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Old April 17, 2013, 11:05 PM   #1
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S&W 686 | Ruger GP 100 | S&W 60 | Ruger SP101 - on the range comparison

I know these 4 model are probably most popular contemporary revolvers. A lot of newbies (like me) are interested in them, but can not try them all. I am a shooter with some (fair?) experience, I am new to revolvers though. So, hopefully my notes can help those who can not get their hands on these guns. Also I hope more experienced revolver crowd will reply with some suggestions or thoughts on the subject.

I finally made it to the range that had all 4 models listed above which I could try. I also talked them into selling me 3 boxes of 38 Spl ammo (normally they do not sell more than 2 due to shortage). I took each gun to the range and fired 3 full cylinders SA and 3 full cylinders DA each. I used different targets for each gun and wrote notes right on the targets to make sure I will not forget anything.

1. S&W 686 - they had only 6" model which looked pretty intimidating due to the size of the barrel. However it felt fine during shooting. I shot 4" models before and I can not say that 6" felt much different. Very good accuracy from about 20 yards. 90% in the back with a few bulls eye hits. SA and DA accuracy was almost the same. In general this size feels a little big to me, but it is comfortable gun to shoot.

2. Ruger GP 100 - 4" barrel. I did not find this gun much different from 686. To my surprise trigger and hammer felt even more smooth than 686. I saw a lot of posts about Ruger not having as smooth trigger. Not this one! And I loved the white outline on the rear sights. Very easy to aim. For some reason first few rounds all went in white. I think I was still thinking about action more than about the aim. The rest of rounds went mostly in black. Accuracy is about the same as with 686.

3. Ruger SP101 - 3" barrel. I liked the size of this gun! I am not a big guy and previous two guns felt a little big, although comfortable. This size felt great... until I started shooting. For some reason the hammer on this gun felt very tight (hard to pull) in SA almost to the point that my finger got tired after about 15 rounds. DA shooting was fine though. I did not like the grips (not sculptured for fingers and kind of small) and this gun had a fixed rear sight which I did not care for either. It seems to be easier to aim with adjustable sights. Or may be it's just a matter of getting use to. Accuracy was ok, but not as good as with the guns above.

4. S&W 60-15 - 3" barrel. When I first put this gun in my hand I loved it. It had sculptured grips, smaller than on 686, but almost as comfortable. It also had an adjustable sights. The hammer was a little tight. Not as bad as on SP101, but harder to pull than on bot 686 and GP100 for some reason. In general I liked this gun, but for some reason the accuracy was terrible. More than have of my shots went into white and I suspect a few did not even hit the target. Perhaps I was a little tired by then, but still this was unusual for me to be "that bad".

Conclusion. All 4 guns felt ok in general. I assume that less-then-stellar accuracy of S&W 60 is due to my tiredness and perhaps badly adjusted sights. Both smaller frame revolvers had a tighter (harder to pull) hammer which I didn't like as much as the hummer on the larger ones. And smaller revolvers only had 5 shots vs. 6 shots in larger ones. Since I am looking for the gun mostly to shoot targets and not carry I think I am leaning toward the larger ones. I can't tell if I like S&W or Ruger better at this point.

I have to go to the range I visited before. They have S&W 66, which is K frame. I think I may like it the best. It has grips like 686 which I liked a lot, adjustable sights and from what I understand it's a little smaller and lighter than 686, yet larger than 60. This may be the best combination. But any thoughts or suggestions from more experiences members are welcomed, as I already stated above. Thanks.
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Old April 17, 2013, 11:20 PM   #2
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I'm actually gonna be looking for a 6" 686 when I get back stateside. Then i'll have 3 6" smiths lol
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Old April 18, 2013, 08:16 AM   #3
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Our family has a 686 and a Ruger GP100. Both are superb revolvers; I would be hard-pressed to say which one is the better gun. Both have great triggers. The Ruger's double-action trigger is smooth and long, while the S&W is shorter and snappier. I actually get better groups with the Ruger but I practice more with it too. To be fair, while the Ruger's single action trigger is very good, the S&W's is sensational.

One advantage that the GP100 has is that you can very easily, with no Gunsmithing, swap out front sights. This is a user-doable task on the GP100 so if you do not like the blade sight you can try Fiber Optic or other types of front sights. I have done this and it has worked out well.

For a range and home defense gun I would take the GP100 or 686 over the other ones that the OP is considering.
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Last edited by Rogervzv; April 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM.
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Old April 18, 2013, 08:21 AM   #4
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For all around guns, the GP100 and 686 are pretty much ideal unless you prefer or find a good K-frame model or a Ruger Security Six.

