Wheelgun Wednesday: Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 Stealth Hunter Review

    stealth hunter

    Another week has gone by with most of us in self-quarantine or others being deemed “essential” to continue punching the clock at our jobs like this is a form of the “Hunger Games.” While I joke with that statement, one thing I continually find myself doing in this odd predicament not only our country, but the entire world is combating with the Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19), is all of the hunting excursions I am going to go on in the future! With that optimism, it is great timing that we take a look at a very high-end hunting revolver with the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Stealth Hunter .44 Magnum! That name is quite the mouthful, but this revolver has always caught my eye when going to firearm trade shows or visiting the Smith & Wesson website. It is dark, mysterious, sleek, and cool! But most of that could be for not if it cannot perform as a great companion while hunting. So, let’s dive in and see how it stacks up!

    SPECIFICATIONS: SMITH & WESSON performance center model 629 stealth hunter

    The Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Stealth Hunter .44 Magnum, as its name implies, comes from the Smith & Wesson Performance Center; their version of a hand-crafted Custom Shop. So, with a name like that, it should come as no surprise that this wheelgun drips with custom and high-end features. All of the specifications can be read below as presented by Smith & Wesson:

    • .44 Magnum/.44 S&W Special
    • 7.5″ Magna-Ported Stainless Steel Barrel w/ Matte Black Finish
    • Drift Adjustable, Dovetail Red Ramp Front Sight & Adjustable Black Blade Rear Sight
    • Performance Center Trigger w/ Trigger Stop & Performance Center Tuned Action
    • Stainless Steel Cylinder, Barrel & Frame
    • 6-Round Cylinder
    • Rubber Synthetic Grips
    • Single-Action/Double-Action Firing Mechanism
    • Overall Length: 12.9″ | Overall Weight: 55.0 Oz.
    • Purpose: Enthusiast, Hunting, Recreational Shooting, State Compliance

    stealth hunter

    The full MSRP you are looking at for the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Stealth Hunter .44 Magnum is $1,638. As always, this revolver is backed by the Smith & Wesson Lifetime Service Policy in the rare event you should ever need service for your firearm. With this revolver, you get the normal accouterments of a cable lock, owner’s manual, a set of internal lock keys, and a larger gray Performance Center plastic box. A final Press Release statement can be read below from Smith & Wesson to potentially tip anyone off the fence who is contemplating purchasing one:

    Performance Center guns originate from standard designs or are created from the ground up. From hand-cutting and fitting to fine tuning for precision, these firearms are top performers. Products from the Performance Center are the ultimate expression of old-world craftsmanship blended with modern technology.

    stealth hunter

    FIRST LOOK: SMITH & WESSON performance center model 629 stealth hunter

    When it comes to making a first impression, the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Stealth Hunter .44 Magnum definitely makes a strong one. The entirely matte black finish is something you do not typically see on revolvers nowadays. So, that definitely catches your eye being completely blacked out. The “traditionalist” wheelgun lover in me dislikes it a tiny bit because it is unlike the blued frame and wood grip revolvers I collect, but it is important to understand this revolver’s purpose. It is the Stealth Hunter. While a glossy bluing or shiny stainless finish might look pretty on a wheelgun, if you are stalking game or sitting in a stand that will only give away your position more easily with something reflective. This matte black finish is meant to assist in the success of your hunt.

    stealth hunter

    The factory, slotted barrel rib is a nice touch for hunters and shooters who may want to add optics to this revolver. Instead of extensive gunsmithing or removing the rear sight and then adding a mount (which is very typical), the Stealth Hinter sidesteps all of those traditional steps and gives you that option right out of the gate.

    Another feature which is not entirely eye-catching or new by any means, but is greatly appreciated are the Hogue rubber grips. As far as revolvers go, they have become an industry standard for ergonomics and comfort. Not killer on aesthetics, but 10 out of 10 on functionality and are very comfortable to shoot.

    stealth hunter

    A major personal gripe of mine (with any revolver) is when they have black-on-black iron sights which in the best of lighting are difficult to shoot. Even with the sleek matte black exterior of the 629 Stealth Hunter, I am supremely glad to see they chose to go with a red front sight blade with a black adjustable rear. This is a much easier to see sight picture and when I was out at the range near dusk I could easily acquire my sights.

    stealth hunter

    The final element I took note of with the 629 Stealth Hunter was its weight; moreover, for its overall size, it did not seem that heavy. It has a full lug barrel that is 7.5″ and a thicker slotted rib for optics. I imagined that this wheelgun would weigh more, but for its overall footprint, it is only moderate in weight. This could be good and bad. This will make it easier to carry while hunting, but the hunter might experience more felt recoil. We will see what the recoil is like shortly.

