In the world of wheelguns, the word “legend” can be applied to such names as Elmer Keith and the Smith & Wesson Performance Center. Together, they combine the classic era of handgunning and the dedication to the best that the art of the revolver can be. Is that over the top? No. It’s not. In fact, in an S&W 629 PC 2⅝-inch revolver review it is now possible to find a revolver that combines the vision of Keith, the great inventor, but taken to its maximum capability by the gunsmiths at the S&W Performance Center.
This gun is based on the classic large N-frame Smith & Wesson model 29, the platform on which the Idaho rancher and handgun legend named Elmer Keith built his research and reputation. Starting with the large, slow calibers of his time, Keith developed the now-classic hard-hitting .44 magnum — still used by hunters, once upon a time adopted by police departments and forever a classic among movie fans (yes, we have to mention the San Francisco detective, “Dirty” Harry Callaghan, whenever the .44 Magnum caliber is mentioned).
The N-frame S&W Model 29 was introduced in 1955. Later, as Keith (and Smith and Wesson) pushed the pressure loads higher, by necessity the stainless steel frame S&W Model 629 with a full-length underlug had to be developed. It was introduced to the public in 1978. The chamber walls were thickened, but the basic size, balance, grip and sights were retained.
Today, the Model 629 is a descendent of that model and, in its own right; it is a classic wherever revolvers are for sale. For handgunners, it is considered to be one of the most dependable, sought-after and (to get just a little emotional) beloved handguns available for people who depend upon a revolver for their livelihood and protection. It is a serious revolver, particularly in its dimensions: in the snub-nosed version, it is available in the .44 Magnum caliber. For a bullet weight of 200g, that translates (according to the tables) into a muzzle velocity of 750 to 1000 ft. lbs. In a .41 S&W caliber (developed for law enforcement departments in the 1960s and 1970s), it’s a gentler 340 to 375 ft. lbs. muzzle velocity.
Physically, the Smith & Wesson Model 629 snubnose makes a nice carry firearm. It’s only 7⅝” long overall (just five inches longer than the barrel), but it does weigh a substantial 39.6 ounces. Is that too large for concealed carry? That, of course, depends upon the type of carry and (if body carry) the frame of the person. If the option is for a home defense firearm, not a carry weapon, then the dimensions are another concern entirely.
But what about the attention of the gunsmiths in the S&W Performance Center? That adds an entirely new factor. The attention that Smith & Wesson pays to its production firearms is already legendary; nothing is skimped in making sure that their firearms are produced to the best standards. Still, the difference between the performance of an out-of-the-box firearm and one that has been given the thorough attention of a master gunsmith (or two, or three) can make all the difference in the world.
First, of course, is attention to the action: the working parts are given chrome finishing and polishing, which allows a smoother, easier movement. The tear-drop hammer and trigger with stop are chromed and detailed, so the double action movement is glass-like. Then come the sights: a dove-tailed red ramp front blade is paired with an adjustable, white-outlined rear sight. Even the wood Hogue grips are carefully checkered — not all over, but exactly where the palm and fingers need the best traction.
The combination of individual craftsmanship and modern technology — with, in the background, a stubborn, old Idaho rancher — result in a firearm that has earned this word: legend.