A New Old-School Hunting Revolver

Although the number may be diminishing, there still remains a fair number of us old coots that are—oh Hell, let’s just get it out in the open—Smith & Wesson snobs. We long for the day when barrels were pinned to the frame, the chambers in the cylinders were recessed to completely enclose a cartridge case, four screws secured the sideplate and trigger pulls were velvet smooth. When we see a hammer with that sexy claw-like firing pin attached we begin to sweat, and our breath palpitates. For the most part we are convinced that the world is going straight to Hell in a hand basket.
Yep, guns aren’t made the way they used to be. I’m pretty sure every generation has voiced that lament. However, there is some hope left in this old coot’s heart for the Smith & Wesson revolvers I know and love. The most recent example comes from the Performance Center (PC) and is a Model 629.
For the Smith & Wesson non-sycophants the Model 629 is the stainless steel version of the company’s iconic Model 29 .44 Magnum—the Dirty Harry gun. Since the revolver has seemed to have lost much of its luster as a self-defense tool or a duty weapon, it is now pretty much a Fudd gun—a hunting tool. Smith’s PC guys have built what just may be the ultimate hunting revolver.
The barrel on the PC 629 is 8 3/8 inches long. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it gives the bullet more push, making it fly faster with a flatter trajectory and more energy delivered to the target. Second, it’s heavier and helps soak up recoil. The extra weight also helps the revolver hang in the hands better, making it a bit more stable and easier to shoot than a shorter barreled gun. Unfortunately, it is not pinned to the frame. Smith & Wesson seems to be permanently wedded to the notion of crushed-fit threads for its revolver barrels. I think it’s an unspoken axiom in Springfield, Massachusetts, that no revolver leaving the plant should ever be capable of being rebuilt or rechambered, but that’s just me spouting off. The barrel is topped off with five longitudinal flutes, I assume for style, since they don’t save any appreciable weight. Besides, the integral under-lug and solid top rib are far more metal than what was removed with the flutes.
An unfluted cylinder fills up the frame window to contain the cartridges. Again, with a hunting revolver weight is not a burden. It’s your friend. Here, too, the modern practice of not recessing the cartridge case heads prevails. It would require a fair amount of re-engineering to accommodate recessed case heads. And while I agree that recessing the case heads adds no strength since the heads are now solid, I still like them recessed just because.
The trigger is smoothed faced and of the combat type—something us Smith & Wesson snobs adore. Someone has invested a bit more time in tuning this trigger because its single-action let off is right at 2 pounds, 15 ounces. The PC guys also returned a fourth screw to the sideplate, up top where it belongs. And the sidelplate screws have a nice polish to their heads so they can stand out from the bead-blasted finish of the rest of the revolver and remind everyone that this is a four-screw revolver.
I mounted a Burris 2-7 x 32 mm handgun scope to the PC 629 via an enclosed Picitinny rail ring mount. My initial shooting results were generally good, with my handload of 20.0 grains of Alliant 2400 behind a Lyman 429421 SWC that I cast yielding slightly better accuracy than the factory loads I have on hand at 50 yards. Although I have yet to have had an opportunity to take any game with this rig, I hope to do so in the not-too-distant future.
If you wanted to put together a revolver of this quality, I doubt that you could do it for the MSRP of this gun—$1399. A note to you younger fellas who may still have some affinity for the revolver, especially for hunting: Better get one of these. Someday, when I’m long since just a few particles of smog swirling around the Beartooth Mountains, some whippersnapper of a gun writer who may not even be a twinkle in his daddy’s eye yet is going to discover “this beautiful old-school revolver” and wax endlessly of its fine attributes and how “they just don’t make them like this anymore.” And handgunners will start ponying up significant cash just to get their hands on one.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”

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