Exclusive: S&W 686 — Classic Defined

The Smith & Wesson 686 is a C-L-A-S-S-I-C. Here’s why:

C – Calibers: .38 Special and .357 Magnum

These multipurpose cartridges have been around for a long time and show no signs of kowtowing to other calibers that are, what, half their length. Available in everything from target loads to personal defense loads to hunting loads, both .38 Special and .357 Magnum rounds offer outrageous versatility. Fired from the S&W 686, the .38 Specials register only the slightest of recoil. The .357 Magnums, however, thunder and roar, but keep you coming back for more.

L – Long DA and Light SA Trigger Stroke

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better DA/SA trigger stroke in any gun. The S&W 686 double action stroke is long, somewhat heavy, but amazingly smooth. Still, you can double tap steel silhouettes with terrific effectiveness. Because the sheer size and weight of the gun absorbs some of the recoil, you’re back on target easily. Click the hammer back for a single action stroke and you’re rewarded not only the pleasing sound and feel of highly engineered internal mechanisms aligning and locking in place but also with a legendarily easy press to break the sear and fire, affording greater accuracy.

A – Accurate


A four-inch barrel is meant more for defensive or combat purposes than accuracy but the accuracy you do get from a four-inch S&W 686 only adds to its effectiveness in any situation. In other words, where you aim, you hit. The windage-adjustable rear notch and red ramp front sight provide a time-proven means for putting bullets on targets at a variety of distances. With a little practice, you can easily ring steel silhouette targets at 65 yards distance shooting double action.

S – Stainless Steel

Stainless is not no-maintenance but it is much lower maintenance than regular blued steel. Plus it looks great. Shiny and durable, you can subject it to fairly harsh conditions without fear of any significant wear or harm. In a world dominated by black plastic pistols, the big stainless revolver makes a stunning statement no matter where it is deployed.

As an all steel gun, it is heavy (39.7 ounces) and feels solid. It’ll eat .357 Magnum rounds all day long, reliably sending the bullets down range the same way every time. Pop open the cylinder and smack the ejector rod and empty cases drop away. All the parts work together in perfect harmony, a masterpiece of metallic beauty.

S – Sure

Many people love revolvers because they are inherently reliable. Sure, a revolver can have problems but the vast majority of them are mitigated by doing the most natural thing — squeezing the trigger again. For the person interested in arming himself or herself who can only invest in the most minimal training and practice, a revolver is a sure thing. Pick it up or draw it, squeeze the trigger, and it fires. To fire again, squeeze the trigger. If a round fails to fire, squeeze the trigger again.

I – Introductory and Intelligent

A revolver’s ease and surety of use makes it a good choice for a beginning shooter who is just learning the basics. Basic ballistics and safety matters can be made more clear with a revolver and having to stop and reload after only six or so rounds allows for a smart break in which a shooter can correct any problems without getting carried away. But the 686 is also a good choice for an experienced shooter who wants to maximize a myriad of factors, including the recipes for his hand loads, trigger stroke practice, and more.

C – Customizable

What else can you do with such a basic gun? Plenty. Adjust the sights for longer range shooting … install a mount and scope for target shooting or hunting … Stagger the kinds of rounds to be fired for maximum defensive efficiency … Swap the stocks for any number of other stocks that emphasize target shooting, combat effectiveness, conceal-ability, or just downright good looks.

The Smith & Wesson’s classic 686 retails for $829 and the Smith & Wesson website suggests its best uses are “recreational, home protection, and professional / duty.”

How would you use it?

— Mark Kakkuri

6 thoughts on “Exclusive: S&W 686 — Classic Defined

  1. Ronnie Pigg

    I personally own 5 686’s and 2 686 Plus. They are a blast to shoot. Wonder what Clint Eastwood would have done with a 7 shot instead of 6. Well Punk, did I shoot 6 or 7 shots. In all the excitement I really don’t know if my Gun is a Model 686 or 686 Plus!


      I just purchased my first 686 plus, 3″, took awhile to find one, even in Atlanta, but……
      it is brand new, the first 30 rounds were ok, since then, I believe only on the 7th shot, it does not fire the bullet, (about every 28 shots) the bullet is still in there and if I keep squeezing trigger until the bullet comes around again, it will fire. shooting range owner says he thinks it may be ‘transfer bar”. it can do it either sa or da.

  2. shootbrownelk

    I’ve got an older S&W 686 “Mountain Gun” in .41 magnum. I love it. Ammo is no problem, I reload. Otherwise .41 ammo is very hard to find. This .357 mag. 686 sounds intriguing, I may have to have one. I see .357 ammo everywhere.

  3. Timothy McNamara

    S&W’s answer to the Python.The 586/686 revolvers are superb handguns
    that will be around for a very long time.
    Robust but refined,the L frames are what Bill Jordan was talking about.I carried an S&W K frame.38 spl,an S&W 5946 and a Glock 22 in my 20 odd years of law enforcement.
    My “retirement” guns are a 4 inch 686 and a Kimber Custom 2 that I have returned to the true faith by replacing the “plastic” mainspring housing with an Ed Brown arched steel one and replaced the guide rod with an Ed Brown short guide rod and nose cap.
    If I had to carry again for a living, it would be the 686 for sure.

  4. SIGman Fred

    I bought a 4″ Python in 1988 or 1989, used, for $350. At a gun show a month or so ago I saw one on sale that looked a lot like mine – for $2800. I love the Python, but a gun that valuable you don’t carry, or even use for home defense. It was time to acquire another 4″ .357, and the 686 was the obvious choice. I thought I would be so spoiled by the Python that the 686 would seem a poor second. How wrong I was. The first range session after I bought the gun (new) I was putting .38 rounds double action into the X-ring and clustered around – better than I’ve been able to do even with accurate SIG semiautos in a long time. The trigger pull’s a bit heavier at 10 lbs. than the Python’s at 8 lbs., but surely the trigger will seem better, and my skill with it greater, with practice. Bottom line – for the ideal combination of dependability, accuracy, speed and power, nothing beats a double action .357, and the 686 has got to be the best one on the market today.

  5. Pingback: Best Ammo For S W 686

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