Revolver Tour #2: Smith & Wesson 929, the Unicorn

Smith & Wesson 929 cylinder open

Unicorns are mythical beasts, and even though some (crazy) people claim to have seen one, they probably don’t exist. For quite some time after it was announced, the Smith & Wesson 929 occupied the same place as a unicorn: pure myth. But then the myth became reality, and for me that reality was awesome.

The Smith & Wesson 929 is an 8-shot, 9mm, moonclip revolver; built on S&W’s tried and true N-frame. To help keep the otherwise massive weight down, the gun uses a titanium cylinder. It’s equipped from the factory with a muzzle brake that’s attached via a single screw in the underlug; this can be replaced with a cap if you’re not shooting open. You’ll notice on a picture below this that my revolver lacks either the comp or the protector; I found that the screw would back out under recoil, so I just ditched the assembly entirely.

What makes an 8 shot 9mm revolver so great? I mean, it’s pretty clearly too big for concealed carry, and it’s not legal for IDPA, so what do I do with this monster? The simple answer is “shoot USPSA and Steel Challenge” – because it’s perfect for that. I actually had a pretty good time shooting this gun at Area 3; I didn’t shoot particularly well, but it was still a lot of fun to finally run a wheelgun at a USPSA match and not have to do standing load after standing load.

For Steel Challenge it’s a great choice as well – those extra shots in the cylinder give you a bit of a cushion on the five-shot strings at SC; it’s not like running a six shot gun where you know missing a single piece of steel is going to really force you to bear down and be accurate. It’s also a good idea for Bianchi Cup – those extra rounds mean that if you do get the dreaded “click” on a shot that you’re not going to have to come all the way around the cylinder to try and make that one light primer go off. Insurance is a good thing.

Smith & Wesson 929

Mostly, I like this wheelgun because it’s big dumb fun. Yes, it’s a serious competition revolver for serious competitions, but it’s also really nice to just toss in the range bag. Shooting 9mm out of this is just a good old time, even with the Ti cylinder it still weighs 100 million pounds. There’s very little recoil, the Hogue rubber stocks are really nice, it’s just a great gun. The best news? They’re not unicorns anymore. You can get a 929 for a reasonable price on Gunbroker – about $1,000, which is fair for a PC gun. You can leave it stock and use it as a nice plinking gun, or send it off for an action job and turn it into a serious competition revolver. Either way, you’ll have fun shooting an enormous 9mm revolver.


  1. With the exception of a ribbed and ported barrel, it looks very similar to my 8-shot Taurus 608, which is by far my favorite pistol for plain old fun shooting.

  2. Stuck behind the granola curtain here in the PRK, we can’t have one because of the threaded barrel. Oh well, someday maybe, when I can make the break to Free America…

  3. I’ve had mine since July. I waited patiently for 8 months for it I DO love this firearm but right out of the box the timing was off. FedEx took it back to S&W and returned two weeks later all fixed. Took it back to gun club only to have the set screw that holds the cylinder on lossen up resulting in the cylinder nearly crash to the ground. Grips are way too big for my hand but I’m working through that. TK customs makes a great set of moon clips. I went for the more expensive ones (75$ / 10) I also purchased the moon clips loader / unloaded from him. Great service there .. as for that set screw I was told to just tighten the screw before each use so I tried that but cylinder still came loose. I am going to have to go with out this firearm for another 2 weeks to have this issue resolved. I hope this is the last time. In all honesty s&w does have great service.

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