What I'm Carrying Now
Courtesy Don Nelson
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What I'm Carrying Now
Courtesy Don Nelson

[This post is part of our new series, What I’m Carrying Now. If you’d like to submit a photo and description of the gun, holster and gear you’re carrying in the new world in which we live, send it to us at [email protected] with WICN in the subject field.]

Don Nelson writes . . .

Though not due to the epidemic, I experienced a nostalgia rush a few months ago and tucked the DW V-Bob in the safe, replacing it with this 3” S&W 686 Plus .357 Magnum.

The stocks are VZ, soon to be replaced by Ahrends maple boot grips. An Apex Tactical DAO kit is installed, forcing me to re-learn trigger control during my daily 100-round (full power handloads) drills. (Here in the hinterlands, shooting in the national forest can be isolation.)

While awaiting the Kramer pancake holster, the revolver rides in a generic leather Amazon special, originally ordered for a 3.5” GP100.

Also carried are a Surefire AAA light, Buck 110 Automatic, Explorer II watch and an 8-round generic speed strip.

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  1. An “auto” Buck 110 complicates a nearly foolproof design that already opens with one hand.

    • WAY easier to use an auto knife…. even IF it opens “easily” with one hand… you fumble with your antique knife and i’ll have mine deployed before you…. plain and SIMPLE…

      • i like apples too, but c’mon.
        if i’m pulling a knife, it’s already open.
        springs fail.

  2. Phucking show off. I buy a 7 shooter and you show up with an 8 shooter. Anybody know where I can buy a 9 shot .357? 🙂

      • I can beat that 10 shots of .17 hmr

        Took a lot of working the action and cleaning it to get that Chiappa reliable though.

    • jwm, I don’t know. I’ve never been able to warm up to a revolver that held more than six rds.

      • GF. Not magnums but back in my youth I ran the hills in WV and KY with 9 shot .22s from H&R and HI Standard. Fond memories of the times and the guns.

        • Growing up I had an Iver Johnson 22 top break with a 6 inch barrel and adjustable sights. It was a blast shooting carpenter bees with shot shells, hillbilly skeet shooting.

          In WV, it don’t bother the neighbors if you’re plinking in the backyard, I wouldn’t try it in an urban area.

    • Just sent mine in, so maybe soon you’ll be able to see what God and Sam Colt intended a revolver to look like in the 21st century (i.e. 6 Chambers).

    • The 686+ is a seven shooter. They do make an eight shooter, that’s the 627 iirc, built on the same frame size as the .44 magnum.

      • Fellow TTAG alumnus Joe Grine has S&W’s 8-shot .357, and as earlier noted it’s built on the N-frame platform. It’s cool as all get-out and its the ne plus ultra of centerfire revolver firepower, but I don’t think you could carry the beast comfortably in anything less than a chest rig.

        And it’s slightly more concealable than a Desert Eagle. Emphasis on ‘slightly.’

  3. Very nice, since staying at my rural home fulltime I have been carrying my model 60 and don’t feel underarmed.

    • I know you mean S&W model 60, but when I hear model 60, I always think of the Marlin .22 rifle. I love that gun. Tons of fun, and fun guns are fun.

      • Ditto. 17 shots and no magazine to worry about. Also my first rifle that wasn’t handed down to me.

  4. Wow! Two Smith .357s in the last few days. At this rate some of the “If it ain’t plastic it ain’t worth looking at.” crowd might have to admit the wheel gun isn’t dead. On the grips; I’ve hunted with John Van Zyke a few times. He admitted their checkering can be a bit sharp. He also said they could “break” that if a customer asked. Smooth is also an option. Still, no one is going to look down their nose at Ahrends. Explorer II is nice. My buddy Randy wears one. Always been a Submariner man myself. Don, you’ll like that Kramer leather. I’ve owned several pieces for years. A bit scuffed up now, but just as serviceable as the day it arrived. Buck 110. Classic. Surefire. Bet my life on them. Overall two thumbs up.

