By Jeremy Harding
What was the moment you first remember hearing about a .44 magnum? How old were you? Do you remember what you were doing? Chances are, many of you that grew up while Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Black Sabbath were starting to gain popularity got your first glimpse of a .44 mag. You watched Clint Eastwood as Harry Calhan deliver this unforgettable line in the classic motion picture, Dirty Harry: “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 kind of lost track myself. But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”.
The firearm being used in the film by “Dirty Harry” to bring corrupt criminals to justice was none other than the timeless Smith & Wesson Model 29 with a blued-steel finish. Except, it wasn’t Clint Eastwood that we can thank for bringing the Model 29 to the public. That distinction belongs to the iconic rancher, author, and father of modern magnum pistol-rounds: Elmer Keith. Easily recognized by his appreciation for cigars, his Stetson hat, and his inclination toward hunting medium-to-large game using handguns; Keith was best known for developing the .357, .44, and .41 magnum rounds.
It was Keith’s maximization of the .44 special cartridge that prompted S&W to develop a suitably robust firearm to match. Thus, production of the classic, N-frame, revolver began in 1955 with the official designation of Model 29 coming two years later in 1957. For much of its initial introduction, the Model 29 was viewed as something of a niche firearm for enthusiasts, some law enforcement and hunters with a preference for using pistols like Elmer Keith.
All of that changed when “Dirty Harry” proclaimed that the .44 magnum was “the most powerful hangun in the world” in 1971. For some time after the film released, S&W actually had a difficult time keeping the weapon in stock as they flew off the shelves. Since then, the 29 has seen multiple alterations and improvements over the years that never strayed far from the core design of the first Model 29.
Although there are several versions, common offerings of the six-round capacity 29 come with a small mix of different customization options to fit your specific requirements. With barrel lengths on current production models ranging between four- and six-and-a-half inches, and a choice of either a blued-steel or nickel-plated finish, the 29 is not particularly adaptable by any stretch, but customizability was never its intended strong suit. Its carbon-steel frame and wood grip weighs in around three pounds and carries a single/double-action trigger mechanism. An adjustable rear sight, coupled with a red-ramp front sight, rounds out the staple features of this classic hand-cannon.
Whether you’re a firearms enthusiast who just likes to feel the weight of a solid magnum revolver in your hand, or a pistol-hunting aficionado like the iconic Elmer Keith, the archetypal Model 29 is a piece of living American history that deserves every bit of its high-profile, classic, status. Cigars and Stetson hat sold separately.