THE FIRST .44 MAGNUM—S&W’S DOUBLE ACTION PERFECTION
A HALF-CENTURY OF THE MODEL 29
BY JOHN TAFFIN
By 1950, the .44 Special Smith & Wesson reached its climax with the 1950 Target Model. This final .44 Special would be removed from production in 1967 and then resurrected for a short time in the 1980s as the Model 24-3 in blue and Model 624 in stainless. From 1907 forward Smith & Wesson, and later Colt, provided the .44 Special sixguns but it remained for men like the members of the .44 Associates to bring out the best of the .44 Special cartridge. From the 1920s to the 1950s, Associate members, most notably Elmer Keith, called for a "real .44 Special" load.
Keith especially called for a ".44 Special Magnum" with a 250 grain hard cast bullet at 1200 feet per second. His pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears. Ammunition companies were afraid of heavy loaded .44 Specials taking old sixguns apart. Keith then asked for a new cartridge 1/10 of an inch longer than the .44 Special to preclude its being used in any old sixguns, and also a new sixgun chambered for the new cartridge. Again, the plea was ignored.
In the early 1950s Smith & Wesson started to listen. Working in tandem with Remington, who would supply the new .44 Magnum ammunition, Smith & Wesson engineers went to work on the new sixgun. In 1954, Remington gave Smith & Wesson the dimensions of a new cartridge that was 1/8" longer than the .44 Special. Smith & Wesson then chambered four specially heat treated 1950 Target .44 Special sixguns for the new ".44 Magnum". The guns performed well but at the 39-ounce weight of the 1950 Target, recoil was brutal. Elmer had asked for a new .44 with a 250 grain bullet at 1200 fps, and this “.44 Special Keith” load generates heavy recoil in the Model 1950 Target .44 Special. Remington delivered a 240 grain bullet at 1500 fps that was originally fired in the same 39 ounce Model 1950 Target. Ouch!
Weight had to be added, so the cylinder was lengthened to fill in the cylinder window and the 6 1/2” slim barrel was changed to a heavy weight full bull barrel style as found on the 1955 Target .45 ACP, resulting in a weight of 48 ounces. The new sixgun, as the first Magnum introduced twenty years earlier, was simply named by its chambering and called "The .44 Magnum" in those pre-model number days.
The first .44 Magnum went to Remington, the second went to the NRA and the third, he should have received the first, went to Elmer Keith. Keith quickly developed a standard loading for the new .44 Magnum consisting of the same 250 hard cast bullet he used in his .44 Special loads and 22.0 grains of #2400. This loading is over 1400 feet per second and Keith was ecstatic about the new load and sixgun. He was also much smarter than his few detractors will admit. Writing in The Gun Digest a year later, he said that he fired the new .44 Magnum 600 times the first year. That is twelve rounds per week!
Keith urged Smith & Wesson to also bring forth the .44 Magnum with a 4” barrel for defensive and peace officer use and while waiting for this to occur, he had at least one .44 Magnum cut to 4”, actually 4 1/2” and engraved and ivory stocked by the now long gone Gun Re-blue Company. When I was allowed to examine Keith’s firearms I found four short barreled double action .44s, all Smith & Wessons, that were particular favorites as they were so easy to pack. The oldest was his .44 Special 4" 1950 Target Model, fully engraved, with a blue finish and fitted with ivory stocks that have a steer head carved on the right grip. The steer head carved grip was an obvious favorite as it is found on three of the four .44 DAs. I've never been able to handle the standard Smith & Wesson grip with heavy .44 or .45 loads. After handling Keith's sixguns I can see why he liked the carved steerhead on the right grip. It filled in the hand perfectly and helped control recoil.
Keith's first .44 Magnum was a 6 1/2" Smith and Wesson that is the one that was cut to 4 1/2", engraved and stocked by the Gun Reblue Co., and featured in the 1958 Gun Digest. Like his .44 Special, it too is a beautiful specimen with its full engraving and steerhead grips and like all of the .44s, has Keith's signature on the sideplate. Carl Hellstrom, then president of Smith & Wesson, presented Elmer Keith with one of the first factory 4" .44 Magnums and it is also part of Keith's working collection and is also fully engraved, and ivory stocked with an eagle carved on the right grip, and a brass presentation medallion on the right grip.
