S&W 686 --Which barrel?


PDA






Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 09:47 AM
I held a S&W 686 with 4 inch barrel in the gun shop yesterday and loved it. It felt great in my hand, not too heavy at all. I also loved its look. Here's my dilemma: I will be using this gun for home defense and shooting a the range with my wife. As a matter of fact, we live in the country and are going to build us an outside shooting area. I understand that theoretically the 6 inch barrel will have a longer sight radius and thus be potentially more accurate. The longer barrel will also reduce recoil somewhat more than the 4 in barrel. This is what I keep reading in various forums. I want to get the gun that is going to give us the most enjoyment. Maybe the 6 in barrel excels in the above mentioned criteria, but I just feel so drawn to the 4 in. as it feels and looks better, plus my wife likes it better as well. I WANT the 4 in barrel, but I also want the best shooting experience I can get. I cannot afford both these guns.

What I would like to know from anyone who owns these guns or has shot both of them is if there is a real, discernible difference in accuracy and recoil, especially with the .357 rounds. I know theoretically there is a difference but in real life experience are the differences negligible or very tangible?

I would like to be able to shoot this gun at the range and be comfortable with the .357 rounds. Some have said you can shoot the 686 all day long with .357 rounds, others have said they still come away with sore hands after a few cylinders of shooting them. What is the actual truth here? Also, how about the .357 rounds reaching full potential through a 4 in. barrel? I understand that through small barrels the .357 round is not much better than .38. Is the 4 inch barrel going to be adequate?

As much as I like and want the 4 in. I would go with the 6 inch if it is going to have a FACTUAL, NOTICEABLE advantage over the 4 in.

If you enjoyed reading about "S&W 686 --Which barrel?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
NOLAEMT
August 23, 2011, 09:58 AM
I feel like the 4" barrel balances the best of all.

but that is just my opinion.

Walkalong
August 23, 2011, 09:59 AM
I am partial to the 4" gun (http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=131402&stc=1&d=1291154662) myself. It just feels better to me. I have had both and did not shot the 6" gun (http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=56758&d=1176851443) any better. Some folks might, but I didn't. I shoot my 2 1/2" 686 at 100 yards fairly often. Yes, it is harder to shoot well than either the 4" or the 6".

mdauben
August 23, 2011, 10:04 AM
I feel like the 4" barrel balances the best of all.

but that is just my opinion.
Not just yours. ;)

In addition to having the best balance in your hand, I think the 4 inch is the best compromise between conealabilty (2.5") and velocity (6").

Tallinar
August 23, 2011, 10:07 AM
I would wager that the vast majority of us don't shoot well enough to the point where barrel length makes any discernable difference at all. I've seen folks hit an 80 yd gong with a snub-nosed revolver. I couldn't hit it with my 7.5 inch SBH.

The only factual, undisputable advantage of the longer barrel that you're going to get is a slight increase in muzzle velocity compared to a shorter barrel. Yes, you are correct that you gain a slight site radius, but at the ranges you'll be shooting .357 magnum, I can't see how there's any benefit to this. The gain in site radius is more noticeable in rifles, IMO - where you can be gaining or losing or gaining 8-12 inches depending on barrel length and rear site location - and with rifles we can be talking about shooting distances where it might matter.

Since you mentioned home defense, bear in mind that a shorter site radius allows for faster site picture acquisition - which is far more important to you in a defensive situation than long range precision pistol accuracy. I think you'd find the 4 inch revolver balances better in the hand. All things considered, you'd find the 4 inch to be much easier to wield in a defensive situation.

Given your intended use (range gun/home defense for you and the wife), and the fact that you quite obviously gravitate toward the 4 inch - go with the 4 inch.

Finally, if you're concerned about felt recoil - the thing that will make the biggest difference is a good set of grips. Even at 4 inches, the 686 has full underlugged barrel, and it's a pretty heavy gun as it stands. Recoil will not be noticeably lighter with an added 2 inches of barrel, in my experience.

357Shooter
August 23, 2011, 10:16 AM
If you like the looks and feel of the 4" you might want to try the 3" if there is one available, I got mine 6 months ago and it's definitely one of my favorites.

