A Special Purpose Wheelgun
Yes, Even An 8-Shot 9mm
N-Frame Has Its Niche.
Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center recently introduced an 8-shot N-Frame revolver chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge. Its barrel with tapered underlug is almost 7 inches long counting the removable recoil compensator at the muzzle, it weighs 44.2 ounces, it’s more than a foot long overall, and it carries a suggested retail of $1,189.
And from beyond the grave, I can hear the voice of Col. Jeff Cooper shouting… “Why?”
Why buy a 929 when a turn of the page (or a click of the mouse) of the S&W catalog will bring you to the M&P Shield, a very compact semi-automatic pistol holding the same eight (7+1) 9mm cartridges (and you can order mags that hold one more) but less than half the weight, length, and cost of a Model 929?
The answer would, first and foremost, be action revolver competition. It’s a signature model of Jerry Miculek, and when the man I consider the world’s best double-action revolver shooter puts his name on a gun, that carries weight with me. For the revolver division in the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), the Model 929 makes huge sense. I’m told the 929 has already made its bones, a pretty deep pile of ’em, in that game.
It’s also a solid choice for the Open Division or, with comp removed, the Limited Division of the International Congress of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE). In fact, the 929 appears to have been purpose-built to help the shooter dominate these games. There’s another niche, too: Some folks are fine for double-action trigger pull and significant gun weight, but have palsied hands. The weight can dampen the tremors and make such people shoot better, even in home defense work.
The crane is locked by a ball detent (arrow), replacing traditional
the S&W front lug and providing solid lockup.
The big S&W was fired with three relatively inexpensive brands of 9mm FMJ ammunition.
Perks & Quirks
For one thing, you don’t want to shoot this gun without the cartridges in moon clips. Those of us who have shot .45 ACP Smith revolvers with loose ACP round know that they will reliably go bang if you have a stock mainspring, but you may have to punch the empties out by hand because the ejector star can’t grab “rimless” cases. Headspace does not appear to allow that with 9mm ammo in the 929, however. I stuffed eight random 9mm ball rounds into the chambers, and pulled the double-action trigger eight times. The result was four unfired cartridges with untouched primers, two with tiny needle-like dings on the primers, one shallowly indented primer… and a single fired round and empty casing with its primer impressively smeared. The phrase, “Don’t try this at home, kids” comes to mind.
So, you’ll need the moon clips… but that’s not really a knock on the gun, because moon clip capability is part of this revolver’s raison d’etre. If you need 13 to 16 shots to complete your stage in an ICORE match and you’re running this 8-shooter, you’ll only need to reload once but the sixgunners will have to reload twice, and the unforgiving clock runs at the same pace for all. On a long assault course, you might only need three reloads where the six-shooter folks require four.
Bad news: The 929 comes with the internal lock S&W aficionados love to hate. Good news: the lock never screwed up, and on big N-frame, it doesn’t uglify the classic the way it does on smaller S&W’s.
Double-action trigger pull was smooth but heavy, a tad over 12 pounds, with the single-action press going about 4 pounds on the nose, crisp and backlash-free thanks to the trigger-mounted trigger stop. Due to headspace issues with springy moon clips, heavy pulls are standard on auto-caliber revolvers, but judicious custom gunsmithing can bring it down.
Winchester 9mm 147-grain FMJ delivered sterling accuracy at 25 yards from the bench.
The lighter weight American Eagle 9mm 115-grain ammo also delivered
excellent accuracy at 25 yards from the bench.
Accuracy testing was done with affordable factory ball, all hand-held from a Matrix bench rest at 25 yards. Remington-UMC FMJ 115-grain put five shots in 3.15 inches, the best three in 1.90 inches. Federal’s American Eagle 115-grain FMJ delivered 2.05 inches for all five, and 1.15 for best three. Winchester Winclean 147-grain delivered the same 2.05 inches group for five shots with a pleasing 0.70 best three cluster.
If the above makes me sound cool toward the 929, I may not have expressed myself well. This revolver speaks to me. What it says is, “Don’t send me back to Smith & Wesson! Keep me here, where I can shoot ICORE and win for my shooter!”
I think I’m going to listen to that voice. And if they ever hold a National Pistol Whipping Championship, well, this big ol’ 8-shot 9mm revolver should do nicely for that, too.
By Massad Ayoob
2100 Roosevelt Avenue
Springfield, MA 01104
Action type: Double-action revolver
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Capacity: 8 (moon clip necessary)
Barrel length: 6-1/2 inches
Overall length: 12-1/4 inches
Weight: 44.2 ounces
Finish: Stainless steel
Sights: Fully adjustable
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