    • I have 2 Model 28’s with Ahrends retro targets on them, and have gotten a number of compliments.

    • Gadsen, I’ve got VZs on several pistols including my V-Bobs. A little sandpaper fixes the sharpness, especially on the left (skin) side. Always a perfect fit, tougher than hell, fairly priced. These shown have been thinned up by the hump, the butt’s been shortened, and the pinky hook removed to accommodate my girly hands.

      The Kramer holster, due any day now, was because I like their pancake design and my regular favorite, High Noon, doesn’t make their horsehide “Topless” model for revolvers.

  5. Nice set-up for sure! Always wanted a 686, just never found one at the price point I wanted. Could trade but I buy mine to keep and shoot. Going into warm weather here in Tucson, I’ll switch to my Taurus M85. Lihtweight and easy to carry. I’ve got several 110s just not “auto”.

    • Oooo, a Taurus. Besides carrying that POS, in what other ways do you let the world know you’ve given up on your hopes and dreams?

  6. Don Nelson,

    That is a beautiful revolver!

    A word of caution: I have read many sources which claim that your daily steady diet of full-power .357 Magnum loads causes Smith & Wesson revolvers to fail. I have no idea how reliable those sources are.

    • You are thinking of early K frames (S&W 19’s & 66’s)and early nuclear .357 loads (think 125 grains @ 1500-1600 fps) that were popular in LEO circles – back in the 60’s.
      The 586 and 686 suffer no such consequences, shoot on!

    • That was mostly the combat magnums I believe (not a Smith guy so I forget their numbers). When Ruger came out with the Security 6 it took a big chunk out of S&W’s and Colt’s (which would go out if time from too much full power stuff) sales. Smith answered with the 586 and 686 which would take a, for all practical purposes, unlimited quantity of full power loads. Of course in the meantime, Ruger came out with the GP100 which could dial the .357 up to ludicrous speed if one desired.

      Also, it should be noted, the typical Remington, Winchester, Federal, etc. crap most people shoot at the range is NOT full power .357. For the full power (not +p) stuff you need to go to Buffalo Bore, Double Tap, etc. and spend at least $1 per round. Or roll your own. Effectively it would probably cost $50,000 in ammo to break a 686, so the fact that it would take $100,000 to break a GP100 is really mostly just about bragging rights.

      • My loads put a 158-grain Hornady XTP out at 1200 fps from the 3” barrel. A little milder than the original loading but hotter than the two current factory loads I chrono’d. Boutique brands can certainly top this, but it’s about all I can handle at the rate I’ve been shooting.

        • That’s pretty respectable (500+ ft/lbs energy). Haven’t chronoed them but I figured the Double Tap 158s I run come out at over 1300fps and around 600 ft/lbs, but there’s also a noticeable increase in recoil. And they’re too expensive to shoot more than a cylinder full at the range. I seem to shoot as good or better with the DTs as anything so I’ll stick with them. Besides, I only have 6 rounds.

    • That’s true in the K-frame guns. This is an L-frame gun, built specifically to address that issue.

  7. This is not a set I’d be inclined to criticize. Bravo on the regular practice. I don’t shoot my revolvers on single action much (almost never) but I would not be inclined to render them DAO, that is just my preference though.

  8. Just send those grips my way. I’ll put em on a 4″ 686+. Seriously. Nice choices there. Looks great.

    • He did prove it – you can see it in the pic along with the auto button. 110 Autos are common. You act like you’ve never heard of one before. Check out BladeHQ if you want one for yourself.

    • less than two years now. also available for the 112.
      the lite models are nice as they’ve dehorned that damn clip point some, for the better afaic.

  9. Been carrying a Buck 110 for many years. It’s a great knife. I would recommend it to anyone.

    Revolvers are the only Smith&Wesson firearms that interest me. The 686 in particular.

  10. Not a Smith guy, but if I was this is what I’d carry. The VZ grips look nice. I’m sure the maple ones will look even nicer, but for edc I think I’d stick with what you’ve got, personally.

