The rabbi lent me two of his Ruger SP101s for Sam. The Jewish gun guru can’t get his head ’round the fact that Her Indoors home carries a Smith & Wesson 686 on her hip, and plans on continuing to do so as and when she gets a concealed carry permit. “The gun weighs more than Sam does,” the rabbi pronounced, exaggerating only slightly. The stainless Rugers sported two-inch and three-inch barrels. Sam shot them alongside her Smith (which used to be my Smith, around the time of my last birthday). Sam couldn’t hit squat with the Rugers, and didn’t enjoy the experience. She shot nice tight groups with the four-inch Smith and smiled that crooked little smile of hers. .357? Even better. And now survivalblog.com has the low-down on barrel length and .357 ammo that proves that Sam does, indeed, own the perfect gun. Well almost . . .

The power of the .357 is greatly affected by barrel length. The .357 seems to hit its prime at 6”. Any shorter and a lot of power is lost any longer and you are toting a gun unnecessarily to [sic] big. If you look at the charts made by the gentlemen at Ballistics by the Inch you will see that the difference between a 2” barrel and a 6” barrel is upward of 700 ft/sec of velocity. If you use this info and plug it into the [Energy, Momentum, and Taylor KO (TKO) Calculator] calculator you will see that your values skyrocket as the barrel length increases. Using the data on a Corbon 125 grain JHP a 2” barrel yields an energy of 226 ft/lbs, momentum of 16, and a TKO of 5. Now you plug in the data from the same round out of a 6” barrel and you get an energy of 816 ft/lbs, momentum of 30, and a TKO of 10.

Now that’s what I call stopping power. Although yes, shot placement. The bottom line: six is better than four but four is better than three and three is a LOT better than a snubbie. In terms of recoil control, accuracy and stopping power, bigger is better. Although yes, shot placement. And no way Sam could schlep a six-inch Smith & Wesson 686-6. She’d end up walking funny. If you know what I mean.

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39 Responses to Another Reason Why the Smith & Wesson 686 is the Greatest Gun Ever Made

    • xdm 45 .acp… 13 rds over 4″ barrel and easier to conceal.

      if i had a choice of only revolvers. yes S&W 686 4″ or longer is ideal.

    • I drifted away from revolvers. They are so fundamental, no razmataz, no gizmosis. Began shooting semi-auto .40s. Lots of fiddling around, hit target most of the time, pattern all over. So what can one expect from a 3″ barrel, suspended on a squirrel cage. One day, borrowed a friends 686-7. Started shooting again, I mean really shooting, like the old days. Drilling dead center, what a wonderful instrument. Let Starsky and Hutch do the auto-mooka, you know, the holding the gun sideways crap. I doubt if doing that actually results in hitting anything. I will stand back, way back, and I will not miss. Hallelujah, I have repented.

  1. As if I needed any more confirmation that my 686 is the best gun in the world!

    Well, maybe a 686 Plus would be 1/6 better.

    • I have seen the 6 inch 686 concealed in a vertical shoulder rig under a jacket. Maybe OWB under a rain coat or winter coat.

  2. I used to conceal carry a 4" bbl M19 in a "pancake" holster mounted at about the 5:00 position. It worked fine as long as I had smooth grips on the gun. Rubber grips would dig into my back for a very uncomfortable carry. I wish I still had that pancake holster, I worked armed security for a couple of years in the mid 80's and we carried concealed in business dress (sportjacket and slacks.)

    If the 686 is a tad heavy (and it is) then might I suggest a K-frame gun like the M19/66 or M13/65 (the first number being the blue version, the second number being the stainless.) Now it's true that K frames don't like a steady diet of full-power magnum loads, but they are perfectly fine with .38+p and for years many cops practiced the "train with .38 and carry .357" method. Yes, yes, I know, train the way you fight (rolling eyes) I get it, but my rejoinder would be that the gun that's left at home because it's too heavy is pretty darn useless. Better to have a gun you've trained with (albeit with low power loads) than no gun at all, eh?

    • Thanks Martin, that’s just what I’m pondering right now for woods carry. I may get a 4 inch SP101 for heavier loads and Smith 19 4 inch for carry. Just got Bill Jordan’s book yesterday too. Looks like it has a lot of great advice.

  3. Ah, ya know it's all in being creative when it comes to concealed carry. Granted I'm large but my everyday tote is a 4" GP-100. Smiths are what you show your friends, Rugers…that can be hotloaded way more seriously…are what you show your enemies.

    Then again, many times folks won't continually carry that which does not feel just right, the Princess and the Pea syndrome, so in the real world comfort is of utmost importance.

  4. I like my Smith and Wesson (N-Frame) .357 Magnum Model 28 Highway Patrolman with 6" barrel, original
    diamond walnut target grips, and 1965 vintage.

  5. I have until recently, last few days, been a a pistol advocate, owning 13 semi-auto pistols in 9mm, and .45 ACP. I have just about decided to take the plunge and make my first revolver a Smith Wesson 686 Plus with 4 inch barrel. I held one with a 6″ barrel today and thought it was front heavy. I’ll hold a 4″ barrel tomorrow. I think Im going to buy the SW 686 Plus in 4 inch. Haven’t heard one bad comment about the 686.

    • Try the pro series 5 inch barrel. Good compromise…..easier to handle than the 6 inch and giving up just a little velocity.

