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Old 05-16-2017, 06:42 PM
JLM JLM is offline
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Default Advice on a 696

Hi All
I've looked at a 696 locally, for what seems like a good price. No dash, no lock, but also replaced grips. No papers or box. It's a bit dirty but no functional or cosmetic issues that I could tell at inspection. The forcing cone really looks thin on this gun. Is there any gotchas or concerns with this model? I'm a handloader and confirmed lead bullet fan. I don't push the limits with ammo.
Thanks
John

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Old 05-16-2017, 07:19 PM
k22fan k22fan is offline
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[...] Is there any gotchas or concerns with this model? I'm a handloader and confirmed lead bullet fan. Don't push the limits with ammo
Thanks
John
The gotcha could be how concerned your wife is about its effect on your budget. Logically, the market for Model 696s will soften after 2 3/4" Model 69s become available everywhere.

Mine has been trouble free. While I've not read about a cracked forcing cone in a Model 696 I only shoot light loads in mine.
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Old 05-16-2017, 07:25 PM
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I think everyone that bought one loaded it realistically due the the thin forcing cone area, and I have not heard of any problems with them. Used responsibly it should last a very long time
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Old 05-16-2017, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by JLM View Post
Hi All
I've looked at a 696 locally, for what seems like a good price. No dash, no lock, but also replaced grips. No papers or box. It's a bit dirty but no functional or cosmetic issues that I could tell at inspection. The forcing cone really looks thin on this gun. Is there any gotchas or concerns with this model? I'm a handloader and confirmed lead bullet fan. Don't push the limits with ammo
Thanks
John
They came with rubber Uncle Mikes combat grips so not a big deal that they've been replaced and easy to come by fairly inexpensively if you choose to return it to original configuration.
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Old 05-16-2017, 08:47 PM
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Different strokes for different folks. I think they look really sharp with old round butt diamond magnas. Don't be foolish. If you've found one, buy it before someone else does. The no lock guns are in great demand.
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Old 05-16-2017, 09:01 PM
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I just mentioned in another sub-forum that I passed on a 696 several years ago before the prices became crazy high. I would say jump on that deal if you want it, and agree about avoiding hot loads if you do get it.
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Old 05-17-2017, 09:45 AM
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The only advice you need is: BUY IT!
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Old 05-17-2017, 10:34 AM
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Got one myself, great big bore gun.
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Old 05-17-2017, 11:39 AM
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Have had a 696-1 a couple years now and it is one of my favorite 44s. No issues with the forcing cone so far. If the price is right buy it. I have the original stocks somewhere but prefer those shown below. Let us know if you get it. Enjoy.

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Old 05-17-2017, 12:00 PM
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You can shoot any load in it up to 900fps, so no worries there.

I'd say the gotcha is if you don't get it. They are not common and very well done.
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Old 05-17-2017, 01:03 PM
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I've only shot home cast bullet through mine and this is how I've treated it.
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You can shoot any load in it up to 900fps, so no worries there. [...]
However, an approximately 245 grain SWC at 900 fps kicks more than I can enjoy a lot of target shooting with. Perhaps that's the gotcha. .44 Specials recoil less in N frames, especially heavier barreled .44 Magnums. Model 696s do not meet Washington's minimum 4" barrel for deer hunting so hard kicking loads aren't useful for me anyway.

The other possible gotcha is that relatively large 5 shot revolvers do not fit into any matches that I'm aware of.
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:30 PM
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The only advice you need is: BUY IT!
Yes, buy it!
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Old 05-17-2017, 04:14 PM
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I've only shot home cast bullet through mine and this is how I've treated it.

However, an approximately 245 grain SWC at 900 fps kicks more than I can enjoy a lot of target shooting with. Perhaps that's the gotcha. .44 Specials recoil less in N frames, especially heavier barreled .44 Magnums. Model 696s do not meet Washington's minimum 4" barrel for deer hunting so hard kicking loads aren't useful for me anyway.

