First Impressions: Smith & Wesson 329PD

With some frequency, I get a friend who invites me to the range to try out their new handgun. Given I’ve shot quite a few different handguns now, more often than not, I find myself thinking that my friend’s new handgun reminds me of something else. It’s not that I don’t like their handgun, but I find a lot of them to be similar. This isn’t a bad thing. There are tons of great guns out there. Every now and then though, I come across one that shocks my expectations and is like nothing I could have predicted. The Smith & Wesson 329PD is one of those exceptions that blew my mind.

It’s no secret that I’ve been coveting a revolver chambered for .44 Remington Magnum (.44 Mag). It’s also no secret that I’ve got I’ve had a recent affinity for revolvers. While I haven’t named the 329PD specifically as a firearm I’d like to acquire, it’s a .44 Mag revolver that I’ve considered as I find it very visually appealing for quite sometime and thought it would make an interesting addition to the collection. About a month ago, I found one in the inventory of an online retailer and purchased it impulsively (this isn’t a new thing).

In addition to finding its black frame, gray cylinder, and wood grips visually appealing and having reviewed the specifications on it at least a dozen times, I was intrigued by it’s extremely light weight of 25.2 oz. This is insanely light compared to the only other .44 Mag handgun I’ve handled, a Desert Eagle (which I’ve reviewed) that weighs in at 70.6 oz. It’s also ridiculously light compared to comparably sized S&W 629 which weighs in at 41.5 oz. Honestly, I had no idea how unbelievably light this gun was until I put it in my hands. When I did, I had second thoughts and thought that maybe I had made a mistake in picking it up.

Out of the box, this gun comes with:

  • the nostalgic S&W blue plastic revolver case,
  • a manual,
  • a cable lock,
  • a set of synthetic grips,
  • a pair of keys for S&W’s internal lock,
  • and the manual.

The gun is gorgeous. It’s better looking in person than it is on Smith & Wesson’s website. I still can’t get over how light the gun is with its scandium frame and titanium alloy cylinder. The high visibility fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear sight pair nicely and make it pretty easy to align and get a good sight picture. The large spurred hammer is really nice and cocking it for single action is a breeze. The trigger is what one should expect from an S&W revolver – it’s heavy, smooth, and could benefit from a trigger job or the Performance Center treatment. But all around, this gun feels good in the hand and looks amazing.

Full disclosure, feeling how light the gun was in my hand had me worried. I’m well aware that .44 Mag is no slouch. So, I thought it would be prudent to replace the beautiful wood grips with a set of Hogue recoil reducing rubber grips before getting this revolver out to the range. The Hogue grips aren’t nearly as pretty, but they do feel better in my hand and seem to provide a stickier grip.

I took this beauty out the range while accompanied by my son and very close friend. Between the three of us, we put the first fifty or so rounds through it. Of which only five rounds were .44 Mag rounds, the rest were .44 Special.

We started with a box of Minuteman Ammunition 44 Special with 200 grain Rainier FP projectiles. All three of use put at least one cylinder (six rounds) or two down range. The consensus was this revolver was a dream to shoot with .44 Special.

With a little bit of built up confidence, I was the first of the three to load a single Hornady .44 Magnum Custom round with a 240 grain XTP projectile in it and fired it. The experience was life altering. The recoil of the hot .44 Mag load in this revolver was punishing and could be felt from the palm of the strong hand to the elbow. It wasn’t uncontrollable, but it was significantly more than I (and probably most people) bargained for. I’m honestly uncertain if the grips “reduced the recoil at all”, but I can’t offer an opinion as I didn’t attempt it with different grip.

My son and close friend echoed the sentiment and arrived at similar conclusions after firing a single .44 Mag round each. I fired about three more before my hand and wrist were crying “Uncle”.

The strange thing for me was that I never thought that I would find something more punishing (in terms of recoil) than a S&W 500 Magnum revolver with the exception of S&W 500 Magnum revolver with a shorter barrel. This light .44 Mag revolver with a hot .44 Mag load redefined my expectations. While I’m typing this with a bruised palm, I’ll admit that this revolver is a new guilty pleasure for me. At the same time, I can now understand the stories I’ve heard about people purchasing this revolver and immediately selling it.

While I really like this revolver, I’m going to vehemently recommend against picking this guy up as a first gun with the intent of shooting .44 Mag cartridges with it. While it’s a very manageable and pleasant gun to shoot with .44 Special, it’s the exact opposite when loaded with .44 Mag. As such, I think there are better options out there for first time gun buyers.

I can see this revolver being really comfortable to carry and very practical for folks looking to do some serious hiking in bear country. Due to its size and weight, I can’t see many other .44 Mag revolvers holding a candle to it terms of carry comfort. As long as one isn’t recoil sensitive, I highly recommend this revolver for that purpose.

I also recommend this to any shooter that was looking for a sharp looking revolver to do some target shooting with .44 Special. With that cartridge, this revolver is a dream to shoot. It’s accurate and quite stunning to the eyes.

If one is even slightly recoil sensitive and looking for a .44 Mag revolver, I advise you to look elsewhere. Your hand, wrist, and elbow will thank you later.

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