Review: Smith and Wesson 686 Plus

Review: Smith and Wesson 686 Plus

Today, revolver shooters have a greater array of handguns than ever to choose from.

We have small-frame Magnum revolvers, five-shot .44 Magnum revolvers, affordable competition-grade revolvers straight from the factory, and the subject of this report.

The Smith and Wesson 686 Plus is a seven-shot revolver chambered for the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge.

.357 Magnum: Excellent Wound Ballistics

The .357 Magnum has the ability to take deer-sized game at modest ranges. It is among our most proven personal-defense cartridges.

Properly loaded, the Magnum is a superb long-range target cartridge.

The Magnum may be loaded with rapidly-fragmenting loads that break up quickly in a body or hard-cast bullets that will drive deep into a boar, hog or even offer defense against bears and mountain lions.

Then there is the option of using the .38 Special cartridge. The shorter .38 Special works just fine in .357 Magnum chambers. A hard-cast lead bullet offers real economy.

A modern clean-burning powder such as Titegroup will provide a handloader with good economy and excellent accuracy.

The .38 Special is a reasonable choice for personal defense for those that cannot handle the .357 Magnum’s formidable recoil.

I don’t like firing the Magnum in lighter revolvers like the J-Frame. The L-Frame Smith and Wesson is ideal for the Magnum cartridge.

The weight is enough to absorb recoil well, while the 686 is light enough to be brought quickly from the holster and move fast in tracking targets.

Smith and Wesson 686 Plus and J-Frame Revolvers
The author finds the seven-shot Magnum, above, a great handling revolver. The much lighter five-shot Magnum, below, not so much.

Firing the 686 Plus

This dampening weight makes for good recoil control and also aids in balance.

There have been blue steel and stainless versions, short and long-barrel revolvers, and fixed-sight revolvers in the L-Frame line.

The L-Frame was the last of the purpose-designed police revolvers. The cylinder is larger than a Model 19 or K-Frame revolvers, at 1.559-inches diameter versus 1.446 inches for the K-Frame.

The L-Frame simply has more steel for added strength, the shortcoming of the small-frame Magnum revolvers.

The grip frame, however, isn’t the larger N-Frame size, but the L-Frame 686 has the same size grip as the K-Frame.

This makes for a revolver that fits most hands well. The new design firing pin is mounted in the frame rather than on the hammer, as was the case with older Smith and Wesson revolvers.

While safer in the mechanical sense, this design also tends to handle high pressures better than the older type.

A primer flowing back into the firing-pin channel has tied up Magnum revolvers, and the 686 combats this with a good modern design.

Smith and Wesson 686 Plus Heavy Barrel
Smith and Wesson offers several heavy-barrel options.

Other Features and Specs

The six-shot revolver has long been a standard in .357 Magnum. Smith and Wesson redesigned the L-Frame to a seven-shot cylinder.

The L-Frame cylinder is just larger enough than the K-Frame to make this redesign viable.

Another advantage in my hands, is that the new geometry seems to make for a faster action and lock time. The action must be tried to be appreciated.

One of my favorite 686 Plus revolvers is a three-inch version with recoil-absorbing grips. This is a great all-around carry gun.

I often carry it in a Wright Leatherworks crossdraw holster when hiking, or a Wright Leatherworks strong-side holster when concealment is needed.

This handgun features a fully-adjustable rear sight and post front with red insert. This custom shop revolver has an unfluted cylinder.

While modern heat treating is plenty strong, the unfluted cylinder is even stronger.

For about 90 percent of the shooting I do with this revolver, I use the Hornady 125-grain XTP bullet and a carefully worked up charge of Titegroup powder.

I don’t use a maximum load, but one that breaks about 1,250 fps in this revolver. This is useful power with a bullet that has the proven performance of the XTP.

In factory loads, the Hornady Critical Defense is a fine choice. The Critical Defense breaks over 1,300 fps in the three-inch barrel.

This revolver is an ideal packing revolver for long treks in the wild and for defense in the wilder urban sprawl.

686 Plus Cylinder
A seven-shot cylinder is a marvel in engineering. Not only does it function properly, the action seems sharper and faster due to adaptations to the new cylinder geometry.

Conclusion: S&W 686 Plus

I have used several custom shop revolvers. The 686 Plus with a five-inch, heavy-underlugged barrel is among the finest-balanced revolvers I have handled.

The action is smooth, very smooth. The heavy barrel makes firing the Magnum cartridge very pleasant. The overall geometry makes for great comfort.

When you consider the price of having a heavy barrel added to an existing revolver or having an action job done, the Smith and Wesson 686 Plus custom shop revolver is an excellent choice.

I have enjoyed firing this revolver for accuracy from 25 to 100 yards with excellent results. This is a challenging revolver, as it is more accurate than I am able to hold.

I know there are better shots than I, and they will find the 686 Plus revolver compliments their ability.

Have you ever shot the Smith and Wesson 686 Plus? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!


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