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.