Which 4 357 for my next handgun purchase?


June 28, 2008, 12:54 PM
Hi all. I would like some help from all of you fine folks here at THR. I am looking for some advice as to the purchase of my next hand gun. My next gun buy will be an AR15, which I have now saved up enough for (well almost) and am doing my research as to which brand/ configuration. I would like a 4 inch barrel 357. It will serve as a general range/ woods/ all purpose revolver. I think that I would prefer stainless, but am open to suggestions. Right now I have a USP45, a 6 inch Colt Python, and a Winchester 94 (30-30). Needless to say, I love the python, but it is too nice to be trudging through the woods, and the 6 inch bbl bakes it a little cumbersome to carry/ pack.

If you guys could give me a few suggestions and what to look for (or what to avoid) I would be grateful.


If you enjoyed reading about "Which 4 357 for my next handgun purchase?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
June 28, 2008, 01:03 PM
easy. You want a S&W 686.

June 28, 2008, 01:09 PM
Buy an older Smith like a Model 19.

Great gun. Reliable as gravity.

A classic.

June 28, 2008, 01:13 PM
thanks, but can you give me some more info? I should have stated that I don't know much about revolvers.

June 28, 2008, 01:24 PM
I know the feeling... I have a 6 inch python and have had the hankerin for 4 inch 357's for years. I would recommend as others said a 586/686 smith,a model 19 smith or a gp 100...

I have the 19 and gp 100 in 4 inch versions and the GP is about bulletproof and I don't feel as bad dragging it around in the yuck ;)

the 19 is a bit lighter and great for carry... the x86 or gp 100 are stouter for magnum loads.

If woods use is the main use a ruger blackhawk is not a bad choice either.

Look up any of those- there are plenty of threads about them. They all have their fans- I know I would be hard pressed to pick only one :D

June 28, 2008, 01:30 PM
I am 60 years old, last week. I do not own a single Smith and Wesson. I do own 6 Rugers. I have sold 2 guns I wish I had back. One was a Smith 65, 4". For what you describe I can't think of a better gun. A 686 or a GP 100 or a Taurus 66 or any number of other guns are stainless 4" 357s, but that Smith 65 is lighter and handles better, and mine was the most accurate center fire handgun I ever owned. Yours may not do that good, but I have never seen a bad one.

June 28, 2008, 01:37 PM
If it is your intent to use the revolver as a "woods" gun which includes some hard treatment then, by all means, I would recommend the Ruger GP-100http://www.ruger-firearms.com/Firearms/images/Products/53L.jpg. This is an excellent choice of a rugged, dependable, and absolutely reliable revolver!

June 28, 2008, 01:38 PM
Well, for "average" shooters, with average sized hands, the old Smith K-frame handguns are comfortable (like the Model 13 or K-38 for instance). The newer L-frame isn't much different in some respects, and is also a comfortable size. The 686 is an L-frame.

If you're fairly new to revolvers, the point here is that among the S&Ws, there are a handful of frame sizes, running from small to large, the J, K, L, N, and X frames. The J-frame is for pocket pistols, the X is for hand cannons, and the rest fall in the middle. Unless you're a really big dude, the N frame is a bit big to conceal (and sort of heavy). The N frame is for the .44 and .45 revolvers, like the M29 and M25 respectively. The K and L frames are the very popular 'midsize' frames suited especially well to .357 and similar calibers. Go to a gun shop and ask to handle some just like you'd try on different shoes.

My 686 Plus is a stainless 7-shot revolver and this one has a 4" barrel. It's one of the handier handguns I've ever had (out of maybe 60 or so). My model 13 has a slightly smaller frame and has a heavy barrel, 4 inch, and it, too is a delight to shoot. Both aren't too heavy to carry afield, but heavy enough to take some of the bite out of hotter .357 load recoil. Scandium frames are light, which makes them more comfortable to carry but less comfortable to shoot. Stainless is great if you don't want scandium.

This doesn't mean you have to get a 686 - but it's a very good place to start to see if it 'feels right' to you. The frame size is popular because so it's a good fit for a huge number of shooters. You can always go bigger or smaller, or change grips to make a better fit, but the 686 is popular for a reason.

And.... if and when you decide to trade it someday, it's easy enough to get rid of it without being burned.

Good luck - this is a good place to get opinions, most of us have at least one!

June 28, 2008, 01:39 PM
S&W K-frame .357 models 19, 65, or 66. The 19 and 66 have adjustable sights. The 65 and 66 are stainless. Any one of them would make a fantastic woods gun. They sight their fixed sights for use with 158gr magnum loads, so your woods bullets will be spot on. I carry all 4 of my 4" K-frames with 158gr gold dots.

K frames are light, hold 6 rounds, and point like a finger. I don't think that there is a better full sized carry gun in existence.

