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Old 10-30-2010, 08:32 PM
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Question 686 Groupings

I recently bought a 2nd hand S&W 686-6 6 inch revolver and went out to sight it in. Shooting from a rest at 25 feet I zeroed the sights with a resulting 2 inch diameter round grouping using .38 special (standard, not +P) ammo.

I then tried three different brands of .357 Magnum ammo from the rest at the same distance and was surprised to find the grouping was a 4 x 6 inch oval that was 8 to 12 inches to the lower left of where the .38 special grouped.

Is that typical to see that much difference at rest from 25 feet between .38 special and .357 magnum ammo?

I did notice that the barrel clocking was slightly passed TDC and hence needs be be reclocked but what would you expect or have you seen from your 6 inch 357 revolvers?

I appreciate your input.
CAMario
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Old 10-30-2010, 09:03 PM
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Default flinching

It sounds as if you are anticipating recoil and have developed a flinch.
If the gun groups well with .38's it should do the same with .357 loads.
Next time you try to shoot the .357's leave one chamber empty and spin and close the cylinder. See what happens when you get to the empty chamber. I'll bet the gun goes down and left if you are right handed.
There is a target picture posted somewhere which lists all the common shooter errors. I'm sure you will see it soon.

Bruce

Check this previous thread for the target info.
Shooting low left

Last edited by Bruce Lee M; 10-30-2010 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 10-30-2010, 09:42 PM
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I know it sounds just like flinching but I was shooting from a sand bag rest and I had my buddy try it as well with the same results.

Anyway, what kind groupings would you expect without flinching between the two different ammunitions? I know that faster bullets should group higher but at 25 feet that's got to be fractions of an inch right?
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Old 10-30-2010, 09:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camario View Post
I know it sounds just like flinching but I was shooting from a sand bag rest and I had my buddy try it as well with the same results.

Anyway, what kind groupings would you expect without flinching between the two different ammunitions? I know that faster bullets should group higher but at 25 feet that's got to be fractions of an inch right?
Actually a faster bullet would shoot lower do to less barrel time. It leaves the barrel while the gun is lower. That will vary with different ammunition and bullet weights.
I'm still thinking shooter error even off of a sandbag rest. You are still holding the gun and you brain is saying this is a big load and so you push into the recoil.

Try the empty chamber drill as an eye opener. As far as group size the gun is really capable of 2" groups at 25 yards with good ammo and a capable shooter. If your only shooting at 25 feet then you should be able to hold the bull even with full loads. It's not easy with handguns, it takes lots and lots of practice.

Bruce

I don't know how you were using the sandbag to rest the gun.
When I sight in a revolver I rest my wrists on the sandbag not the gun.
That way the gun recoils in the same way as if I were holding it standing up.

Last edited by Bruce Lee M; 10-30-2010 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 10-30-2010, 10:24 PM
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Ive found from experience that resting a one piece barrel on a sandbag in a Major caliber is a simply excellent method for just trashing the accuracy. With my 6 1/2 inch model 610 shooting the 40 S&W, sandbagging the barrel will cause the groupings to double in size. If you're not aware of it, a revolver barrel will "ring" or vibrate when the bullet is transitting the barrel. In addition, the muzzle end will whip around a bit during the transit. Put any restraint, such as a sandbag, against the barrel and ANY variation will cause it to throw the bullets differently with each shot.

In addition, the power to barrel mass ratio will cause this effect to increase as the power is increased. This is why your 686 grouped better with 38 spl. than it did with the Magnums.

First tip, use the sandbag as a rest for your hand and keep the barrel free of any contact with a support. While you'll see more movement of the barrel due to tremor, you will see an improvement in your groups in spite of that tremor.

Second tip, PRACTICE. As I found out with my 6 1/2 inch 610, longer barrels are MORE sensitive to recoil management than short barrels. Since the bullet spends more time transitting the barrel, this means that you have to put in the time to achieve a consistent response to recoil. It is critical and it becomes MORE critical as barrel length increases.

