Smith and Wesson Model 69 Review | L-Frame .44 Magnum With Solid Performance

To find a reliable 5-shot 44. Magnum that works well is something of a rarity. So to see one from industry giant Smith & Wesson, I was excited to get my hands on it. And after spending considerable time with the Smith and Wesson Model 69, I'm ready to share my review.

Here’s a well-made L-frame from Smith & Wesson that's a solid performer. Is it the best five-shot cylinder out of all Smith & Wesson revolvers? I guess there’s only one way to find out, so join me as I reveal the cold, hard facts about Model 69.


  • Action: Single-Action/Double-Action
  • Rear Sight: White Outline Adjustable
  • Cylinder Material: Stainless
  • Overall Length: 9.6 inches
  • Frame Material: Stainless
  • Barrel Material: Stainless
  • Finish: Matte Stainless
  • Front Sight: Red Ramp
  • Caliber: .44 Magnum
  • Weight: 37.4 ounces
  • Barrel: 4.25 inches
  • Grip: Synthetic
  • Capacity: 5

The L-Frame

If you're familiar with Smith & Wesson's .44 Magnum platform, then you're likely aware that the famous gun manufacturer has used an N-frame for quite some time. When I heard that the Model 69 was switching over to an L-frame, I couldn't wait to see how it turned out.

Well, today is that day, my friends. With this frame, you're getting a slightly smaller platform than what we're all used to, which is a boon for anyone who previously struggled with the N-frame's larger girth.

To me, the L-frame is an ideal size for a revolver. Sure, the 69 loses a round, but what's gained is well worth it. For starters, the Smith & Wesson Model 69 is lighter than other top .44 Magnum offerings. Weighing in at 37.4 ounces, you're getting a balanced revolver that feels right.

pistol detail

Heck, you can go even lighter if you opt for the Smith & Wesson Model 69 Combat Magnum. At a whole 3 ounces less than the standard Model 69, the Combat is a welcome addition for anyone needing a versatile .44 Special Mag concealed carry.

What else? Well, aside from being the first L-frame in the .44 Magnum format, the 69 is made to the highest standard. Thanks to durable, tough, and attractive stainless steel, you can count on this frame to stand up to plenty of heavy use.

In fact, that's one of the standout features that make the Model 69 such a hit. Hunters and police officers know that this is a revolver that they can trust to get them through thick and thin without fail. As such, you can freely use it in a continuous fashion without fear of affecting the gun or your shooting prowess.

The Barrel

Measuring in at a 4.25-inch barrel length, this stainless steel beauty makes it a rather versatile double-action revolver. If you're looking for something a bit smaller, like for a concealed carry, I'd recommend checking out the Model 69 Combat Magnum. With just a 2.75 barrel, it's the perfect length for just such a purposI've already mentioned the lighter weight, so combined with the shorter barrel and overall smaller frame size, the Model 69 Combat Magnum is just the ticket for a reliable .44 Magnum concealed carry.

The standard Model 69 has some notable changes that are worth mentioning, one of which is the two-piece barrel.

This new edition is the result of a rifled inner sleeve that's been inserted in a shroud. An interesting point is that the rifling is cut using a computer-operated machine.

Some people argue that this method results in a less-than-accurate shooting experience, but more on that in a moment. From what I can tell, the barrel is well-made and feels just as solid as ever.

If you're looking for reliability, the Model 69 is a revolver you can trust to stand the test of time.

pistol detail

So, we know that this is a stout and sturdy gun. But that only goes so far. The real test for most people is going to be how it handles in action. As a full power revolver, it takes someone who is comfortable with heavy-duty weaponry to wield the 69.

Let's keep moving to see how these 44 special loads Mag fared on the range and whether it's right for your needs.

On the Range

All right; the moment of truth. In firing both the Smith & Wesson Model 69 Combat Magnum and standard 69, I can tell you that there is some serious kick following the trigger pull. As such, those who are concerned about hand-cramping recoil may want to steer clear.

It's that powerful and jarring. But what about the claim that Smith & Wesson's new barrel isn't as accurate as previous single-piece revolvers? I have to say that, yes, there was a noticeable difference in the precision of rounds fired.

pistol detail

Is it enough to dismiss this gun altogether? Not at all. Thanks to its Red Ramp front sight and white outlined adjustable rear sight, you'll have no trouble aligning your shots and hitting targets within a reasonable range.

However, if you're looking to shoot tight groups consistently, this may not be the ideal weapon for you. It's a shame because the 69 appears to be designed with versatility in mind, including hunting.

