S & W 686 Recall


February 9, 2004, 11:17 AM
I read the recent post regarding firearm recalls and warnings. My S&W 686. which I bought in 1986 was apparently recalled in 1989 due to cylinder binding if one shot .357 loads through them often. I never knew about this recall and have never had a problem. I haven't shot the gun too much, maybe 2000 rounds total in the 18 years I have had it. 99.999% .357 loads with very few .38 specials.

Question is, what is cylinder binding (I can guess) and is it a big enough problem to send it back to S&W for work?

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February 9, 2004, 11:29 AM
I just bought a 686 that was mftg. in 1983 and Called smith and they told me it was light primer strikes and or misfires. I have shot it with no problems. So they told me just to shoot away and if ever a prob to send it back but will probably not have any problems.. :D

February 9, 2004, 11:30 AM
Nah, it just means some of them were made with the cylinder to frame tolerance too tight, so that the cylinder was too close to the front of the frame and stuck after being fired a few times due to grime. If it doesn't stick on yours, you have nothing to worry about! :)

Brian Williams
February 9, 2004, 11:49 AM
The M marking recall of the 586, 581, 686 and the 681 was that the cylinder would bind due to soft primer material, the primer would flow into the firing pin hole on firing and cause the gun to lock up. S&W replaced the firing pin, AKA the Hammer nose, and the firing pin bushing in the frame.
The problem really was due to the primers in some ammo and the Ammo Manufacturers have changed their primers so using modern ammo you should have no problems.

If you have a tight cylinder at the front it has nothing to do with the recall but needs to be looked at either by S&W or a competent Gunsmith.

Here is the recall notice:
From here

MODEL 581, 586, 681, 686, or 581-1,
586-1, 681-1, 686-1 & 686CS-1, REVOLVERS

RECALL: Reports have been received from the field where the combination of a SMITH & WESSON L-FRAME 357 MAGNUM REVOLVER and some .357 Magnum ammunition has resulted in unacceptable cylinder binding. L-frame revolvers bearing model numbers:

581, 586, 681, 686, or 581-1, 586-1,
681-1, 686-1, 686CS-1

Cylinder binding can cause a failure to fire. Mishandling a revolver while freeing the cylinder can result in accidental discharge.

Cylinder binding can result from a number of causes, including characteristics of an individual revolver or the use of ammunition, which does not conform to industry pressure specifications or is particularly fast burning. Recent developments in ammunition manufacture emphasize the production of .357 Magnum ammunition with increased velocity and greater primer sensitivity.

Although there have been very few reported incidents of cylinder binding, in view of our concern for our customer's safety and the reliability of Smith & Wesson products in all circumstances, we issue the following warning:

In a situation where a failure to fire can be critical - such as law enforcement or personal protection - do not use .357 Magnum ammunition with an L-frame revolver bearing model numbers 581, 586, 681, 686 or 581-1, 586-1, 681-1, 686-1, 686CS-1 without an "M" over the model number until you have had the revolver modified.

Those who need to use their L-frame revolver under these conditions prior to modification can safely fire .38 Special caliber ammunition.

Smith & Wesson has developed a modification to improve existing L-frame revolvers. This improvement enables them to fire all .357 Magnum ammunition, without cylinder binding. Shipments of L-frame revolvers from our factory after August 21, 1987 already include this improvement.

You can check if your revolver includes this improvement by looking at the left side of the frame when the cylinder is fully open. If your revolver has been stamped either with a "2" or higher number after the basic three-digit model number or with an "M" above the model number, your revolver includes this improvement and does not need modification. If your revolver bears the model number 581, 586, 681, 686, or 581-1, 586-1, 681-1, 686-1, 686CS-1 without an "M" over the model number, it does not include this improvement and your should have your revolver modified.

Smith & Wesson will modify your L-frame revolver free of charge to eliminate the possibility of cylinder binding with .357 Magnum ammunition. Law enforcement agencies wishing to arrange for modification of L-frame revolvers should call 800-458-8469 between 9 A.M. and 6 P.M. Eastern time (MA residents call 413-734-8244). Other users should send their revolvers to a Smith & Wesson Warranty Service Center, specifying "L-frame improvement program" and enclosing their name and return address.

