Smith and Wesson 686 – What You Should Know

by Bryan

My impression of my new Smith and Wesson 686 Plus.


Smith and Wesson 686 Photo 1

Smith and Wesson 686

The Smith and Wesson 686 Plus is a seven-shot .357 Magnum/.38 Special single or double action revolver. The only difference between the standard 686 and the 686 Plus is that the 686 is a 6-shot and the Plus is a 7-shot. Mine is in the stainless steel finish and has a 6-inch barrel and a wooden grip. I purchased it new for $850 plus tax, but that’s partially due to the wooden grip and partially due to inflated gun prices under King Obama and Archduke Cuomo here in NY.

The standard version comes with a synthetic grip, which is also quite nice, but I really like the look and feel of this one. It also has a hardened steel hammer and trigger, which result in increased durability/longevity. To put it plainly, this is a handsome piece. It’s my first revolver/handgun, but it certainly is a nice one. It has a full lug underneath the barrel to protect the ejector rod, which also adds mass to the gun, making it even more fire-able. The stainless finish is very nice, and this gun plain looks and feels awesome. It’s slightly reminiscent of the famed Colt Python, in my opinion.


I just obtained this gun last week, and I’ve had it out to shoot twice, putting about 120 rounds of .357 Magnum (JSP and HP), .38 Special (LSWC), and .38 +P (Hornady Zombie Ammo!) through it with no misfires/hang-ups whatsoever.

In single action, I was able to consistently hit a pie plate at 30-50 yards, and in double action, I hit more accurately at about 20-30 yards. I have yet to try any longer range shooting, and I’m still not very well-practiced with this firearm. My father (who is a more experienced shooter than I by far) was able to shoot slightly better, but this gun has all the inherent accuracy one could ask for. The only thing that could increase the accuracy is more practice (which I plan to do plenty of!).

The only issue I had was that the spent shells of one type of ammunition (Magtech .357 magnum from wouldn’t eject cleanly from the cylinders; they put up a fight. I had to really struggle with the ejector rod and then pull the casings out manually, which was very strange. I’m not sure exactly why it did this, but it was only that ammo which did it. Perhaps the shells just expanded more than they were supposed to. That particular ammo also fired quite dirtily, and covered the 686 with powder residue, so I wouldn’t necessarily suggest it for this revolver.

I purchased two HKS speed-loaders for it, and both work quite well with a bit of practice. I could fire the 21 rounds (one manually loaded cylinder, 2 speed-loaders) very quickly, and I had to be careful because of ammo prices!! I’d suggest these speed-loaders, though, if that’s your style.

The single action is really a hair trigger, and the double action is very smooth. I could fire it about as quickly as my father’s 9mm or a .380 (though with less accuracy). It feels quite good in the hand, and it feels so massive that the recoil is really minimal, even with magnums. This last aspect makes it ideal for a smaller person or maybe a small woman looking to fire good-sized revolver. I’m only about 5-feet, 11-inches and 185 pounds with slightly above average sized hands, and I can handle it with ease. It can be fired with one hand or two, and it just feels good to get that little bit of recoil; it lets me know I’m shooting something bigger than a 9mm! It performs well, fires nicely, and doesn’t beat up your hands too much.

Survival Practicality:

Smith and Wesson 686 photo 2This gun seems like a perfect second handgun (after a Glock, perhaps) for a survival situation. The ability to fire .357 Mags or .38 Specials makes it a versatile gun, capable of taking lots of game in North America (if you have to do any hunting with it) and it’s more than capable of taking care of human adversaries, I’d imagine (though I have no experience with that aspect of it, thank God). It is heavy and large, so I don’t know that it would be good for a BOB and it certainly isn’t CCW material, but in an OC state or post-SHTF, it would be quite intimidating in a hip holster.

It also isn’t likely to break anytime soon, and it’s a relatively simply mechanism, so not too much can go wrong with it. I think it’s a fine survival revolver, and with a shorter barrel it could easily go in a BOB.

Possible Improvements:

The only thing I dislike at all (and it isn’t very much of a disliking!) is the front sight. The sights are a little large and feel clumsy to me, but I think it can be remedied by practice. The sights on a Ruger seem slightly better, but the S&W is better overall, in my opinion.

Overall Rating:

Smith and Wesson 686 photo 3After handling several other similar revolvers, the S&W is hands-down the best in this price range. I looked at the Taurus 627, the Ruger SP101, and also the Ruger GP100. While the S&W is more expensive, it definitely feels superior (at least to me), although there’s certainly nothing wrong with Taurus or Ruger. There are no major design flaws with the 686, it feels incredibly solid, I foresee myself taking several deer with it, and I think I’ll be able to hand it down to my children who will hand it down to theirs as well. I would recommend this revolver to anyone looking at this sort of firearm with no hesitation. Good luck to all and thanks for reading!



  1. The old 686,
    I knew many a Police Officer/Deputy who carried and swore by them.
    During WW II, Korea, and Vietnam, we grunts preferred a Smith J,K,or L frame revolver to a .45. They were safer to carry and quicker to bring into action. Heck, even Gen. Patton carried one or two. In Vietnam one of the first things a non-combat soldier did was get a snubbie .38 from the black market. They were carried in the breast pockets of your boonie suit. Of course Gaston Glock changed the situation greatly.

    Just so you understand what I’m saying about the old .45. Yes, it was once state of the art, but time has passed the design by. Remember, it was in production before the SPAD biplane, and in terms of design we’ve moved beyond them also.

    • tommy2rs says:

      Yet all the major gun manufacturers seem to have a 1911 in their catalog. Kimber and Wilson built companies on them. I’ve still got (and carry regularly) the one my Dad molded my hands around for the first time when I was six. Yeah, time has really passed the 1911 by.

      • tommy, I’m really surprised with your response. Usually you come up with something intelligent. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you saw a shotgun or a rifle designed with an exposed hammer? Why carry a weapon that needs 3 safeties to made it dependable, when you can have a lighter/safer weapon in a striker fired pistol.

        The fact that they still sell only says something about the Buyers, not the design itself. IT’S 100 YEARS OLD!

