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S&W Revolvers: 1980 to the Present All NON-PINNED Barrels, the L-Frames, and the New Era Revolvers


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Old 02-13-2009, 07:13 PM
duckloads duckloads is offline
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Looking for info about the 396 Mountain Lite. Isn't this an L frame? It looks like a nice packing gun. How is it to shoot?
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Old 02-13-2009, 07:13 PM
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Looking for info about the 396 Mountain Lite. Isn't this an L frame? It looks like a nice packing gun. How is it to shoot?
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Old 02-13-2009, 08:22 PM
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They're great little guns. Yes, its an L frame gun, a 5 shooter. Identical in dimensions to the much loved 696, except it weighs significantly less. I've never looked at the actual weights but I think someone said they weight about 19 ounces, or about like that of a steel J frame. Its 2 sizes bigger.

They've got a few drawbacks. The factory places an ammo limitation on the gun. Its designed to prevent the same drawbacks of other light guns, bullet pull. Its also a bit rougher on the shooters hands than the 696. Saving that weight has a payback when shooting. Its not brutal like the 329 or 357, but its still easy to feel when you fire it. Because you're shooting a big slug at a lower velocity, its much easier to use than the ultra light J frames with hot loads.

These are the sleeper guns of the series. No one really ever gives them credit for what they are. They also use the common holster line of the other L frame guns, like the 586/686 line. Few holsters were made for the exact barrel length. I've got a few belt slide styles that compliment the guns very well. They're light just like the gun, and with open bottoms, you don't have a problem. 4" holsters work pretty well, if a bit too long.

Whats not to love?
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Old 02-14-2009, 06:24 AM
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The '01 S&W catalog shows it at 18.0 oz, while the 696 lists there at 36.0 oz and the shorter 2.5" hammerless 296, with it's open back boots and hump to whack you, weighs 18.9 oz. I have had the other two for over six years.

I called S&W several times over the first years to get info on the Ti/Al frame ammo requirements and limitations. Like Dick said - 200gr or less due to the lite gun bullet under recoil. They said clad-only - no lead - due to to lead spattering at the topstrap over the b/c gap possibly eroding the alloy there. Also, no short cases (.44 Russians) due to problems with cleaning powder/lead residue from the Ti chamber bores. My 296 has had a steady diet of the excellent Speer #4427 200gr Gold Dot, the first thousand from CCI Al-cased Blazer rounds, the last thousand plus either my reloads or GA Arms (new Starline brass) loads - all making 800-805 fps from the 2.5" barrel (830-840 fps from my 3" 696). It is a healthy whack from the dimunitive boot grips and that alloy 'hump'. It is considerably better with the rounded UM's Combats borrowed from the 696, which really deserves nice wood grips, as the UM's Combats insulate that backstrap as well as give you something bigger to hold on to - a consideration for a holster gun like the 396/696 (My 296 with it's boots and in a Mika pocket holster is a 'pocketable' protector!).

A good thing to look for on the latter run of 396's - as well as the new 396NG - is the little piece of SS in the topstrap over the b/c gap. Check the cast-in-place cylinder stop on the frame front for wear - the front edge of that Ti cylinder can pare it away with a good 'Hollywood rap' on the ejector rod, putting the entire cylinder in your hand, if you are attentive... else, it'll hit the ground. That could prove to be embarrassing in an emergency.

The 396 was the last of the trio introduced - and the last dropped. My local pusher still had one new-in-the-case at $589 just a few years ago. My 296 is the only Ti-equipped revolver I own - and I doubt I'll ever get another one - maybe a 242. As to the 696, although no one asked, a 629 MG only weighs 3.5 oz more - and has none of the shortcomings of an L-frame .44 Special - most important of which is that thin-edged forcing cone. You can get a nice used 629MG for a lot less than a decent used 696 - or, probably, a 396. The new 396 NG is a different animal - SS cylindered, too. The 629 MG - or plain 4" 629 like I now have - is a lot more fun, too... and will take Keith level Specials - and more!

