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I've recently gotten bit by the big bore Smith and Wesson revolver bug.  I own and love to shoot a .44 Ruger Redhawk, but the 4" Smith .44s and .45s are so much easier to pack and have a lot better trigger actions.  I am planning on purchasing two revolvers, a Model 25-5 .45 Colt 4" and a Model 629-2 Mountain Gun (actually this gun has the mountain barrel but with no mountain revolver markings).  I thought that these two revolvers would be ideal packing guns for my wife and I on our ranch.  I've already posted my question on the 25-5.  I thought that the 629 being designed for magnum rounds would be more durable. Then I began to run across people who were telling me that the Smith 29 and 629 would not hold up to steady shooting with magnum rounds.  My question is this:  How many magnum rounds can I shoot in my Smith before it starts to fall apart?  I'd like to shoot 260-270 cast bullets at 1200 fps.  Many people tell me to get a Ruger single action.  If the Smith was so weak, why did old Elmer Keith carry a Model 29 and not a .44 Blackhawk?
 

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Frontlander:
I have never owned a Mdl 29 but a friend of mine does. It is a 4 in standard revolver.  I do not know how many rounds he has through it, he doesn't keep records like I do.  However several years ago I asked him how his gun was standing up to fullhouse Keith loads, he said he wasn't happy about how loose it had become.  This was about the time my 25-5 began to loosen up.  I can  only think of two theorys.  1, the guns we are now using and are in production are not as well fitted and timed as the ones Elmer had.  This is true no matter what the S&W factory says.  Therefore they tend to loosten up faster than the older ones.
2, Elmer, coming out of using single action revolvers may have fired his single action more than double action.  My friend and I used to shoot in Combat matches before they went crazy with the race guns and use ours primarily double action.  Rapid fire double action is harder on the lockwork than deliberate single action use.
One more thought about N frames.  They are not indestructable.  All of them have somewhat small delicate internal parts.  My mdl28-nothing has been retimed twice, and is now going in to have the barrell set back due to forcing cone errosing and excessive barrell / cyl gap.  It has also developed some endshake of the cylinder.  It was used 20 odd years ago when I got it, and I have put well over 7000 rounds of magnums through it myself.  
So in my opinion, you can expect about 7 to 10 thousand rounds before your N frame needs an overhaul.
 

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I posted on your other question about the 25-5 so I figured I'd try here to. I have a 629-4 with the 4" barrel and it is a great carry gun with a smooth action and light trigger. The older smiths had a tendency to shoot loose with a steady diet of magnum rounds, that is very well known. That is why S&W redesigned the internal lockwork on their N-frames back around the 1980's. I don't know the exact year they started this project but it included strengthening the crane, radiusing the studs to reduse stress fractures and lengthing the cylinder notches to prevent the bolt from jumping out under heavy recoil. How long do the newer ones last? Good question! I don't shoot thousands of rounds through mine to know. I would say shoot it like you want and don't worry about it blowing up or falling apart. If you want brute strength, buy the Ruger. If you want a classic sixgun that is good looking and carries well and will take most game with a good Keith load buy the smith and don't look back! Hope this helps.

God Bless

Chris
 

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Dear Frontlander,
You ask really good questions.  My first suggestion is you call Smith & Wesson's customer service and find out which strength improvements your 629-2 has.  If memory serves, the 629-2 has (as previously reported in this forum) the tighter tolerances, rounded/deeper cylinder notches and better metalurgy, especially in the yoke.  In other words, I believe it was the first 629 that would take anything around full loads and hold up.  (Elmer Keith did not shoot his 29's very much if the records are correct and lighter bullets like 250 gr put far less strain on this design than heavier bullets).  I believe the 629-3 was the first to incorporate an internal lock so when the gun was fired, most of the internal moving parts held still and gave less wear.  In my humble opinion, by 1992 or so, the 629-3 and the 29-5(?) were finally as good as the guns most people thought they were for decades.  

My experience and study are that these handguns (629-2 and later) can last a very long time if you simply don't push them too hard.  It is interesting that the same guns in 41 mag hardly ever had the reported problems of the 44mag.  I suggest it is simply because the 41 mag did not push the N frame beyond its limits.  

I put many thousands of rounds thru my 629-2 Mountain Gun with no problems at all.  Well... the recoil on that featherweight barrel will make you rethink 1200 fps with a 280 gr bullet real fast.  So how much is too much?  If I was that smart, I'd be almost as smart as Marshall Stanton.  Here's my thoughts though for actual 4" velocities.

You should have no trouble with either Marshall's 240gr WFN or his 250gr LFNGC with Blue Dot, AA-9 or 'Lil Gun giving you 1200 fps.  Another good option is to use Marshall's 280gr WFN and, with the same powders, find a good load that gives you about 1000 fps.  Of all the powders I ever used in 44mag, Blue Dot gave me the most velocity for the recoil.  I don't know if you will experience that though, but with a Mountain Gun, it's worth investigating.  

You might want to start with the 240 and 250 gr bullets though as I remember not being able to regulate the sights with anything over 280 gr (shoots too high).  

All this said, the Mountain Gun in specific and the N frame in general are wonderful handguns.  The Mountain gun carries like a dream and is easy to shoot well if you don't include potentially nasty recoil.  If you are looking for an excellent and faithful side arm of moderate power, you will never be disappointed.  