        • tommy2rs says:

          It’s a 100 years old, so what. If it didn’t work it wouldn’t still be around. Duh…

          Last time I saw a new design with an exposed hammer? Rossi Circuit Judge revolving rifle.
          Sig 938 9mm – single action with exposed hammer

          The Winchester 97 riot gun that’s in the wall mounted rack next to my bed has an exposed hammer and stays one in the chamber and on half cock. I don’t have to rack it to put a burglar down. Been there, done that. Twice. Plus it has something that the “modern” shotguns don’t. Slam fire.

          If it’s old so what. I’d rather have solid steel over plastic parts any day. And 100 year proven technology over NWO plastic wunderguns any day.

          My go to .22 rifle was made in 1954. Still puts three shots inside a dime sized circle off hand at 50 yards. And in all those years it’s needed one cartridge lift spring and that just a year or two ago.

          Just because it’s new doesn’t make it good and just because it’s old doesn’t make it bad. And vice versa. You play with the new crap and I’ll stick with what’s proven to work.

          • Tommy, you are changing the subject, but nice try.
            If you really think a 1898 Winchester pump, a 1894 Marlin, a 1911 Colt, or a Rossie Judge are a “modern” design, well you had better look up what the word means.

            Fact is, even the United States tried to get rid of the 1911 in the 1930’s. The plan was to replace then with M-1 carbines, but then Peal Harbor happened. Why? because it was obsolete even back then compared to what the Germans had. (Lugars/P-38’s)

            Heck, I guess if Pancho Villa ever invades Texas again with horse mounted troops we can still dig up .45’s, until then, give “The old Soldier” a decent burial, it deserves it.

          • EthanP says:

            Get your facts straight. The M-1 Carbine was a replacement for pistols because with the poor training techniques used nobody could hit with it. I have my dads training manual. They were tought to shoot handguns with a bent wrist. The Carbine was easy to shoot and to 150 yds, accurate. Unfortunately the ammo leaves a lot to be desired. As for the German 9mm’s,
            they offer nothing over the 1911. With modern HP ammo the .45 may not be much better than 9×19. But in the days of ‘Ball” only there is no comparison. The P-08 is dirt sensative. The P-38 is fragil. And it is bulkier for it’s 8rnd mag then the “Browning” HP’s 13 rounds.

        • EthanP says:

          Ghost; There ARE better designs. I have owned or shot most of them. But J.M. Browning designed the 1911 for MY HAND! And I have never had a problem with my two Colts with modern HP ammo.

          • EthanP
            I know my facts and they are as I stated. Have served in a war where M-1 carbine wounds were common as an Air Force O.R. Tech, I can tell you that that is pure B.S. concerning the .30 carbine round. Look it up genius, they are similar to the .357 mag. and they killed/are still killing on a regular basis.
            Oh, if the P-38 was such a rotten weapon, why did the Italians base the Beretta M-9 design on it ?
            As for your really dumb argument concerning 9mm vs .45 FMJ, I guess if you got shot in the head with a .45 you would be “more dead” than a 9mm huh?
            Stop reading Guns and Ammo, you’ve bought into every stupid urban gun legend there is.

          • Ghost; I don’t want to get into an online feud. I never use G&A as my source. I use S.L.A. Marshals “effects of small arms”. W.H.B. Smiths “Small Arms of the World” (5 Editions) Ezells “The Great Rifle Controversy”.

            So: The M-1 Carb was hastily developes without the usual exhaustive testing. The problem is too weak a cartridge. It’s intended to replace handguns. Handguns are rarely more than point blank weapons unless you’re a crack shot. If you check out old training films of the period, the bent elbow and wrist technique makes learning pistolcraft problematic. And in wartime you just don’t have time. You can learn to shoot a Carbine in 1/2 an hour if you have already been to basic. And it’s effective to a greater range than any pistol. The biggest problem is that if you give a soldier a weapon that looks and shoots like a rifle, they will use it like a rifle. It’s not up to 200-300yrd shooting. I’ve known hunters who used it on deer. That doesn’t make it a dee rifle.
            And yes, a 9mm is just as effective as a .45 in a head shot. Having extensive experience with both guns (P-38/1911) I would always trust the 1911 for accuracy and reliability. And the M-9 is a fine weapon. But it has durability problems. I’ld rather have a SIG or a 1911. Of course preference comes into play. With modern hollow points the caliber debate is IMHO somewhat mute. In my experience, Magnums adversely effect rapid follow up shots.

            PS: I was just informed on the latest poll that I can be too argumentative.

    • Rider of Rohan says:

      Don’t tell my Kimber that, it’s sensitive when told its old and not state of the art. And if I remember correctly there are still elements of the US Military carrying the 1911. Not that I don’t approve of Glocks, I say get at least one of each.

      • Thomas T. Tinker says:

        I to own a Kimber CDPro. I own a totally tricked out DBowie Glock21. I pet the kimber when I open the safe then strap up the Glock…. when I’m in the mood to strap on something that… large. Your right Sir Rohan… own each if you can afford it. Each of them enjoys each others company there in the dark. Old.. New… hammers or strikers… Skills skills…. Practice.. practice. Confidence.

        • Rider of Rohan says:

          Practice is the single most important thing a shooter can do, especially with a handgun. It just requires more.

    • The German Walther P-38 is a very good choice if you like 9mm . It was invented during WW2 as a practical replacement for the hard to make Luger . It served very well and is still in use today .

      • EthanP says:

        Nothing wrong with it. But there’s much better come along in 70+ years. If you can get one cheap, fine. I had one and it didn’t hold a candle to SIG, H&K, Glock etc.

    • Ghost,

      So, you advocate for revolvers yet say that the 1911 is obsolete?

      Last time I checked, revolvers have been around for a lot longer than the 1911.

      I’m just trying to understand your position here.

  2. JP in MT says:

    The 686 is one of my favorite revolvers, although I currently don’t have one. I like the 357 for my GHB, mainly for the ammunition availability and range of options. My GHB has a 16″ lever action carbine, and a 2 3/4″ snubby. The revolver carries 38 Specials and the rifle 180 gr Magnum loads.

