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Which 4” 357 for my next handgun purchase?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Robusto, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. Robusto

    Robusto Well-Known Member

    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.

  2. highorder

    highorder Well-Known Member

    easy. You want a S&W 686.
  3. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

    Buy an older Smith like a Model 19.

    Great gun. Reliable as gravity.

    A classic.
  4. Robusto

    Robusto Well-Known Member


    thanks, but can you give me some more info? I should have stated that I don't know much about revolvers.
  5. tallpaul

    tallpaul Well-Known Member

    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
  6. Virginian

    Virginian Well-Known Member

    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.
  7. dairycreek

    dairycreek Well-Known Member

    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-100[​IMG]. This is an excellent choice of a rugged, dependable, and absolutely reliable revolver!
  8. jjohnson

    jjohnson Well-Known Member

    S&w 686

    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!
  9. 357wheelgunner

    357wheelgunner Well-Known Member

    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.
  10. Euclidean

    Euclidean Well-Known Member


    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.
  11. glockman19

    glockman19 Well-Known Member

    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.
  12. easyrider6042004@yahoo.ca

    easyrider6042004@yahoo.ca Well-Known Member

    Robusto said:

    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.
  13. harmonic

    harmonic member

    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.)
  14. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. Clipper

    Clipper Well-Known Member

    My favorites have always been the S&W M-19 and the Ruger Security Six...
  16. Robusto

    Robusto Well-Known Member

    Wow... thanks guys

    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,
  17. easyrider6042004@yahoo.ca

    easyrider6042004@yahoo.ca Well-Known Member

    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.
  18. rgs1975

    rgs1975 Well-Known Member

    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.

  19. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

    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
  20. stormyone

    stormyone Well-Known Member

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

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