Six hundred dollars is a great price. If it were me, I’d buy the gun, shoot it with a comfortable load and carry it with ammo of sufficient power to meet the threat level in my area. Any threat requiring .44 Mag power level will be at contact distance and with adrenaline dump recoil diff won’t be an issue.
The 329 is not a .44 Magnum range/plinking gun. The 329 will not handle a steady diet of .44 Magnum level loads without increased repair frequency vs. a 629. One of the most common comments you will read is that “the 329 is made to carry a lot and shoot a little”. Most people will never shoot it enough with magnum level loads (because of the recoil and cost of ammo) to experience use related problems. If you do, S&W will fix the gun at no cost (they even pay shipping).
The feature (light weight in this case) that makes the 329 so desirable for all day, every day comfortable carry is also the feature that makes it more difficult to load for, shoot comfortably/accurately and leads to increased repair frequency.
“Crimp jump” can be a problem with the 329 --, heavy for caliber bullets (300gr +) worsen this problem (depending upon velocity and nose design). I have loaded and shot 300gr Keiths, and 325gr WLNGCs at 1,050 fps in the 329– these bullets have a longer crimp to nose length (the nose of the bullet is closer to the cylinder face) and (depending on the exact nose design) with minimal bullet movement can impede cylinder cycling. For everyday carry, I have settled on a hard cast 260gr WFNGCs right at 1,200 fps. The Wide Flat Nose has a shorter crimp to nose length than other designs, which gives an extra margin of safety when it comes to crimp jump tying up the gun.
I live in Montana and the 329 has been my all day, every day carry gun for the last 5 years. I’ve shot around 9,000 rounds of 240-260gr bullets at 1,100 to 1,300 fps thru 2 guns. They have been sent to S&W for wear related repairs on several occasions (all at no cost to me). For my purposes, the 329 provides the best compromise of weight to power -- I don’t leave home without one.
Get a set of rubber girps that cover the backstrap -- Pachmyr gripper decelerators or Hogue S&W 500s (only avail at S&W online store). The open backstrap Hoges and particularly the Aherns wood grips that come with the gun exacerbate recoil.
If you do buy the 329, then shoot it enough to insure your gun doesn't have any of the following problems:
1. Make sure the ammo you chose doesn’t exhibit “crimp jump”.
2. There have been reports of the internal lock engaging under recoil.
3. Some ignition problems due to short firing pins have been reported.
Last edited by Paul105; November 10, 2012 at 10:35 PM.