Smith’s “Special-K” Model 66 .357

Resurrecting A “Super Snubbie”
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In 1971 S&W introduced a stainless-steel version of their Model 19 .357 Magnum. Without rehashing the history of Bill Jordan’s K-Frame M19 dream gun, the M66 — as it was listed — became a go-to tool for cops and we mere citizens, much as the original blued version (introduced in 1957) had been.

The Model 66’s superiority to the previous models of fixed-sight, skimpy stocked service revolvers was — like the groundbreaking M19 — readily apparent. Excellent adjustable sights and the ramped front blade allowed proper zeroing throughout the considerable velocity and bullet weight/style range of .38/.357 loads.

If there was a gripe with the M19/M66, it generally concerned the perceived inability of the K-Frame to withstand large doses of .357 Magum pounding. I’ve heard arguments to the effect this is an exaggeration. It may be or it may not be, but whatever it is probably has a lot to do with your definition of what “large doses” of .357s constitute. I’ve shot my share of M19s and M66s and all I can say is this: I got tired of the magnums well before the guns did!

The fact of the matter is, with a couple of exceptions (notably Remington’s 125-gr. Golden Saber and a couple of Buffalo Bore “Low Flash, Low Recoil” offerings), the .357 is probably pretty abusive to medium-frame guns over the long haul. Anyone seriously contemplating shooting a ton of mags had better get a bigger, heavier gun. Smith did compromise, however, with the larger, heavier L-Frame M586 introduced in 1981.

Perhaps because of the popularity of autos in the LE market, or the success of the L-Frame, the Model 66 was discontinued in 2006. But there’s a lot of K-Frame addicts out there, and the Model 66 was reintroduced two years ago in 4.25″ trim. Now the company has introduced the “snubbie” version which — to many — is still the ultimate carry gun. And I’m tending to agree.

Probably the most “no-nonsense” K-Frame ever, the Model 66 sports easy-to-acquire
sights and a recoil-absorbing synthetic boot-style grip. Who says revolvers are dead? Not us.

Two enhancements to the new Model 66 Combat Magnum include a sleeved barrel.

A ball-detent "lockup point (bottom) shown here after an obvious range session!

Old And New

Next to my Model 15, my original 2.5″ M66 (a 66-1 actually) is probably my all-time favorite K-Frame. So naturally the first thing I did was a comparison between it and the new Model 66 Combat Magnum. The three main points of departure for my old model are its pinned barrel, recessed charge holes and a hammer-mounted firing pin. The new gun’s barrel is 2-piece (shrouded) and is 1/4-inch longer, having a commensurately longer ejector rod/housing too. Then there’s the ball-detent lockup most likely intended to pacify those who might fret about magnum wear. I don’t fret about it because I don’t shoot mags that much. Oh, the new M66 is just about three ounces heavier than the original.

The matte stainless construction on the newer model appears duller than my old gun, plus the new one has a black trigger, hammer and cylinder release latch. I left the skimpy walnut service stocks on my old gun. My only concession toward enhancing things was the addition of a Tyler-T grip adapter, which forever solved any problems of speedloader clearance. The new gun has a synthetic Hogue-style boot grip, which is very comfortable and presents no obstacle to an HKS speedloader.

Both the double- and single-action trigger pulls on my “new model” M66 were excellent. A very smooth 11 lbs. for the DA and a crisp 3.5 lbs. for the SA.

The new Model 66 Combat Magnum 2.75". Payton didn’t find the extra
quarter-inch had any effect on anything.

Rangework

The gun shot well as we worked our way through five commercial .357 loads and four .38 Special ones. The sights are excellent, featuring a fully adjustable rear and a red-ramp front. They really help coping with the short sight radius. And I’m perfectly willing to stretch my own definition of a “snubbie” to include anything under 3.5″ inches! The challenge is the same; you’ve really got to bear down on the basics — sight picture, trigger break and follow through — even more than you would with a longer-barreled revolver.

Of the .357 loads we used, there were two which should probably be reserved for larger frame guns — as if anyone would really want to make a habit of running them through a short-barreled K-frame in the first place! They were the Buffalo Bore Heavy 158-gr. JHP and Speer’s 170-gr. Gold Dot Soft Point. Even from the 2.75″ barrel, they clocked 1,280 and 1,068 fps respectively and grouped 3.25″ and 4″ at 20 yards. But ouch is about all I have to say regarding that experience.

The best grouping mag load was Buffalo Bore 158-gr. Short Barrel Low Flash, Low Recoil (2″/1,156 fps), followed by Hornady’s 140-gr. FTX (2.5″ /1,215 fps).

Using .38 Special ammo, the top overall performer — and an impressive one at that — was Hornady 158-gr. XTP (1.25″/732 fps), followed by Winchester 125-gr. PHP +P (1.5″/834 fps). Buffalo Bore +P Heavy (2.5″/1,123 fps) and Atomic’s 148-gr. HP wadcutter (3.5″/ 854 fps).

To recap, the Model 66 Combat Magnum is a double-action revolver, caliber .357/.38 Special, 6-shot capacity with a 2.75″ barrel, overall length of 7.4″, a weight of 33.5 oz., a matte stainless finish, adjustable rear, red ramp front sight, synthetic grips, all for $849 at full MSRP.
I’ll probably never get rid of my old “semi-snubbie” M66, but if I did I could be pretty happy with the new one. In spite of the increased size over a J-Frame, there’s that “sixth shot” to consider too. All in all, this is a pretty cool “super snubbie.”

Smith & Wesson
(800) 331-0852

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