A Recoilless Snubbie .357? The 7-Shot Smith & Wesson Performance Center 586 L-Comp – Full Review

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Smith & Wesson's 586 L-Comp .357 Magnum Revolver

Smith & Wesson’s 586 L-Comp .357 Magnum revolver, which provides seven rounds of magnum power in a seemingly recoilless package.

To learn more, visit https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-586-l-comp.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=586%20performance%20comp.

How would you feel about shooting a .357 Magnum revolver with virtually no muzzle flip? That’s exactly what the Smith & Wesson 586 L-Comp is all about. Let’s take a closer look.

First, let’s cover a couple of pseudo-scientific opinions on the whole concept of felt recoil. “Pseudo-scientific.” How’s that for an oxymoron? OK, now back to the point. While energy is energy and momentum is momentum, there are tricks that gun and ammo manufacturers use to minimize the recoil sensation that we feel. One of those tricks is to port the barrel in such a way that gas exiting the barrel is directed up, and sometimes a bit backward, to counter the natural motion of a gun during the recoil phase. If that gas is directed up, it counteracts the tendency for muzzle flip, so the gun remains more “flat” during recoil.

One of the differences between 586 and 686 models is the full-length underlug for extra weight under the barrel.

One of the notable features of 586 and 686 models is the full-length underlug under the barrel. A result of this is more muzzle weight, which helps tame muzzle flip and perceived recoil.

Here’s why that matters regarding what we perceive as recoil. Getting into the opinion arena, I think what I “feel” as recoil boils down to two major components: straight backward push and muzzle flip. Of the two, muzzle flip (to me anyway) is the motion that’s more violent and the one that indicates heavy versus moderate or light recoil. If the muzzle flips towards the sky as you fire a shot, that creates an aggressive twisting motion in your hand, bending the wrist in a way that’s not natural. So you feel it. As for the straight backward push, that doesn’t bother me as much, and force is directed into your body mass. So, in my view, that’s one of the reasons that handguns with ported barrels are much more pleasant to shoot. Sure, you always pay the price for such luxury, and in this case, that price is noise and muzzle flash. No problem here, I’ll pay that bill gladly. With that said, let’s get back to the Smith & Wesson 586 L-Comp .357 Magnum Revolver.

The 586 L-Comp sports a 7-round cylinder.

The 586 L-Comp sports a 7-round cylinder for one more shot than most revolvers.

One of the other differences between 586 and 686 models is the classic blued steel.

One of the other differences between a 586 and stainless 686 models is its classic blued steel.

SPECS

  • Chambering: .357 Magnum
  • Barrel: 3 inches
  • OA Length: 8 inches
  • Weight: 37.5 ounces
  • Grips: Altamont rosewood
  • Sights: Adjustable, tritium
  • Action: DA/SA
  • Finish: Blued
  • Capacity: 7
  • MSRP: $1,208

Smith & Wesson introduced the original 586 model back in the 1980s. Designed as a blued version of the stainless steel 686, it was a .357 Magnum revolver built on Smith & Wesson’s L-frame. At first glance, the K-frame and L-frame models may appear to be identically sized, but the L-frame is slightly beefed up in a couple of areas under the forcing cone. The purpose is to allow a steady diet of full-power .357 Magnum loads without risk of a frame crack. On most L-frame models you’ll also notice a full-length underlug. That adds some extra weight up front to help tame the recoil of .357 Magnum loads.

The Smith & Wesson 586 L-Comp differs in two ways from the classic 586. First, it’s based on the 686+ revolver, which packs a seven-round cylinder. Second, it’s a Performance Center model, so it’s loaded with some nifty extras. The Performance Center folks have been making the 586 L-Comp as a distributor special order, but now it’s available to everyone.

What makes the L-Comp version special?

The Performance Center team at Smith & Wesson operates like a company within a company. They shop the standard Smith & Wesson product lines for base models that have interesting “customization” potential. The team then takes these guns in and spiffs them up with custom shop-like features. The 586 L-Comp has several such add-ons.

The rear sights are adjustable for windage and elevation.

The rear sights are adjustable for windage and elevation.

The front sight blade has a Tritium insert for low-light use.

The front sight blade has a Tritium insert for low-light use. Note the porting forward of the front sight.

