Celebrating The 3” S&W 629 Deluxe

I grew up in the 1980s and it very much shaped who I am today.  America’s crime tolerance pendulum was swinging very hard against thugism on the silver screen.  Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris were cleaning up the streets and the world; respectively.  Clint Eastwood governed a real-life police department.  Several times a week, good guys and gals kept television safe for prime time with Smith & Wesson wheelguns.  

The 3” N-frame is back!

In the middle of this decade, Smith produced several thousand 3-inch-barreled Model 24’s.  This was the first run of N-frame .44 Specials since the 60’s.  Soon thereafter, Smith produced the three-inch barreled 624 (stainless).  They had me at the Model 24, but the stainless Model 624 absolutely enchanted this southwest Kansas teenager—to the extent that 30 years later, the itch was still there.  

Unfortunately, by the time I could afford one for myself, they were no longer in production.  Despite going through spells of obsession with AR’s, shotguns, and various autopistols, I never lost my affinity for that three-inch “N.” In 2006, I bought a 4” 629 and it is still among my most prized firearms, but it just doesn’t have the sleek lines and handling of my personal grail gun.

Magnum Force! The 4” 629 and 3” 629 Deluxe make one heck of a pair!

sudden impact

Then, at SHOT Show 2017, Smith & Wesson introduced the 629 Deluxe, three-inch barreled version (and some other barrel length that isn’t three inches, so who cares?).    I bugged the folks at my local funshop until they found me a brand-new, Talo 629-6 with a 3” snout. I could hardly wait to get my mitts on that .44.  I made the usual mistakes on the 4473, distracted by the brand-new box—sitting lonely, without me—only a few feet away.  Finally, she was mine.  I opened the blue plastic box and felt the warm, golden glow of New Gun Day wash over my face.  

The weight and balance of a 3” N-frame is truly special.  The three-inch N-frame only loses a scant few ounces from the 4”, but those ounces let the revolver rest in the hand much more comfortably for me.  Granted, those ounces at the forward end of a 4” gun absorb a little more of the muzzle flip, but that’s part of the fun of a .44 Magnum.    

Good guys carry smiths

The textured wood stocks are beautiful and somewhat reminiscent of the much sought-after combat grips back in the day.  These, however, have just enough texture to provide a solid purchase for the shooter.  I briefly considered fitting this gun with a pair of rubber models I have in that sad box of unused gun stuff in the closet.  Thankfully, the bad idea fairy quickly vacated my psyche, as if chased off by the ghost of Elmer Keith.  Anything but wood stocks on a 3” N-frame seems more than a little inappropriate.  

The adjustable white outline rear sight and red ramp front sight should be familiar to Smith & Wesson revolver fans.  I never appreciated those color-enhanced sights until Father Time started blurring my sight picture.  

The double-action trigger pull on the N-frame is relatively long to allow the cylinder to rotate more than one-half inch, from one primer to the next on those wonderfully large magnum cartridges.  The thumb-cocked trigger press is fantastic though.  My circa-2006 Model 610 and Model 629 both measured right at 3.2# on my trigger scale.  This newer—and much less seasoned— 629’s single action trigger consistently drops the hammer at 3.9#.  As with most Smith wheelguns, the trigger on this Deluxe is crisp and smooth.  

A thunder of drums

Since the weather was, “Oklahoma atrocious” directly after my new acquisition, I went to my local indoor range, Red Rock Firearms.  The owner, Doug and I stirred up some construction dust in his newly-built facility with almost 100 rounds of mixed Specials and Magnums. 

I’ll remember next time to shoot groups for the review first, and then get some chronograph readings.  Between blurry sight syndrome, some Magnum-loosened fillings, and arthritic wrists, I didn’t have much accuracy left in me. Doug did manage a few three-inch groups with Remington 240 grain SJHP at 25 yards.  Somewhat oddly, we noted that the Federal American Eagle 240 grain JHP consistently shot about four inches left of all other loads tested.  

However, the most interesting thing noted were the velocities we got out of the three-inch Deluxe.  The Specials and Magnums only lost about 20-30 fps, compared to my four-inch 629.  I doubt an attacking bear would notice the difference.  That information further solidifies my belief in three-inch Magnums.  

 The magnificent “3”

From the 44 Hand Ejector of the early 1900s, to the 21st century 629 Deluxe of today, the three-inch N-frame has a special place in my heart.  It’s so encouraging to see it return to production.  Hopefully, some of my fellow shooters—especially the younger ones—will learn to appreciate it as well.



