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Old August 22, 2010, 08:42 PM   #1
Ike666
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+P .38 Special in a 686

I was in a class today for NRA Basic Pistol Instructor and the class instructor mentioned that his 686 manual said that while it was okay to use .38 Special in the weapon, it was recommended that .38 Special in +P not be used.

My manual (a generic S&W revolver manual) notes that +P is okay to use in .357 Magnums.

Anyone else know about restrictions on +P in the 686 specifically?
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Old August 22, 2010, 09:03 PM   #2
T B Good
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No problem that I am aware of. I use 38 +P+ and have never had a problem. Maybe he is concerned about generating a carbon ring in the cylinder.
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Old August 22, 2010, 10:04 PM   #3
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When I had a 686 all I ever shot were +P's and 357's, most all were 158 gr.Now I own a SAA clone and I use 38 specials, 130 grain flatnose, simply because I like shooting my western sixgun one handed and with some degree of accuracy...
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Old August 22, 2010, 10:46 PM   #4
Win_94
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That is what my owners manual indicates.

This is the paragraph that pertains to my medium L frame 686;
Quote:
"Plus-P" (+P) ammunition generates pressures significantly in excess of the pressures associated with standard .38 Special ammunition. Such pressures may effect the wear characteristics or exceed the margin of safety built into many revolvers and could therefore be DANGEROUS.
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Old August 22, 2010, 11:09 PM   #5
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I think the manual with the caution about using .38 spl +P ammo was a generic revolver manual and it was really referring to shooting .38 spl +P ammo out of .38 spl revolvers. You can shoot .38 spl +P all day through a 686 with no problem.

.38 spl standard pressure is about 17,000 psi
.38 spl +P pressure is about 20,000 psi
.357 magnum pressure is about 35,000 psi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.38_Special
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Old August 22, 2010, 11:31 PM   #6
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Boiler plate lawyer coverage, so that if you read the manual, you take your life into your own hands, which is the reality, anyways, and gets the Gun company out of harms way, possibly.
You read the manual, which stated:
Do not shoot this gun, it is intended as display only"

Really, the L frames were designed for shooting .357 magnum, so +P is fine.
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Old August 23, 2010, 10:54 AM   #7
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You can shoot all the +P 38 specials in any 686. Plus you can shoot just about a factory 357 round. Like others have mentioned the 686 was design to shoot 357s. The 357 round is more powerful than any 38 special round.

Enjoy shooting your 686. It is a great revolver.

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Old August 23, 2010, 11:12 AM   #8
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IMHO, KyJim nailed it. The fact is the L Frame, 581/586 and 681/686 was designed to fire the higher-pressure .357 magnum loads, so .38 Special +Ps will certainly not cause problems.
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Old August 23, 2010, 11:36 AM   #9
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S&W has one on-line owners manual listed for "Modern Revolvers" This is from that manual.

Locate the cartridge designation marked on the firearm. This information indicates the correct ammunition that must be used in this firearm. (Fig. 1).
You are responsible for selecting ammunition that meets industry standards and is appropriate in type and caliber for this firearm.
Never use a cartridge not specifically designated for use in your firearm. The wrong type of ammunition may exceed the capability of your firearm and may damage or even rupture your firearm.

Never mix ammunition.

• Additional ammunition calibers can be fired from the following list of select calibers.

Caliber on Barrel Can also Fire
.500 S&W MAG .500 Special
.460 S&W MAG .45 Colt, .454 Casull
.45 Colt .45 Schofield, .45 S&W,
.45 S&W .45 Schofield
.45 ACP .45 Auto Rim (in revolvers only)
.44 Magnum .44 Special
.357 Magnum .38 Special, .38 Special +P
.22LR .22L, .22 Short (in revolvers only)

In some cases, a round of ammunition not specified on your
firearm may fit into the chamber. Firing ammunition not specified
on your firearm may cause it to rupture and cause serious injury
or death to you or others.
Always inspect your ammunition before using it. Never use dirty,
corroded or damaged ammunition which can lead to a burst cartridge
which may cause damage to the firearm and personal injury
or death.
Use only commercially manufactured ammunition with internal
ballistic pressures which are in strict accordance with the specifications
of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturersʼ
Institute (SAAMI). If you are uncertain, contact your ammunition
supplier for verification.

“Plus-P” (+P) ammunition generates pressures in excess of the
pressures associated with standard ammunition. Such pressures
may affect the wear characteristics or exceed the margin of safety
built into some revolvers and could therefore be DANGEROUS.
This ammunition should not be used in Smith & Wesson
medium (K frame) revolvers manufactured prior to 1958. Such
pre-1958 medium (K-frame) revolvers can be identified by the
absence of a model number stamped inside the yoke cut of the
frame (i.e., the area of the frame exposed when the cylinder is
in the open position).