Rollis R. Karvellis
August 23, 2011, 10:18 AM
If you like the four inch gun buy it. I, like the my 6" 686's, but the next one I, buy will be a four inch modle, becuse they do handle nice. As far as recoil goes, it depends on the load, not the gun.

Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 10:30 AM
Thanks everyone for the info. That is what I needed. My thinking was that theoretically the 6 in. may excel, but in real life there would be little, if any difference. I am no expert marksman (yet -- lol ), so I would imagine that either gun is going to be more accurate than I am capable of achieving at this point.

What about the ease of the .357 rounds though? Will this gun make shooting them tolerable, or even enjoyable? I would not shoot this round consistently because of the cost, but I would like to do it occasionally to stay sharp with that size round.

Tallinar
August 23, 2011, 10:38 AM
What about the ease of the .357 rounds though? Will this gun make shooting them tolerable, or even enjoyable?

You'll just have to buy it, shoot it, and see how it fits you. As I said before, if you're going to want to change anything about it, the grips would be it. Depending what grips are on the gun you're considering buying, you may be just fine.

Do you have any prior experience with .357 magum? You may find that recoil will actually be more mild in that 686 than you're imagining.

Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 10:43 AM
I have not shot a .357, but I have shot my son-in-law's .45 semi auto compact. It is a Tarus. I did not find the recoil excessive at all. It wasn't a problem. I don't how that would compare to a .357 though.

Dogguy
August 23, 2011, 10:49 AM
If the gun will be used for home defense, a long barrel is no benefit. In the unfortunate event you must use the gun for that purpose, you will be shooting at short ranges and, probably, pointing rather than aiming. Unless you're an expert shot and you can actually use the slight aiming advantage of the longer barrel, a 4" barrel is more than adequate for targets.

The 686 is a fine revolver and, for me, it feels just right with a 4" barrel.

The .357 Magnum does have more kick than the .45 ACP. But a heavy gun like the 686 does absorb some of that recoil. One advantage of the .357 Magnum is the ability to use lower powered .38 Specials as you are getting used to the gun. You can then move up to .38 +P, medium power .357s and, finally, into full house Magnum loads.

Tallinar
August 23, 2011, 11:01 AM
If you tolerated .45 ACP in a combat automatic just fine, then I imagine you'll do fine with .357 magnum in a 4 inch 686. You'll just have to try it and see.

If full power magnum loads end up too stiff for you or your wife, .38 special +P is a very popular and able defensive cartridge.

Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 11:02 AM
One other question comes to mind. If I ever got proficient with the 686 and wanted to shoot in any kind of competition, would the 4 in barrel still serve me well?

Guillermo
August 23, 2011, 11:05 AM
yes

great for competition


4 is the most versatile.

6 is great for open carry, hunting, range toy

dprice3844444
August 23, 2011, 11:08 AM
4 inch leaves a nicer lump on somebody's head better than a 3 inch

Tallinar
August 23, 2011, 11:11 AM
Yes, 4 inch would be ideal for competition like USPSA.

VINTAGE-SLOTCARS
August 23, 2011, 11:18 AM
I carried a 4" on duty for several years. and "Yes", It works well for both.:)

Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 11:36 AM
The 686 I looked at in the local gun shop has the 7 round version on sale. Seems like I read somewhere that if you do any competition with a revolver it has to be strictly 6 shooter. Is this true?

pikid89
August 23, 2011, 12:16 PM
IDPA rules require 6 round max in revolver classes

PabloJ
August 23, 2011, 12:30 PM
I would not buy .357 revolver to shoot full loads if the barrel was <4".

Shienhausser
August 23, 2011, 12:57 PM
I have shot up to 500 .357 in one day from my 6" 686. Very tolerable for me.

Now my 66 2.5"..... that's another story...ouch.