    The 357 is one of the few rifle/pistol combo’s that I feel works for most people. 44 Magnum sets can be had, but most people can’t handle the 44 in a carriable revolver for many rounds. I like 45 Colt, but finding double action revolvers is tough. The 357 turns out to be a great option and the 686 (in your chosen variation) is a very good revolver.

    • I agree with you 100%! I really like the new .357. When I get more cashflow, I’d like to get a Henry Big Boy in .357 mag.

  3. Annie Nonymous says:

    I am a firm believer of the right tool for the job… If I’m going out on the town dressed to the 9’s, then I’m not going to be packing a Model 29 in my mini-purse; on the same thought I’m not going to try to bring my PPK to bear against, well, OK, a bear. 😉

    Let me talk a sec about why I like wheelguns for some applications…

    Crossammo – I can’t shoot 357 in my ppks, but I can shoot 38 in a 357 (and 44 special in a 44 magnum) (**SAFETY WARNING – DO NOT DO THIS THE OTHER WAY AROUND!!!) which is cheaper and less recoil for practicing (or shooting in our indoor range that doesn’t allow magnum rounds… I shoot light rounds in my autoloaders, well… can you say Stovepipe?

    Power Potential… My uncle, a 45-aholic, used to (quite successfully, BTW) handgun hunt wild boar – with a pair of 357s. My neighbor tried to shoot a Mtn Liion with her PPK-S… the noise scared the cat off (lucky her). Read a story of someone who tried to shoot a bear with a 9mm – and barely lived to tell the tale why it didn’t work. OK, yes, I know about a desert eagle etc… but how many of you carry one of those for a hunting backup? Be honest now…

    Accuracy – I have yet to see a glock with an 8 1/2″ barrel… and maybe it’s just me, but my wheelguns seem to hit inside the ring more often than my favorite 1911. Maybe it’s that hyperpredictable trigger pull on the wheelgun, I dunno… but it’s consistant. (and if I can’t hit what I’m aiming at, it doesn’t matter if I have 6 shots or 8 or 17… a miss is still a miss!).

    Speed – OK, you win… for reloading, an auto wins hands down, but if you PRACTICE with a speedloader they’re not too shabby… but you gotta PRACTICE. And worst case scenario, you can manually load 6 rounds in a cylinder by hand (to me at least) than 8 in an autoloader mag and then lock the mag and start shooting… I’ve tried and timed it, and yep, that ol’ fashioned wheelgun has a return to battery seconds off my fumblin’ thumbs and my 45. Maybe it’s just me, tho…

    Comfort. OK, this is all subjective… but there are some firearms that are either too wide or too narrow to shoot comfortably and consistantly. And while my 45 is pretty comfy, no doubt, it’s still 2 flat sides with a backstrap. The grips on any given wheelgun are ultimately controllable – from Pachmyr Semisoft-n-grippy (on my model 29) to walnut carved to fit *my* hand (my model 27 hunting backup)… And I haven’t mentioned Limp-Wristing – like anything, it’s an awful habit to get into (and a fatal one to boot!) and easy to break yourself of, but… with a revolver, it’s a non-issue.

    I’m NOT saying the autoloader doesn’t have its place – I love my 1911 to no end, and yes, a 380 is a wonderful thing to accessorize with (–grins–) and I’d rather NOT be the girl with a knife at a gunfight… but like using a wrench as a hammer or a screwdriver as a chisel, I believe in the old adage, the right tool for the right job. And in some circumstances, that old fashioned wheelgun may just be that “right tool”. Especially with Mama Bruin squinting at you because you accidentally got between her and her cubs…

  4. axelsteve says:

    You can`t beat a smith that is for certian. The 357 is a great caliber it is great for taking down dangerous game and dangerous people. I would not feel undergunned with one in America.People with the nwo pistols may smirk and discount them, I just pitty the fools who do.

    • axelsteve,

      I agree with you there. Anything bigger than the .357 becomes a bit unwieldy; I would not want to fire a snub-nosed .44 magnum with any type of rapidity.

      What do you mean ‘nwo pistols’? New World Order pistols??

      Please elaborate, if you find the time.


      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

        The .44 Special is not bad in a snub nose gun. I have an original 1st Generation Charter Arms Bulldog, a very plain but serviceable 3″ barrelled revolver. Great packing gun and it even takes CC1 .44 shotshells for snakes if that is a concern.

        If it weren’t for the cost of factory ammunition, I’d recommend it. I really wish someone made a .45acp snub nose, that would work well I think.

      • axelsteve says:

        Hi Bryan. When I say nwo pistols I mean new world order as you guessed. I like my Father prefer the large bore pistols such as 45 caliber and other magnum calibers over the euro influenced mm designated cartridges.I like the browning hi power it is a great gun.I just would rather have a larger caliber for hunting or soacal work.I would keep said hipower ,It would not be my go to gun for serious drilling holes into things that can harm me. My grandpa carried a 45 and 06 in ww1 and made it back alive as did my uncle in ww2.Why mess with results?

        • I gotcha, axelsteve. I can’t seem to hit anything with my dad’s Glock or his Sig, at least not at any distance. I’m a fan of the bigger bore handguns as well, but I think the “nwo” pistols have their place.

          My dad also has his father’s Korean War era -06, and I shot my second doe with it.


  5. Enzo Pamrona says:

    Ammo question:

    Was the Magtech the only Magnum ammo you shot? Did you shoot the magnums after a great of shooting with the 38 Specials? It could be that the magnum casings were being held snug by powder residue from the 38s.

    • Enzo,

      I believe you’re completely correct. I got to thinking about why the .357s got sticky after I wrote this review, and I think it must be due to the .38s I fired before them.

      I’m new to this, so that was a rookie mistake to blame the ammo.


      • Enzo Pamrona says:

        Glad I could provide some help. There is a great forum for discussing S&W’s,, that can provide insight into and help with S&W revolvers (and autoloaders as well). The only problem with the forum is that you will see pics of such nice Smiths you will be tempted to become a Smith collector (I fight the trend weekly).

        Best of luck!

  6. Enzo Pamrona says:

    Autoloaders are NOT the only handguns for self-defense.