BTW, as an experimient I tried two different approaches to recoil management with my 610 using the 40 S&W. Method one was to NOT restrain the muzzle flip to any great degree. Method two was to manage the recoil as I normally do when praticing Combat shooting and keep the muzzle rise to a minimum. At 100 feet there was a 12 inch difference in the point of impact. If anyone ever tells you that recoil management isn't critical, they have no idea what they are talking about.

PS; I also have a 620 with a 2 piece barrel and that one can be sandbagged effectively with 38 spl., with the Magnums shooting it free of any support groups slightly better. I also have a 6 inch 617 and that one groups best with the barrel sandbagged. Point is, what works best is dependent on barrel construction AND the level of energy expended. In some cases the increase in stability of supporting the barrel will yield better groups, however as power is increased supporting the barrel will likely cause inferior groupings. Where this point will fall for you will likely be highly dependent on how much basic tremor you have in your hands. In simple terms, don't be shy about trying different approaches.

Last edited by scooter123; 10-30-2010 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 10-31-2010, 01:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Lee M View Post
Actually a faster bullet would shoot lower do to less barrel time. It leaves the barrel while the gun is lower.
That's only true if both bullets are loaded to the same final velocity because the lighter one would have less powder hence less recoil (muzzle is rising slower). Comparing magnum to .38, magnums will print a shade higher even if the bullet weight is lighter because the significant increase in recoil rotates the muzzle up faster. Recoil wins on that one.

Saw the same thing testing POIs on standard 158 grain .38 ammo compared to the 128 grain +p defense loads. Both were hitting same POI because the lighter ones were significantly hotter loads.

But for the record, magnums shouldn't group eight inches off at 25 feet range. maybe a couple of inches max at 15 yards.

Lower left group = yanking the trigger. Take it from the man who has done it a few thousand times.....

Last edited by bountyhunter; 10-31-2010 at 01:08 AM.
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Old 10-31-2010, 03:32 AM
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Default shooting low

I am having the same problem w/ my 686, 6inch barrel.I have concentrated on shooting 357 rdns . I shoot two handed, w/hands resting on sandbags. I have tried to adjust the rear sight but i am out of adjustment room= no more adjustment left.So now I plan to try a few different weight bullets to see if that helps. I cock the hammer and shoot it single action concentrating on not flinching .I have heard that the 686 is an extreamly accurate gun but I have yet to find that true. If I cannot remedy this situation w/ different ammo. I will send it back to s&w and have them check it out. I am realy frustrated at this point in time
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Old 10-31-2010, 09:21 AM
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Thanks guys for all the help. I appreciate it very much.
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Old 10-31-2010, 10:20 AM
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Some additional notes.

Sighting distances. Sighting any handgun in at a short distance such as 25 feet isn't an optimum choice. Every handgun that I know of uses sights that lie above the barrel. As a result of this, adjusting the sights for a short distance will cause the line of sight and the barrel axis to converge and coincide at the distance that it's been sighted in at. When you sight in at a short range that angle of this convergence will be higher. The result is that the gun will shoot high at longer ranges. If you assume there is no bullet drop and the offset for the sight line is 3/4 inch, at 25 yards the gun will print 1.5 inches high. Now flip the distances and sight the gun at 25 yards and you have a lower angle of convergence in the sights. Make the same assumption about bullet drop and the maximum deviation of the sights will be at the muzzle and will equal the offset of the sights to the barrel. At 25 feet, the deviation will be 2/3 the offset for the sight, or about 1/2 inch. I'll grant that in a handgun 1 inch really doesn't matter, as long as your using the iron sights. However, if you employ a rail mounted sight, these effects can add up to a significant error due to the much larger offset for this type of sight.