If you have the extra money, you might consider the Smith 686 Stock Service Revolver, known as the 686SSR. Check out the Smith & Wesson home site or the reviews on this gun. And you might also consider the Ruger GP100 with 3-inch barrel, fixed sights.
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Old April 19, 2013, 12:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
I am leaning toward the larger ones. I can't tell if I like S&W or Ruger better at this point.
If you like them equally, there is one factor that might help make your mind up: one of them is a lot cheaper than the other.
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Old April 19, 2013, 02:03 PM   #6
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The primary difference that I have found is that on the SP101 Ruger uses conventional rifling. S&W uses ECM rifling, which is not as good for shooting pure lead if you reload.
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Old April 19, 2013, 02:06 PM   #7
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Before you make a decision, try to shoot a S&W model 19 4 inch or a Ruger Security Six 4 inch. Both too me are better handling and point better than the larger frame revolvers. And the double action trigger on a model 19 is one of the best out of the box. Most S&W K frame revolvers have the better trigger.
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Old April 19, 2013, 02:13 PM   #8
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I just saw an add from a guy in my area about Model 19-3 for sale in almost unused condition. It looks new and he says he put less than 100 rounds through it. Box and all papers included. But he wants $700 and I am not sure if this is such a good deal, as I can get new 686 for just a hundred bucks more... Any thoughts? Thanks.
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Old April 19, 2013, 02:35 PM   #9
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I've got a LOT of thoughts. First, a 19-3 is a terrific gun. Long time/hardcore S&W guys will tell you that these Bangor-Punta era guns were not as well made as the earlier guns, but most will agree that these are -so- much better than current guns. And keep in mind that Smith & Wesson no longer makes any K-frame .357 Magnum revolvers.

The K-frame has a fantastic "size - feel" to them. If your plan for the gun is a lifetime of service with .38 Special ammo and also the ability to shoot .357 when you choose, a K-frame will be perfect. However, if you want to thrash the revolver with heavy magnum loads on a regular basis, there are MUCH better choices than a K-frame... as it will only take so much of a beating where a GP-100 or an L-frame (or N-frame or Redhawk!) would take a lot more.

I love the Model 19. I would take a 19-3 in a heartbeat. (I have one that I adore) The price of $700 would be on the far upper end in my area (in my opinion) but it's not CRAZY if the revolver is mint in "almost unused condition."

Here is what I'm am 100% sure of: I'd much rather have a very good 19-3 than a box fresh, never been touched and brand spanking new 686. These current guns have dropped off, IMO, and yes, I know that not everyone agrees. As I own more than a dozen different revolvers, I can tell you that my opinion has been formed over 25 years and dozens of revolvers owned, handled, cared for, and shot a lot. I own a 686-3 ('88) and I'm familiar enough with new 686's to have formed this opinion and am firm in my stance.

I would try to get him to come a bit lower than his $700, but if he wouldn't waver from it -AND- it's as "nearly new" as you've been led to believe, I'd rather own it than any of the four listed above, assuming the 686 in question is new production or within the last 10 years or so.
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Old April 19, 2013, 02:39 PM   #10
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I don't have the big book in front of me, but I can tell you that my 19-3 is a 1973 revolver, so it's safe to assume that the one you are looking at is somewhere near that date. I've got a 19-4 that's a 1978/79 gun.
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Old April 19, 2013, 03:04 PM   #11
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If you like the Ruger SP101, you aren't a big guy, and other guns have felt big then you may want to look into the S&W model 640 or S&W model 60. 5 shot J frame revolvers ae small, yet can shoot 357 magnum self defense and light loads though. That sounds like what you need to lean to if guns have felt big to you. You may need to find a small revolver with the right frip. The triggers will smoth out in time, but the 640 trigger is a nice DA on mine. The 640 has a shrouded hammer though so no SA, but the model 60 can shoot SA.
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Old April 19, 2013, 03:09 PM   #12
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Sevens, I appreciate your input very-very much!
Here are my thoughts: I am new to revolvers (even though I am not new to shooting targets) and I would be hesitant to buy a used firearm. That thought kind of put the end to K-frame guns which I seem to like best size wise. However if a firearm indeed looks as good as new and only was shot a few hundred times I doubt anything could be seriously wrong with it, especially when it comes to a revolver. I am into target shooting, thus shooting 357 makes no sense to me. .38 is cheaper and have same effect on the target :-) However 357 is a nice option to have as this would be a self defense gun as well (hopefully never used for self defense, of course). But a precision aiming and comfort would be top priorities for me. This is 6" barrel, which is advantage fror aiming. On 6" 686 and aiming was excellent. I assume I'll get same kind of aiming here with a little less weight, which would be perfect. I'll contact the seller. While I feel a little weird of paying for the older model almost the same money as can pay for new and "improved" one, I see your points as well and appreciate them.
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Old April 19, 2013, 03:25 PM   #13
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If you have the time and energy, absolutely read this thread:
http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=57816
Keep in mind that even if you can't do all of this or you don't feel comfortable with your own assessment of what you may see or feel when you have the revolver in your hands, reading this is still arming yourself with information.