One of the modifications to improve the L-frame revolver is the installation of a new hammer nose. This obsoletes all old L-frame hammer noses (part numbers 4702 and 7513) and all old L-frame hammer assemblies (part numbers 3366, 3378, 3380, 3382, 3391, 4722, 4723, 4726 and 4728) in field parts inventories. Superseded parts should never be fitted into a modified revolver as this may result in malfunction. It is essential for safety that you return these obsolete L-frame hammer noses and obsolete L-frame hammer assemblies for a free exchange to:

Smith & Wesson
Service Department
2100 Roosevelt Avenue
Springfield, MA 01101

Do not return L-frame hammer-nose bushings from your spare parts inventory inasmuch as they are useable in J, N and K-frame revolvers, which are not included in this Product Warning.

We regret any inconvenience this may cause. Smith & Wesson's first concern is the safety of its products and the protection of its customers.

February 9, 2004, 12:35 PM
I stand well corrected. :D

February 9, 2004, 06:11 PM
Thanks for the info. I have had zero problems with mine. I really like it and I didn't relish having to send it back to S&W for something that hasn't or likely never will affect me. I appreciate the comments and the reassurance. I don't have the M marking, I checked. I guess I don't have to worry now anyway.

guy sajer
February 9, 2004, 07:50 PM
Your choice Russ , however S&W will pay the shipping . You really have nothing to loose . We have sent back atleast 100 of them for recall . Just sent one 2 weeks ago . They turned it around in 1 week and paid shipping both ways . That's customer service !

I have seen this malfunction happen once . The firing pin was stuck forward into the primer . The spring tension wasn't enough to force the hammer back into position . Had to use a leather mallet to free it up .

February 9, 2004, 11:31 PM
So, if you have a 686-2 or higher, it doesn't need to be sent in?


February 10, 2004, 12:14 AM
S&W isn't telling the WHOLE story. The facts are that some LEOs were killed or severely wounded when their duty weapons failed. A group of survivors sued S&W and therefore the recall. These were early 80s manufacture and S&W had a real QC problem then. I would return it to S&W to be safe. One officer fired his 686 and it locked up after one round. One dead LEO. S&W had to be forced to make the corrections and issue a recall.

guy sajer
February 10, 2004, 07:40 AM
Can you direct us to the documentation of the WHOLE story ?

February 11, 2004, 05:52 PM
Thanks Guy.

I would rather be safe than sorry. If S&W will correct the problem, pay shipping and turn in around that fast, I really don't have anything to lose. As far as shipping goes, do I need to have an FFL ship it? When I lived in the PRK it seemed to me you did. Now that I'm in KY, maybe the rules are more relaxed.


Brian Williams
February 11, 2004, 08:50 PM
Give S&W a call 1 800 331 0852 and tell them what you have and they will send you a Fedex label and you ship it direct and they will ship it direct to you.

February 11, 2004, 09:03 PM
It's a simple change and involves the no dash and dash one models. Why take a risk if it's not needed.

December 30, 2008, 07:31 PM
Sorry for digging up the old thread.

I've recently came in to position of early 686 (serial# AFP25xx), and while it shot .38special beautifuly, it locked up after shooting 3rds of Remington UMC .357magnum 125gr JHP.

Hammar would not pull back, cylinder would not release, trigger won't move.
after wiggling it, banging it on wooden table, as suddenly as it happened, it worked again - for about 4rds, which at that point, only to lock up again.

I gave up shooting .357mag, and just shot .38special - which worked fine, and it shot increadibly accurate might I add.

Is this the basic symptom of this perticuler recall?
And if so, is S&W still honoring the recall which was issued in ....1987?

Jon Coppenbarger
December 30, 2008, 07:47 PM
I sent a 686 back to them about 2 years ago and it was no cost to me to and from and was back to me in about 2 weeks for that problem.

December 30, 2008, 09:13 PM
While I am not an expert, it sounds as if your problem might be something else.