First, the cylinder is cut for moon clip use. This allows the user to preload seven cartridges in a moon clip, then drop the whole assembly into the cylinder. Unlike a speed loader, the clip remains in place during fire and extraction, so all cartridge cases come out as a single unit along with the moon clip. The cylinder is cut with a circular recessed pattern to make this work. What’s interesting is that you can shoot the 586 L-Comp without using a moon clip, too. There’s enough metal around the outside edge of the cylinder to hold cartridges in place. The extractor also works fine when cartridges are loaded individually without the clip. There’s a fun fact to know about this, and we’ll get to that later. Oh, some moon clips are included in the instruction packet, but you’ll probably want to order extras. They aren’t disposable but they do bend over time, so it’s good to keep a supply handy.

The 586 L-Comp also includes a Tritium vial inset into the front sight blade for low light use. The front blade is black, so it provides a crisp sight picture in daylight conditions too. The rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage using a small flat-head screwdriver. This is an important feature as you can tweak the sights to match point of impact for a wide variety of ammo types from .38 Special to .357 Magnum. Different bullet weight and velocity combinations will vary the point of impact, so spend some time to adjust the sights to your most commonly used ammo.

The Performance Center team also does a trigger improvement job on the 586 L-Comp. The trigger itself has a well-rounded face, and the action is smoothed out. The revolver ships with a really nice set of Rosewood grips installed. They’re gorgeous and look particularly sharp with the well-polished frame finish. As a bonus, a Hogue recoil-reducing grip is included in the box along with an installation tool.

The Altamont Rosewood checkered grips look fantastic on this revolver.

The Altamont Rosewood checkered grips look fantastic on this revolver.

The 586 L-Comp also comes with a set of Hogue recoil reducing grips, so you can choose either.

The 586 L-Comp also comes with a set of Hogue recoil reducing grips, so you can choose either.

The big deal on this model is the ported barrel. Unlike many ported barrels, which use dual cuts that direct gas up and to each side, this revolver features one generously sized port just in front of the sight blade. That’s right, you’ll get one big blast of hot gas blowing straight up when you press the trigger. The barrel itself is three inches long, so there’s a good compromise between a decent sight radius and portability. While the 586 L-Comp was envisioned to be a multi-purpose gun for fun, competition, or carry, I think it would shine as a concealed carry revolver or home defense gun.

The porting forward of the muzzle is the real star of the revolver, helping immensely in the taming of the powerful .357 Magnum revolver’s recoil.

Shooting the 586 L-Comp

I’ve been shooting the heck out of this gun, mostly with full-power .357 Magnum ammunition. Normally with a .357, I’ll shoot some of the big stuff followed by a heavy diet of .38 Special. However, this one is actually pleasurable to shoot with magnum loads. Why? Certainly the porting makes a huge difference, but it’s also a fairly heavy gun for its size, and that helps dampen perceived recoil too.

I shot it side by side with a Smith & Wesson Model 66. That’s a lighter K-frame revolver, also chambered in .357 Magnum, and the difference in feel between the two, using the exact same loads, was stunning. I did most of my shooting with the Rosewood grips, mainly because they’re comfortable and look so darn good. In the interest of being thorough, I installed the Hogue grips for a couple of shooting outings, and they work well. They’re perfectly fit to the frame, so they mount without any screws. Be sure to read the instructions before mounting or dismounting the Hogue grips and use the included tool. If you don’t, you’ll risk breaking the grip. Don’t ask me how I know this, OK?

I tested the 586 with all .357 Magnum ammo, like this Sig Sauer 125-grain FMJ, as it was so comfortable to shoot higher power loads.

I tested the 586 with all .357 Magnum ammo, like this Sig Sauer 125-grain FMJ, as it was so comfortable to shoot higher power loads.

Let’s talk about the compensated barrel for a minute. In my opinion, compensated guns get a bad, and unfair rap. You’ll hear comments like “Yeah, they reduce recoil, but the muzzle flash will destroy your night vision!” In theory, that makes sense. In reality, it’s a load of hooey. Yes, if you look, you can see the flame blasting out of compensator holes. Also, if you look, you can see a fireball coming out the fiery end of most any handgun. I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a bit of night shooting using everything from 9mm to 12 gauges and AR-15s. Guess what? Not once has muzzle blast impaired my ability to see for my second, third, and subsequent shots. Ever. Sure, if you hang out in absolute pitch dark conditions for a half hour, then light off a round of anything, compensated or not, it’ll mess with your night vision. But I have to ask, what are you shooting at in pitch dark conditions where you can’t even see or identify your target? And don’t forget, any gun in those conditions is going to spoil your “night vision.” This is one of those things that sound logical on paper, but in reality, doesn’t hold up. The moral of the story? If you want a compensated gun for home defense or concealed carry, get one. I can just about guarantee you’ll never see the flash, and even if you do, it won’t impair your ability to shoot. I shot the 586 L-Comp at a low-light indoor range using full-power defensive .357 Magnum ammo, and it was a complete non-issue.

So now that the ported barrel rant is over, how well did it work? Amazingly well, in fact. You’ll still feel recoil but at an incredibly reduced level. You’ll also notice that the muzzle hardly moves. Your sights will stay on target, and your wrists will thank you for avoiding that nasty snap.

Accuracy and moon clips – some interesting observations

I took the Smith & Wesson 586 L-Comp to the range with a milk crate full of ammo and high hopes. After all, this is a Performance Center masterpiece, and my first few shots with one up at the Smith & Wesson Training Academy were stunning. The porting on this revolver makes it feel more like a .38 Special than a .357 Magnum, and the heavier L frame gives it enough beef to soak up felt recoil too. So it’s one of the most pleasant feeling .357 Magnums I’ve shot, but does that translate to accuracy?

I set up targets at 25 yards, a pistol rest weighed down with two 25-pound bags of lead shot, stuck an EyePal Peep Sight on my shooting glasses to improve the iron sight picture, and dug into the ammo crate.

Shooting the 586 side by side with a Smith & Wesson M66, I figured out that the moon clips have a dramatic impact on accuracy.

Shooting the 586 side by side with a Smith & Wesson M66 (top), I figured out that the moon clips have a dramatic impact on accuracy.

Here’s where things got weird. My first few groups were unimpressive, measuring in the five to six-inch range. Naturally, I assumed the problem was with me as this gun should shoot and I was using premium ammo like Sig Sauer V-Crown, Federal Premium Hydra-Shok, and Barnes TAC-XPD. So I settled down, improved my hold, and tried again. Same result. Wondering what the heck was going on, I picked up a Smith & Wesson Model 66 that I also had with me and shot a few groups with the same ammo. As expected, five-shot groups were all significantly less than three inches.

After pondering this for a bit, I had one of those “oh, duh” moments. I had started shooting without the moon clips. You see, the 586 L-Comp has a cylinder cut for moon clip use, but the revolver is designed to work just fine without them too. If you don’t have a moon clip, you can drop individual cartridges into the chambers. They’ll fire as normal and extract reliably as a group. However, given the ho-hum accuracy results, I suspected that the moon clips are a necessity if you’re going for maximum accuracy. That theory makes sense. Without the clips, the cartridges are supported by only a portion of the rim. The cartridge rim areas closest to the center of the cylinder don’t have full support. I suspected that the “seating” of cartridges in the cylinder was microscopically wonky and that was causing erratic accuracy results.

As long as you use the moon clips, this revolver will shoot as evidenced by this group shot with Sig Sauer V-Crown .357 Magnum ammo.

As long as you use the moon clips, this revolver will shoot as evidenced by this group shot with Sig Sauer V-Crown .357 Magnum ammo.

Barnes TAC-XPD also performed very well with the 586 L-Comp.

Barnes TAC-XPD also performed very well with the 586 L-Comp.

I resumed shooting groups, using the clips, and voila, group size shrunk by multiples. To be sure, I fired a group of Sig Sauer FMJ .357 Magnum 125-grain WITHOUT using moon clips. The 25-yard group measured nearly six inches. I immediately loaded up a moon clip with more rounds from the same box of ammo and shot a 1.89-inch five-shot group. Same gun, same ammo, same rest. To be double sure, I repeated the process with some Hornady Critical Defense .357 Magnum ammo and again the group size shrunk in half when using the moon clips.

Here’s the moral of the story. This gun is designed to use moon clips. That’s its primary and intended mode of operation. The ability to shoot loose rounds without a moon clip is a bonus feature, and from a functional perspective, it works fine. Just be aware that you won’t achieve the full accuracy potential of this gun in that clip-less mode. Does this mean that all guns with moon-clip cut cylinders won’t be as accurate without the clips? Maybe or maybe not. What we do know is that this gun exhibits a notable accuracy performance difference with and without the moon clips.

I tested the 586 L-Comp with a wide variety of .357 Magnum ammo using both wood and Hogue grips. The Hogue grips made a noticeable difference in recoil reduction.

I tested the 586 L-Comp with a wide variety of .357 Magnum ammo using both wood and Hogue grips. The Hogue grips made a noticeable difference in recoil reduction.

Just to be really, really clear. This is not a flaw. The gun is designed for moon clip use, so it’s natural to expect the best performance in that configuration. It was my oversight to not use them right off the bat. I relate the story in detail here as I thought it showed some interesting gun “science” worth sharing. If you buy this model, or another moon clip one like it, be sure to test with and without moon clips so you know what to expect in each configuration.

With that interesting diversion out of the way, I proceeded to shoot groups with a variety of .357 Magnum ammo, using the moon clips in all cases. This revolver will shoot .38 Special of course, but since it’s an awesome example of the classic Magnum, I stuck to the big stuff – all loads shown below are .357 Magnum rounds. Here’s what I found.

Accuracy & Velocity

Velocity (fps)

5-shots, 25 yards

American Eagle 158-grain

N/A

4.27”

Barnes TAC-XPD 125-grain

1,300.8

1.7”

Federal Premium Hydra-Shok 130-grain

1,364.7

2.8”

Hornady Critical Defense 125-grain

N/A

3.08”

Sig Sauer FMJ 125-grain

1,220

2.01”

Sig Sauer V-Crown

1,301

2.75”

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135-grain

N/A

2.57”

Winchester PDX1125-grain

N/A

2.76”

Closing arguments

I love this gun. Yes, it’s a looker, but more to the point, it’s a shooter. I’ve already pointed out that its easy shooting nature, even when using full-power self-defense ammunition, makes it pleasant to run with both .38 Special and .357 ammo. Additionally, the seven-shot cylinder offers a bonus round over the standard six while the adjustable rear sight allows you to match your favorite load’s point of impact to the point of aim. If you want a gun that has the power of a magnum without the nasty recoil, this one is well worth a look.

To learn more, visit https://www.smith-wesson.com/firearms/performance-center-586-l-comp.

To purchase on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=586%20performance%20comp.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • nelsoon wood April 12, 2017, 6:59 am

    I noticed that both groups shown to prove accuracy included only 6 hits on each target. What happened to the 7th shot? Was there some point in not firing the 7th or did is simply miss!

  • Zbigniew April 11, 2017, 9:47 am

    I thought Moon Clips were for shooting rimless cartridges such as 9mm or .45 ACP in a double action revolver and that was so the cases could be extracted from the cylinder.

    Being a rimmed cartridge, the .357 has no need for a Moon Clip. What were they thinking? I don’t understand how you could even put a .357 Mag in a Moon Clip because there is no recessed portion in front of the rim for the case to ‘click’ into.

    Ported? NO THANKS. I’ll take the muzzle flip over porting, any day. Ported guns can ring your ears even WITH headphones on.

    • Wayne Clemon August 4, 2017, 5:34 pm

      being that snubbies are primarily a self defense gun reloading speed is an issue and moon clips are faster then speed loaders, more compact and cheaper.

  • Robert Smith April 10, 2017, 9:54 pm

    While I am not doubting the author’s accuracy tests, I am wondering what is the mechanics behind the poor accuracy without the moon clips. A revolver bullet has to pass through the chamber throat, cross the barrel-cylinder gap, enter the forcing cone and travel down the barrel before exiting the muzzle. All of these things can affect accuracy. Without the clip the round might have a tiny bit more headspace and some very small difference in its orientation as it sits in the chamber. How would that be enough to make the difference between a 6″ group and a 2″ group?

    • Wayne Clemon August 4, 2017, 5:36 pm

      I’d say the results make it obvious.

  • PaulWVa April 10, 2017, 9:22 pm

    Recoilless ???….hmmm? Well a good shooting buddy has a 6″ 686 L-comp and it still recoils and has some muzzle flip at SIX INCHES. It may be a little easier shooting than the non-comp models but to me it feels about the same as an 8″ non-comp gun. We have two 8″ guns to compare it to…both a 586 and 686. The comp gun is sweet shooting no doubt and is a dream to shoot with .38’s. If you want a great shooting revolver get a S&W 586 or 686. If one day the Obama Clinton clones take over again and someone said I could only have one gun I would take a 6′ 586/686 and whole bunch of ammo.

