Smith & Wesson’s 329PD .44 Magnum Lightweight Revolver


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

April 6th, 2007




Light weight but powerful. That is the hallmark of Smith & Wesson’s Scandium/Titanium revolver series. For a few years now, I have carried a Smith & Wesson 342PD .38 Special revolver everyday. Weighing a bit over eleven ounces, it rides very comfortably in my pocket. It is always there, always ready. It has never failed to fire, even after letting it get very dirty with pocket lint, dust, dirt, sand , sweat, and even chemical fertilizer. Whenever is have needed it, it has always performed as it should. S&W has a series of the PD revolvers, all made with titanium cylinders and scandium frames, which is a special lightweight but strong aluminum alloy. The PD revolvers wear a durable black finish, and my 342PD has never exhibited a hint of corrosion anywhere. Living in the humid Tennessee valley, I have had even stainless steel guns to rust in my pocket, but not the 342PD. S&W has several different size and power revolvers in the PD series, and even a semi-auto or two.

The most powerful of the Smith & Wesson PD revolvers is the .44 Magnum 329PD, which is the subject of this review. My first experience with a 329PD was not a good one. I was handed one by a S&W executive at a shoot as I was standing on the firing line at a range. It was a very early gun, and the first that I had seen. I was shooting a Ruger Super Blackhawk with 300 grain Cor-Bon loads when he handed me the gun, so I loaded the cylinder of the Smith and touched one off. Recoil was brutal, and one shot locked the gun up so tightly that I had to open the cylinder with a brass hammer and punch out the fired case with a screwdriver. I then handed the gun back, not shooting another one for a couple of years.

Since introducing the 329PD a few years ago, it has been a very good seller for S&W. Apparently they work pretty well, and from the emails that I receive all feedback has been positive. The 329PD fills a unique role that needed filling. It offers a lot of power in such a lightweight package. It carries six shots of .44 Magnum ammo in only a 25.5 ounce revolver.  It is built upon the S&W N-frame, like Smith’s other .44 Magnum revolvers, but the alloys used in its construction make the 329PD so much lighter than anything else available. The trigger pull on the 329PD measured 4.5 pounds in single action mode, and 10.25 pounds double action. The barrel/cylinder gap measured five one-thousandths of an inch (.005"), which is a bit wider than I like, but it is well within specs.

The 329PD tested came supplied with a good set of  wood grips, but for most of my shooting of this weapon, I installed a set of much more comfortable Hogue synthetic rubber grips. With heavy .44 Magnum ammunition, recoil can be a handful, and the Hogue grips really do help. Even better would be to install a set of the rubber grips that are standard equipment on the X-frame .500 S&W revolver. Anyway, for extended shooting sessions with the 329PD, I wore a PAST shooting glove on my left hand, and that helped to alleviate some of the sting from the heaviest loads.  While on the subject of recoil with the 329PD, it is all a matter of physics. The lighter the weapon, everything else being equal, the faster the recoil velocity. With some very heavy loads, recoil can be painful. However, this gun is not designed for a full day at the range shooting heavy magnum loads. This is a defensive and hunting weapon, and in that role, it works very well. While extended practice sessions can be painful, it is a weapon with which one needs to practice to handle it well; just don’t try to shoot too many at one session. Recoil effects are cumulative, much like hitting your knuckles with a stick; the more you do it, the worse it hurts. Sensible practice with the 329PD results in a very useful and practical defensive revolver.

The sights on the 329PD are a fully adjustable V-notch rear with a Hi-Viz fiber optic rod front bead. I like them and hate them. For quick use in the hunting woods or for social work, they are very good. For precise paper-punching target work, I greatly prefer a Patridge front and square notch rear. For the weapon’s intended use, the Hi-Viz is likely a good choice.

For testing the 329PD, I gathered every type of .44 magnum, and a few .44 Special, loads that I had available. The cylinder on the 329PD is plenty long for even the 320 grain loads. Functioning was perfect, except with most Cor-Bon loads. With the Cor-Bon Magnum loads, the cartridges fired just fine, but extraction was very sticky, resulting in having to usually use a hickory stick to rap on the ejector rod. The Cor-Bon is very high performance ammo, but so is the Buffalo Bore and Grizzly Cartridge loads tested, but extraction was normal with the latter two. While on the subject of ammo for the 329PD, for social work I would carry it loaded with .44 Special ammo, and the Cor-Bon .44 Special 165 grain JHP worked perfectly. Buffalo Bore makes a .44 Magnum load especially for the 329PD. It is a reduced recoil load with offers more power than the .44 Special, but less recoil than their high velocity .44 Magnum loads. It is a very popular load with owners of the 329PD revolvers. This load features a 255 grain gas-checked lead Keith style bullet that does just under 1300 feet-per-second (fps) from the four inch 329PD barrel.

