A modern guide to guns and hunting

Smith & Wesson 329PD

More fun than a firecracker in your fist

All guns can be divided into two categories: those you buy because you want to shoot them, and those you buy because someday you might need to shoot them. Clearly falling into the latter category is the Smith & Wesson 329PD, a 26 ounce package that can shoot .44 magnum cartridges until you’re ready to cry uncle from the recoil. Which probably won’t be long.

The 329PD is the big daddy of Smith’s airweight/featherweight line of handguns. Smith designed this line for the express purpose of comfortable carry of a gun that you really hope you never have to use. Smith also makes similar models for .38 special, .357 magnum, .41 magnum and .45 ACP, as well as a model for 22 LR (the purpose for which really escapes me). Let’s dwell on this point for a moment: this is a gun that you buy, hoping you NEVER shoot (except at a range). You can consider it an emergency gun, a bear defense gun, a hiking/fishing gun, a backup arm for hunting, or whatever. The concept to bear in mind is that this gun only gets fired when you have a real problem on your hands, and your concerns are for matters much greater than some unpleasant recoil.

What makes this gun so nasty to shoot? I alluded to it in the top paragraph – 26 ounces simply isn’t much mass to absorb the recoil of any centerfire cartridge, let alone the mighty .44 magnum. And, what the gun doesn’t absorb, your hand and body will. Those of you who have fired the .44 magnum from a more conventional gun, such as the Smith model 29 or a variant thereof, have only an inkling of what this gun feels like. I have fired other major-league handgun cartridges, such as the .454 Casull, the S&W .460 and the S&W .500, all of which are considerably more powerful than the .44 magnum, but this is the gun I least like to shoot. Imagine slamming your open hand down onto a concrete block, with about the same amount of force as you’d use to swat a fly. Yeah…it’s kind of like that, over and over and over.

But enough about the recoil…let’s focus on what the gun’s good features. And there are plenty. To begin with, the 329PD gives the user a full-sized N-frame platform from which to shoot anything from .44 special target loads up to .44 magnum full house loads. And it does so in a package light enough to be worn comfortably in a shoulder holster while going about whatever work you may be doing. The dark-toned finish also shows off the gun very nicely and is easy to clean up. The hardwood grips are beautiful but they quickly gave way to a cushioned rubber grip on my gun. And…it’s as accurate as any other 4″ .44 I’ve ever shot. If you do your job…it will, too.

It’s worth noting that there are several things you can do to mitigate the recoil from this gun. You can shoot .44 special, you can shoot cast lead bullets with minimal powder charges, you can wear a heavy glove. I don’t know that any (or all) of these things will ever turn the 329PD into a “plinker,” but…they will make it more comfortable while you’re getting used to the gun. I would recommend, though, that, while at the range, you shoot a few of whatever loads you’ll take to the field, just to have an understand of what may await you.

Clearly, the 329PD isn’t for everyone – none of the scandium-framed offerings from S&W are. These guns are intended to be used by people who need protection in an environment where every ounce of weight counts. And in this capacity, the 329PD performs admirably.

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  • mike

    felt like the best balanced carry gun I ever handled and I buy and sell many, the gun probably shoots as hard as the taraus titanium light, maybe more since the S&W has the hard grips. In-any-case I am considering buying one for deer hunting and protection from black bears.

  • Kyle

    I bought this gun with the intention of packing it into the field as a self defense weapon. It is not designed to put numerous heavy loads through at the gun range, however, light loads such as 44 special are not unbearable to shoot at all…in fact, its quite pleasant.

  • Denny

    I go for back country hikes with my wife and since buying one this pistol has always been my first choice for carry. Recoil is stout but not as bad as I’ve heard some say with the Garrett Defender 310 grain. I can’t keep the muzzle on target continously like a Glock in 40s&w, but it’s faster than my Ruger Blackhawk in 45LC with hot loads. I’ve had lackluster performance with solid hits on pitbulls with the 40, and wanted some stronger medicine that didn’t weigh so much.


    my question is :
    what speedloader fits for S&W 329PD 44 Magnum ?????????


    • admin

      Hi, George –

      Thanks for bringing your question to us. Do I assume correctly that you’ve tried standard model 29/629 speedloaders without success?

      I knew that S&W made the cylinder a bit longer on the 329PD to try to control the effects of the crimp creep, but I thought it was otherwise identical. I’ll do some looking around, and will post back here if I find anything.

  • Mark

    The standard #29 HKS speed loader works fine. If you want to tame the 329 PD down a bit, order S&W 500 Magnum grips. These grips cover the backstrap with soft rubber. You can also use shooting gloves as well. I also tried come of the Buffalo Bore REDUCED RECOIL ammo. It works well.

    Personally, the recoil doesn’t bother me too much, but the 500 Grips really make this pistol fun to shoot.

  • scott

    Smith & Wesson 629PD .44 Magnum—

    I bought this weapon for carry in Montana- fired 50 rounds of hot 230g HP’s in less than 20 minutes while sighting in- what is all the whining about? If you can’t stand the recoil of this little revolver, then maybe you should give it to your little sister or your grandmother. Better yet, write about something you own, instead of your “never been there, never done that” opinions.
    BTW- this is the day after 50 rounds with the wood grips, and my hand, wrist, arm are just fine.

  • Greg

    I shoot remington 180 jsp for targets in my 329, Yup, they’re unconfortable when you pull the trigger, but not that bad. After 50 rounds, my wrist was a little sore, and I had a blister in the web of my thumb from the wood grips, by morning all was good. I load it with 300gr jhp while fishing, and love the feeling of knowing I have enough power if things became dire.

