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Old 08-23-2011, 09:59 AM
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Default S&W 686 -- Which Barrel?

I held a S&W 686 with 4 inch barrel in the gun shop yesterday and loved it. It felt great in my hand, not too heavy at all. I also loved its look. Here's my dilemma: I will be using this gun for home defense and shooting a the range with my wife. As a matter of fact, we live in the country and are going to build us an outside shooting area. I understand that theoretically the 6 inch barrel will have a longer sight radius and thus be potentially more accurate. The longer barrel will also reduce recoil somewhat more than the 4 in barrel. This is what I keep reading in various forums. I want to get the gun that is going to give us the most enjoyment. Maybe the 6 in barrel excels in the above mentioned criteria, but I just feel so drawn to the 4 in. as it feels and looks better, plus my wife likes it better as well. I WANT the 4 in barrel, but I also want the best shooting experience I can get. I cannot afford both these guns.

What I would like to know from anyone who owns these guns or has shot both of them is if there is a real, discernible difference in accuracy and recoil, especially with the .357 rounds. I know theoretically there is a difference but in real life experience are the differences negligible or very tangible?

I would like to be able to shoot this gun at the range and be comfortable with the .357 rounds. Some have said you can shoot the 686 all day long with .357 rounds, others have said they still come away with sore hands after a few cylinders of shooting them. What is the actual truth here? Also, how about the .357 rounds reaching full potential through a 4 in. barrel? I understand that through small barrels the .357 round is not much better than .38. Is the 4 inch barrel going to be adequate?

Another question. What about the 6 vs. 7 shot cylinder? Other than getting an extra round, is there any advantage or disadvantage? I saw on the S&W website specs that the 7 shot was actually a tad lighter. I would have thought the cylinder having a 7 round capacity would make it heavier. How is this?

As much as I like and want the 4 in. I would go with the 6 inch if it is going to have a FACTUAL, NOTICEABLE advantage over the 4 in. Any help here will be appreciated.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:31 AM
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>>I held a S&W 686 with 4 inch barrel... and loved it. It felt great in my hand, not too heavy at all. I also loved its look. ... I just feel so drawn to the 4 in. as it feels and looks better, plus my wife likes it better as well. I WANT the 4 in barrel<<

It couldn't be more obvious to me. Get the 4" bbl! The above is far and away the most important part of this decision. I'll provide some added info below for you, but it's not needed.

You clearly like the 4" more, you'll probably shoot it more often because of that as well. Get it.

>>is if there is a real, discernible difference in accuracy and recoil, especially with the .357 rounds.<<

I can't definitively comment on the accuracy. One can shoot either more than well enough for accuracy.

>>Some have said you can shoot the 686 all day long with .357 rounds, others have said they still come away with sore hands after a few cylinders of shooting them.<<

I think that will mostly be personal preference. Some will be more recoil sensative than others. Frankly, I wouldn't bother shooting much .357 regardless. Some do like to, meh.

>>Also, how about the .357 rounds reaching full potential through a 4 in. barrel? I understand that through small barrels the .357 round is not much better than .38. Is the 4 inch barrel going to be adequate?<<

The 4" will affect a 38 the same way it affects a .357, in large part. Regardless, either round is far more than enough power, and many make a good case against the .357 for self defense due to noise, muzzle blast, recoil, etc.

>>Another question. What about the 6 vs. 7 shot cylinder? Other than getting an extra round, is there any advantage or disadvantage?<<

Only other advantage is the application. The common gun games won't allow >6 rounds, practically. I'd get the 6-shot for all-purpose, but as with most things gun it's going to come down to personal preference.

>>I saw on the S&W website specs that the 7 shot was actually a tad lighter. I would have thought the cylinder having a 7 round capacity would make it heavier. How is this?<<

The cylinders are the same except for the holes and flutes. More holes and flutes = less steel.

>>As much as I like and want the 4 in.<<

There's your clear answer. The other "facts" don't matter nearly as much as this statement.


>>I would go with the 6 inch if it is going to have a FACTUAL, NOTICEABLE advantage over the 4 in. Any help here will be appreciated.<<

Personally I don't notice any difference between the two *after* they go bang. The perceived recoil difference just isn't there for me. Maybe it would show up on a timer in shot recovery or transitioning.

There is plenty of difference before the gun goes bang, though. And all of those differences have me preferring the 4", too.

Last edited by gr7070; 08-23-2011 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:32 AM
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My first revolver was a 6" 586 in 1983. It was nose heavy IMO, but that said, others enjoy that feel.

I settled on a 4" 586 and couldn't be happier.

