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

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

  1. Al

    Love my 686 S&W snubby 34 ounces and 7 rounds of 357 smooth trigger from the Performance Center a true piece of art that at the same time is comforting

  2. Redleg6

    I own 2 686Ps the 2.5 inch and 6 inch barrels. Love the cringes people show when I pump 7 ea 357 Mag downrange. Added a Crimson Trace laser to the 6″, my home defense gun. For more fun, got a Henry Big Boy lever action in, yup, 357Mag. Shoot all 3 from the same box of ammo. More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

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