The other possible gotcha is that relatively large 5 shot revolvers do not fit into any matches that I'm aware of.
It's all about the grip fit.

Get grips that fit you and your worries are no more.

Big time magnum fan here, even have 3" & 4" 44's with... wooden round butt grips - but they fit me. I shoot a home cast 265g SWC @ 1200fps in them. Stout load and while they are impressive, due to grip fit, they are no problem.
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Old 05-17-2017, 04:23 PM
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Take a close look at the forcing cone from the side. See if it is shaped like a funnel with the big end toward the cylinder. If so, look very closely for cracks beginning. I have seen two 696's and both showed the obvious stretching of the thin forcing cone. If a crack occurs, I think it is unrepairable and pigs will fly before finding a replacement 696 barrel. A stretched one might still be OK but it has obviously been stressed. One found not stretched would be a nice find if the price is fair.

The 696 has been reported to exhibit a fair number of barrels with a "thread choke" where the bore deforms slightly when installed. At least one of the ones I saw had a noticeable deformation in the bore near the thread area.

If mostly healthy, one of the ultimate all around hiking guns in my opinion (unless you have a bear issue!), and works well with the wood magnas.
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Old 05-18-2017, 08:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLM View Post
Hi All
I've looked at a 696 locally, for what seems like a good price. No dash, no lock, but also replaced grips. No papers or box. It's a bit dirty but no functional or cosmetic issues that I could tell at inspection. The forcing cone really looks thin on this gun. Is there any gotchas or concerns with this model? I'm a handloader and confirmed lead bullet fan. I don't push the limits with ammo.
Thanks
John
Stay close to 200 gr bullets and forget about the Blackhawk loads, and you should be fine. I doubt the gun was intended to be shot a lot, but it makes a great big bore carry gun. Don't feel bad about the original grips, if you would rather have nice wood than rubber. You have time to find original grips for later collector interest.

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Old 05-18-2017, 03:34 PM
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Bullet weight makes no difference - save for recoil.

It's the velocity that matters.

Keep them below 900fps and you'll be fine.
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Old 05-18-2017, 04:25 PM
at_liberty at_liberty is offline
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I believe it is well established that this gun does best with 200 grain bullets.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:10 PM
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I believe it is well established that this gun does best with 200 grain bullets.
Is that from personal experience or do you have a source for that?
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Old 05-18-2017, 08:17 PM
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Is that from personal experience or do you have a source for that?
If that needs to be a debate, it should in a different thread. I suggest the OP obtain a copy of the 396/696 article from Dec-Jan 2015 Handloader.
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Old 05-18-2017, 10:00 PM
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Quote:
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If that needs to be a debate, it should in a different thread. I suggest the OP obtain a copy of the 396/696 article from Dec-Jan 2015 Handloader.
Wrong issue.. it's Handloader issue #293 Dec-Jan 2014, you can get a copy on CD for $5.95: Handloader Single Back Issues on CD-ROM

I'm a long time subscriber, I looked at the article... it's a well written by Brian Pearce (who I feel is on par with Skeeter Skelton in his handloading and handgun knowledge), and worthwhile to read/obtain.

He list loads for 200 - 254 gr bullets, but the key, as Snapping Twig pointed out, is velocity... 900 or below, that's as high as his published loads go, and he said it keeps the pressure level below the level where barrel bulging and forcing cone splitting starts to take place.

He notes that the test gun used was a Model 396 Mountain Lite AirLite Ti, and his best performing loads in it were with the Hornady and Speer 200 grain bullets.

As numerous reloading articles and reloading manuals often mention... you results will/may vary in the gun that you use and the gun used for the load developing/testing.
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Old 05-19-2017, 01:40 AM
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Quote:
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[...] He [Brian Pearce] notes that the test gun used was a Model 396 Mountain Lite AirLite Ti, and his best performing loads in it were with the Hornady and Speer 200 grain bullets.