The last of the four short-barreled .44s was obviously the favorite as it was carried daily and shows extensive blue wear. Strangely enough, this is a plain-jane .44 Magnum except for the ivory stocks and the name engraved on the sideplate. While all of the rest of the .44s were carried in flower carved holsters, this no frills working gun was carried in a plain no-nonsense holster, one of Milt Sparks' FBI style with a hammer extension to protect the inside lining of Keith's coat. In a conversation with Ted Keith, verification was given that this was the sixgun that Keith packed everyday.
The original .44 Magnum by Smith & Wesson is one of the most beautiful sixguns ever offered to us sixgunners and in the 4” length especially it is second only to the Colt Single Action Army in being deserving of engraving. All of the early .44 Magnums from Smith & Wesson were finished in the incomparable Bright Blue finish, and carried a wide target trigger and hammer, and the finest sixgun sights then available, a fully adjustable white outline rear sight mated up with a ramp front sight with a red insert. Actions were superbly tuned and smooth.
Elmer Keith did not develop the .44 Magnum. He, and others of his ilk that loaded the .44 Special heavy were directly responsible for the .44 Magnum. But Elmer was as surprised as anyone when he received that call from Smith & Wesson in December of 1955 informing him that they were sending him one of the first .44 Magnums. He retired his .44 Specials and carried a 4” Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum daily until his incapacitating stroke in 1981. Not being an experimenter in the true sense of the word, Keith found one .44 Magnum load and used it exclusively. As mentioned earlier, that load was his .44 caliber 250 grain bullet over 22.0 grains of #2400, and as with all of his sixgun loads, he used standard primers only. This is a very powerful load and recoil in a 4” .44 Magnum is definitely noticeable. I never could understand how Keith could handle this load in his guns. His hands were small so his Smith & Wesson .44s wore small Magna style grips instead of those that filled in behind the trigger guard, and all of his grips were ivory with a carved figure such as a steerhead on the right side.
The .44 Magnum was developed jointly by Remington working on the cartridge and Smith & Wesson working on the sixgun. The early Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums came very close to the precision fitting of the 1907 Triple-lock and carried a beautiful finish known then as S&W Bright Blue. That was 1956 and the Smith & Wesson, beautifully finished and with a magnificently smooth action and trigger pull, sold for $140. As a teenager I was making $15 a week with a paper route at the time. One of the first .44 Magnum 4” models to hit my part of the country was rented out by a local gunstore/outdoor shooting range for all who wanted to try the big .44 Magnum. The recoil was absolutely awful, though few would admit it at the time. The first Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums were absolutely beautiful residing in their fitted wooden cases; and this new .44 was especially welcomed by guides, outfitters, and handgun hunters, as well as those who simply wanted The World’s Most Powerful Handgun.
Remember, at this time, in the 1950s, there were no hard-kickin' handguns. The HandCannons of SSK and the .454 Casull were decades into the future and the .44 Magnum recoil was unlike anything ever experienced before. Heavy recoil of the time period was thought to be the .45 ACP in the Government Model Colt 1911 and the .357 Magnum in the heavyweight Smith and Wesson. A well-respected writer of the time, Major Hatcher of the NRA Staff reported the recoil of the .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson as quite unpleasant. Hatcher writing in the March 1956 issue stated: "In shooting the .44 Magnum, we found it advisable to use gloves, as the recoil can only be described as severe. Without gloves, the checkering hurts the hand, and the sharp edges of the cylinder latch are almost certain to shave off bits of skin. After firing many heavy handloads in the .44 Special, we expected a heavy recoil with this ultra-powerful new cartridge. At the first shot the gun rose up a bit, and the first reaction was that it was not as bad as we had expected. Just about this time, however, we suddenly experienced a sharp stinging sensation over the entire hand, as though we were hitting a fast baseball with a cracked bat. I fired quite a few shots with this gun, but I must honestly confess it is not an unmixed pleasure."
Elmer Keith writing in The Gun Digest looked upon the .44 Magnum quite differently than Major Hatcher. "The big gun is, I would say, pleasant to shoot, as it does not jar the hand as much as do my heavy .44 Special loads from the much lighter 4” barreled .44 Special S&W guns. It is definitely not a ladies gun but I have known women who would enjoy shooting it. The recoil has not bothered me in the slightest, nor have several old sixgun men complained who have fired it extensively, including Hank Benson and Don Martin. The recoil is not as severe as that of a two-inch Airweight Chief's Special with high speed .38 Specials. With .44 Special factory loads it is just as pleasant to shoot as a K-22 and with the .44 Magnum loads, which give the heaviest recoil, it will not bother a seasoned sixgun man at all. Recoil with my heaviest loads of 22.0 grains of 2400 and the Keith 250 grain bullet is much less than that of the factory load. The factory load, fired with one hand, flips the barrel up almost vertical."