June 28, 2008, 01:50 PM

I completely see your point about the Python. Yes it's up to the task but a shorter barrel on a gun that doesn't have so much collector or sentimental value would be a very smart investment.

In a 4" .357 Revolver there's basically two frame sizes for most intents and purposes, such as yours. The terms come from Smith and Wesson's nomenclature but other companies basically adhere to this sizing convention because there's only so many ways to build a double action revolver.

The first is the K frame. Here's an article with examples of classic .357 Magnum revolvers in this size, as well as the history of how the K frame and the .357 cartridge came to be:


The K frame is something a lot of people like very much because it's slim, trim, and has a wonderful heft and balance. For personal carry it's pretty nice.

The downside is that the K frame sized guns generally aren't quite as sturdy as the next frame size, the L frame.

Now speaking of the L frame, it was the next size to come along. The problem with the K frame Smith and Wesson revolvers is that a steady diet of even modestly powerful .357 loads tends to strain the gun just enough to make things come loose, causing a variety of problems. Now there's some K frame sized guns out there which are excellent revolvers that will give a lifetime or more of service, but as with anything there's a trade off.

Another issue is that the K frame has fallen out of favor due to these issues, which is unfortunate because like most revolver shooters I like the K frame and I think it has a place. There aren't very many K frame sized guns being made right now, which has made classic K frames like the S&W Model 19 and 66 become very valuable as used guns if they're in fine shape. A less expensive alternative is the Ruger "Six" series (Speed Six, Service Six, etc.) which is analogous to a S&W K frame, size wise, but once again only available used.

The L frame fixes the K frame "problem" by being larger, stronger, and more massive. Basically you'll never wear it out. The upside to this is that your gun requires less tender loving care, the downside is that an L frame sized gun is a lot more gun to carry.

The contemporary benchmarks for what makes a very good and functional 4" .357 wheelgun in the L frame size are the Smith and Wesson 686, and the Ruger GP100. These are both in current production and there's plenty of used and new examples to be had. To be honest as much as I like the K frame, the L frame is the one I prefer both for its balance/feel and its performance. This is subjective however as many people feel the opposite, but I prefer the heavier, beefier L frame because I feel it's more durable and easier to shoot. For a woods gun I think it's ideal. The K frame is easier to carry concealed though (I sometimes CCW a 3" GP100 however so the L frame is certainly not too big).

The model 686 by comparison to the GP100 usually has a significantly better trigger out of the box. The GP100 boasts being structurally stronger due to its design. I also think it's easier to maintain and clean due to the way the trigger group lifts out of the Ruger so easily vs. the S&W, but I also think that's a minor point.

The model 686 has been through several variations (the first being the model 686, then the model 686-1, then 686-2, etc.) and at some point, the company made changes some people don't like. Any new model 686 made today has an MIM trigger and hammer, as well as an internal lock system.

I don't like these features because I feel while the MIM parts are strong and durable, they are aesthetically displeasing on what's supposed to be a nice classic handgun. And like many, I don't see the point of the internal locking system and would rather not have it at all. However if you're worried about utility and aren't biased like I am about these things, you probably don't care about that kind of stuff and you'd be very happy with a 686.

Ideally I'd try to find a 686 with the forged hammer and trigger and no lock, but they're getting harder to find. I'd probably wind up buying a new one and being happy with it if I just had to have a Smith and Wesson.

However in new production guns I prefer the Ruger GP100. As I mentioned before the S&W typically has a better out of the box trigger, but the Rugers can be broken in and/or tweaked to have a very nice trigger pull. My personal GP100 was a little rough and stiff when I got it, but now has a perfectly serviceable trigger and all I've done is fire and dryfire a lot.

The Ruger has forged parts, a stronger frame, and no internal lock feature. I believe if you're buying a brand new gun it's the best general purpose 4" .357 magnum in current production.

But both the 686 and the GP100 are very, very good and ideally we'd all have both. I prefer the Ruger but I can see why someone would disagree with me and prefer the Smith.

The K frame sized guns are very good too, but as I said, a little harder to find new or "like new" ones, and currently the L frame is the way guns like this come. I personally think for your described purposes you'd like an L frame better and should look into the GP100 or S&W 686.

June 28, 2008, 02:30 PM
easy. You want a S&W 686.

I have a 686+ 7-shot and IMHO it is a perfectly balanced a gun.

This would be my first choice. Second would be a Ruger SP of GP model.

June 28, 2008, 02:55 PM
Robusto said:

I would like a 4 inch barrel 357. It will serve as a general range/ woods/ all purpose revolver. I think that I would prefer stainless

I have more Smiths than Rugers and love them equally because they are all reliable and accurate, not to mention pretty.

