Smith & Wesson 686 Plus .357 Magnum 164194
Higher priced than its competitors, but not prohibitively so, the 686 Plus nonetheless covered all the bases. Consistent, accurate, and packed with seven rounds of either .38 Special or .357 Magnum, this gun is a top revolver choice.
The single-action trigger was heavier than the Alfas. But before we knew it the shot was gone. The double-action trigger was better than the action we found on the Smith & Wesson 619 in our last test. The gun was very well balanced, and despite the exposed backstrap of the rubber Hogue Monogrip the level of comfort and control was all we could ask for.
The ejector rod played a part in lockup and the ejector star was kept from turning by meshing with the outline of each chamber. This did away with the need for anchoring pins pressed into the cylinder face that can break off. The cylinder latch was contoured and taking a further cue from custom gunsmiths its surface was finely checkered for a sure grip. The sides of this stainless steel revolver were brushed in an understated manner and the top strap was treated to a matte finish to reduce glare. Originally, a sister model offered in blue steel was dubbed the 586. Today, the 586 is available as a special ported model only.
At the range we saw that the sights were sturdy and clear. The white outline on the rear sight notch wasnt really noticeable, and not one of our staff really remembered it being there until after they had shot. Accuracy from the bench shooting the .38 Special Black Hills 148-grain Match Wadcutter rounds was outstanding. One group barely measured an inch across. Our average group size measured 1.2 inches center to center.
The Black Hills 125-grain JHP .357 Magnum ammunition proved nearly as consistent as the light recoiling wadcutters. But the range in group size was measured to be between 1.7 inches to 2.0 inches. Firing the American Eagle rounds manufactured by Federal produced the largest groups, but a 25-yard average size group of 2.3 inches packed with about 550 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy would be the envy of many other handguns.
In our August 2006 test of .357 Magnum Service revolvers the Smith & Wesson model 619 was bested by the Taurus and Ruger products. The M619 had its advantages, lower cost, indestructible sights, and the ability to shoot the American Eagle 158-grain JSP rounds better than its competitors. But in the case of the 686 Plus, we felt that adjustable sights and an ejector rod protected from damage were important issues that besides superior accuracy put it ahead of the 619, in our opinion. The 686 Plus is more expensive than the others (by about $160 on average). But it also carries an extra round, and the action was very good.