    • It’s not even remotely the same gun.
      It uses a coil spring instead of a leaf spring as the main/hammer spring – as a result, you get a vastly different trigger.

      • You need to look at them both side by side, they are the same gun, with minor differences…

        Like Chevrolet and GMC, same truck, minor differences…

  11. Not sure if the 686 cylinder is machined for moon clips at the factory. On the other hand the 627 is machined for moon clips.

    • This one is not cut for moon clips. Technically, this is a 3” from the “3-5-7” series which include 5” and 7” as well. I bought it used (two chambers had been fired) for $600 at a local shop.

      • I have purchased many used .357’s with a box of ammo missing one to six rounds.

        Everybody wants a magnum until they actually shoot it.

        • The 686 handles Magnums very well. Especially once you go to a grip that fully covers the backstrap.

          I put Pachmayr square butt grips on my round butt 686 – works fine and the gun is an absolute joy to shoot magnums out of.

  12. My Dad gave me a Buck 110 41 years ago. Walnut scales. I stopped carrying it 10+ years ago. I want my son to have it. I’ve always liked pocket knifes. I’ve, um, compensated myself for saving him the 110…

    I have a 4″ 686-4. I like it a lot But 3″ barrels on L frames are just about the perfect balance of anything I’ve shot in that size.

    Now, this is an unfair comparison. But what if you’d talked about a 696 no dash?

  13. That’s a beautiful setup. most of these what I carry have really been down to earth practical. And I’d be damned proud to be shot with any of them,,,ehh not the Glocks.

  14. If the administrators will tolerate it, I’m going to write a really long background post about why this particular revolver model ended up on my hip 7/24.

    As a youngster back in 1972 I was issued various 1911s for duty in the Marines. By then I’d already purchased a S&W Model 28 in .357 Magnum. The issue gun was a work-related tool, as were the M14 and later M16 rifles. The 28 and a Model 19 .357 were personal, though the command allowed me to carry the 19 during some OD (Officer of the Day) stints.

    Time marches on, but that work vs. personal thing is still running in the background.

    Lots of handguns later, sometime mid-2019 I became fixated on the Manurhin M73, a French .357 used my their national police, the GIGN. They’d apparently tested S&W M19s and found them to wear out under their daily training regimen of 150 full power loads, and drafted the arms factory at Manurhin to improve the design and durability of the Smith.

    Remember, all of this is apocryphal – certainly legend, maybe fact. The resulting M73 differed from its S&W 19 parent by incorporating roller bearings on the trigger return block, and using an adjustable leaf spring in the grip frame for trigger return. I understand that frame, yoke and cylinder hardness were also increased to reduce wear.

    I wanted one badly, but the few sources of new Manhurin revolvers in the US asked around $3200 for new examples. Somewhere, probably on wikipedia, I read that GIGN used S&W 686s for amphibious operations due to stainless construction, and recalled that their decision to use M73s was made before the S&W 586 and 686 existed. I’d never owned an L-frame Smith before. Lots of J-frames, several N-frames, a few K-frames, but no L-frames. So I started looking for one to see, among other things, if it could stand heavy use.

    The one pictured has about 2400 rounds through it, maybe 75% hot .357s. There’s no change in cylinder end play and lockup is as new. If wear does happen, I’ll rebuild it, though that’s a finicky job.

    But now I’ve fallen for the gun and just enjoy ringing steel and walking beer cans with it. Except for a few factory loads that were chronographed, it eats a steady diet of handloads from a 1970s loading manual. My hand is growing callouses and my dog’s ears are ringing, but as long as this “social distancing” thing continues, this revolver’s gonna get shot hard.

  15. I’ve owned a 110 since high school, back when you could still take a knife or even a gun to school. A booger to sharpen when you don’t know how. But since I’ve always loved in non-free knife states, I had no idea there was an auto version. And mine was always a challenge to open with one hand. It’s now a Kershaw and a CRKT with me most days.

  16. I’m sure the Ahrends grips will look nice but I’ve been very happy with the VZ grips on my 642.

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