“Plus-P-Plus (+P+) ammunition must not be used in Smith &
Wesson firearms. This marking on the ammunition designates that
it exceeds established industry standards, but the designation
does not represent defined pressure limits and therefore such
ammunition may vary significantly as to the pressures generated.
Some brands of ammunition may cause difficulty in extracting
spent cartridge cases from the cylinder or chamber. If this
situation occurs, thoroughly clean the cylinder charge holes or
chamber with solvent. If this condition persists, we recommend
changing to another brand of ammunition.


Plus-P” (+P) ammunition is OK in a L frame .357

Plus-P-Plus (+P+) ammunition is not OK.
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Old August 23, 2010, 01:28 PM   #10
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+1 on the "boiler plate" explanation. The warnings against +P ammunition are in many manufacturers' manuals, as are warnings against reloads.

The L-Frames were designed to handle loadings that were suspected of breaking K-Frames. I'd wager they can handle any powder charge you could load into a .38 Special casing with aplomb.
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Old August 23, 2010, 07:50 PM   #11
Ike666
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There seems to be some contradictory logic here.

The Salty Dog School seems to say "Any .38 Special load can be fired in a .357 b/c all .357 factory loads are hotter than any .38 Special loads."

The Book School seems to say "Yeah, but... not in a .357 K-frame, but okay in an L-frame, and never +P+ in any S&W frame ever, never."

I will confess, I have done all three in my 686. I actually prefer genuine .357 - the gun seems to as well.

I did just realize that I was carrying +P in my no-dash 442. I got THE BOOK from Amazon/UPS today and noted that the change from 442 to 442-1 involved beefing up the frame for the .357 version and specifically noted that +P should not be used in the no-dash 442. I've gone back to good ole Fed HS loads with no "Ps" associated.

I'm going to trust the litagaphobic guidance and shoot only .357 or .38 Spc +P in my revered 686.

I did also find out my 686 was part of a limited run of 2500 6-shots with a 3 inch barrel and fully shrouded ejector. THE BOOK is fascinating.
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Old August 23, 2010, 08:35 PM   #12
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I agree with Ky Jim. You should be fine shooting +P .38 specials out of your .357.

I've personally shot them out my 686 with no ill effects. I've also shot them out of my S&W J frame Airweight. If that gun can handle +P, your 686 will without issue.
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Old August 23, 2010, 09:42 PM   #13
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.38 Special and .38 Special +P is just fine to shoot in any .357 Magnum revolver. At 35,000psi, the maximum pressure of the .357 Magnum is much higher than that of either standard pressure .38 Special (17,000psi) or .38 Special +P (20,000psi). Even the old .38 Special +P+ loadings once marketed by Winchester and Federal were only loaded to approximately 22,000psi which is still well below the pressure generated by the .357 Magnum.

The warning in the S&W manual pertains to older guns chambered for .38 Special only. All new-manufactured .38 Special S&W revolvers are rated for +P ammunition.
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Old August 23, 2010, 09:46 PM   #14
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Yes, S&W is covering their collective fannies. Even +P+ .38 Special is OK in revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum, but it was never standardized and was sold only for issue to police departments. In other words, you shouldn't have it but if you do and something goes wrong, we never heard of you.

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Old August 24, 2010, 01:15 PM   #15
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Kinda surprised a pistol instructor instructor didn't know this...

Or maybe he was covering his own, too?
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Old August 24, 2010, 06:14 PM   #16
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I carried a 686 for many years doing night time mobile security partols. I have fired somewhere between 2000 and 3000 rounds of 38 SPEC +P in it with no problems at all. A quality 357 revolver should be able to take the 38 SPEC +P all day long and ask for more.
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Old August 24, 2010, 09:14 PM   #17
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Ruger gp100 the counterpart to the 686 in .357 magnum manual states all factory ammo labeled .357 magnum, .38 special, .38+p and .38+p+ is fine to shoot. You can shoot +p out of your 686 until your hands are stained with gun powder no harm done.
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Old August 24, 2010, 09:48 PM   #18
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Quote:
I'd wager they can handle any powder charge you could load into a .38 Special casing with aplomb.
Bad wager. A triple charge of Bullseye will fit in to a .38 Special case and might just take the cylinder apart and peel the top strap. Titegroup probably would fit a triple and maybe do even more damage.

I would wager that it would do that, but someone else would have to provide the revolver. I like my 686 and I want to keep it!
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Old August 24, 2010, 10:18 PM   #19
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Quote:
Kinda surprised a pistol instructor instructor didn't know this...
"the class instructor mentioned that his 686 manual said that while it was okay to use .38 Special in the weapon, it was recommended that .38 Special in +P not be used."

