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S&W 929 Review and thoughts


BallisticianX
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After a long wait I finally got my hands on a 929 to use in place of my custom 686 plus for ICORE Open class. I decided to give you all a detailed report. It is a lengthy write up but a review should be to include all you should know. Soooo... lets begin: I was excited about finally upgrading to an 8 shot from a 7. Also happy thinking alot of the usual tuning work to make a revolver competition ready would already be done as advertised. Specifically a smooth fitted Performance center action, chamfered charge holes, and a sharp broach cut barrel. Before I describe what I found let me say it is unrealistic to expect that even a performance center gun would be comprable to a full custom worked gun. I expected to do some little detail work. But in the great words of Jerry Reed "Brother I didn't know it was gonna that much"...After inserting some snap caps and running the action in both single and double I found it to be... well unexpectedly rough and a heavy pull. In single action the "clicks" were not define and sharp but rather dull as if there was cotton packed in the action. The pull weight to break the hammer was a bit heavier than expected but not overly horrible. In double action it was gritty and rough like dragging plastic across 80 grit with a stacking up pull. For a comparible reference my 1987 made model 36 untouched from the factory was crisper and more pleasant on the trigger finger. So after disassembling the action I found very little evidence of any fitting what so ever. The only contact surfaces between the hammer and sears that was even touched was the single action sear hook on the trigger body and the double action sear on the hammer. They were both rough ground to the spec'd angle but left unstoned and rough! All other contacting trigger to hammer surfaces were untouched. When I say untouched I mean the mating points were riding on the flash (the excess material that oozes out the mold seam in the MIM (aka cintering) process) of the hammer and trigger. Also the rebound slide surfaces were rough with uneven surfaces. The frame surfaces where the rebound slide rides was also left as a horribly rough machined surface. There were more resistance prone surfaces in this thing than any other Smith revo I have ever seen. Couple that with a grossly heavy mainspring and 18lb rebound spring you better have a strong trigger finger. So after a complete stoning with a fine india stone to break the flash followed by a hard Arkansas (white) stone to all mating surfaces and inner frame including the burrs on the side plate. Then lightening the mainspring and a replacement 12-13lb rebound spring the action was smooth, crisp, and non stacking. Now it clicks like breaking glass and cycles without bruising my finger!! On a side note, contrary to popular belief, the MIM process creates a very dense and hard part that is very durable. It is just as durable and in most cases more durable than just a color case hardening. I bobbed the hammer, smoothed & rounded the trigger. A die grinder was necessary to cut off the hammer spur as a hack saw was futile to the job whereas Ive hacksawed color case hardened hammers easily. Now onto the Cylinder. To advertise it had chamfered charge holes is not untrue but a stretch on the implied result. The only chamfering was on the extractor that emconpasses 40% of the charge hole edge. The other 60% of the charge hole is of the actual cylinder and left untouched. It was a sharp 90 degree edge that was quite sharp. Sharp enough to shear copper or lead by just dropping in a moonclip when they did drop in cleanly. During test moonclip reloads with dummy rounds the edges of the case mouths hung up on that edge more often than not despite a normal taper crimp. So a full chamfer is a must here. Forget the hand chamfer tools here. To get good results cutting titanium you need a carbide cutter run at higher spindle speeds with a constant oil bath to prevent overheating the poor heat disapating Ti. If no mill or fixtures at your disposal your sending it out for this work....HSS cutters on hand run tools are OUT!! The cylinder was also quite hard to open. The centerpin lacked a good radius on the tip and was heavily marred and marked up. The Center pin tip looked like the end of a worn out end mill. To add to that the bolt (aka cylinder catch) was short stroked and could barely push the centerpin out enough to clear the latch hole. I'm here to tell you it was a bastadrly beast to pop open. Forget popping it open with just your index finger of your strong hand for those stage start reloads off the bench. After dressing the center pin tip radius up + a polish and giving the bolt some additional forward movement it opened smoothly as it should. I have to mention this is also the first time I ever had to address the centerpin and bolt marriage on a smith. Additionally the cylinder turned on the yoke like a brake drume on over adjusted break shoes. After polishing out the drag marks on the yoke it was able to spin tightly and effortlesly. Now lets adress the barrel...yeah theres more! The forcing cone is cut and left rough as hell. ALmost looks like tapered pipe threads in there. I know this is a contested issue as to whether or not it is critical to the accuracy. My opinion is if its not as good as it could be it is certainly not going to help the issue. So a cleaner cut on the forcing cone is something easy to achieve and should therefore be expected from the factory. So I am contemplating dressing it up or just recut to a taylor style..TBD. Now the crown....its deplorable to say the least. The recessed 90 cut left a rough marred surface I would be ashamed of. Also the lands are left with curled in burred edges at the crown. This is indicative to a dull cutter used on the crown after the barrel was brached. Makes you wonder how long there pushing there tooling to save a buck? In an effort to reduce chattering when re-crowning I shot a cylinder worth of stiff jacketed bullets to knock them down. It sheared off and deposited enough lead and guilding metal in the crowns recess to swage a full 17 HMR projectile. So I re-cut the crown with an 11 degree cut and chamfered the bore to crown edge with a brass button and 500 grit lapping compound. Ok thats the mechanical now onto the astetics. The finish was well done and matched between all stainless parts. I have to say the chrome plating on the hammer and trigger are an ok to match the rest of the gun but become less than pleasing as they marr easily. In short order it gives the hammer and trigger a toy cap gun look actually. A stainless set bead blasted would be more astetically fitting and better matching. Of course a matte polished stainless finish to the whole gun would be a nice upgrade to its looks but that is a matter of opinion and not the end of the world here. The side plate mates well as does the yoke to the frame. But the air gap between the barrel underlug and frame was a bit hard to accept...a tighter fit would be nice. As my preference I would also like to see a relief cut to the bottom of the left side blast shield/shroud. It would eliviate any interference with a moonclip load. Very little clearance between the path to the charge hole and that shield potruding out. As far as weight and handling goes its positive there. The 929 is considerably lighter than one might think by the mass of this beast thanks in part to the Titanium cylinder. It moves quick and easily during transitions. The balance is quite good and not nose heavy as it might appear at first glance. The longer barrel is a welcomed aspect for those of you who will be using the iron sights for a forgiving sight radius.

