Review: Smith and Wesson 686

The majority (or at least what appears to be the majority) of individuals who carry a concealed carry firearm these days opt for a semiautomatic in one form or another.  There are many good choices out there, and most can be used in a majority of applications. With all of the ‘tactical’ advertisements being exhibited daily, it’s easy to focus on that realm and almost forget about the guns that started a multi-shot revolution. The revolver. Some would have you believe this type of gun is too slow and old fashioned, but if you think they’re too slow, watch this:



Specifically today we’ll be looking over a timeless classic, the Smith and Wesson Model 686 with a three inch barrel.

I have the newer round butt version which comes with a hammer lock capability for safe storage and a transfer bar action vice a firing pin being mounted on the hammer. If you are unfamiliar with the function of a transfer bar, it is a thin strip of metal that the trigger causes to rise into battery between the hammer and the frame mounted firing pin, allowing the energy of the hammer to be passed from hammer face, to transfer bar, to firing pin, to primer. The invention of the transfer bar allows the gun to be carried with a full six rounds in the cylinder without the chance of the hammer being snagged and inadvertently firing off a round.

Personally, I have trained to use this firearm in its double-action mode only, and have bobbed the hammer to reduce hang ups during the draw. I did serrate the top of the hammer for the off chance I do need to take a single-action shot. Again, if you are unfamiliar with the definitions of double or single actions, I will elaborate.

In a single-action revolver, the trigger performs a single function in causing the hammer to fall. Therefore, as you see in all those great old westerns, the thumb is used to initially bring the hammer to the rear (which also causes the cylinder to spin to a new chamber) until it locks in place. In a double-action revolver, the trigger performs a double function. Not only does the trigger cause the hammer to fall, but it also draws the hammer to the rear (again, this causes the cylinder to spin).

The Smith and Wesson 686 is in .357. One of the benefits of a revolver in this caliber is the option of shooting .38 Special or .38 Special +P (a higher pressure, faster .38)  as well. This is not only a great way to shoot for a little cheaper, but also allows significantly less recoil to be felt by a more timid shooter while still getting the job done.

My gun came with the fantastic red ramp front sight and adjustable rear. These sights are really hard to beat for a non-illuminated set of sights. The red contrasts with most targets and really draws your eye as you present the firearm. The double-action trigger pull is long, but it’s smooth and flawless. I don’t know if I own a more accurate handgun or not, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

Speed Strip

Speed Strip

There are various ways to carry additional ammunition for revolvers. I tend to prefer speed strips. These strips are easier to carry than round speed loaders, and can be employed almost as quickly. I insert two rounds at a time, spinning the cylinder with my off-hand.  Whatever your method, ensure you consistently train to it.

The quality of these handguns is unquestionable. I have had mine for a number of years now and with regular oiling and other general maintenance haven’t had a single problem with fit our finish. I would recommend you research what grip you prefer as there are hundreds of options to choose from, all offering something a little different.

Whatever your taste in handguns, grabbing one of these Smith and Wesson 686’s and heading off to the range, out into town, or out on the road will not be an unpleasant experience.  Knowing that in the event of a malfunction all you have to do is pull the trigger until you’re empty is a good feeling.




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