    Your 686 will requite itself honorably in the defensive role. There is a plethora of 38 Special rounds tailored for defensive work (easier on the gun and easier on you). For the last 25 years all we have heard is how you need to have some “wunderpistol” with huge ammo capacity to be able to defend yourself. It is not the gun that will defend you but your skill in using it. The conventional revolver excels in that role.

  7. SCPrepperPoppa says:

    Excellent review!
    Back when I was your age, about 40 years ago (yikes!) I owned a S & W “highway patrolman”. It had a 6″ barrel and it too was .357. Wish I still had that one! You bought well for yourself!

    • tommy2rs says:

      I’ve still got a S&W 28-2 highway patrolman that stays in my nightstand with some special Buffalo Bore ammo in it. I had a S&W 581, 4″ bbl fixed sight version of the 586. It was sweet gun. Action smooth as glass and the fixed sights dead on. I got it in a trade and subsequently traded it off a few years later. I’ve just always liked the N-frames better than the L or K frames for the heavy loads I prefer for outdoor use.

    • Thanks! I wrote it after taking two Engineering finals and right before I went into work, so I was sure I’d mess up somewhere. Glad it came out okay. But it’s too bad you let yours go. I’m hoping finances won’t ever be bad enough where I’ll have to sell this one.

      • Rider of Rohan says:

        Bryan, my oldest son is a Mechanical Engineer, and my daughter just completed her first year in a Chemical Engineering program. Pretty neat.

        • RoR,
          I’m currently studying to be a Chem. E. as well. I’m also about to finish my first year. It’s a challenge, but I think the income will allow for good preps, good guitars, and good finances for the kiddies. My long-time girlfriend (and future wife) is studying to be a nurse, so I think we’ll make out alright.

          LOTR (and Tolkien in general) are my absolute favorites- movies and books.


  8. Sulaco says:

    Humm seven rounds? Good thing in NY huh? If it was an eight round you would have to leave one cylinder chamber empty right? 🙂 Oh you can get a separate permit to carry three rounds “in your pocket” if you have a ten rounder??? I hate NY

    • Sulaco,

      Yes, I’m as big of a hater of NY as you! But I went with the 7-rounder over the 6-gun because now it’s got the same capacity as any legal autoloader here. That way, when the law-abiding criminals and thugs come after me, they’ll have to keep 7 rounds in their illegally obtained 33-round Glock mags and we’ll be evenly matched;)

      I plan to leave NY after college, head somewhere down south.

  9. k. fields says:

    Bryan – Nicely done article that I think will be useful to a lot of people.
    Personally, I stick with .45acp so I have a S&W 625 to compliment my 1911, but I certainly can see how people could profit by having a .38/.357 combo.

    • Mr. Fields,
      I appreciate the kind words, and I totally respect your choice of a .45 ACP. I have not had the chance to fire a 1911 yet, but I’ll get one some day. However, I’m primarily an outdoors-man before a true survivalist, so I went with what suited me. I’m thinking I’ll be able to use the .357 for deer-hunting and as a sidearm if I ever were to need something to drop a small bear. That’s what’s so cool about guns… everyone can be pretty well unique in what they get based on what their needs are.

  10. Smiths are great guns. I have relatively small hands, though, so I prefer the S&W J-frames to the bigger guys.

    My wife also has fairly small hands, and is more comfortable with revolvers, so we have a J-frame Model 60, 3 inch barrel in .38/.357 for her.

    She is right handed, but left eye dominant, so has always struggled with shooting. We put Crimson Trace laser grips on the Model 60, and she loves it. The red dot shows up in bright sunlight to 20-30 feet, but really shines in low or indoor light.

    One nice feature about the whole series of J-frames is the size: they are small and light weight, so they are nice for wearing. For our purposes, a GHB or a BOB needs to be as light as possible, so a small frame gun is worth considering even for those comfortable with bigger frames. The J-frame is not really fun to shoot with full house .357s, but it will do it, and in a small package.

    Another plus to using a J-frame in .38 or .357 is the possibility of using a Model 63 .22 for target practice. Everything is the same except the price of ammo. It does nearly double the hardware cost, but if you shoot the .22 for fun the difference in costs pays for the second gun pretty quickly— and you then have a second gun.

    The snubby .38s also fit comfortably in loose pants or jacket pockets, which may at times be useful.

    Fun shooting with .22 handguns: if you have a safe place to do so, try tossing some empty shotgun shells out on hard dirt, maybe 15-20 feet away. Start shooting at them single action, then double action. If you aim for the plastic part, and hit it, they hop a couple feet. If you shoot for the brass, they really zing off. Lots of fun.

    Golf balls are fun too, but they do go for dozens of yards when you hit them, so are a bit of a pain to recover.

    Start out slow and as you get better, shoot faster. Dinky reactive targets at short distances are a lot of fun, and great practice.

    The other end of the spectrum is shooting .22s and defensive caliber handguns at 75-125 yards. 100 yards is reaching way out there for a .22 handgun, but they will do their part if you do yours. Steel plates at that distance ring with a barely audible ‘clink’, but enough to tell you connected. It’s important to have your target surrounded by dry dirt -or maybe a big puddle- so you can see where each miss is impacting. Grass is worthless: You never know where the shot hit.

    If you are ever so unlucky as to need to engage at long range with a handgun, you will at least know you can do it, albeit fairly slow fire. That’s a big plus for confidence, and a lot of fun when you realize you can do it consistently.

    • Tom B,

      I’d really like to get an older S&W .38 snubby someday! I’ve always liked the old police guns.

      I have made some pretty long shots with my Dad’s old Ruger Single-Six .22 Mag. The local range had some steel out about 150-170 yards away and my little brother and I were always trying to hit it with the .22 pistol! We made impact more often than not, although we had to aim about 2 or 3 feet above it:)

      I’ll report back when I try some .357s at long range.


      • Hey Bryan, 150-170 yards is REALLY reaching out there with a .22 handgun, even in Magnum. Wow.

        I do have a couple of the older S&W .38 snubbies, one in steel frame, the other in aluminum. I like them both, but if I was buying today, I’m satisfied I would go with the aluminum frame.