Black Knight
August 23, 2011, 01:03 PM
I have a six shot 4" 686 that I carried as an armed security officer for several years. It was one of the best guns I have ever carried. You can't go wrong with one. The 6" model will be quite a bit heavier than the 4". My wife thought the 686 was too heavy for her so she took my 2 1/2" S&W 66 as her gun. Let your wife choose the gun she likes. If she likes the 686 and you like the 686 then there should be no problem. I also have a 6" Colt Python that I carried before the 686. I found no appreciable difference in the accuracy or other performance at normal ranges.

Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 01:19 PM
I want to thank everyone again for all the input. I want to thank Shienhausser and Tallinar especially for their contributions. It has helped a lot. And keep the input coming! I priced a 686 six shot 4 in barrel today at another gun shop for $702.00 out the door. That is credit card sale. Could get it $27.00 cheaper with cash. But alas, not that much lying around. Sound reasonable?

Guillermo
August 23, 2011, 01:24 PM
too much

spend less money and buy a better gun.

Get one an older one with no MIM parts, the idiot-lock and the 2 pc barrel.

Last year I picked up a 4 inch 686 for 400 bucks.

They have gone up since then. Looking at 500 in these parts.

The bottom line is that new Smith & Wesson revolvers are overpriced, poor QC, and have had MIM parts. You can buy a better gun for less money on the used market.

Read the sticky at the top of the revolver section on how to check out a gun.

Old krow
August 23, 2011, 02:08 PM
I would wager that the vast majority of us don't shoot well enough to the point where barrel length makes any discernable difference at all. I've seen folks hit an 80 yd gong with a snub-nosed revolver.

I agree. I think that practice and technique will take you farther than the extra 2" of barrel. Here's a great example; Take a look at Hickock45 (http://www.youtube.com/user/hickok45#p/search/0/VRcmGRazf9s) shooting his .44mag (3" barrel) on youtube. I believe it's the "heavy lead" episode. He's shooting out to 80 yards toward the end.

I also agree with Guillermo, there are some good deals out there.

reppans
August 23, 2011, 02:52 PM
The 4" will also give you reasonable holster and carry options. Even if only for home defense, what good is your gun if it's upstairs or inside while you're downstairs or outside?

just for fun
August 23, 2011, 03:59 PM
Just came in from the reloading room and came on site to see what's going on. You've selected a topic of one of my favorite firearms, L framed Smiths. Bought a 586 in 85 right after they first came out. Still have it, and last Chirstmas my son gave me a 686 seven shooter! Now that I'm retired I try to get to the range at least once a week. Rarely do I not take one of the L frames with me.
I reload, and it could be an age factor that has made me back off full house loads over the past 3 decades. Back in the day there was a Texas Ranger "skeeter" somethin that wrote many an article for Guns&Ammo. His pet load was 13.5 grains of 2400 in 38 cases, pushing a 125 grain bullet. Tried it, in 357 cases, (don't trust my memory) and have been using it ever since. That was the load I was puting togeather when I stopped for a break.
Both my Smiths are 4 inch models, and would not even consider trading eighter one of them for any hand gun on the market. Started out with revolvers back in the 60's and that's what I shoot the best. I do own a number of autos and enjoy shooting them, but the Smiths are my go to guns. Although my L frames are great guns, my most fun to shoot guns are my Smith 44 mags, They almost seem to aim themselves!!

M3stuart
August 23, 2011, 04:23 PM
I have a 6" 686. It is barrel-heavy. I got a great deal and didn't have your options. If I had the option I would have chosen the 4". In fact, I'm thinking of sending it back to S&W to have them put the 4" barrel on it. Don't get me wrong; the 6" 686 is a GREAT gun - I can hit a 4" pattern at 75' which is my best shooter.

IMHO; get the 4". You can't go wrong.

357 Terms
August 23, 2011, 04:31 PM
My 4in 357 would be the LAST 357 of mine I would let go (a ss Ruger Service Six) the 4in 357 is the most versatile and practical revolver ever made. Not that there is anything wrong with a longer tube ( have two that are longer) I'm just saying....

Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 04:42 PM
Justforfun:

While I'm probably close to your age if you are retired, (I'm 59), I am a rookie with handguns. This will be my first handgun (actually second, but haven't taken possession yet). As you well know, the world we grew up in no longer exists. The world today is a much more dangerous place. Consequently, I feel the need for a handgun for the first time. And, I am the type of person if I buy something like a handgun, I am going to want to do more with it than just sit it on the night stand. Thus, my wife and I are very interested in shooting for recreation as well as having a handgun for self defense.

That said, in my limited excursion into the world of handguns so far, this is my observation about revolvers over semi automatics. When I first started looking for a gun, all I had in my head was either a Springfield XDM 9mm or a Glock. Revolvers did not interest me at all. Seemed archaic. BUT turns out, because of a little arthritis in my wife's hands, she couldn't adequately work the slide on the semi's at the range. So, my attention turned to revolvers. The gun shop owner showed me a S&W 649 and my wife and I both loved its feel. I bought it but it hasn't come in yet. Since the purchase I have since read a lot of posts indicating its not the best firearm to be shooting regularly at the range, especially with .357 rounds. Great for concealed carry though. Hence the 686.

Here's my observation, its a quote from Star Wars: "A light sabre, a more sophisticated weapon for a more civilized time." This from Obi Won after Han Solo says, "Just give a laser blaster any day." The revolver seems to be an exquisite weapon, a precision piece of art if you will, to be appreciated over the more generic/plain looking semi's, a reference to the Glocks, in particular. I know the semi's will get the job done quicker probably than a revolver, but so did the laser blaster over the light sabre. When I open that stainless steel cylinder and spin it, it is like precision music. Anyway, that's my take on revolvers.

Guillermo
August 23, 2011, 05:30 PM
I suspect that you will be shooting .38s out of that 649.

if possible...shoot before you buy. Lots of ranges rent guns. And lots of folks are happy to loan you a gun to try (we love promoting our favorite guns)

Weight is bad for carrying and great for taming recoil.

I consider than if I can't put 6 shots into a pie plate at 10 feet in under 4 seconds I should not carry it. I can't do that with a light snub nose.

(the Ruger SP101 is very popular because of it's recoil-taming heft)

Just a few thoughts

Welcome to the gun world...it is fun

trex1310
August 23, 2011, 05:45 PM
here's mine:

BYJO4
August 23, 2011, 06:10 PM
I have both the 4" and 6" that I shoot on a regular basis. I can't tell much difference in recoil between them although I prefer to shoot 357 target loads over full power loads as much more comfortable. I do shoot the 6" a little better but both give excellent accuracy. I think you should simply get the one you like the most.

valnar
August 23, 2011, 06:24 PM
I like the 4" better.

I would like to be able to shoot this gun at the range and be comfortable with the .357 rounds.
I wouldn't call shooting .357 regularly through any pistol comfortable.

jmr40
August 23, 2011, 06:54 PM
I think the 4" is the best all around length if you plan on carrying. But if you plan to use it only in and around the home there is nothing wrong with the 6" gun. It will be slightly more accurate, have less muzzle flip, give you a bit more velocity, and be a bit quieter.

wrs840
August 23, 2011, 07:34 PM
I would buy a 4" 686 over a 6" 686 for sure, and yes I own a 4" 686, and also own a 6" Model 66 and a 6" Security Six. I'd buy a 3" of any of those in a heartbeat. I don't "like" target-shooting full house .357 in any of them after four or five cylinders downrange, and go back to my 3" or my 4" .38 M64 for "fun target shooting". I think shooting any .357 indoors in the dark, especially w/o ear protection would be awfully disorienting, but that's just me...