Who was telling the truth? Both were. They were simply relating what they perceived as the felt recoil. As a teenager, when I fired one of the first S&W .44 Magnums in my area I felt that if anything, Hatcher had understated the recoil of the .44 Magnum. Most shooters of the time believed Keith at least until they fired their first few rounds and then Hatcher was vindicated and most gunstores had at least one "used" .44 Magnum for sale with a box of factory .44 Magnum ammunition with six, or at the most, twelve rounds missing.
Keith convinced himself that the .44 Magnum was pleasant to shoot. Most of us cannot do this. And for about twenty years, no one thought much about it. A .44 Magnum was purchased, fired a few times every now and then, or down-loaded to a more manageable level. I still find the original Keith load of 250 grain bullet and 22.0 grains to be a real kicker in short barrelled Smith & Wesson sixguns.
Keith reported that he had fired the big .44 Smith & Wesson at least 600 times during the first year using both handloads and factory ammunition. By today's standards, this is not much of a test. In the early days of silhouetting, competitors often shot this many rounds in a week, and I have often run through 600 rounds and even more in a single day of testing guns and ammunition.
Troubles with the .44 Magnum revolvers surfaced when silhouetters started pounding thousands of rounds through it in short periods of time, and .44 silhouetters began to choose Dan Wesson and New Model Ruger .44s for the simple reason that they would take more punishment, in the form of both more loads and heavier loads, as well as imparting less felt recoil.
I still like the original .44s, the Ruger Flat-tops and the Smiths & Wessons. Weighing in at three pounds instead of four, they pack easily. I especially like Smiths. The originals had the best trigger pulls, both double and single action, of any factory revolver. They are also without a doubt the best looking double action revolver to ever exit a factory. The lines of a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum sixgun can only be described as classic. The Smith .44 performs perfectly for me, BUT, I rarely push them anymore. I started with the Keith load but eventually dropped down to 20.0-21.0 grains of #2400 with the 250 grain cast Keith bullet. These loads gave muzzle velocities of 1200-1350 fps, depending upon barrel length, and combined accuracy, power, and longer gun life. They are in reality not much more than heavy .44 Special loads as that is exactly what I use the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum as, a heavy .44 Special. One Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum that I bought new in 1961 is still like new after thousands of rounds simply because it has never had a load through it any heavier than a 250 grain cast bullet at 1300 fps, and these days my most used load is most likely to be the same Keith bullet over 10.0 grains of Unique for around 1150 fps. We understand each other. I don't abuse it and it continues to perform perfectly for me.
When it comes to double action .44 Magnums, Smith & Wessons are like Thoroughbreds, while Dan Wesson, Rugers, and Taurus .44s, being much larger and heavier, are like Clydesdales. Both horses are beautiful, both are winners, but they serve different purposes. The Smith & Wesson is a "gentlemen's" sixgun; the others are sixguns that will take heavy loads, rough service and still come up shooting.
The .44 Magnum lasted in production
for 43 years. The first .44 Magnum, the one that went to Remington, was
In 1957, the .44 Magnum became the Model 29 as Smith & Wesson switched from such names as the Outdoorsman, the Combat Magnum, the Highway Patrolman, and the Heavy Duty to a system of model numbers. We lost something here as Model 15 just doesn't evoke the same emotion as Combat Masterpiece. Stamping of the .44 Magnum with Model 29 inside the crane began at serial number S179000.
It was about this same time that the
first of the long barreled .44 Magnums arrived as the Model 29 joined the Model
27 .357 Magnum with an 8 3/8” barrel length. These quickly became quite popular
with hunters and long-range shooters. At this same time in 1958, the H.H.
Harris Co., a
One of the problems with those early .44 Magnums was the fact that the ejector rod screw would loosen under recoil, back out and move forward making it impossible to open the cylinder. In 1960, this rod was given a reverse left thread so it would tighten rather than loosen under recoil. With this change, the Model 29-1 had arrived with serial number S270000.
