Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Hunter Revolver Review
Part 4 - Range Testing
August 23, 2012

Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

In this part of the review, I range tested the Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Revolver.  The revolver comes with both iron sights and a UTG red/green dot sight, so I decided to first shoot the revolver with the iron sights to make sure they were properly adjusted.  Afterwards, I installed the UTG red/green dot sight for the remaining range tests.


The ammunition used during the range testing was an assortment that ranged in brand, price and weight.  The ammunition used in the review is shown and listed below.  The prices shown do not reflect any tax or shipping.

Figure 1
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

Figure 2
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

Figure 3
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

I started out my range tests at a local range called Hi Caliber Firearms.  My first order of business was to get the iron sights adjusted for 25 yards and get a general feel for shooting the S&W .44 Magnum Hunter revolver.  To do this, I used the Federal 240 gr JHP ammunition.  I made some initial shots at 10 yards using a sand bag rest and produced a 5-shot group of 1.06" centered around my aim point on the target.  From there I moved the target back to 25 yards and I shot about half the box of Federal free hand and the target below shows a 4-shot group that measured 1.28".  Unfortunately the fifth shot landed about 3" away from this group, so there is no doubt that this stray shot was my fault.  I tweaked the sight and was comfortable that they were close enough until I decide what type of ammunition I plan to shoot in the future.

Figure 4
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review 

Before I installed the UTG sight on the .44 Magnum Hunter Revolver and shot up over $100+ in ammunition trying to evaluate accuracy of the revolver, I wanted to check the sight out a little further with some cheap ammunition so I installed it on my Ruger 22 Charger rimfire pistol.  You can see the results of my rimfire evaluation of the sight along with a complete review of the sight at my UTG 1x30 Tactical Dot Sight Review.  To sum up the sight review, the sight appears to function properly and is nearly parallax free.

Next I installed the UTG Red/Green Dot Sight as shown in the figure below.  Since I wear bifocal glasses, it is much easier for me to do the accuracy portion of my range testing with some type of optical sight installed and I was pleased that S&W choose to include one with the revolver.  The sight comes with a 4 MOA red/green dot and I wouldn't consider this size dot to be optimal for checking accuracy, but since the sight did come with the revolver it seemed to make sense to evaluate the total package.  In my mind, any results I got in my review would probably be better with a crosshair style sight that provides some magnification (or at least it is typically for me).

Figure 5
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

Since I'm not a rich man and .44 Mag ammunition is not cheap, I started out this part of my range testing with some reloads so I could adjust the zero on the sight.  Knowing that the point of impact can change considerably with different types of .44 ammunition, I didn't go overboard zeroing the sight with each type of ammunition.  Once I had a basic zero, I shot the last 5 rounds of the Federal Ammunition to get some chronograph data which is listed in the table below along with all my data from shooting the other ammunition.  This single 5-shot group measured 2.03".

Ammunition Advertised
5-Shot Groups**
Reload: 240 gr LSWC/HP, 6.4 gr Red Dot, CCI #300, 1.620" OAL - 859 19 - - -
Reload: 240 gr LSWC/HP, 10.0 gr Universal, CCI #300, 1.620" OAL - 1131 17 - - -
Federal .44 Mag 240 gr JHP (WMAE44A) 1230 1396 8 2.03*** 2.03*** 2.03***
Wolf Gold .44 Mag 240 gr JHP 1542 1315 18 1.80 1.43 1.56
Hornady Custom .44 Mag 300 gr XTP (#9088) 1150 1089 15 1.48 0.87 1.14
Hornady Custom .44 Mag 180 gr XTP (#9081) 1550 1629 15 1.45 0.58 1.02
* - Velocity measured 10 feet from muzzle and is an average of at least 5 shots
** - Based on four 5-shot groups shot by hand at 25 yards from a bench rest unless noted otherwise
*** - Data taken from only one 5-shot group

Next I switched to shooting the Wolf Gold 240 gr LSWC/HP ammunition and seemed to get fairly consistent groups sizes that averaged 1.56".  This average was clearly better than the single group of Federal Ammunition, but for some reason I didn't think I was "dialed in" yet for shooting this revolver from the bench.

Figure 6 - Wolf Gold 240 gr LSWC/HP at 25 yards
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

I then switched to the Hornady 300 gr XTP and found it to be much more pleasant to shoot than expected.  I though this heavy weight bullet may produce much more felt recoil, but it actually seemed less than the Wolf and Federal.  Looking at the velocity data and seeing that the other two rounds are over 200 ft/sec faster, it seemed to make sense.  One thing worth noting is that the group below was shot while I was aiming at the center of the lower target (C) with my sights adjusted as shown above.  The slower bullet allows for more time in the barrel which in turn allows more tilt due to recoil producing a higher group with heavier/slower bullets (or at least this is how I rationalize it, if I'm wrong, please speak up).  The two photos below show groups using the Hornady 300 gr XTP ammunition and I was pleased with the results.  It is hard to complain about 5-shot group sizes less than 1" at 25 yards with a revolver.

Figure 7 - Hornady 300 gr XTP at 25 yards
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

Figure 8 - Hornady 300 gr XTP at 25 yards
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

Next I checked the accuracy shooting the Hornady 180 gr XTP ammunition.  The first group I shot was group C below and I was aiming at the center of target A.  Again, this points out the significant shifts you can get in point-of-impact with different ammunition in a .44 magnum revolver.  I was extremely pleased with the 0.64" and 0.58" groups and am convinced that the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Hunter Revolver is an accurate revolver as long as I can do my part.

Figure 9 - Hornady 180 gr XTP at 25 yards
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

Since hunting with a .44 Magnum is not limited to 25 yards, I wanted to see what type of group I could shoot at 100 yards using the Hornady 180 gr XTP ammunition.  With the sight zeroed as shown in the photo above, I aimed at the center of the target below and shot the 3.15 inch 5-shot group from the bench.  If you believe the Shooter ballistics program on my phone, the group should have printed about 2.5" low on the target at 100 yards.  My group was about 3.5" low and slightly to the right, which seems OK based on my zero at 25 yards.  With a little more practice, I feel that I could hunt with this revolver and believe I can make ethical shots.

Figure 10
Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum Hunter Review

After completing this accuracy portion of my range testing, I was convinced that the S&W .44 Magnum Hunter Revolver combined with the UTG Dot Sight possesses the accuracy needed for hunting.  My next task was to have a little fun shooting some steel plates.  The video below shows my attempt (weak) at hitting a 10" gong at 150 yards along with some shooting some other steel plates and showing the recoil of the revolver.



After my range tests, I have no doubt that the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Hunter Revolver is a great shooting revolver.  My accuracy results were similar to that in the review in the June 2011 issue of Guns Magazine.  I feel the key to successfully shooting this revolver is going to be settling in on what type of ammunition you plan to shoot and understanding the point of aim shifts between your practice and hunting ammunition.  After shooting two 5-shot groups that were just over 1/2" at 25 yards, I'm fairly certain that the Hornady 180 grain XTP will make the list of my hunting ammunition this season.  I was pleased with the performance of the value UTG sight and may keep it as part of this shooting platform.

For more detailed photos and commentary, make sure you check out the other parts of this review and feel free to leave comments on my Reader's Comments page.  The following links are provided to help you see other parts of this review. 

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