Shooting the 320PD for accuracy and velocity was pleasurable with some loads, and downright painful with others. For accuracy testing, I enlisted the help of my Ransom Rest and let it take the recoil while holding for a steady shot. The Ransom Rest never tires nor develops a flinch. The S&W proved capable of good accuracy for hunting, defense, or informal target work. It would group most any load within two inches at twenty-five yards, and about half that with some loads.  For reliability testing and just plain fun shooting, I recruited my good friend Captain Chuck Smith of the Saint Tammany’s Parish, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department. Chuck knows his way around a Smith & Wesson sixgun. In fact, it was he who urged me to review the 329PD.

I tested for velocity with a variety of factory and handloaded ammunition. The air temperature was around eighty degrees Fahrenheit. Velocity is listed in feet-per-second, and was recorded using a PACT chronograph with the screens set at ten feet from the muzzle. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is jacketed hollowpoint. WFNGC and WLNGC are gas-checked cast lead LBT style bullets. Keith is a semi-wadcutter lead cast bullet. Hawk is a jacketed softpoint.

Buffalo Bore Reduced Recoil 255 Keith 1298
Buffalo Bore Heavy .44 Special  255 Keith 996.2
Buffalo Bore Heavy .44 Special  185 JHP 1121
Handload .44 Special 270 Keith 786.4
Cor-Bon .44 Special  165 JHP 1165
Grizzly Cartridge Magnum  275 Hawk 1313
Grizzly Cartridge Magnum  320 WLNGC 1267
Grizzly Cartridge Magnum  250 Hawk 1396
Grizzly Cartridge Magnum 300 WFNGC 1286
Cor-Bon Magnum 320 Cast 1282
Cor-Bon Magnum 180 JHP 1671
Bruin Cartridge Magnum  250 Keith 1402

The .44 Special loads were all very comfortable to shoot in the 329PD for extended range sessions, but most of the .44 Magnum loads were brutal after a few shots. The exception is the Reduced Recoil loads from Buffalo Bore. These seem to be the perfect compromise of power and controllability in the 329PD, and Buffalo Bore sells a lot of these to 329 owners. That 255 grain Keith at almost 1300 fps will do just about anything that a handgun needs to do.  For social work, either the Buffalo Bore Heavy .44 Special 185 grain JHP or the Cor-Bon 165 grain JHP .44 Special load would be a good choice.  Another very good load for the 329PD is the 210 grain Speer Gold Dot.  The recoil is manageable, and the Gold Dot bullet expends quickly.

The S&W 329PD fills a unique role in the handgun world. It carries easily on the hip, and rides comfortably there until needed. It is almost ideal for hikers, campers,  and fishermen in areas where one needs to go armed for protection from large carnivores and others creatures. It is a powerful and handy snake gun when loaded with shot cartridges, and is very good for resolving social situations of the gravest kind.  I think that it would be a good choice for most any outdoorsman who needs a powerful weapon but at a minimum weight.  It also serves very well as a defensive handgun in urban settings for those who prefer a big revolver. A powerful sixgun like the 329PD is very reliable, packs a huge punch, and doesn’t leave empty brass laying around the scene.  Sometimes that last quality can be very important in areas where the local government doesn’t recognize your God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to carry a gun. If you are forced to defend yourself, you might not have time to police up the brass afterward if you are using a semi-auto pistol.

Check out the 329PD and other Smith & Wesson products online at:

To order any of the ammunition listed here, go to:,,, and

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Smith & Wesson’s 329PD .44 Magnum Lightweight Revolver.





Author tried the 329PD with both Cocobolo and Hogue rubber grips.





Sights are Hi-Viz front and V-notch adjustable rear.





S&W's internal key locking system is standard equipment.





Cylinder is long enough to accommodate most .44 Magnum loadings.



Our friend and brother Shootist, Captain Chuck Smith, shooting the 329PD.



Jeff tested the 329PD with a variety of ammo.



Speer's 210-grain Gold Dot load is a favorite for the 329PD.



Perhaps the perfect all-around load for the 329PD is Buffalo Bore's Reduced Recoil 255-grain Keith ammunition.



The 329PD proved to be plenty accurate, and packs quite a wallop on both ends!