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

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 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.


About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

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

  1. avatarRalph says:

    It has power and accuracy, so, yes, shot placement.

  2. avatarSgtRed says:

    The .357 Magnum out of a four inch barrel is a great load. If you can shoot it well, bonus!

  3. avatarChris Dumm says:

    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.

  4. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    I love the 686, but I'm partial to my 586. I just love the full underlug and deep factory blue!

  5. avatarRabbi says:

    I love the 686 and it makes a great house gun. But how is Sam going to conceal it when out of the house?

  6. avatarZealot says:

    Make mine a GP100, I'll put the $300 dollar savings into ammo and range time.

  7. avatarMartin Albright says:

    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?

    • avatarAlex says:

      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.

  8. avatarFits says:

    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.

  9. avatarRich Keagy says:

    Super .38 in a 1911 format.
    With 9+1 capacity, much more power, in your hand, than the .357.

  10. avatarJim Farmer says:

    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.

  11. 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.

    • avatarSal says:

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

  12. avatarSteve D says:

    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!!!

  13. avatarJustin says:

    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.

  14. avatarBughunter says:

    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?

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