Smith & Wesson's large N-frame revolvers are a favorite among handgun hunters, competitive shooters, and classic wheel gun enthusiasts.

With a basis in the old school circa 1908 Hand Ejector First Model "New Century" double-action revolver, the first handgun chambered in .44 S&W Special, this early S-frame morphed during World War I into the Model 1917, chambered in .45 ACP, and a series of similarly beefy descendants such as the Model 27 – the world's first .357 Magnum – and, the subject of our tale, the hand-filling Model 29.  

Debuted in 1955, the six-shot revolver was the first commercial double-action revolver to be chambered in Elmer Keith's conceptual .44 Magnum round, which fired a 240-grain pill at a very decent 1,500 feet-per-second velocity when introduced, making it arguably the most powerful production handgun cartridge, save for obrez'd rifles, until SAMMI in 1997 recognized the .454 Casull (unless you want to argue about the .44 AMP, but that's another article).

Smith & Wesson first introduced the revolver simply as the .44 Magnum in the company's December 1955 catalog, only going on to designated it as the Model 29 in 1957. By 1969, during the production of the 29-2 series, the serial number prefix changed from "S" to "N," which led to the N-frame designation, one that has stuck ever since. 

Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
Early advertisements by S&W simply called the gun the .44 Magnum. 



Clint Eastwood's Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan famously used the .44 Magnum S&W in 1971's "Dirty Harry" followed by the appropriately named "Magnum Force" in 1973, "Sudden Impact" (1983), and "The Dead Pool" (1988), getting a solid two-decade run out of the N-frame. 

The Model 29 has been a big-screen hog leg in the hands not only of Eastwood but also Roger Moore's James Bond, Robert Culp, Lee Marvin (twice), Chuck Norris (also twice), Chow-Yun Fat, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Nick Cage, and Schwarzenegger, to name a few. Even Kurt Russell's Jack Burton was offered a long-barreled Model 29 to take on everything short of Lo Pan in the epically underrated "Big Trouble in Little China." 

Over the past 65 years, the S&W Model 29 has endured, being produced in at least 12 different generations from 4- and 5-screw "Pre-29" S-frames through today's 29-10 N-frames, which are part of Smith's Classic line. This span has seen almost every length barrel from 3 to 10.6 inches as well as blued and nickel finishes. Stainless models are designated the Model 629, which was introduced in 1978. 

Here's a sampling of vintage Model 29s that we have available in the Vault: 

Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
This early "S" prefix Model 29 has a 6-5-inch barrel and aftermarket Pachys. Incidentally, Frank Sinatra for years owned a Model 29 with a 6.5-inch barrel. Given to him "by the gang at Harrah’s" it sold at auction in 2013 for $17K.


Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
This 29-2 has a nickel finish and features a 5 7/8-inch barrel. The 29-2 generation spanned from 1962-1982, making it the largest run of this vintage .44 Mag.


Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
How about this 29-3 3-inch with Hogue grips? Now that's protection in bad bear areas. 


Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
Another nickel long barrel, this one is a great-looking 29-3. 


Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
This 29-3, still with Smith's "He-Man" style combat grips, is about as Dirty Harry as it gets.


Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
This 29-3 Hunter is very rare. It features a 6-inch full-lug barrel, four-position front sight, non-fluted cylinder, and a finger groove grip. Manufactured in 1987 only, just 5,000 of these were produced especially for Lew Horton.


Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
The Model 29 is still in production today by Smith & Wesson, as is the stainless 629.  (Photo: S&W) 


Smith & Wesson 44 Magnum Model 29 revolver
It gives powerful insurance for those venturing into dangerous animal areas, peace of mind for personal protection, and as a tool for hunters. (Photo: S&W) 

While today's very capable Classic-line Model 29s are a near-faithful ode to their predecessors, they just don't hold the same panache as the more vintage pre-1996 models, 29-5 and earlier, which are highly sought by collectors as they do not have the oft-disliked internal trigger lock and do not contain MIM internals. As such, if you can get a good deal on an older Model 29, you may just have to ask yourself one question...


revolver barrel loading graphic