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Is the Smith & Wesson model 29 too fragile for .44 Mag?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Min, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. Min

    Min Well-Known Member

    I have one of the older versions, 29-2. It is blued, pinned and recessed, and has a 6" barrel. I don't shoot it hardly at all but it seems to be the gun is not as beefy as a Ruger Redhawk. I don't think the 29-2 will hold up to a steady diet of hot .44 Mag loads, that eventually it will rattle and loosen. But maybe I'm wrong and that the 29 can take as much as the Ruger.

    What is your opinion on this?
  2. wideym

    wideym Well-Known Member

    I've put over 800 rounds of factory .44mags through my M29-2 and have yet to see or feel any looseness of the barrel, cylinder, frame, or any other parts with the exception of the mainspring tension screw. That was probably because it wasn't tightened to begin with.

    Rugers may be more beefier, but the M29 is just as strong and lighter to boot.
  3. .38 Special

    .38 Special Well-Known Member

    You can definitely shoot an older Smith loose with full-house Magnums. Of course, these days "hot" can mean all sorts of things, up to and including loads that create small mushroom clouds and fallout. I personally would not shoot the 300+ grain "max" loads out of an older Smith. These loads are really meant for the massive Ruger Super Redhawks, Bisleys, etc. and while they're not going to cause catastrophic failure in the 29, they are going to loosen it up pretty quickly, IMO.

    So -- again IMO -- the 240 grain lead bullet at 1400 FPS or so is the "full power" load for older 29s, and those guns should be able to stand up to a couple of thousand rounds before needing a gunsmith's attention.

  4. Majic

    Majic Well-Known Member

    If the older M29s were just as strong then why did the factory develop the Endurance Package? The modification was so named because the older M29s wasn't holding up to a steady diet of the heavier recoiling loads.
  5. wideym

    wideym Well-Known Member

    Not really sure about the Endurance Package. It could just be they wanted the sales pitch of over-enginnering like Ruger. Like I've stated I've put 800 rounds of Magtech through my 29-2 in the last 8 months or so and I bought it used to begin with.
  6. Majic

    Majic Well-Known Member

    It wasn't over engineering, but an attempt to beef up the M29 where it was failing against the other .44 magnum revolvers. The M29 was shooting loose, developing endshake, and the cylinders were unlocking under the heavy recoiling loads. The silhoulette shooters back in the 1970s and 1980s discovered the weakness and quite a few M29s were sent back to the factory for rebuild jobs. Smith decided to address the problems and the Endurance Package was developed starting with the M29-3E. Now stick with the 240 grain loads and the M29 will last forever, but use a lot of the heavy bullet loads loaded to max velocity and it will need a trip to the doctor. Don't forget the N-frame was developed for the .44 spl and only beefed up slightly for the magnum when it was developed. I have 5 screw .44 Magnum that has seen her share of magnum loads but only the 240 grainers. I'm not about to stress a grand old lady like her.
  7. .38 Special

    .38 Special Well-Known Member

    Elmer Keith and Ross Seyfried both wrote of destroying 29s with the "standard" 240 grain load. They, of course, tended to shoot a bit more than most folks...
  8. Snapping Twig

    Snapping Twig Well-Known Member

    You can safely shoot ANY .44 mag load (SAAMI pressure approved) in a 29 of any vintage.

    You get into trouble when you go for the +P stuff intended for Ruger/TC.

    Any weight bullet is OK if the pressure does not exceed SAAMI pressures.

    I shoot a 265g cast bullet @ 1200fps through mine (several) and I've shot in excess of 5000 rounds through each of my 29's and 629's - not a hiccup of wear.
  9. Jst1mr

    Jst1mr Well-Known Member

    Elmer and Ross's "standard" loads were significantly hotter than today's 240gr loads...
  10. .38 Special

    .38 Special Well-Known Member

    Not at all. In fact, Elmer claimed that the factories overloaded the .44 and that they would be wise to back it down a bit. Both Keith and Seyfried handloaded the 240 to 1400 FPS.
  11. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    Factory loads fall short of 1400. The original 44 ammo was advertised at 1510 but that optimistic. About 1350-1380 is where most factory 240 ammo shoots.