  • Steve

    Just put mine on layaway, at Sportsman Wharehouse. I own the same gun in .357, model escapes me now. Have shot tons through it. It’s got to be comparable becasue a .357 in 11 ounces roughly = .44 mag in 25 ounces. Yes it hurts if i have tiny back metal exposed grips. BUT, regular rubber grips is fine. Felt of course. but fine. I have a CCW and carry my .357 all the time because it is small and lightweight. I hike hours on end when helping a budy fill a tag or chukar hunting. I’ve carried my gp101. I hate the weight after 1 hour. I need a potent gun in a feather package. I’m tiredof leaving guns behind because they weigh too much. They pull on your trousers, hence your hip, then your back. My intention is to ALWAYS carry it while out back and feel it way less than conventional steel.
    Question: Someone told me it hurts the gun to shoot .44 magnums regularly through it. That it might break. That it was designed to see them once in a while. Tell me this isn’t so.

  • admin

    Hey, Steve –

    I think you’ll really like the 329. Ounce for ounce, it’s a great security blanket in the field. I think you were misinformed about the 329’s durability. While any double-action revolver will eventually begin to wear out with enough heavy-duty action, but I’ve heard nothing to suggest that this is any more so with the 329. In my testing, I put a whole BUNCH of very potent rounds through it, and when I was done, it was good as new.
    Edit: correct the model number to 329.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the vote of confidence! I got my 329 before Christmas. Have shot it 5 times. Update: It kicks WAY more than any on-line article I have ever read. Believe me. I am not at all gun shy or recoil shy. Never have been. I am 195lbs, med/small hands 5″ 11″. I can only shoot 6 rounds per session. It’s more than painful. It hurts more than my friends .460 SW. Good news: .44 specials are a plinking round. I can easily shoot 100 rounds. Every article I have read says even the .44 specials are tough. NOT TRUE.
    I have carried it for CCW and in the hunting field. It is a Dream Come True. I own a Ruger GP100. LOVE IT! Many rounds through it; flawless. BUT it’s to heavy to strap to my side for hiking 8 hours a day. The 329PD is not. I will make it a point to keep my .44 magum on my side comfortably (vertical not hip, becaue I have a back pak to conentend with) . My Rating so far A+.
    QUESTION: I bought it for an ALL duty revolver, now I hear a Grizzly needs more fire power. I say bull, what do you say? Worst case scenerio: a grizzly charges at 50 yards, you put 2 in the right spot, would it save you?
    I say Yes!

  • admin

    Hi, Steve –

    I’m glad you’re happy with your 629PD. It is certainly the most bang for the ounce I know of.

    On the subject of the .44 magnum for defense from brown bears: you’ll get a lot of conflicting information. Personally (and this is entirely from research), I think the .44 magnum is at the low end of what’s safe for grizzly country. Once a bear’s adrenaline is running, it takes an enormous amount of firepower to stop it. As always, shot placement is key…if you can put one in the head, you’ll be fine; otherwise…don’t plan on stopping after two shots.

    Thanks for visiting the site.



  • Brian

    I have a 329 PD and I love it and they do recoil pretty hard I have the hoghunter lazer grips on mine and added a rail under the bbl for a weapons light.I got it mostly for bear and dogs but decided it work work on the guy that threatened me when I was building a camp for a customer way back in the woods(I must have been too close to the pot plants he was growing ) but anyway I love it,just like having a tapemeasure on my side,going right now to try a shoulder holster for it.I have shot several hundard rounds thru it and it still holding up fine.

  • Chuck

    Bought mine and shot a full box of mags at the range. Yeah it has more bite than say the 629 but even a box of mags thru the 329 was bearable. I love it.

  • Slim

    I picked up a 329PD a few days ago and am in love. Started out with 180 grain Hornady XTP hollow points, and also put a few of the 225 grain LeverRevolutions through it. With the 180’s it has stout recoil, but still quite manageable. The 225 grain bullets produced a bit more recoil but still was far from painful.
    With either of these bullet choices, you could shoot it for extended periods. I put the Hogue rubber grips on it before firing any rounds throught the gun by the way.

    After the magnum loads, I tried some 165 grain Hornady .44 Special Critical Defense. With these, the recoil is less than my 642 2 inch shooting .38+p loads – quite pleasant.

    Anyone considering this gun for daily carry, as I do, might I suggest a couple holsters that have proven to be extremely comfortable. First the Safariland 568 is the most comfortable by far. It does hang a bit lower on the belt than the Desantis Speed Scabbard that I also use. The Desantis is excellent for concealed carry since it rides higher and holds the gun closer to your body. It’s still comfortable enough for all day carry as well.

  • shikarchee

    I bought 329PD 2 years ago, ported the barrel, it has helped somewhat.
    I shoot Win Sliver-tip 210 grain, recoil is not bad at all, but when I shoot new Hornady 44 Mag 225 gr FTX® LEVERevolution, the recoil is strong.
    Forget about wood grip and not very impressive with rubber on.
    Taurus has rubber grip on its 44mags, it is fantastic.
    Accuracy, if I do my job right, less than an inch at 25 yards is norm.
    You surely want to shoot this weapon with gloves.
    Can anyone recommend better grip for this weapon?

  • Snidely Whiplash

    Pachmayr decelerator grips cover the backstrap and are slim enough for smaller hands. If you’ve got big mitts or need more cushioning, the Hogue X frame grips rubber grips work very well. The rubber grips supplied by S&W are garbage.

    There may be some grandmothers out there packing a 629 that want to thank you foe the magnum. They might be a little mad about your attitude toward their son…so watch your back.

    You are VERY welcome to come over and shoot a box of full house magnum loads through my Magnaported 329PD. You’ll go home crying for mama.

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