Smith & Wesson 686 SSR

One of my Facebook friends recently picked up a Smith & Wesson 686SSR, which is part of S&W’s Pro Series line of revolvers.  I am a huge fan of this revolver, and I’ve actually been spending a bit of time with mine in preparation for the Stock Service Revolver part of the Quest for Master Class.  In its factory configuration, the 686 SSR is pretty good, but a little bit of attention from a gunsmith and some new parts make it greatThat’s my personal 686 SSR at the right; since the first time I took a picture of it in a similar pose, it has undergone some upgrades.

First thing that went was the single action notch off the hammer.  I had to retain the hammer spur itself, because I intend to shoot this in Bianchi Cup Production Division, so the modification was purely internal.  This gun is now how DA revolvers were intended to be…double action only.

An action job on a revolver is more than just lightening the trigger though.  The 686 SSR has the advantage of having a forged trigger and hammer, which (apparently) are better to work on than MIM parts.  Also, the action job polishes up the bearing surfaces and cleans up any odd kinks – for example, the hand would drag just a little bit on the star of my gun creating an odd hitch in the trigger.  That’s gone now.

Obviously as I mentioned yesterday, I changed the sights.  Gone is the orange ramped front sight and the narrow notched rear, in their place I have an SDM gold bead and a Cylinder and Slide Extreme Duty rear sight.  The C&S rear is pretty awesome; it’s a fast competition or combat sight.  The only downside (as I discovered last night) is that it’s regulated for 158 grain bullets, which means that my preferred load of a 125 grain bullet at 1050 or 1100 FPS means the gun shoots about 6 inches low at 20 yards.  That’s actually not as big a problem as you might think, because I know where the gun shoots at 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards.  We’ll see how it plays out in competition though; if I end up really not liking it I’ll switch the rear to a Bowen Rough Country adjustable like I have on my 625.

For someone looking to get started in revolver shooting, this is a hard gun to beat.  It’s got enough goodies thrown in from the factory that you can shoot it stock and have a blast, or you can spend a couple of extra bucks and really have it tuned up.  For IDPA Stock Service Revolver, ICORE Retro, or even USPSA if you don’t mind scoring minor (which I have some thoughts on) you really wouldn’t be doing yourself a disservice by purchasing one of these.  Or two.  Or six.  Plus, the benefit of the L-frame is that with a good holster, you can even carry this gun, although it helps if you’re a bigger dude.  It’s a little large for my 5’6 frame, but not completely unmanageable.


  1. Caleb, that rear sight is the one I was telling you we had initially intended to go on Brian’s SSR that I showed you. Now, we ended up liking the fiber-optics fine, but next time you are in the area, I would dearly love to see the setup on yours. Were they well-regulated for windage? I happen to use mostly 158’s, so the elevation wouldn’t be an issue for me. Also, does the gold bead, as I suspect, show up well against a good variety of backgrounds? What width is the front? Please forgive all the questions, but I have somewhat of a passion for these old wheel-contraptions with the rotary assault drums…

    1. Off the top of my head, I think the front is .125 width. It’s also perfectly regulated for windage, the six shot 20 yard group averaged right in the center of the target.

      The SDM bead really captures light well. The only situation where it falls down a bit is if the target is backlit and you’re shooting towards a setting sun, but in those situations you still have excellent contrast on the sight posts.

      Hopefully I’ll be up at Norpoint again soon, maybe mid-October or so.

  2. Andrew, Col. Jeff Cooper once said that the only background the gold bead sight did not work on was lion!

  3. Hehe, at 6’1″ and 350 lbs I can hide almost anything short of a 12 ga pump if i give it enough thought. The only advantage of being fat!

    And BTW, that’s down to 350, I was 440 at one point when I was younger and in better condition, can’t deal with the weight at my age.

  4. Let me tell you this, as a entusiast about the engineering of firearms, I can tell you this is the most beautiful revolver I’ve ever seen. It’s a work of art.

  5. Since the 642 Pro Series now is offered with out the internal lock, I am looking forward to the 686 SSR Pro Series with the IL deleted.

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