If it were me, I'll get the Ruger GP100 for the reasons above and cheaper so that means more cash for primers and powder. The old style rubber and wood insert grip fit me better than any Smith grip I've used. Whatever trigger issues you may have against the GP100 is insignificant in relatively close range woods encounters.

June 28, 2008, 03:01 PM
They're all good suggestions. Personally, I'd go with the suggestion for a Ruger GP100 stainless. It's absolutely built like a tank. The trigger pull isn't as smooth as an older S&W, but for a field gun, you don't want target gun delicacy.

I have a Ruger GP100 and a S&W 66 no dash, both with four inch barrels. They're both fine guns, but I prefer the Ruger for the field. Mainly because it can be replaced if something happened to it. (Well, other than finding one without a lock, I suppose.)

June 28, 2008, 03:05 PM
The Ruger is built like a tank.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is the S&W Model 60 .357 with THREE-inch barrel and adjustable sights.

J-frame, 5 shots.


The S&W 686 is a fine gun too.

June 28, 2008, 03:16 PM
My favorites have always been the S&W M-19 and the Ruger Security Six...

June 28, 2008, 03:48 PM
A lot of great info here. Keep it coming. I have pretty large mitts, so a larger frame is OK with me. Last time I was at the gun shop, I did hold the 686 and the GP100 (the gp was blue) and both felt nice. the S&W was about $200 more if i remember correctly, and being a broke student less expensive is certinly appealing, but I will spend money to get quality. I learned long ago that cheap is usually not cheap in the long run. I will most likely be looking for a used gun, but I am open to whatever I may find.

Also, I originaly had a DA revolver in mind, but may also consider a SA.

Thanks for all of the info,

June 28, 2008, 04:11 PM
Keep it coming. I have pretty large mitts, so a larger frame is OK with me......the S&W was about $200 more if i remember correctly, and being a broke student less expensive is certinly appealing, but I will spend money to get quality.

GP100 is the quintessential "less expensive...quality" gun. Spend the $200 on ammo:D Seriously.

Gee, I hope my 686s do not get jealous:neener:

BTW, always use Jim March's Revolver Checkout Procedure in this sub-forum's stickies, whether buying new or used revolvers. This is the best layman's article on the subject and may save you a bundle.

June 28, 2008, 05:29 PM
This is my wilderness gun. S&W Model 586-7, 7 shot .357 Magnum. L frame with full lug make for a sweet shooter, recoil is extremely manageable even with hot loads. Accurate as all get out.


June 28, 2008, 05:29 PM
I am glad the Ruger guys are out in force. They are quality revolvers and tough as nails.

YOu will have to spend some of the money you saved on the trigger but if you don't mind the extra wieght, it is an excellent revolver.

My suggestion, however, is to buy an older Smith (Model 19, or a 27). The reasoning is that they don't make them anymore.

Rugers are still being cranked out

June 28, 2008, 06:00 PM
YOu will have to spend some of the money you saved on the trigger but if you don't mind the extra wieght, it is an excellent revolver.

I didn't have to spend any money on my GP100 trigger. I just put lots of ammo through the gun.

June 28, 2008, 06:10 PM
Lately, I've heard of GP100 QC problems, but a used one 3-4yrs old or earlier will probably shoot 1" or less at 25yds with a preferred factory load....hard to beat.....hard to beat up.....certainly wouldn't be worn-out by any previous owner.....

June 28, 2008, 06:42 PM
Any specifics on these QC problems or is it hearsay? I spend a good amount of time at my local range/gun shop and have heard nothing. I own a 4 inch and my next one will be a 6 inch in the next few months and have been problem free. My favorite thing with the gp is the solid feel of the gun when shooting.

June 28, 2008, 07:04 PM
For a field 357 wheelgun, I like the S&W mod 19 or 66

June 28, 2008, 07:12 PM
First, let's set the record straight. The K-frames Achille's heel was the front frame's thickness, which limited the diameter of the barrel and it's forcing cone (f.c.) that intrudes into the frame's cylinder opening. It requires a flat on the bottom of the f.c., too, so the cylinder's gas seal can park beneath it when the cylinder is closed. With the move towards 110-125gr hyper velocity, some erosion of the forcing cone was noted - and could cause early premature cracking of same. The 'fix' was to simply use heavier - and, thus, slower bullets... or replace the barrel when wear was noted.

The L-frame increased the front frame thickness by ~.040", allowing a f.c. of .025" larger OD. The cylinder frame opening is taller, pushing the cylinder axle vertically down, along with that gas seal, negating the need for that flat spot on the f.c.'s bottom. These enhancements make the L-frame more tolerant of those hyper velocity low mass bullets and their 'gas cutting' on the f.c.. The top straps and frame backs are the same on the K & L frame - they have the same lockwork and take the same grips. The taller frame opening gives them the ability to add another hole in the larger OD cylinder - giving rise to the 686+ and it's variants as 7-shot .357s. They also have made a family of 5-shot .44 Specials from that frame - but, as you'd expect, the larger caliber (.430") once again leaves a small f.c. and a flat spot - deja vu!

