The 686 is also an excellent gun for the begining shooter. The grip is the right size for most hands, the extra weight soaks up some recoil and muzzle rise, and the student can progress from lightly loaded .38spls. on up to .357mag. if so desired. I am of the opinion that it is best to learn how to shoot a revolver well before transitioning to semiautos. If one has mastered the double action trigger stroke of the revolver, one can much more easily achieve proficiency with a DA/SA or DAO auto. Besides, its good to be able to shoot well with whatever gun is available. Just my 2 cents worth.
I had a 686 many years ago, and that thing was built like a tank. The only reason why I sold it was because I never found any grips that felt right on it (it was a square butt frame). The new ones are now round butt, but speaking of butts I find the seven-shot ones hard to digest since "7-shot six-shooters" were once the butt of every joke regarding sixguns. In fact, many "moons" ago there was a really bad Arnold Swarzenegger movie where he carried a 7-shot six-shooter, if anybody can remember that one (HINT- it was one of his first movies).
Dumb sarcasm aside, I'm a real traditionalist when it comes to revolvers. When I think of a wheelgun I think of a Colt SAA. They're the only revolvers that have ever truly felt "right" in my hands. But if a new round-butt, six-shot 686 came my way at a great price I'd reconsider it.
Both the 66 and 686 have merits depending on the intended usage.
The 66 is a faster handling revolver by virtue of having less weight in the crane and barrel. The 686 has a beefed up frame/crane and the underbarrel ejector shroud, the former making for a more durable piece if heavy loads are likely to be used, or if tamer shooting charactaristics are desired.
Both are excellent revolvers. I have a 20-year-old Model 66. But I never have shot a large quantity of .357 loads through this gun. Admittedly, the Model 66 is a little rough on your hands and wrists when firing full-house magnum loads. BUt this gun has proved very accurate and reliable through the years.
It's quite simple: if I were going to shoot a large quantity of full-power .357's, I'd choose the 686. Otherwise, the 66 is just fine.
There is nothing like a S&W revolver. I shall purchase a 625 in .45ACP as soon as I inherit about $650.
I have a 4" 686P. I'm hoping early next year I'll pick up a snubbie 686 and P version. It's a great gun that soaks up the recoil. Very nice, very accurate. I got my 4" used and it works like a charm. Love the gun...
Wow, thanks for all the input!
I am planning on shooting 38 spec in either the Mod 66 with a 4 inch barrel or 686p in a 2 1/2 inch barrel, no mag loads and for target shooting only ( unless, you know).
The PC model is pretty steep, but I did check it out and it is worth it.
Sector, I just picked up an excellent condition police trade in 681, which is identical to the 686 except it has fixed sights, and it's a wonderful piece. I have had several Smiths in the K and L frames in various barrel lengths and they have all been great performers. To validate that point, I outscored all my peers during my Academy training with a Model 64 (K frame) .38 Special with the 4 inch barrel and rudimentary sights. It peeved some of the other guys who were shooting "superior" automatics.
I'd scout the want ads, gun shows, and dealerships for deals like the one I just got, which was 300 bucks. Very good deal, and many of the older Smith revolvers have better trigger pulls in my experience.
The K frame model 66 does not stand up to magnums as well as the L frame 686, open the cylinder and look at the forcing cone on a 66. Notice the top edge of of the cone was "snipped off" by about .050" to get into the smaller frame.
The main failure modes of magnums are:
Flame erosion of the forcing cone.
Flame cut through the frame top strap above the cone.
Check out www.moonclips.com for the clips for the plus. And as a bene, you get to sit around the range and talk about clips for your gun and see everyone cringe and jump on you for not calling them mags