Bore Transit Recoil. It's been mentioned in previous posts that bullet weight and velocity have a distinct effect on the point of impact. The reason for this is that recoil forces start the barrel moving upwards as soon as the primer sets the powder burning. Whats not been mentioned is that gyroscopic precession will also start driving the barrel in a horizontal direction. Fortunately, precessive forces show a much lower effect than recoil forces but with a riight hand twist the muzzle will tend to drift up in a leftwards motion. In my experience that line of motion will be about 15 degrees from the vertical, however that angle will vary with the rifling and speed of the bullet and it's weight. On a side note, a slightly "overtorqued" barrel will tend to compensate for the effect of precession.

Now back to Bore Transit Recoil. As noted that barrel starts moving as soon as the bullet starts moving. The amount of movement of the barrel while the bullet is transiting the barrel will "steer" it's flight. Double the length of the barrel and you will see a doubling of the time that the bullet spends in the barrel. As a result, long barreled handguns will be much more sensitive to the effects of recoil management. They will also be more sensitive to the effect of changes in bullet weight and velocity. As a rule, if pressure is maintained as a constant, the heavier a bullet is, the higher it will print because the slower moving bullet spends more TIME in the barrel. However, with the disparity between the power of the 38 spl. and the 357 Magnum, these rules break down. While I don't think that this change in power level will add up to an 8 inch error at 25 feet, I do know that there will be a distinct difference in the point of impact. My personal experience with my 620 is that at 30 feet sights that are perfectly zeroed for a 125 grain 38 spl. will require a 6 o'clock hold for a 158 grain 357 Magnum clocking 1250 fps. That is about a 2 1/2 inch difference in POI. Factor in the effect of a 6 inch barrel versus the 4 inch barrel on my 620 and we are probably talking about a 4 inch difference. However, recoil management does vary with the individual because some are very firm during recoil and others shoot a bit more freely. Bottomline, the POI difference between a 38 spl. and a 357 Magnum can probably be predicted to fall within a range of 1.5 to 6 inches at 30 feet.

Point is, it's the HUMAN element that has the greatest effect on how well a gun shoots in almost every case. In addition, increasing the length of the barrel in a handgun actually magnifies the effect of the HUMAN element instead of making it easier. I'm actually a pretty decent shot with my 620, especially with a 38 spl. or 38+P. However, with the Magnums I am still struggling a bit with group sizes. I'm also still struggling a bit with my 6 1/2 inch 610 due to the long barrel, I've had days when I can group 2 1/2 inches at 100 feet but generally a 4 inch group at that distance is a good result for me.

Bottomline, even the "puny" 357 Magnum is a caliber that takes a lot of practice to master. Don't blame the gun, it's highly unlikely the gun is the problem. Blame the person pulling the trigger and have have that person spend more time shooting. I'll also note that experienced Magnum shooters are a rare sight at most ranges today. So handing that gun off to a friend and having him "test" it isn't a valid test unless that buddy has previously demonstrated a high level of skill with this caliber. The 357 Magnum is NOT an easy caliber to master and it takes time and a lot of practice. You also have to pay very close attention during that practice because the 357 Magnum is a Flinch builder par excellance.

PS; one tip for gaining skill in feeling a flinch, or what I call "listening to your body". Short load the cylinder and give it a spin with your eyes closed just before closing it. If you've built a flinch, as soon as you hit that empty cylinder you will see it very clearly. While snap caps can be used, an occasional dry fire on an empty chamber won't do much harm. If you have snap caps, use them, however if you don't have any, don't be afraid of an occasional short load, it takes thousands of dry snaps to do any real harm.
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Old 10-31-2010, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bountyhunter View Post
That's only true if both bullets are loaded to the same final velocity because the lighter one would have less powder hence less recoil (muzzle is rising slower).

au contraire....If one uses the same powder, it takes more powder to drive a lighter bullet, than a heavier bullet, to the same velocity.


My 6'' 686 is one of the most accurate handguns I own. It groups within a postcard @ 50 yards off a rest. If you're shooting off bags, I suggest you try resting your hands on the bags or using a solid pistol rest.
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Old 10-31-2010, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buck460XVR View Post
au contraire....If one uses the same powder, it takes more powder to drive a lighter bullet, than a heavier bullet, to the same velocity.