    RANGE TIME: SMITH & WESSON performance center model 629 stealth hunter

    Once I got out to the range for some aromatherapy, I brought with my bread ‘n butter staple for testing which is Federal Premium’s American Eagle in a 240 Grain Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP). This line of ammunition in varying cartridges has always been consistent for me, and provides a good baseline of testing for firearms (as long as I do my part and tone it down on the coffee before shooting).

    I did a little bit of dry-firing before I started lobbing bullets into the backstop to get a sense for the trigger. The trigger overtravel stop does wonders for the trigger break and reset. Instead of the trigger breaking and then proceeding to travel a 1/4″ (which can feel like a long distance if you are conscious of the trigger), the trigger breaks and immediately stops. This aids in the reset because you are not sweeping back through that additional 1/4″ or whatever it may be to reset the trigger. The single-action pull is light, crisp, quick, and with a short reset to match. The double-action trigger pull was a bit difficult to master because as it is camming over you pull through a heavier stage (and the transition is quick) to finally meet that quick and crisp single-action stage. I would definitely recommend dry-firing through single-action and double-action pulls so you know what is in store for you once you shoot.

    stealth hunter

    Once I began shooting, the first thing I noticed was the recoil. It was much more jarring and harsh than I predicted it to be. For a gun this heavy and a barrel this long that is ported as well, I thought it would be much more mild recoiling. As a strong, young guy I was getting fatigued shooting this after 40-50 rounds down range and maintaining accuracy was an extreme exercise in concentration at this point.

    I mentioned before I even hit the range that I really liked the sight picture this revolver had, and that impression remained the same once I started shooting. I could quickly acquire a sight picture and then work on breathing, trigger press, and Bang!

    stealth hunter

    For this range trip, I ended up burning through 75 rounds of .44 Magnum (all the American Eagle I had in my collection) which was a lot for the 90 minutes I spent judiciously shooting at the range. If we were talking about 9mm that would be “rookie numbers,” but with .44 Magnum, I was genuinely tired.

    As far as accuracy goes, at 15 – 20 yards I was continually getting 3″ – 4″ groups. Never honestly worse than that, but it was pretty difficult to shoot much better than that off-hand either. I chose to not shoot from bags or a rest because in hunting revolvers I want to replicate how I would hunt, and I typically do not bring those extra tools with me into the woods. It’s simply more to carry which I do not care for.

    stealth hunter

    The best group I got all day was about 1 1/2″ or less with a full 6-round cylinder from that intermediate distance of 15 – 20 yards. The gun is probably capable of more, but for me and my shooting prowess (or lack thereof) that was nice to see one ragged hole strung together.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: SMITH & WESSON performance center model 629 stealth hunter

    So, after admiring this revolver from afar at trade shows, getting to dry-fire and play with it a bit, and finally feeding it a healthy diet of Federal Premium American Eagle, what are my final thoughts?… Well, while the sights and trigger are wonderful, the recoil is more than I anticipated and could enjoyable shoot for long periods of time. To counter my own complaint, this is a hunting revolver and not a target revolver. For anybody looking to pick one of these up, it is not meant to be a high volume ammo eater at the range. It is meant to be a high-end, precise tool for hunting which it absolutely achieves that.

    stealth hunter

    The matte black finish is sexy and not overly reflective where it would give away your position to game while hunting. If you threw this wheelgun on a rest and grabbed better ammunition than affordable American Eagle, you could possibly punch 1″ groups or less at 20 yards considering this Minnesota boy could get 1 1/2″ off-hand. At the MSRP price of $1,638 I believe that is a bit high for a ton of shooters to dive in on this revolver, but it is absolutely worth it considering it is a Performance Center firearm. The Performance Center tuned trigger, action, and Magna-Port barrel are difficult to describe because they are such a step up in quality from an average revolver. For anyone with the money and looking for a hunting revolver that will honestly perform, you would not be disappointed with the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Stealth Hunter .44 Magnum!

    In closing, I want to say thank you to Smith & Wesson for allowing TFB and myself the opportunity to try out their Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Stealth Hunter .44 Magnum! That is greatly appreciated. Also, we would like to know what all of you guys and gals think? Do you believe that the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Stealth Hunter .44 Magnum is something worth spending your money on? Would you carry it while camping or hiking? Shoot a league with it? Hunt with it? Let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.

    stealth hunter

    stealth hunter

    stealth hunter


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