Magnums are fun because they inspire so many reactions from people and they are all unique. Some people conjure up thoughts of Dirty Harry while others only think of recoil. Some others yet, like me, start theorizing what big-game animals we could potentially hunt. Regardless of the camp you fall in, a good magnum revolver will put a smile on anybody’s face. Especially one that is light enough to carry all day, can hit its target at distance, can knock-down big-game, and is not terribly punishing to shoot. In my mind, one wheelgun I believed that could potentially check all of those boxes was the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum, and in this TFB Review we will see if my hypothesis holds true.
specifications: Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum
Smith & Wesson has been leading the revolver market for decades with their continual introduction of magnums from the .44 Magnum to the .460 S&W Magnum to the .500 S&W Magnum. Each of them adds to the usefulness of wheelguns in its own right, but today we will see what makes the 629 Competitor run inside and out. All of the specifications for the Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum can be read below as presented by Smith & Wesson:
- Caliber: .44 Magnum / .44 S&W Special
- Capacity: 6 Round
- Chrome Hammer & Trigger w/ Trigger Stop
- Adjustable Barrel Weights
- Performance Center Tuned Action
- Front Sight: Partridge Dovetail | Rear Sight: Adjustable
- Action: Single/Double Action
- Grip: Hogue® Synthetic
- Weight: 57.2 Ounces (3 Lbs. 9.2 Oz.)
- Barrel Length: 6″ | Overall Length: 11.3″
- Frame, Barrel & Cylinder: Stainless Steel w/ Matte Silver Finish
- Purpose: Competition Shooting, Enthusiast, State Compliance
The Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor is backed by the “Smith & Wesson Lifetime Service Policy” like all of their firearms. The 6″ weighted barrel model we are reviewing here today (SKU 170320) has an MSRP of $1,549.
unboxing: Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum
The key feature of the 629 Competitor is the weighted barrel. It is likely the first thing you see if you have a discerning eye for revolvers and it contributes to the accuracy and handling of the wheelgun in a big way. The 6″ weighted barrel of the 629 Competitor aids in stability for a shooter’s outreached arms, it mitigates recoil and keeps the shooter more consistently on target for follow-up shots. The converse to this weight though is the revolver is… heavy. It tips the scales at nearly 4 pounds (unloaded); 57.2 ounces to be exact. So if an owner does not want to carry around that additional weight from the weighted barrel they can remove it if they like.
This can be pretty simply done through unscrewing a long screw holding in 4 metal cylindrical weights. As to not leave exposed thread near the half-lug region of the frame, you can then screw in 4 faux plastic weights in their spot as place-holders. The 4 faux plastic weights do not have a specific required orientation and can be installed however you like. The 4 metal cylindrical weights do matter though. To be more specific, 3 of the 4 do not require a specific orientation. An “end cap” weight (my made-up term; not Smith & Wesson’s) has a recessed pocket for the screw to embed into for a more flush, clean appearance.
Make sure that the “end cap” weight is closest to the muzzle if you are re-installing the weights to your weighted barrel. The screw that retains the weights is a good torque of hand tight, and no power tools or fancy tricks are required. All of the pieces and the Allen wrench pictured above come with the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum.
Aside from your expected owner’s manual, cable lock, and the previously mentioned barrel weight accessories, you also receive an LPA Sight Adjustment tool to dial in your adjustable rear sight. If optics more suit your fancy, you can also remove the entire rear sight as one large chunk to expose a large surface area for mounting a rail. A mount/rail does not come with so that is up to the shooter to decide if they would prefer that route or not. A few rail slots bridge the gap from the front to the rear sight as well so you could mount an optic further forward without removing your rear sight, if you desire, too.
Other than the weighted barrel system and your multiple options for iron sights or optics, the next most noticeable feature is the large Hogue synthetic grip. This is nothing new, but it is appreciated by many when shooting hard-recoiling cartridges in revolvers. The ergonomic finger-grooves give you a sturdier grip and the rubber material dissipates recoil so it does not jar your body and soul every time you shoot.
range time: Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum
When going out to the range with this revolver there was one looming question in my mind that needed to be answered: “Does the weighted barrel make a difference?” The 629 Competitor is meticulously crafted by Smith & Wesson through their Performance Center Shop so we all know the internals are top notch. The value of this revolver then hinges on whether the 6″ weighted barrel is a hindrance or a tremendous help. To be blunt with no further suspense, the weighted barrel makes all the difference!
For this review, I fired some Federal American Eagle .44 Magnum 240 Grain JHP rounds over varying distances. The rounds went into and came out of the cylinder fine as one would expect and hope, but you could tell the fit and tolerance was much tighter than cheaper revolvers on the market. The timing of the cylinder with the hammer forward and cocked into single-action was very crisp in both positions with virtually no discernible play.
I did most of my shooting in single-action because of the obviously lighter trigger pull. This revolver has a trigger stop built-in with only a little bit of daylight between itself and the back of the trigger guard or its resting place. I made a dunce move by not bringing my trigger pull gauge with to the range, but anecdotally I would say the single-action pull was in the neighborhood of 3 lbs with a very clean break.
About 1/3 of the rounds I shot were methodically done with a double-action trigger pull. While I, personally, cannot shoot nearly as quickly while maintaining accuracy in double-action, my accuracy was not at all inhibited by the double-action pull with my slower and more deliberate shooting. Although the travel is longer and heavier (all things to be expected), it was tremendously smooth. The Performance Center Tuned Action and Chromed internal parts were very evident while shooting in double-action.
I shot at steel gongs from 10 yards to 40 yards with the black-on-black factory iron sights. I am a young gun guy with great eyesight, and the black blade front sight paired with the black adjustable rear sight was a bit tough at times to aim. This revolver is astonishingly accurate, but switching between near and far gongs from 2″ – 5″ in diameter, I sometimes questioned where is the black blade exactly sitting in the notch of my black sight?
To be fair, I was shooting on an overcast day and this revolver is more than prepared to add an optic to it which I simply did not do. Even a replacement fiber optic front sight would have kept my steel gongs singing a bit more on the rare shot I narrowly missed.
The weight of the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum from its weighted barrel was a blessing as I had hoped. It tamed the recoil to what I perceived as light .38 Special loads and made me more confident in my shooting. It also allowed me to maintain my sight picture through the shot on longer 40-yard shots to see where I was immediately hitting. The additional weight also had a stabilizing effect so I was not fishing around in mid-air to stay still on the bullseye.
final thoughts: Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum
Overall, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Competitor .44 Magnum did not disappoint. The weighted barrel did everything as advertised: less recoil, more stability, maintained sight picture through firing and faster follow-up shots. The barrel weight system was easy to change in and out. For those who want to use this revolver for a league, I could hit a 2″ gong pretty regularly out to 40 yards. Simultaneously, I would be extremely confident to hunt deer or black bear in MN (where I call home) with this cartridge and the accuracy I was experiencing.
Both the single- and double-action trigger pulls broke cleanly and were very smooth. The timing on the cylinder was very tight, and the rubber Hogue grip helped maintain secure handling. The one small qualm I had was the black-on-black iron sights, but then again, you can very easily add an optic to this model or change out the front sight for something fiber optic if you so desire.
Understanding the craftsmanship required to create this wheelgun, I believe the MSRP of $1,549 is very fair. After everything has been said and done though, what do you, our readers, think? Is this a revolver that you would like to bring to your local gun club to climb to the top of a podium? Would you take it hunting? Let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.
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