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Old 03-18-2013, 07:26 AM
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Default Unsung Hero's: The 581/681

1980 brought a new design from S&W in the form of the new L frame revolver.

Semi auto pistols had not yet captured the lions share of the law enforcement market and Smith wisely developed a new generation of revolvers. Many police agencies weapons were over 20 years old(or older) at the time and this new revolver was purchased by many to upgrade thier
duty weapons.

It was a good design, carried on through today. Most of what we see are the
adjustable sight 586/686 version, but the fixed sight Service Magnum is the
rock solid, all day shoot full house .357 Magnum designed for law enforcement use.

A little heavier than it's K frame brother and lighter than the N frame, it is a joy to shoot.

A good addition to any Smith owners collection in my book.....

I aqquired this 681-2 last year for the princely sum $400 from the original owner. It had sat unused in his safe for over 20 years...






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Last edited by oldafsp; 03-18-2013 at 07:29 AM.
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Old 03-18-2013, 07:32 AM
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Default Re: Unsung Hero's: The 581/681

Nice! Local LGS has police trade ins for $450

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Old 03-18-2013, 07:44 AM
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Outstanding specimen. I love the fixed sight guns and would be ecstatic to find one like yours. Most are a little cosmetically challenged from duty carry.
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Old 03-18-2013, 07:57 AM
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I have a 581 from '82 production, was not a police gun. Shoots to POA. Would love to find a set of walnut targets for it, but just don't want to set up a PayPal acct. to get one from eBay!
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Old 03-18-2013, 08:09 AM
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Great Post! Model 581 was my first personally purchased duty revolver back in the early 80's. Sits in a display case now with some badges, but I still take it out and shoot it. Best wishes.
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:26 AM
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My 681-1 was a sidearm of a police chief. He only ever fired it for qualifying. Suffice to say, I've shot it quite a bit more since then.



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Old 03-18-2013, 10:51 AM
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Just acquired a 681-3 from my shooting buddy that has to be one of the Grail of S&Ws. He knows I have a weakness for fixed sight Smiths especially when they shoot good so he casually mentioned that he had a PD marked 681 he might be interested in selling. We shot it and it was dead on with my "play" loads (38 Special 158gr LSWC ~ 920fps). After 2 cylinder fulls I handed him the very reasonable price he asked and put the gun in my bag. After I got home and started cleaning it I found that it was a 681-3 CRPD 38 SPECIAL revolver. Marked on the barrel 38 S&W Special cartridge and the cylinder is shorter and chambered for the 38 Special. Reading the write up on the gun only 460 were ever made and were made for the ConRail Police Department.

Since I value my friends more than any gun I called him up and told him what it was and offered to undo the deal if he wanted it back. His reply was that he knew it was rare just not how rare and that he was perfectly satisfied with our deal.

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Old 03-18-2013, 11:23 AM
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I'm personally a much bigger fan of the 681 than the 686. Th 681 just has a more authentic feel.
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Old 03-18-2013, 11:47 AM
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Let us not forget that the adjustable sighted guns came first. I was never a fan of the fixed sighted L frames, but they have duly earned their place in Smith & Wesson history. For me, almost as good as The Distinguished Combat Magnum, a very close second. As I've said in previous posts, I much prefer the .357 in an L frame than a .357 in the in N frame. I really like my Model 28 but I tend to favor my 686 a tad more! Nice looking guns guys!!
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:10 PM
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I miss my M681 that I stupidly sold. It was a great carry gun in the winter, 6 rounds of blistering .357 Magnum goodness. I would love to run into one again!
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:14 PM
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The 681 is my favorite L-frame. Too bad the wonder 9's came along......
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:14 PM
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My preference is for service revolvers and I've been looking for a 681 for some time now as a partner to my 4" 65. Congrats on such a nice find at such a good price!
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:15 PM
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The 681 has everything you need and nothing you don't!
Found mine (ex-deputy's gun) in the midst of a gaggle of 686s.
Traded an M&P .45 for it and never looked back.
Sweetest shooting .357 I've ever used.
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:18 PM
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I can’t but help but wonder if the 581 will not start to achieve the cult status that the Highway Patrolman has? Both were often under appreciated handguns when they were released. The highway Patrolman was the poor sister to the M-27 and was not considered as cool as the M-19/66. I think that anyone who wants a 581/681 should make an effort to find one soon, before they escalate in price the way the M-28’s have.

