Doom on Mikey! I went out today to shot some .44 Magnums through several guns, including my ultralight-weight 329PD overhauled by Jim Stroh at Alpha Precision. I've put a bunch of .44 Specials through the gun already, and in truth I took it along as a "control" to compare the newer guns to.
I ran 50 rounds of Winchester Cowboy .44 Special (240-grain lead @ 750 fps) through the 329 and it shot as sweet as it always has. Then I went to BlackHills 240-gr JHPs @ 1260...thumpers, but one of my favorite .44 Magnum loads. I ran through 3 cylinders-full with no problemo.
Then I went to Buffalo Bore "lower recoil" 255-gr Keith style lead bullets at 1350 fps, a load specifically designed for the 329 and one that I have used in all my other .44 Magnums with great accuracy. Here is what Buffalo Bore says about their load:
In order to alleviate the recoil, crimp jump and sticky extraction, we have developed this load. It is still full power, but uses a lighter weight, super hard cast, gas checked bullet and will still penetrate very deeply in big game despite its lighter weight. This load is ideal for those of you who carry the S&W model 329PD. This load will not lead your barrel.In other words — and I have said this repeatedly — the ideal load for a dangerous game back-up gun, which was what I got the 329 for. As I said, I like the load..it's heavy, but nothing like the Winchester or Cor-Bon hunting loads!
This load falls well under SAAMI pressure specs and is safe to use IN ANY 44mag. While we love to hear from our customers, please do not phone/email us and ask if this load is safe in your particular 44 mag.—it is—providing your gun is in normal working condition.
Now there exists a serious full power 44 mag. load that will penetrate big bones (including a bears skull) and drive deeply into living organs and tissues, that has minimum recoil.
On the second round, the "flag" part of the locking system flew up and locked the gun up at almost a full cock.
I couldn't unlock it; I couldn't uncock it; I couldn't get it to fire. It took me 20 minutes of working v....e....e....r....r....y gingerly with a screwdriver to get the lock to release enough to allow me to bring the 329 to full cock and subsequently unlock the cylinder and empty the gun.
I'd say this was NOT GOOD for a gun billed as a dangerous game back-up gun!
Massad Ayoob touched on this in AH in Jan/Feb 2005, quoting a failure similar to mine:
In Rochester, Indiana, detective Dennis Reichard was firing his personally owned service revolver, a Model 329 Scandium with full power .44 Magnum, when the lock's flag mechanism flew out of its slot in the frame alongside the exposed hammer. While the .44 continued to fire, Reichard was less than thrilled with his duty weapon literally falling apart while he was shooting it, and has gone back to his old all-steel Model 629 without the integral lock mechanism.Mine is going back to Jim Stroh for a lock removal and a thorough examination. ALL my centerfire S&Ws with locks will get the damned things removed, and I'll live with the hole in the frame.
In the meanwhile, I STRONGLY caution all of you about trusting your precious butts to an S&W revolver with the integral lock using HEAVY BULLETS! Especially the ultralight Scadium-framed revolvers like the 329, 325, 340, 357, etc.
To quote from an old bluesman I once knew, "I ain't tellin' you what I heard; I ain't tellin' you what I read; I'm tellin' you what is."