Stainz
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Old 02-14-2009, 07:34 AM
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I enjoy carrying the 396 much more than the 696 in the woods, because it's so much lighter. It is really nice to haul around a .44 cal revolver and not know it's there! That makes it unique in my book. I use a pancake, and it hugs me. I have hiked many a mile with this.

I don't have a problem with the recoil, but I do find it more difficult to shoot dbl action due to trigger control in such a light gun. Hence, I think it is a great "Mountain Lite" packing gun, but not my pick for an "intown" CCW gun. Maybe that's just me and my shooting.

3" holsters will not work. They leave about 1/8 of an inch showing, and that happens to be the high vis sight, not the part you want to bump. I ordered a holster and hade it made 1/4" longer. Or you could use a 4", as Dick said. Make sure it has a big sight channel, as the sharp edges of the high vis seem to "skin" the leather on the way out.

I don't know anything about the new series of Nightguards, but I bet they are a really nice gun. They look super!

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Old 02-14-2009, 07:44 AM
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Thanks for the great reviews. I have a 625-9 MG in 45 Colt. As I was looking for a 686-5 MG in 357 mag, I came across The 396 Mountain Lite. Perhaps the 396 is not the gun for me. I'll keep looking for the elusive 357 mag Mountain Gun.

Good day.
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Old 04-11-2009, 08:42 PM
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I'm about to send two older 686s of mine to S&W to have them swap the barrels for some 686 Mountain Gun barrels I bought from them a couple years ago. Couldn't hurt to call them and ask if they have any more.

Alternately, you can always keep your eyes open at Larry's for a used 686+ Mt. Gun, but I doubt they will be cheap there.
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Old 04-12-2009, 11:38 AM
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The 396 might be the best "woods bum" gun of all time. Mine weighs 18 oz empty with the 3 3/8" barrel, while my 296 with a 2 1/2" barrel weighs 18.5 oz. I agree with the earlier poster's opinion that the 296 might be the better choice for town.

I've shot 165gr LRNFP, 185gr LSWC, and 200gr LRNFP out of both with no trouble. But I don't load my .44 Specials to "fire-breathing" levels ...

Since they've got the titanium cylinders, cleaning is a little different. I've read that you should avoid scrubbing the cylinders in an attempt to get them "as new" clean, because you'll eventually damage them. Therefore I clean the chambers just enough to get out any fouling. The outside of the cylinders get a nice "lived-in" look, but I just think of them as working tools, not for showing off.

Commercial Speer 200gr GDHP ammo chronographed at 860 fps out of the 396, and 820 fps out of the 296. Both were comfortable. By comparison, my S&W 624 4" clocked 900 fps with the same ammo.

Of all my .44 Specials, the 396 would be one of the last that I'd ever part with.
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Old 04-12-2009, 05:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by rhm0351:
I'm about to send two older 686s of mine to S&W to have them swap the barrels for some 686 Mountain Gun barrels I bought from them a couple years ago. Couldn't hurt to call them and ask if they have any more.

Alternately, you can always keep your eyes open at Larry's for a used 686+ Mt. Gun, but I doubt they will be cheap there.
All out of MG barrels. I checked last year.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:34 PM
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:40 PM
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Of course, the .44 Spl with the limitations of a short barrel and only light loads makes for a pretty anemic defensive cartridge. By my calculations, a 200gr. Gold Dot HP coming out of the barrel of my 296 at approximately 820fps. produces around 288ft-lbs. of energy. By comparison, my Kel-Tec .32ACP loaded with a 37gr. RBCD produces approximately 271ft-lbs. and holds a couple extra rounds. Bet none of us have ever considered a .32ACP for a woods gun for bear defense?! As much as I LOVE the .44 Spl and anything in that caliber, these lightweight guns really do negate many of the great attributes of the caliber. After thinking about this, I may have to re-evaluate the .32 Magnum or the .327 for a lightweight woods gun. Nah... Guess I'll just need to get my reloading gear set up and load some of the 180gr. XTHPs up to the 1084fps. max., which should produce a more respectable 470ft-lbs. of energy.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Munsterf18:
By the way, that looks like a really nice J.W. O'Rourke pancake holster, unless I'm mistaken.
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Old 04-12-2009, 07:53 PM
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I agree with RigewayCo that the 396 makes a great gun for general woods carry. I have had one a few years now. I have taken it with my 4" 629 and 625 Mountain Gun in .45 Colt and wound up packing the 396 when hunting in the mountains in steep terrain where every ounce counts.

