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SW 686 Quality control slipping?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Random 8, Nov 11, 2022.

  1. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    I am not going to go into how many Smith and Wesson revolvers I own, but it is a great many. Probably more than anyone else on this forum. The oldest was made in 1859 (yes, 1859) and I have examples from every decade since then. Of all of those Smiths, the only one I have been disappointed with as far as quality is concerned is the aforementioned Model 686-6 with its over torqued barrel. I do not have a problem with MIM parts or the lock, I have a problem with poor workmanship and poor quality control.

    Here is an interesting photo, the cover photo of a book by Roy Jinks and Sandra Krein. Inside are dozens of historical photos of S&W through the years, including many photos of the manufacturing processes. This particular photo shows two employees checking serial numbers on Victory Models in 1944. I assure you that multiple quality control checks like this do not happen anymore,

    pml6RxArj.jpg
     
  2. Onty

    Onty Member

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    Thanks for correction. I know about EDM, as a matter of fact, I even designed tooling to be made by this method. But, sometimes fingers are faster...
     
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  3. Onty

    Onty Member

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    Unfortunately, firearm industry is not the only one skipping on quality control. Hubble Telescope was also victim of "faster, better, cheaper" policy https://www.newscientist.com/articl...sting-error-that-led-to-hubble-mirror-fiasco/ . I was also a witness what kind of cutting tool was was shipped to McDonnell Douglass and De Havilland Canada, when incoming quality control was gone.

    As for MIM parts, I have no personal experience, all S&W revolvers I had were -2 or erlier. Now I have 686-3. However, Clements had something to say:

    Clements Custom Guns; Smith & Wesson Revolvers: I cannot do action work on newer guns with MIM parts. If the back of the trigger has cavities cast in it, then the gun is a MIM gun and not suitable.

    http://www.clementscustomguns.com/smithwessonrevolvers.html



    Unfortunately, link doesn't work, seems to me that Clements retired.

    To be fair, some other smiths don't see anything wrong with MIM parts; Iowegan, post #7 https://www.rugerforum.net/threads/mim-parts.33647/#post-376628

    Considering what you and others said about older (center-fire) S&W revolvers and newer ones, I would stick to those -2E, -3 and later ones with firing pin on hammer. Old dogs from my former shooting club told me that they never handled a bad revolver in that range. They consider them as the best S&W made. I followed their advice, and will in the future.
     
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  4. ChiefTJS

    ChiefTJS Member

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    I buy a lot of guns, or should say bought because I've rather slowed lately. I've had crappy old S&W's as well as new and I've also had superb ones. If done correctly, MIM/Lock guns can be fabulous and if done poorly a no dash Model 19 can be absolute crap. I completely agree that QC has slipped in pretty much all American manufacturing but I think they get it right more often than they get it wrong. I just ordered a brand new current production 686 and I pick it up Monday, I'll be sure and give an update.
     
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  5. Barr

    Barr Member

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    Most companies have gone LEAN. It’s all in the perception of “what the customer will pay for”.

    I came from a quality role job for five years on a low volume high cost machined product. We double verified all critical dimensions. Any hiccup could cost 1-2 weeks on a 8-week cycle that held up 24 other components. A scrapped part took 3-12 months to replace.

    A SW revolver probably has a 2-3 week cycle and can be reworked in a day. Adding 6-8 quality checks adds a day to the cycle or 10%.

    A quality check slows down every piece. How critical is that check? Is it customer perception or function? Is it measured or a visual gage check, how fast? Can we engineer out the defect (poke-a-yoke)?

    What is the rework rate (DPMO)? 1/5 or 1/50? Did the defect make it to the next department (internal) or customer (external). Each escaped defect level increases the cost by a factor of 10!

    These answers drive the thought process.

    Labor and machine time is traditionally 50% or greater the cost of a machined product.

    Would you pay 10% more for that already expensive revolver?

    For everyone that says yes to the inspections, I generally agree. Me paying $1200-1500 vs $800-1000 for a revolver and changing out two springs and a light polish is also a choice. Again every person’s tolerance of cost and quality are different.
     
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  6. Ru4real

    Ru4real Member

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    I bought these two at about the same time 2 years ago. I work my guns until the actions are silky smooth, trigger pulls are light and they shoot accurately. Interestingly the S&W 586 took more effort, but making super accurate guns is a hobby I enjoy.

    I disassembled both guns. Put 1000 grit lapping compound on key internal parts. Reassembled. Dry fire 500 times. Disassemble and clean internals. Replace / rework springs. Equalize throats to within 0.0005” of each other. Polish forcing cone.

    Both are fun to shoot. The 586 destroys clay pigeons on the 100 yard berm and rings steel in double action all day long.

    The Kimber took less work because all the internal parts including the side plate uses additive machining (MIM) and has all kinds of neat features like stepped bosses and stepped support shoulders, etc. to create clearances and optimize bearing surfaces.

    The side plate and internals on the S&W mostly uses traditional loss matching, so there were lots of tooling marks to clean up. Earlier in the thread I posted how it shoots today. Obviously worth the effort.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2022
  7. SteadyD

    SteadyD Member

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    Yes but I’ve noticed this issue being more prevalent from all makers since late 2012 after the horrible and tragic incident at Sandy Hook. It may be worse now, but we’ve all been QC for a decade at least.
     
