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Old May 21, 2008, 02:27 AM   #1
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Ruger GP100 vs. S&W 686

Long-time reader, first post.

I am a beginning shooter and I am looking to purchase a .38/.357 4" revolver. This gun will be used for target practice and familiarization with the operation, and I will start out shooting .38 Spl loads. Once I get comfortable with that, I will shoot some .357 loads, and eventually, I would like to step up to a .44 mag revolver as a fishing/camping defense gun (I live in Alaska).

For the .38/.357, I have narrowed down my choices to the Ruger GP100 and the S&W 686. From discussions and online research, it seems like either would be a good gun. The plan would be to then get either the Redhawk .44 mag or the S&W 629 .44 mag, essentially the same gun design in larger caliber. I have seen numerous threads on this and other forums regarding Ruger vs. S&W, and was hoping some of you could list the pros and cons of each revolver to inform my purchasing decision.

Looking forward to your input!

Last edited by AKBrandon; May 22, 2008 at 01:22 AM.
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Old May 21, 2008, 02:34 AM   #2
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Ruger GP101 vs. S&W 686
I think you mean the GP100 or the SP101.

Either way, get the m686.

Last edited by Playboypenguin; May 21, 2008 at 03:35 AM.
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Old May 21, 2008, 03:28 AM   #3
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And your first post is to start a Ruger v. S&W cat fight? Oh boy, you sure can pick 'em...

I love the 586/686. 4" is just right. It's smooth, powerful, awesome recoil tamer, good looking, too. Get an 80s model (686 no dash, -1, -2) clean and used for $400 to $450 or so. A real bargain in the used gun market - one of the few ones left (other I know of is a S&W 28 .357 - also about the same price). Consider a 28, too, I'd suggest. I think the L frame 586/686 is the better gun, though.

I alternate between a 4" 686 and a 3" 629 as a "mountain" gun depending upon my mood and the bear threat.
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Old May 21, 2008, 04:24 AM   #4
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I've never fired the GP100, but the 4" S&W 686 was my first revolver above a .22. I find the 686 an excellent handgun and I imagine my son will pass it on to his son some day.

I also bought a S&W 629 Classic 6-1/2" a year later. It too is an excellent handgun and I'd be hard pressed to pick one over the other if I was limited to just one. In your neck of the woods it would be the 629 for sure.

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Old May 21, 2008, 06:13 AM   #5
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I have nothing against Ruger, but I love S&W revolvers. The 686 and 66 are my favourite models. One of these two is what I would (and did) choose.
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Old May 21, 2008, 06:39 AM   #6
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For all the hype about how 'rugged' a 4" GP100 is vs the 4" 686, it only weighs 1 oz more - and that is likely in the heavy shroud (6-shot 686). Now, consider that the Ruger is cast steel, while the S&W is hammer-forged/heat treated. Also, the 686 is available as a 686+ - with a seven-shot cylinder. For a few dollars less - and with a more traditional looking half-lug, consider the same size 620, another 7-shooter.

As to the Redhawk - that is a dated design. The better lockwork of the Super Redhawk 'replaced' it years ago. That is the same lockwork that you will find in the GP100 - and, in a smaller scale, in the SP101. I loved my SRH (.454 Casull) - couldn't wait to get rid of my RH (.45 Colt). I have two current production 629s - a 4" & 6" (I like partial lugs.). Believe me, if you stay with standard ammo, a S&W will outlast you. If you need more oomph, go to a larger caliber.

One thing re revolver calibers... if you want a 'big bore' with no more recoil than mediocre .357 Magnums, consider a S&W 625 in .45 ACP. You can buy .45 ACP ammo nearly anywhere - generally between the price of cheap lead .38s and basic .357 Magnums, too. Wally World has 250 packs for $82 - pretty reasonable. Ideal for home defense - and plinking... just a thought. I love my S&W 625JM - a deal today, considering the 'options' included. Just a suggestion...

Here is my 625JM - and a few 'extras'. The De-mooner is from Brownell's, as is the HKS-25 speedloader for .45 Auto Rims, which it will also shoot. The moonclips are ~$30/100 delivered.

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Old May 21, 2008, 06:47 AM   #7
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this is going to be an opinion based thread, for sure.
I have a GP-100, but like the 686 as well.

