Smith & Wesson 686 (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

IMHO, the Smith & Wesson 686 is the classic revolver. It’s a heavy old thing, built like a brick sh*thouse. Loaded with six .38-caliber cartridges, it’s a soft-shooting pussycat – that’ll leave a big mark on any bad guy. With .357s on board, the 686 is something of a handful – accurate follow-up shots take a cool head and a little extra time. But the terminal ballistics are fearsome. The Smith revolver . . .

also looks more like a gun than any other gun I can name. When licensed open cary comes to Texas, when I want to make a gun rights statement, the 686 will enjoy pride of place on my hip. In short, the 686 is a firearm you can purchase without any possibility of buyer’s remorse. What other handguns answer to that description?

172 Responses to Question of the Day: Name A Handgun You’ll Never Regret Buying

  1. Any Freedom Arms 97 in .45 Colt, .44 Special or .41 Magnum. Perfect execution of an ancient design, proving that yes, we can have nice things.

    • It seems a little sacrilegious to put those two into the same sentence. Perhaps in the future you could at least hit the line break key first.

  2. You’re on the right track with the 686, but it’s the Ruger GP100 you’ll never regret buying.

      • I’ve got the blue Wiley Clapp for carry and a great big shiny 45oz. 6″ stainless for intimidation.

        • I knew a state cop about 30 years ago that carried a 6″ Security Six as a duty weapon. He told me “We don’t shoot many people, but this thing is great for beating the snot perps”

        • Well if pistol whipping were a socially acceptable activity, I can’t think of a better tool than a full lug 6″ GP100.

        • Have Black Ruger GP 100 6 rounds 4.25″ barrel
          I think of it as a Darth Vador of revolvers
          It’s a heavy hand gun, hence low recoil.
          Only shoot 38 caliber. Tried.357 magnum. Will not make that mistake again. Recoil almost hit me in the head. It was my birthday present from me.
          Would be effective for cayote or feral hogs.
          If ever needed for self defense it’s not only going to kill someone who needs killing! It will kill your soul and send you to hell

  3. Browning Hi-Power. I second that emotion, Mack Bolan.

    The last of JMB’s designs. Classic lines. Adopted by a barrel o’ countries. Soft-shooting, natural pointing, large capacity. Not perfect (thanks to the French), but a little work can get it there.

      • If you can find one in 9mm (Zastava M88 or Norinco 213), you won’t be disappointed. 7.62 Tokarev isn’t nearly as cheap or plentiful as it once was.
        But an old-school Polish Tokarev is still my favorite.

    • Carried an immaculate M57 in Iraq that was from a captured enemy weapons cache. Extremely thin and ergonomic pistol from a time that wasn’t well known for ergonomic surplus pistols. (CZ-52 comes to mind). I’ll take the 7.62x25mm any day over the 9mm variant, (especially with the hot Chinese vest cutting rounds). Never had a FTF and it was plenty combat accurate.

    • I feel like almost any mil surp gun is a great buy that you can never go wrong with. If its in good condition show it off as a collectors piece. If its in rough shape then shoot the crap out of it. I love surplus!

  4. Handgun I’ll never regret buying: SIG P226 Stainless Elite.
    Handgun I’ll always regret buying: Kahr K9.

    • Agreed. I’ve been through hundreds of guns over the decades, and I can’t remember a single one I regretted purchasing. I can remember plenty I’ve regretted selling, though, including both my 4 and 6 inch Pythons. I decided it was either Smiths or Colts, and not both. I’ve regretted that decision for years. It should have been both…

      • You’re a very lucky man to have owned so many firearms without regretting the purchase of a single one. You would think that at least a handful of those guns would have been unreliable or have had issues that would preclude you from buying another one in the future. I consider myself blessed to have had a little over a half a dozen guns that were flat out mistakes. (Smith and Wesson Sigmas, Pre-Kahr Auto Ordnance 1911s, and a couple of revolvers of the Taurus and Charter Arms variety come to mind.)