It is likely that after shooting 38s, a ring of carbon and powder builds up in the cylinders, and the longer .357 cartridges have a hard time seating fully. If the cartridge fails to seat fully, it will drag against the breech, and may cause the cylinder to lock up. A thorough cleaning of all chambers should fix this.

guy sajer
December 30, 2008, 11:01 PM
The malfuntion mity2 describes is exactly the reason they were recalled . The hammer nose (firing pin) is too long and can stick into the primer when firing magnum loads . With the hammer stuck forward , the cylinder will not rotate .

S&W continues to handle the recall at no charge . We sent another back last month . 2-3 week turnaround . No good reason I can think of not to send it in .

July 6, 2009, 09:44 AM
By accident yesterday, I found this site and was interested because I have a 1983 mod 686 4" and noticed that it had no "m" above the SN. I just called Smith & Wesson and they told me my gun hadn't been modified by S&W, yet, but that since I was shooting it with no problems, they didn't want to modify it. They told me if it ever jams with 357mag rounds, then give them a call and they'll fix it! So much for the recall. :confused:

July 6, 2009, 09:49 AM
If you press the issue with S&W customer service, they will do the work and cover shipping both ways.

July 6, 2009, 10:55 AM
I just went to Smith & Wesson's site and sent them an email about the recall on my 686 and how customer service told me they didn't want to deal with it, until my gun screwed up and THEN they would deal with it. I quoted from their recall notice and asked them if they were going to modify my gun for me now or WAIT until I was hurt, maimed or dead before they dealt with the problem? I am waiting for a reply, I'll post their answer.:cuss:

July 6, 2009, 04:14 PM
If they continue to balk at the idea of doing the modification, send me an email or PM through this site. I'll fix 'ya right up.

July 6, 2009, 06:41 PM
Thanks! I'd appreciate that. I haven't heard back from them yet.

texas bulldog
July 6, 2009, 07:03 PM
i have so far not sent in my 586 no-dash. haven't had a misfire, and the cylinder hasn't bound up. i may send it in one day, but only so that they can tighten up the cylinder gap at the same time. in other words, if i otherwise wear out the gun, i'l let them fix the recall at the same time that they do other work. for now, it's fine.

July 6, 2009, 07:24 PM
1) Before opening long-dead threads, it's generally better to just start a new one.

2) I quoted from their recall notice and asked them if they were going to modify my gun for me now or WAIT until I was hurt, maimed or dead before they dealt with the problem?

The gun can't blow up or harm you. The recall covered several thousands of guns to find a very small percentage of affected guns. If the gun has operated this long and not malfunctioned, it is not affected. Their response is sound.

I have not had any of my "no dashes" modified as they don't need it and clearly weren't affected. I think if you realize what this recall was about you'll not worry so much about it. Did you read through this whole thread you re-opened?

July 6, 2009, 07:40 PM
Gee whiz Oro, nice to meet you, too! This old gal didn't mean to ruffle any feathers. I'm new to this site and didn't know about the proper thread "etiquette". :scrutiny:

July 6, 2009, 08:33 PM
Gee whiz Oro, nice to meet you, too! This old gal didn't mean to ruffle any feathers. I'm new to this site and didn't know about the proper thread "etiquette".

There was nothing in my post to suggest disdain or contempt; just stating facts and normal forum etiquette use widely on the internet. You response, on the other hand, seems a bit hostile.

I think maybe "GlockTalk" or "AR15.com" may be forums you fit in better! It may have missed you notice this is called "The High Road."

July 6, 2009, 09:01 PM
That's what I did Texas Bulldog. I purchased a 586 several months ago, no dash and no "M". My gun had a bit of end-shake and cylinder run-out. Nothing major, prolly left the factory that way, it wasn't shot too much before I got it.

I voiced my concerns along with the fact that it hadn't been back for the recall to a CS rep. They emailed me a document that outlined the modification along with their Fedex account number with instructions to send it in. The mod was done in addition a crane stretch and new cylinder stop fit.:D All free of charge, done to bring the beauty back within factory specs.

Hey Oro, what's eatin you? Waddya care if an old thread was bumped for the benefit of a new member. She may have been off base on what problems could result, so what. If you don't approve just stay out of it...