        My thinking is that while the steel frames will stand up to more shooting, snubbies are for carrying a lot, shooting a little. For me, the point of the snubbie is to be easy to carry, and part of that is weight. That would be all the more important in a GHB or a BOB, though I think I would opt for a longer barrel.

        Once I made the decision to have revolvers, I decided that they would all be S&W J-frames so that they would all be as close to identical as possible: Same size, same safeties, same direction of movement for the cylinder releases, etc.

        So far I have gone the same way for the same reasons with semi-autos: All 1911s, in .45ACP and .22.

        Again, my thinking is that while other guns and calibers may well be superior in some ways, uniformity of the manual of arms is more important to me. Under pressure, one reverts to training. It’s bad enough to switch between revolvers and semi-autos, but throwing in the differences between controls within each type could be catastrophic.

        Of course, there is nothing magic about either J-frames or 1911s: it is the concept of uniformity that I want. One could just as easily choose to go all Glock in multiple calibers, or some other type. It just happens that when I was starting out with handguns in the late 1970s, Mel Tappen’s book “Survival Guns” was very influential on me. He liked variety, but I did take his recommendation for the 1911 very seriously. As I recall, it was John Bianchi’s book on holsters which influenced me to go with uniform systems rather a variety of gun models which have different controls.

        Today, 35 years or so of developments later, I might very well choose other systems than J-Frames or 1911s, but for me the concept works very well. Ideally I would choose either revolvers or semi-autos, but I do like both and have been willing to take the chances of bobbling between the two.

        • um….. “same safeties” obviously does not apply to the Smiths! My brain got ahead of me and was thinking of the 1911s. Color me red faced!

          • Tom B,

            Good call on the uniformity… I’m thinking that (if I can afford it) I’ll try to stick with all S&W revolvers and all Glock autos.

            I’ll have to check out those books at some point.


  11. Rider of Rohan says:

    Nice article, Bryan. You made the right choice for your wheelgun, I believe. I have the Taurus Tracker in .38/.357 and it fires 7 rounds as well. It’s a nice revolver, but my S&W Model 29 is just a better made handgun. I will say I paid considerably less for my Taurus($400 a few years ago secondhand) than you, but all prices are out of sight right now. If I had to choose just one handgun and that’s all I could have, it would be the one you bought. Good effort on your first article, it was easy to read and very informative.

    • Eomer,

      Thanks! I looked very closely at that Tracker too, but there were enough iffy reviews that I decided I’d shell out the extra cash for a Smith.

      I’m glad I seem to have made a good choice. I definitely did my homework on it.

      -Bryan, son of Hama 😉

      • axelsteve says:

        My Dad had a taurus 357 and the rear sight fell off of it. It took a long time for the factory to fix it. that was 15 years or so ,they may have gotten better.I hope so.

      • Rider of Rohan says:

        Haleth, I probably would have gone ahead and spent the extra money for the Smith had I not gotten such a good price on the Taurus. And to be honest, the Tracker has served me well over the past few years. I’ve carried it concealed(it has a 4 in. barrel) at times, and have felt very well armed and confident it would fire when needed. More often than not I carry a Kimber or Glock these days, but ever once in a while I get the wheelgun out. My six-inch Model 29 in .44 mag. doesn’t work for concealed carry unless you are Dirty Harry. I still can’t figure out how he did

        • axelsteve, I’d heard too many stories like that!

          I would have to say that any 6-inch barrel would be difficult to CC… I’d say to leave that to the Glocks. A Model 29 like Mr. Eastwood’s is definitely a great gun. I hope to obtain one someday.


  12. Sirius says:

    Nice article Bryan,

    That was the firearm my dad taught me to shoot with when I was 8. His was a stainless 2 1/2 inch barrel. The beautiful thing about that design was that a first-time shooting 8 year old could hit the target with magnum loads. I’m sure that’s why he chose it. I would have probably been discouraged out of shooting if he would have picked any other gun for my first time. You chose well.

    • Thanks, Sirius!

      I can see how shooting anything larger than a .357 mag would be discouraging… I know I fired my Dad’s friend’s 10 gauge when I was about 10 years old; that made me a little gun-shy for a while! But I’m happy I’ve had the experiences I have with guns.

      Thanks again for the kind words.


  13. Bryan,. Two thumbs way up on your first article. I’ve carried S&W revolvers for over 40 yrs. Never had a problem. Excellent choice with the 686. Welcome to the Pack.

    • Thanks much, Hollis. I appreciate it! I plan to keep this one as long as I’m around, God-willing.

      • Hollis says:

        Just remember to keep it clean and make every shot count. My current rig is a 686 in 44 mag with a 44 mag lever action rifle. Both good for whatever crosses my path. 2 or 4 legged. My bugout vehicle is a horse, by the way.

        • Hollis–love your Bug-out transport. Good ‘ole Equine! Magnificent creatures. I’ve used 4 x 4 trucks and an old 1951 Ferguson TO30 tractor getting up hills–but you can’t beat a horse! Non-horse people just “don’t get it.”

          Good for you. P.S. stock up on decent hay while you can; it gets mighty scare during droughts these days. Better still, grow your own in a pasture.

          all the best…

          • Hollis says:

            Thanks for the kind words. Big Fella is trained to pull a wagon, a plow and is saddle broke. Others laugh at the “old man” on the big horse but in my family, he is the ultimate SUV. Good pasture both here and with my neighbors. We run between 8 to12 head. Old school all the way.

          • Hollis,
            A regular cowboy set-up! I’m jealous.
            Nice firearm choices by the way; I’ve always liked lever-actions. My current deer rifle is a Marlin 30-30, but I’m going to try for a .357 magnum levergun at some point.

          • axelsteve says:

            I like the marlin 30/30. You have good choice in guns,is that from your engineering background?

          • axelsteve,

            Thanks. My gun choices come from my dad’s preferences actually. I do have some understanding of metals and mechanisms from my chemistry and engineering work, but I’m just a freshman in college, so I don’t have too much of a “background”, per se. My father just shoots a lot of leverguns and his father before him, so I shoot one as well!