As numerous reloading articles and reloading manuals often mention... you results will/may vary in the gun that you use and the gun used for the load developing/testing.
I have great respect for Brian Pearce, especially on the topic of revolver reloads. However, the bullet one gun shoots most accurately might not be the best in the gun that rolled off the production line ahead of it or the one behind it. I just restated the second of the two paragraphs I quoted from Gunhacker.

Also, in a gun as light as a Model 396 the heavier bullets' increased recoil can increase the amount of human error in the groups. The Model 396 Mountain Lite had a titanium cylinder in an aluminum frame. While Pearce is not as big a wimp as I he is still human.

I do think this stuff is of interest to an original poster who is deciding whether or not to buy so it does belong here.

I hope we all part company friends. If I can find Pearce's article for free I'll read it.

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Old 05-19-2017, 02:00 AM
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Can't use my M 696-1 for hunting here in WA, but is loaded with WW silver tip HP if I want it for CC.

post img

Think I paid a little too much, but just had to have another 44 Spl.....
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Old 05-19-2017, 08:07 AM
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Quote:
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Wrong issue.. it's Handloader issue #293 Dec-Jan 2014, you can get a copy on CD for $5.95: Handloader Single Back Issues on CD-ROM

I'm a long time subscriber, I looked at the article... it's a well written by Brian Pearce (who I feel is on par with Skeeter Skelton in his handloading and handgun knowledge), and worthwhile to read/obtain.

He list loads for 200 - 254 gr bullets, but the key, as Snapping Twig pointed out, is velocity... 900 or below, that's as high as his published loads go, and he said it keeps the pressure level below the level where barrel bulging and forcing cone splitting starts to take place.

He notes that the test gun used was a Model 396 Mountain Lite AirLite Ti, and his best performing loads in it were with the Hornady and Speer 200 grain bullets.

As numerous reloading articles and reloading manuals often mention... you results will/may vary in the gun that you use and the gun used for the load developing/testing.
I listed the issue date as exactly what is printed on my direct copy of the article. Could be a PDF thing. Check the download. The article is what's important, not the date.

I looked and own the magazine. The cover says #293, December 2014. However, the footer on each page says "December-January 2015".

I think my chief concern would be using a light enough bullet to achieve velocities for adequate bullet expansion. The 245 gr are below 700 fps and should not be pushed a lot harder than that in these guns. The different weights would be on targets at different elevations. Since S&W originally touted 200 as being the maximum bullet weight, we can presume the sights were regulated for that weight's POI. The sights are adjustable, but not if they are on target at minimum elevation like most of my guns.

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Old 05-19-2017, 09:28 AM
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Where did we see that S&W called for 200 grain bullets in the 696?
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Old 05-19-2017, 10:17 AM
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Have you bought it yet!?!?! They are not on every street corner these days. When mine popped up here on the forum for sale, I grabbed it without a second thought. I thought the original rubber grips were just too butt ugly, and swapped them out for some Ahrends. It took me a long time to find ANY S&W revolver in 44 special at a decent price. To me, the 3" barrel is just right.

I don't hotrod it, I have a Blackhawk for that. It's a very sweet shooter for dang sure. I hope you didn't let it get away.
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Old 05-19-2017, 01:45 PM
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The 200 grain maximum bullet weight etching had slipped my mind. That was never on any all steel S&W. Early L frame .44 Specials made with aluminum frames and titanium cylinders were marked with that limit to avoid bullets creeping forward and blocking cylinder rotation. S&W worrying about old fashioned factory 246 grain RNL jumping their crimp says a lot about how badly the Models 396 and 296 recoil. No thank-you. Brian Pearce was testing a Model 396 which a couple of you wrote was a Mountain Lite. As far as I know all the Model 396 Mountain Lites were early 396s with titanium cylinders.

