By Bob Walsh
The Gun of the Week this time around is the Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver.
This gun was my first “serious” hand gun purchase, and it was lucky indeed. I got it during the early 1970s when it was almost impossible to actually get one due to the Dirty Harry phenomenon. As it happened I was walking thru the Montgomery Ward store in San Leandro, when there was still a Montgomery Ward and they still sold hand guns when a brand new, cased Dirty Harry Special (6 ½” blue) hit the shelf. They had special ordered it ages before for a lady for her husband who decided he didn’t want it so onto the shelf it went. Wards did NOT gouge on this guns like many retailers did so I got it for straight up retail.
They started cranking these out in 1955 and made them in many variations with barrel lengths between 4 inches and 10 5/8 inches, with other lengths being available on special order.
The gun fires .44 Special as well as .44 magnum. In fact Dirty Harry fans will remember that, in the movies, Harry carried a “light special” load in the gun to give him better control.
A stainless steel variation was introduced in 1978, as the 629.
One of the more interesting variations was the QSP version developed by the AAI Corporation for the U.S. army for the tunnel rats in Vietnam. It was a highly modified version of the gun that fired silenced ammunition. It is rumored to still be in use by various alphabet agencies for assassinations.
This is a big, heavy gun and the factory ammo is too powerful for most serious anti-personnel work. It will tend to shoot thru most people and be a hazard to those on the other side. It is however a fine hunting handgun and is useful as an anti-critter weapon if you are going where dangerous non-humans are likely to be encountered. I am not aware of any police department that ever issued them (doesn’t mean there weren’t any) and they were sometimes carried by cops and deputies who worked the boonies where shoot-thru hazards on bad guys were unlikely and the need to fire at automobiles or even dangerous critters were more significant than a city cop was likely to face.
In any event it is a very nice weapon. When I had younger eyes I could keep the rounds on a B-27 at 100 yards pretty regular, and shot it in completion as well as carrying it thru one of Clint Smith’s two-day classes. That was definitely fun.