          • Thanks Bryan. I try to stay with tried and true systems. The more you can use ammo between weapons the better off you will be. Marlin had a nice 38/357 available awhile back.(meaning a few years. I’m getting a little old.) Find a good lever gun and you are good to go. Best wishes on your schooling.

  14. Good review and great revolver, Bryan! Over the years (70+), I’ve really come to appreciate Smith & Wesson–their quality, craftsmanship, but most of all–lifetime warranty. Any problem whatsoever, call the factory, they email you a prepaid return FedEx label, send it back, they fix all, and speedily return your gun. Can’t beat that. I’ve had turn-around times less than 2 weeks when I had very slight issues. Go S&W!

    In real life, when I ran into a bunch of punks on my property one night bent on giving me grief, I advised them to talk to my “partners,” in hand, “Mssrs. Smith & Wesson.” No argument–you shoulda seen that pickup haul butt in reverse. Another case of the 2nd Amendment preventing devilment by merely “showing up” when needed.


    • Kin_of_Sgt. Alvin C. York,

      Thanks! I’m hoping I won’t need to use the warranty if I take good care of it, but we’ll see.

      Glad to see that your S&W has served you well. I can see a big old .357/.44 magnum giving some punks quite a scare. I should know; I’ve been peers with that sort of punk for most of my life. Most are just bass-ackwards little Nancy-boys.

      Hope you avoid problems with them from now on and you never have to use your “partners” for real!


  15. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I’ve owned a 586 (blued version 6 shot) for many years now, it is one helluva gun. Mine has a 4″ barrel for easier packing. It isn’t going anywhere. This design was designed to supercede the Model 66 iirc, likewise a great gun.

    My preference though is a slightly lighter gun – the Ruger Security-Six. The S&W L frame and Ruger GP-100 were born from fears of long term shooting effects of Magnum ammunition. Standard practice then when shooting the .38 Special in practice and shooting .357 for duty.

    • South Texas,

      I think the blued guns are great too. I’d like to get a Model 29 .44 mag someday.

      I’ve never shot the Security-Six, but I’d sure like to.

      Is it a good idea to shoot .38s for practice and then .357 when it matters? It seems that one would lack experience shooting the stiffer recoil of a magnum. I suppose that it might be a minor thing. It just seems kind of flawed to me. What are your thoughts?


      • EthanP says:

        Bryan; The Model 29 is loads of fun. I would recomend checking out a used one with a gunsmith. I have found S&Ws rather fragile. Not everyone has. But I think 5 out of 6 broken compelling. And I baby mine.
        The Security Six is fine. I’ve never owned one but friends do. If you have large hands you’ll want after market grips.

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

        Well, it USED to be a good idea, but now that any ammunition is at a premium, having any practice ammunition certainly doesn’t hurt. The price of shooting .357 PD defense rounds is high (last I saw was $30 for 20 rounds – say WHAT!). Even LEOs are grumbling that their practice is cut short because of the lack of ammunition (the Feds are strangely silent on this).

        I freely admit in snub nose, the .357 (and larger) are fearsome beasts, their recoil and report is just too much for me to handle without developing a flinch. For others – roll with it just fine. I think with the advances of bullet construction, a lot of ‘minor calibers’ now perform pretty well.

        The Model 29, especially pre-locks are really nice. In fact all of the vintage S&Ws were finely made. I have no idea how to compare to now because I don’t own any modern S&Ws.

      • You might try this. In the past we would load every other chamber with mag. That way you could get the feel of both loads. Just remember which one is first under the hammer.

  16. Thomas T. Tinker says:

    Bryan: Thank you for a good piece of work. It has gotten us all a lot of good conversation and input. I think… IMO.. that the wheel gun is a staple that cannot be overlooked any more than the brute & effective 1911. Saying this as I look over to my right at the thumb snap De Santis that I keep in a basket along with 3- 5rd. speed strips and the ‘wheel’ gun I carry every time I cross the property line. MD… this was good for us all. Thanks

    • Mr. Tinker,

      Thanks for the positive words. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think you’re right on about the revolver as a true staple. It’s been around too long and it’s too effective to discount it. I don’t think there’s anything more reliable.


  17. EthanP says:

    My only comment is this: Of 5 S&W revolvers I have owned, all but one have required the attention of a gunsmith. All but the one were manufactured between 1970 to 1980. The exception was made in 1937. Pre union. While all are quite accurate and pleasant to shoot, I would be reluctant to depend on them long term without a complete set of parts and tools.

    • EthanP,

      I hope you’ve just had really bad luck with S&Ws! I’ve never heard of such a bad string of events with them. It might be a good idea to get the complete set of parts, tools, and a good understanding of how to use them all together anyway… Thanks for your insight, though.

      Which brand do you choose over S&W? I always thought they were the “Cadillac” of revolvers.


      • EthanP says:

        As I said, they were all made between 1970-1980. A time when “union made” meant crap. Remember the cars back then? I hope they do things better now. Most of the commercial guns I bought at that time had serious problems. Those that didn’t had cosmetic flaws. It’s a major reason I usually buy Military Surplus. It’s also one of the reasons I love the 1911. Parts are cheap, plentifull and except for the ejector I can do everything myself. And even today MilSurp parts are still reasonably cheap and plentifull.The main advantage (IMHO) of revolvers is ammo tolerance. Squibs to +Ps or even Magnums.
        If you’re interested I’ld be happy to list the guns and their problems. You might be surprised by some of the names on the list.

        • I understand. However, I do not remember the 1970’s; I’m too young for that. I do know that quality of things seemed to suffer. I’m no fan of unions, personally.

          • Bryan; Back in the 70s and 80s Cadillacs were crap too.
            But the QC problems were with Winchester, Harrington &Richardson, High Standard, Sprinfield Armory (M1A). This doesn’t even include the poor finish on a Winchester shotgun and a Colt 1911. But at least they always worked. The only revolver that never gave me any trouble was a Rossi .38 snubby.

          • EthanP,

            That’s strange! The only gun I’ve ever had issues with was a Rossie 410. Weird how we have different experiences with the brands!


          • All I can say is that many guns I’ve had good experience with have been panned. And vs versa.
            And thos S&Ws of mine. All tack drivers except the snubbie. Had a bad chamber. One shot 6″ off at 7yds. Two feet at 25.