  5. I like your choice RF. I don’t have one ’cause I like a myriad # of guns. I regret selling every gun I’ve sold-except a Hi-point that never worked(I still made $ on it)…

  6. Glock 21gen4*17. One on nightstand, one for home carry, two for EDC, one on home defense plate carrier, one for bugout bag, one as training beater, one in the safe in case one breaks down. Another set for wife. And one for poop/shower.

      • My EDC – CZ 75b, in the mighty .40.* At 6′ and 215, I honestly forget I’m carrying. I also use it in class for those adventurous students that wish to experience the .40. Which is, surprisingly, most of them.

        Two things happen – even with those with zero experience. “That feels so good in my hand!” And surprising accuracy. Everytime. Even with the “snappy” .40. The gun is a natural pointer. It shoots better than I do.

        *Yes, I’ve intellectually accepted that the 9mm is probably the sweet spot in caliber for a wide variety of reasons. But…I’m old enough to remember when the Staties were first issued 9mm semi-autos. S & W 39 and 59, IMS. Not confidence inspiring. Particularly with available ammo back then. My lizard brain overrides my cerebellum on calibers. Pull the trigger on a .40 and it goes bang with AUTHORITY! And you just KNOW it is going to have a severely detrimental effect on the targeted threat.

        • ^This +1. Except…
          Mine is a CZ40B, THE most underrated semi-auto of all time.

          “Two things happen – even with those with zero experience. “That feels so good in my hand!” And surprising accuracy. Everytime. Even with the “snappy” .40. The gun is a natural pointer. It shoots better than I do.”
          Thank you; stated perfectly.
          The 40B is always the favorite of the newbies at a shoot around, and highly praised by those more experienced.
          “Wow! What a shooter…” is a comment I’ve heard often.

      • My CZ SP01 Shadow Orange…..I’m not even looking for anything anymore….I also have a 686…love that one too

        • You definitely won’t. My P01 gets its inaugural IDPA match this weekend. I haven’t been this excited since my first time. My first time shooting IDPA that is…

    • I’m really surprised at all the CZ love. I hope it spreads and catches so that CZs become as plentiful on the used market as Glocks.

    • I love my 66. Pinned and recessed. Also a 629 with a 4 inch barrel. But it would have to have the square butt. Cannot hit the broad side of a barn with a round butt. Sold that one.

    • Got mine a couple months ago. Made the year of my birth. In the box with paperwork and original sales receipt.

  7. Smith 329 with Leupold DeltaPoint in custom Dave Workman holster – perfect gun for hiking in the woods, foraging for huckleberries or mushrooms, or just hanging out at a camp.

  8. My engraved S&W 29. When I am a little older and giving my guns to my kids, this will be the last one to go.
    I didn’t buy it, so I guess it doesn’t count. But the good folks at Berretta actually found my M9 that I used in Afghanistan and got it back to me. That will leave my hands when I leave this world and not one breath before.

  9. I personally see either models 10 or 29 as “the” revolver. The model 10 was the first handgun I shot, it just feels right and doesn’t fight you, even with +P. The same loads out of a model 28, as a ten-year-old, not so agreeable. Then again, said Highway Patrolman has custom grips designed for someone with large hands that don’t feel so intimidating anymore.

    And to the people mentioning the Hi-Power: I want one. I don’t like 9mm as a cartridge, and I usually turn my nose up at the people who worship at the alter of Browning, but I want a Hi-Power to be the 9mm in my safe. Last gun show I went to, that was my goal. Saw two, but neither was within my parameters, got an Arisaka instead, no regrets.

    Honestly, it’s almost hard to find a handgun with more negative than positive aspects. I know they’re out there, but you almost have to be trying. I still love my Mk II. Got it (slightly) used for a song. Sure, takedown is a bitch, and it’s my last resort for self defense. And there’s the famous Ruger limited magazine. Still, for under $200, I’d buy it again.

  10. A while ago my buddy told me he had a deal for and it was a little H&R 9 shot .22 revolver and a smith 629-1 wasnt to hyped over the H&R but he said he wanted to sell them together for some reason i bought it that 6 inch 629 created my love for .44 mag

  11. I bought a Luger (w/ matching numbers) at a pawn shop for $400. Practical? No. Was it worth the wife being pissed at me for a long time? Yep.