Totally accurate statement.
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Old August 25, 2010, 12:37 AM   #20
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Sounds to me that he is talking about a .38 spcl revolver, and you are talking a .357 revolver. Then what he said and you are saying would both make sense. I don't think the instructor was talking a .357 revolver.

No +P is going to do squat to a .357 gun.

Some Mfgrs don't recommend + P in some of their 38's, or constant use of it. Depends upon the model and the manufacturer.

You can supposedly shoot Buffalo Bore in a S&W 686 .357 constantly, and that's well beyond any .38 spcl +P that I know of. Call S&W and see what they tell you.
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Old August 25, 2010, 12:53 AM   #21
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Quote:
This is the paragraph that pertains to my medium L frame 686;

Quote:
"Plus-P" (+P) ammunition generates pressures significantly in excess of the pressures associated with standard .38 Special ammunition. Such pressures may effect the wear characteristics or exceed the margin of safety built into many revolvers and could therefore be DANGEROUS.

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While the +P .38 may generate pressures 10 to 15% higher than standard .38's (or there abouts), the .357 produces pressure DOUBLE that. Sounds like a generic message, and I'm sure the note was meant for +P's fired in some .38 Specials.



The 686 is actually a beefed up K frame designed so that you can fire full power .357 ammo 'till your heart's content and +P .38's a lot longer than that.


As mentioned, the shorter .38's will produce a carbon ring just ahead of the case in that part of the chamber that the .357 would occupy. The carbon and residue must not be allowed to accumulate, and some wear and pitting of that part of the chamber is unavoidable. Some recommend not firing .38's in .357's for that reason. Scorched forward parts of .357 chambers from firing .38 ammo may reduce the value of the gun--though I'm not sure. Keep the chambers clean and the performance won't be effected.

Failure to keep the carbon out of there can cause moisture to accumulate underneath it and pit and rust the chambers. Again--not something that need ever happen with proper cleaning. In extremely abusive cases, the build up could be bad enough to prevent .357 ammo from opening up properly to release the bullet and pressures could go up. .357 pressures are already high enough without that. Seems like the .357 ammo going in real tight in the chambers would be a clue.

Never the less, many thousands of shooters regularly shoot .38 ammo in their .357's and have no problems.


Last edited by Nnobby45; August 25, 2010 at 01:14 AM.
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Old August 25, 2010, 07:08 AM   #22
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When I joined up at the local sportsman's club in 1988, the big Saturday morning event there was PPC on the indoor range. I got to meet LEO of many different departments and agencies and almost all of them were shooting 686s with a few 586s scattered in there. These guys are the reason I bought my 686. (my first center fire handgun.)

They would all cackle if they heard the warnings about shooting excessive amounts of .38 Special in the longer .357 Mag chambers. These guys put hundreds of rounds through these 686s every week.

And .38 Spl +P? Total wimp compared to even the lightest .357 Mag loads.
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Old August 26, 2010, 02:20 AM   #23
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Quote:
Sounds to me that he is talking about a .38 spcl revolver, and you are talking a .357 revolver.
As far as my research has gone, the 686 was chambered in 357 only... whereas the 38 special can also be used.

Quote:
The 686 is actually a beefed up K frame designed so that you can fire full power .357 ammo 'till your heart's content and +P .38's a lot longer than that.
Not that I am arguing for or against the practice, I simply confirmed the instructors statement... and now provide something to ponder.

Might it be an issue with the case rather than with the chamber?

My Hornady reloading manual indicates the rim is slightly thicker on 357 mag cases, and the case walls are noticeably larger.

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Old August 26, 2010, 04:18 PM   #24
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Quote:
Might it be an issue with the case rather than with the chamber?

My Hornady reloading manual indicates the rim is slightly thicker on 357 mag cases, and the case walls are noticeably larger.
Yes, but those variations take place INSIDE the case. Thicker .357 brass doesn't effect the OUTSIDE diameter which is the same spec for .38 and .357. Even there, there can be differences in different manufactured brass and still fall within spec.

Easily checked with a caliper.
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Old August 27, 2010, 02:32 AM   #25
Win_94
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Quote:
the OUTSIDE diameter which is the same spec for .38 and .357
Is it that you don't know what the "rim" is? It is on the "OUTSIDE" of the case.

The point being...
For safety's sake, the case walls are to be assumed to be "same spec for .38" not beefed-up for the extra powder/pressure. S&W maybe leery of that particular design using above spec pressures with spec case walls.

Yes, "there can be differences in different manufactured brass" which S&W has no control over. Who am I to conclude knows what is best for this specific design?

Quote:
Yes, but those variations take place INSIDE the case.
The case wall thickness issue I present is not a (does it fit?) issue, it is an issue with the case wall experiencing above "spec" pressures.

Last edited by Win_94; August 27, 2010 at 02:42 AM.
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