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A .44 Magnum is a man's gun - WRONG!
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S&W's production of an N (large) revolver frame revolver in .44 Magnum began in 1955, and the Model 29 designation was applied in 1957. It remained primarily the province of handgun enthusiasts, some law enforcement personnel and hunters until 1971, when Clint Eastwood made it famous as "the most powerful handgun in the world" in the movie Dirty Harry. After the movie's release retailers had trouble keeping the Model 29 in stock.
At the time of its introduction, the Model 29 was the most powerful production handgun. There were a number of custom, or wildcat, calibers that were more powerful, as in the old Howdah pistols of the 19th century. Elmer Keith's achievements in maximizing the power and performance of the .44 Special was the inspiration and driving force behind the introduction of the .44 Magnum by Smith & Wesson. His intention for the new round was to be used in sidearms for hunters of large, dangerous game, rather than for self defense, though with today's specialty cartridges, it can be a good defensive round.
The Model 29 will chamber and fire .44 Special cartridges, as the .44 Magnum was developed from the .44 Special. The Magnum case is slightly longer to carry more propellant. This prevents Magnum rounds from being chambered and fired in handguns chambered for the .44 Special.
In the late 1990s, Smith and Wesson discontinued production of many models of revolvers, including the 'basic' Model 29; since then, at various times, the model, in limited or 'custom' configurations, has been manufactured in as many as 10 evolutions.
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