I know a lot of SurvivalBlog readers are fans of .44 Magnum revolvers – when I did my article on the S&W 329 Night Guard, I heard from quite a few of you. What we’re looking at today is the S&W 329PD – the PD stands for Personal Defense. The 329 PD is a super light-weight .44 Magnum / .44 Special revolver that weighs in at a mere 25.1 ounces. That’s not much weight in a gun that will shoot the powerful .44 Magnum round.
S&W makes the 329PD with Scandium Alloy for the frame, and Titanium alloy for the cylinder – and it all adds up to a super-strong, as well as super lightweight 6-shot revolver. I’ve been a big fan of the .44 Magnum ever since the first Dirty Harry movie came out. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’ve owned more .44 Magnum revolvers than any person has a right to own. My good friend, and fellow gun writer, John Taffin, has also written a book on the .44 Magnum entitled “Book of the .44“, published by Gun Digest. John has forgotten more than I’ll even know about .44s – and he probably has way more .44s than he knows what to do with, too.
The front sight on the 329PD is a high visibility red dot affair, and it really glows in the bright sunlight as well as under cloudy skies. With a 4″ barrel, it’s about all the gun you can carry concealed (where legal), if you wanted to carry this large “N” frame. I personally found this gun a real pleasure to carry concealed – I carried it for two weeks during my test and evaluation. Yes, I actually carry the guns I test! The nicely configured finger groove hardwood grips are nice – but they aren’t made for a lot of shooting. What I did was, I obtained a pair of rubber Hogue grips and put them on the revolver for most of my shooting – what a difference!
The frame and barrel shroud are made out of Scandium alloy and they are finished in a black anodized manner. The Titanium alloy cylinder is grayish is color – the contrast in the two colors was very eye appealing in my opinion. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. I had to give the rear sight a couple clicks windage to the right – elevation was set where it needed to be for the 240 grain .44 Magnum loads.
Trigger pull on the 329PD was extremely smooth – and in the double action mode, it broke at about 10-lbs. In single action, the trigger was right at 3-1/2 lbs. The nice trigger made hitting the target easy – when I did my part. I don’t know what you could possibly do to the trigger to get it any better than it was on my sample.
There was just “something” about the 329PD that drew me to it – like a magnet. I really liked carrying and shooting the gun – period. It balanced nicely, too. I’m not the world’s biggest revolver fan – more often than not, I’ll be found carrying some kind of semi auto for self-defense work. I enjoy the way I can speed reload a semi faster than any revolver – even with speed loaders.
For my testing, I gathered up quite a bit of .44 ammo. I had 240-gr JHP from Black Hills Ammunition, 240 grain JSP from Winchester – their white box ammo and from Buffalo Bore Ammunition – their 240-gr JHP and 255-gr SWC. John Taffin advises not to load anything more than about a 240-255 grain bullet in these lightweight .44s, as anything heavier may result in bullet jump – where the bullet jumps from the case and ties up the cylinder. I agree with Taffin on this. Besides, I don’t think I’d want to shoot any heavier loads – even though Black Hills and Buffalo Bore sent me some heavier loads.
Look, I’m not about to kid you about the heavy recoil in the 329PD – it was there! About all I cared to shoot during one session was about half a box of ammo. I only shot 6-rounds of .44 Mag with the wood grips during any one session. The recoil was hurting my wrist. Most of my shooting was done with the Hogue rubber grips. However, if you carry this gun, then carry it with the wood grips – if you have to draw and fire the gun in a self-defense situation, you won’t even feel the recoil. But for shooting fun, I’d suggest getting a pair of Hogue grips if you plan an extended shooting session – you wrist and hand will thank you.
Buffalo Bore also sent me some of their 255 grain SWC (Keith style) .44 Special loads. Tim Sundles, who owns and operates Buffalo Bore Ammunition, designed this load to shoot in his own S&W 329PD. Still, these loads are clipping along at about 1,000 FPS. Buffalo Bore doesn’t make wimp ammo!
Winchester sent me their 240 JSP load, and this is a decent round for target practice, as well as medium game hunting – up to the size of large deer. I liked this load – it wasn’t too punishing in the 329PD – all things considered.
Shooting over the hood of my SUV, with a rolled-up sleeping bag for a rest, I was able to get groups in the 2″ range, if I did my part. The winner of the accuracy contest went to the Black Hills .240-gr JHP load – I could get groups down there at about 1 1/2″ if I did my part all the time. The second runner up was the Buffalo Bore .44 Special load, with the 255-gr SWC bullets – this would be a great load for carrying on the trail – it’ll dispatch most of the critters you might come up against.
The Buffalo Bore 240-gr JHP was the most “punishing” of the loads – then again, we’re talking about full power .44 Mag rounds in a revolver that only weighs in at 25.1-oz. The Black Hills 240-gr JHP load, Winchester 240-gr JSP and the Buffalo Bore .44 Special loads felt about the same when I shot ’em – remember, BB really loads their ammo up.
Truth be told, I was very pleased with how well the 329PD shot, and I wouldn’t have any problem carrying the gun concealed all the time. I have one minor complaint, and it’s the fault of the materials used in the gun. The Titanium alloy cylinder would blacken on the end where the bullets exited – powder burns – if you will. After so much shooting, I could no longer completely clean off the blackened burn marks to my satisfaction. Of course, this has no effect on the way the gun shoots – it’s purely cosmetic. I could get most of the burn marks off the cylinder, but not all of ’em. I should also mention, there is a steel reinforcement plate in the top strap of the frame – this helps alleviate flame cutting through the top strap. And, should this steel plate eventually get burned through, send the gun back to S&W and they can replace it. I don’t see this plate burning through unless you fire thousands and thousands of round, though.
Quality doesn’t come cheap, and S&W has a suggested retail price of $1,159 for the 329PD. To be fair, I think this price is in line with the quality you’re getting in this gun. If you’re in the market for a new 4″ barrel .44 revolver of some type, and one that you can carry all day long, and forget that its there, then take a close look at the 329PD. Finding one may take some searching, as they are a bit hard to find, particularly on the secondary (“private party” market.)
– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio