Return of the Revolver – S&W 686 Plus New Gun Review

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The double/single action revolver has been around long enough for the design to seem somewhat timeless.  There have been very few innovations in the design that are truly considered news worthy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spill some ink in praise of a new take on an old classic, and Smith & Wesson’s revolvers have long set the standard for wheel-gun classics. From their five shot Scandium J frames, to their .460 S&W tank-busters, Smith & Wesson continue to be the standard on which all other revolvers are judged. Today we’re going to look at a midsized revolver, a.357 686, a gun that can do just about everything.

Smith 686

The longer 686 can get heavy. After an afternoon of shooting, I get a bit shaky trying to hold on target.

Spec Sheet

Model: 686 Plus
Caliber: .357 Magnum®
.38 S&W Special +P
Capacity: 7 Rounds
Barrel Length: 6″ / 15.2 cm
Front Sight: Red Ramp
Rear Sight: Adjustable White Outline
Grip: Synthetic
Action: Single/Double Action
Frame Size: Medium – Exposed Hammer
Finish: Satin Stainless
Overall Length: 11.94″ / 30.3 cm
Material: Stainless Steel Frame
Stainless Steel Cylinder
Weight Empty: 43.9 oz / 1,244.6 g
Purpose: Recreational Shooting, Home Protection, Handgun Hunting

Smith 686

The cylinder of this model holds seven shots.

Smith’s homepage cites the intended purposes of their guns, and they say the 686 with its 6 inch barrel is good for recreational shooting, home protection, and handgun hunting. I tend to concur. While it wouldn’t be my first choice for duck hunting, it can do just about everything else. If I could only own one gun (God forbid), my choice would be easy: I’d take this 686.

Part if my deep respect of the 686 comes from the performance of the long barrel. If you look at the tables on Ballistics by the Inch, you’ll see some of what I mean.  Under controlled conditions (meaning no loss of pressure from cylinder gap), the .357 puts out  muzzle velocities somewhere around 1,600 fps. Revolvers push out some gas before the bullet leaves the barrel, so they drop 100 to 200 fps, but it still a sizable bullet traveling at devastating speeds.

Smith 686

I still shoot the 686 better in single action mode. This is seven shot string.

And shooting the 686 couldn’t be any easier. The double action pull is heavy, off of the scale I use to gauge pull. This is typical. My scale stops at 10 pounds, and it is close to that. Yet the pull is even and predictable, and you can hold it at any stage without a lot of effort. My groups with the double action pull are still wider than I’d like. I’m not good at the motion. I was training with revolver guru Bob Lawman, in Farmville, Va.  He could bang out night tight groups with a double action pull.

The trick to it, I’m told, is to use the trigger pull to help stabilize the gun. Where most single action pulls use only three fingers and one thumb for a grip, the double action revolver grip adds in the extra finger that would normally be used to tweak a touchy trigger. You pull back as you are refining your aim, and then rocket through with a consistent motion. The result should be a more stable platform for the shot, and a more accurate shot.

Smith 686

The 686 is dead on accurate, even in double action. This is my best group from 25 yards.

As I said, I’m not good at it. I still prefer the single action mode. I have a hard enough time getting down the support hand cocking motion. I fall back on those bad habits I learned at the hand of my father, who taught me to shoot with an old Iver Johnson snubbie. We couldn’t hit much with that gun, so actual skills were an afterthought. The 686 is incredibly accurate. And with a 3.5 pound single action pull, it is in credibly consistent.

The long sight radius helps with the accuracy. The front post is almost 8 inches from the rear, which makes it appear smaller. The visible space on the sides allows for greater precision. If you are shooting single action or double, these sights are ideal. The back sight is a flat black with horizontal ridges. At the cut out, a white U provides just enough of a quick reference point for actual defensive sight acquisition. The front post is mostly black, though there is an orange insert that is easy to see. The mix of sight styles is kind of a compromise between true target sights and sights meant for defensive shooting. You can find them fast, or take that extra time to really dial them in.

Smith 686

The sight picture is very easy to see, and the radius makes the front sight more effective.

If there is one aspect of the longer 686s that is a detriment for self-defense, it is the length. These guns don’t come out of holsters as fast as their snub-nosed brethren. You have to haul it out its holster. It must be like drawing a sword from a sheath. It requires an exaggerated movement that feels unnatural to me, as I’m habituated to drawing a GLOCK 19. I wear this gun a lot, but only when I’m not concerned with the extra time required for a draw. It is ideal for stomping around in the woods. I wear it often when I’m at the range. I even carry it hunting. It has everything I want for rural OWB carry.

The 686 Plus has the advantage of one extra round. Reloads happen as quickly as you can reload a revolver, but seven round relaoders aren’t as common as six rounders, so you’ll likely be doing it the old fashioned way. As this is a .357, you have an wide variety of ammunition to chose from. From .38 shotshells on the low end, to fat 158 grain .357 JHPs, this revolver will handle it all. And point of impact isn’t going to shift much between .357s and .38s, at least not as reasonably close distances. I regularly shoot at a 100 yard range that has 12 inch steel plates. Once I find the hold-over for whatever round I’m using (maybe an inch for .38s, almost none for a .357), I can hit those plates about 90% of the time.

Smith 686

A loaded cylinder is clearly visible, though you may not be able to tell if the rounds are loaded as easily.

And that would make the 686 Plus a viable candidate for handgun hunting, especially for smaller game at closer ranges. The .357 has been a popular cartridge for ranch rifles for years for this very reason. It has enough kick to take a deer, or to put down a cow, or to punch through the skull of a hog. While folks who live in big bear country still favor larger rounds, there’s an argument to be made for a gun you can control (which is the only kind of gun control I’ll endorse). I’ll take the speed and precision of this L framed revolver. I can control it, rocket out shots into a 2 inch square at 25 yards, no problem. I’ve tried my hand with the .44 Magnum, and larger revolvers, and the time between shots increases, and I tend to flinch like a madman. Adrenaline might mitigate that behavior, but it might not.

I’m an L framed shooter. Who am I kidding? I’m actually an X frame on the S&W scale. But this gun fits my hand perfectly, and fits me too. I tend to wear it in a cross-draw holster at my waist. In this position, I can sit, stand, run, and even cover it up with the tail of a field coat. As long as I keep the bottom two or three buttons on my Carhartt buttoned, I can adequately cover the gun.

Smith 686

Wooden grips can be thinner and smoother, but the rubber feels great in the hand.

If you’re not graced with extra girth, cross-draw carry may make you look like a wanna-be civil war general. Traditional strong-side carry is a viable option, and shoulder holsters are plentiful. It is a versatile gun, for sure, and whether you carry it on your hip, or in a toolbox, or keep it tucked under the seat of your truck when you’re out on the back 40, the 686 will get the job done. Pull the trigger and it will hit what it is pointed at.

It is this last feature that makes the gun that much more valuable for me. I carry when I’m at home. I have family members, though, that don’t shoot hundreds of rounds every week. They don’t attend training classes, despite my constant prodding. Yet they know there’s a go-to gun that will always work. While I don’t leave a loaded gun out where anyone can pick it up, it is accessible to those I trust. And they know how to use it. And I don’t have to worry about them remembering to rack the slide, or drop the safety, or dial up a red dot. It is ready to roll with frangible .38s, at just a touch.

Smith 686

The barrel is cut from a fat slab of steel, which adds to the guns weight.

The revolver as a genre doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The .357 is really one of the most all-around versatile guns I own. There are few task specific jobs that 6 inch barreled 686 does better than guns designed for more singular purposes. It isn’t the best option for concealed carry. It may be too big for some people’s daily carry preferences. It isn’t light enough to be a pack gun. It isn’t as big as some shooters would like for really big game like bear or moose, and it isn’t as small as some might want for plinking, but it can do all of these things.

The MSRP on the 686 Plus is $849. I’ve seen various 686 models similar to this, most of which were six shots, anywhere from $550 to $900 used. They hold their value a hell-of-a-lot better than most automatics. And they’re harder to screw up. While you can mar the sights bay banging them around, or wreck the trigger attempting to lighten the double-action pull, about the only other thing you can do to one of these is bend the center pin rod by slamming the cylinder home like some Hollywood gumshoe. The 686 offers tremendous accuracy in a gun that will never fail, and there’s something timeless about that.

Smith 686

The extractor spits out rimmed shells well, even the longer .357 brass.

Smith 686

The sights are a nice flat black to help prevent glare.

Smith 686

The forcing cone mates tightly to the cylinder.

Smith 686

The rim of this cylinder is one of the hardest places on the revolver to clean because of the odd angles.

Smith 686

The stainless is highly reflective, which can make for awkward glares in certain angles of light.

Smith 686

The 686 has a lock on the frame which can be turned to make the gun even safer during long term storage.

Smith 686

The single action pull comes in just over two pounds.

Smith 686

The double action pull is heavy, but easily staged.

Smith 686

The front sight is pinned in place and is easily replaceable.

Smith 686

The weight of the barrel adds a stability, but shifts the gun’s balance point.

Smith 686

Wooden grips can be thinner and smoother, but the rubber feels great in the hand.

Smith 686

The gun presents well, which is why it remains so popular in Hollywood.

 

{ 154 comments… add one }
  • Kim Callahan November 2, 2017, 4:40 pm

    I have a S&W model 686, six inch barrel, .357 magnum, stainless steel. It’s 30 years old, but in excellent condition. I use wooden grips (the original) as I have small hands and the grip is far more comfortable and my round placement much better. I have used rubber combat grips, but found they were too thin and the gun more difficult to handle. As for bear defense, I can’t answer that as I’ve never been in that situation. I’m a retired police officer. I started my career with a .357 S&W with a four inch barrel. Have way through my law enforcement career our department switched to .40 Glock. After retirement I purchased a 9 mm Beretta, Model 92 which I’m extremely pleased with. I no longer felt the need to pack something with a larger round. I use 115 grain hollow-point rounds.

  • Matt September 11, 2017, 9:29 am

    I have a S&W 629 .44 mag with 4″ barrel that I routinely carry in a shoulder holster in Alaska where I live. The hard cast lead bullets such as Buffalo Bore 305gr have a heavy recoil, too much for small shooters such as the wife and daughters. There are bigger handguns, but the .44 mag with heavy loads is a lot of gun. I recently purchased a S&W 686 Plus .357 mag with 4″ barrel as a second gun for when I had visitors to Alaska and for the wife to use. All the arguments about what caliber or even if a handgun is enough gun to hunt or protect from large bears aside, the hard cast 180gr .357 mag rounds are a very powerful round. I appreciate the extra velocity and longer sight picture of the 6″ barrel, but I chose the 4″ barrel on both guns because it is easier to wear on the waist, especially when sitting in a camp chair or in the truck, and the most confortable sitting is when carried cross draw. The extra 2″ of barrel and holster do make a difference for me in comfort for long periods of carry. Also for those of us who are not as skilled with a fast draw, the 4″ barrel is easier to get into action than the 6″ barrel. For me this is especially true trying to get the .44 mag out of the shoulder holster. My older 629 has the Hogue grips with finger groves, same as the Performance Center puts on. When I purchased the 686 plus I assumed I would immediately purchase a Hogue grip for it as well. However after spending a month carrying the 686 I found that the new style rubber grip is an excellent grip which I like a lot and I am no longer plan to replace it. I like the 7 shot cylinder on the 686 plus but have not been able to find ammo carriers for the belt that are 7 shot, all are 6. so I carry the 686 plus with 6 extra rounds on a belt ammo carrier. To me, the S&W revolvers represent the best combination of quality and price, not meaning to say bad things about the great Ruger and Taurus models. The 686 plus .357 mag is an outstanding revolver that is so comfortable to handle and shoot, it just feels so good and balanced in the hand.

  • Mike Stephens May 17, 2017, 10:40 am

    Own the 686 Plus s/s Talo version (3-5-7) with 5″ barrel and un-fluted cylinder. What a sweet shooting and well balanced revolver. Even though I’ve owned it for awhile, and have bought others since, I still pull it out and just admire it’s beauty while chillin’ in the recliner. Mother’s Mag and Aluminum polish will remove black carbon from cylinder surfaces after a day at the range.

  • Mac March 5, 2017, 1:18 am

    I carried 686 as my duty side arm for over 20 years, I loved it and to this day I still carry one as my hunting side arm, my department decided to switch from the 686 to the S&w 5803/6 9mm, fortunately I retired soon after as I never felt comfortable with the semi auto, I guess I am just a dinosoar, and well Proud of it Ill take my 686 any day thank you S&W

  • larrry shackleford July 3, 2016, 3:01 pm

    Couldn’t have said it any better, have the same 686. Wouldn’t take nothing for it. It out shoots me.

  • Jon W. September 9, 2015, 5:10 pm

    Nowadays doesn’t anyone ever proof read their writings. With spell check available it just seems unfathomable there are so many grammatical and spelling errors in the compositions of today’s writers. Other than my eyes blurring from all the errors it was a good article.

    • Jeff April 18, 2016, 8:23 am

      Umm, English teacher here. I might note that you left out the question mark in your first sentence 🙂

      • Matt May 11, 2016, 10:48 am

        HAHAHA! Nailed it!

      • Shay July 19, 2016, 4:05 am

        Are you suggesting that comments should be held to the same standard as the article?

        • Jack July 24, 2016, 10:03 pm

          No, but if you’re going to criticize a person’s grammar, your grammar better be on point.

      • sasm colt August 13, 2016, 5:44 pm

        goes eatser ppoopie

    • Bruce Stewart August 19, 2016, 9:01 pm

      You sound zatcly like my sester . She is a high school honors english techer . Grammatical errors intentional .

    • Mark Tercsak September 4, 2016, 1:50 am

      Dad-carried-one-the-last-five-years-he-was-on-the-job-with-the-Pittsburgh-Police-he-thought-very-highly-of-this-revolver-in-fact-he-thought-it-was-the-best-revolver-he-ever-shot.

    • Tom January 27, 2017, 8:38 pm

      Who cares just tell me ur lol opinion on the gun. grammar whatever. Id rather take advise from the guy that has the gun than the guy that grammars the gun

  • DaveL July 8, 2015, 4:27 pm

    Love my 686+ (4 inch). Of all my guns, Glocks, Brownings, Berettas etc. it would be the last one I’d part with….

  • California Steve May 15, 2015, 12:50 pm

    Great article, and I agree with just about everything that was written. I have had my 686 4inch for over 2 years and love it. It is a huge upgrade over my first revolver, the Ruger SP 101 4inch, which is a fine gun as well. I originally bought the Ruger as a smaller all around home defense and recreational shooter to get my wife into it and feel comfortable. After she loved the gun, I decided to buy an upgrade for myself. I tried the rivaled Ruger GP 100, which was nice (my dad loves his), but after trying the 686, the decision was easy. It felt great in my hand, was very accurate, and had a very smooth double action trigger for a brand new revolver. Add in that this gun holds 7 shots, and I was sold! Even my wife loves this gun as much as I do, far superior than any other revolver in our opinion. The only drawback in my mind is that little lock. I’ve never used it or had any issues with it, but as a family man that keeps it loaded but locked up anyway, it is pointless. As stated before, California doesn’t even sell this gun here anymore. Took me about 6 months on a waiting list to get mine at the time, as I was one of the last to get it. The more I use it, the more I love it. Simple… reliable… accurate… I will one day pass this down to my kids

    • Danzigsmisfits September 15, 2016, 12:14 pm

      They sell it in CA. Walked I to a shop and saw a 686-6 plus 6″ in the display case. I was looking at it.

  • Mike Anderson January 17, 2015, 11:32 pm

    I have a smith and wesson 686 plus and i leave the safety off (hillary hole) then you do not have to fool with it. I live in california and california laws of guns suck. We need to convince obama and thee democrats they are wrong about guns. I have been shooting guns scince was 10 years old and have never had any problems. It is a same you can\’t get the 686 in california no more but i still have mine. Does anyone know of i can get the 686 out of state?

  • Mike Anderson January 17, 2015, 11:26 pm

    I have a smith and wesson 686 plus and i leave the safety off (hillary hole) then you do not have to fool with it. I live in california and california laws of guns suck. We need to convince obama and thee democrats they are wrong about guns. I have been shooting guns scince was 10 years old and have never had any problems. It is a same you can’t get the 686 in california no more but i still have mine. Does anyone know of i can get the 686 out of state?

  • Lt. Donn December 30, 2014, 3:16 pm

    I have an early 686…pre-lock, 4″ that is used as one of my “Range Guns”…this revolver has the smoothest action of any Smith I have ever owned…and I have owned them since 1972…all the students who shoot in my classes Love this gun!…everyone should have at least one S&W Revolver!

  • Roger W. Hamilton December 29, 2014, 1:57 pm

    I have owned S & W handguns for over forty years. I have J-frames, K-frames, and N-frames. I have used them hunting, on duty as a police officer, in PPC competition and home defense I even carried one as a side arm in Vietnam. I have even used K-frames as training weapons for teaching home defense shooting to civilians. I find S & W’s reliable, easily shootable, easy to work on, and esthetically pleasing. I am proficient with semi-auto’s, especially the Model 1911, but my heart will always be with the S & W revolvers. Good job S & W! !

  • Roger W. Hamilton December 29, 2014, 1:54 pm

    I have owned S & W handguns for over forty years. I have J-frames, K-frames, and N-frames. I have used them hunting, on duty as a police officer, in PPC competition and home defense I even carried one as a side arm in Vietnam. I have even used K-frames as training weapons for teaching home defense shooting to civilians. I find S & W’s reliable, easily shootable, easy to work on, and esthetically pleasing. I am proficient with semi-auto’s, especially the Model 1911, but my heart will always be with the S & W revolvers. Good job S & W! !

  • Thomas December 29, 2014, 8:29 am

    Have a 686 6in. Smooth as can be. Fun to shoot, and crazy accurate. I love my wooden grips and stainless finish. But nothing wrong with what one prefers. Got to try this 100 yard targeting. Great article and accurate. Thanks.

    • steve_mcdonell July 10, 2016, 8:04 pm

      I have a S&W 686 6″ that we used to shoot at 25 yards with the open sights. Across the 100 yard rifle range, they had a 16″ metal gong , and from the 25 yard pistol range,we would shoot at the gong to check on a pig load or a new handload to see how it worked at distance. We were shooting across the pistol and rifle range , so the true distance was closer to 110 -115 yards from our standing position, and the 686 would ring that gong 6 out of 6 times off hand , no rest , but in single action. But I had a friend with a S&W N-frame in .44russian with a 2″ bbl. and he would hit it 6 out of 6 as often as I did with my long bbl. 686 ! It is fun and I always wondered how I would have done with a 2″ bbl.

  • Tooman December 29, 2014, 2:38 am

    I am a fan of S&W revolvers. My first was a model 19, 2 1/2 inch 357. I gave that gun away to my brother who had a family and didnt have a good handgun to protect them. I recently bought a 66-2 (the stainless version of the 19) also with a 2 1/2 barrel. It had been a safe queen. Very accurate and I added crimson trace laser grips.(round butt version). The laser grips are a fantastic addition that brings the gun into the 21st century. I use the laser for training. It really improved my shooting not by using the laser to sight from but by practicing my double action shooting. When I first started with it the laser was woobling all over the place and really unerved me. However I am stubborn and stuck to it. Using the iron sights(open sights) and practicing steadying my aim, the laser dot’s girations got less and less until its pretty steady. The 686 is on my list of next handguns. When they designed the L-frame they corrected some of the model 19s weak points like the forcing cone and a couple of other things. This is no criticism of models 19 and 66. I trust my life to my 66 as its my carry gun. Smith & Wesson still makes some of the finest revolvers on the planet. You can feel quality when you pick them up. Thank you for the article.

  • Badge Number 24 December 22, 2014, 10:57 am

    I own several S&W revolvers. 586, 686, 19, 66, 14, 15, 67, 629 and others. Not a bad one in the bunch. I bet my life on a 19 a 66 and 686 as a peace officer and if I were still on the street I would still carry a 686. Semi auto’s are fine but there were FAR fewer shots fired in an engagement to effect a stop when the .357 was the primary weapon. I understand to an extent the “fire power” argument but it gets lost in the lack of knock down power, accuracy and the true ability to engage a bad guy at some extreme distances. I use a 586 6″ as my deer rifle and it has not failed me yet even at 170 yards on a moving buck. One shot fired, one deer down and no tracking.

  • Eric Nelson December 21, 2014, 3:34 pm

    I was issued a 686 4″bbl sooooo many years ago as a rookie cop. This gun just screams “All business”. I got pretty good with it, in fact we used to have little competitions among ourselves while training at the range. The range officer would always stress controlled, precise , shots. I would practice head shots on the scoring target in the corner of the standard B-27 target. He thought I was being a “smartass”. He may have been right. We’ve long since transitioned to Glock model 22’s. I was able to purchase my old 686 rather than trading it in to Glock. I still bring it to training from time to time. It and I are still capable of head shots on scoring targets. That’s something I hope never changes. You couldn’t come up with enough $$$ to buy my gun. It’s a classic in many ways.
    P.S. The Glock and I make an accurate team as well. It’s just not the same relationship.

  • Eric Nelson December 21, 2014, 3:28 pm

    I was issued a 686 4″bbl sooooo many years ago as a rookie cop. This gun just screams “All business”. I got pretty good with it, in fact we used to have little competitions among ourselves while training at the range. The range officer would always stress controlled, precise , shots. I would practice head shots on the scoring target in the corner of the standard B-27 target. He thought I was being a “smartass”. He may have been right. We’ve long since transitioned to Glock model 22’s. I was able to purchase my old 686 rather than trading it in to Glock. I still bring it to training from time to time. It and I are still capable of head shots on scoring targets. That’s something I hope never changes. You couldn’t come up with enough $$$ to buy my gun. It’s a classic in many ways.
    P.S. The Glock and I make an accurate team as well. It’s just not the same relationship.

  • Petru Sova December 15, 2014, 11:00 am

    Smith Guns today are pure junk.
    1. The barrel rifling is burned in with an edm machine.
    2. Some models have a round barrel with a cheap shroud placed over it. The barrel is turned in by placing a tool in the end of the barrel that engages the rifling and the barrel is then twisted into the frame. This does not do the end of the barrel any good at all as this is critical to good accuracy.
    3. Smith does not counter bore cylinders anymore
    4. Smith does not pin barrels anymore.
    5. Smith does not install ratchet alignment pins anymore.
    6. Smith uses junk unreliable MIM cast internal parts that are known for high failure rates. Would you trust your life to these junk parts?
    7. Most old timers when comparing the new Smith guns to the old ones feel the workmanship and the final finish does not compare to the older made guns.

    • gary October 24, 2016, 12:10 pm

      funny, for junk those groups look pretty good, go put your GLOCK head in the sand somewhere will you and leave read a good article in peace.

  • Richard December 8, 2014, 11:34 am

    I have had a 686 with 7 1/2+ barrel and wood grips for many years. It probably has less than 50 rounds through it and is like new. Any idea of the value?

  • Kevin December 4, 2014, 3:06 pm

    Dave,
    Great article. I own a Smith & Wesson 686 Plus (.38 Special/.357 Magnum) and the S&W 617 (.22LR) in the stainless steel, 4″ barrel length. Love both revolvers. I just made a video comparing both guns on youtube. You can find it by searching muskietime comparing the Smith & Wesson 686 Plus .38 Special/.357 Magnum and 617 .22LR Revolvers.
    Love the photos you have in your article too.
    I got the 617 as it is very inexpensive to shoot .22LR ammo. Also, the .22 shoots .22 Short and .22 Shotshells. In the Fall and Winter I carry the 686 Plus in a Simply Rugged Leather Holster..usually outside the waistband but under an untucked shirt. The only thing closer to my side than my dog is my S&W 686 Plus!
    The only negatives to both these revolvers are:
    The white outlined rear sight is very light and difficult to see. I touch up my rear sights with a little nail polish.
    The forcing cone area is very difficult to clean. Probably a better method than how I clean it.
    The cartridges seem to become “sticky” or bind a little in the cylinders after a 300 round .22LR shooting session. Guess thats a hint to stop for a while and run a bore snake with cleaner through the barrel and cylinders. Ha, ha.
    Trigger pull in Double Action is very firm. That is a negative and a positive for me.
    The full length, “L” frame beefy rubber grips are great for .357 Magnum shooting but they do impact holster carry as the grip touches your side.

    I have easily over 1,000 rounds out of the 686 Plus without a problem. Over 8,000 out of the 617 without a problem with the revolver. I have had bad rounds but almost all of them fired the second time the primer was struck. The Hillary Lock has never been a problem. I have a Pacsafe Backpack that I store my gun in if I have to take it when traveling. This backpack has wire mesh which deters theft and has straps that can be attached to an immovable object.
    Anyhow, great article. Taurus and Ruger also make great revolvers. Too bad Colt does not make a Double Action revolver anymore.

  • Robert December 3, 2014, 6:58 pm

    I had a 686 that I sold In 93.It was a great pistol to have. They are extremely accurate, and dependable. I missed having it so 2 years ago I tarted looking at the S&W 686 and the Ruger GP100. I chose the GP100 and am very happy with it. They are very similar in every way except the price.

  • jim December 2, 2014, 6:14 pm

    Dear Mikelasnicov November 26, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Obviously, you are in the wrong place. The writing and spelling class is conducted at the community college down the road.
    Please go there now and maybe you can be PAID! —jim—

  • Mikelasnicov November 26, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Great revolver, and good informative article. But you’re supposed to be a professional writer and you really need to work on proof reading, there are way too many mistakes. The trick to proper proof reading is you have to read it aloud. I don’t know why but if you read something silently you will miss things. This is not like posting on the forums, and there should not be multiple obvious mistakes. I assume you get payed for this.

  • R Wilson November 24, 2014, 10:16 am

    You forgot to mention that the 686 shoots under water which is why SEALS have been known to pack them.

  • Chuck October 21, 2014, 6:33 pm

    Carried a 686 on patrol and SWAT team for several years. Earned a Revolver Master pin. Then went for years without a carry weapon. Now, times are more dangerous. And, when I went for a self-defense weapon the 686 felt like an old friend in my hand. Don’t see as well as I could back in the day, but it’s nice to feel assured that it’s me, and not the weapon. It’s coming back…yup, it’s comin’ back…and the 686 just feels right.

  • bob johnson October 6, 2014, 5:36 am

    This ( “Leave a comment”) format is really great for the new gun owner and the veteran. One can always learn something .new. Thank you all.

  • Jim Reed July 21, 2014, 8:57 pm

    I have this revolver. It is in mint condition and it is a dream to shoot. Very accurate , I have never seen any other 7 round 686.
    Ammo is not a problem to buy. It does take a strong hand to shoot ,but it always gets a lot of looks at the range. the rear sight
    is removable but I have no desire to rack this with a laser. I have many handguns, this is not one I carry out and about because of its size. But with good ammo it is a great shooter.

  • Gary A Gray July 21, 2014, 5:17 pm

    I had a 6 inch 686 and sold it, could kick myself in the butt for doing it. I have wanted to replace it, but the price tag is holding me back. Someday I will. One of the best damn guns I have ever owned.

  • Old School July 21, 2014, 1:56 pm

    I’d be more interested in a gloss blue one with wood grips!

  • Chuck July 21, 2014, 11:04 am

    Nice!!!

  • Philip July 21, 2014, 10:26 am

    I like tis weapon in the 3″ for open carry, but really like the S&W Model 57 .41 Mag with 4″ barrel. I get a super pattern with it at 50′ and can’t beat the killing power!

    • Paul October 10, 2016, 8:07 pm

      Finest S&W I ever purchased was a Model 57, Six Inch barrel, pinned, It had counter-bored cylinders. And forced me to learn how to hand-load. With 210 grain Sierra HPs and 18 grains of 2400 it was deadly accurate. Flatter shooting than a 44 Magnum and less of a kick. Killed lots of deer with that gun. I had it Magna-ported. Then gave it to my oldest son who is a deer-hunting fanatic. I have accumulated lots of Smiths: Model 36, Model 19, Model 45, Model 14 (8 3/8 inch target model) and a 642. Of course, an early model 686. I don’t know about the new ones being junk since mine are all at least 20 years old with the exception of the 642 (best of all for concealed carry).

  • Uncle Don July 21, 2014, 10:01 am

    The 686 looks great and almost looks like a take off of Michael Python thank you for your great comment here’s one that I picked up off the Internet
    The Colt Python is a .357 Magnum caliber revolver formerly manufactured by Colt’s Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut. It is sometimes referred to as a “Combat Magnum”.[1] It was first introduced in 1955, the same year as Smith & Wesson’s M29 .44 Magnum. The now discontinued Colt Python targeted the premium revolver market segment. Some firearm collectors and writers such as Jeff Cooper, Ian V. Hogg, Chuck Hawks, Leroy Thompson, Renee Smeets and Martin Dougherty have described the Python as the finest production revolver ever made.
    Official Colt historian RL Wilson described the Colt Python as “the Rolls-Royce of Colt revolvers”[4] and firearms historian Ian V. Hogg referred to it as the “best revolver in the world”

  • Eric July 21, 2014, 8:37 am

    My first duty weapon was a 686 4″. Great firearm. I got stupid and sold it when I went to a Semiautomatic. I would love to have it back.

  • Albert July 21, 2014, 8:20 am

    “While it wouldn’t be my first choice for duck hunting,”
    “If I could only own one gun (God forbid)”
    ” the longer 686s that is a detriment for self-defense, it is the length”

    A shame they can’t find a writer who spends more space on useful information than useless attempts at humor(?) or sating the obvious.

  • Miles Nelson July 21, 2014, 7:24 am

    S& W fine revolvers! Have owned several in over 60 years. Cannot figure them going to just 7 rounds in revolvers. I have a Taurus 608, (8 rounder), that is my favorite and gives me 2 more than average, keeping numbers even. Shoots just fine!

  • Bill July 21, 2014, 6:57 am

    For years the 686 6″ 357mag was my duty weapon, when I was a Police Reserve for the City of Detroit !! Just ONE of the Great revolvers from Smith & Wesson. I would love to See Smith & Wesson bring back More of the 2.5″ and 3″ fixed site Models like the Model 65 !!

    • Navy Doc September 2, 2016, 3:11 pm

      I have a 686 4″ that holds 8 rounds. It is my favorite out of all my handguns. Went to buy the 7 shot and they had just got a few of these in so took in instead. There is a small company in Lake Geneva, Wis that makes speed loaders for the 7 and 8 shot versions.

  • Robert Miller July 21, 2014, 5:36 am

    Thank you sir, for the great write-up on the S&W 686. Like many of the other folks who have placed comments, I too have had several of these over the years, along with the non-stainless 586 and a variety of other fine handguns. I find the 686 (and the .357 magnum cartridge in general) to be a well-balanced blend of power and size, one that as you mentioned, will do just about anything. While I love my Glocks, Sigs, Berettas, etc., the old wheelgun is as reliable and trustworthy as any, probabaly more than most, and would be a go-to handgun for any number of situations.

  • Martin July 21, 2014, 5:08 am

    I absolutely love the original 686. It was my duty weapon for the majority of my LE career. I’m a big guy and it fit me both on and off duty.
    The new 7 shot would have been interesting back in the day.
    I found with these revolvers that a double action pull to what I call second stop gave me about 2 pounds pull to complete. Takes a lot of practice but it fulfilled the requirement of always using double action but allowing for single action accuracy. It was and is a never fail firearm.
    Excellent article.

  • craig July 17, 2014, 8:19 am

    I find the 686 one of my most accurate firearms. Wood grip 6″ barrel 6 shot. I and it for twenty year and she like new. Stainless steel. Cylinder front is black from shooting over the years. Still trying to get that off. I have carried it concealed with no promblem. Love the firearm.

  • craig July 17, 2014, 8:07 am

    I have owned 686/6 for close to twenty years stainless 6 inch. Love the firearm. Will never trade or sell.

  • David Kachel July 15, 2014, 9:23 pm

    I’d be curious to know where you think the revolver went? “Return of the Revolver”? Based on S&W, Taurus, Ruger and others’ sales, the revolver never needed to “return” because it never went anywhere.

  • OFBG July 15, 2014, 7:19 pm

    From the above comments it would seem that the “Hillary Hole” (I need that one explained – I was unaware of her involvement in new gun control laws, unlike her husband – but I guess that “Clinton C**t” might be too graphic) has raised a lot of anger. But why, other than our perennial distaste for the surfeit of lawyers in America? Does the lock actually interfere with function, or is it just deemed unsightly? If the former, then I’d agree it needs to go. If the latter, unless you own it just to hold and admire, try to ignore it and shoot what is obviously a great gun!

  • Rick Sullivan July 15, 2014, 12:31 pm

    Enjoyed all the comments about the 686, both old and new models. Geez, screw the Hillary Hole, pardon the pun. After over 30 years as a Texas cop, Certified Police/Firearms Instructor, give me a S&W wheel gun. Personally, I love the Model 19 and Model 66. Never had a failure with either and I’ve shot a lot. It was a great duty gun and makes for a really handy pack gun. With the TH and TT, these guns can hold their own against any handgun ever made. All of mine are -1 models and are considered by me as the best of the best.
    Your thoughts appreciated.

    • Kevin July 21, 2014, 6:43 am

      I owned a Mod.19 w/6 -1/2bar. years ago. It was an older mod. with the longer barrel. It had rosewood grips, target hammer and trigger,and lighter springs. Very accurate! Use to fire Super Vel 110 gr. and 125 gr. Very hot loads! Replaced the ejector rod a few times. It was worth it. Great gun and reliable.

  • MARK July 15, 2014, 10:39 am

    Question for Dave: Since you have this gun, what would you say about carrying it as “concealed carry” — say with a shoulder holster? Realize it’s not presented (designed) as that type but I’m going to try it … after I get the permit. Just curious on anyone’s thoughts good or bad … Most comfortable w/this weapon so that’s why …

  • Kevin July 15, 2014, 3:42 am

    I own a S&W 686 Plus w/ 6″ barrel. I’ve had it since last Sept. A present from my son. A great gun and very accurate . Fun to shoot. We have fun together!

  • jIMMYJET July 15, 2014, 1:55 am

    TOO BAD IT HAS A RED RAMP FRONT. THE RED RAMP NEVER HAS BEEN THE BEST SELECTION FOR ACCURATE SHOOTING.

  • OFBG July 14, 2014, 7:10 pm

    While it is certainly fair to mention it, I don’t see your comments about the gun being slow to draw from a holster to be terribly important. You stated that “Smith’s homepage cites the intended purposes of their guns, and they say the 686 with its 6 inch barrel is good for recreational shooting, home protection, and handgun hunting.” That was “home protection,” not “self-defense” or “concealed carry.” In any of the other uses, draw time should be irrelevant.

  • Jo Ann July 14, 2014, 6:17 pm

    Bought a SS 686 with 6″ barrel in early 1980’s. Early on, at the range shooting .357, the cylinder refused to continue turning on a the last 3 rounds. It was completely and utterly locked up. I sold the gun. It is my understanding that LAPD had the same malfunction on a uniformed gun during a shoot out that cost the officer his life. Anyone familiar with the case?

  • ken July 14, 2014, 6:06 pm

    Now if we could just get my favorite revolver company COLT, to do up some Pythons, and bring back some of those Officer’s model targets from the pre WW2 days. Even if done in limited quantity’s the construction and Blueing was to Die for.

  • Lui Pestana July 14, 2014, 4:54 pm

    I think the real reason for the surge in revolvers is the surge in women taking up firearms. I for one have 5 semi auto handguns a .25, .32, (2) 9mm’s and a .45 and my wife hates to rack everyone of them. I finally got her a S&W 637E .38 Spl and she loves it.

    • Doc July 15, 2014, 5:23 am

      Lui, just a suggestion. You know how hard Wathers are to ‘rack’? (or maybe it’s just mine), but a woman loved one at our local store, and just could NOT get the ‘grip’ to pull it back to load a round. I do a lot of gardening and have a pair of favorite clippers that I carry in a ‘holster’ with a lanyard on it so if I drop it from the top of a ladder, or in the middle of some black berries I’m not up and down after it, or ripping my flesh on thorns meant to keep goats away. To make it easier to get a grip on them with sweaty hands and I’m trying to get a cutting for a new start, I use some of that self-adhesive sand-paper folks use on stairs to keep them usable in wet or thin ice conditions. The 4 inch strips on the outside of the plastic handles works wonders for those precise cuts I need when starting up a rose-spring from an old cemetary or garden somewhere.

      I suggested to her husband who was beside himself at her ‘weak’ grip and her love of the sidearm, but her inability to rack a round, that he try some of that tread sandpaper on the side of the slide — and didn’t think too much about it. When I got a call about a near mint 1960’s .270 BAR with the most beautiful grained wood the store owner had ever seen, I had to go have a look — the husband had died and wife only wanted $400 for the rifle (“It’s what he paid for it, and he was always honest”, soft and hard case and old Leopuld 3×9 scope and 10 (!!!) boxes of old match ammo.) So I HAD to go back. (sold in the 20 minutes it took me to drive). The REAL story is the owner remembered me, and said that the wife who loved the PPK also loved the stair-tread sand paper and had bought 3 more ‘black plastic’ semi-autos because suddenly she could ‘get a grip’ and actually chamber a round.

      I thought that I might pass that idea along to other readers who have the same problem. I LOVE my great-grandfathers SAA .45LC’s and some other revolvers around the old place here – esp my old Colt (DW) 357, but for those who have a hard time cambering a round in a stiff springed semi-auto, that might be a solution since you don’t need to press a vice-grip while pulling the slide back. AND it comes off with just a tiny bit of acitone (nail polish remover). Sure it might look ‘sissy’ to some guys, but not to the one who matters – the one looking down a .380 (or 9mm or ???) that looks like a 1 inch cannon barrel. It’s not always about looks, it’s about function (just look at any teenagers AR platform for proof — THREE lights on a rail along with a range-finding scope, a night scope, a couple of lasers, a CB/FRS raido, CD player, Jack-light, and GPS with integrated magnetic compass, cell phone, and Satellite Radio with blue tooth earphones with swing down voice activated microphone and his texting phone set flush with the stock so he can text while he’s sitting in ‘ambush’). If it works, and it works for YOU it’s not a silly idea. I have to admit that I hate to chamber a round on my PPK because that spring is just SO dang hard to get a grip on I’m always afraid that it’s gonna slip and I’ll have a finger slip and end up cambering that instead of the round — not to mention the way they break-down for cleaning!!!!

      So, there’s a solution that might make your sweet-heart begin to like a pistol that doesn’t kick like a mule, doesn’t make you go deaf, and carries enough rounds that ONE is going to hit something that will FINALLY take the targets mind off of what ever he / she had in mind and pay some kind of attention to what some ‘girl’ is doing to their body that is starting to feel kind of not normal.

      That little piece of sand paper that will save you a good slip on a stair case may look funny (though it is black and blends in) but I guarantee that it will give you a confident grip on the slide of any semi-auto. Just an inch or so where a person NATURALLY grabs the slide is all you need, and that may NOT be where they manufacturer puts their (sometimes so-called) ‘grips’. I’ve pulled the slide on a .22LR that’s stiffer than my Sig 220 or Colt 1911-A1. Wish I’d known that trick when I was 10 years old. (Though I do still smile a bit when I think of my Ex every time she chambers a round after she got her pinky finger slammed into the chamber and needed some stitches to close up the slice she put in that finger – SHE wanted the pistol because it was ‘lady like’ — and so she got what she wanted. You know, sidearms sure can bring joy in the oddest ways, and good memories are just one of them).

      So give the sand-paper a try, it works, and the gun-shop recommends it to folks who have a hard time cambering a round – a problem you don’t have with a round magazine. Though it might also give you a better grip (just thinking out loud here) if you put a three point strip on your grip– both sides and the back, all it takes is a little MORE confidence, to make an OK shooter a VERY good shooter.

  • Russ July 14, 2014, 4:28 pm
  • Jeff S July 14, 2014, 3:20 pm

    The very first firearm I ever purchased was a 3″ S&W 686+. It’s still in my safe today and is by far my favorite handgun. It always goes bang, accurate at all reasonable distances and looks nearly like new even after thousands of rounds. I’ve put everything from light .38 wadcutters to big 180 gr hunting loads thru this gun with no problems. Accurate, reliable, always with me in the woods. Any of my friends asking for an option on a first handgun will ALWAYS get this gun at the top of my list.

  • Ralph July 14, 2014, 2:35 pm

    I really admire the idea of a 7 shot 357. The only wheel guns I have that hold more than 6 are 22’s. I do have a Smith & Wesson Model 28 – N frame with an 8 & 3/8″ barrel on it. It was a nickle plated presentation gun. I haven’t shot it in years but it was a good shooter at the range. I also own a Colt Python with a 6″ barrel. It does shoot smooth but my name isn’t “Hawk” (Spencer TV Series) and I would not consider it a carry piece. I just don’t know how people can carry large frame guns without printing which makes some people in the public thoroughfare pretty nervous. In fact, the Texas Roadhouse in Omaha just hung a sign on the front door, “No Open Carry” and if you are too obvious when concealed they might say something? Me, I carry a Smith J frame wheelgun on my ankle.

  • Chuck Naturale July 14, 2014, 2:15 pm

    I have this gun made in 1980 with Dan Wessons inspection stamps. Can any tell me how much it is worth I have had it all this time and it is still unfired? Thanks for your help ,and best regards Chuck.

  • Scott A July 14, 2014, 12:23 pm

    I have owned a S&W 686, 6″ for over 25 years now and the gun has has 1000’sof rounds through it. It shoots as well today as the day it came out of the box. I’m a southpaw and it is an accurate, well balance gun. I even put a full mirror polish on the stainless, and most think its Nickel plated! A great gun that will never dissapoint you!

    • Brainaxe July 14, 2014, 1:26 pm

      Scott, I’m sure that was a misprint. I put 1000 rounds through my first 686 in the first month! (You probably meant 10,000?)
      They don’t wear out. ;~)

  • James A. Ritchie July 14, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I love the older 686, but I absolutely detest the lock on the new ones. I hate it so much I’m not sure I’ll ever buy one. I know exactly why it’s there, and the reason sucks dead dust bunnies, but even if there were a good reason, I’d still hate it. It’s a deal breaker, for me. I’ll stick to the older, pre-lock models.

  • MARK July 14, 2014, 12:08 pm

    It’s interesting the 686-3 I own has no internal lock so i just use a cable lock in the cylinder. I also own a 686-6 Plus like the one you have pictured and it is the same as yours – it has an internal lock which seems to work fine.
    Either way, agree w/Dave – a bit of safety is a good idea … especially for kids …
    Btw, wood grips really are nice on these models …. altamontco.com sells some nice ones w/S&W medallions even …

  • Dan July 14, 2014, 11:48 am

    I own five in various configurations. Is that too many?

    • Russ July 14, 2014, 3:57 pm

      No Dan, You’re OK, you can never have too many.
      I’m thinking maybe grab 5 more just for good measure.
      But if you ever run into that problem, I’m available for the adoption of your excess.

  • Mack July 14, 2014, 11:45 am

    Its a shame they continue to make these fine revolvers with a Lawyer Lock on the frame…

  • Bill July 14, 2014, 11:42 am

    Wonder how the 6″ barrel GP-100 compares?

    • Robert December 3, 2014, 7:05 pm

      I have a GP 100 with a 5″ barrel. I had a 686 with a 6″ barrel. love both guns. You can’t go wrong with either one . The Gp 100 cost less.

  • Maynard July 14, 2014, 11:41 am

    I see there is a 4″ model. What experience does anyone have with this shorter barrel? Is the balance still “front forward?”

    Thank you for your response input…

    –M

    • Hutch July 21, 2016, 5:15 pm

      I have several Smith & Wesson 686-4 Plus revolvers: a 2.5″ , a 4″, and a 6″ all pre-lock. All 7 shooters in SS. I also have a 586-7 blue 4″ 7 shooter (limited run with lock removed, the plug installed). And a 586-3 6″ blue pre-lock 6 shooter 357 Magnum. If that was not enough I also have a Model 65-1 in 4″ and a Model 19-2 6″ 357 Magnum old school.
      All shoot dead-balls on. The M 19 was my first gun. And and and I have several 44 magnums Smiths, 45 Long Colt Smith and Ruger’s… I’ll stop there. I love them all, I use them for fun, backpacking, defense, home protection… all will go to my son some day. Plus my 1911’s. I am a S & Wesson guy.

  • Norman Root July 14, 2014, 11:26 am

    I’ll never give up my 686 Combat Commander. I do carry my 629 Mountain Gun (.44 Mag) while hiking in Colorado, but hiking anywhere else I prefer my 686. Beautiful Wood Grips that always elicit “beautiful revolver” comments from other gun-toten individuals.

  • Brainaxe July 14, 2014, 11:14 am

    I bought a new 686PLUS in about 1990. It was $400. It’s the best gun there is. I should have bought TEN of them as an investment. About 5 years ago I decided to buy another. New was $799. – So I found a used one for $400. Neither revolver has the safety. I would not buy one with the safety. S&W screwed up when they bent over for the government. – The article talks about the 6″ barrel. I bought both of mine in 4″. Believe me, 4″ is long enough. Makes the gun “carry-able”. Accuracy is top notch. Even the used one, which has 10’s of thousands of rounds through it, STILL shoots perfectly. – If you like the 686, you will also love the 617-.22 with -10 shot cylinder. Now THAT I bought with the 6″ barrel. It is a plinker and squirrel hunter. No need to conceal.

  • Robert B eckett July 14, 2014, 10:40 am

    my older 6 shot 686 is toped with a leupold 2x and has killed deer, coyote and enjoyed competing in the Bianchi Cup a few times…It was originally tuned by Ed Brown and later by Ron Power and myself at one of his action tuning classes…we also throated it and recut the crown…Now it shoots the groups you list at 85 yards…that’s right…one pistol? this one would fit the bill…..happy shooting…

  • Robert B eckett July 14, 2014, 10:40 am

    my older 6 shot 686 is toped with a leupold 2x and has killed deer, coyote and enjoyed competing in the Bianchi Cup a few times…It was originally tuned by Ed Brown and later by Ron Power and myself at one of his action tuning classes…we also throated it and recut the crown…Now it shoots the groups you list at 85 yards…that’s right…one pistol? this one would fit the bill…..happy shooting…

  • Lyndon Johnson July 14, 2014, 9:49 am

    I’ve been in three wars, police actions, conflicts or whatever the hell you want to call them. I’ve got a chestfull of I was there and thank you medals which will buy me a cup of coffee if I add a couple of dollars. What I’m trying to say is I’ve been there and done that, had to survive more than once and if I had only one gun it would be a .22 bolt action or pump, tube mag, not clip rifle. I’ve had more than one 686 and somehow always let them get away but I’ll always get another. As always the old firstsoldier.

  • hi July 14, 2014, 9:29 am

    “The 686 has a lock on the frame which can be turned to make the gun even safer during long term storage.”

    You should really change this statement as the internal lock does not make the gun “safer.” It gives the user a false sense of security. This was Smith’s kneeling at the bureaucracy of some state’s requirements to make gun sales. The Hilary Hole is stupid and unworthy of any form of praise.

    • Dave Higginbotham July 14, 2014, 9:56 am

      Agreed. My perception of “safer” comes from the fact that anyone who picks up a locked smith will pull the trigger and then just stare at it with a stupid look of disbelief on their face. False sense of security or no, the lock can foil a teenager, and they know everything.

    • Warner Anderson MD July 14, 2014, 11:25 am

      I think I like the lock. As a kid, I used to take the hinge screws out of Dad’s locked gun cabinet and take his P-38 out in the woods. Plastic wood concealed the evidence. I may give a 686 to my son upon the birth of my grandchild. I own an old 686 and love it. But kids think they’re immortal, so when it comes to aesthetics or gun culture political correctness, I’ll prefer the bit of safety.

      • hi July 21, 2014, 10:30 am

        Thus, you have just proven my point about false senses of security.

        Anytime you rely on a mechanical device, you stop using the safety between your ears. Anytime you stop using the safety between your ears, you may lose life or limb .

    • Dan July 14, 2014, 12:56 pm

      I knew I should have copywriter the term “Hillary Hole”! :-). This is the first time I’ve seen it in print. I started using that as soon as those locks went on, if you came up with it on your own you are also brilliant :-). I’ll never, ever buy one of those with the lock. They do make a couple models now without the lock, hopefully they will keep introducing other models without it until the stupid thing disappears.

  • Warren Graumann July 14, 2014, 9:17 am

    I enjoy the fine craftmanship of a steel revolver. The “plastic autos” will never be classics. I would rather hit my mark with a single shot…rather than spray 12 shots in the general direction of the mark…..its the “hits” that count!
    I’m still a “six shooter” guy, I don’t think I will ever get used to a “seven shooter!”

  • wabiker July 14, 2014, 8:47 am

    Love my wheel guns.
    EDC SW60 3in. No muss, no fuss.
    The venerable Ruger Security Six.. IMO the quintessential service revolver.
    Ruger Redhawk… handfuls of “omg”.
    M29 8- 3/8’s … need I say more..?

    • Russ July 14, 2014, 11:52 am

      + 1 on the Redhawk
      I like a nicely grained wood grip and stainless for the look.
      7-1/2 in. .44 mag barrel for the big bang and power.
      Revolver for the historical mechanics and artful design.
      Fun shooting and great go anywhere back up.
      Strong, beautiful & fun.

  • MARK July 14, 2014, 8:33 am

    Nice article on a classic gun. Bought a 686-3, 6″ S&W blackened (limited run) over SS, few years back and it became my favorite all-time gun. I’ve shot all types of guns, including some .45 cal, 9MM and .40cal and have to say this S&W revolver delivered the most FUN I have had while shooting. Wheel guns are just plain wicked fun to shoot … and versatile w/being able to shoot .38special or .357 loads. While a decent shot w/mine at 7 and 15yds, the real test will come at 25yds. Thanks for a great article Dave ….

  • Mike July 14, 2014, 8:32 am

    As soon as I see the lock I stop reading!
    Sorry S&W, but I will NEVER own one of your revolvers with an intentional ZIT built into it!!!

    • Neven July 14, 2014, 9:22 am

      The lock ruins it. No wonder the article had it at the end. When will Smith learn.

    • chilichef July 14, 2014, 9:36 am

      I’m not real happy with the lock, either but there are enough good pre-lock used 586 and 686’s on the market that you don’t need to get one with the lock. The basic design works and unless it’s been visibly abused, they should operate fine.

      • Rich Dee February 2, 2015, 9:24 pm

        Could care less if it has a lock or not. I have the 686 with a five inch barrel . It works good and looks good. Get over the lock thing. More concerned about the paper work I had to fill out to get the piece .

  • Augest West July 14, 2014, 8:22 am

    I just have a question maybe someone can answer. Looking at the revolver Which by the way is very nice, Does anyone know if you take the rear site off can you attach a rail to it? I guess my question can be well answered by S&W themselves but since I was here.

    • Bruce July 14, 2014, 8:53 am

      B Square has a Weaver style base that works as you describe. I’m sure there are other options available, I only mention the B Square because I had it on my S&W 629 in the past.

  • Greg July 14, 2014, 7:45 am

    I’ve owned a 4″ 586 (blued 686) since the early eighties. It is a sweet shooting handgun, I love the trigger. Glad to see S&W bring it back.

  • Joe McHugh July 14, 2014, 7:25 am

    Good article about the S&W 686 Plus revolver. Revolvers will always have a place in the firearms world. The comforting thing about a revolver is that it is about as simple as it gets, you pull the trigger and it goes bang. No safety to manipulate and it is always ready with a cartridge in the chamber. Handguns also have the added pluses in being highly portable and they are easier to conceal than a long gun.
    Dave Higginbotham stated that he would choose this revolver over any other firearm if he were limited to only having one gun. I disagree about this choice. However, I would be challenged to make my own choice between my
    Mossberg 590A1, 12 gauge shotgun or my Springfield Armory M1A rifle. Each has special merits and weaknesses but both would serve well for most needs.
    To tell the truth, a handgun would be my last choice as being the only firearm that I could own. I regard the handgun as only being useful until I could get to a long gun.

    • Doc July 14, 2014, 1:47 pm

      Joe, that might be because your grew up AFTER the revolver went out of style.

      I’ve been on research trips to Alaska where the camp rule was ‘pairs’ (‘partners’) – no matter what. When you went to poop in the woods you took two people with firearms, one who stood watch had a .300 win mag rifle, and the pooper a .44mag revolver. Why? Because you can draw-aim-fire and bring down a bear, or get it the f away from you with your pants around your ankles. And no silly need to ‘jack’ another round. (We carry BIG cals because three years before my first trip, air horns and pepper spray did not save a grad student, and by the time the guide got his Browning from his plane, the bear was gone.).

      I’m a Sig kinda guy. But if I were out alone on an alaskan island or at a choppered-in or fly-in station for research, my sig becomes only a noise maker, the team issued firearms are the 300 win mag rifle and the 44mag revolver, with a personal firearm that was team registered (and competency shown) 357 or 44 only shipped ahead since often we’d have to go through parts of Canada to get to our jumping off point. THEY (300, 44) were the ‘official’ anyone can use and not panic firearms. I have yet to see a ‘personal’ 357 rejected, but I’ve only been on 5 Alaskan trips in the past 15+ years, each time I had to have Team Leader approve my 357 (Colt) and a witnessed target to show I can hit what I aim at. In 5 trips the only time any firearm has been used is when someone went to the bush and got between mama and cub by mistake (in brush) and the 300 shot in the direction made mama make a detour. My bet is that the other person didn’t have to take his morning trip the next day.

      Don’t knock what you haven’t tried. A frangible 38 is an awesome PPR. Takes the place of several 9mm HP’s, though I know many Marines who would disagree, but then they have both the training and experienced reason to disagree, and if they’ve been in combat they have nerves you only wish you’d have someday.

      You may not ‘like’ the idea more than not like the firearm – so give it a try, you might be very VERY surprised at what a ‘roll mag’ sidearm can accomplish.

      EDITOR: I was JUST about to write you and suggest moving away from black plastic to ‘real’ firearms that many of us carry as beaters in our pick-ups, or take on hunting trips. Good article. thanks.

      • Joe McHugh July 15, 2014, 10:26 am

        Doc, I am 75 years old but some of my friends say that I have never grown up. I have also never been to Alaska where one can happen upon a bear unexpectedly. I would certainly take your advice if I ever visit the wilds of that 49th state.

        My preference for long guns over handguns is a hangover from my Marine Corps days. When one is on watch in a foxhole at night, a .45 caliber 1911A1 is an ideal weapon to have at hand. When a soldier or Marine is part of a mechanized team in a tank or a communications van, a pistol is a more practical firearm simply due to limited space.

        Never the less, I trusted the M1 Garand and later, the M14 rifle with my life for years and I still would, under similar circumstances. I have a younger friend who also served in the Marine Corps and now owns the civilian version of the M16A2 rifle. At the risk of alienating some of the readers, I think that this “weapon”, that has been the Standard A rifle of both the Army and the Marine Corps for nearly a half century, is a piece of junk.

        The reason that Eugene M. Stoner designed the AR 15 rifle with the Direct Gas Impingement reloading system was to keep the cost of the rifle down. The M1 and M14 rifles use the gas piston reloading systems that kept the burned gas residue under control. The direct gas impingement system fouls the receiver/bolt area with every shot fired. Even the AK47 rifle uses the gas piston system for reloading the chamber. No other country in the world uses a military rifle using the direct gas impingement system unless it was given M16’s, M16A1’s, M16A2’s or M4’s by the United States.

        I won’t even go into what wind driven sand and grit does to an M16A2 beyond saying that makes the rifle inoperable. I might even prefer a Smith & Wesson 686 Plus to an M16A2 in a combat situation. Perhaps I am engaging in a bit of hyperbole here but really! The AK47 type rifle costs approximately $40.00 to construct while the M16A2 rifle costs well over $500.00 to replace, which has the less expensive reloading mechanism?

        • Al December 11, 2014, 8:38 pm

          I agree with all you comments Original M16 was junk, and the second edition only slightly better. The AK’s have petite cartrdges that limit their range. After many decades the military realizes that what you said is true. That’s why they are going over to SCAR rifles where the sesign and construction is first class, (except for the reciprocating knob that’s a bit annoying.

  • Deborah Fenwick July 14, 2014, 6:51 am

    I’m a die hard revolver girl and the 686 with a 4″ barrel is my go-to when I am traipsing around on our property ever since my husband gave it to me for our anniversary years ago. Speed loaders were hard to find but worth the search. It’s nice to see such a positive in-depth review of a revolver. It has been dead on accurate from say one, unlike my husband’s custom revolver. It is almost indestructible. It’s much too big to be my choice for a purse gun – I leave that to my trusty little 649 five shot .357.

  • Sid Nachman July 14, 2014, 6:37 am

    My dehorned, ported, trigger jobbed, Ladysmith, never failed to fire into a one inch bull at 7 yards until I got the automatic Glock 30s itch and a adhesive holster. Now my Lady is gathering dust for lack of a concealed holster while I break my balls trying to shoot bulls at 7 yards. I guess I’ll die trying to keep up with the latest auto trend and never shoot as well as my Ladysmith ever again.

    • Al Soti July 15, 2014, 10:54 am

      Dear Sid,
      I would gladly clean out the dust that may have gathered over the years on your revolver, I will give it the much needed tlc it deserves. Do you want my closest ffl dealer license number?
      😀

    • Al Soti July 15, 2014, 10:55 am

      Dear Sid,
      I would gladly clean out the dust that may have gathered over the years on your revolver, I will give it the much needed tlc it deserves. Do you want my closest ffl dealer license number?
      😀

  • Nathan Lambshead July 14, 2014, 5:07 am

    I bought a 686 Classic Hunter the first year they came out with it. I believe it was 1987 or 88. The Classic Hunter was a limited edition run of the 686. The only real differences being an unfluted cylinder and grips are fully wrapped Hogue. The double action is fairly smooth but the single action is just incredible. I have not felt a Python that has as good a single action even.
    It is a gun I will never part with. no matter what type of shooting, whether sandpit plinking, or 100 yd gonging, you truly feel like you can’t miss. It gives me confidence I do not deserve in fact, which may help me relax and squeeze better than normal. I highly recommend every enthusiast try to add one of these to their collection. It will become the handgun you most love to shoot. i can garuantee it.

    • Bruce Leslie July 21, 2014, 9:38 am

      I purchased one of the pre-production runs of the Smith Classic Hunter in .44MAG. That pistol is incredible, and I, like you, will never part with it.

  • SmokeHillFarm July 14, 2014, 4:40 am

    Seems like a very good choice if you’re looking for a revolver, and an excellent choice of caliber.

    I have a very firm preference for revolvers over semi-autos, and especially for situations in which you might not have a gunsmith available to keep your semi sliding properly over time. No question wheelguns are FAR more reliable in the long term, and especially where old or scrounged ammo is all that’s available. And if a revolver hits on a bad piece of ammo — no problem, just pull the trigger again. No feeding problems, no jams.

    I carry a 5-inch stainless Ruger in .357, and consider it about the perfect all-purpose weapon. Some years ago a friend, just learning to reload, did about ten thousand rounds of .38 for me. I would never trust ammo like that in a semi-auto, but even if ten percent of it won’t fire (and it probably will be a lot better than that), with a revolver I can live with that just fine, considering that I paid only for the supplies — which were dead cheap that many years ago.

    The price on this 686 is a bit steep, but considering the quality and expected lifespan, it really isn’t THAT expensive for a top-quality gun.

    • Bustedknee July 21, 2014, 9:01 pm

      At last, a reply from someone who is not an employee or S&W or someone open-minded enough to try a Ruger. The Ruger GP100 is twice the gun around the same price. The Ruger is more like what a S&W revolver used to be only stouter. Ruger does not need 40 different models to satisfy their customers either.

      • Mitch December 15, 2014, 12:11 pm

        I have 0 No ties to S&W other than owning one I like most all guns and I can honestly say that after owning a few Super Red Hawks they don’t compare to the S&W in a cylinder gun

      • Mike Anderson January 17, 2015, 10:10 pm

        1 do not like ruger. I once had a blackhawk 44 magnum and it was wimpy compared to smith and wesson.

      • bb September 25, 2015, 11:47 pm

        I love my GP100. Maybe more than my 66-2. I believe the last to have the pinned barrel. And recessed cylinder.

  • Jay July 14, 2014, 4:37 am

    Two words for you: Spell Check.

    • Doc July 14, 2014, 1:51 pm

      Jay, spelling is not a sign of intelligence, or anything else important; however noticing it IS a sign of intolerance, and mentioning it is simply rude. This from a 35 year veteran of one of the Teaching Professions.

      • Pete Schlosser July 14, 2014, 7:06 pm

        In my paradigm noticing spelling errors isn’t necessarily a sign of intolerance; it might simply be an indication of early training, or an appreciation for the well-written word, or maybe just exactitude. I can spot a spelling error just glancing at a page, really can’t help myself. I agree, however, that mentioning them isn’t really needed or even polite. These days it’s well to remember that people are often posting from phones with that annoying auto-correct function anyway.
        (As a slightly tangential observation) there is a well documented direct, positive correlation between a developed vocabulary and intelligence.

        • Bob December 16, 2014, 1:34 pm

          Thanks for the info. You are correct that the revolver genre doesn’t receive the respect it deserves! The .357 magnum revolver is one of the most versatile handguns available. I have carried one for a long time and have never felt “undergunned”! (yes, I know the Common Core crowd will insist that “undergunned” is not a word. Some people miss the forest for the trees!)

          • Richard February 6, 2015, 4:02 pm

            Let’s be serious–the ‘common core’ crowd would like the word “gun” removed from the language.

        • Sam Tanner December 24, 2014, 9:55 pm

          Let it rest. You are annal about the spelling. The article was well written enough for the rest of us to read. What more is needed? I’m sure the author has better things to do with his time than take a grammar or writing lesson from you, and I’m sure the rest of us are as sick of your holier than thou attitude.

          • Bill Bob August 22, 2015, 11:56 pm

            He, he …. you said annal …

      • Pat July 15, 2014, 6:21 pm

        Correct.

        • Mitch December 15, 2014, 12:02 pm

          Thank you for the article on the 686 I have a md. 29 I love very much The only thing I don’t like is the front sight IMO it takes away from S&W handguns if they had a sight like the RedHawk I would be all but surgical with mine Createing the dilemma to scope or not to scope Naa it way to impressive as is Just can’t bring myself to change such a masterpiece I would change out the front sight pin in less than a heartbeat To all that are bothered with spell errors Shut up no one really cares that you were the geeky book nerd of our grade school day Sorry you didn’t get to spend enough time fishing or hunting like the ones you thank you shame!!

      • Dave March 17, 2015, 5:11 am

        Figures. 35 years in our ejukashun system and cant spell.

  • Mike July 14, 2014, 3:02 am

    Excellent article 🙂 I have owned a 586-2 6″ since it was new. Awesome revolvers. Crazy accurate.

    • Lee July 14, 2014, 10:00 am

      I had the 686-6 with the 3 ” barrel from the custom shop even with such a short barrel it was crazy accurate i have been kicking myself for selling it.

      • rico lib July 21, 2014, 9:41 am

        I will always go for a 3 or 4″ before the sixer. Really like the 3’s…. I want the longer barrel someday but it would not be the one gun for sudden urgent need.

    • John July 14, 2014, 10:14 am

      I have owned the 586 6″ forever as well. I hope S&W considers doing an updated 586 at some point. Love this model, but not in stainless. I’m a blued gun guy, sorry.

    • Jack Armstrong July 14, 2014, 11:29 am

      Glad to see a 7 shot 357 on the market! I have a Dan Wesson Model 15 357 with 6 inch barrel that I have had for well over 30 years. Still shoots great and very accurate. Truly more accurate and reliable than any semi auto I own. May have to pick one of these up and compare to my DW.

    • Mike Kummer July 14, 2014, 12:00 pm

      While S&W came late into the Colt frame size of the python, it is a hit. And S&W still makes it. Nice article and for the generation that only knows of plastic autos, if you ever have the chance to shoot one of these (or the same size Colts), you will know what us old farts are talking about. We too shoot a lot of metal plates and the satisfying “ping” of hitting a plate at 100 yards almost all the time if you do your part gets one hooked. I like a 38 plus P for this because of the slight pause between the bang and the “ting”. I use .357 at 200 yards. Yes, you young folks, 200 yards!

    • banditos July 14, 2014, 12:32 pm

      I have a 586 also. Good strong reliable gun. Very accurate and powerful, fun to shoot. What more could you ask for?

    • Bill Quirk July 14, 2014, 2:03 pm

      I really like the info you put out ,never miss an article !
      That being said why don’t you at least put the asking price from the maker of the items you write about ?
      TY for your great coverage ,otherwise ! Bill quirk

      • Bill Quirk July 14, 2014, 2:19 pm

        Sorry, I made my comment before I finished the article.. You did put the price in ,good .
        I must have been thinking about another site that doesn’t put the prices in …
        TKS again Bill Q

        • Robert Sweeney July 14, 2014, 5:15 pm

          Rude for a teacher to point out spelling errors? Must be a Common Core thing.

          • Mike December 8, 2014, 6:44 am

            It can be taken to be rude. I have a question though. I’ve noticed some posters doing what Quirk does, puts a space before a comma or period. Is that a thing made more prevalent by the use of phones or tablets? One thing for sure, it isn’t standard usage. It’s easy to make errors typing, I always read over my posts looking for them.

    • Snubbie July 14, 2014, 6:09 pm

      Even the 2.5″ barrel is accurate – tight bullseye group from 8 yards easy. Now contrary to this article, the 7-round speed loaders are readily available on Amazon.com and Ebay.com and not that rare . HKS Model 587-A is a basic speed loader for the 686 Plus.

      • Sal July 21, 2014, 7:51 am

        The Pro series has a 5″ barrel model which has a Performance trigger, and takes moon clips. Also has a sweet looking barrel taper.

      • Nick March 6, 2015, 12:09 pm

        I have the S.L. Variant speed loaders for mine. They are the best (made in Germany); however, you can’t buy them anymore. I got mine on eBay from a guy who had sold his 686 Plus. He had 5 of them!! The price kept on climbing and I was lucky to get two of them at just under $50 each. They are pretty awesome compare to HKS (probably the worst) or Safariland loaders.
        Look for them on eBay since from time to time; you might be able to get one.

    • René July 21, 2014, 6:08 am

      I have a 686 Target Champion 6″ and have enjoyed firind from wadcutter to magnum with the sme pleasure for more than 15 years, and it loks still like new!
      I love it!

    • Richard July 21, 2014, 3:22 pm

      This is one of my favorite handguns but I live in CA and S&W stopped selling in CA instead of joining in the fight.

      • Denny December 30, 2014, 7:19 pm

        That’s why they stopped selling in California. They are joining in the fight. Can you say “boycott”.

        • John December 31, 2014, 4:44 am

          can you say get out of that liberal run empire .

          • Hugh G Wrection January 4, 2015, 1:32 am

            I live in California but was fortunate enough to inherit my uncles model 19-4 357!

        • Mike Anderson January 17, 2015, 9:51 pm

          I live in ca. But i purchased mine in 2006.

    • Mike July 21, 2014, 4:13 pm

      My first gun is a 686 6″. I still have it, love to shoot it. It turned 23 last January. When I hunt, I carry it as my backup (eyes are not so good anymore), loaded with Buffalo Bore 180 grain lead flat nose.

    • Richard February 6, 2015, 4:00 pm

      Very nice. I’ve owned a 6-inch, 686 for over 20 years and have fired thousands of full magnum loads and even more .38 Special loads through it. Durability and reliability are great. I even used it to compete in IHMSA Hunter Pistol, a class that allowed production semi-automatics, revolvers and single-shots (except bolt action) and any type of sights, while shooting metal, knock-down targets from 25 to 100 meters. I took first place a few times with it (competing against scoped single-shots!), so I can vouch for its accuracy. And today, if I had to dump every gun but one, most likely this would be the one I’d keep–although I’d have a very hard time parting with my heavily modified Ruger Bisley .44., or my RPM XL single-shot, or…

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