As to the 'massive' GP-100 - please compare apples to other apples. Compare the cast steel 4" GP-100, with it's large barrel shroud to the full lugged standard hot forged/heat treated 4" 6-shot 686 - the former weighs 41 oz, the S&W weighs 40 oz. Yep, the sideplate comes off the side of an S&W - making it seem inherently less sturdy. That design has worked for eons for a lot more powerful caliber S&Ws - including their powerhouse .500 Magnum.

So, you bet I'd suggest getting a 4" 66 if you could find it. What makes them 'point' so much better is the weight distribution - that partially lugged barrel just helps that, period. They have made a run of 5" 686+ with a partial lug, but they are a tad difficult to find. A fine new S&W 7-shooter is the 620, actually, the 4" 66's replacement. A little heavier - but seven rounds! In fact, think of it as an L-frame 686+ with a 'proper' partial lug - even has the same grip the 686 family ships with - and ~$30 less than the 686+. Below are my 6" 66 and 5" 686+ so you can 'see' there isn't much difference:


Now, I just bought what has to be the best bargain from S&W this year - an N-frame 8-shot .357M. It was ~$80 over the price of a new 4" 686+ - but included some nice extras - the spring loaded front sight being one. Here it is with a HiViz front sight and my 625JM's Miculek grips - and my J-frame 642 Airweight for scale:


Best of luck with your choice!


June 28, 2008, 07:17 PM
QC problem reports come from several reliable sources, but haven't had a GP in several years so it's not a personal experience....the reliable sources are serious shooters and fans of the platform....the GP's I've owned were astoundingly accurate.....

Ala Dan
June 28, 2008, 07:17 PM
Well folks, a little different twist here but I'm going to recommend a new
look 3", five shot Smith & Wesson model 60 .357 magnum. It would serve
well for the applications that were mentioned in the opening post~! :scrutiny: ;)

If it must have a 4" barrel, my personal all time favorite is the S&W model 19
or 66; but a 686 would also leave a lasting impression.

June 28, 2008, 08:41 PM
I didn't have to spend any money on my GP100 trigger. I just put lots of ammo through the gun.

That would take a LOT of ammo

June 28, 2008, 08:46 PM
In single action, a Ruger New Vaquero in stainless 357 is a great woods gun and a fun shooter.

June 28, 2008, 08:49 PM
If you are going to buy a new gun I'd go with a 4" GP100 as it doesn't have the "Hillary Hole" that the S&W's have.

Not to hijack the thread, but I have a documented case of a S&W with a "Hillary Hole" failing me on the Range. It had to be sent back to S&W to be repaired. I'm switching to Ruger if I have a choice between a new S&W and a new Ruger.

If you are looking at a used, "pre-lock" S&W then the 66 or the 686 would be a good choice. I myself like the 686.


June 28, 2008, 09:25 PM
gp100. it has been a great gun. built like a tank.

June 28, 2008, 09:33 PM
The original mod 27 is hard to beat and if you dont want to carry that nice of a revolver go with the mod 28 high way patrol. Buy used, with pinned barrel and recessed cylinders. This gun has size, strength and the finest of trigers. No body beats a S&W single action triger.
The mod 19 is also a great revolver, shoot mostly .38+P in it for practice and full house .357 mags in the woods.
Always get pinned barrels and recessed cylinders with S&W. Buy from gunbroker.com or auction arms etc.

June 28, 2008, 10:34 PM

June 28, 2008, 11:20 PM
Yes, indeed, I love my 686 Plus, but I love my Rugers, too.

I will never buy another S&W (new) because they caved with the Hillary Hole:barf:. I will still buy used ones - there are still a lot of them around that somebody bought, shot two boxes of shells through, then left it in a drawer. And I don't like the MIM modifications, either.:scrutiny: I can't condone S&W's use of the Hillary Hole - but that doesn't mean the ones made a few years ago in happier times are off limits to me.

I have to agree that the GP100 is, like all Rugers, absolutely solid and reliable.
For my own hands, the S&Ws just fit, feel, and work better for me - I can't knock Ruger at all, own several, but the S&W grip frame is my preference. I think the GP100 doesn't quite have the same graceful lines - but then - I own a couple CZ52s, so what do I know?:D

June 29, 2008, 12:29 AM
I will never buy another S&W (new) because they caved with the Hillary HoleThe new production Model 40-1's have no internal lock.

June 29, 2008, 04:51 AM
You can get a used S&W M28 in the 3-350 range. Last a lifetime.

If you enjoyed reading about "Which 4 357 for my next handgun purchase?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!