It is not a target gun. That's not because its not accurate. It is. It is a fairly hard kicker. It has the infernal IL but its never been a problem. You should always try out anything you intend to use in it for serious purposes. It is particular about the types of ammo it shhots well and will not tie it up. I also find it easy to carry in town. The green fiber optic front sight works very well for my middle aged eyes. I like good, adjustable sights on a revolver carried for that purpose.

As with anything, it is a compromise. The wonderful, feathery weight of it comes at some cost. But, if you want a revolver of moderate size that fires a decent bigger bore round and is very east to carry all day and is accurate with very good sights and is quite resistant to corrosion, the 396 Mountain Lite is very handy. It never sold very well and was dropped by S&w. That's Ok though. I got mine and I'm keeping it.

As medicine for a angry grizzly, well, any handgun is pretty feeble. They move very fast and are hard to stop. I believe they are not deterred by pain like most humans when on the attack. I would want a heavy rifle or stay out of their territory. I think a Marlin Guide Gun with heavy .45/70 or .450 Marlin loads would be a good choice.
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Old 04-12-2009, 08:37 PM
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BTW what's up with the 200gr max boolit weight on these things? I thought it was light boolit weights that that Ti/scan gund didn't like.
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Old 04-13-2009, 07:39 AM
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rhm0351, number check...

A 200gr bullet at 820 fps produces 299 ft-lbs of energy. Not earth-shattering, but respectable.

And if you're getting 271 ft-lbs out of your .32 ACP with a 37gr bullet, then your muzzle velocity is just north of 1815 fps. I'd say that .32 is a keeper!

And 20nickles, I believe the max bullet weight is in deference to the gun's light weight. Heavier bullets are more likely to be pulled from their cases by sharp recoil, possibly tying up the gun. Sort of like a very expensive inertial bullet puller...
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Old 04-13-2009, 08:44 AM
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Yes, I have checked the numbers. 1815fps. is correct: http://www.rbcd.net/Personal%20Defense-%20Ammo.htm Penetration is poor with the RBCD round, but at 1815fps. from a short barrel and 271ft-lbs. of energy, I carry it.
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Old 04-13-2009, 05:55 PM
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rhm0351, I sincerely apologize. I checked out the link you provided, and it does show 1815 fps.

I had no idea such .32 ACP ammo existed. Have you chronographed this stuff? Does the bullet expand or disintegrate?
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Old 04-13-2009, 06:38 PM
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RidgwayCO,
No harm, no foul, friend. I have not chronographed it, myself, but when they first came out, a friend who I trust did chrono it and said they came out awfully close to the claimed velocities. RBCD ammunition is pre-fragmented, so it pretty well disintegrates. I do not believe all that RBCD claims, but I KNOW it has more energy than anything else I'm willing to fire through my Kel-Tec. Buffalo Bore makes a .32 +P, but I can't imagine what it would do to my delicate P32 over time! The RBCD is a very mild-handling round that I am comfortable with. I also carry a 10-round .32 magazine in my other pocket loaded with my FMJ plinking ammunition if I ever have need for more penetration than the RBCD provides. It truly, like any .32ACP, is just for Summer carry when anyone I might have to defend myself against is dressed lightly. In the winter I switch to a .38 Spl 158gr. LSWCHP in standard or +P configuration in either a Colt Agent, Cobra, or Detective Special. I also carry the 296 with the aforementioned 200 grain Gold Dots quite regularly throughout the year. Before considering drinking the RBCD Kool-Aid, I highly recommend reading some of the dissenting arguments, especially that from The Box O' Truth. I have never had reliability issues with my Kel-Tec, but my P32 has had far less trouble than some of my friends' P3ATs have, too.
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Old 04-13-2009, 08:46 PM
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[quote]Originally posted by rhm0351:
Quote:
Originally posted by Munsterf18:
[IMG]
By the way, that looks like a really nice J.W. O'Rourke pancake holster, unless I'm mistaken.
Yes, John made that for me and custom made it 1/4 inch longer than the standard 3" to accomodate the longer barrel on the 396.

