S&W Model 629-4 Magnum Hunter Plus .44 Mag Revolver
When I was a kid I carried a handgun whenever I went to the woods to hunt. I started with a .22 mag revolver of some unknown brand and worked my way up to an extremely accurate Dan Wesson Model 15 in .357 mag. This old Dan Wesson is still in my collection and does make it to the woods on occasion.
Last year, while hunting one of my tree stands, a hog came out of the thicket and stayed at an angle that didn’t allow me a shot. I am right-handed, and the hog was at an extreme angle to my right, which would have made for a very difficult shot, so I let him walk until another day.
I have since gone to the range and tried to shoot at this angle and found I am not at all comfortable with my ability to make this shot. I tried holding the rifle with only one hand and even tried shooting left-handed. Neither of these were comfortable, nor did I think I would be able to hit my mark.
So, back to the drawing board I went. I thought about shooting the Dan Wesson, which is very accurate, but the shot I was presented with on that day was about 50 yards, and I just was not comfortable trying to make a shot at that distance with a gun without glass.
The Dan Wesson was not tapped for a scope, and I did not want to drill holes in a perfectly good gun when I had other options.
After some thought, the option I chose was to purchase a handgun that came ready for a scope. In my gun room, I already had a pretty nice holster that would fit a scoped handgun with up to a 10-inch barrel and an older Redfield 5 star 1-4X handgun scope, so all I needed was a nice handgun.
After a lot of research, I found a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 magnum Pro Hunter from the custom shop that came with a 7-1/2-inch barrel that was ported and a Weaver style scope rail. Out came the credit card.
By the time it showed up, I had managed to gather a good supply of factory ammo and hand loaded several others. I knew I wanted a mid-range weight bullet so I could reach out there to around 75 yards without a lot of bullet drop, yet still enough power to do the job with one shot. Having said that, I selected bullets in the 240-grain weight, hoping to find one that was dead-on accurate.
The factory ammo consisted of: Hornady 240-grain XTP, Magtech 240-grain jacketed soft point, PMC 240-grain truncated soft point, Remington 240-grain jacketed soft point, Speer 240-grain Gold Dot and Winchester 240-grain Dual Bond.
All of my handloads were very lightly crimped. Over the years, I have found a heavy crimp sometimes affects the pressure adversely, thus affecting the accuracy. See the chart below for a description of my handloads.
At the range I set up my targets at 25 yards (using a Caldwell handgun rest) and proceeded to see what my new handgun would do.
As with all newly-mounted scopes, I had to shoot a couple of times to get the scope dialed in before I could really start the test. With the scope dead-on, I started with the factory ammo and worked through to the hand loads.
I can’t speak for you, but I NEVER hunt with a dirty gun, so I cleaned the gun between each 5-round group. My thoughts on this are: If I hunt with a clean barrel, why test my loads with a dirty one? With a rifle, there is a difference in accuracy between clean and dirty barrels, so why wouldn’t there be a difference with a handgun?
After the first five rounds, I was liking this .44 because it seemed to be easy to shoot, and the ported barrel really made a difference in perceived recoil and muzzle jump. This was the first handgun I had shot with a ported barrel, so I was not sure what to expect, but I liked it.
After a couple of 5-round groups with each of the loads (factory and my hand loads), I set up on the 50-yard target. This target seemed like it was a lot farther away than the 25-yard one!
The more I shot this fine hunting tool, the more I liked it. It was starting to feel comfortable in my hands.
At the 25-yard target, it liked the Hornady 240-grain XTP #9085 (with one-hole groups). Next in terms of accuracy at this distance was one of my hand-loads of 24.50 grains of H-110 behind a Hornady 240 gr. XTP bullet.
The handloads with lighter bullets and a lighter load were not even close to be hunting fodder in this revolver. The 50-yard range had almost the same results, with one of the lighter handloads faring a little better than it did at 25 yards, and only one other factory load producing acceptable groups of 2.5 inches.
Some of the other loads produced groups from 4-6 inches at 50 yards, but these are well outside what I would consider acceptable hunting groups.
The Hornady 240-grain XTP #9085 shot the best groups at both 25 yards (0.63 inches) and 50 yards (0.90 inches). The best hand load was 24.50 grains of H-110, pushing a Hornady 240-grain XTP #8605 bullet.
All of my brass was from once-fired Hornady ammo. I like Hornady brass because it seems to be a little thicker than others, which allows me to recycle them more times than the thinner brass.
Isn’t it strange how guns can like one kind of ammo and hate others? But, with the aid of the Hornady ammo, I should have no problem placing my bullet in the right spot.
This is a pretty big gun. With its weight, the scope rings, the scope and a full cylinder, I would never consider it to be a freehand shooter or something I would want to tote for miles through the woods. But, it is great for a stand gun.
With the aid of the pistol rest, this big dog was easy to manage and shot as well as you could want. My stands all have shooting rails, and the one ground blind has shooting sticks to help me steady my gun. My walk from my 4-wheeler to the stand is not far, so this heavy-weight handgun will not be a problem.
I am headed back to the range to shoot up some more bullets and try it at 100 yards. This gun and load have the ability to harvest any animal I would hunt in this area at 100 yards, so I figure I should be ready if a shot at this distance presents itself.
You know, the 200-yard target is possible. I just looked up the ballistics for this cartridge, and found if the gun is sighted-in at 50 yards, the bullet drops about 5 inches at 100 yards.
So, to hit the target at 200 yards, I would have to aim about 12 inches high. I can do that. I have shot rifles at 1,000 yards with a hold over of 3 feet and hit the target. I am going to have to try 200 yards with this gun (targets only).
The bottom line for this very fine revolver is: It shoots dead-on accurately, has real nice lines and looks neat. It seems to by built extremely well and does not thump my hand nearly as much as some other 44s I’ve shot. I would think this is due to the ported barrel and weight.
The grip fits in my hand very comfortably. With this at my side, I will be able to make the shot I could not make last season. If an “oinker” comes out of the swamp behind me this season, I will be ready.
Shoot Straight, Shoot Safe
Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”