The September 2021 and January 2022 issues saw our testers comparing seasoned 44 Magnum revolvers with modern counterparts in the same chambering. Here, we look at three very modern 44 Magnum revolvers designed with the handgun hunter in mind.
Our first test piece was the Ruger Super Redhawk with the 7.5-inch barrel (No. 5501, $1370) followed by the Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 also with a 7.5-inch barrel (No. 170318, $1418). The third entrant is a new Colt Anaconda (Anaconda-SP8RTS, $1499), which sports an 8-inch tube.
To assess their viability for use in the hunting fields, we mounted optics on all three pistols. The Super Redhawk wore a Burris Extended Eye Relief scope in a fixed 2.75-power magnification. The Colt Anaconda also held an official Burris Pistol Scope (2-7×20, No. 200291, $419), which we kept set at 2.75x to make it fair to the other Burris. Our Smith & Wesson M629 Performance Center Hunter includes the UTG SCP-RD40RGW-A, which is a 1×30 red- or green-dot optic that mounted directly to the Picatinny rail on the barrel of the S&W.
Loads tested used bullets from MidwayUSA.com, including the 240-grain hard-cast Keith-style semi-wadcutter from Hunter’s Supply (267313, $53/250), along with the 240-grain Speer Gold Dot jacketed soft point (166262, $25/100). Wanting to include something for the hunters who really need penetration, we also experimented with some Cast Performance Bullet Company 320-grain hard-cast wide-nose gas checks (141652, $45/100). Loads were assembled using a mix of brass, Winchester large pistol primers, VihtaVuori N110 or Alliant 2400 powder, and recipes from the Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook. Our test results showed the VihtaVuori N110 to be a good bit more accurate for the combinations we tried. Here are the results and our opinions of the handguns:
Gun Tests Grade: A
When we compare the S&W Model 629 Hunter to an older Model 29 we have in house, it appears that Smith & Wesson mostly used the same frame as on the older version. Our old M29 is a square-butt version, and the new model is a round butt. That means the heel of the modern grip does not project as far to the rear, so the installed Hogue grips can maintain the same profile while they cover part of the backstrap. That translates to more cushion for your hand. The new version added in the keyed lock located immediately above the cylinder release on the left side of the frame. We understand politics and its inclusion, but we tend to ignore that lock. For those who like to use them, go for it.
|Action Type||Revolver, double action or single action|
|Overall Length||14.3 in.|
|Overall Height||6.1 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.71 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||3.4 lbs.|
|Weight Loaded||3.75 lbs.|
|Receiver Material||Brushed stainless steel, black nitride accents|
|Front Strap Height||2.5 in.|
|Back Strap Height||4.5 in.|
|Barrel Length||7.5 in.|
|Grip Thickness (Maximum)||1.25 in.|
|Grip Circumference||5.25 in.|
|Cylinder Capacity||6 rounds|
|Front Sight||Replaceable ramp with red insert in dovetail|
|Sight Radius||9.4 in.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Double Action||9.7 lbs.|
|Trigger-Pull Weight Single Action||4.2 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||3.5 in.|
|Safety||Hammer bar and manually keyed lock|
|Warranty||1-year limited warranty, lifetime service policy|
|Made In||Massachusetts, USA|
We see the bloodline in the two revolvers, but we also see a ton of differences, courtesy primarily of the Performance Center. It doesn’t matter if you want a revolver or a semi-auto, these folks know how to build a great handgun. And they know how to make them look good. The Model 629 Hunter has some serious curb appeal. The grips, frame, and most of the barrel is flat black. The hammer, trigger, cylinder, cylinder release, and muzzle brake are stainless. The flats on the barrel are brushed stainless with black lettering. The chamber mouths have been chamfered, substantially enlarging and smoothing the openings. The front edge of the cylinder has been beveled, telling us this revolver is expected to go in and out of a holster a lot.
The full-length ejector rod almost glides in its rearward travel. Timing, once again, is excellent, with the cylinder locking up solidly before each shot. As with the Ruger, there is an additional locking point on the crane where it mates with the frame. The trigger is wide and flat, with an overtravel screw mounted on the back side. The hammer is stainless steel with a medium-width checkered spur. The Hunter Model is well set up for double-action or single-action shooting. Trigger pull is smooth and short.
Then we get to the front end of the Hunter. While not as thick as the Super Redhawk, the Hunter has some extra weight built into the barrel. Part of that is in a Picatinny rail that runs about two-thirds the length of the barrel. That pushed the balance farther forward and gave us a lot of real estate for the mounting of the UTG optic. That optic, by the way, provides a 30mm tube and a 4-minute-of-angle dot. It mounts directly to the rail on the Hunter. It is not an expensive set up at $46, but it did well for us and stood up to a decent pounding during our tests. It also allows the shooter to choose between a green or a red dot. Especially for an inexpensive optic, we were pleased with the clarity of the glass and the brightness of the dots. We never had a problem with either dot washing out in full sunlight, though the green was a bit more visible.
The front end of the Hunter brings two more nice features. The red-ramp front sight sits in a dovetail, allowing it to be adjusted or replaced. The threaded barrel has a 1.3-inch muzzle brake attached. The brake has four series of four ports alternating with four series of three ports that cover the full 360 degrees. It works. Muzzle flip was a good bit less on the S&W than our other two test pistols, allowing faster follow-on shots. It was also loud. We suggest that you wear good hearing protection when hunting with this one. Also, we noticed the UTG dot was not quite as precise to aim as the crosshairs on the Burris scopes, but it was a bit faster to pick up.