    The N frame was designed around the 44 Special. The 44 Magnum does beat it up pretty badly with extended use.
  12. Stainz

    Stainz Well-Known Member

    The 'Endurance Package' came out long after the 29-2... but your revolver should be fine for a lifetime of hunting, which is what it was designed for. Use it with commercial .44 magnum ammo, and it will be fine. Hunting use involves some familiarization shooting - but other than that, hunting, unless it's Zombies, will require little use.

    Now, plink away with the .44 Specials - or even .44 Russians - just clean those chambers before going back to Magnums. If it's a 29-4 or later - or a 629-3 in SS - it will have the 'Endurance package', offering even more insurance of a long life with standard .44 Magnum fare.

    If you are afraid that you might be tempted to damage your earlier model 29/629, please feel free to ship it to me postage/transfer paid - I will give it a proper home. I'll also shoot the crap out of it, but I'll lovingly clean it afterwards. You are welcome! I know, benevolence can be a character flaw, but, I feel I must make the offer!


  13. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    A 29 with full house hot reload magnums is a bit like a K frame 19 with hot .357s. I'd tread easy on the gun, shoot lighter loads in it for practice, use the hot stuff sparingly. No possible way the 29 can match the Redhawk for strength. Hell, what is an Alaskan, but a 5 shot Redhawk? Okay, maybe it's beefed up a little. But, a Redhawk in .45 Colt can be loaded to the same levels as a Blackhawk, would be really rough on an N frame .45 Colt. That right there should tell ya something about relative strength between the two.

    So the 29 is lighter? You carrying the thing concealed? Why is lighter better in a hunting revolver? Put scopes on 'em and they're both heavy. Me, my hunting handgun is a contender. I don't mess around with puny .44s. :D
  14. harmonic

    harmonic member

    I've been collecting and shooting Smiths for about 30 years. My personal experience is that they will "loosen" after a while. By "loosen" I mean, when you do the standard test to determine cylinder play, my new Smiths were tight. No movement. After one or two thousand rounds, there is some "play." Not enough to warrant concern, but it's obvious.

    Some of the hype about Smiths shooting loose isn't necessarily due to factory pressures. The 'N' frame cylinder is really beefy. There's a lot of weight there and in repeated double action shooting, the cylinder's rotation is stopped by a small piece of metal called a "hand."

    After awhile, the cylinder stop (that little indentation on the outside of each cylinder) and the hand can get pretty well battered. It creates what is known as "timing" problems.

    Other than that, the Smith design is overall weaker than Ruger.
  15. Slamfire

    Slamfire Well-Known Member

    I read one thread on the S&W forums and the poster sounded intelligent and knowledgable.

    He had shot loose “endurance” mod S&W’s. Basically he claimed the endurance mods had improved the package, but overall the gun has not changed much since 1908 (or so). And I think he is right.

    The general trend of the thread was that if you were firing something like 5000 rounds a year, and shooting heavy bullets (like 300 grain) you should expect the pistol to loosen up.

    I have a M629-4, which has the hammer mounted firing pin. This was made just as the endurance mods were kicking in.

    I doubt I have fired 5000 rounds total in the thing. Most of the rounds have been 1000 fps 240 LSWC, or 1200 fps 240 LSWC. Until I got the new S&W grips, the pistol was just unpleasant to shoot with full house magnums.

    My 629 is still quite tight, and exceptionally accurate. I don’t plan on ever shooting the big bullets through it, and I hope it will last through my lifetime without ever having to send it to the factory.

    So for you, with a pre endurance mod pistol, I think you can shoot ten of thousands of 44 Spl equivalent loads (like 240 LSWC 8.5 grains Unique) without any trouble. As for shooting full power magnums, I would shoot them occasionally. 20 rounds, 40 rounds, sighting in for hunting, won’t hurt the pistol. I would never shoot 300 grain stuff as I do believe that is hard on an N frame, and harder still on older N frames.

