The original prototype .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson was built in 1954 on an existing 1950 Target Model, which had been chambered in .44 Special. The engineers at Smith & Wesson fitted a new, specially heat-treated cylinder to the 6-1/2" barreled 1950 Target, which had a weight of 39 ounces. The sixgun performed fine, however, the recoil was so fierce the engineers deemed it prudent to add more weight in the form of a heavy bull barrel and full-length cylinder, which brought the weight up to an even 3 pounds. This latest .44 Magnum from the Smith & Wesson Performance Center weighs the same as the original prototype. In the past 55 years, since the advent of the .44, Magnum sixguns have gotten bigger and and heavier to tame the recoil of heavier loads, and a 39-ounce .44 Magnum is going to kick fiercely with regular full-house .44 loads.

The original .44 Magnum was built with the hunter in mind. This one is aimed at those who want a big-bore sixgun for personal protection, a term that covers a lot of territory. Since what we have to be protected from depends on just where our wanderings happen to take us. By going with a powerful big-bore chambering such as the .44 Magnum with proper loads, we are set for self-defense against the nastiest of creatures no matter how many legs they may have, well at least short of the big bears of Alaska.

There has been a noticeable trend in recent years, especially in this first decade of the 21st century to once again offer short-barreled big-bore sixguns. This is not Smith & Wesson’s first short-barreled, all-steel offering as I have an older 3" Model 29 with the same roundbutt and un-fluted cylinder as this current offering. Smith & Wesson Night Guards are lightweight revolvers, while this new 629 is all steel.