22250Rem
August 23, 2011, 08:09 PM
Got my 4" 686 over a year ago. The local gun shop had a 3", IIRC, a 4" and a 6". I didn't care for the 3" and the 4" had a real sweet balance to it. My friend who owns the shop said he's sold more 4" 686's than the 3 & 6's combined. I fell for the 4" and I'm glad I did. I love it. I can actually hit things with it; for me that's saying something 'cause I'm not that much of a pistolero even though I own several. It's intended for the home, the range, woods bumming and occasional concealed carry. So far it's great for all that stuff. I now feel that a 4" is just right for that kind of stuff. Not too short, not too long. Seems to have adequate sight radius (at least for me) and does what I intend it to just fine. If it was for hunting I would have gone 6" but I have other guns for that. It's become one of my favorites.

just for fun
August 23, 2011, 09:06 PM
Jake,
Because of your reply,I feel I should go into more depth about the few (dozen, give or take a couple) that I do own. I guess I should say that of the few guns that I've owned, all but two are keepers. Buying and selling is NOT my thing.
Started out, as you did, with a J frame Smith model 36. Then came the Miami shootout and in 75 I bought a Smith 39. Still the best shooting auto I own. Around the late 80's I decided I needed more of a "man's gun", hence the purchase of a few 45 APC's. Very nice solid round, BUT I'm really not into all that "rap,tap,rack, do the foot shuffel, stuff! God forbid that I would ever be in a situation where I really need a gun, it must go bang every time. Hence, my first choice is a revolver. At this point the younger set can laugh all they want. As a Nam vet I know first hand what gonna die fear can do, you will forget your mother's maidian name!
By the early 90's I decided I wanted a carry permit. Jumped through all the hoops and started carrying a kimber Pro-Carry. Very nice gun. When I retired in 07 and started carrying more often and that 45 got heavy. So a life time later I'm back to my little J frame Smith!
As for the L frames the 586 is a "square" frame and the 686 is a round one. Lock and all I prefer the 686. What's the differance? The 686 feels better in my hand. Dumb answer yes, but true.
Oh, I forgot to say that I bought a glock back in the early 2000's. I keep as a reminder how bad I shoot it! 357 Sig round. Really like the round but not the platform. Glock's are on the top of my learn from my mistakes firearms!

Jake Benson
August 23, 2011, 10:21 PM
Thanks for the second post. I like your perspective. I was in the Marine corps from '69 to '74. Fortunately, I missed Nam. I got sent to Japan for my Westpac tour. Imagine that! People were re-enlisting for that duty station. It was considered a choice one, and I just got the luck of the draw. With these two revolvers, (I have definitely decided to order the 686 tomorrow), I hope I will be set. At least until I get down the road a good piece with them!

Seven For Sure
August 24, 2011, 11:19 AM
I have -5 +'s in 2.5, 3, 4 and 6" barrels. Best all around for me is the 3". If carry was of zero concern I'd take the 4". The 6" is only good to me for hog hunting so for range and HD, I'd still choose the 4". The 2.5" is the first I'd part with since IMO, the 3" can do all it can and more. These L frames are'nt pocket guns. Get the 4" and don't look back or you'll end up with more.

Jake Benson
August 24, 2011, 10:35 PM
I ordered the 4 inch barrel today. You guys gave me a lot of good input.

On another note, the 649 I had ordered came in today. I love that gun. Not only is it a good fit but it performs admirably. When I bought it I was initially going to get a 9mm but my wife could not work the slide very well. The gunshop owner's daughter was there and she showed me her 649. I was told the recoil would not be too bad, etc. so I bought it. After ordering it I read a lot of posts on different forums saying how it "kicked like a mule", will knock your hand off, etc. etc with .357 rounds. I was quite concerned until I shot it. No where near the kick I was expecting. Yes, its got a recoil, but very manageable, it will be no problem for my wife, especially with .38 rounds. A great gun, and I can't wait to get my 686 in a couple of days.

Tallinar
August 24, 2011, 11:15 PM
Don't forget to post pics, or there will be a lot of folks out to get you! :neener:

just for fun
August 25, 2011, 02:16 PM
Congrats on your new guns! There is no way you can go wrong with a Smith. Not all but most gun makers today come close to Smith's standards. You do realize the next step for a revolver man is reloading. ;) Started that in 85 and can't recall the last time I bought factory ammo. As for the "just wait till a lawyer gets you on the stand with your homemade bullets", all I have ever asked for was any proof that the home made bullets swayed the jury. What, 25 years latter, I'm still waiting.
Equipment. is a single stage RCBS. Never saw a need to "upgrade". The wife says I go shooting so I can reload. That's only true in the Winter! :)

chrt396
August 25, 2011, 02:43 PM
Thanks everyone for the info. That is what I needed. My thinking was that theoretically the 6 in. may excel, but in real life there would be little, if any difference. I am no expert marksman (yet -- lol ), so I would imagine that either gun is going to be more accurate than I am capable of achieving at this point.

