TFB Review: Smith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series, Model 686 Plus

    Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson became partners in 1852 with the goal of manufacturing a firearm that would fire a self-contained cartridge. The “Volcanic Pistol” was the result. It was a lever action pistol that would eventually be sold to Oliver Winchester when Smith & Wesson temporarily parted ways. Luckily for us, they found their way back together, and in 1857 the produced the Model 1 revolver. This little .22 rimfire triggered the end of the percussion firearm. Of course, Smith & Wesson came up with many innovations over the next 160+ years!

    I am not a stranger to Smith & Wesson revolvers. My first experience with one was my Dad’s Police Positive .38 revolver. It is a well made, solid pistol that helped form my love of all things handgun. It needs some repair now, but it’s still in the family. Later in life I purchased a Smith and Wesson Model 57 in .41 magnum. To this day it’s is the most accurate handgun I have owned or ever fired. That is why when Smith & Wesson offered to let me evaluate their Performance Center Pro Series 686 Plus in .357 magnum I quickly accepted.

    The Arrival

    Smith & Wesson sent me the 686 Plus. It was a stainless steel 5-inch barrel in .357 magnum. The finish is in matte (that I personally find much more attractive than a polished finish). It has an adjustable rear sight, and a easily interchangeable rigid front sight. This model came with synthetic grips with finger grooves that seem to fit my average size hand well. It has a 7 round cylinder that is pre-cut to allow moon clips.

    The factory specs states the weight at 38.2 ounces, or 1083 grams. Fully loaded (on my scale) was 41.5 ounces or 1178 grams.

    Using my trigger scale, the single action pull was at 4.5 lbs, while the double pull is at 9.9 lbs.

    In the hard case were not only the usual items, including product registrations paperwork and a cable lock but also two moon clips.

    To The Range!

    Taking the Smith & Wesson to the range was an exciting prospect. I mostly shoot semi-autos, but I have always really enjoyed shooting wheel guns. For me, it’s about getting back to the basics where I learned how much I enjoy the sport. Plus there is just something about hefting a big revolver, and anticipating that first pull on the trigger.

    Hornady graciously provided me with ammunition for this review. They sent me the 125 grain FTX Critical Defense, 158 grain XTP Custom, and the 125 grain XTP American Gunner ammunition.

    At the range, I immediately wished the Smith & Wesson would have come with a different front sight. In the lower light of the range, the black sight was a challenge for these older eyes I currently have in my skull. Once I adjusted to the low light conditions I did fine. My other revolvers have wooden grips, so I was a little unsure about these synthetic ones. They felt comfortable, but how would they hold up to my shooting style? I decided to stop worrying, and start shooting!

    At the range, all of my questions were quickly answered. The grips felt great while shooting, I was able to quickly index the target, and they were “sticky” enough to keep the pistol firmly on target. No matter what I shoot, it takes me at least one fully loaded weapon to settle down and actually hit where I want to. So when I finally settled down, the Smith & Wesson started to find it’s groove.

    Shooting single action, the trigger was light and crisp. Of course, that’s the most accurate way of shooting for me. Firing double action took a little more practice, but once I got used to where the trigger would break, the target started getting holes where it was supposed to.

    With the Hornady Critical Defense 125 grain, and the American Gunner 125 grain ammunition, the recoil felt close to the same as one of my 9mm striker fired pistols. When I loaded the Hornady 158m grain XTP Custom ammunition, the recoil was a bit more pronounced. Just for fun, I brought along some .38+P rounds to try. What a difference! I know it would be less expensive to shoot .38+P, but it definitely takes away some of the .357 fun!

    Firing a unfamiliar firearm is probably not the most accurate shooting you will ever do, but with a Smith and Wesson Revolver, I have never been too disappointed.

    The target on the top was using the 158 grain XTP Custom at 30 feet, the one on the bottom was the Critical Defense 125 grain at 20 feet. Some of the outlying holes you see on the cardboard are from my first attempt at firing Double action, yeah not good.

    This is shooting double action at 20 feet, I still need to do more work!

    Wrap up

    This Smith & Wesson Pro Series Model 686 is a very good shooting pistol. It’s comfortable and has very good accuracy right out of the box. After several hundred rounds, there were no malfunctions from the pistol or from the Hornady ammunition. This is a pistol I would be proud to own and shoot often. Shopping around the internet there are some good prices out there.

    Smith & Wesson Performance Center Pro Series Model 686, in .357 magnum/.38 special +P

    MSRP: 989.00


    Jim H

    Jim H lives in Kent, Washington with his lovely wife. Loves the outdoors and has been hunting and shooting most of his life. Cotton tail rabbits, doves and ducks used to shiver in fear when he was around! He has been around long enough to remember keeping his .22 rifle on the gun rack of his truck and drove it to high school! Mostly now, he loves to spend time at the range shooting handguns, and learning and reading as much as he can about all firearms.