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  8. Smaug

    Smaug Member

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    There are similar comments about Ruger & Colt quality slipping.

    It seems like the BEST way to be ensured of a quality gun is to buy a used on in whatever condition you require for as little as possible, then send it to a gunsmith to have him make it right.

    In my case, maybe worn-out-looking old S&W 14 for $400 and spend the other $500 on a gunsmith to make it into a sleeper. That way, we helped a fellow collector turn his gun into money and helped a gunsmith stay in business, rather than reward a big company that skimps on fit, finish and quality control.

    I WANT to support the companies, but I don't want to reward this bad behavior.

    Worth noting here is that Taurus is experimenting with their Executive Line, where they actually have an expert do the fit & finish on the revolver before sending it out. This makes the gun cost an extra hundred or two, but at least it's done up-front instead of having to immediately send the gun back to the manufacturer or do that work ourselves. I plan to buy one to reinforce that behavior and hope that they expand this line.
     
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  9. MrBorland

    MrBorland Member

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    Bad behavior or simply a business decision? Look...folks decry a perceived loss of craftsmanship, but very few, when it comes down to it, are willing to pay for that quality they speak so highly of. And many don't really know the difference anyway, and even fewer could tell the difference at the range.

    It's terrific you plan to pay the extra (show us the receipt when you get it, eh ;)), but many won't, and wouldn't even know the difference anyway. So, companies can go boutique and make a quality piece that very few will buy, or stay bigger, keep more folks employed, and make something more affordable that many more will buy. I'm not blind to lower quality - I'm a buy "once cry once kinda guy" myself - but I'm also aware that it's largely the market that drives quality.

    I recall following two threads on one of these guns boards: One was similar this thread - crying about quality. The second - running simultaneously - was a discussion of high-end (e.g., Korth, Freedom Arms) revolvers, to which many replied they'd never buy one because they're too expensive and/or because they just for elitists and snobs o_O

    In the FWIW department, I was once asked to do an action job on a no-dash 686. When I got into it, it looked like drunk monkeys did the machining and put it together. Companies may have more issues catching stuff before it leaves the factory, but they had their share of issues back when humans were building the guns. We might not have seen as many, but there were certainly some pretty bad examples out there.
     
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  10. Smaug

    Smaug Member

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    Well, there is at least one example in this thread from someone who paid extra for the Performance Center gun, but STILL found there were basic fit & finish issues that should have been addressed.

    I haven't read that about the high-end Rugers yet, but maybe I just haven't paid close enough attention.

    I'm thinking about buying a Freedom Arms revolver at some point. Korth is harder for me to justify over a nice old S&W.
     
  11. MrBorland

    MrBorland Member

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    Used to be PC guns received a bit extra TLC at the factory, but from what I've seen, those days are gone too, and guns in the PC lineup are just configurations not available in their standard lineup, but with the same QA/QC and little (if any) extra tuning. I'd buy a PC gun if that configuration was specifically what I wanted and it wasn't available in their standard lineup - but I'd expect to have to tune it up a bit myself.


    Post that receipt, too, eh :D

    I've long wanted a Freedom Arms, Manhurin and/or Korth, but haven't made the jump because 1) I don't currently shoot near enough to justify it, 2) when I was shooting a lot, I didn't have a pressing need for one, and I don't generally collect safe queens. I'll post my receipt if/when I make the jump ;)
     
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  12. RA40

    RA40 Member

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    This reminds me of the basic 1911-A1 configurations of past times. One buys the gun expecting to take it to the gunsmith to get it working right. Trigger job, clean-up and any additional personal touches to be added. To my perceptions it should not be that way but for some your trusted gunsmith is going to tune it to your liking so you'll be happy. We wouldn't stand for that in most consumer product circles yet firearms these days have a wealth of parts to make the gun to our tastes.

    Would I buy one now...IDK. Depends what the gunsmith charges to tune it. Back in the day the 686 was about $375 with tax and DROS so for an additional $150 the gun came back to me exactly as I liked them. That was worth it to me. Some like them to wear in but I was of the mindset that rather than paying to run ammo through it which may take a several cases (Ammo was much cheaper then) I'd spend some of that $ and get it tuned so that I could enjoy it earlier.
     
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  13. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    My current favorite is a 2017 production performance center 625. I own over 50 vintage S&W and Colt revolvers and while the 625 isn't as pretty as my 1951 .357 Magnum or my Target Master pieces or my 25-2. It is accurate reliable and has a great trigger.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2022
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  14. __steve__

    __steve__ Member

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    Not 686 related, but S&W related nonetheless. I had this sent to PC to replace the barrel due to forcing cone erosion, an excessive 0.012 gap, late timing, as well as cylinder end play. After 8 months I finally got it back:
    • B/C gap now 0.005 (perfect)
    • Cylinder hits forcing cone closing (fail)
    • Timing late on a chamber (unsafe)
    • Shroud over-rotated yet locked to frame square on (huh?)

