May 17th, 2010

How to Shear Your Scandium .44 Mag Revolver in Half

There has been a trend to ever-lighter handgun frame construction, in an effort to make pistols lighter and more convenient to carry. Ruger just introduced the LCR 357, a .357 Magnum carry revolver with a frame made, in part, from plastic. Well, perhaps weight reduction efforts have gone too far, at least when it comes to magnum chamberings in handguns.

S&W model 329 PD Kaboom

A Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum model 329 PD revolver recently broke in half while shooting Winchester factory ammo. The whole front end of the gun sheared off forward of the cylinder. Cause of the failure is unknown, but it does not appear that the barrel was obstructed, as there was no visible damage to the barrel assembly forward of the frame. We really don’t know why this revolver broke in half, though some observers speculated there may have been hairline fractures in the frame. That’s just a guess. It’s also possible that the factory ammo was over-charged. The pictures below were posted by the gun owner on Photobucket and first linked on

Scandium Alloy Frames
The model 329 PD has a “Scandium AirLite” frame, which is in fact an alloy of aluminum and scandium. When combined with aluminum, scandium (which costs ten times as much as gold by weight), forms an alloy that is lighter than titanium and as much as three times stronger than ordinary aluminum. Apparently however, there can be problems with scandium construction… as the photos reveal. Last year, Smith & Wesson recalled 270 limited-edition Performance Center m329 revolvers because barrel assembly may have caused frame damage. The model 329 PD shown in this article was NOT one of the recalled Performance Center guns.

Make My Magnum from Steel…
Dirty Harry .44 MagnumThe Smith & Wesson model 329 PD weighs only 25.1 ounces total, unloaded. Why one would want to shoot “full-house”, high-pressure loads through such a light gun puzzles this Editor. For a carry gun, lower-pressure .44 Special loads seem more appropriate. Smith & Wesson makes a variety of heavier, all-steel handguns chambered in .44 Magnum. If I was to shoot a steady diet of full-power .44 Magnum loads through a revolver, give me a gun with a solid steel frame, such as the classic S&W model 29. After seeing these shocking kaboom photos, when shooting true Magnum loads through a Scandium-framed revolver I would nervously ask myself the question famously posed by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry: “Do I feel lucky?”.

Similar Posts:

Tags: , , , ,