Smith & Wesson 329PD 44 Magnum Airlight PD Revolver Review
Often times when in the back country, whether hunting or exploring, it's smart to take along a backup handgun for self-defense. However, with all the other gear that goes along with a back country adventure, it can sometimes be tough to justify the additional weight of more equipment. Furthermore, if your adventures take you to grizzly country the handgun must be powerful enough to dispatch a bear in the unlikely event of a bear attack. There are not a lot of guns on the market that give maximum firepower in a lightweight package, but the Smith and Wesson 329PD fills the niche.
Weighing in at just 25 ounces unloaded the Smith & Wesson 329PD Airlight Revolver in 44 Magnum is a technical marvel. The receiver uses a scandium alloy and the cylinder is made of titanium alloy, the net result is the 4" barrel revolver is exceptionally light and powerful. These light weight alloys while very strong, don't have great sheer strength and therefore the barrel is sleeved with steel for long barrel life.
The 329PD comes with two grips, one of which is an attractive red wood grip and the other is a rubberized Hogue grip. While the wood looks nice, you will definitely want to switch to the rubber grip before taking the revolver out for practice due to the strong recoil of the handgun.
S&W includes a rubberized Hogue grip with the 329PD, be sure to install it before going for the first shooting session.
View from the right side.
Handing a 329PD to anyone that has not seen it before always elicits a "WOW!" response, the light weight is simply amazing. However the light weight comes with a serious downside: sharp and abusive recoil. The 44 Magnum packs a wallop in a standard weight 629 revolver and the same cartridge in the 329PD is quite a handful. The recoil pulse focuses strongly on the webbing of the hand between the thumb and index finger.
The 329PD is a sharp looking revolver even if the wood grips are painful to shoot.
If a shooter can tame the recoil, the 329PD is capable of delivering good accuracy. Most factory loads will group in under 2" or less at 25 yards with some being well under depending on the gun. The limiting factor with accuracy tends to be the shooter rather than the gun, since managing that much recoil consistently takes a good deal of practice. To help get started with shooting the revolver, much lighter 44 Special loads can be shot through the 329PD and offer significantly reduced recoil.
Currently the 329PD sells for around $1000 which puts it into the higher end of the revolver market. The high cost is due to the cost of the scandium and titanium used in the assembly. However the additional grip and the included adjustable rear-sight and HI-VIZ front red sight somewhat offsets the high cost of the revolver.
Smart alloys deserve an "electron cloud" emblem.
HI-VIZ front red sight that is easy to see in bright and low light conditions.
Adjustable rear sight similar to those available on the 629 and 686 series of revolvers.
In conclusion the 329PD is a purpose built revolver specifically designed for those that want to pack the most firepower possible into the lightest handgun possible. It will not be the go-to gun for a weekend of plinking, unless you like hand pain, but it is capable of delivering solid accuracy and is a pleasure to pack.
For more information visit Smith & Wesson.