It may seem like information overload. It may in fact be...info overload! But even for someone that is fairly new to revolvers, it is helpful.

I have a few particular things that I look for when I'm inspecting a used revolver. This checklist is even more comprehensive.

Happy shopping. If you end up bringing it home, don't even think about showing it off without pictures.
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Old April 19, 2013, 04:33 PM   #14
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Sevens, thank again. I think I started on this forum from reading this PDF document :-))) It's pinned on the top of the forum subjects. I did not read the whole thing entirely, but at least went through everything related to DA revolvers. My hesitation comes more from the lack of on hand experience, than from lack of general knowledge. But a man have to start somewhere, so it may be a time for me to start making my own mistakes... or lucky scores :-))))
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Old April 19, 2013, 04:47 PM   #15
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My preference is the RUGER SP101. Have owned SW,COLTS, & RUGER revolvers .The sp101 fits the bill for me .
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Old April 20, 2013, 01:23 AM   #16
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Gentlemen, since I am already in debt to you for your knoweledge, I'd like to ask your opinion on Model 14. How does it compare to Model 19? The look identical and there is very nice example for sale right now. Is Model 14 .38 Special only unlike Model 19 which shots 357 as well? Anything else? Thanks.
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Old April 20, 2013, 09:10 AM   #17
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I'm actually trying to make a similar decision and this thread was very helpful. I was leaning toward the GP100 simply based upon what I read, but really need to try it out. Some of the OPs observations were very similar to my expectations/concerns with the four guns. Thanks for the breakdown!
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Old April 20, 2013, 09:26 AM   #18
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AK71 - I am glad you found my notes useful. GP100 felt like a great gun, I am sure you'll enjoy it very much. As for me, I actually went back to the original range and compared 686 and 66. While they were very-very similar 66 was a tiny bit smaller and lighter which I liked better. Therefore I feel that for me personally K-frame may be the best choice if I can find one in mint condition. Otherwise GP-100 would be my second choice based on the fact that it is comfortable, accurate, has a reputation of being built like a tank and cheaper that 686.
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Old April 20, 2013, 12:35 PM   #19
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Quote:
I'd like to ask your opinion on Model 14. How does it compare to Model 19? The look identical and there is very nice example for sale right now. Is Model 14 .38 Special only unlike Model 19 which shots 357 as well?
The two models have more in common than not. They are both "K" size frames, of course. The original "names" of the two models up until 1957, the Model 19 ("Combat Magnum") and the Model 14 ("Target Masterpiece") best reflects their conceptual purposes (combat vs target shooting), though either can perform the intended "role" of the other. Model 14s (or K-38s) were made mostly with 6" long barrels and my guess is that most Model 19s came with 4" long barrels. Finishes and sights were similar, especially on later models, and target hammers and target triggers could be had on both models.
Probably the biggest difference is the one you addressed: the Model 19 is chambered in .357 Magnum (and thus can also shoot any .38 Special cartridge loading) and the Model 14 is chambered in .38 Special only. They are both fabulous revolvers; the likes of which, in terms of finish and workmanship on a factory production handgun, will, unfortunately, not be seen again.
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Old April 20, 2013, 04:37 PM   #20
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GP100 is great all around, well balanced and is easy to shoot well. Some don't like the heavy feel of the SP101 trigger, but that can be corrected with a trigger job. The good thing about Rugers is they will take any ammo you feed them.
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Old April 20, 2013, 11:24 PM   #21
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On the range comparisons of just these four revolvers - keeping in mind that we are talking just for use ON THE RANGE. In my opinion, that means for fun and skill building, or even to replicate for defensive use in the home or place of business. In other words, not for carry, concealed or otherwise.

I've owned 3 of the 4 of these in .357 Magnum, and the fourth one (GP-100) I have in a different caliber. I've shot a number of GP's in .357 Magnum, however.