You loose a little velocity with a shorter barrel, but it's not enough to work up a sweat over, truth be told. Add to this, the shorter barrel is easier to hold and therefore more accurate in my hands, YMMV.

For carry and home protection, the 4" is more desirable and is a pleasure at the range.

Will the 6" work too - of course.

The L frame is always a good choice, so whatever you decide, you will not be making a mistake.

Let us know what you decide.

BTW, they don't call 'em six-shooters for nothing. I personally can't wrap my mind around 7 & 8 shot revolvers.

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Old 08-23-2011, 10:33 AM
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You are asking the unanswerable, because recoil is so subjective. From what you've said, I'd get the 4".

I owned a 6" for a short while and found it to be muzzle-heavy, whereas the 4" is balanced much better. (I'm betting this is why your wife prefers it.)

As far as recoil, I find 357s to have a sharper, straight-back recoil with "expected" but not excessive muzzle flip. Is the 6" better in this regard? Yes, but if she can't hold it at arm's length well enough to line up the sights that won't matter either...

Overall, I believe you're over-worrying this. Get the 4" and shoot 38 specials out of it until your both good shots with it before ever using 357 ammo. The 357s aren't that bad, but get your confidence and abilities up first, so any sensitivity you do have is minimized by the skills being built-in by then...
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:38 AM
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Thanks to you guys for your time in helping me. What you have said helps me make my decision. I will go with the 4 in. If experienced shooters say there just isn't that much of a difference in accuracy and recoil, I will accept it. I understand about personal preference, some DO like the 6 in. better, that's why I was asking for some hard facts on the matter. Thanks again.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:44 AM
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I have a 6-inch and am looking to trade for a 4-inch....even. I love the gun, but the 4-inch is a bit better for me in holster-carry. That is my only reason. Get the 4.....I do not think you will be sorry that you did not get a 6, but if you are.....give me a call.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:46 AM
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I struggled with the same choice a few years ago. After settling on the 6" barrel, I went into my LGS and held the 4" 686 just for comparison. About 45 minutes later, I walked out a with a new 4" 686. However, I knew that one day I'd have them both, and that day came just a few weeks ago when I found a pristine, used model 586 with 6" barrel and bought it at the same LGS. IMO, that's' the most reasonable outcome you can hope for.
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:00 AM
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One other question comes to mind. If I ever got proficient with the 686 and wanted to shoot in any kind of competition, would the 4 in barrel still serve me well?
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:32 AM
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You should take a look at the 686 SSR (standard stock revolver) it is slightly upgraded to make it competition worthy, has a 4" barrel and is 6 shot so it's great for competitive shooting. BUT from my research alot of people seem to think the 5" barrel is what you want for that. And there is a 686 pro series with a 5" barrel. But it holds 7 rounds. Personally I'm all about the 686 ssr.
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake Benson View Post
One other question comes to mind. If I ever got proficient with the 686 and wanted to shoot in any kind of competition, would the 4 in barrel still serve me well?
Yes. If you're wanting a 38/.357 the 4" bbl, 6-shot 686 is what you want for all-purpose competition use. Legal in both IDPA and USPSA. It's a great gun for just about any use one can imagine.

Also, don't let the proficiency keep you from trying out the gun games! They're a blast regardless of skill level! And really, the games are what will get you proficient - not the other way around.

The other option is a 4" 625, which shoots .45 ACP.

Personally I didn't bother with the 686 SSR. I wasn't a big fan of the looks, wanted a sister gun for my 617, and I intended to have proper trigger job and cylinder chamfer which are two big parts of the SSR made moot. However, if it's only a $100 difference it's probably worth that for the interchangeable front sight alone.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:03 PM
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Forgot to mention the interchangeable front sight. I ordered the gold bead sight for mine from s&w yesterday.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 9399NOLES View Post
You should take a look at the 686 SSR (standard stock revolver) it is slightly upgraded to make it competition worthy, has a 4" barrel and is 6 shot so it's great for competitive shooting. BUT from my research alot of people seem to think the 5" barrel is what you want for that. And there is a 686 pro series with a 5" barrel. But it holds 7 rounds. Personally I'm all about the 686 ssr.
FYI:

SSR = Stock Service Revolver

The 5" guns (or longer) are what the high-speed folks use in USPSA. However, IDPA limits revoivlers to 4 1/4" bbl length, so the 4" is the way to go for all-around game use.

Of course the high-end competitiors in USPSA don't use a 686 either; they use a 625 there. 625s work well in IDPA ESR division, too, but then again the 4" bbl is what's needed.

