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Hello. A short time back, I found a used, but "clean" S&W Model 629-1 at a fair price. I don't really care for stainless steel, but do see some practicality in it for field use. In the past, I foolishly got rid of my older, blued 6 1/2" Model 29s and I'd found the .44 Magnum to be an extremely accurate round in both factory loads as well as handloaded.

I bought it.

Last hunting season, I was able to take Texas whitetails cleanly with 9mm, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt, all using handloaded ammunition, but I thought this might be a bit easier to make hits with.

That was what I told myself, anyway. Now, that I "needed" it, I felt better!


I was really surprised at how much the longer barrel reduced muzzle flip over the 6 1/2" barrel S&Ws I'd owned in the past.

Ammunition: This is a short-coming in this report; there are no handloads listed; I have not had time. Yet, this round, like .45 Colt and .44 Special holds extreme potential for handloaders. Sorry.

Four factory loads were tried. They were:

Winchester 210-grain Silvertip Hollow Point

PMC 240-grain JHP

Magtech 240-grain JSP

CCI Blazer 240-grain JHP

There were significant velocity differences between these factory loads, but extreme spreads and standard deviations were very acceptable.

To save bandwidth, you'll find the average velocity, extreme spread, and standard deviation for each load printed on the picture of the 10-shot 25 yard group shown for each load. The figures are based on 10-shot strings fired about 10' from the chronograph screens.

Shooting: This is primarily a handgun for the field, range, or for shooting metal rams and such. Therefore, no defensive, "practical" shooting was done with it. In fact, all shots were fired single-action. Nothing's closer than 25 yards and a couple were fired at 50 yards. All groups were fired seated and a two-hand hold was used with my wrists on a rest.


The PMC shot surprisingly well, better than I'd expected!


The 210-grain STHP also shot well for me and recoil was noticably less than with some of the others.


None of the ammunition tested was inaccurate; my shooting didn't do any of it justice.


The CCI Blazer was had the lowest velocity of any of the ammo shot today. It was very managable, as was the 210-grain. The other two are getting toward the top end of my recoil tolerance level as I've not shot anything hotter than a .45 Colt with a 250-grain bullet at about 950 ft/sec in years other than a round or two now and again from a .454 Casull that belongs to a friend.

At 50 yards, the groups spread out some and I did pull some in anticipation of recoil.





The two loads that were fired at 50 yards were the ones that probably would have been chosen for hunting of the four used today and that's why they were picked.

Observations: No longer "the most powerful hangun on Earth," the .44 Magnum has enough for me and what I will shoot with it in Texas.
It does have recoil, but it is usable; I need to practice with it more and will. However, I see no need to go just as far as the round's ballistic envelope will safely allow. It's my understanding that the S&W .44 Magnums will not take a constant diet of the really hot stuff that other revolvers will. Frankly, I'm not inclined to try for reasons stated above.

Once I get "the mood" and some time, I'll handload for this round and suspect strongly that in the future, it'll forget that factory rounds even exist!

Just for grins, I took some about 5 gallons of "scientific water" and poured it on the ground to make some "scientific mud" for the obligatory "scientific mud expansion tests." (Actually, I do hold great respect for folks who really get into true terminal ballistics. This is mainly just for fun.)


This load showed more aggressive expansion than the others and is more "flattened" in appearance. I suspect it might be considered as not having sufficient penetration for hunting larger animals. I think it would work fine on deer, but I've not shot any deer with a .44 Magnum using anything other than a handloaded 240-grain CSWC years ago.


I was actually surprised to see the Magtech JSP actually expand!


The Blazer 240-grain JHP appears to expand pretty well. I have no idea how it does in tissue.


This JHP was the fastest in that weight today and beat out the Winchester 210-grain as well.

I suspect I'll wind up with a 240-grain Hornady XTP or a CSWC in the same weight at about 1250 ft/sec if I can find an accurate handload in that velocity range.


You know, this kicks more than my 9mm's do!

There were no malfuntions and all fired cases extracted easily. My hands are not sore, but I do need to work on "recoil anticipation" as I've not been shooting calibers in this power range for quite a time.

When I look at this revolver, I'm pleased, but a big reason for that is that in my mind's eye, I see: jerky, hams, back strap, venison meatloafs, and shishkabobs of tenderloin!

Best.
 

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Nice report, Stephen, and good photos, too.

What was the density of your "scientific mud?" ;)
 
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