In conclusion my thoughts are that this revolver has alot going for it for competitive use. Good balance, easy to drive, and manipulate. WIth a "finally tuned action"..(yes I meant "finally" as in not having it when you expected and waiting to get it...my dig of a joke) it is as smooth and crisp as any fine worked revolver out there. The 9mm (9x19) brings distinct advantages to the table with with it's vast availability and choices, small case volume for more uniform ignition shot to shot, short case for reliable extraction and charging in speed loads, low recoil, and of course the flexibility of 8 rounds. As far as accuracy goes I have not extensively tested it yet as my attention has been on working out the variables that would hinder accuracy results. That coupled with living in the Anarctic region of the Northeast has detered me from venturing out to the range. Not easy to comfortably shoot for precision when your dressed like the younger brother from "A Christmas Story". I will report back on that when it warms up. Anyway I believe this is the most versatile and most capable revolver platform ever available for revolver run & gun to date. It unfortunately requires some work to achieve its potential out of the box. It does not by any means live up to the results expected from the performance center. To put it plainly the extra cost associated to the moniker is simply not reflected into what you get. All in all the lack of addresed detail for the pricepoint is its only downfall really. The durability and capability are there just needing to be brought out with some work. So to advertise it is "competition ready out of the box" is not the case. I would re-coin it's slogan to "the ultimate competition revolver thats almost there out of the box" Thank you for reading my detailed review and I hope this helps in getting to know this new kid on the block. I am looking forward to your comments!

Edited by BallisticianX
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Nice writeup. Your 929 sounds like the same condition mine came in.

It seems like this might be the norm for the performance center output. A lot of hype with little return. I have relayed my concerns to S&W but it fell on deaf ears. Also may I add I am a Ford Fan too :cheers:

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Oh it gets better, wait till you check it for accuracy the throat in the cylinder is cut .357 it should be .355 its a 38 cylinder not a 9MM,i know of 4 of them that are the same way and one was sent back and got a new barrel, cylinder,hammer & trigger, accuracy test at 50 yards was 2" my stock L frame shoots 1.500 or better at 50 yards, i think Smith & Wesson needs to look at there QC or lack of, other the that its a neat gun i hope they fix it.

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As far as the cylinder throats being .357 vs. .355...that is a minor issue that can be overcome with the right bullet/load combination. A .356 bullet will be the fix if nothing else. I have a 686 cylinder honed out to .3585 and it shot .357 bullets very accurately. The barrel bore diameter is much more critical in the accuracy aspect of the gun. I am not sure what the S&W spec is and have not slugged my barrel but as long as it is .355 or .356 it should be fine. I plan on feeding it .356 Hi-Tek coated bullets anyway.