    8F906FB6-38FB-4210-B986-8925F6B14D22.jpeg



    940446B1-BB90-42E2-84D4-5AEBD9D32187.jpeg CB715B3C-ECF8-400C-8088-FF9DC12F1383.jpeg

    They machined the shroud and frame together to aesthetically flow as good as possible yet the front site naturally cants too. I fixed the endplay with shims so it now closes free of forcing cone, and I plan to address the timing myself, but despite the eyesore of asymmetry, this revolver is probably more accurate than most anything available with similar length barrel.

    Imperfect and accurate, still love the thing.
     
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  15. RA40

    RA40 Member

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    Wow...that's sloppy to be sent out like that. Ultimately this brings enjoyment so glad that this worked out.
     
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  16. Jeff olson

    Jeff olson Member

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    I keep 1980 in mind when looking at any Smith and Wesson revolvers. Tend not to buy anything made after that. Just my preference. They still cared back then.
     
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  17. AustinTX

    AustinTX Member

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    Jesus. Glad it shoots accurately at least. I wouldn’t be able to get past the looks.

    I always think of photos like these whenever someone proclaims that, “thanks to modern CNC machining,” mass-production stuff is just about as well made as the work of high-end manufacturers and elite custom gunsmiths.
     
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  18. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Look at the photos I posted in post #3 again. Shame on me for not noticing the yoke that did not close all the way when I bought it, but I sure as heck could tell the difference at the range that something was wrong. Look at how far I had to crank the rear sight to one side to get the point of impact centered on a target. I have been shooting revolvers for over 50 years, it wasn't me that was shooting badly, it was the revolver. I paid $750 for that revolver, brand-spanky new in 2015. Yes, I would have paid a bit more for it to have been assembled correctly.

    Besides that, I really do not care for the aesthetics of what S&W is making today, I really do not like the full length underlug they seem to be hanging under every barrel. This is the only other "modern" S&W I own, a ten shot Model 617-6 from 2003 that I bought used a few years ago. I only bought it because I was shooting a plate match at the time and I needed to get 8 aimed shots off in 15 seconds. I could not do that with any of my six shot 22s.

    poPo6X6nj.jpg




    Needless to say, I will not be buying any more new S&W revolvers, I only bought the 686 because I did not have any L frames in my collection. I will happily continue to collect older Smiths, but nothing they are currently making.
     
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  19. red rick

    red rick Member

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    My rule of thumb is when buying S&W revolvers is buy used , up to the price of a new revolver , in excellent condition . I wouldn’t pay Taurus money for a new S&W revolver today .
     
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  20. 357 Terms

    357 Terms Member

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    The more things change, the more they stay the same...
    When I was young I remember ALL the old-timers relentlessly complaining about the quality of the Bangor Punta era Smith and Wesson's, 66-83 (were they wrong?)
    Those same revolver's are lauded by today's "old timers".
    Nothing is ever! as good as it use to be.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2022
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  21. Pat Riot

    Pat Riot Member

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    What truly baffles me is that this poor quality has become “acceptable”.
    Why do I say that?
    Comments like “You have to inspect before you buy it.”
    Huh? Why should I pay hundreds of dollars for a product and have to a QA inspection on it? And don’t give me that crap about “it’s the way it’s always been” like some other joker on another forum.
    How many here but a new car, new fishing pole, new semiauto pistol…and bring feeler gauges, measuring devices l, bore lights, etc. to the store to inspect the merchandise before buying?

    The idea that every gun will have issues and you’re lucky if you don’t have to send it back. When did that become “Okay”?

    @357 Terms posted while I was posting this. I agree. I remember all those guys whining about Bangor Punta Smiths and some of my acquaintances at the time were the same…until S&W put the lock in the guns. Then all of a sudden those inferior guns were just fine.

    Oh, and don’t get me started on this MIM part whining regarding S&Ws. All I have heard for years is guys, with no machining background at all or any real knowledge of metallurgy cursing MIM parts, but Colt releases their new guns and the heavens open up, angels sing and everyone dances about praising the benevolent King Colt for giving them back their beloved revolvers….Using MIM Parts. Not a peep. Not a complaint. Gimme a break.
    Other gun makers use them as well. Many rifle companies do.

    Sorry for the rant, but sometimes this stuff just irks the hell out of me.

    Oh, and I belong to a group that provides feedback to Smith & Wesson on their guns. It’s an online group. Believe me when I say I have given them some hell over their QA. This group gives me some hope that S&W is trying to turn things around…or it’s a group formed to placate executive management that something is being done. We’ll see.
     
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  22. guyfromohio

    guyfromohio Member

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    The new TRR8 seems pretty solid. I’ll be shooting it next week.

    03EF9383-62B1-40B0-8823-3E65F8571CDC.jpeg
     
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  23. 357smallbore

    357smallbore Member

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    I can say this. My no dash 686 is a thing of beauty. No flies on it. Same with my early GP100. Top quality all the way
     
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  24. 357smallbore

    357smallbore Member

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    Drift, is the # of S&W's you own over 139?
     
  25. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    I'm not going to get specific, but it seems you beat me by a bit.
     
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