  18. GA Red says:

    From my DH

    The first gun I ever bought was a S&W model 686 with a 6″ barrel in about 1985. I paid $250. I have 7 hand guns now and they all have their area in which they excel. That said if the SHTF and I could only take 1 hand gun it would be the S&W 686. It is the most versatile and the most accurate.

    When I bought mine I think S&W was having some quality issues. There was a giant burr hanging off the ejector clip and I could only get 5 rounds in it. I got a flat and a round stone (like a sharpening stone) and took the whole gun apart. Every little piece. The trigger parts were not deburred either. I hand stoned every part on it and refit it all together. Wow did it shoot nice after. I have never had a case get stuck in it. I have shot 6 rounds in about a 3/4″ hole at 25 yards on a sandbag. You almost can’t miss with it.

    But one thing for sure, you can’t beat the intimidation factor of it!

    • EthanP says:

      As stated above I too have had QC problems with S&W. To be fair, most of the ‘brand’ names did back then. I’m curious to hear if it’s still a problem.

    • GA Red,

      Tell your DH that I’m glad to have made the same decision as him! He sounds like a smart man 😉

      Strange that they had those issues… I’m pretty sure I’ve corrected for the issue I had with shells being stuck (a rookie mistake). It sounds like yours turned out alright anyway!

      and EthanP,

      I’ll be sure to update you if I start having QC/gunsmith-worthy issues with my own.


  19. Southern Girl says:

    Ok men. I have been contemplating this for 10 months. All of you have differing opinions on pistols. I have wanted a 9mm since having my eyes opened to the current situation last year, but with limited ammo availability not sure that’s wise. I loved the feel of the pistol in my hand. I own a 32 S&W which I purchased in Memphis many years ago while living alone. Of course, I haven’t used for target practice in years. All this aside. I need some SERIOUS help here on deciding which hand gun would suit me best. I have limited use of my neck due to an MVA & lifting light weights now for arm strength so need limited recoil. Any help would be so appreciated as my DH thinks my concern is a big joke. I just want to even the playing field if it becomes necessary. Thanks to all of you for all the great info & well written review Bryan.

    • SG,
      Your requirements seem to be:
      -Self defense
      -Light weight
      -Low recoil
      Correct? I’d look hard at a wheel gun in .22 Magnum. And for the nay-sayers out there, the .22 in the hand trumps the Desert Eagle in the safe every time.

      • I’d second the .22magnum. It works well, out of proportion for it’s size. If you like a DA revolver, sometimes extraction for reloading can be stiff. I believe Kel-Tec still makes the PMR-30 which holds 30 rounds of .22 magnum in an autoloader format.

        • EthanP says:

          Do you know if it’s reliable? I’ve heard that .22WMR can have extraction problems. Not a problem in a bolt action rifle.
          If she goes revolver, what about the 327Mag. Takes 32H&R and 32S&W.

        • axelsteve says:

          I had a s&w 617 in 22 lr beast of a gun *.3/8 barel with target sights and trigger.I do not if they offer it in 22 mag though.

    • Southern Girl,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      I would honestly suggest a .380 auto, but .22 magnum would do the trick too. If you’re set on a 9mm, I’d say to go for the Glock 19. There are tons of choices in the low recoil area.

      What is your price range? Do you want to concealed carry this handgun?


    • Thomas T. Tinker says:

      Heres another ring of the bell Ma am. Level of threat…. size of perp.. dog.. small rabid child, etc. What level of training can you get with your choice of firearm. I gave my DD a custom G19. Sent her to TDI for training and she runs an IDPA match now and again down in Ft. Meyers. She is very aggressive about her space and who is in it. My DW cannot pull the slide on a Glock. She runs a Walther 380 She has done a pistol l,ll,lll training series and is confident with it. DW also runs a 22 mag revolver in her GHBag. Lots of anecdotal information out here isn’t there.

      Story time… Your in a large room with two men. one is Woody Alan. He is.. attempting.. to lift a ‘Dirtry Harry S&W Mod. 29 off the floor toward you. The other fella.. is.. Dirty Harry and he is looking at you like a steel eyed snake down the crappy sights of a 1″ barreled 22 short pocket pistol. Who is the greater threat.

      Isn’t it all about skills and the will to let.. you…end the fight?

    • JP in MT says:

      ISouthern Girl:

      I personally have a Ruger LCP that is my everyday carry gun. Although small the recoil is VERY manageable. I see now that Ruger has a slightly larger version, the LC380.

      They also chamber this same size for 9mm. With current ammunition, and my experience with the LCP, I am personally looking to get a LC380. I use Corbon 80 gr HP (solid copper bullets). I was watching on the Wednesday shooting shows and they showed these 80 gr, from an LCP going through 7 or 8 1/2″ plywood sheets! I really like the DPX ammo as advertized, and it is my woodland carry load. The show confirmed my opinion.

    • Rider of Rohan says:

      Southern Girl,
      My wife shoots a Ruger SR-22 in .22lr for her carry pistol. She loves it. I also have a Glock19 that she periodically uses, but prefers the SR-22 because she is able to shoot it more accurately. A hit with a .22lr is better than a miss with a G19 is what she says. Can’t argue with that, but the SR-22 does require more practice to operate if that is an issue. It has a manual safety as opposed to the Glock trigger safety which is a simpler mechanism.

  20. EthanP says:

    There are so many variables. Do you have weight restrictions. Recoil?
    You seem to like the 9×19. So without brand picking, I would recomend something that you can get a .22LR conversion for. There are several. I base this on the availibility and price of quality defense ammo. It’s my main complaint with revolvers at this time. Though .38spcl seems to be availible. But it’s still expensive if you want to put 100-200 rounds out. Handloading is almost at bad. And if you haven’t done much shooting of late, you will need to practice a lot. Hope this helps.

    • As I said above, I am a big fan of practice with .22. Either a conversion unit or a second gun essentially identical to your primary. Even today, .22 is so much cheaper than anything else that you can afford to pop off 500 rounds now and then without worrying too much about the cost. Can’t do that with .380, 9mm, or anything else.