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Well if there's one thing I know for sure you will never see another review from me on a Performance Center Firearm as I will never throw my money way on them again! Ill buy a standard model and just know to expect to do the work right from the get go without any surprises :angry2:

Edited by BallisticianX
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After a long wait I finally got my hands on a 929 to use in place of my custom 686 plus for ICORE Open class. I decided to give you all a detailed report. It is a lengthy write up but a review should be to include all you should know. Soooo... lets begin: I was excited about finally upgrading to an 8 shot from a 7. Also happy thinking alot of the usual tuning work to make a revolver competition ready would already be done as advertised. Specifically a smooth fitted Performance center action, chamfered charge holes, and a sharp broach cut barrel. Before I describe what I found let me say it is unrealistic to expect that even a performance center gun would be comprable to a full custom worked gun. I expected to do some little detail work. But in the great words of Jerry Reed "Brother I didn't know it was gonna that much"...//////I am looking forward to your comments!

What you saw for quality and finish is what I got on the PC 627 I bought a few years back. I posted details. But I have gotten some nasty pot shotting and personal attacks here from somebody who apparrently thinks SW can do no wrong, so I will just be an observer in these threads from now on.

My personal opinion is that the truth should be posted as that's the only way to force SW to stop shipping very expensive junk as quality guns.

So to advertise it is "competition ready out of the box" is not the case. I would re-coin it's slogan to "the ultimate competition revolver thats almost there out of the box"

In real estate we would call it a great fixer upper with a lot of potential.....

Edited by bountyhunter
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I have to be careful what i say here but S&W needs to put more heart into there guns, it used to be everyone would look for a gun that Roy Jinks put together ( i hope i spelled his name right and i am showing my age) but that's when you would get a good gun, i am not to saying the guns now are not good but i don't think the armors that are putting these guns together are not that good, i have seen guns come back from the performance center that had shims put in the cylinder to take care of cylinder end shake that's not how you fix end shake you stretch the yoke, that's right out of there armor school, they say there's 51 known problems on a Smith & Wesson Revolver i say there is 52.

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X......just go ahead and load .357-8 bullets if you are going to run Coated lead. Your accuracy will be much better and there won't be a problem loading them for the cylinder.

DougC

I am too afraid to run the .358" slug since I would have to hammer those through the cylinder, a .357 is snug but will pass but not a .358. I figured it would be kind of tough getting a replacement cylinder if I screwed this one up.

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The bullet is malleable compared to the steel in the cylinder, and the only thing that is important for the bullet to stabilize is your throat on the barrel. A larger bullet will engage rifling better and stabilize more. I am shooting .358 lead coated bullets in my schumann auto barrel. .if you get great accuracy from .357 then go for it.....Just throwing it out there to try.

DougC

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OK, I hesitate to respond to this forum because I am a complete noob to revolvers, and I don't feel qualified to provide valuable insight, but perhaps in this case it provides a different viewpoint. I bought a GP100 a while back and REALLY loved shooting revolvers after shooting 1911 (and 2011) style guns for years. After shooting 1911 type guns, I was not afraid of taking guns apart and did some MINOR adjustments to the action on the GP100 (replaced springs and polished a few surfaces) and the action seemed really buttery smooth and surprisingly crisp (I had a friend who was more experienced confirm this because I had very little reference). The gun is a joy to shoot (my kids prefer it to any of my other guns including my open gun). Based on this experience I decided to start shooting revolver division, and after doing a little reading thought that the S&W 929 was the right platform for me. So I managed to find one and shelled out the MSRP, but what the hell, its a Smith and Wesson and had to be better than the Ruger.... it wasn't even close, the trigger was gritty and really heavy by comparison (DA was >11 lbs). This was a real disappointment to me as the gun that cost twice as much did not seem to have the same quality. But here is the bottom line, for me, the lack of a finished project has been a real good thing, it has forced me to really learn more about the action of a Smith and Wesson. And although it may not be rocket science.... there is a steep learning curve for the uninitiated and it has forced me up the hill. We all shoot for a number of reasons, but if I am honest, I have begrudgingly enjoyed the process and if I had got a gun that was good to go out of the box, I might have missed learning about the action. Don't get me wrong, I have just scratched the surface, but at least I now know more about what I don 't know. I am still convinced that this is a really great platform for me, whether it is the be all end all platform I am not qualified to discuss (but I doubt there is such a thing). I have now dropped an APEX hammer in and slicked up some of the surfaces and the trigger is pretty good (but I have very little to compare it to). I am still adjusting the spring combinations (main spring tension and rebound spring) and when I finally get my back-ordered federal primers I will be able to zero in on the final product. I guess in the final analysis, although I am a little tweaked by the comparative quality, after shooting open for years, I am used to having to screw around a little bit on a platform that is solid, and this seems to be a pretty good gun design with good performance potential.

