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The Dirty Harry .44 Magnum: The Classic Smith & Wesson Gun (Or Cannon?)

Smith & Wesson Model 29
Image: Creative Commons.

Few firearms are as famous as the Smith & Wesson Model 29, chambered in .44 Magnum—which the fictional Dirty Harry Callahan, played perfectly by Clint Eastwood, described as being the “most powerful handgun in the world.” In fairness, it wasn’t really the oversized hand cannon that Harry was holding but the cartridge.

Introduced in 1950, the .44 Magnum had both the energy and speed gun owners wanted. It delivered 767-foot pounds of energy against targets, and at 1,200 feet per second achieved supersonic speed. The result was an excellent round for hunting sidearm, capable of defending a hunter from a charging boar, bear” or some other type of dangerous animal, according to Kyle Mizokami.

What the Model 29 was able to do is to truly harness that power. Weighing in at nearly three pounds loaded—double a modern Glock 9-millimeter pistol—the Model 29 needed that weight to absorb the hefty recoil. While perhaps a police detective might not mind having the solid chunk of metal holstered all day this probably isn’t something CCW holders would ever consider for everyday carry.

However, the .44 Magnum has remained a popular choice for sport shooters, which explains why the Model 629—a stainless steel version of the iconic Model 29—has been one of the top-selling revolvers according to the National Shooting Sport Foundation for 2020.

Moreover, this version of the Smith & Wesson classic is actually less powerful than the company’s Model 500, which is chambered for the even heftier .500 Magnum. This suggests that a nearly fifty-year-old movie has remained the best salesman for the Model 29/629. Branding is everything, and the .44 Magnum is as powerful a “brand” as it is a caliber.

It is also easy to see why the Model 629, which was first introduced in 1979, has remained such a popular choice for handgun buyers. Its stainless steel construction means it is easy to clean and more resistant to rust than carbon steel, and, unlike blued revolvers, this one will certainly be noticed.

As a double-action revolver, the single-action trigger is light and crisp for precise shooting, while the double-action pull can cycle the cylinder smoothly for rapid-fire. The large, aggressively checkered exposed hammer will provide a solid non-slip surface that allows shooters to cock the hammer under inclement conditions.

The Model 629’s red-ramp front sight is pinned into an integral sight ramp, and the rear sight has a white outline and is adjustable for windage and elevation. The synthetic rubber grip provides a sure hold in any weather and helps to absorb recoil. This is a handgun that is capable of taking large game while also being there to make a huge statement as a home defense weapon.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on 

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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