S&W 586 - any good? (Part Deux)


Sleeping Dog
September 21, 2005, 06:18 PM
Ok, I still have no wheel-gun, still dumb and confused - even after some great answers on my first thread.

I ran the 586 through the paces in the sticky thread, and it's pretty good. A little fore-to-aft wiggle of the cylinder in full lockup, but other than that, it's solid.

Then I saw a couple of stainless guns, and got more confused.

There was a model 681, which was a whole lot like the 586 except the rear sight was not adjustable, the front sight had no bright plastic insert. Other than that, it felt like the 586. Both guns had the firing pin on the hammer.

Then there was a 686, which I thought was just a stainless 586, but it had finger-grip rubber grip, and more different, had a flat hammer face, like my 1911, no firing pin on it.

What are these models, and what's with the different hammer/firing pin design? That seems like a big design difference. I just don't know if it makes any practical difference.

Finally, how's $375 for the blue 586 gun? What is typical? They want $295 for the 681 and $395 for the 686. The blue gun still "speaks" to me more - I like the finish, even if it's a little worn at the front end of the barrel.


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Eskimo Jim
September 21, 2005, 07:25 PM
Sleeping Dog,
I happen to have my Standard Catalog of S&W handy.

The models you listed are essentially the same revolver with some exceptions. The 586 is blued version of 686 with adjustable sights. The 581 is the same as the 585 with fixed sights.

581 made from 1981 through 1988. Depending on the dash number (located on the frame when you open the cylinder), there are some variations like radius stud package, loating hand, new yoke configuration etc. This is blued with fixed sights. Also it has a 4" barrel.

586 made from 1981 through 1999/2000. There are several variations by dash number depending on the year it was made. Essentially the same as 581 but with adjustable sights, available in 4", 6" and 8-3/8" barrel, some 2-1/2" barrel.

686 same as 586 but in stainless steel. made 1980 to date.

The reason that you see one with a firing pin on the hammer and one without is that in 1988 S&W changed from a hammer mounted firing pin to a frame mounted firing pin design. You might notice that the grip frame is different, either squared back or rounded back. That's the only differences in the grip frame. You can swap square frame grips with each other and round grip frame grips with each other. You can also get a conversion grip which changes a rounded grip frame to a square grip design.

You really can't go wrong with any of the three. If you are using it more for home and range use, I'd go with the adjustable sighted version so that you can go from light 38specials to heavy 357magnums and dial in the sights for whatever load you want to use.

I Hope that this helps some. Good luck.


September 22, 2005, 02:04 AM
The change to the frame mounted firing pin was much later than 1988, more like 1998.

September 22, 2005, 02:22 AM
The L-Frame guns you have mentioned are basically the same gun, and one of the most outstanding guns at that. In a nutshell, 686 and 586 have adjustable sights. 686 is stainless, 586 is blue or nickel. The 681 is a 686 with fixed sights. Ditto the 581 (with the 586) but they are much harder to find. Earlier models had firing pins on the hammer, later models on the frame. No difference to me. If you find a good quality L-frame, you can't go wrong. No finer combat revolver exists in my opinion, and I am including the Python.

September 22, 2005, 02:48 AM
You need to go over to http://smith-wessonforum.com/eve/. They have TONS of info over there all about those models of revolvers you are looking at. My wife has a 586 and I bought a couple 686s and wouldn't mind a 681 at the price of the one you see.......the 681 and 581 were made in smaller numbers than there adjustable sighted counterparts (586 and 686). Most guys seem to like the firing pin on the hammer and no safety....and non of the newer MIM parts, but I have a couple of the latest versions and they are still nice in my book.

Steve F
September 22, 2005, 09:08 AM
"Finally, how's $375 for the blue 586 gun? "

I paid exactly that for a 586 "no dash"with box papers and a unopened tool kit last year,here in Calif.,and I think I stole it :D

September 23, 2005, 07:42 AM
The 581/681 was the fixed sight L-Frame .357 called the Distinguished Service Magnum.

The 586/686 was the adjustable sight L-Frame .357 called the Distinguished Combat Magnum.

S&W stopped producing square butt revolvers in 1996. Everything was round butt from then on.
S&W stopped putting the firing pin on the hammer when they switched from steel to MIM in 1998.

The lock was forced upon us in 2002.

Eskimo Jim
September 23, 2005, 10:42 AM
My error on the 1988 change to the frame mounted firing pin. It should have been 1998. My bad.


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