I have a soft spot in my heart for the S&W 686 as it was my very first hand gun. I bought it brand new back in '91 and replaced the wood grip with a Pachmyer grip right there in the store and i was very glad that i did (makes the grip smaller too). It is well-built, comfortable to shoot, and take all kinds of abuses from me and it keeps on ticking.
The 686 is a L frame so it absorbs recoil better than the K frame 66/ 19 and a heck a lot better than the SP 101/ model 60 (my experience). IMO, you can not go wrong with it as your first revolver. It carries the weight well. I've carried in with a wide belt hiking and I did not feel the weight dragging.
Did I say it is a PLEASURE to shoot full power .357 magnum out of that gun? One time I shot the 180 gr PMC hot load out of this revolver in an indoor range, made other shooters head turn for sure yet it was not punishing in my hand at all.
The 686 is just a beautiful gun with its fine curves & balance. S&W got this one right, took out the metals where is not needed and beef up where is needed.
Get one. You will pas it onto your offsprings when it comes time.