History of the S&W Model 29

The Smith & Wesson Model 29 is a six-shot, double action revolver chambered for the .44 Magnum cartridge. It was offered with 3, 4, 5, 6, 6.5, 8.375 and 10.375 inch barrels as standard models. Other barrel lengths were available by special order from S&W’s Custom Shop. The 5″ barreled variant had a full length underlug. An underlug is a shroud which covers the ejector rod. Presumably, the underlug assisted with minimizing muzzle rise from this powerful round.

Model 29 with a full underlug, the shroud covering the ejector rod which makes the gun look like it has two barrels.

At the time of its introduction, the Model 29 was the most powerful production handgun, although it was later overtaken by handguns chambered for the even larger .454 Casull and .50 Action Express.

The gun’s claim to fame occurred in 1971’s Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood, and his famous line “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you have to ask yourself one question. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

The popularity of the movie caused Model 29 sales to soar. Hollywood magic did their part to give the gun an aura of absolute invincibility and power. However, expert handgunners found the revolver to be tough to handle with full-house magnum ammo. Soon, many “barely used” models went up for sale.

Many of these used guns ended up in the hands of big game hunters, and it was this popularity with hunters that made the gun shine once again, with the bagging of white-tailed deer, polar bears, feral pigs and elephants.

Archive photo from the National Firearms Museum’s Dirty Harry display.

The Model 29 will chamber and fire both the .44 Special and .44 Russian cartridges, as the .44 Magnum was developed from the .44 Special and the .44 Special was developed from the .44 Russian. The Magnum case is slightly longer to prevent magnum rounds from being chambered and fired in handguns chambered for the .44 Special.

As for the actual Model 29 used by Clint Eastwood, it had had a 6.5″ barrel, and was used in both Dirty Harry (’71) and Magnum Force (’73). It became part of the 2002 exhibit “Real Guns of Reel Heroes” at the National Firearms Museum.

History of the S&W Model 29