What about the ease of the .357 rounds though? Will this gun make shooting them tolerable, or even enjoyable? I would not shoot this round consistently because of the cost, but I would like to do it occasionally to stay sharp with that size round.
If it has a Hogue grip, the recoil is not horrible and is actually quite enjoyable. I have the 6" variety and yes..it is more accurate than the 4" due to the reasons you mentioned. It's the same with my 1911's. The fullsize ones are inheritantly more accurate. I load my 357 loads with a 158g FMJ bullet and 18.9g 2400 powder and it gives off quite a show of flames!! The kick is not bad at all. The 4" might be a little more..but still quite managable. I have a 41 magnum, model 58 with a 4" barrel and even THAT is quite nice to shoot. I did put the Hogue grips on it though. The wood grips that it came with would bruise my middle finger while shooting. The rubber grips made a HUGE difference.

Jake Benson
August 25, 2011, 05:43 PM
The last couple of posts mentioned reloading your own ammo. How difficult is this to get started doing? What are start-up costs? If its an easy thing to do, I would very much like to pursue it. If its difficult, then I don't know. I would hate to blow myself up by making faulty ammo.

wvshooter
August 25, 2011, 09:21 PM
As much as I like and want the 4 in. I would go with the 6 inch if it is going to have a FACTUAL, NOTICEABLE advantage over the 4 in.

I have a 686 with a 4"bbl and a Ruger GP100 with a 6"bbl.

I prefer the 4"bbl. A 6" bbl is really long. At least it feels really long to me and I personally don't see any advantage to the longer barrel.

As for reloading don't be afraid to jump in. There is a learning curve and you'll have to invest $300 - $400 for decent equipment. If I was just getting into reloading I'd buy one of the reloading kits sold by one of the more popular manufacturers. RCBS, Lyman and Lee have kits that include most of what you'll need.

If you do much shooting you'll save enough to pay for everything in a couple years but the big payoff is in the fun of making your own ammo and learning things you'd never know just buying factory ammo.

cpirtle
August 25, 2011, 10:44 PM
I wouldn't call shooting .357 regularly through any pistol comfortable.

You need to shoot a Model 28 :D


I don't have much to add here but I consider the 686 to be the best all around revolver, today and possibly ever.

I have 2.5", 4" & 6" lengths.

Once you get the 686 paid for you may want to consider a 4" 617 - same gun, cheap practice. If you go with the 10 shot the trigger pull is slightly different but not noticeable enough to really throw you off IMO.

Crunchy Frog
August 27, 2011, 09:47 AM
Back in the day there was a Texas Ranger "skeeter" somethin that wrote many an article for Guns&Ammo.

Alas, how soon we forget the founders. Charles "Skeeter" Skelton is without a doubt my favorite gunwriter, not only "back in the day" but to this day. Skeeter wrote for Shooting Times magazine and was a former Texas sheriff and US Border Patrol officer.

He wrote about loading magnum-level cartridges in .38 Special cases when he couldn't get .357 Magnum brass. I wouldn't recommend that, lest someone slip one into a .38 revolver by mistake.

I'm with Just for Fun otherwise. I also bought my 646 4" when they first came out. Always wanted a six incher to go with it but never got around to it.

Last week I ran across the first 5 inch 686 revolver I'd ever seen, or even heard of. Did some research and found that S&W made two different five inchers as "stocking dealer specials". Both were seven shot "plus" models and both had a high-viz front sight and a V-notch rear. One had a half lug barrel and the other (the one I saw) had the usual L frame full lug.

I've always wondered why the five inch barrel was not more popular.

I guess I need a five and a six to round out my collection. Plus a 617. Or two. Where does it end?

If you enjoyed reading about "S&W 686 --Which barrel?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!