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Review

Tanaka Works M29 44 Magnum
  • Manufacturer 
     Tanaka Works
  • Model 
     M29 44 Magnum
  • Capacity 
     14
  • Weight 
     770
  • Power 
     265
  • Power Source 
     HFC134a
  • Blowback 
     No
  • Hop-up 
     Fixed
  • Shooting Mode 
     Single, Double Action
  • Construction 
     ABS plastic, Metal

Pros

+ Excellent finishing and build quality + Good power that rivals the WA Infinity 5" using HFC134a + Good accuracy + Hey, its Dirty Harry's gun!
 

Cons

- Can only use HFC134a gas - Fixed hop-up - A little on the light side at 770g - Fixed hop-up
 

Verdict

A revolver that can actually hold its own in a skirmish battle. If you are sick and tired of semi-automatic pistols and want something different for your next collection piece, the 44 Magnum makes a great option - you get a refreshing design, and a legendary name.

 

"The 44 Magnum is the most powerful handgun in the world" - a statement repeated in numerous movies - and a belief that is no doubt a direct influence from the 1971 movie "Dirty Harry" starring Clint Eastwood. At the time, the movie was considered sensational because of its overt violence and occasional glimpses of nudity. Detective Callaghan (Clint Eastwood) is an individualistic, unconventional, neo-fascist, super-hero police detective who throws away the rule book. His criminal counterpart is a complementary opposite - a pathological, malevolent and sadistic criminal. Both characters shared traits of brutal violence and insanity. Brandishing his non-regulation 44 Magnum revolver, Callaghan was not your standard police detective. In one famous scene where he has just stopped a bank robbery after firing all six rounds, he steps up to a robber on the ground who is reaching for his shotgun. Dirty Harry points his 44 Magnum at the robber's head and utters his most famous line:

Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, 1971

"I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"



In the end, the robber chose to believe there was one left for him and thus ended the standoff. At the time of producing the movie, Clint Eastwood knew exactly what he wanted for firepower. The 44 Magnum, as it was then affectionately called since it was one of the first guns to use the large caliber cartridge, was chosen for its size and visual to underscore his renegade instincts and a reminder of his willingness to use lethal force to uphold the law. Eastwood spent time on the shooting range prior to undertaking the role, so that he would be able to properly imitate the .44's recoil when using blank cartridges. (The blanks also had to be specially made, as the traditional Hollywood blanks would not fit the .44 chamber.) Even today, the .44 Magnum is still considered to be one of the most powerful handgun cartridges available commercially.


Do you feel lucky, punk? From 1955 to 1957, S&W's big revolver was simply called the "The .44 Magnum." In 1957, when S&W standardized the model numbering of their products, the .44 Magnum was continued as the S&W model 29.

Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum revolvers have heavyweight steel frames, and have been available with blue, nickel, or stainless steel finishes. The nickel finish is no longer available on newly manufactured models. The blued and nickel models are called the model 29, and the stainless model is called the model 629, and is identical in all respects to the model 29 except for the finish. There have been several specialized versions of the 629, such as the "629 Classic", "629 DX", "629 Classic Hunter", etc., with features such as interchangeable front sights, full lug barrels, special grips, etc.

Tanaka Works of Japan has faithfully reproduced this legendary revolver in the form of an 8" Model 29 - a hand-cannon of pistols. Designated on the thick diameter barrel as the "Magnum 44" on the right side, and "Smith & Wesson" on the left side, this pistol is true to form. Only when you rotate out the cylinder do you see "Mod. 29" emblazoned on the inside of the cylinder housing. Sporting a revolutionary design, Tanaka's revolvers are capable of channeling gas power effectively to generate very useable firepower. Additionally, Tanaka's M29 can hold 14 rounds- 8 more than the real-steel 44 Magnum!

While not considered extremely heavy at 770g, the M29 sure has presence and heft thanks to its 8 inch barrel which seems to add more weight to the front of the gun. Finishing is top notch in matte black that does not look plasticky. There is quite a lot of metal, including the finely crafted trigger, checkered hammer (which has a wide tab for big thumbs), rear windage and elevation adjustable sights, grooved top spine of the receiver, the cylinder release switch (again checkered), the entire cylinder and part of the lower receiver that holds the cylinder in place. Pushing the cylinder release switch forward with your thumb allows you to swing the hinged cylinder out and away from the receiver for reloading. While we tried to do this one handedly (cowboy style), the cylinder on our test model was rather stiff and would not swing out without a helping nudge with our other hand. We are sure that after more weathered use, a flick of the wrist will be all that is required to rotate out the cylinder.

The first thing you will notice on the cylinder are 6 the "dummy" rounds. Brass colored and emblazoned with "44 Rem Mag", they proudly display the awesome firepower of the M29. One of the rounds is marked with "GAS" the gas valve is located right in the dummy round itself. The imitation wood grips are of high quality with nice dark grain to be convincingly real, with a thumb rest for right handed shooters. The checkered design also provides for a good grip. Embedded in grips are gold S&W tokens.

