There are a few legendary movie guns…guns so famous they could arguably be called the co-stars of the film.
These movies are rare and the list could be argued. One that is readily obvious, however, is the Smith & Wesson Model 29 in the film Dirty Harry.
Dirty Harry made this gun a celebrity. Supposedly throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, anytime the movie re-ran on TV, it would drive sales of the firearm.
At the very beginning of the film, the shootout solidified the firearm in the American mind. As Inspector Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood delivered a monologue that made the weapon famous.
“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”
With that, history was made.
The S&W .44 Magnum would become an absolute legend in the world of firearms.
Today, it continues to hold that spot as not just a .44 Magnum revolver, but the .44 Magnum revolver.
The Smith & Wesson Model 29 began production in 1955, and at its time, the Model 29 was the most powerful production firearm in the world. Although by 1958, .454 Casull became a thing, at least for wildcatters.
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In 1971, Harry should have described his firearm as the most powerful production cartridge in existence. But that pedantic terminology kind of ruins the flow.
Regardless, .44 Magnum came from special hand loadings of the .44 Special cartridge. The old revolver shooters’ thoughts were, essentially, “let’s just keep shoving powder into these things and make the round fly faster and hit harder.” Love that.
Eventually, .44 Magnum was developed. A new cartridge demands a new gun, and thus Smith and Wesson developed the Model 29.
This modern DA/SA revolver featured an exposed hammer and a swing-out cylinder, and it packed six rounds of the famed .44 Magnum.
Harry’s Model came equipped with a 6.5-inch barrel, which helped the big round gather some speed before it exploded out of the barrel.
This barrel length seemed to be the most popular, but the gun’s been produced with 3-, 4-, 8-, and 12-inch barrels. There are also custom length and Performance Center guns with various options.
.44 Magnum has some stout recoil, but it’s often overblown. Guns like the Model 29 provided a nice, heavy weapon that does a great job of soaking up recoil.
Sure, it’s not a plinker, but any adult can handle one with a little training and practice.
That doesn’t make it a fighting revolver, though.
Dirty Harry handles the Model 29 like it’s a kitten. He’s a movie hero that can’t be stopped and he doesn’t seem to mind the recoil.
But that’s because he’s not shooting real .44 Magnums. Instead, the gun’s loaded with .44 Special blanks.
A .44 Magnum blank makes no sense, and .44 Special rounds function fine in a .44 Magnum. They share the same type of relationship .357 Magnum and .38 Special share.
The ammo drops in without an issue and provides you with a soft shooter, a shorter alternative to .44 Magnum. It also makes Clint Eastwood look good.
In the scene where he famously shoots it out during a lunch break, we see 1970s handgun craft.
He fires one shot one-handed. Then he reverts to a classic slight squat and a shooting position in which he supports his dominant wrist with his non-dominant hand.
Harry seems to aim carefully and place his shots well. Although, old Clint is clearly exaggerating the recoil on the weapon between shots.
The S&W Model 29 is a damn fine firearm, but it’s not a great fighting pistol. Recoil is rough enough, but that aside, .44 Magnum is more likely to exceed the standard penetration standards set by the FBI.
That means it can over-penetrate a potential bad guy and harm another person. Sure, you can download, but then you might as well pack a .44 Special.
Do You Feel Lucky?
.44 Magnum and the S&W Model 29 made Dirty Harry, and Dirty Harry most definitely made the weapon and caliber popular. In fact, it made .44 Magnum a household name.
The Model 29 from Smith and Wesson continues to be a part of their lineup and is one gun everyone should fire at least once in their life.
This is part of a weekly series on Pew Pew Tactical dedicated to the guns of TV and film. If you’d like more of this content, drop us a comment below. In the meantime, check out last week’s pop culture dive with “Red” & the Smith & Wesson Model 629