My 6'' 686 is one of the most accurate handguns I own. It groups within a postcard @ 50 yards off a rest. If you're shooting off bags, I suggest you try resting your hands on the bags or using a solid pistol rest.
Them are not good groups from 25'. They are actually bad IMO. My 4' 586 will shoot a 2" group at 25 yards all day with .38's from a firm snadbagged rest with my hands touching the bags and elbows and forearms rested on the bench. Lots of really good tips to apply to your next session have been covered. May I also recommend quality DOUBLE ear protection and some hand/forearm strengthening exercises to get a good grip without shaking. I squeeze a tennis ball and some grips at work daily. Helps me immensely with controlling hard recoiling revolvers. Make sure the barrel is completely clean and lubed.

I'd start with the basics and shoot nothing but light recoiling .38's then move up to the magnums once you're shooting well with the light loads. SQEEZE the trigger and let the shots surprise you, every time. SAFELY dry firing with snap caps will also give you a better feel for trigger control.

JMO and don't get frustrated. It'll come to you and best of luck.

Another tip. Do Not consume ANY caffeine or nicotine before your next session.
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Last edited by Sportsterguy; 10-31-2010 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 10-31-2010, 04:16 PM
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At 25 feet everything out to shoot to the same place.....that's really close! Even at 25 yards the difference in grouping by various loads will be close enough for a combat revolver(I've got the target: 38's, 357"s, cast, jacketed, hot, mid range!) and a typical group with one good load should be in the 1" or less range with the iron sights. At 50 yards(open sights, supporting the gun in some way but without a machine rest) you can expect an honest 4", better with practice.

That double ear protection is a great idea.

Last edited by Wayne M; 10-31-2010 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 10-31-2010, 06:08 PM
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scooter123 is correct, when shooting off sandbags or a rest. I have found the most stable position is to use sandbags and place only the frame in contact with the sandbags. Make sure the barrel touch's nothing. A 6" 686 should group within 2" or less at 25 ft. or I would try another load.
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Old 11-01-2010, 12:21 AM
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au contraire....If one uses the same powder, it takes more powder to drive a lighter bullet, than a heavier bullet, to the same velocity.
Not according to the laws of physics. Takes more force to get the same acceleration effect on a larger mass. If you are not getting the added force from the powder, I have no idea where it could come from.
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Old 11-01-2010, 02:00 AM
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Absolutely right. It takes MORE energy to drive a heavier bullet to any given velocity than to drive a lighter bullet to that same velocity. Add to that the basic rule of "equal and opposite reaction" and you know why a heavy bullet at any given velocity creates more recoil than a lighter bullet at identical velocity.
This of course is without regard to preception of recoil by individual shooters, intertial dampening caused by shooting any given load out of a heavy weight firearm of a given barrel length, vs. the load in a light weight firearm of identical barrel length, etc. Also does not address the issue of trigger control vs jerking or "slapping" the trigger, light pull vs heavy pull and effects on accuracy for shooters of great vs poor ability, etc., etc., etc.
Smith and Wesson will shoot guns from a machine rest, removing the human factor to either prove or disprove claims of inaccuracy.
Just my $0.02 ( or maybe more)
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Old 11-01-2010, 02:34 AM
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OP, there is some really great info here. It takes many range sessions to learn to shoot a magnum well. It is worth the effort though. After a while and with the right ammo you will be shooting ragged holes with that 6" 686. The gun is capable of it and so will you be with time. Make you practice sessions count. Take your time and learn what your body is telling you and when you get too tired and your accuracy goes down hill quite for the day.
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Old 11-01-2010, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buck460XVR View Post
au contraire....If one uses the same powder, it takes more powder to drive a lighter bullet, than a heavier bullet, to the same velocity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bountyhunter View Post
Not according to the laws of physics. Takes more force to get the same acceleration effect on a larger mass. If you are not getting the added force from the powder, I have no idea where it could come from.






Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboy85306 View Post
Absolutely right. It takes MORE energy to drive a heavier bullet to any given velocity than to drive a lighter bullet to that same velocity.


Apparently you don't reload. Nor do you know how smokeless powder works. A heavier bullet resists moving more thus produces more pressure. Look in any reloading manual....ask any reloader.
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Old 11-01-2010, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sportsterguy View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by buck460XVR View Post
au contraire....If one uses the same powder, it takes more powder to drive a lighter bullet, than a heavier bullet, to the same velocity.


My 6'' 686 is one of the most accurate handguns I own. It groups within a postcard @ 50 yards off a rest. If you're shooting off bags, I suggest you try resting your hands on the bags or using a solid pistol rest.
Them are not good groups from 25'. They are actually bad IMO. My 4' 586 will shoot a 2" group at 25 yards all day with .38's from a firm snadbagged rest with my hands touching the bags and elbows and forearms rested on the bench.

Another tip. Do Not consume ANY caffeine or nicotine before your next session.
I don't know if you quoted the wrong post or if you misread MY post. But I clearly stated I was shooting @ 50 yards....not 25 feet. A postcard is 3''X5'' and staying inside of that @ 50 yards is at least as good as the accuracy you claim @ 25yards .......but then my gun don't have a 4 foot barrel. Maybe you should avoid caffeine or nicotine before your next internet session.
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Old 11-01-2010, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by buck460XVR View Post
Apparently you don't reload. Nor do you know how smokeless powder works. A heavier bullet resists moving more thus produces more pressure. Look in any reloading manual....ask any reloader.
Here's what I know because I measured it: buy some standard 158 grain .38 ammo and check the POI. Shoot 130 grain standard .38 load (same FPS) and it will hit lower than the 158. It will also have significantly less recoil.

Then get some 130 grain +p defense loads and you will find they hit the same POI as the 158 standard .38 even though they are lighter weight and accelerate faster. They are loaded hotter to achieve a higher muzzle velocity. They also have more recoil because of it. The increased recoil flips the muzzle up faster. Buy some magnums of the same bullet weight and they hit a higher POI. They are even hotter load (higher FPS), with even more recoil. Recoil is the first order effect and the more powder you load in, the more recoil you will get.

Last edited by bountyhunter; 11-01-2010 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 11-01-2010, 03:30 PM
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I've come to the conclusion that the shooter's control of a gun is by far the most important variable in determining accuracy. Yes, there are some handguns out there that are inherently inaccurate due either to a design flaw or a production problem. But, for the most part, even the cheapest handguns are more accurate than is the person who shoots them.

We all have our individual quirks and problems when we shoot. I shoot some of my handguns consistently more accurately than I do others. I tend to shoot my 4" Model 27 to the left of my perceived point of aim. My groups are quite small, but always to the left. I don't know why I do that, I'm presently experimenting with changing the grips on the gun to see if that makes a difference. All I know is that I have a consistent, irritating problem when I shoot that gun. That problem disappears when I shoot my 28, which is essentially an identical gun. With my 28, everything hits right at point of aim and the gun makes me look good.

I'm absolutely convinced that there's nothing wrong with my 27 and that I'm the problem. It could be that I don't pick up the red ramp front sight as well on the 27 as I pick up the black sight on the 28. Or, that the wooden target grips on the 27 don't fit my hands quite so well as the Pachmayr Grippers on the 28 (as I've said, I'm replacing those target grips as an experiment).

So, when someone posts to complain that his or her gun isn't shooting well for him, my instant reaction is to wonder whether the problem may be more with the shooter than the gun.