    • Chuck you have most assuredly made the right choice. The balance on the 4 inch is almost perfect. You still get 1200 to 1300 FPS on the four. It will get the job done. I have the m686 4″, I also recommend not getting the + 7 round version. Not as robust, plus 6 rounds 357 magnum most likely will get the job done.

  6. I own a 1986 model 686 with a 4″ barrel and I am in love with it. I want the .500 S&W magnum and I will own one before the fat lady sings, you can bet your last nickel on it!!!

    • Unless you actually go shoot it a lot, you will get tired of it and wonder why the hell you spent so much money on a useless gun. Don’t get me wrong, they look awesome but that is about it. You wanna buy a Desert eagle in .44.?

  7. My dad has the smith and wesson 66. I understand they don’t make it anymore. I’m looking for something comparable. I’ve looked at the 686 and would really like to get more feedback. I’m considering a glock just for the simple fact it’s what my sister carries as a CO police officer.
    My uses are mainly sport shooting and home defense.
    Thank you.

    • You may be aware that since your comment Smith & Wesson has resumed production of the Model 66. I have one and like it a lot but my 686 plus 6-inch is sweet, too.

  8. I found this looking for reviews of the 686. In the Ballistics by the Inch website quoted here, under the real world weapons tables the 6 inch 686 has higher velocities than the 5-6 inch barreled guns with almost very load. Maybey tighter tolerances and better lockup?

  9. The 686 is awesome, there’s no arguing that, also no arguing that it makes one HELL of a bedside gun. Absolute pleasure to shoot…especially at reactive targets.

    But me, I’m pretty partial to my SP101, easy to carry, accurate (surprisingly for a snub, actually). And it’s just a damn good looking wheel gun.

  10. I have a sp101 I carry every day, I.like it fine, but a thinking of getting the 886 in four inch. My son has it in six Inch and It is a great shooter

  11. I carried a 4″ 586 on the job as an INS inspector in the 90’s. It is my favorite 357, it has the right balance and power out of a 4″ barrel and it is strong for a diet of heavy loads. I don’t mind heavy revolvers in magnum calibers due to a lesser recoil but a six inch for duty is a bit heavy and obviously too long for conceal carry but fine for service carry in a good rig. The other thing I like about my revolver is the smooth target trigger and its target level accuracy; I have shot well it to 100 yards. It now 22 years old and going very strong but now it shares time with other weapons I have. Other companies may equal it but can never best the S&W 586 or 686, specially the trigger and strength.

  12. Suggest you switch to a Hi-cap auto and stop by your local health food/supplements emporium for a bottle of Rutin capsules. The ‘roids will disappear like magic.

  13. I own a 686 plus 2 1/2 snub. It gets lots of looks at the range from the plastic gun owners. I like old school.

  14. I’ve owned a 686 Plus since 2007. With use the trigger continues to improve – and it was pretty nice to start. I don’t use the key and lock feature – the stock Hogue grips are a plus. Very close to a Colt Python.

  15. At work I carry a 4 inch S&W Model 686-6 with a rubber round-butt Hogue Monogrip in a Safariland 6280 SLS holster on a duty belt with two loaded double speedloader pouches, handcuffs, a 26 inch collapsible baton, OC spray, and a Motorola radio, all in black basketweave pouches. Issue ammo is Federal 158 grain .357 Magnum HydraShoks. I am the dinosaur since everyone else carries Glock 22s, but they haven’t outshot me at qualifications lately.

    Off duty I usually carry a 3 inch Model 13-3 loaded with Speer 135 grain GDHP .357 Magnum “Short Barrel” ammo wearing the old Bianchi Lightning grips that shroud the hammer. I shoot better with the Model 13-3 than I do with the Model 686-6.

  16. Two months ago, I bought a 686-6 plus with 7″ barrel intend to use for HD, camping and hunting. I shoot .38 spl at the range with occasional 357 mag. 50 yards – no problem. I normally take HK P2000sk V3(9mm 3.26″) and IWI BE9915RS(9mm 3.93″) alongside the 686-6. At 25 yards, they all seem to group about the same. The 686-6 plus is a beautifully made revolver – I get compliments all the time at the range.

  17. the secret to carrying a “heavy weapon” is to have a REAL gunbelt, and a good holster.
    when I first got my ccw 12 years ago, I had a comp-tac brand c-tac In The Waistband (IWB) holster for my 1911.
    It MOVED and chafed me so I carried a 9 mm makarov with a tucker gun leather holster.
    When I moved to AZ, I went to take their 2 day CCW class (back in 2005) and the instructor said “you need a real gun belt!” I had a leather belt 1-1/2 wide x 1/8 thick.
    I figured he wants to sell me something so I’ll just buy it so I can get my CCW and get out of here.
    The belt is International Handgun Leather (IHL) brand in Phoenix, az. it is 1-1/2 wide x almost 1/4 thick (I’d say 7/.32nds) .
    it ANCHORS my 1911. So now I carry my full sized high cap 1911 that holds 14 + 1 of .45 ACP.
    This GUN BELT and the correct holster will help you carry your 357’s or whatever you choose.
    I have a 1986 vintage model 586 with 4 inch barrel and adjustable sights. It is an ex LEO revolver and is very nice, and shoots well. It is 1-1/2 diameter aross the cylinder (wide). My Kimber is 1.1 wide at the widest point which is the safety lever and it holds 15 rounds vs 6.
    another good choice for an autoloader in .45 is the FNX-45. It holds FIFTEEN + 1 !!

  18. First gun I ever carried was a Ruger Security Six that a friend loaned me for security. Like it so much I bought the GP100.

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