Those that know me well know I like guns. I like all kinds of guns. Big guns, small guns, wheel guns, long guns, shotguns, giggle switch guns, quiet guns, loud guns…pretty much any kind of gun will do. Okay, maybe not a Jennings or a Lorcin…maybe. I have a wish list of guns that runs fairly long, and today’s item up for review has been a longtime resident on my wish list. In fact, I’ve been looking for one of these for at least two years. It had become a bit of a Grail Gun for me in that it was only made for three or four years in what I can only assume are small quantities because I never saw one for sale (until recently).
I present to you the Smith & Wesson 325PD in .45ACP with a 4 inch barrel:
You won’t find technical specs for this gun on the Smith & Wesson website any longer as it is a discontinued gun. According to the Blue Book of Gun Values (the freebie info available without paying for the full enchilada), Smith & Wesson only made this model from 2004 to 2007 in two and a half inch and four inch barreled versions. It weighs in between 21 and 25 ounces. I assume (because I do not have a scale handy) that the four inch version is the 25 ounce “heavy” weight. This is possible because of the “airweight” scandium frame and titanium cylinder. Smith & Wesson has also done .357 Magnum (the 327PD) and .44 Magnum (the 329PD) versions. For reasons that escape me, the 329PD is still in production while the 325s and 327s are not.
The gun comes equipped with nice but not gorgeous wood finger groove stocks as well as a Hogue replacement should you so desire (…and, truthfully, you probably should). The sights are fully adjustable. The front sight is a HiViz fiber optic which you would have to be blind to miss. The rear sight is a simple, black V-notch. Since it fires the .45ACP cartridge, moon clips come as standard equipment (five, I think). It has the dreaded and much maligned Infernal Lock complete with two keys. Supposedly, the lock can be removed and the hole plugged; however, I have no plans to mess with it. I think it’s a completely stupid idea to have a lock on a firearm, but no one asked me.
The finish is matte black on the frame and barrel and matte grey on the cylinder. The only shiny parts on this gun are the trigger and the end of the barrel (which is just begging for someone to engrave “smile and wait for the flash” into it).
Speaking of the trigger, let’s talk about the important stuff now. Supposedly, the scandium framed PD models were Performance Center guns. I can’t find anything specific from the horses mouth to confirm that; but, based on the smoothness of the trigger, I believe it. I don’t own a trigger pull gauge, but I would estimate the single action pull somewhere between a loud thought and a quiet whisper. Seriously. It’s a Rule One violation waiting to happen. Do not put your finger on the trigger in single action unless you are really sure you want what’s in front of the barrel destroyed. My first two shots out of the box were high as I was not prepared for the trigger pull and hadn’t fully lined up my sight picture. In double action, the trigger pull is very smooth, controllable and predictable. I would estimate it somewhere in the eight to ten pound range.
So, how does it shoot? I have heard/read the recoil described as being “snappy”. Some have reported problems with ammunition backing out due to the recoil. Personally, I am not recoil averse. I have shot .44 Magnum from a Smith & Wesson Model 29, .357 Magnum from snubbies, .45ACP from 1911 platforms in several sizes, .45 Colt from a Single Action Army, 9MM and .40S&W from Glocks and other stuff besides. Point being, I am no stranger to major caliber handguns and their recoil.
Having said that, the 325PD is a different animal in recoil altogether. This is not a gun for a new shooter. Using standard 230 grain FMJ rounds, I would put recoil on par with or slightly more powerful than the .44 Magnum. A firm grip is a must. Limp wrist this gun at your own peril. Some people have said this is a gun you carry a lot and shoot a little. I can see why. The Hogue rubber stocks may tame the beast somewhat; however, I have not tried them as yet to verify that theory.
Accuracy is mixed based on my abbreviated range outing yesterday. I was able to run about 26 rounds through it at seven yards before I needed to be elsewhere. I am accustomed to one ragged hole groups at that distance using other guns. The first cylinder was shot in single action. Aside from the two learning curve shots mentioned above, the last four shots from this cylinder grouped well enough to ruin a bad guy’s day but were still high.
The next two shots were 230 grain, hollow point, self defense rounds (I can’t remember which brand as I type this). They grouped more to my expectation, and I would probably chalk that up to better quality control in the hollow point manufacture over that of ball ammo.