  12. Your first quality handgun. Nobody ever regrets buying quality, and everyone remains nostalgic for their first good gun.

  13. Take your smith 686, add two more rounds, some more beef and ya got your Smith & Wesson 627 – those are the ones I love.

  14. Any j frame Smith. Any K frame Smith. Any N frame Smith. Colt Detective special. Colt 1903 .32.

    Never a regret on any of my Rugers, past and present.

    Makarov. Nuff said.

    • I am torn between the beauty of the blued and the nostalgia of the stainless versions. My dad carried that stainless python for years and it was the first “big boy” pistol in ever shot.
      Wait a minute…I just thought of a solution.

    • Confession time. When having dinner with my hunting buddies, the conversation turned to guns. Go figure.
      We spoke of guns we wanted. Or wished we had again.
      I mentioned a python. My buddy pipes up, “hey, I know a guy with one for sale” I ask how much, knowing it gonna be over my pocket money.
      He says $1,200.00.
      I’m out of my chair asking condition, barrel length, stainless versus blue…
      I hold it two days later… My goodness. It’s probably around NRA 90-95%. (I’m conservative). A blue you can reach down into to touch the steel.
      Lockup measured in the tens of thousands… Shoots groups tighter than a bull at fly time.
      I am a Hepplewhite man.
      (And to those NYT new age men who know not perfect machine skills, go suck a pine cone)

  15. I’m probably going to have to pick at Mr. F’s description and selection of the 686.
    It’s not that it’s not an outstanding handgun: it is. (I do indeed own a six-inch tarted up for ICORE-type competition, and a four-inch 586 [the blue-steel version] that I used to use in IDPA SSR division.)
    But a classic? Not just yet, and speaking as someone who owns more round handguns than self-loaders, I’m not going to diss the 686 carelessly.
    But- it is, after all, stainless steel. For revolvers, it’s a fine material, but not “classic”. Classic sixguns are blue or nickel. I’m not enthused about nickel, especially bright versions, so nearly all of my revos are blued.
    Secondly, it’s a copy. Of the Python, another manufacturer’s icon. Smith fans howl, but it’s still true.
    Thirdly, it’s a “modern” gun… 1980, for a revolver, is pretty “new”.
    My strong suggestion for a “THE” classic revolver, if one desired it to be a Smith, would be the four-inch Combat Magnum Model 19. With a heritage intertwined with Bill Jordan and Dan Wesson, it could hardly be more classically positioned. Not only that, it’s (very) arguably the best all-around carry revolver ever.
    Since that comes from a known Colt brand-fan, it must be true.
    Far handier than the 686, a Combat Magnum can do just about anything the 686 can except last a million rounds of all-out .357 ammunition. It would be true that split times would be a bit slower with the 19. But to carry, it’s about as good as it gets.
    Just to toss in some spice, one of Massad Ayoob’s most incredible cop stories concerns a rural deputy who saw a fleeing home invader and took a shot at the mind-bending distance of 173 YARDS with his Combat Magnum- and got a one-shot stop. Can’t get much more legendary than that.
    But better still would be the Smith .357 Magnum, later known as the Model 27. A finely-finished work of mechanical art that was a fitting competitor for the Python (when the Colt finally came along), the 27 (and it’s plainer brother, the Highway Patrolman Model 28) is much more pleasant to shoot than either the 19 or 686, and has even more classic lines. Plus, given its history as the birth-gun of the entire Magnum cartridge concept via the .357 Magnum in the mid-’30s, it certainly bears a more “classic” place than the whippersnapper L-frame.
    The only problem for the 27 might be the N-frame’s extravagant trigger reach for small-handed shooters (I struggle a bit, I confess), but when the gun is emitting .357 slugs, all’s right with the world.
    And it weighs almost the same as the 686.
    Again, not disrespecting the 686, but… a shimmering Model 27 in the leather would go much further towards marking the bearer as a man or woman of high, classic taste.

  16. I agree on the 686 for revolvers. I have a 6″ 686 and a 6″ 617 that I use for training students. Accurate, rugged and reliable.

