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?