It carries very nicely.

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Old 04-14-2009, 11:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Munsterf18:
Yes, John made that for me and custom made it 1/4 inch longer than the standard 3" to accomodate the longer barrel on the 396.

It carries very nicely.

Munster
I found the prototype for that one, I believe, when I was going through his boxes at the shop Saturday. Maybe today the weather will cooperate and I can post some of my newest holsters I picked up from him.
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Old 04-14-2009, 11:37 PM
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I went the Night Guard route, really like the 240gr hardcast for back up; weighs in about 25oz IIRC.


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Old 04-17-2009, 05:42 PM
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Late to the party ....

I bought a M396 MountainLite when they were first announced ... mine is no-dash. I've been wearing it as my woods-carry piece on a daily basis since '00.

I talked with an S&W executive who oversaw the development of the 396ML about the 200 grain bullet limit. I was told that the limit was only related to possible crimp jumping with factory ammo. A heavy roll crimp should suffice, he said. Otherwise, there was no reason to avoid heavier bullets.

For the past 8 years, I've been using Buffalo Bore's "Heavy .44Spl." loads - 255 gr. gas checked Keith hardcast @ 1000 fps, actually 975fps in my barrel. The "Little Beast" has a bit of recoil, and a lot of muzzle jump, but I've shot it a lot, and am comfortable and fairly skilled with it. That rig is my companion, summer or winter.

Several winters ago, I killed a moose that got into my dogteam and was trying to kill my dogs. I shot him in the shoulder/lungs with the first round, which distracted him from the dogs. Fired 2 more rounds to be sure. All 3 slugs went in and out -- excellent penetration. My confidence in my 396ML/BufBore heavy .44Spl ammo is justified.

It's had a Performance Center action job, and wears Trijicon tritium night sights. I may have it Magnaported to eliminate the muzzle jump.

I'm not a collector. If I don't use a handgun, it is moved on. My 396ML will stay here as long as I'm around.
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Old 05-14-2011, 02:49 PM
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Reviving an older post....

"I bought a M396 MountainLite when they were first announced ...
It's had a Performance Center action job, and wears Trijicon tritium night sights. I may have it Magnaported to eliminate the muzzle jump."

endgameAK did you ever get the 396ML Magnaported?
What is the part # for the Trijicon tritium sights?
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Old 05-15-2011, 12:16 AM
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This is funny. I did a search a few days ago on here trying to find info on a 396 Mountain Lite and came up with "no matches", but here one is.

I just bought a pre-lock 396 "Mountain Lite" and absolutely love it. I am loading for mine, and it is a blast to shoot.
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Old 05-15-2011, 06:48 AM
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Ya retreiverhunter I love mine too. I came across this thread by searching google. I've been wondering if the barrel can be ported to reduce the muzzle flip.
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Old 05-16-2011, 07:52 PM
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Quote:
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Ya retreiverhunter I love mine too. I came across this thread by searching google. I've been wondering if the barrel can be ported to reduce the muzzle flip.
Take a look at how the "barrel" is constructed...then see if you would want anyone trying that on yours?
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:17 PM
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Default I like mine...

I like mine. It's light, easy to carry, and not too tough to shoot, since I reload and control the charge.

I would refer to it as a carry much fire little, as opposed to a range gun, but it's one of my favorite carry pieces, and some fun can be had at the range as well.

I also have the 329NG in .44 mag which is larger, a bit tougher to carry, but literally a blast at the range.



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Old 01-02-2015, 01:06 AM
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Gotta luv them!
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Old 01-02-2015, 12:11 PM
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Old thread with much interesting info!

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Old 01-02-2015, 01:43 PM
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I have one, sold my 2 1/2" 66 when I bought it. Very lite, and 7 rounds. It's my "when I need something bigger carry gun". Shoots great also, Larry
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Old 01-02-2015, 02:00 PM
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+1 on using 240 gr SWCs in 396/296 revolvers. With a good roll crimp there is no problem with my guns.
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