On closer inspection of the cylinder, the differences between this Tanaka M29 and the older generation Kokusai revolvers becomes quickly apparent. Long time airsofters will know that Kokusai places its emphasis on realism and as such, uses metal shells to enclose BBs in the cylinder just like the real-steel revolvers. The result is very realistic action where you can load each shell into the gun, shoot, and rotate the cylinder out to empty your shells onto the floor. The disadvantage however is that this realistic design causes significant gas to be lost in the process of shooting since there are many more different components which the air has to pass through. The result is that power from revolvers has been traditionally limited to levels that make skirmishing with them impractical. Besides, six rounds simply is not enough when you are in a shootout out with someone brandishing a 30 round Hi-Cap semi-automatic pistol.

Not your average firearm with its super long barrel
Cocked and ready to shoot (notice adjustable sight)
Wide footprint trigger grooved for extra grip

Tanakas design by contrast gives up some of the realism to obtain more practicality, delivering greater power and higher capacity - making skirmishing with its revolvers a more reasonable proposition. Using a loading tool, BB's are inserted into the cylinder, which has internal room to store the BB's. As the cylinder rotates and an empty chamber becomes available (after firing the BB out), a new BB is pushed in and loaded for the next round of firing. As a result, you can still describe Tanaka's M29 as a 6-shooter - but one with an auto-reload function where any empty chamber is reloaded immediately once the round is fired. The omission of shells also means that you do not need to constantly scramble to retrieve lost shells during skirmishing. Loading the BB's requires aligning the cylinder in such a manner so that you can see the loading chamber from the front of the cylinder (front meaning as if the gun was pointed at you). Once you have these aligned, simply push the BB's in place with your loading tool (included with the gun).

The imitation wooden grips are convincingly real The result of this design allows the 8-inch M29 to propel an 0.25g BB at equivalent power to a Western Arms Infinity 5" Semi-Automatic when using HFC134a propellant - generating 0.8J of power (260+ fps). Note that our tests with HFC22 did generate additional power but we suspect (given the design of the gun) that sustained use of this higher pressure propellant might cause premature damage. Therefore we recommend against it. One gripe we had about the M29 was the difficulty in charging the gas into the cylinder. The gas charge valve is flush against the face of the cylinder and requires the use of an extension "pipe" to funnel your gas charge into the gun. The extension pipe comes with an o-ring to make charging easier. However we found it a little difficult to charge the gun since it was difficult to make a tight seal without leakage. With some practice, we were able to get the M29 fully charged, but only after wasting a bit of gas in the process.

Just like the real steel version, the M29 can be fired in single or double action mode. Single action means that the shooter is able to cock the hammer before shooting by applying a light pull to the trigger. Double action allows the shooter to simply pull on the trigger without cocking and the pistol will keep on firing. Shooting in single action mode allows much more accurate aiming since there is less tendency to misalign your aim as you pull back on the hard trigger. The cylinder release switch doubles as a safety when pulled backwards (in de-cocked mode). When the safety is engaged, the trigger cannot be pulled. Note that the safety cannot be activated when the hammer is cocked. The 3 pound trigger in double action mode also reduces the chance of misfire in this state. In single action mode, the movement required to release the hammer forward is so minimal that it literally feels like a simple squeeze is all thats required to shoot. The trigger action is crisp and clean. Pull the trigger as fast as you can and watch the cylinder click methodically in an anti-clockwise direction. Aiming is easy too with the white bordered square sight on the rear and the red ramp style front sight.

Admittedly, firing Tanaka's M29 is not as exciting as shooting an airsoft semi-auto blowback pistol. The slide cycle on those pistols create a minor kick which simulates the recoil of real steel weapons. The M29 by comparison is very composed and balanced as you shoot off the rounds with a loud "plop". There is no shake or cowl as the hammer strikes - but if the gun is held at certain angles during firing, you may see a large cloud of gas emit from the barrel. Thanks in part to this mellow behavior, the M29 is quite accuracy and achieves +/- 1 cm from a distance of 15 feet. Effective kill range is in the order of 70 feet, with a maximum BB travel distance of approximately 100 feet (in windless conditions). There was no noticeable cool-down effect at all and power kept coming on steady. One full charge of gas will typically hold enough power to fire 25 BBs.

Push the cylinder release switch forward to swing out the cylinder
Load the BBs from this side directly into one of the chambers
The cylinder is beautifully crafted and swings out

So if there is non-existent blowback kick, what is so exciting about the M29? The sheer size and the stigma of Dirty Harry is what gives this gun its appeal. For many Japanese, the appeal of being a renegade is highly alluring in a society such as Japan  and thus Dirty Harry has a admirers in the land of the rising sun well. In the past, many in the "home market" (i.e. Japan) collected revolvers for their style  Tanakas new design combines style and functionality into one. The finishing and crafting is undoubtedly top notch, and with our display shelves cluttered with semi-automatic pistols of all shapes and sizes, it is definitely refreshing to pick up and revolver and take it for a "spin". Would I use it for a skirmish? Well it would depend on what kind of skirmish since I would first have to find a holster large enough to hold this 8" monster!

Notice the detail of the unremoveable "dummy rounds"
"44 MAGNUM" inscribed on the right side of the barrel
"Smith & Wesson" inscribed on the left side of the barrel

If lack of performance and the pain of working with shells has prevented you from exploring the revolver world in airsoft, then Tanakas 44 Magnum just might be enough of a reason for you to try. It is undoubtedly the most powerful revolver in the airsoft world!

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The gas charging extension tube and BB loader (included)