.

Handling/Feel In the Shooters Hand Grade Excellent

The Model 29 is based on the N Frame, which I believe is satisfying to all hand sizes with the proper set of grips. The balance with the unfluted cylinder is a welcomed center balance, which helps absorb the recoil. The wooden grips really add to the character of this Model 29 these may only be suited for those with medium to large size hands. I would consider it a serious abomination to see such a beautifully finished revolver wearing a set rubber grips but those with small hands will more than likely find a set of Hogue rubber grips a better fit. The cylinder lockup is very tight and the cylinder gap measured .006 with my feeler gauges.

Trigger Grade Excellent
As would be my expectation the trigger on the Performance Center Model 29 is excellent. It is very smooth, crisp and consistent and has no over travel. Just as important and often times over looked is the trigger reset, it is short consistent and very detectable. This is a feature I often pay close attention to on Big Bore Revolvers intended for dangerous 4-legged critters. I believe it helps with faster follow-up shots. In double action, this trigger is easily staged. Some purist and old timers like my father may not like the staging. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from the old man that a trigger should be smooth as a baby?s bottom and should break like glass scaring you when it goes off. In general I myself like the staging I believe it helps with speed and follow-up shots, just promise not to tell my old man that. The double action trigger measures in right at 10 pounds as can bee seen by my RCBS trigger gauge, though something Smith and Wesson has done makes it feel a lot lighter than that.

The single stage is even better weighing in at a little less than 4 pounds.

Sights Grade Great
On this category I debated for some time what was the proper grading due to the fact the Performance Center has given the buyer multiple options. From the factory, it comes with the traditional adjustable rear sight and a clear orange florescent front sight. This sight combination was very easy to acquire sight picture and sight alignment very quickly on the indoor range as well as outdoors. Therefore, you may be wondering why I only gave it a great rating. With the orange front sight my target tended to blur a little more than normal and what I believe to be acceptable, I am sure this is probably my eyes. I also like the blued gold dot front sight, which is provided which makes the weapons appearance a little more traditional like. I have a gold bead front sight on a Model 625, for my eyes, it just doesn’t get any better than that combination.

Reliability&Accuracy Grade Excellent
The 6.5 inch barrel and balance of this weapon provides a long eye relief, which lends itself to excellent accuracy. The unfluted cylinder provides 6 shots of 44 Magnum or either 44 Special.

With the trigger feeling so light to the pad of my index/shooting finger, I was worried some of my reloads would not be properly ignited. I typically use federal primers for my big bore revolvers as they typically have softer cups just about guaranteeing positive ignition. Though I have recently got some back in stock I had been out for a long time and the only thing I was able to get my hands on were Wolf and CCI primers which both has a harder cup. To my surprise, there were no failure to ignite and all ejections from the cylinder were nice and smooth as it should be. During this range session, I was using 18grains of 2400 with a 240grain Remington JSP sitting on top. My first 6 shots were fired from 10 yards, right away I was amazed considering these shots were fired standing with a two handed grip.

All 6 shots were dead center of the target though the target looks to have only 5 holes I promise you there were 6 shots fired.

I decided at this time to bypass the 15-yard marker and go right for 25 yards. On the first 25 yards, I didn?t do as well as I had liked but this was all shooter.

One thing to keep in mind before you start worrying about the Model 29 capabilities out to 25 yards and beyond. Keep in mind this is only after 10 minutes of being on the range and only having put 12 rounds of 44magnum through this firearm thus far. Again, these 6 shots were fired from the standing position 2 hand hold.

Having not done as well as I would have liked I decided to stick a Caldwell 5.5inch target on my silhouette and run it back to 25 yards. As you can see below the firearm is very capable as 2 sets of 2 shots each are touching one another. This confirmed for me yet again I need a bit more practice indoors at 25 yards with this firearm but unfortunately I would have to be returning it to it’s rightful owner.

Overall the Performance Center Model 29 is an outstanding firearm and receives and overall excellent rating. Again, the fit and finish is beyond reproach, the lockup is tighter than a bank vault and the trigger has the feel of hand blown glass very smooth. Were this my firearm I would right away install the additional gold dot bead provided by Smith and Wesson but this is a thing of preference per individual. I truly enjoyed another great day at the range with this Model 29. For those that want a great firearm capable of serving as a hunting platform or loaded with 200gr 44 Specials for home defense look no further as this platform can serve either role, not to mention the excitement and piece of history it provides.

If Clint Eastwood were to make a Dirty Harry movie today. This would surely be the menacing revolver the bad guys would be starring down the barrel of.

I know what you’re thinking ? “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?

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1 Comment on "S&W Model 29 Performance Center Range Review"

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  1. Benji says:

    Very nice review. When are you going to start writing for Gun Digest?

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