The 29-1 is quite rare as the 29-2 arrived just one year later. Previous to this change the screw in front of the trigger guard held a spring plunger that provided power to the cylinder stop or cylinder bolt. This screw was dropped and we now had a three screw .44 Magnum with the cylinder stop spring riding in a hole in front of the trigger guard.
The 29-2 is the .44 Magnum most prevalent on the used gun market as it stayed in production from 1961 to 1982. During this time of production, the serial numbering was changed to an N prefix in 1969, while the 6 1/2” barrel was shortened to 6”, a negative move in my estimation. The meager extra one-half inch of the original barrel length seems to balance much better in my hands and it definitely looks better.
With the dawning of 1982, and Smith & Wesson under the control of those who seemingly cared nothing about providing quality sixguns, two major changes were made to cut costs. The 29-3 arrived without the pinned barrel and also counter-bored cylinders disappeared. Up to this point in time, all Smith and Wesson barrels were held tightly in place not just by thread pressure but also by a pin that transversed the frame through a slot in the top of the barrel threads. With today's strong brass, counter bored cylinders, or cylinders that completely enclose the rim of the cartridge case, are probably not needed. They also fill with crud and must be periodically cleaned or cases will not chamber BUT they are a sign of manufacturing quality and they are gone.
For years, Smith & Wesson refused to acknowledge a problem that definitely existed. It became especially prevalent when silhouette shooters started pounding hundreds of rounds of fullhouse loads down range in a single day. When a cartridge was fired, the cylinder would unlock, rotate backwards and when the hammer was cocked, the fired round would be back under the firing pin. Silhouetters literally turned their collective backs to the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum for competition. About the same time silhouetters were pounding 240 grain bullets unmercilessly through the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, handgun hunters discovered 300 grain bullets which put a further strain on the mechanism whose basic design went back to 1899.
Instead of listening to silhouetters or hunters about this problem, Smith & Wesson refused to publicly acknowledge that anything was amiss and instead brought forth a Silhouette Model in 1983. This model featured a 10 5/8” bull barrel and sights with a standard adjustable rear sight with a higher blade and also a four position adjustable front sight. The front sight was to be set for the four distances addressed in long range silhouetting. Nothing was done to correct the mechanical problem. Of all the .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson sixguns I have shot over the past five decades, this one, Smith & Wesson's answer to the unlocking cylinder problem, is the only one that I have ever encountered in which the cylinder unlocked and rotated backwards on a regular basis! Needless to say, silhouetters did not flock to the .44 Magnum Silhouette Model.
Finally with a change of management, Smith & Wesson began to address some of the problems associated with the .44 Magnum Model 29. By now, both Ruger and Dan Wesson had heavy-duty .44 Magnum sixguns on the market that were designed around heavy usage. The Smith & Wesson had a distinct disadvantage as it was built on a platform going back to 1908. Should they scrap it and start over? Or should they try to fix what they had? They opted for the latter. In 1988, the 29-4 was ushered in with two changes. The retention system on the yoke or cylinder crane was strengthened and studs within the frame were radiused to help remove metal stress. It was not enough. At the same time 8 3/8” models were made available with integral scope mounts on the barrel rib.
The 29-4 lasted only two years to be replaced by the 29-5 in 1990. Now we began to see obvious outer changes in the Model 29 as the cylinder notches were made longer to prevent the bolt from jumping out of the notch upon recoil. At the same time the bolt was changed and the innards of the Model 29-5 were changed to provide a method of holding everything tightly together when the .44 was fired to prevent battering under recoil. The 29-6 arrived in 1994 with the main changes being a switch from wooden grips to Hogue's rubber Monogrip. The wooden stocks from Smith & Wesson had been deteriorating for many years changing from a useable, smoothly rounded stock that filled in behind the trigger guard in 1956 to a pair of sharp bulky saw handles that had so much wood removed from behind the trigger guard that the knuckles were routinely punished in the 1980s. Hogue's Monogrips were a welcome change and though not having the beautiful grain of Goncala Alves wood, they were at least useable.