Hope this helps.  God bless...........  Bill M.
 

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"How many licks does it take to get to center of a Tootsie pop?" :)  As packing guns, the N frame Smiths in 45 Colt or 44 Magnum are in a class by themselves. No other manufacturer offers that kind of power in a portable double action revolver.  As packing guns they won't be shot all day, just carried. Loading them with potent loads won't hurt a bit but a steady diet of these loads will. I think a good question would be "How many model 29's did Elmer have?"

Ross Seyfried went through two 4 inch 29's and has a very tired third. This was before he settled on the 45 Colt in a single action as a packing gun. If your wedded to the Smith, go for it. Practice with lighter, fun loads and load the gun for business with full power loads.

You may consider the Ruger. In either caliber a 4 5/8 " barrell weighs in at 39 ounces. A 4 inch 29 weighs 44 ounces and a Mountain Gun 38 ounces. An extra ounce gives you the brute strength of the Ruger and you can shoot whatever you want whenever you want. I can't shoot the Smith 44 as well as my Ruger 44. The Smith 45 can't handle the loads my Ruger 45 can. For me the choice was easy.

Good luck in your sidearm quest,
 

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Mr. Frontlander,

Everyone has posted good ideas on this thread, so there is little I can add.  However, I've shot the 629 Mountain Gun in .44 Mag and it gets to be a handfull with 240s and 21 gr of 2400.  The heavier barrel will help with recoil somewhat as will grips that fit you and your wife's hands.  For packing, I use the above mentioned load or the same weight bullet with 24.0 gr of WW296.  I have taken deer, hogs, feral dogs and an old swamp bull that came after me.  270s and 280s are quite formidable at 1000 to 1100 fps as well.  Just depends on what your needs are.  
 

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Mr. Frontloader,

All the posts here are exellent!  I have little to add but my own experiences with the Smith 29's.  I've owned several of them over the years (past tense).  They are indeed smooth, nice packing revolvers that shoot wonderfully.  They do have a downside of not digesting a longtime diet of heavy loads.

Due to where I live and what I do with a handgun dictates that much of the shooting I do is with full throttle heavy loads.   Thus saying that, I have absolutely Ruined two beautiful examples of precision American craftsmanship by hammering them with a constant diet of heavy loads.

The first was a nice, 8 3/8" M29, pinned and recessed model.   After less than 1500 of my 44's loaded with .431"-325g WLNGC's over 21.0g H110 and a Winchester Primer, the gun rattled when you carried it, and the crane/yoke were so stretched and the center-pin hole so egg shaped that the poor gun was beyond rebuilding!  Chalk that one up to inexperience twenty years ago!

The next was another 8 3/8" revolver, this time a very nice 629, engraved with custom grips.  Great gun, and superbly accurate and excellent trigger.   Once again, using the same 325g bullet, even reducing the load a tad, loosened this gun up unbeleivably after less than 1,000 rounds.  It was a mid 80's manufacture gun, and surely didn't like the heavy loads for long.  I'll call that one abuse on my part... no excuses here.  Traded it off at a local gun show on a Ruger Stainless SBH, NIB straight across, even as loose as the Smith had become.

My latest Smith was a 629DX Classic.   A superb gun, and very accurate.   I fed it several thousand .430"-280g WFNGC's backed with 20.5g H110/WLPP and Rem Brass.  It never failed me, and always digested that load superbly.  It was just as tight the day I traded it off as when I aquired it (used) and that was after several thousand of these loads.

If you're looking for a load for that Smith 29 I don't believe you could do any better than the .44-280g WFNGC bullet, and if you want a load in the 1100-1200 fps load range, try AA#9, AA#5, and IMR 800X.  All will give exellent loads in that velocity range and with very good uniformity and accuracy.   None will be too hard on your M29.

They are good guns.   Respect their strength limitations and you'll have a great pack'n companion for many years!

My two cents worth!

God Bless,

Marshall
 

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I have put over 10,000 rounds through my 629-2, which I bought new the first year it was made, and it is still tight as you would want it to be. The forcing cone looks great.  It leaded for the first 2-3 years I owned it, but it hasn't leaded in years.

Significantly, I have never shot full-tilt magnum loads on a regular basis.
 
From the beginning, this revolver, shot with 240-250 SWCL, gave sticky extraction with anything over 20.5 grains of 2400. Over the years, I have always stayed below 19 grains, a favorite load being 18.5 grains.  I also have shot a lot of 9.5 grain Unique loads, which are very pleasant to shoot.

I have shot cast bullets 90% of the time, have avoided modern ball powders such as H110 and the like.  

This was been my "farm gun" for many years -- though I have carried a 396 some, lately.   I have shot more varmints than you would believe with this gun.  Over a hundred possums as well as fox, feral dogs, feral cats, and racoons. Probably a hundred farm animals, for one reason or another.

Got a possum in the henhouse with it last night.

I don't think you lose a lot by loading 19 instead of 22 grains, and if your experience is like mine, a 29 will last a long time if you download it just a little.

So in my experience, which is only a single data point after all, the key to long (almost indefinite) life in a 29 is to stay 3 or so grains off the top loads in 2400, avoid ball powders like H110 (which are advantageous only for top loads anyway), and shoot lead bullets.  

Just one person's experience.

I really like this old 629.

God bless,
Ken Rice
Coopersburg, PA
 
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