Edited by 1911Prof
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Is the barrel broach cut or ECM? I bought a barrel for my 627, a few years back. The gentleman on the phone said it was broach cut, but it was actually ECM.

Seiichi

They are specifically advertised as "broach cut" barrels, but who knows what you get...

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OK, I hesitate to respond to this forum because I am a complete noob to revolvers, and I don't feel qualified to provide valuable insight, but perhaps in this case it provides a different viewpoint. I bought a GP100 a while back and REALLY loved shooting revolvers after shooting 1911 (and 2011) style guns for years. After shooting 1911 type guns, I was not afraid of taking guns apart and did some MINOR adjustments to the action on the GP100 (replaced springs and polished a few surfaces) and the action seemed really buttery smooth and surprisingly crisp (I had a friend who was more experienced confirm this because I had very little reference). The gun is a joy to shoot (my kids prefer it to any of my other guns including my open gun). Based on this experience I decided to start shooting revolver division, and after doing a little reading thought that the S&W 929 was the right platform for me. So I managed to find one and shelled out the MSRP, but what the hell, its a Smith and Wesson and had to be better than the Ruger.... it wasn't even close, the trigger was gritty and really heavy by comparison (DA was >11 lbs). This was a real disappointment to me as the gun that cost twice as much did not seem to have the same quality. But here is the bottom line, for me, the lack of a finished project has been a real good thing, it has forced me to really learn more about the action of a Smith and Wesson. And although it may not be rocket science.... there is a steep learning curve for the uninitiated and it has forced me up the hill. We all shoot for a number of reasons, but if I am honest, I have begrudgingly enjoyed the process and if I had got a gun that was good to go out of the box, I might have missed learning about the action. Don't get me wrong, I have just scratched the surface, but at least I now know more about what I don 't know. I am still convinced that this is a really great platform for me, whether it is the be all end all platform I am not qualified to discuss (but I doubt there is such a thing). I have now dropped an APEX hammer in and slicked up some of the surfaces and the trigger is pretty good (but I have very little to compare it to). I am still adjusting the spring combinations (main spring tension and rebound spring) and when I finally get my back-ordered federal primers I will be able to zero in on the final product. I guess in the final analysis, although I am a little tweaked by the comparative quality, after shooting open for years, I am used to having to screw around a little bit on a platform that is solid, and this seems to be a pretty good gun design with good performance potential.

Ruger is either making better parts off their machines that require little or no fitting or they are taking the time to fit the stuff at assembly properly or both?

Either way, its hard to argue that the out of the box quality of a ruger GP is considerably better. I sat with a gentleman from Ruger at a match a few weeks ago, I wish I had thought to ask him questions about there processes.

They make alot of guns, he quoted 1.2 million a year, which competely overtakes any other manufacter as far as I know.

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1911prof,

I think most of us here, and any semi serious revolver shooter understands that when we buy a new smith and wesson it needs work before being competition ready. Gritty triggers, heavy double action , crappy sights, these are all things we know we will modify, customize, and change.

It's stuff like crooked barrels where the front sight points to 1 o' clock ( I'm looking at you seanc ) machine marks and burrs, and cylinders that wont eject ammo is more then we want.

Now, take those issues - and give it to the standard consumer who buys the name, and just plans to plink at the range with it. It can really start to leave a bad reputation.

Let's face it, ( most ) factory S&W triggers that come out these days arent anything to hoot about- IMO there isnt any reason why smith cant put out factory guns with 8 or 9 lb double action triggers and still light everything off.

Edited by alecmc
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My gun was same as OP's, bascially very rough.

Everything with OP's plus the forcing cone needed to be recut, crane face needed to be true'd up, hammer nose bushing was not flush with blast shield, all chambers needed reaming, etc...

Basically, for you 1000 bucks you get assembled parts that need to be fit/finished to be correct.

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