629 Emergency Survival?


Chris in Idaho
May 1, 2009, 04:00 AM
How does it shoot? I'm saving up for a 44 mag and I think I've narrowed it down to this or a 4" Redhawk. I think the Survival Kit thing is really cool, but I've never shot or handled a 3" revolver. Are they accurate? Does anybody have one? What are your impressions? I'll be carrying mostly in the woods but some around town too (will be my only handgun). We do have grizzlys here though I'm yet to run into one.


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May 1, 2009, 05:03 AM
Thoughts on the survival kit and 3" 629:

1) The "kit" is kinda ok, but they do charge a big premium for it. I wouldn't just look at the kit models, but others as well.

2) S&W was cataloging the past few years a model called he "Bounty Hunter" which was a 29 with a matte finish, 3" barrel, and it was retail new at Bud's Gun Shop for like $575. Finding one of these would be a good deal.

3) 3" 29/629's are very fun guns. Handy package, well, as handy as an N frame gets. With full-power loads they are stout but manageable, not much different than a 4" model. Wood grips make the recoil with magnums sharper, but not painful. They give much better control vs. rubber grips with specials. Newer guns will come with squishy rubber Hogues standard, pre-1994 models have exotic wood grooved combat grips. I see the new 329 that are very light weight and wonder who would be so masochistic as to touch off a full power .44 magnum in that, and what engineer would be so sadistic as to build the gun? Madness...

4) Since 1985, S&W has made a variety of 3" models, so tracking some down used is not too hard. They made some with unfluted cylinderw, which some people prefer.

I got one for woods protection because I thought they were neat, and the 3" and round butt make it easier to carry than a larger gun, and accuracy and recoil are not very different (even in 3" the 629 weighs the same as a Colt Government Model - it is not a light gun). With .44 Specials they are very smooth and fun to shoot. When I was looking at .44 magnums for woods/field carry and I saw the 3" 629, I immediately stopped looking for other variations/makes because it was just neat looking and the answer to what I wanted. If you put some nice wood combats on it, it really dresses it up, too. I get a lot of complements on this gun when I oc it. For some reason, it gets much more attention than much fancier and popularly desirable guns I have. So, in "marketing speak," pride of ownership can be high with these.

This is a 1985 "Lew Horton" 629-1 model that I picked up a few years ago and really like. If I ever run across a "sister" 3" gun in blue steel (a 29-3) affordably, I will buy that to have a pair - a stainless one for the woods and wet, and a pretty blue one for the restaurant and theater.


May 1, 2009, 07:48 AM
If a 3" is what you want fine but remember when you go to shorter barrels you lose a lot of the "magnum" and get a lot more muzzle flash. Just something to consider.

May 1, 2009, 08:37 AM
I estimate the 3" vs. the 4" gives up 50fps based on published and personally chronographed studies of snub-nose and longer barreled revolvers. Speer used to be great about testing loads in snubs vs. longer barrels, and also using real guns and not solid test barrels.

I consider that 1250fps vs. 1300fps is an OK price to pay for the added convenience of the carry package. Both will get the job done. Muzzle flash is a problem with ALL of the good loads in a .44 magnum with less than an 8" barrel - the best powders like 2400 and 296 are relatively slow burning and that's why they all flash. The difference between 3" and 4" is pretty small; the difference between 3" and 6" obviously more.

If you are interested in a 3" .44 magnum for self-defense or emergency use, I would not let the flash or the performance differences stop you. For target, plinking, or hunting, a longer barrel would indeed be a better choice.

May 1, 2009, 09:01 AM
Personally, I find the Mountain Gun (lighter 4" barrel) to be a better compromise. Better ballistics, better sight radius, no heavier than the 3". It's quite shootable, too.

An N-frame is not exactly a pocket gun. It's hard to think of a situation where you can carry the gun but the 1" of the barrel would stop you.

Cabela's has it in Boise. Unfortunately, it just went up 100 bucks.

I was looking for something similar, Chris. The Redhawk is a fine revolver for hunting, target shooting, etc., but I found it to be too heavy and bulky for carry on a belt holster. The 629 is a lot sleeker and a good deal lighter, with the Mountain Gun just under 40 oz.

What's a half a pound? Ordinarily, not too much. But if you're going to hike around with it in the mountains, it starts to matter a whole lot after a half hour, as your hips start feeling tweaked and off-balance from the gun on one side.

