S&W 29-3 Question


December 2, 2006, 03:24 PM
I google searched the 29-3 since I'm looking at buying one and found the following article:

With the dawning of 1982, and Smith & Wesson under the control of those who seemingly cared nothing about providing quality sixguns, two major changes were made to cut costs. The 29-3 arrived without the pinned barrel and also counter-bored cylinders disappeared. Up to this point in time, all Smith and Wesson barrels were held tightly in place not just by thread pressure but also by a pin that transversed the frame through a slot in the top of the barrel threads. With today's strong brass, counter bored cylinders, or cylinders that completely enclose the rim of the cartridge case, are probably not needed. They also fill with crud and must be periodically cleaned or cases will not chamber BUT they are a sign of manufacturing quality and they are gone.

For years, Smith & Wesson refused to acknowledge a problem that definitely existed. It became especially prevalent when silhouette shooters started pounding hundreds of rounds of fullhouse loads down range in a single day. When a cartridge was fired, the cylinder would unlock, rotate backwards and when the hammer was cocked, the fired round would be back under the firing pin. Silhouetters literally "beat their swords into plowshares" as far as the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum was concerned. About the same time silhouetters were pounding 240 grain bullets unmercilessly through the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, handgun hunters discovered 300 grain bullets which put a further strain on the mechanism whose basic design went back to 1899.

Instead of listening to silhouetters about this problem, Smith & Wesson refused to publicly acknowledge that anything was amiss and instead brought forth a Silhouette Model in 1983. This model featured a ten and five-eighth's inch bull barrel and sights with a standard adjustable rear sight with a higher blade and also a four position adjustable front sight. The front sight was to be set for the four distances addressed in long range silhouetting. Nothing was done to correct the mechanical problem. Of all the .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson sixguns I have shot over the past four decades, this one, Smith & Wesson's answer to the unlocking cylinder problem, is the only one that I have ever encountered in which the cylinder unlocked and rotated backwards on a regular basis! Needless to say, silhouetters did not flock to the .44 Magnum Silhouette Model.

For someone who doesn't plan on shooting this a lot and the gun probably won't see more than 1000rds through it in it's entire life, would this still be a problem? Any any way to fix this problem?

If you enjoyed reading about "S&W 29-3 Question" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Jim K
December 2, 2006, 07:57 PM
AFAIK, S&W long ago corrected the problem, which involved the inertia of the cylinder stop under heavy recoil with hot handloads. The gun recoiled, but the cylinder stop tried to stay where it was (thank Mr. Newton for this); this caused the cylinder stop to pivot down against its spring pressure and free the cylinder to rotate. A redesign of the stop plus a stronger spring seems to have resolved the problem. The problem, of course, was never any more than a nuisance.

It is also well to note that because their previous owner bowed to political pressure from the Clinton administration and took some steps that many gun people did not approve of, the company has come under heavy and continuous attacks. Some of those attacks consisted of spreading every sort of lie about the company and its products, even claims that S&W guns were blowing up and killing their owners. Needless to say, some of those attackers were from the anti-gun crowd, hoping to put the company out of business.

S&W, like many companies (Ford, GM), has had its ups and downs, but some of its detractors long ago stopped being reasonable about the company or its products.

If you buy the gun and have any problem, S&W will, I understand, install the latest parts free of charge.


December 2, 2006, 09:13 PM
As a long-time sucker for the "Original .44 Magnum" and having owned and literally shot several examples of what would now be fairly valuable M-29s into that big gun collection in the sky...A caveat is in order. While the M-29 Smith is a fine revolver, it's not an exceptionally strong or robust revolver.
The cautions related to limiting full-power ammo in the early Model 19s can also be applied to the Model 29s. Temper your handloads and heavy factory ammunition accordingly. If you're a velocity/energy junkie...and I used to be one...you might want to consider one of the big Rugers for that sort of thing, while treating that old Smith with a little love. Your wrists will thank you in another 20 years. :)

Old Fuff
December 2, 2006, 10:57 PM
Tuner's observations are well taken, but I don't see any likely problem here.

For someone who doesn't plan on shooting this a lot and the gun probably won't see more than 1000rds through it in it's entire life, would this still be a problem?

I've put more then 1000 rounds through a 29-3 with no sign of serious issues.

Unfortunately what Tuner says about wrists is true too...

Jim K
December 3, 2006, 09:07 PM
Perhaps I didn't make it clear enough that the problems occured with heavy bullet handloads with whopping recoil. There were no (or very few) problems with factory ammo, which is one reason S&W had a problem recreating the trouble. Like most gun companies, they won't warrant their products with reloads, since they have no idea what some less than genius reloader put in them.


December 3, 2006, 10:45 PM
I have been shooting a 29-4 for 10 years with max loads and it is still pefect.

But I have probably only shot ~~500 rounds.

December 4, 2006, 05:55 PM
I've seen the inertial bolt-drop problem occur a few times with 240-grain factory ammunition, but only in the 4-inch revolvers...and usually only when fired with less than a gorilla-grip. The 6....6.5...and 8.375-inch guns haven't been a problem. Even bumping up a little above factory 240-grain levels have never been an issue with the longer barrels. The 4-inch 29 is a handful, even with factory stuff, and the sharp muzzle flip is likely the deciding factor. Come hear my wrist imitate a bowl of Rice Krispies (tm) if ya want proof... :D

Old Fuff
December 4, 2006, 06:25 PM
After the S&W .44 Magnum came out Elmer Keith was almost never without a 4" one, but he also downloaded the cartridge... :what:

According to what he told me he never had any problems, but what he wanted was a heavy duty revolver to shoot his hot .44 Special loads in, and not what the Remington came out with. So he cut'um back.. :cool:

December 4, 2006, 06:48 PM
Thanks for the info. Here's the 29-3 I just bought.


If you enjoyed reading about "S&W 29-3 Question" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!