I find the 686 to be the best of the four if all else is equal. It's got the size and durability, but I would swap out the OEM factory grips. If it's an old 686 with the big Magna grips, they look okay but don't feel great and they transfer far too much recoil energy. If it's a newer 686 with the Hogue monogrip, it feels pretty good but couldn't be any uglier if you pooped it out on a Friday night.

The GP-100 is a ridiculously close second place. I won't be convinced that it's any more "durable" than a 686, but I really doubt that it's any less durable. Typically, it'll cost you a little less money. The trigger is pretty darn good for what is generally considered a "lesser" gun. The older ones have a fine looking grip that feels pretty good, too. Newer ones have a horrific Hogue monogrip that just turns my stomach. NOW-- if the 686 in question is a newer revolver with the internal lock -AND- it's a 7-shot "plus" model, then I will move the GP-100 in to first place and never look back. This is a lot of gun and will last a lifetime. If I'm buying used (95% of the time I am...), I'm looking for a pre-lock 686. If I'm buying new, GP-100.

S&W Model 60 is a well-built little fireplug. But it's small. For range days, it's too small to be comfortable. It offers much more recoil than I expect from a .38 or .357 revolver, even when using .38 ammo. Mine had a great little grip that "felt" fine in the hand, but a different grip may have handled the recoil better. Mine was a three-inch, full-lug barrel and it was VERY accurate and well built, but the recoil made me sell it. I look back on it fondly -- but I don't miss it. Would have been a perfect carry gun if I were to carry a revolver. I do not.

SP-101, .357 Magnum. Much like the Model 60, for a few less dollars and a little less refined. The double-action trigger wasn't nearly as smooth and predictable. Build quality was solid, I would trust one of these without question, but I'd never buy one as a range toy or a practice gun. It's a quality carry gun, but a GP-100 is a much better choice for regular shooting.

All four are fine guns and any one of them would be a great one to own for different reasons. These four aren't far apart when it comes to utility, durability, build quality and value for the money.
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Old April 21, 2013, 12:53 AM   #22
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Sevens, thanks again for your assessment. You already helped me on similar subject in the other tread and I appreciate it very much. Indeed I am looking for a range gun which could also be a defense weapon if needed (hopefully not). I do not plan to carry a gun. I don't think I could in IL even if I wanted to, but I do not want to anyway.

I spent a fair amount of time on the range target shooting (guns similar to air soft) when I was a teen and then later shooting .22 caliber rifles back in Russia. Now as I am approaching mid life crisis I started going back to range, but this time revolver is my weapon of choice. So, indeed I am looking primarily for a range gun with superb accuracy and decent comfort.

As we discussed in the other topic it looks like that in .38/357 caliber either Model 66 or Model 19 should work best for me. I am starting to look into getting one. Mean time I will be on the range that has Models 66 and 686 rental next week. I'll compare them once again for a good measure :-)
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Old April 21, 2013, 05:45 PM   #23
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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.
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Old April 22, 2013, 02:16 PM   #24
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Smith J-Frame vs. SP101

Personally I prefer the SP101 of these two models. Loved the way the Smith felt and the trigger, but it was no fun for full house 357 ammo, and I never mastered shooting the thing accurately. Even with 38 special ammo, it just never felt right and consistency was nonexistant.

The SP101 with 4" barrel handles full house 357 ammo a lot better, and with 38 special ammo it shoots measurably better than the J Frame.

Better half has a Smith 66 with 4" barrel. It is our go-to gun for house and car. If you can get a Smith K Frame, they are a really nice size, and balance well and are quality firearms. IMO
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Old April 22, 2013, 05:35 PM   #25
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Too many choices once you enter a used market...

I think I do like k-frame S&W best for fit and as I said before, I do not intend to use magnum loads, as it hardly makes any sense on the 25 yard range. So, other than for a nightstand and occasional fun rounds 357 will not be used, thus no issue with a questionable stability of k-frame with steady magnum loads feeding. Therefore, considering this is going to be a 99% target shooting gun, it looks like I have three options:

Model 14 - nice 6" barrel, great accuracy and can be found in $400 - $500 in good condition. Lacks an ability to shot 357 though.

Model 19 - as nice as model 14, but with ability to feed magnum loads occasionally and more expensive: $600 - $700 in good condition

Model 66 - stainless, which doesn't look as cool, but more practical. 4" barrel probably not as accurate for aiming as 6", but close enough, I guess. $500 - $700 in good condition

Did I miss anything else target worthy in k-frame? :-))) Thanks.
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