      This goes for a battle rifle as well. When I got my Mini-14s many long years ago, I picked up a conversion unit from Jonathan Arthur Ciener. It made a big difference in the amount of practice I could afford, and have been happy ever since. I expect there are units for the AR-15 these days as well. They are also excellent for introducing new shooters to the basics without recoil or cost issues.

      I just Googled Ciener, and see he has had some significant legal problems lately. I am not taking any position on his current products or legal woes. There are other conversion units out there.

  21. I’ve owned the S&W 586 with a four inch barrel for years, it’s the blued version of the 686… It’s a fine revolver.

    Reference the empties sticking in the cylinder, you may need to have the chambers polished?

    The first thing I did when I received my 586 was to get a trigger job done at Clark Custom Guns located in Princeton, Louisiana, near Shreveport. And, it’s the first thing I’d have done to most firearms, too.

    • Nolan,

      Your 586 sounds awesome! I’m a big fan of the old style, blued with wooden grips revolvers.

      Also, I remedied the issue with the sticking. I had been firing .38s before I fired any .357 mags, and since the casing is shorter on the specials, it created a bit of a ring of powder residue and gunk on the inside of the chambers which caused the longer .357s to get stuck. I guess that any experienced shooter would have known this, but I am a bit of a rookie.


  22. Southern Girl says:

    Thanks for all the advise. Yes, I do have plans to obtain a CW permit after much practice & some muscle strengthening. Need something light in weight due to neck surgeries from the car accident. Also, may need a good gun manual for dummies, as I have no idea what some of you are talking about. However, not concerned about using a weapon if needed to protect myself or family. Not looking for anything collectible, just a hand gun to get the job done.
    Thanks to all again. I appreciate all the suggestions and now have some interesting research & shopping in the near future.

    • Being that much of a novice, I strongly urge you to locate a quality instructor who is use to dealing with women shooters. Women can have different concerns than men where guns are concerned. A range may also let you shoot various gun/ammo combinations to see what suites YOU. You are better off with a .22LR you can hit with than a 9mm you can’t. And you want something you enjoy shooting. You want to look forward to going to the range, not dread it.

      • EthanP, you hit it right on the head.

        >>You are better off with a .22LR you can hit with than a 9mm you can’t. And you want something you enjoy shooting. You want to look forward to going to the range, not dread it.<<

        All the stats I have seen suggest that in over 90% of cases in which a victim with a gun stops a crime, the gun isn't fired. In those cases where the gun is fired, the shooter often misses. So in over 90% of real life cases, the caliber does not matter. It is the presence of the gun that counts, not how big a piece of lead it throws.

        Does that mean we should all go for .22s? Of course not. But you are right: hitting the target takes practice, and cheap ammo allows lots of practice. It also lets one concentrate on having fun instead of thinking about the $20 bills flowing out of the muzzle. Having fun promotes more practice.

        Hitting a bad guy who is high on drugs a few times with a .22 is a lot more effective than missing him every time with a 9mm/.40/.38/.45/.380 you haven't been able to afford practicing with.

  23. For the record, a S&W 686 sleeps in my nightstand stoked with .38 +P JHPs. I have no desire to light off a .357 Mag in a darkened room- everyone involved would be rendered deaf and blind by the blast and flash, and the drapes will be on fire!
    But the .357 Mag does get attention at the range…

    • AW1Ed,

      That sounds like a good home defense set-up. I personally use the 870 with magnum birdshot and then some 00-buck. I don’t want to kill anyone in the next room over.

      Is .38 special +P really that much different? My experience was that they seemed similar in recoil and report, but I’d need to shoot in the dark too. I definitely like to big guns!


  24. Southern Girl says:

    Thanks EthanP. That sounds like good advise. We have a shooting range 10 minutes away. My first trip will be next weekend as my DH didn’t want to go Mother’s Day wkend. Imagine that! Thought it was my Mother’s Day & that’s what I wanted.LOL!

  25. Do they make the SMITH AND WESSON MODEL 686 plus in a nickle finish? I’ve seen them on you tube videos but i can’t seem to find any for sale.

    • Can you put a nickle finish on a stainless steel gun? I would think nickle might be on a 586, the blued version.

  26. how is smith and wesson 686 plus in 3 inch?

  27. Kenneth Shank says:

    This may have already been pointed out but I haven’t gone through all 100 comments because they have wandered way off into the boonies. I’m buying a 686+ ($880 total including taxes) so I have been doing a little reading and came upon a source that says the 357 case ejection problems come from shooting them after shooting a bunch of 38 special which leaves a residue in the cylinder. I have no experience to verify this but it sounds plausible.

  28. I’ve noticed that in the 6 chamber version. Some people handload 38SPCL loads in .357 cases. Same for 44Mag/44SPCL.

  29. JP in MT says:

    Kenneth Shank:

    That has been my experience. Put it will take quite a few (or less if you use something like Herco powder, that is very dirty).

    When handloading you can load up whatever pressures you want. I use a clear-type red -tint fingernail polish on my “hot loads” and black on the Blackpowder loads. I might use a different color for light 38’s in a 357 case but I only load it with a specific “cowboy” bullet.

    Keep an eye on the amount of powder you use, as there can be a problem if you use too little. I recommend “Trail Boss” for light loads. It was designed for Cowboy action shooters, as they usually have minimal loads, to prevent that from happening. It can blow up a gun – something to do with resonation when there is nothing between the primer hole and the bullet base. I personally have never seen it happen but the pictures look just like a “double load” of a fast burning powder – bad things!

  30. Great review B,

    We’re two outdoorsy IT workers here in Silicon Valley who are shooting skeet on and off, and the associated pistol range over where we shoot only allow revolvers, so now we’re both looking for our first wheel gun (it’s a traditional western/hunting type of place with a family oriented and outdoorsy culture). The 686 came up as the default option as a result of comments I’ve read here and there (I’m otherwise a German Sig fan boy and have a number of go-to Glocks here and there).

    I was dabbling with getting a .44 Magnum for a minute, but your article swayed my to a 686 which seems to be the more reasonable and practical offering. I like the Plus and I’m thinking a 4 inch barrel minimum. Thanks for for sharing!

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