A few ideas. Try shooting the gun without a rest. As others have pointed out, shooting by resting the gun on sandbags may actually create more problems than it solves. Try having 2 or 3 experienced shooters fire the gun. My guess is that some will shoot it far more accurately than will others. I'd also practice dry firing in both single and double action. Here's a good trick to test how smoothly you pull the trigger. Lay a dime flat on the top of the gun's barrel just behind the front sight. Now, try to pull the trigger six times in succession without the dime falling off. If you can do it, you know you're holding the gun steady.
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Old 11-01-2010, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by buck460XVR View Post
I don't know if you quoted the wrong post or if you misread MY post. But I clearly stated I was shooting @ 50 yards....not 25 feet. A postcard is 3''X5'' and staying inside of that @ 50 yards is at least as good as the accuracy you claim @ 25yards .......but then my gun don't have a 4 foot barrel. Maybe you should avoid caffeine or nicotine before your next internet session.
Calm down please sir. I was merely making a example of what a good shooting revolver SHOULD do by relating your post and the great groups you achieved to the original post (OP). Was actually a compliment, but I should have been clearer on my post when quoting you. In no way was I being disrespectful to either of you two gentlemen.

Regards,

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Last edited by Sportsterguy; 11-01-2010 at 07:32 PM. Reason: Addition
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Old 11-01-2010, 08:37 PM
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Thanks again guys for all the input. I'm still learning and you've given me some very good advice and things to try. Hopefully with help one day I'll shoot the 686 as well as my Ruger Mk II which makes mouse farts sound loud.
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Old 11-02-2010, 02:55 AM
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I've come to the conclusion that the shooter's control of a gun is by far the most important variable in determining accuracy.
My conclusion has been the ammo is far more of an error factor than the gun. Especially lately, when ammo makers are pressed to ship anything since prices are so high and supplies are short. With reload junk like Miwall or the like and I have trouble holding a 3" group at 25 yards off a rest with a 6" barrel model 66. With good ammo the same gun has shot 1" groups.

My buddy casts his own .38 bullets out of wheel weight lead and loads his own. Most accurate ammo I have shot, usually prints groups half the size of the junk I have.
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Old 11-08-2010, 10:24 AM
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Back in the "day" (which was 35 years ago), I was a pretty fair revolver shooter. I would take my 4" Model 19 and a box of .38 Special wadcutter reloads (148-grain hollow-bases over 3.5 grains of Bullseye) to a 25-yard indoor range two evening a week and try to put all 50 in the black of a standard 25-yard pistol target while shooting one-handed offhand. I did it twice and often got 47 or more in the black. In PPC matches back then, I did well with that M19 or my 6" Python. Trust what these guys are telling you about trigger control!

With regard to the POI of different bullet weights, I had an 8-3/8" Model 14 I used occasionally for groundhog hunting when the hay or alphafa was high. My bullet of choice for that hunting was a Sierra 110-grain hollow cavity but even with the rear sight up as high as it would go, the gun shot below the POA at 25 yards but could be adjusted to center 148-grain wadcutters with plenty of sight adjustment remaining. S&W sent me a higher rear sight blade and that could be adjusted to work with both bullet weights. So yes, light/faster bullets shoot lower.

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Old 11-10-2010, 12:15 AM
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Thanks again guys for all the input. I'm still learning and you've given me some very good advice and things to try. Hopefully with help one day I'll shoot the 686 as well as my Ruger Mk II which makes mouse farts sound loud.
Hi,
A year ago I purchased a 686-6 6" and went through much trial and error and asked similiar questions on here...
Anyway I am happy to say with all the help the members of this Forum provided and getting the right ammo/and lots of practice;
I am now enjoying the accuracy of the revolver, and know that it's capabilities are still superior to mine.
For me, I find 158 grain to work best in both 38 special and 357 magnum...(this is in factory ammo).
One of these days I need to start reloading...

Good luck with all. and if you find time to seach back at the posts from last year, there is some really good knowledgable information that the members shared on the 686...and very motivating too.
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S&W Revolvers: 1980 to the Present Thread, 686 Groupings in Smith & Wesson Revolvers; I recently bought a 2nd hand S&W 686-6 6 inch revolver and went out to sight it in. Shooting from ...
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