    For semiautomatic sill go with the Sig 226 and the Glock 26. Again, accurate, rugged and extremely reliable. I really don’t need anything else.

  17. Smith and wesson shield. Reliable, easy to shoot and field strip, lasts for thousands of rounds – more than most people will put through it in a lifetime – and small enough to where you never have to leave home without it.

  18. Pushing the envelope here, but THE BIGGEST grin factor (for everyone that has shot it) pistol I have, is a Century Arms C39 pistol. Made in ‘Merica. Milled. Accurate. Reliable. Low/No recoil. AND, makes a hellofalotta noise and fireball.
    Will not be getting rid of this one…

    • I cant tell if you’re kidding. I’ve never seen a hi point that wasn’t extremely picky about what it ate. Granted my sample size was only 3 handguns, but that’s enough to know I wouldn’t trust one.

  19. Ruger mk3 blued target. Bought it when I found out I was gonna be a dad for the second time. Nothing is very safe inside 100 yards. No mods. Looks good too.

  20. 1973 Smith and wesson model 1000 semiauto 12 Guage I got for $200 at a pawn shop. The beautiful finish is flawless, wood is top notch and it runs great not one hiccup. I can’t believe they never took off.

    • Before I google it, I gotta say… 12 GAUGE HANDGUN!?!?!?!?!?!

      Yup, googled it. Not a handgun, but thanks for playing.

  21. my daily carry is in the “G” family, but on the occasions I perform my range officer duties at my club, it’s the poor man’s Python. Open carry Trooper Mark III which I paid too much for. And I would do it all over. Traditional Highway patrol basketweave holster and belt.

  22. CZ 97B. All of the CZ 75 sweetness talked about in glowing terms above. Only in .45ACP goodness. Send it to Cajun Gun Works and an already accurate pistol with a decent trigger becomes something that makes grown men have fainting spells. Just sayin

    • I was at the range the other day and the lady two lanes over noticed I seemed to be shooting accurately while she was having trouble. She had just had new sights put on her 9mm Glock, and asked me to shoot it to make sure it was her that had the problem, not the gun (it was her, though it did shoot more to the left than my usual pull, so there might have been a legitimate windage issue). I then invited her to try my CZ-75 in .40, and she just freaking loved it. Before anyone knew it, she was renting a CZ-97 and a couple of far more expensive 45s to try and neither one of them came close to it in her mind. She darn near bought it on the spot. The gun beat out some H&K and a Sig 320.

      So yeah, you’re not the only one who loves them.

  23. I don’t regret the Walther PPQ .45 or the “Yosemite Sam” 6″ barrel Judge or the Sarsilmaz SAR K-2 .45 ACP (CZ clone, I know) or the Bersa Thunder CC or the Ruger Mk III or the stainless PT-92 with a rather personal serial number (my initials, my younger-older brother’s birthday, my older-older brother’s birthday, and a seven [since I also have a Lotus Seven]) or the Taurus model 85 .38 special or the Taurus model 66(?) .357 magnum or… well any of them, actually.

    What I do regret was that trip out on the lake…

  24. My 4″ 681 — fixed sight brother to the 686. Beautiful gun. Tough and versatile.

    But I’ve never regretted my G26 or Ruger LCR .357, either.

  25. Beretta 92FS. It has functioned flawlessly through several thousand rounds, or my Mosin as it was the first gun “I” purchased(gave my dad the money) when I was 16. Handed the man a $100 bill he gave me a rifle, bayonet, oil can, pouch, and 20rds of surplus ammo.

  26. I’ve sold a few that I regret parting with. I’m now in the process of bringing them home again. Some have been mentioned (which validates my opinion): GP100 4″ SS, G19 (since replaced). But I’m still a big fan of the vastly under appreciated Ruger P95. That ugly old tank of a gun is just flat fun and smooth as butter. I don’t miss my XDs .45 or either piece of crap Taurus I’ve sold off

  27. I like my .40 Tanfoglio Witness Stock.
    I like my .44 mag Ruger Super Redhawk.
    I like my 7.62×39 Vz. 2008, my home built AR 15 and even the Mosin.
    But i loved the Suhl 150 single shot bolt action .22 rifle. That thing just shot into one hole all day long. Too bad i left it behind in the old country.