    If you want something to shoot hottest 44 Magnums till you have elbow problems, go buy a Ruger. The Redhawk and the SuperRedhawk are for those want tendinitis in their wrists and elbows. Fun, fun, fun. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tendinitis

  16. Darkness

    Darkness Well-Known Member

    Long ago I had a 29-2 and shot hot handloads through it all the time. I eventually shot it enough that it darn near fell apart and I went and traded it in for a M29 Classic Hunter with the unfluted cylinder. I forget what dash it was. This was an even trade at the gun shop, and long before the internet, btw, so I figured it was a good deal to trade a M29 that sounded like a baby rattle when shook for an almost new M29 with the cool unfluted cylinder. Eh, I still think it was a good trade, but I no longer have the Classic Hunter, so who knows.

    Anyway, the point is, with enough shooting, the old 29s (at least my old one) will shoot loose.
  17. Stainz

    Stainz Well-Known Member


    Your 629-4 is '93 or newer, with the -5's easily distinguished, as they started in '97 - and had no serrations on the backstrap. The frame-mounted fp was started, as was the use of the MIM hammer and trigger with the -5. They were also the first to be drilled and tapped under the rear sight for a scope base. As the 'Endurance Package' began in the -2E series, your's should be fine - even has the longer notches.

    I've shot 300gr LSWCs at 820-900 fps from my 629MG and 6" 629-6. They are stout, but nothing, recoil-wise, like the 180gr UMC SJHPs - those nasties make 1650+ fps - some report 1800 fps - they get your attention. The .500 Magnum grips help.

    I had a 7.5" .454 SRH for years - I guess I got my fill of big blasters - my idea of .44 magnums today mainly runs in the 240gr LSWC @ 820-900 fps range, which would be embarassing to Mr. Keith. Still, I also enjoy blasting away with those same bullets in .44 Russian cases - making 700-750 fps - real ferret flatulance, but it starts over 'major power factor', as hard as that is to believe for the shooter. An early 29 would last a lifetime or two, while my current production 629s will last even longer, under such mild use.

    Now, what if your 29/629 gets 'loose'? What wears? The cylinder, yoke, and hand are prime wear items under heavy use. Really heavy use can reportedly 'stretch' the frame, which is a deal-ender. The rest can be serviced - even a bulged round from blasting a stuck bullet through it. S&W, unlike Colt, seems to have some parts. Enjoy your 29 & 629 - with proper ammo.

  18. Stainz

    Stainz Well-Known Member

  19. machinisttx

    machinisttx Well-Known Member

    They discovered weaknesses because they were shooting loads the gun was never meant to handle.

    You can only push a mechanical device so far before you find flaws---particularly when you're using it in a way it was never designed to be used.
  20. Majic

    Majic Well-Known Member

    Thats true Machinisttx but also that is what I was saying. The other .44s used by the silhoulette shooters were holding up just fine. The Dan Wessons ruled the roost till the Freedom Arms came about. The Seville could hold it's own and the Red Hawk was just coming out but like the SA Rugers the needed accuracy wasn't there. It became apparent that the N-frame was beefed up for the magnum and not designed for it. As others have pointed out even the older .44 magnum 240 grainers, which were way hotter than what we have today, would loosen the Smith up. Smith dropped the ball there as I guess they didn't consider the amount of recoil the revolvers would have to tolerate. They could also have been rushing as it was known that Ruger was busy trying to put out the Blackhawk in .44 magnum.
    Just minor confusion as the hands move faster than the mind (I do it all the time :D). The hand rotates the cylinder and the cylinder stop pops up into the cylinder notch to stop the rotation. Its the fast double action shooting like todays games that causes wear to the stop and peens the notches. The very same problem that is the real basis for the Colt and particular the Python stories about timing.

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