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S&W 686 --Which barrel?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Jake Benson, Aug 23, 2011.

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  1. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    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.
     
  2. NOLAEMT

    NOLAEMT Member

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    I feel like the 4" barrel balances the best of all.

    but that is just my opinion.
     
  3. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    I am partial to the 4" gun myself. It just feels better to me. I have had both and did not shot the 6" gun 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".
     
  4. mdauben

    mdauben Member

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    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").
     
  5. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    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.
     
  6. 357Shooter

    357Shooter Member

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    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.
     
  7. Rollis R. Karvellis

    Rollis R. Karvellis Member

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    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.
     
  8. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    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.
     
  9. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    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.
     
  10. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    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.
     
  11. Dogguy

    Dogguy Member

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    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.
     
  12. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    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.
     
  13. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    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?
     
  14. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    yes

    great for competition


    4 is the most versatile.

    6 is great for open carry, hunting, range toy
     
  15. dprice3844444

    dprice3844444 member

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    4 inch leaves a nicer lump on somebody's head better than a 3 inch
     
  16. Tallinar

    Tallinar Member

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    Yes, 4 inch would be ideal for competition like USPSA.
     
  17. VINTAGE-SLOTCARS

    VINTAGE-SLOTCARS Member

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    4 inch leaves a nicer lump on somebody's head better than a 3 inch

    I carried a 4" on duty for several years. and "Yes", It works well for both.:)
     
  18. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    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?
     
  19. pikid89

    pikid89 Member

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    IDPA rules require 6 round max in revolver classes
     
  20. PabloJ

    PabloJ Member

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    I would not buy .357 revolver to shoot full loads if the barrel was <4".
     
  21. Shienhausser

    Shienhausser Member

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    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.
     
  22. Black Knight

    Black Knight Member

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    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.
     
  23. Jake Benson

    Jake Benson Member

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    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?
     
  24. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    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.
     
  25. Old krow

    Old krow Member

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    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 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.
     
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