The little USPSA shooting I do I use a 686. I have no delusions of being a high-end shooter. I'm competitive and competent, but I'm not about competing regionally or nationally in USPSA so I just take some joy in beating half the bottom feeders with a 686 when I do shoot it.

I went the 686 route as I wanted a 38. If one wanted a .45 then the 625 is the way to go. I wouldn't let the game dictate that choice. If one gets really serious about competition they can easily justify a new purchase.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by 9399NOLES View Post
Forgot to mention the interchangeable front sight. I ordered the gold bead sight for mine from s&w yesterday.
The gold bead is a great sight. I was suprised at how much I liked it on my 627. I went ahead and replaced it with a green SDM FO instead, though.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:22 PM
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Your wife likes the 4" better so what's the dilemma? Get the 6" later if you like but the 4" is a great gun and any issues can be worked through with judicious use of .38 specials.

Don't even think of coming home with the 6" after the boss told you she likes the 4".

Bob
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:35 PM
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Shot both. I liked the feel of the 4" better because it seemed to point faster and more naturally. But I believed that the 6" would give me a slight accuracy edge, and bought it for that reason. I'm keeping it, but looking for a nice 4" to go with it.

The 6" is heavier, your wife may enjoy the reduced weight associated with the smaller 4" barrel, so I'd go that way, but the truth is that there is no bad choice here.
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:18 PM
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Default 686

My first handgun was the S&W 686 with 4 inch barrel. I loved it - it was excellent. I was at the range all the time with it and enjoyed shooting it - awesome gun. My second handgun was the S & W 686 with the 3 inch barrel. I loved it - it was excellent. I was at the range all the time with it and enjoyed shooting it - awesome gun. Today, I could not make the choice between the 2. I can't wait to shoot the 2 1/2 inch barrel. Maybe gunshooting Santa could bring me one of those next.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:42 PM
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If this is your first revolver, I would VERY STRONGLY recomend you go with the 4 inch barrel. The simple truth is that 4 inch revolvers outnumber any other barrel length because they provide the best balance between handling quality, sight radius, and ammunition efficiency.

As for accuracy, with the iron sights the longer sight radius of the 6 inch gun provides an advantage. However, if you use a reflex or optical sight, the 4 inch version will prove more accurate in aggragate over a range of ammunitions. Longer barrels do move more in response to the bullet transiting the barrel than shorter barrels, which means that the load has to be "harmonically timed" to the barrel and as barrel length increases so does the sensitivity to harmonics. IMO the biggest asset for the longer barrel is when using it for hunting, because if you're a bit marginal in terms of power and extra 100 fps. may mean the difference between a clean kill or spending time tracking a wounded animal.

Recoil and the 357 Magnum. IMO grips matter much more than a few additional ounces. The 4 inch 686 can be perfectly comfortable shooting 357 Magnums if you have the right grips mounted on it, use the grips that S&W ships with it and 15 rounds will likely be enough. The best grip for shooting the 357 Magnum I've used is the monogrip for the 500 Magnum. Fact is I like this grip so much I have 2 more coming this week, one for a new 625JM also coming and one for my 6 1/2 inch 610.

BTW, that 610 is a tank and taught me a lot about ammunition sensitivity and barrel length. It also taught me that longer barrels are also more sensitive to consistent recoil management because the bullet spends so much more time in a long barrel.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:18 PM
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My wife called it quits after 6 rounds of .357 Magnum in our 6" 686. I finished the box with a smile on my face!

She said she needs to wear a glove next time we use .357 Magnums.

Most of the time she shoots wad cutters, very, very easy round to handle.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:39 PM
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I don't believe you can go wrong with any 686 barrel length. Always handle them them all if you can, consider your most frequent use intent, then buy the one that most fits your needs.

One thing is for certain.... Once you own a 686 in any barrel length it won't be your last. So I wouldn't fret over any first choice if I were you....

A couple of pictures of some early ones....



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Old 08-23-2011, 10:57 PM
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I have a six inch 686 and a 681 (four inch). Both are great shooting L frames. I have a red dot on the 686 and it is my target L frame. In the hand, the 681 does feel better.
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Old 08-24-2011, 05:50 AM
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i have both 4 and six inch, as far as accuracy and capacity 6 vs 7 no difference. when i shoot the 4 in i use the rubber grips when i shoot the six i can use the wood grips that should give you some idea of the recoil difference. but, and there is always a but the six inch weighs about six oz more and my arms get tired faster
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Old 08-24-2011, 10:23 PM
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Thanks for the input everyone. I placed my order today for the 4 inch barrel.
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Old 09-21-2011, 07:15 PM
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4" works for all games. Use it for USPSA, Icore, IDPA. With practise, the 6" sight plane advantage is irrelevant short of 50 yards and if you are doing a lot of 50 yard shots you will want a custom barreled revolver regardless with different sights entirely.
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Old 09-21-2011, 09:49 PM
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A 4" revolver is a lot easier to use from a belt holster than one with a 6" barrel, and is about as long as you can use for concealed carry. If you have a CCW permit, there are a lot more places you can travel than with open carry, including many state and national parks, rest stops and urban areas.