Animal Mother
July 6, 2009, 09:31 PM
1) Before opening long-dead threads, it's generally better to just start a new one.

The funny thing about that is if a new person posts a new thread on a old topic they are told to "use the search function" before posting.

Yet, if they post to an appropriate thread that has been around for a while, they are told "it's better to open a new one."

Its seems a new person can't catch a break around here, so much for taking the high road.

IMHO, if it is a known problem, S&W should at least check the gun out for the owner to make sure it isn't one of the affected guns. There are guns which sit for years in safes and see very little use. I certainly wouldn't want to find out in the middle of home invasion that my gun won't function and therefore I can ship it in to S&W at my earliest convenience.

But then again what do I know, I don't have umpteen thousand posts by my name.

Maj Dad
July 6, 2009, 10:40 PM
M. Sajer,
Repondez-s.v.p. moi - c'est le livre le plus important en littérature militaire moderne, à mon avis. J'ai acheté plusieurs copies au cours des années, seulement pour les donner loin. He was Alsatian, as you must know, and French was his first language, so I defer to Les Français. Any man who has read this has my respect, and he surely has an appreciation of war that most will never have.
Avec le plus grand respect,
Maj George Jacoby

July 7, 2009, 04:24 AM
I have a dash one with the M.

I believe the reason for the recall is that when shooting full pressure magnum loads, the primer cup flows around the firing pin and into the hole for the firing pin. The firing pin/hammer is wedged tightly and cannot retract.

The cylinder cannot rotate, gun is jammed tight.

July 8, 2009, 07:09 PM
Thanks guys (and gals) for your insite. I have heard from several other people who have told me they had the "mod" done by S&W on their guns and they now recommend to me that I don't. One said his now jams, when it previously didn't. Since I mistakenly thought something bad would happen to me if my 686 did jam with .357mag rounds, I'm going to go ahead and put a 50 round box of .357mags through it and see what happens. S&W did finally get back with me this morning by email. They will do the mod on my gun if I want them to and will pay shipping both ways. Thanks again and God Bless all!

September 15, 2009, 08:56 AM
Sorry for digging up this old thread (just using the search tool like I'm told :) )... The cylinder binding sounds like it may have been an issue with the 1980's era primers, but...

I fired 50 rounds of full 357 this weekend after I got my "new-to-me" 686 (Hornady Leverevolution 180 and Cor-Bon 110) and all the primers had a nice, round dimple in them - no binding. No "M" marked inside the frame.

Guess I'll leave it be and just shoot until I have a problem unless anyone else has an opinion.

guy sajer
September 15, 2009, 12:07 PM
If you're using it only for range/target that sounds like a good plan . At that time though , S&W had tens of thousands of L frames in LE holsters . Made sense to get them modified .

September 15, 2009, 10:07 PM
There were so few that had a problem that Smith probably just developed a wait and see attitude on them before making any alterations. I have a 6-inch model that's never been shot. I got it with a few 4-inch models I shot all the time and never had any problems. Mine's a safe queen, so I don't want anyone putting any tool marks or powder burns on it. I've measured all the tolerances and they're well within spec.

Saw a couple of 681s years ago that had some problems with soft barrels, but they were repaired. I've also heard people talk about cylinder spinning, but I've never even talked to anyone who'd seen the problem first hand. I ordered a bunch of them for people and they were all fully functional and shot like Pythons.


October 1, 2009, 06:42 PM
1) Before opening long-dead threads, it's generally better to just start a new one.

Why? The relevant information is contained in the original thread. Why suggest redundancy?

October 1, 2009, 07:33 PM
Send it back...get it right...

October 1, 2009, 07:39 PM
Send it back...get it right...
I can not think anything good to happen to my 681 by sending it in. It has worked just fine for me for years!!!!!!!!!

October 1, 2009, 08:07 PM
I'd be afraid to send it in. They might put a key lock in it..:eek:

October 4, 2009, 07:07 AM
You bet they will put a lock in it. They will also make sure that you don't open old threads or ask about something that already has been discussed in a forum. The bad people don't want you to have unlocked guns and you to interact on firearm forums. Thats why they are bad.

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