Does anyone know if the 581/681 was ever produced in an 2” – 3” version?
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Old 03-18-2013, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by old bear View Post
Does anyone know if the 581/681 was ever produced in an 2 3 version?
Nope, at least not a production run. Probably wasn't much call for such a thing at the time. Would have definitely been a cool option. Too bad Lew Horton didn't request that variation!
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Old 03-18-2013, 02:17 PM
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Mine originally belonged to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. And I absolutely LOVE IT!!
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Old 03-18-2013, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJshooter View Post


I get a little wood when I see fixed sight guns, and magna grips dial that up for me. Magnas on big frames are awesome. The only way this could be better is if it had a 3" barrel and was in .44 Special, a neglected big bore round S&W should have exploited more. It's too late now, with all the design and cosmetic changes they've made, but a 581 would be worth converting if the metal is there.

There was a funny window of time on several models where the S&W trademark suddenly rolled to the other side; snub 19s and 64s come to mind. I don't like this look -- it looks wrong to me -- but recently I saw some older guns that suggest this was the original location.
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:27 AM
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"Nice! Local LGS has police trade ins for $450".
Arik: I saw those, and if I didn't already own both a 581 and a 681, I'd have bought one. Any case, mine are both early versions with AAA serial numbers and the big logo on the right side. Both great guns.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:48 AM
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Here's my 681, marked NYSP:

The book says they were shipped in 1982.
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Last edited by clang444; 03-19-2013 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 03-19-2013, 06:47 PM
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Nice examples come up in the classifieds from time to time, and on auction sites. The last one I bought was from a fellow forum member for $550 and I felt it was a bargain.
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Old 03-19-2013, 07:32 PM
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I snagged this 581 a while back at my LGS. It has a bit of holster wear on both sides of the muzzle but otherwise shows no real signs of use. Nice shooting revolver with a very good SA trigger. The best part it is a very early example with AAA serial prefix. I really should get it lettered.

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Old 03-20-2013, 08:48 AM
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Steamloco: Nice looking gun. I have a copy, complete with the big right-side logo and the AAA seerial number. My 681 is the same. After reading this thread yesterday, I took them both to the range last night.
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Old 03-20-2013, 05:49 PM
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LOVE my '81s, both no dashes, both slick as snot. and both will never be sold. just wish I could afford some spegel's for both of em!
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Old 03-20-2013, 06:02 PM
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I took my 681 to the range just yesterday.
A fine revolver for a day at the range.
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Old 03-21-2013, 09:23 PM
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Oh, how I want a M681.......
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Old 03-21-2013, 10:25 PM
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I bought a former OH Highway Patrol 681 a couple of years ago. What a sweet shooter. It came to me with Pachmyr grips. I have no idea if that was how it was issued or not, but it handles great with them on it. Absolutely butter single action.
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Old 03-22-2013, 04:14 AM
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How did they sight them in at the S&W factory? Is there a rule of thumb?

And what about the POA at 15 or 25 yards. How are your experiences with the classic 158 gr. bullets?
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Old 03-22-2013, 06:30 PM
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A 681 has escaped me but is on my list. I did pick up this nice 581 last year at a pawn shop for $300, one of the better deals I ever got. It has a AAH serial number, about 1982.
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Old 03-22-2013, 06:55 PM
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ElmerKeith to be honest I am not sure how they did it but I do know that my 38 Special chambered 681 has a noticeably lower front sight than my buddy's 357 Magnum chambered 681 and 581 and puts my 158 +P loads right on the top of the sight at 25 yards. Since the front sight is machined on the rib on my model somebody had to either machine it to a formula or sight it in.
They must have had it down pat because even the Hydra-Shock 147 +P+ stay less than an inch and a half below the 158s. All well within the 10 on the NRA silhouette target.
Remember these are duty guns not bulls eye guns so any slight offset in windage or elevation will still be well within "minute of Bad Guy". In fact the stainless front sight causes me more windage issues by following the sun than elevation issues. During the course of a few hours on our range the inpacts will start to the left of the center and as the sun moves the impact will move across the center and then to the right a total travel of about 4 inches. All the while the elevation is fairly constant. All still in middle of the bad guy. What more could you ask for in a tough as nails duty gun.
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Old 03-25-2013, 05:44 PM
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This target demonstrates the accuracy of my 681 during double action
rapid fire shooting.

Range- 25 feet
Target- 6x10 centered on standard B-27
Ammo- 158 SJFP Magtech .357 Magnum/ 1235 fps

5 shot strings, draw and fire two hand hold. 30 rounds total.

In the right hands, a very deadly accurate service revolver.

We don't need no stinkin adjustable sights....

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Old 03-25-2013, 06:02 PM
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In my opinion, the 581/681 are overlooked gems. I am a huge fan of fixed sight Smiths, and this model is a great example of a great fixed sight Smith. I have a very nice M581 in nickel, but a nice blued M581 and a nice M681 have eluded me so far.
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