A 6" barrel in an high-rise holster (e.g., a Bianchi BHL) will have the back of your thumb in your armpit by the time it clears leather. The best way to carry it in the field is in a shoulder holster (e.g., Alessi Fieldmaster), cross-draw, or in a western style holster with a drop (e.g., Tom Threepersons style). Of these, only the shoulder holster offers a reasonable degree of concealment.

For a 686 4", I have an IWB (Grizzle SDR) and an Alessi CQC "pancake" OWB on order. The Alessi will conceal well under a sweatshirt or mid-length jacket.

The key to recoil control (along with practice) is a good set of grips. I prefer wood grips like Ahrends combat-style (finger groove) or Hogue. You get good control with a little "give" compared to rubber, and wood doesn't stick to your clothing.

You lose about 75 fps compared to a 6" barrel, and the accuracy is a wash in my experience. I can shoot a 3" (or better) group at 7 yards with either barrel.
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Old 11-21-2011, 12:49 AM
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I had the same problem - couldn't decide between 4" and 6" so I bought the 4" 686 then eventually picked up a mint 586 with 6" barrel. I love them both - equally.
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Old 11-21-2011, 01:59 PM
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The six shot 686 .357 mag is nice for nostalgia, but there is no good reason not to give yourself the small advantage of the the 7 shot cylinder since it's the same weight and size and costs only slightly more.

One inexcusable design flaw which S&W continues to perpetrate in its 6 shot cylinders is the location of the cylinder stop notch in the thinnest part of the cylinder. On a 7 shot cylinder, the notch should be located near the strongest part of the cylinder: between the chambers. This should (at least theoretically) make the cylinder stronger and more able to resist an accidental high pressure event.

The 4" barrel is much handier and easier to carry in a holster than a 6". The 5" is also an excellent choice. It gives you most of the advantages of a 6" but is almost as handy as a 4".
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Old 11-21-2011, 04:12 PM
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Isn't this thread pretty much dead?
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Old 11-22-2011, 11:24 PM
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Since you'll be using this gun for home defense and personal range time with your wife, why would you want fewer rounds?

Get the seven round cylinder.

You could always load it with less, but why would you? I love my 686+ and got it because it held seven rounds.

You seem to want the 4", so get it. It clears leather easier than the 6", and it's less nose heavy. Might be handier in an emergency.

Mine is 3" and it shoots fine. Either way, you'll love it.
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Old 11-23-2011, 12:41 AM
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FWIW Raspy, I'm not a fan of a 6 shooter that isn't a ... well... a six shooter.

If it's right for you, good deal, but some of old dinosaurs like 'em holding 6.
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Old 02-28-2014, 05:40 AM
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Default which to buy

i have two dan wession packs, you can change barrels from 2" to 15" if you want look on armslist, they dont make them anymore but you can buy after market EWK for barrels.
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Old 02-28-2014, 08:41 AM
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Default Just reinforcing....

Just reinforcing that you made a good choice. My 6" 686 is indeed a little nose heavy but it's ok with the big Pachmehr grips. The 3"-4" 686s are in big demand because so many people consider it optimum. If I were able to get another one I'd get a 4".
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Old 02-28-2014, 12:26 PM
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This is a 3 year old thread.
After much good advice, the Original Poster said he was going with the 4 inch barrel.
I suspect he and his wife have many thousand rounds thru it by now and have enjoyed it very much.

Last edited by ridgewalker; 02-28-2014 at 09:41 PM. Reason: fix spelling
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Old 02-28-2014, 12:35 PM
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Laaaazarus.....rise from the dead I say !
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Old 02-28-2014, 01:33 PM
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love those 4" magnums!
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:51 PM
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Why not compromise and meet in the middle. I bought a 686 Plus Pro Series which is a 5" barrel and love it. It's not nose heavy because it has a slab barrel that shaves off extra weight. It's overall weight is about the same as a regular 4" 686 so it handles recoil well. Best of all, it's a seven shot which gives you an extra round for self defense. It has a great trigger job for both double action and especially single action. And the cost is about the same as a regular 686. Forgot to mention that the extra inch provides a little longer site radius. This is one accurate gun. Regards, Jim

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