The 29-6 also arrived with a rear sight assembly rounded at the front of the frame signifying its being drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Since then all N-frame Smith & Wessons, .44 Magnum and other calibers, are all drilled and tapped for scope mounts. For the first time, the basic outline of the Model 29 was changed with the arrival of the .44 Classic series in 1991. The 29-5 was also available with a full underlug barrel, non-fluted cylinder, drilled and tapped for scope mounts plus the "strengthening" package offered in the standard Model 29-5 and 29-6. The Classic .44 was available both as a 29-5 and a 29-6 from 1991 to 1994 in blue finish and barrel lengths of 6 1/2”, 8 3/8”, and for the first time in a standard factory production .44 Magnum, a 5” barrel. The Classic also ushered in the round-butted grip frame on the N-frame series of Smith & Wesson sixguns.
A deluxe version of the Classic was offered as the .44 Classic DX with 6 1/2” and 8 3/8” barrel lengths, round butted grip frame, and the choice of finger groove Smith & Wesson stocks or Hogue's Monogrips that changed the grip profile from round to square butt. Most importantly, a new front sight system was present on the Classic DX with five interchangeable front sights including a gold bead as available on a custom order prior to the 1970s. A special custom deluxe 1 of 3000 Magna Classic was issued in 1990 with a barrel length not seen since before World War II on Smith & Wesson sixguns, namely a 7 1/2” length. These were all 29-5 sixguns with serial numbers running from MAG0001 to MAG3000.
By the time the 29-7 arrived in 1998 the final changes were made to the Model 29. It now had an MIM trigger and hammer, a frame mounted firing pin, and more changes to the internal lock works. All of the changes are not necessarily bad however they also are not the original .44 Magnum. Finally in 1999, Smith & Wesson blew taps over the Model 29 and it was gone! Dead and buried. It had lasted from December 1956 to April 1999. The original had changed so much hardly anyone even missed it.
There have been numerous special runs of the Model 29 over the years other than the 500 5” sixguns ordered by the H.H. Harris Co. back in the late 1950s. Some notable ones are the 3” Lew Horton Special in 1984, a Combat Magnum, round-butted style of defensive sixgun; and the Elmer Keith Commemorative in 1985, a 4”specially engraved Model 29-3 serial numbered from EMK001 to EMK2500. The first 100 of these Elmer Keith sixguns were deluxe models with ivory stocks. Distributor Lew Horton also ordered 5,000 Classic Hunter Specials in 1987 with 6” full underlug barrels and the four position front sight. These were all 29-3 sixguns. In 1989, 2500 Classic Hunter Model 29-4s with 8 3/8” barrels were manufactured, followed by the re-introduction of the 6” Classic Hunter in 1991. A small number of 3” and 5” Model 29-4s with full underlug barrels were also offered in 1989.
Now to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Model 29 a special edition of the Model 29 is back for 2006 only. No it is not exactly the same as it was 50 years ago. The original .44 Magnum was built on a design from the 19th-century originating with the Military & Police in 1899 and enlarged in size in 1907. This is now the 21st century and much as we may like to go all the way back to the 1950s we are limited in our efforts. Having to work by 21st century standards, spelled internal locks and frame-mounted firing pins, and production methods Smith & Wesson has done an excellent job of resurrecting old memories with a new renovation of the original .44 Magnum. Some things are the same, some things are different; I would have preferred an exact duplicate, but my realistic side says this is just never going to happen.
The Bright Blue finish almost rivals that of 50 years ago, the sights are a white outline rear and a red ramp front as on the original, and the barrel length is the original 6 1/2” not 6”. It was easy to sight the 50th Anniversary Model in simply by moving the rear sight a few clicks down and a few clicks to the right. The hammer and trigger are the original checkered and serrated style and from the side the hammer has the best looking profile I’ve ever seen on a Smith & Wesson sixgun, or just about any other factory produced sixgun for that matter.
The stocks are the same color, though a lighter shade, as the originals and also have the diamond around the grip screw holes; they also feel much better than the originals being slightly thinner in overall feel and tapered quite a bit to the top of the grip frame. Unfortunately, they are not inletted to the grip frame completely but instead depend upon pins to hold them solidly. It doesn’t work and they move when firing heavy .44 Special or .44 Magnum loads, however the original “diamond coke bottle” grips will fit just as they do on the originals .44 Magnum of 50 years ago.
It does shoot well. The best groups came from Starline .44 Magnum brass with a Cast Performance Bullet Co. 255 Hard Cast over 21.0 grains of #2400 for 1331 fps and a group of 1”, while the 250 Keith over 21.0 grains of #2400 grouped into 1 1/8” and clocked out at 1376 fps.