If you are looking for reliability/mechanical issues between the 2, there are few, if any.
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Old May 21, 2008, 06:54 AM   #8
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I own a Smith 686 and several other Smith revolvers. I like S&W above all others. My buddy owns a Ruger GP 100. I've fired plenty of rounds through both guns. I think the trigger on the Smith is a just a hair better, but not by much. Other than that, it all comes down to which one you like more. They are both fine guns. I will say this, if my Smith were lost, I'd be tempted to buy GP if there is still a $200 price difference between them. The Smith might have a better trigger, but it isn't $200 better. You really can't go wrong with either one.
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Old May 21, 2008, 12:58 PM   #9
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The plan would be to then get either the Redhawk .44 mag or the S&W 629 .44 mag, essentially the same gun design in larger caliber.
Depending on how serious you are about moving up to the .44, keep 2 things in mind...

1) Both the S&W M629 and the Ruger Super Redhawk are built on the next frame size up from the M686 & GP100. Neither .357 is going to feel the same as the .44 if you're intending to use them for practice. FWIW S&W offers the M27 and M627 .357 Magnums in the same frame size as the 629, and with a nifty 8-shot cylinder. The main drawback is that their street price is $200+ more than the 686, making them about twice the price of the GP100.

2) If you want something with lighter recoil for practice, you can handload .44Spl "cowboy loads" for any .44Mag gun, although they will be marginally more expensive than .38Spl or .357Mag handloads due to the bigger and pricier bullets.

Of course, if you just want to own multiple guns and/or like the M686 and GP-100 in their own right, I understand and will not try to talk you out of it.
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Old May 21, 2008, 01:04 PM   #10
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I was once in the same situation as you

I went with the 3'' 686

I like it better than the Ruger
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Old May 21, 2008, 03:31 PM   #11
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I've owned the GP100..

and now have the 686 (both in the 6" one blue, one stainless.) I would buy either one in a heart beat. The only real difference I've found is price, you love it no matter which you buy. Edit to add: My 686 was made in 1987, and still handles regular use just fine. It doesn't like brass .357 all that well (it will hang on some rounds) but it eats aluminum cases no problem. It fires .38's no sweat. It's due for a trip to the smith when I get my next wheel gun.

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Old May 21, 2008, 05:03 PM   #12
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All told, I would want a 686 without the lock.

I had a 6" 686 and didn't like it at all. Had bad problems with the cylinder binding while shooting full magnum loads.

The "cast stell" Ruger is also heat treated and by many opinions is stronger than the 686. Companies like Corbon use the GP for load development because of the strength it has. I wish I would have never gotten rid of my 4" KGP-141. I am now on the look out for a 3" GP with fixed sights.
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Old May 21, 2008, 05:32 PM   #13
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I'm having the same issues with my 686 binding with full mag loads. Is this correctable, or am I going to have to live with it?
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Old May 21, 2008, 08:45 PM   #14
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Cylinder binding and model choice

I had a 686 that, after a few jacketed rounds, would experience cylinder bind. Turned out a very slight flaw in the forcing cone - a metal burr - would strip and build up copper between the end of the forcing cone and cylinder. A quick honing repaired the problem and then I sold it.

My current inventory includes pre-lock 4" and 6" 686, 6" GP100, and 6" Security-Six. All are great shooters with the 6" 686 and 6" GP100 enjoying an accuracy advantage. The GP100 required a simple trigger job involving polishing some mating surfaces and now has a smoother trigger than both 686s. I suggest buying either the Smith or the Ruger based on personal esthetics and how they feel in the hand.
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Old May 21, 2008, 09:03 PM   #15
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Get the Ruger. I run some heavy loads in my 4 inch GP100 that will make a S&W beg for mercy. The Ruger takes it and loves it.
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Old May 22, 2008, 02:17 AM   #16
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Thank you!

Wow, I never expected to have 14 replies in just one day! I guess kamerer was right by predicting a "Ruger v. S&W cat fight". I appreciate you all taking the time to reply. Your recommendations and advice are exactly what I was looking for, and it is good to hear arguments for both sides.