The last two targets were a mix of single action (two cylinders) and double action (one cylinder). By then, it was time to go. I was a little disappointed in the results; however, that may be attributable to the fact that it was a sauna in the range (I tried out an indoor range near my inlaws’ place that I’ve driven passed for years), and my glasses were steaming up from me sweating like a pig. That’s another story. Suffice it to say, Texans go to indoor ranges to get away from the heat. I won’t be back there for the range, but they did have reasonable prices on guns (I didn’t price their ammo).
Some final thoughts. For me, the fantasy of this gun was better than the reality of this gun. I had an idea in my mind’s eye of using this gun for IDPA competition. Unfortunately, the recoil using factory makes that a pipe dream without more practice than I can afford. I suppose hand loading a lighter round might make that feasible, but I don’t have the reloading experience nor the free time necessary to make that happen. Additionally, this is not a casual plinker by any stretch. This is a serious weapon for someone who wants serious firepower in a light weight platform.
My question is: who in their right mind buys the 329PD in .44 Magnum?
I've shot the 329PD in 44 mag. it's more than a handful for all but experienced shooters. I've shot the S&W 500 with 8" barrell and I'd say the recoil out of the 44 was greater due to the light weight frame. Nice review, but I wish the gun lived up to your expectations, as I have a similar experience working over here. However, mine has not made the trip home yet.
Double Tap, I don't think it is so much an issue of the gun not living up to my expectations as it is my expectations having grown out of proportion to the gun's limitations. It kind of became "The One Gun" in my mind. I wanted it so badly for so long; and, with a limited gun budget, it would have to fulfill several roles some of which it was never intended to fill. It's still a great gun; and, with practice, it could become a holy terror on accuracy and shootability. Having said that, for what I paid for it, I could have gotten a .357 revolver that would provide all day comfortable shooting and a polymer semi auto for carry. That may wind up being its fate. I'm still undecided on that point.
Thanks for the review.
A Girl, you are welcome. Thanks for reading.
I hate it when that happens (reality not as good as the fantasy).
GunDiva, you and me both.
Ah, a gun lover, I got interested in black powder shooting last year and joined the local club, we have a great grounds not far away and room for lots of campers.
I love my black powder guns more than my modern guns. Keep your powder dry.
BBC, saying I love guns is a bit like saying Keith Richards is into drugs. Just without the purchasing power of untold millions. I would like to give black powder a try one day. My one experience was a cap and ball revolver. Would like to take a stab at a Kentucky Long Rigle though.
The cool thing about black powder shooting is the science in it.
I have a 50 caliber Hawken rifle and a 50 caliber single shot two trigger pistol called a trapper model. And a replica 1851 Navy colt pistol in 44 caliber.
There are mountain man rendezvous all over the country every year, go to one and talk to the traders and you will get hooked.
I own a 329PD.
With even standard .44 special loads (240 gr at 1000 fps or less) it is a handful, never mind the Barnes 300 grain .44 mag bear loads I tried in it (once).
So yes, I know where you are coming from. I wish S&W would make the 325PD in .45ACP and .45LC as they did with the Governor. I don't want the Governor because I think the .410 is gimmicky in a handgun, being of limited usefulness beyond ten yard and not worth the extra weight, longer cylinder and short barrel.
I would like a 325PD in .45LC because I think it would be a good combo with a lever action in .45LC/.454 Casull. I wonder if a person could get a 325PD in .45 ACP and have it converted to also shoot .45LC. More likely get the 329PD in .44 Mag and have it converted instead.
Heretic, I like the way you put that about the full power bear loads: "I tried in it (once)." Stings, don't it?
I agree with you on the Governor (and the Judge for that matter). I'm guessing it may have some utility as a backpacker gun for snake/bear country, but they are ugly.
Good luck finding a 325PD in 45 LC. I've never heard of S&W making one, and I don't think you can convert an existing 625 to shoot 45 LC given its longer case length. They did make a 625 Mountain Gun that would do 45 LC and 45 ACP several years back. If you are thinking of doing a caliber conversion on your 329, I'd check out Bowen Classic Arms. He does some interesting custom revolver work including some oddball Frankensteinian monsters like Super Redhawks converted to .500 Linebaugh.
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