Our Team Said: We think the S&W Hunter would be a great choice for closer-range hunting. Trigger pull was less than 10 pounds for the double-action pull and just more than 4 pounds for the single-action movement, though it felt lighter than that. The M629 came in second in the accuracy testing with an average group size of 0.97 inch. It showed a liking for the 240-grain lead bullets, with a best group of 0.54 inch.
44 Magnum Range Data
Testing was done at American Shooting Centers in west Houston. Muzzle velocities were determined via a LabRadar chronograph, $559. All shots for group were done from a well-sandbagged Caldwell Pistol Rest from MidwayUSA and aided by a mini-DRC Fortune Cookie bag from Wiebad.com. The handloads for this test were assembled using data from the Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook. LSWC = lead semi-wadcutter. JSP = jacketed soft point. WNGC = wide nose gas check.
|Hunter’s Supply 240-grain LSWC||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1282 fps||1271 fps||1367 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||883 ft.-lbs.||869 ft.-lbs.||1004 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||1.19 in.||0.86 in.||0.99 in.|
|Best Group||1.05 in.||0.54 in.||0.65 in.|
|Speer Gold Dot 240-grain JSP||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1351 fps||1287 fps||1421 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||973 ft.-lbs.||882 ft.-lbs.||1076 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||1.05 in.||0.98 in.||0.86 in.|
|Best Group||0.49 in.||0.85 in.||0.77 in.|
|Cast Performance Bullet 320-grain WNGC||Ruger Super Redhawk||S&W M629 Hunter||Colt Anaconda|
|Average Velocity||1048 fps||1030 fps||1118 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||781 ft.-lbs.||754 ft.-lbs.||888 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||0.86 in.||1.08 in.||0.61 in.|
|Best Group||0.71 in.||0.93 in.||0.46 in.|
Value Guide Powerful Revolver Rankings
|Smith & Wesson Model 29-2 44 Magnum, $1250||Sep. 2021||B+||This Very Good used specimen had a trigger that was a joy to shoot and a beautiful old-school blued finish.|
|Taurus Model 44 2-440049 44 Magnum, $661||Sep. 2021||B||If you want a field gun subject to inclement weather, the Taurus is an easy pick over the M29.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP4WTS 357 Magnum, $1300||Jan. 2021||A||Pricey, but the new Python is a winner, even if it isn’t an exact clone of the original Python.|
|Colt Python (2020) PYTHON-SP6WTS 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A||We really liked the trigger and found the revolver to be quite accurate.|
|Colt Python (1980) 357 Magnum, ~$2500||Jan. 2021||A||The trigger is superb and the royal-blue finish is brilliant. The aftermarket Hogue grip reduces felt recoil.|
|Colt Python (1964) 357 Magnum, $1800||Jan. 2021||A-||It provided good performance and accuracy. This is a shooter and perhaps is a candidate for restoration.|
|Colt King Cobra KCOBRA-SB3BB 357 Magnum, $838||May. 2020||A||Offers good performance with the 3-inch barrel and is well made. Carrying it takes a bit of effort.|
|Rock Island Armory AL3.0 357 Magnum, $504||May. 2020||A-||There was a lot to like, price, accuracy, shooting comfort. Not a beautiful revolver for sure.|
|Rossi Model 971 VRC 357 Magnum, $295||May. 2020||B||A great trigger, and the porting helped keep us on target. But the accuracy was less than stellar.|
|Taurus Raging Hunter Model 2-440085RH 44 Magnum, $683||Dec. 2019||A||The Raging Hunter comes optic ready and offers the versatility of the 44 Mag cartridge.|
|Smith & Wesson PC M460XVR 170262 460 S&W Mag., $1369||Dec. 2019||A||The 460XVR is very versatile, with the ability to shoot a variety of calibers. It comes optics ready.|
|Smith & Wesson S&W 500 163500 500 S&W Mag., $1082||Dec. 2019||A-||Cartridge choice is limited. We found this revolver to be accurate and offer plenty of punch both ways.|
|Taurus Model 66 2-660041 357 Magnum, $371||Oct. 2019||A||Well suited to personal defense and home defense. Good field gun for protection against animals.|
|Taurus 608 Matte Stainless 2-608049 357 Magnum, $548||Oct. 2019||A-||It is a big gun. Just the same, the size and eight-shot capacity made it ideal for home defense.|
|Smith & Wesson M27 Classic 150339 357 Magnum, $909||Oct. 2019||B-||The grips are not the best design for handling magnum loads. Trigger action was very heavy.|
|Ruger GP100 KGP-141 357 Magnum, $500||Sep. 2018||A||The stainless-steel GP100 performs in all categories: accuracy, smoothness, control, and velocity.|
|S&W M66 Combat Magnum 357 Magnum, $420||Sep. 2018||B+||Stainless steel, smooth action, and a round-butt configuration seldom seen on the Combat Magnum.|
|Ruger GP100 GP-141 357 Magnum, $480||Sep. 2018||B+||The blued GP100 doesn’t perform on par with the stainless, and the stainless is easier to maintain.|
|S&W M19 Combat Magnum 357 Magnum, $800||Sep. 2018||B||Came with a display case and a knife with matching serial number — pretty neat, but also pricey.|
|Taurus Model 66 357 Magnum, $325||Sep. 2018||B-||The barrel length of 6 inches did not generate greater velocity. Current-production version is 2-660069.|
|Taurus Tracker 44TRACKER4SS 2-440049TKR 44 Mag., $449||Jan. 2018||A||Best Buy. A formidable revolver. Proved reliable and should be useful as a home-defense revolver.|