FEELING LUCKY PUNK? The Story Behind Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum

The .44 Magnum certainly has its reputation today thanks to the film Dirty Harry.

Being one of the most famous guns from Hollywood, the magnum has a back story everyone wants to know about.

Back to the Model 29: in 1971, a young San Francisco police inspector named Harry Callahan first appeared on the silver screen in Dirty Harry. We learned early on that Inspector Callahan got his nickname from not playing nice with criminals.

While other police settled for .38 Special revolvers, the N-frame Model 29 Smith & Wesson was what Inspector #2211 carried, albeit loaded with light .44 Special cartridges.

The original movie script called for Dirty Harry to carry a nickel finish Model 29, but with a four-inch barrel. Early screen tests in different lighting and actor Clint Eastwood’s own test-firing of a Model 29 revolver led to the consideration of using longer barrels. Both an 8 3/8-inch and three 6 1/2-inch Model 29s were procured for filming.

The longest barrel was to be primarily showcased in posters, where with special photography, that already long barrel was made to seem even more sizable.

But the handgun that Clint Eastwood was to carry under his coat in a shoulder holster was a blued 6 1/2-inch .44 Magnum. There has been some controversy generated by certain gun writers stating that other stand-ins were used. However, the truth is Clint Eastwood never wielded a .41 Magnum in Dirty Harry, and the real reason why the longer barrel length was employed actually came down to availability.

It may be hard to believe now, but the Model 29 was not a popular choice in the days before Dirty Harry premiered. Obtaining a nickel 4-inch S&W .44 was not possible, and only by calling in “favors” were the three blued 6 1/2-inch .44 guns found in time for filming.

Interest in the Model 29 revolver spiked after the debut of the film, causing the price to quickly triple.

Still to this day, any blued Model 29 will get a lot of interest from collectors. Just wait for any Dirty Harry marathon on TV to air and you will probably see an increase in sales.

Serial number #S206921 was one of the three Model 29 revolvers procured for the film, and is reported to have had a rough time of it. In one scene where Inspector Callahan was to toss his sidearm on the sidewalk – which was supposed to have been a rubber replica – Eastwood, extremely tired after a long day of filming, instead tossed the blue steel piece onto a sloping section of sidewalk.

Marred with deep gouges and scratches, this damaged revolver had to be returned to Smith & Wesson for refinishing.

Nicely reblued, #S206921 was the Model 29 revolver presented to NRA Board Member and director John Milius as a gift from Clint Eastwood and Warner Brothers for his writing assistance on Dirty Harry, and also for writing the screenplay for Magnum Force. Inlaid into the left grip panel is a shield that is inscribed: ”To John Milius from Warner Brothers and Clint Eastwood for Dirty Harry & Magnum Force 1973.”

This double-action revolver was provided by Milius to the NRA National Firearms Museum, and was featured in both the 2002 exhibit “Real Guns For Reel Heroes,” as well as the current “Hollywood Guns” exhibit.

Pretty cool back story on such an infamous gun, right?

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