1. If there were a category for “single most useful handgun a person could own,” I think I would vote for the 686 to take top honors in that category.

      • Yes, I would. Much of the reason rests on the .357 Magnum, which is a handgun round that penetrates significantly better than most handgun rounds.

        With a .357, I can serve multiple needs: self-defense/home defense, target shooting, medium game hunting (up to say, a mule deer). If I want to run light loads for target work, the .38 Specials, or .38 Special loads in a .357 case. In a pinch, with heavy pills in hot loads (eg, Buffalo Bore’s 180 grain), you could take on black bears and boars without feeling stupid.

        The L-frame 686 is built heavily enough to handle hot loads, unlike the earlier K-frame S&W’s .357’s. The L-frame’s are easily repaired, easily tuned to have very nice triggers, and are heavy enough to tame some of the .357’s snappy recoil. They are a tad heavy to carry concealed, but if you have to draw on someone, a .357 would get the job done and then some.

        There might be handguns that do “X” single issue better than a 686 and properly chosen ammo,(eg, there are many better CCW pistols/revolvers now, and a Freedom Arms in .454 is a better hunting handgun for anything up to dangerous game) but I cannot think of any other single handgun and cartridge choice that is as good at doing multiple missions as the 686.

        If I had to make a choice of exactly one, and only one, handgun, I’d take a 686 with a 6″ barrel – and I’m a hard-core 1911 guy, so that’s saying quite a lot.

        Your mileage might vary.

  2. With a .357 wheelgun and a .357 levergun (aka cowboy assault rifle) a man is very well armed. Given our inability to acquire semiauto rifles in Australia because gummint that’s the combination I went for.

    I used to have a 586 but went to a model 19 because my other 2 revolvers are K Frames. Most of the guys I shoot with use 686s though.

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