The Smith & Wesson Model 29 in its original configuration is the sixgun by which all other .44 Magnums are judged. When it comes to performance some fall short, other surpass it. This writer views it as the finest looking double action revolver ever made, and it is definitely the slickest handling of all .44 Magnums over the years. For an everyday Packin’ Pistol with standard loads using 240-250 grain bullets or even heavy duty .44 Special loads it is still at the top of the mountain when it comes to double action sixguns.
21-1) The 1950 Target .44 Special evolved into the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum.
Both are still excellent sixguns and high-ranking candidates for the title of Perfect Packin’
21-2) Birthday presents don't come any better than this! Diamond Dot
commissioned Jim Riggs to engrave this .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson.
Leather is by El Paso Saddlery and ivory micarta stocks are by BearHug.
21-3) Four-inch .44 Magnums with the original “Coke bottle” diamond stocks
are excellent choices for self defense work when properly loaded.
21-4) As a tribute to Elmer Keith, Taffin had Dave Lauck tune and smooth these two S&W
Model 29-2s to perfection.
21-5) Nickel-plated .44 Magnums worked over by Dave Lauck, stag grips,
Tyler grip adapters, carved leather from El Paso, all add up to a Dynamic Duo.
21-6) This 6 1/2” Smith & Wesson 29-2 .44 Magnum and George Lawrence
carved #34 holster both date back to the early 1960s. Stocks are by BearHug.
21-7) Smith & Wesson issued this Elmer Keith Commemorative in the 1980s
to recognize the contributions of the Master Sixgunner.
21-8) Sixguns are for shooting; even engraved .44 Magnums.
21-9) A grand and glorious summer in the Payette National Forest in 1967 was
enjoyed by the author along with a pair of Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums.
21-10) Smith & Wesson brought out a special 10 5/8” Silhouette Model .44
Magnum in the 1980s; it was too little, too late.
21-11) Elmer Keith's .44s, three .44 Magnums and one .44 Special along with his
carry leather: top center holster is by Ed Bohlin, right and left by George Lawrence,
and his everyday packing rig at the bottom by Milt Sparks. Note the strategic
carving on each ivory grip panel to help control felt recoil.
21-12) This is a beautiful example of a fully engraved and ivory stocked Model 29 Classic;
it is almost too pretty to shoot.
Photo courtesy of Jim Supica’s ArmChairGunShow.com.
21-13) Great sixguns provide a perfect canvas for artistry in medal. The photo of this 8 3/8”
.44 Magnum is courtesy of Jim Supica’s ArmChairGunShow.com.
21-14) The first Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums had five screws and were simply
known as the .44 Magnum and today are referred to as pre-29s.
Photo courtesy of Jim Supica’s ArmsBid.com.
21-15) Since the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum evolved from the slim-barreled
1950 Target, S&W took a backward step forwards with the Mountain Gun in
.44 Magnum but with a .44 Special style barrel.
21-16) To commemorate 50 years of the .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson issued
their 50th Anniversary Model.
21-17) A beautiful example of a 6 1/2” pre-29 stocked by Roy Fishpaw in fancy walnut.
The holster is the Taffin Triple-Lock offered by sixgunner.com.
21-18) It carries all the 21st Century requirements and manufacturing style,
however the 50th Anniversary Model of the .44 Magnum is still a fine sixgun
and an excellent shooter.
21-19 and 21-20) To help control felt recoil Smith & Wesson’s Classic 29 has a
heavy underlug barrel as on this 5” version.
Photo courtesy of Ted McIntyre.
21-21) The author shooting a special addition Classic 29, the 3” version
offered by Lew Horton in 1989.
21-22) Elmer Keith had the first .44 Magnum he received from Smith & Wesson
cut back to 4 1/2” and engraved and ivory stocked by the now long gone Gun ReBlue Co.
21-23) Before the arrival of the .44 Magnum this engraved and ivory stocked
.44 Special by the Gun ReBlue Co. was Elmer Keith's everyday carry gun.
21-24) This .44 Magnum has served the author for more than four decades.
It is still going strong and mostly sees loads assembled with 250 grain Keith bullets
over 10.0 grains of Unique. Stocks are Skeeter Skelton Style by BearHug.