If you really want the survival kit, check CDNN. They had the .44 last I looked, probably for a better price. Personally, I wouldn't buy the thing unless I had some legitimate reason to do so; the whole idea is that it's supposed to seem cool, thereby fetching too high a price.:)

May 1, 2009, 09:19 AM
For what it is worth, I have both a S&W 'Mountain Gun' and a Ruger 'Alaskan'.
The Smith is lighter and slimmer, but when the chips are down, I reach for the Alaskan everytime.
I have found that the Alaskan balances better than the Smith (at least to me), the trigger is very good and with the right load, the muzzel flash is not that different. I know this is somewhat off the original question, but my point is, if you like the 3" S&W get one. Another thought is the Alaskan. I don't worry to much about the ballistics because when you are throwing a 255 gr 'Keith' SWC at around 1000-1100 fps, it will handle anything I need done. That load, by the way, is Double Tap and it is my outdoor load when hiking in the woods. I keep my Ruger loaded with 165 gr SD loads at home.

May 1, 2009, 09:29 AM
I wouldn't buy any of the above without at least holding them and dry-firing them.

Whether or not batmann and I happen to prefer the same guns WRT balance, the point is that what really matters is how it feels to you.

May 1, 2009, 10:47 AM
ArmedBear makes an excellent point---handle all you are interested in and then make you choice.

Chris in Idaho
May 1, 2009, 12:17 PM
Thanks all for the good advice. One of our local shops here has stainless Redhawks for $639, and Super Redhawks (including Alaskan) as well as 629s (including ES kit) all come in right around the $750 mark. Are these ok deals?

The Alaskan definitely seems cool, do you shoot it as well as your Smith when the chips aren't down? I mean, do you personally find the difference in sight radius to affect your accuracy?


May 1, 2009, 01:14 PM
I'll be carrying mostly in the woods but some around town tooMight want to investigate the use of .44 Special SD loads for in-town use. A BG won't even slow down a .44 Mag bullet much.

And DA follow-up shots would be more likely to happen faster if the gun wasn't pointing straight up from recoil after one shot.

3" .44 Mags do kick a little!


May 1, 2009, 01:39 PM
Yeah 44 spl for town and SD is the best thing to do. Use the 44 mag's for the woods. 44 spl barely kicks at all.

May 1, 2009, 02:38 PM
I didn't notice that about carrying around town.

Some people do conceal the 629, but I wouldn't choose to. It's pretty big and heavy. The Redhawk is bigger, and heavier.

If nothing else, figure on a very expensive holster and uncomfortable carry. Don't plan on driving with it stashed in your waistband or holstered in the small of your back.

May 1, 2009, 03:50 PM
Chris, Yes I shoot it as well or even better than my Mountain Gun. The difference in sight radius is small and in fact at my age (63) I can pick them up better. I am thinking of 'painting' my front sights with Day Glo help even more.
As for recoil, the Alaskan is a couple onces heavier and because the weight is centered more in my hands, I find it easier to control than my Smith. As for price, $750 sounds about right for an Alaskan. That is what I paid for mine last year. Get some 250 gr Keith loads from Double Tap and you should be good to go.
The DT load works as well in my Smith, should you decide to go that way.

Cocked & Locked
May 1, 2009, 04:47 PM
Don't forget the 2.5" barreled 629's



May 1, 2009, 05:23 PM
dang thats mighty purdy C&L, and thats comin from a square butt guy :)

May 1, 2009, 06:17 PM
629s (including ES kit) all come in right around the $750 mark

Those are pretty good prices compared to here. Sounds like your dealers live on thinner margins (and our stores are frequently overpriced vs. the national average I find).

I am not as "up" on the Ruger prices, but as to the S&W price I'd say this:

1) Were it my money, I'd try to find a pre-lock 3" with the fancy grips for about the same. Some diligent shopping it can be done. Will be worth more in the future, and the grips are nice, Cocked & Locked pictures are better than mine. Now that's just my taste, because my experience tells me in 10 to 15 years, people will be paying several hundred bucks extra to get an "ES Kit," so it's actually probably a good investment.

2) If you are the kinda guy who likes to buy new (some have aversions to used items - my dad does, for example), and/or you really dig the "kit", then I think the $750 sounds pretty decent for the ES. They were selling (and I mean selling, not just "asking") $900 or more last year when they were still new-ish and the revolver market was hotter.

May 1, 2009, 06:49 PM
I have found carrying a 4" N-frame is about the same amount of discomfort/bulk as a 3". I have both, and carry the 4" pretty often, and I don't find it difficult to conceal, and Armed Bear is right, they shoot nice.
I just sold my MG and I am building a fixed-sight 4" .44Mag to replace it in my lineup. Also have a 3.5" 2nd Model HE in .44SPL, and it carries nice, too. (I think I just bought a second one, too. I have to check my email.)
The N-frame in .44 is a VERY nice gun. The Smith is the way to go, every time. They just carry nicer than anything else.
That Chamfor 2.5" magnum gun is what I'm using as a basis for my 4" build, and it's a very dandy gun. CDNN had them for $637 when I bought mine. They may still have them. Give those guys a call.