  • FirstStateMark April 10, 2017, 8:14 pm

    The .357 cartridge has a full rim on it. Moon-clips? WTF! And relying on them for accuracy? No thanks.

  • Kenneth Mann April 10, 2017, 2:36 pm

    What idiot started using “flat shooting” to describe muzzle rise ? That actually describes the bullet’s trajectory. I have seen it many times though not this article.

  • Scott April 10, 2017, 2:18 pm

    What about the report? The .357 mag is already really loud compared to other rounds, and firing one inside of a building can cause permanent hearing damage. I have found that compensated barrels increase the decibles. Should one really consider a compensated handgun for defense in the home when most situations would call for firing within the confines of a room? I am intersted in hearing what others have to say.

  • Max April 10, 2017, 12:34 pm

    I love the looks of the gun. I have an older 686 and would like to have a 586, but not this one. The moon clip limitation is a non-starter for me. S&W really should offer a ‘normal’ cylinder as an option or include in the package.

    • Mark H. April 11, 2017, 10:08 am

      I know RIGHT? I was like all over this ‘586’ REALLY liking what the revolver. BUT to limit the accuracy by HAVING TO USE ‘moon clips’ (which at least several should be provided), just kind of bombs the whole deal for me. Oh you don’t NEED said moon clips BUT don’t expect decent accuracy either..? S &W: Provide a SEPARATE cylinder w/out a recessed groove, just a typical cylinder and expect MORE sales of the 586-L!

  • John April 10, 2017, 11:23 am

    Moon clips, the major focus of article, yet not one picture of the moon clips??

    • shrugger April 10, 2017, 12:46 pm

      I know right.

  • Marty1 April 10, 2017, 10:33 am

    I purchased this firearm in January 2017 and found the near microscopic tritium dot in the front sight to be pretty useless for my aging eyes. Soon replaced the front and rear sights myself with with an “XS Sight Systems Standard Dot Tritium Express Set”, which was a vast improvement for me. There’s enough negative feedback on various forums re: the undersized tritium dot, which comes standard on this revolver, that I’d think S&W would replace it with something better. But no……..and this model has been around for several years.

  • Frank Jardim April 10, 2017, 10:03 am

    Well done analysis, and well written. Tom McHale deserves a raise.

  • KurtW April 10, 2017, 9:03 am

    No “non-moon clip” option for the cylinder for those of s who don’t want an added complication (knowing about those little pieces to lose)?

    ……aaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnd we’re done here.

  • ron April 10, 2017, 7:58 am

    This is a sweet revolver. I wish S&W would do something like this to the 327. Just add and extra 1/2″ to the barrel to allow for the port. I would be all over that.

  • Ramon J Martinez April 10, 2017, 4:03 am

    Anyone who carries a compensated handgun for self defense is a fool. First low light shot and you’re blind. Night sights won’t make a damned bit of difference. What you DON’T see in the light of day is the muzzle flare. Up and in your line of sight. Not only is you night vision gone, but you’ve just fully illuminated yourself. And yes, it is much different than the flash from the barrel – cylinder gap….. This is from experience..

    • Torn April 10, 2017, 11:04 am

      Ramon did you read the full article? He discusses muzzle flash at night, says its a non-issue. Having some limited experience doing that same thing, shooting skunks with a Regular 686 not a ported version. Muzzle flash IS extensive especially with a 125 gr., but I didn\’t find that it hampered my ability to see for a second shot, and yes I do miss on occasion LOL.

      • PaulWVa April 10, 2017, 9:39 pm

        If you’re really all that concerned with muzzle flash you should just try reloading your own ammo. If is not hard to put together ammo that has very little to no flash at all. It’s a matter of powder speed and barrel length. I’ve experiment a long this line and have made .44 magnum rounds that had less flash than a Bic lighter….even in the dark. Also I have owned and shot several ported guns from S&W, Clark, and Mag-Na-Port and have been reloading for 37 years, mostly .38,.357, and .44. Shoot-Reload-Repeat.

  • Keith April 9, 2017, 10:51 pm

    Can you shoot rat shot or shot shells out of a ported barrel?

    • Irish-7 April 10, 2017, 11:19 am

      Good point!

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