In my experience 245 grain bullets fired from a Model 696 at 750 to 800 fps go all the way through BOTH sides of target paper. Afterwards a beer by a fire in the lodge is more important than expansion.
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Old 05-19-2017, 04:34 PM
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Get it!
I have both ND and -1 696 and they are my current favorite wheel guns.
Especially the -1 because of the way it shoots.
The grips that work for my fairly large hands with these L frames are the Altamont round-square conversion "Altai" grips.
They are available now with a variety of different laser engraved textures.
Stick to "regulation" 44 special loads and don't worry about the forcing cone (unless it's already damaged).
Mr Pearce says they were tested in development to almost magnum levels and has published some 20-25 kpsi loads for them.
I try to stick to the 15-17 kpsi stuff.
6.5 grains Universal/Unique and any bullet 240 grains or less works fine.
I have used 7 grains with 200 grain bullets like the Gold Dot.

I ended up with 2 of these because my first one (the -1) needed to be repaired at the factory and I was nervous it might not come back.
So I got a back-up.
Turned out to be a slightly bubb'd cosmetically ND but nothing that prevented perfect function.
The -1 came back with a new ejector star and a retiming job.
It had been having trouble ejecting empties and scratching some of them.
It is now quite perfect in all regards.
S&W service got me the right gunsmith this time.
Me very happy.

The 3" L frame holsters have worked for me so far and in fact 3" N frame holsters work too if a slight bit loose.
The 396 because of it's very high front sight does not fit in all of those holsters (some it does..especially the N frame ones).

Here in Wisconsin our DNR took the unusually smart and simple route when defining the length of a handgun for hunting.
ANY handgun length is the distance from the breech to the end of the barrel.
This means revolvers include the cylinder length in the measurement.
Since we can use any handgun 4" or longer, this lets the 696 in for hunting where handguns are allowed.
We have several areas that are shotgun and handgun only deer hunting, mostly near the bigger cities.
I have read more than one account of taking deer with a 696.
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Old 05-19-2017, 06:47 PM
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The 200 grain maximum bullet weight etching had slipped my mind. That was never on any all steel S&W. Early L frame .44 Specials made with aluminum frames and titanium cylinders were marked with that limit to avoid bullets creeping forward and blocking cylinder rotation. S&W worrying about old fashioned factory 246 grain RNL jumping their crimp says a lot about how badly the Models 396 and 296 recoil. No thank-you. Brian Pearce was testing a Model 396 which a couple of you wrote was a Mountain Lite. As far as I know all the Model 396 Mountain Lites were early 396s with titanium cylinders.

In my experience 245 grain bullets fired from a Model 696 at 750 to 800 fps go all the way through BOTH sides of target paper. Afterwards a beer by a fire in the lodge is more important than expansion.
I would have to look again, but I don't believe Brian Pearce listed any 245 gr loads at over 700 fps.
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Old 05-19-2017, 06:52 PM
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Quote:
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The 200 grain maximum bullet weight etching had slipped my mind. That was never on any all steel S&W. Early L frame .44 Specials made with aluminum frames and titanium cylinders were marked with that limit to avoid bullets creeping forward and blocking cylinder rotation. S&W worrying about old fashioned factory 246 grain RNL jumping their crimp says a lot about how badly the Models 396 and 296 recoil. No thank-you. Brian Pearce was testing a Model 396 which a couple of you wrote was a Mountain Lite. As far as I know all the Model 396 Mountain Lites were early 396s with titanium cylinders.

In my experience 245 grain bullets fired from a Model 696 at 750 to 800 fps go all the way through BOTH sides of target paper. Afterwards a beer by a fire in the lodge is more important than expansion.
I would have to look again, but I don't believe Brian Pearce listed any 245 gr loads at over 700 fps. I would add that the 696 is hardly an ideal range gun beyond maybe 50 feet if you are good shooter, so bullet performance is very relevant to its roll as a carry gun.
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