  28. ???

    Any handgun that operates reliably at a decent price I would never regret buying.

    Guns are an investment in both your rights, your freedom, and as a functional asset that doesn’t lose its monetary value.

  29. My first gun 36 years ago was a 6″ 686 in SS. Still have a few rounds of .357 I learned to make. After college, could not afford the ammo..

    Still love it. Going to be passed down. No other weapon has that distinction!

  30. I can name four! In order of purchase:

    1. S&W 27 nickel, 8 3/8 barrel. Three “T”s. Presentation box. (1976)
    2. S&W 66 stainless 4” barrel. Square butt. (1982)
    3. CZ-75 (pre B). Kaiuska Kaispell, MT importer. (1983)
    4. Sig Sauer P226 (W Germany). (1984)

    They are part of my “permanent” collection. 🙂

  31. Love My Browning HI Power had it since the 80’s. Loved my old SW 357 but sold it. Bought a SW Governor last year, Gun is some fun. Really love my HK P30.It is my constant truck gun.

  32. G23 several years ago. One Gun To Rule Them All, and KISS:

    Added Advantage Arms .22 barrel and slide for teaching the kids and plinking.
    Added Lone Wolf 9mm match barrel and slide- for less snappy and more accurate target practice.

    Man-stopping, yet small enough to pocket carry in cargo pants, or IWB, and yet
    big enough to fit SERPA thigh rig for backpacking/hunting pigs down under the oaks in lion country.

  33. Ruger sp101 and CZ P01 and Glock 17 RTF2 and Ruger Single Ten and SAR K2 45 acp (the best 45 acp I have ever shot) and M&P Shield 9mm.

  34. Probably a bit in left field but a Ruger SR22 is really fun, better made than a lot of .22 plinkers, and my wife loves shooting it.
    Yes it is plastic and aluminum but so what.

  35. The 686 by far is my favorite. I feel like I’m shooting a real gun. Mine is over 40 years old and I get a kick out of how well it works and that I use it every week. Best gun I ever bought.

  36. My 686+ 2.5″ snubby with Crimson Trace laser grips has become my every day carry. A little heavy, but put it in a Remora holster and slide it inside the waistband in a cross draw position, and it is perfect for me. Wear it all day long with no problem at all. Load it with 7 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense .357 magnums, and I’m good to go.

  37. SIG Sauer P226 in .357 SIG. I have a couple of thousand rounds through it and zero malfunctions. It’s accurate, flat shooting, hits hard, and sounds like the crack of doom when you pull the trigger. It’s my night stand gun and will be the first line of defense against home invasion for the foreseeable future.

  38. Smith Wesson 4506-1. Heavy, reliable, accurate, it’ll eat any ammo. I love it. I’ll put it away for a while, but I always find an excuse to bring it back out.

  39. The Smith and Wesson 422 I got for my mom. We looked all over for a gun she could use all the controls on and deal with the recoil on (arthritis in both her hands). It may not be the greatest self defense caliber but for an old lady living alone having something is way better than having nothing.

  40. Stainless 6″ barrel Ruger GP 100 in .357 Mag.

    I know the M&P is better for CC, but it shoots and looks so nice.

  41. My 4″ 686 was my first duty pistol. I carried it for a few years back in the early 90’s. Loaded Federal 125grain hollow points in a couple of speed loaders and never felt I was poorly armed. I still own the gun and still put a few .38s through it on occasion. It’s a solid, reliable and accurate pistol that looks great.

    You folks know that I’m a 1911 shooter and the other pistol I’ve never regretted buying is my Springfield Armory Mil Spec. Another solid and reliable pistol – maybe not quite as sexy as the 686 but its a fun to shoot classic pistol.

  42. Ruger GP100 .357 Great trigger right out of the box. Shooting DA the revolver has a light pull through the 1st stage and a clean break. Loaded with .38 you can shoot it all day and it’s deadly accurate.

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