May 1, 2009, 06:52 PM
The N-frame in .44 is a VERY nice gun. The Smith is the way to go, every time. They just carry nicer than anything else.

I do all my full-house load testing in a Ruger, though...:)

May 1, 2009, 07:03 PM
I don't handload, so that's really not in my vein. I do on occasion run hot .44 Specials through the Ruger Flat Top 5.5" (Lipsey's new release) and they chrono hot compared to my 3" Bounty Hunter. The Kieth load in .44 Special WILL outperform a lot of factory .44 Magnum loads. It will also kill the same sized game just as dead.
My piont? You don't need so much handgun that it outperforms your rifle or shotgun. Get a gun and load combo that YOU can shoot, and you'll be ok out there. If you really expect to encounter Bruins, carry a long gun in thirty-something.
(edited to add: I know a guy who killed a black bear in NC with a .45 Super out of a Smith 4566. Bear weighed 475 pounds, and was wandering around Moyock County. .45 Super is pretty anemic when compared to .44 Mag, but it's all about the heavy bullet placed right.)

May 1, 2009, 11:42 PM
I have to agree with AlPackin - C&L's looks pretty, even though I like round butts on my women, and square butts on my guns!

And I have to say - who tries to conceal a 44 mag??? Sorry, but it is meant for holster OC.

May 1, 2009, 11:45 PM
I disagree, Tamlin. I CCW a 4" N-frame .44 Magnum really often. With the right loads, it's a wonderful fight stopper.
I have found Speed Gold Dot 200 grain in the Magnum loading to be a very good round in the N-frame, and it expands VERY fast in white tail deer, not exiting a 180lb doe.

Cocked & Locked
May 2, 2009, 09:52 AM
Lumpy but concealable :cool:


May 2, 2009, 11:13 AM
Nice holster. Shame to conceal it.:)

May 2, 2009, 11:41 AM
I was thinking that, too. Of course, I have some really nice custom leather in IWB configuration that nobody ever sees. It's like buying a barbeque gun, and concealing it at the barbeque.

May 3, 2009, 02:11 AM
And I have to say - who tries to conceal a 44 mag??? Sorry, but it is meant for holster OC.

Someone savvy enough to buy a 3" and a high-ride or similar holster. And then it conceals much easier than a 4" K-frame and offers a lot more punch. A nice package, all in all.

May 3, 2009, 07:52 AM
Oro---Who made your holster? I know we are getting a little off topic, but it looks to be an outstanding piece of work.

May 3, 2009, 08:17 AM
Below are my .44s. The current production 4" & 6" 629s see mainly wimpy .44 Magnums, Specials, and Russians. I swap the wood stocks for S&W/Hogue .500 Magnum monogrips for 'real' Magnums. I replaced my 629MG with the regular production 4" - gained an orange ramp front and white outline rear sight (MGs are black/black), larger trigger, larger hammer, and a non-tapered half lug barrel - with only a 2 oz increase. Interestingly, there is only a six oz difference between the 3" 696 and the 4" 629. All but the 296, upper left, are definitely not CCW. I'd choose the 4" 629 for a holster .44 Magnum. I've had Rugers - SAs, RH, SRH, SP101, etc. I have S&Ws now.

I regularly carry that 2.5" 296 in a Robert Mika pocket holster in my front pocket. For urban jungle, it carries the GA Arms equivalents to the Blazer 200gr Gold Dots, which make 805 fps. For hiking, I usually substitute a couple of 240gr LSWC, which make ~750 fps. They should be sufficient, although I've never 'tried' them on a bear locally, as that would have likely resulted in my ejection from the zoo.


The 296 was canned years ago - but there is a black version with night sights, exposed hammer, SS cylinder, and similar 2.5" barrel - the 396NG. That should be 'pocketable' - at least in cargo pants and jacket pockets. It is .44 Special - but, since it is a tad heavier - and has the SS vs my 296's Ti cylinder - it can likely take some substantial .44 Specials. No, not a Magnum, but plenty for the urban jungle - and most of the wood's beasties. Just a thought. They run ~$750-$800 locally - maybe a few sheckles more than a 4" 629, my choice for a belt holstered piece.


Chris in Idaho
May 3, 2009, 08:37 PM
All very nice!

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