But if you can't achieve consistent accuracy, is it really the type of firearm you want by your side in the wilderness? 

One user shared their personal experience, mentioning the intense recoil and the thrill they felt when firing it.

Another perspective suggests viewing this gun as a .44 Special with the added capability to fire .44 Magnums when needed.

When loaded with a .44 Special "Cowboy Action" round, the Model 69 provides a pleasurable shooting experience with a satisfying recoil and high accuracy.

Interestingly, it seems that many .44 Magnum revolver owners tend not to take them to the range, favoring lever-action rifles instead.

Notable Concerns

A big problem I noticed is the way the ramped sight reflects light. It simply causes too much distraction to have an enjoyable shooting experience on a consistent basis. So with that said, I do think there are some applications for which the 69 isn't qualified.

Now, if you want a gun for home defense purposes, the gun should serve you well. It's definitely up there with other such handguns. I tested several.44 Mag rounds and was overall pleased with the results. Again, this revolver isn't the most accurate model I've shot, but I'm happy with it nonetheless, especially in the right setting. Nevertheless, we'll let you decide if it is better than these top picks as your first gun.

Following an afternoon of shooting the 69 with proven .44 special mag loads, I must agree with the consensus that the machine-cut barrel isn't quite as accurate as of the tried-and-true rifling of yesteryear.

Moreover, according to everything I've read, the single-action trigger pull is around 3.5 pounds, while the double-action is about 11 pounds. This could give pause to some readers, so take that as you will.

Grip and Recoil

The synthetic grip feels nice enough and provided me with a reasonable handle on my weapon.

But even with that, there's just too much kick for the 69 to be a fun gun to shoot. I don't mind recoil as much as some other people, but this one is a bear to get through.

Seriously, I have to imagine that even the most ardent shooter will take issue with the feeling this gun leaves in your hand, even long after shooting is finished.

My hand hurt, and I have to think that because of this, there are a lot of people who won't be able to experience this 44 Mag.

Under the right circumstances, I think this gun is a sure-fire hit. But if you're looking for something to shoot all day long, you're going to be in for a rude awakening at the end of the day. That's not to say that the gun itself is uncomfortable.

black pistol grip

On the contrary, the gun feels very comfy to carry on your person. It's only when consistent shooting takes place that you start to see just how jarring it is in action. All is not bad, however, as S&W clearly had the right idea when switching over the new frame.

Losing a round isn't a big deal and is worth it considering how much weight and girth are reduced in the gun. For the outdoorsman looking to do some close-range hunting, you should be very happy with what this .44 Mag brings to the table.

It's the long-distance shooting that is likely to give you some trouble. However, this gun makes for a perfect home defense weapon since you're unlikely to be shooting an intruder or attacker from afar. With its five-shot capacity, this .44 Mag is ideal for keeping in your home.

In my humble opinion, it has the best grip for combat or carry. The rubberized grip has more undercut than others. If you notice any corrosion, it's probably just fouling, so clean the revolver thoroughly. It can get into some funny places on a stubby big bore.

This is my carry gun, and I use .44 SPL ammo. The recoil is almost negligible when using special ammo. I love the grip and the trigger pull.

Wrap Up

The S&W Model 69 stands out among 44 Mag revolvers, earning well-deserved praise for its exceptional qualities. However, it's important for consumers to recognize that this full power firearm may not be suitable for everyone, particularly if you're not a fan of heavy recoil. 

If you're looking for a smoother shooting experience, consider opting for a 357 Mag from S&W, which still delivers excellent performance without the jarring kick. Despite this, the Model 69 boasts a reasonable price tag, making it worth a try.

In the right circumstances, this gun can prove to be an indispensable companion. It's worth mentioning that revolvers have a unique characteristic where, upon firing, some copper jacket residue can stick to the stainless steel in a superheated state, although this can be mitigated by copper plating the stainless.

This revolver shines as a recreational and outdoorsman's handgun, although it may not be the ideal choice for primary carry. Additionally, it's refreshing to witness millennials appreciating the simplicity, reliability, and power of the revolver as a viable survival weapon, especially for backpack carry without the need to worry about magazines.

As a personal testament, I've owned mine for a few years and have replaced the rubber stocks with wooden checkered service stocks for a better fit. For optimal accuracy, I highly recommend HSM .44 Magnum cowboy loads with their 200-grain flat-nose bullets, offering a balance between Skeeter and Kieth special loads.

Speaking from personal experience, this gun has been a reliable companion, particularly when using Fiocchi 200gr. SJHP 44 mags, which have proven effective in various situations, including water jogs.

Leave a Comment