New 686 to load hot is too hot?


July 2, 2004, 09:33 AM
I just bought my first S&W 686 in a 6" barrel. It was I sent it back to S&W Performance Center for an inspection and action job.

The boards seem to indicate that the Smiths are a bit more fragile than their Ruger brethren when it comes to full-house .357 loadings.

Is this real or bunk?

I want to load up some 180 gr. barn burners for camping or close-in deer shots. Of course, I'll also need to practice with them a bit if they're to be used. Will this wreck the pistol, and what are the warning signs that damage is being done?

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Brian Williams
July 2, 2004, 10:35 AM
The 686 was built because the K frame was being beaten with the fast 125 and the quick transition thru the forcing cone. With 158 and 180 gr bullets it should handle any load up thru the original specs and should be great and the gun will last for quite a while.

just a quick post more folks will be by later with specifics.

Mal H
July 2, 2004, 10:45 AM
Cajuncoona - Since this thread is more about the 686 itself and not about reloading for it, I'm going to move it over to the Revolver forum. You should get a few more views and appropriate responses for the question over there.

July 2, 2004, 09:35 PM
Not meaning to offend, but since you asked about what are the warning signs of over max loads then I think you should stay away from them for a little while longer. I don't know your reloading experience, but max loads can get you in trouble in a hillbilly's heartbeat even when you know what you are doing. Reloading aint rocket science, but make a mistake and things can go into orbit.

BE SAFE, stay with the sane loads. Go to a larger caliber when you desire more power.

July 2, 2004, 10:12 PM
If you can find a load published in two places--that is, by bullet and/or powder manufacturers--then it should be safe to work up to that load in your 686. Do more reading if you don't know how to recognize loads approaching max.

Personally, I don't think the trade-off of velocity for a 180 gr bullet are worth it in a 357 revolver. I'd stick with a 158 gr. Gold Dot or XTP; you could shoot these right quick from a 6" L-frame.

Mal H
July 2, 2004, 11:42 PM
I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I believe when cajuncoona says, "Will this wreck the pistol, and what are the warning signs that damage is being done?", I believe he means what are the warning signs on the pistol itself not on the case or the load.

Jim March
July 3, 2004, 02:12 AM
The 686 is NOT a "weak" gun. The GP100 is MAYBE a hair stronger but the difference isn't extreme.

When we talk about revolver strength, there's two different factors:

1) "Peak" strength - how much pressure will it take on one really hot round before blowing to Kingdom Come?

2) "Long term" strength - how many hot-but-lower-than-k'boom loads can it take before shaking loose?

*Usually*, the same gun that wins on one point will win on the other - but not always. The classic N-Frame S&W 357s (six shots) are at least as strong as a GP100 for "one big boomer" but fast shooting will tear up the S&W's action (cylinder ratchet) before a GP gets loose.

I *suspect* the GP100 will top the 686 in both categories...but not by a huge amount in either.

If *I* owned a 686: I would do most of my shooting in mid-range power, heavier weight 357 loads (158s @ 1,200 - 1,300 from a 4" barrel, fr'instance), shooting milder amounts of heavy hunting slugs (180 @ 1,300+ or similar, enough to be used to 'em and a few when sighting in for a hunting trip) and maybe some modest amounts of really thunderous 125s up near 1,500 if I intended to carry such. If I was into carrying hot 125s, I'd find a milder 125 357 load that went to about the same place but at less than full crash'n'boom.

I don't think I'd treat a GP100 much different, mainly because I don't think it's NECESSARY to do so. Sure, you CAN do all of your shooting with the gnarliest stuff around but...why? Why screw your wrists up, for one thing?

July 3, 2004, 07:59 AM
Thanks everyone. It looks like the 686 isn't fagile, after all.

Of course I know the signs of overpressure. Question was, can the max loads in loading manuals be used in the 686 without fear of breakage.

July 3, 2004, 08:23 AM
I believe he means what are the warning signs on the pistol itself not on the case or the load.

Ah, so Mal is right. In that case, I guess (in keeping with Jim's 'two types of damage') there'd be two ways to observe damage to the gun. For the first--massive overpressure in a single load--you'd observe the hole in the cylinder and topstrap blown loose.

For the second--which would be the one cajuncoona is after--I think the things to look for would be the same as in the 'revolver checkout' stickied at the top of the forum. You would look for endshake to develop, or for the gun to go out of time.

As noted, though, the 686 will take any reasonable amount of any reasonable published load; certainly enough for deer and camp use.

July 3, 2004, 10:54 AM
You can beat the ever-loving ____ out of the 686. It is a strong well built revolver, and will hold up very well to the top loads listed in the manuals. I have not shot one to destruction but I would guess somewhere in the 12-15K round range shooting top end 125's and 158's before it needs a visit with the Doctor. Even then it can be repaired several times. It will hold up at least as a well as a K-frame and they will go over 10K rounds easily when set up correctly to start with. With a diet of mostly medium loads and casual shooting a 686 will go well into the 50K round range and probably a long way past without issue. HARD FAST DA shooting will have one needing some attention in the 35K-50K round area. I have only put about 15K through an L-frame and all my numbers are guesses, mostly based on K-frames and N-frames that I have torn up so they aren't totally without merit but they aren't scientific by any means either.

The first thing you are going to see when the 686 starts getting tired from nasty boomer loads is endshake. The cylinder will have end to end play, and once it gets a couple thousandths of endshake it will get worse very quickly compared to how long it took to appear. When you get .002" endshake send it to S&W and ask them to freshen it up, then when you get it back hope you have the time, money and health to shoot it loose again.

July 3, 2004, 11:44 AM
My point was that a overload is specific to one specific firearm. You can't judge what one particular handgun will do based on generalities. You work up to a max load as the total sum of the specs for that particular firearm will determine what it can take as a max load. Firearms have a safety factor engineered into them and manuals have conservative data to keep you out of the safety zone, but if one particular firearm is out of specs then all bets are off.
Endshake can be a cause to some flattened primers. Loose chamber dimensions can show up in case head expansion. Tight throats or bores can cause pressure to rise. As you work with an unknown firearm you work up to the max loads as there are a lot of variables to consider. What one max load may work perfectly in one firearm may blow the very next model to it on the assembly line. Just assuming the firearm can take it because it's generally accepted that a certain brand/model in factory spec will hold up can get you in trouble. Then there is the the variables of the reloading components and that opens up a different discussion. That is why there is that warning to reduce max loads by 10% and work up.
NEVER place a max load in any unknown firearm. To be on the safe side work up to the max load with each individual firearm while observing all the warning signs. These signs show up relative to the particular firearm that is firing the load.

Jim March
July 3, 2004, 02:40 PM
What the others have said about endshake is dead on, esp. for those who want to keep it fairly hot.

Once endshake starts, you get a "battering ram effect" at both ends of the cylinder on firing. The gun is just tearing itself up. This goes for *anything*, although of course with a 22 it'll take forever for minor endshake to turn into an issue.

The hotter the loads, the faster endshake turns destructive. Check frequently.

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