For me there aren’t many experiences that beat shooting a top shelf highly tuned revolver. This experience ranks right up there with sporting around town in a 1970 Hemi Powered Cuda and laying a little rubber down on the street. Though it has been many years since I have sat behind the wheel of a vintage hotrod, recently I was afforded the opportunity to review one of Smith and Wesson’s latest hotrods the S&W 629 Competitor. Let me tell you this is no standard 629 it is truly one on steroids. Built on the time tested N Frame this Performance Center revolver has been through an overhaul with new innovation like a weighted barrel and the bead blasted finish making it easy on the eyes.
Many may recognize and associate this model to that of the older PPC guns and you would be absolutely right. Smith & Wesson created the Competitor model for PPC competition, which is still very popular in Europe. Here in the states most PPC matches are being shot with semi autos. So what would one use the 44mag Competitor for you ask? Steel plates, bowling ping matches, hunting and just pure range fun and let me say I had a blast with this one pun intended. The 44magnum is no pussycat but the unique weighted barrel system helps reduce muzzle rise of the stoutest 44magnum loads around allowing for quicker follow up shots. This weighted system is flexible and can be adjusted to about any configuration with the alan wrench and plastic inserts which are also included if you desired to lesson the front end weight, and let me tell you the 629 Competitor is muzzle heavy as configured out of the box.
At first sight I felt this master piece deserved an unfluted cylinder which would add yet more weight to the rear counter balancing the muzzle heavy feel, not to mention better aesthetics. But I must admit I have a little fetish with unfluted cylinders. The 629 Competitor weighed in at 57.9 ounces according to my scale where as the traditional model 629 with 6inch barrel weighed in at about 45 ounces. Given birth in the Performance Center I truly expected a well-tuned action and I was not disappointed. The single action trigger pull on this revolver was smooth, no creep and broke like glass at a little less than 3 pounds according to my RCBS trigger pull gauge. The double action pull was much of the same breaking at 5&3/4 pounds with no over travel. The trigger itself is the wide smooth target trigger with travel stop. As of late S&W has been criticized heavily by bloggers for what many feel is an excessive barrel cylinder gap. This excessive gap can lead to a decrease in velocity due to escaping gases as the bullet makes the jump from cylinder to barrel forcing cone. This revolvers cylinder gap measured true with all cylinders having a .006 gaps and lockup was very tight. On a previous range session I shot this revolver over a chronograph with 3 different loads comparing it to 6 other 44magnum revolvers in preparation for making my case of the 44 Magnum being the most versatile Handgun Caliber known to man, the stats can be reviewed here.
The double four competitor was packed nice and tight in my range bag along with a few reloads and factory 200gr Speer Gold Dot ammunition. All shots were fired at 25 yards with the factory iron sights. The rear sight is a very nice LPA fully adjustable serrated sight, which aids in reducing glare.
The front sight is a nicely partridge squared dovetail fit front sight which aids in supreme freehand accuracy.
Unfortunately I did not have a handgun scope to mount on the integral rail of the barrel but I was plenty happy with my groups at 25 yards for open sights, neither did I have inserts for my Ransom Rest for a round butt N frame though I did have one on order. But there is no way I could have waited around for this shipment to arrive, and though I am impressed with the groups I turned in without a rest at 25 yards I do plan on braving old man winters chill to see what it can really do.
Since its introduction in 1955 the 44Magnum has attained legendary status (at least in my mind) and is the most versatile handgun cartridge capable of many chores. Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center has given birth to a true competitor, which looks good, feels good and shoots good. If you are a true revolver aficionado with a desire for perfection this revolver is one worthy of a spot in your safe. Now let me see if I can convince the wife this is one worth adopting — wish me luck.