SKU: 150715
Model: Model 629 Deluxe
Caliber: 44 Magnum, 44 S&W Special
Capacity: 6
Barrel Length: 3″ / 7.6 cm
Overall Length: 8.6″
Front Sight: Red Ramp
Rear Sight: Adjustable White Outline
Action: Single/Double Action
Grip: Textured Wood
Weight: 39.6 oz / 1,122.6g
Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Purpose: Competition Shooting, Home Protection, Hunting

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Author: Mike

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is a bonafide revolver nut, a certified law enforcement instructor in handgun, shotgun, patrol rifle, less-lethal, and diversionary device disciplines, and the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, the definitive study of the infamous, 1970 California Highway Patrol shootout in Newhall, California. Mike wrote the "Tactical Analysis" column at Police1.com for 8 years, and enjoys teaching both armed citizens and law enforcement officers.

19 thoughts on “Celebrating The 3” S&W 629 Deluxe”

  1. “…the warm, golden glow of New Gun Day…”

    “…chased off by the ghost of Elmer Keith.”

    Just great! That 3″ S&W .44 is a super interesting package. And you’re right Warren, those wood Altamont stocks that they make for S&W are proper for that revolver!

  2. Thanks for this review, those 3 inch 629’s have been calling my name for a long time. I’ve got a 4 inch 629-1 that is one of my favorite handguns. It’s not always the most practical, but I do love it. Nothing beats the feel of aiming an N-frame and squeezing through that smooth trigger pull. I have to think that a 3 inch barrel would be a lot easier to carry.

    I’ve got a question that’s plagued me for some time regarding 44 magnums: what ammo would you use if you were using this revolver for defensive purposes?

    In days gone by, loads like the slightly reduced velocity Federal 240 grain Hydrashok, or the slightly reduced velocity Winchester 210 grain Silvertip were often recommended, but that was decades ago, and those two loads appear to have over-penetrative results in ballistic gel.

    The ammo that I’ve settled on is that Underwood 44 Special 200 grain Gold Dot you tested, but I’m always curious to hear what other 44 aficionados would rely on. Thanks again for this review.

  3. How he feels about 3″ .44 Magnums is how I feel about 3″ .357 Magnums . . . the perfect balance of everything.

    1. Yes. I bought a 3″ 686 Plus a few years back as a saw a polished one on You Tube. Gorgeous gun. Its my heavier carry gun (my other is a Ruger LCR in .357 magnum).

  4. My favorite: “Clint Eastwood governed a real-life police department.”

    ; ^ )

    That gun looks all business!

    1. I had my eye one one of those until the early onset of arthritis. The only negative thing I’ve heard about the 329 is that the integral locks tend to activate during heavy recoil. I exorcise those silly things on my guns anyway.

  5. I used to carry a 3 inch Lew Horton blued Model 29, sighted with Winchester Silvertips. Tolerable recoil and accurate with once-a-week practice and reloading with speedloaders, I felt very safe indeed and more than able to defend myself in any situation.

  6. I am not a fan personally of short barreled magnums; I really consider 4″ to be a minimum. You just lose so much from a “good shooting” standpoint. Velocity decrease, worse recoil, decreased sight radius, more blast. I can get on board with a little airweight/airlight 357 snub because really these are loaded down or with 38s. With a 44 it’s too fat and heavy for me to conceal comfortably, so I’ll take a 4″ if I can get it. Even with 4″ full power loads can be brutal…this is only compounded by those laminate round butt Altamonts. Everybody has to find their balance point. I personally think around 5″ is the ideal lenght for full-sized revolvers. I love my 5″ 686. But I like my little 4″ 19’s handling a little better. With a 29/629 I’d be tempted to go with a 6″.

    1. Anthony, I understand your concerns about recoil, sight radius, and blast, but if you look at Warren’s table, the big surprise is that he only lost 25 fps (or less) from the 3” barrel compared to the 4”. So, there’s nothing to worry about from a strict ballistics standpoint. The other concerns have merit though, and boil down to a question of individual comfort, tolerance, and ability. I certainly wouldn’t fault someone for favoring the 4”, but will say that a 3” barrel often feels like it hits the sweet spot for carry. If you can tolerate how it behaves when you shoot it, it’s an attractive combo.

  7. I’d like to get mething like this or the newer Model 69 with a 2.75″ barrel someday. I want a .44 Magnum revolver for occasional fun, and it’d make a good outdoors carry piece.

  8. Beautiful guns, though I want a longer barrel 0n a .44, myself.

    FWIW, we have yet to see the lock engage on the family’s 629, with a 6” barrel. That rascal can shoot, too, even with stout loads.

  9. Having/ or having had most barrel lengths, this one in 3″ barrel length is my absolute favorite. It’s very easy to carry in a good belt holster in the field. Its offhand balance is what I appreciate the most. Bench accuracy at 25 yds is only marginally less than my 6″ model 629 in my hands. A real keeper!

  10. I own 2 3″ Smith and Wesson Model 624 .44 Special revolvers. Both are 3″ Bbl, Round Butt, White Outline Rear sight, Round Butt, Red Ramp, Combat Stocked revolvers.
    Of all I have owned, by far my favorite! With Speer Gold Dot 200 gr GDHP .44 Special’s they are a pleasure to shoot and more accurate then I could ever hope to be.
    Thank you for this great article.

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