I intend to go to my local gun shop and see which one fits my hand better. I will consider all of the helpful advice that you have provided when making my purchasing decision. Thanks for the recommendations!

If anyone has anything more to add, I'm all ears!
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Old May 22, 2008, 10:46 AM   #17
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The 686+ (7 shots) is a wonderful gun, my personal favorite in my collection ... I hated the grips, could never get my fingers comfortable, but after I swapped them, the gun is perfect. Accurate and plenty heavy enough to absorb the recoil from full power rounds ... you'll love it ... 4-inch barrel is the best size, IMHO
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Old May 22, 2008, 11:08 AM   #18
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Both are exceptional handguns and this is one of those rare cases where there is no bad choice.

I've posted this before (maybe it was in another forum)

Decision List for S&W vs. Ruger Revolver
1. Which one feels better in your hand? Consider heft, balance, trigger reach, and which comes up to target more naturally. Get that one.
Note: Compare them with the same grips. Most good shops sell Hogues for both and the Hogue packages just pop open and closed. If you are a serious buyer they will take the 1 minute required to throw a set on. Especially since you'll probably end up buying the grips with the gun.

2. If they both feel equally good then which do you like the looks of better? Is there one that just begs you to reach out and touch it? Get that one.

3. If you like the way they look equally well then get the one you can find cheapest.

4. Shoot the one you choose and smile knowing you picked a great gun!

Now I will throw in my plug for the Ruger. The modular design make the Ruger DA guns as easy to field strip for cleaning as a semi-auto. This lets you really get it cleaned and properly lubed much easier.

Last edited by Wuchak; May 22, 2008 at 02:59 PM.
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Old May 22, 2008, 12:34 PM   #19
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I've switched all my Defensive Revolvers from S&W with ILS (Hillary Hole, Clinton Lock and other various names) to Ruger.

I like the GP100 and it's simplicity and ease of take down is a favorite of mine. I carry a 3" GP100 off duty and will soon be backing that up with a 2 1/4" SP101. The only defensive revolver that I still own by S&W is my Airweight J-Frame. As soon as Ruger makes something comparable I will buy that and get rid of the S&W.

If you can find a Used S&W without the Clinton Lock then it would be a tougher choice, IMHO. If you have to buy a Ruger or a S&W with the Lock, the choice is easy. Get the Ruger.

My dislike of the lock stems from having a S&W with a lock fail on me at the Range. S&W, to their credit, was prompt in repairing the gun, but I don't trust the gun, or any S&W with their lock. I still have and plan to keep my 629 as it is a gun for Hunting, not self defense.

Good luck and have fun making your choice.

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Old May 22, 2008, 12:42 PM   #20
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GP100 & Super Redhawk
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Old May 22, 2008, 01:32 PM   #21
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Wuchak is correct. Select what feels best in your hand and which you really "want". Either are fine weapons. I would prefer a Ruger, which is basically a Smith without the "Hillary Hole"!
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Old May 22, 2008, 01:36 PM   #22
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Another thing I will add is...

...take into account what type of grips you like.

The Smith has a true full grip frame and the Ruger has the tang style grip frame.

The Ruger grip frame makes it harder to find high quality wood grips that fit properly and the will not crack under heavy shooting since the wood absorbs all the punishment.

On the Smith, most of the punishment is absorbed by the full metal backstrap and it is easier to get well fitted wooden panels.
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Old May 22, 2008, 02:05 PM   #23
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I own one of those internal lock things with a revolver attached...last one I'll ever own too!

Without a youself a favor and buy the Ruger GP100.

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Old May 22, 2008, 02:19 PM   #24
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Vote for the Ruger

Personally I got the Ruger. Its rugged. Its inexpensive. I tote a 5 shot SP101 .357.

I like to shoot the ammo I am going to use in a crisis so I like to shoot full load 125 grain .357s when I practice with it. From everything I have read it will stand up to that kind of use forever.

I own a Model 19 S&W and think it is a more sophistocated gun to handle. The trigger is better and the action seems smoother, but I don't think you can go wrong with a Ruger.

In the end, though, its up to you. You will be happy with either.
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Old May 22, 2008, 02:26 PM   #25
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The "hole"!

I have BOTH. I do not find the "Hilary hole lock" on my Ruger.
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