Comparing two compact .44 Magnum revolvers

Readers may remember that in October 2015, I tested two Taurus .44 Magnum revolvers.  One was the full-size, six-shot Model 44 with a 6½” barrel, Taurus’ equivalent of the Smith & Wesson N-frame Model 29.  The other was the smaller, five-shot Model 44Tracker4B, with a 4″ barrel, as shown below.

The smaller gun had a few problems, but after some attention from a gunsmith, it proved satisfactory, despite being more difficult to control than its bigger brother (due to its smaller size and lighter weight, both of which provided less heft to soak up the recoil).  I swapped out its factory ‘Gripper’ grip, shown above, for a Hogue aftermarket unit, which I found made recoil more controllable than the original.

Since then I’ve experimented with several different models of the Taurus Tracker;  a 6½” .44 Magnum model, a 4″ .45 ACP revolver, and the same cartridge in a 6½” barrel version.  All have been fun to shoot, particularly the longer-barreled editions.  The extra weight up forward tames recoil very nicely.  I wish Taurus hadn’t withdrawn the 6½” Tracker .44 Magnum from sale – I prefer it to the shorter-barreled version.

I’ve also had the opportunity to play with a Smith & Wesson Model 69 (shown below), their L-frame revolver with a 5-round .44 Magnum cylinder, introduced (I presume) in response to the sales success of the Taurus Tracker chambered for that cartridge.

It’s almost the same dimensions as the 4″ Tracker, except that its barrel is 4.2″ long, in order to conform to Canadian minimum length regulations.  It doesn’t have a ported muzzle, so muzzle flip is higher than on the Taurus;  but on the other hand, the overall fit and finish of the S&W is noticeably better than that of its cheaper Brazilian counterpart.  (That’s not surprising, of course:  you get what you pay for, and the S&W is 25%-30% more costly than its competitor.)  Overall, I like the Model 69 very much.  I’ll probably send it to Mag-na-Port in due course, and have them port the barrel, reducing muzzle flip and hence felt recoil.  When using a compact yet powerful handgun like this, I think that’s a worthwhile improvement.

How do the two compare?  Well, if you’re on a tight budget, I find the Taurus Tracker to be a perfectly acceptable handgun.  One does run the risk that some examples might need attention from a gunsmith to get them into peak condition, as my first example did;  but Taurus has a lifetime warranty on their firearms, and will put right any defects if you give them time.  If that concerns you, then by all means pay the higher price for the Smith & Wesson Model 69 – but remember, even S&W has had recalls due to product flaws, just as Ruger has recently announced for its latest Mark IV pistols.  All firearms manufacturers have quality control or other problems from time to time.  It goes with the territory, unfortunately.

If money is no object, then I think the Model 69 is clearly a more refined, better-finished firearm.  I do find it heavier in recoil than the Tracker, because it doesn’t have a ported barrel;  and I’d want to remedy that before relying on it as a defense against dangerous game, because I want to be able to control the gun accurately in rapid fire.  That would be an added expense, but one that I think is justifiable, given the likely use of the gun.

I don’t plan to get rid of my .44 Magnum Trackers, and will retain my Model 69 as well.  Loaded with hot Buffalo Bore .44 Special rounds, any of them will do very nicely for home defense;  and filled with Federal’s 300gr. CastCore loads (which will fit into their relatively short cylinders, where longer, specialty loads such as Garrett Hammerheads won’t), any of them should be capable of dealing with large animals if necessary.



  1. Something like 45 years ago I was friends with a small town officer who carried a four inch S&W M29 on duty. He had me load him 200 grain hollow points at 1,000 fps as his standard load. He also carried a speed loader with 240 grain jacketed soft point hunting loads in case he needed to take out an engine block.
    Small under 1k village, but just off the interstate connecting two major metropolitan areas, so while his normal duties tended towards minor issues and animal control he would also on rare occasion be called to assist with interstate roadblocks.

  2. Thank you for the review. To my eyes, the 69 needs a hair more barrel length, 4 1/2" maybe. A non fluted cylinder would help with the muzzle flip (I think). A handsome gun.

  3. I've been looking for a big bore revolver for deer hunting during alternative methods season in my state. I've looked a the Taurus but the ones I've handled were just rough feeling/looking and I couldn't bring myself to buy one despite the price. I've also dealt with Taurus warranty service which was just atrocious but in their defense that was 5 or 6 years ago so they may have improved. I find myself gravitating to the S&W even with the price. I need to make a decision before this fall. I actually used a Sig P226 9mm last year but obviously I had to limit my range. It worked though. I put 2 deer on the ground using my regular cor-bon carry loads. Dropped one in its tracks and the other ran about 10 yards before expiring. Both shots were from about 20 yards. Bullet expansion was textbook which gave me some extra confidence in my carry load.

  4. A buddy of mine has that Taurus, and I have handled it. That, I think, would be one where I would be handloading .44 Special to shoot through it.

  5. From what I've seen, buying a Taurus is a crap shoot. You may get a good one or you may not. I suppose it depends on which day of the week it was manufactured. The price would have to be extremely right for me.

  6. My one experience with a Taurus warranty was mixed. Taurus acknowledged that it was covered and promised to make it right.

    Taurus also said repairs depended on parts coming in; that parts were going into new production and would be delayed; send the firearm in and we'll hold it unrepaired until the unknown future date that the parts come in. The firearm had to be in their hands for the part order to be effective because the parts were rationed with new production getting all the parts and they couldn't order the part and ask for the firearm when the part came in.

    My own strong view is that in the S&W line the N frame revolvers max out with a hot .44 Special or a .41 Remington Magnum. Just as the Model 19 is a little weak for maxed out .357 loads and so the L frame so too Mountain Gun line of carry revolvers or the Model 69 are as noted with respect to cylinder length and cartridge length not up to the long heavy bullets at full pressure loads. I find more effective .44 Magnum loads may be individually accurate but shoot to widely different points of aim.

  7. Taurus has a LONG history of quality problems. One blogger (I can't remember who) believes it has to do with Taurus's upper management being out of Central/South America. There, you take what you can get in terms of self defense. But here in 'Murica, competition is strong and customers can and will blow you off in favor of another brand.

  8. I am wondering why you (Peter) are commenting about what Canada allows, given that you practically need an act of Parliament and a dispensation from Justin to even own a pistol, let along have ammo anywhere near it at any time, or particularly, carry it, or God forbid, actually set off a round or two.

  9. When I needed a heavy .44 Mag I went with Ruger. I love my Smiths but there's a reason Buffalo Bore makes their heavy .44 rounds longer than the Model 29 cylinder will accept.
    The Ruger is the draft horse; the Smith is the Tennessee Walker.
    Boat Guy

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