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Smith & Wesson's 7x7 Model 686 Plus Revolver: Review

Smith & Wesson's "7X7" .357 Magnum Model 686 Plus checks all the boxes.

Smith & Wesson's 7x7 Model 686 Plus Revolver: Review

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I say the right name for this gun is 3-5-7 7x7 .357. Hold on, let me break that down. This double-action revolver is part of what Smith & Wesson calls its 3-5-7 Magnum series. These are S&W L-Frame Model 686 Plus revolvers that hold seven rounds of .357 Magnum ammo. They come with 3.0-inch, 5.0-inch, and 7.0-inch barrels, hence the 3-5-7 name. They all have custom wood grips with .357 engraved on them. They all feature unfluted cylinders. Okay, so what about the 7x7? Well, I made that up. But it seems right for the revolver I reviewed for this report. It’s a seven-shot revolver with a 7.0-inch barrel. If that doesn’t require/earn/demand the name 7x7, I don’t know what does! L-Frames are in-between the medium-size K-Frame and the large-size N-Frame revolvers. They were developed in 1980 to provide a larger and heftier frame than the K-Frame so they could better handle the powerful .357 Mag. cartridge. The first L-Frame .357 guns were six-shooters, and a seven-shooter was added in 1996 and was given the “Plus” series name.

Odd in Good Ways

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The custom wood grips have a stippled texture, finger grooves, and the numbers .357 engraved on them. The 3-5-7 7x7 Model 686 Plus’s sights consist of a tra- ditional red-ramp front blade and a fully adjustable white-outline rear.

Seven inches is an odd barrel length. Six inches is usually the standard length, but if you want more barrel, 6.5 inches, 8.0 inches, and 8.38 inches are more normal. Length has its advantages. Seven inches of barrel produces a long 9.0-inch sight radius, which benefits target shooting and hunting to deliver precision shots. A palpable benefit of the long, full underlug barrel on this revolver is dampened recoil. It adds considerable weight to the gun, bringing this one to 48.2 ounces. And putting the weight all the way out to the gun’s muzzle is a very good way to reduce muzzle rise. It feels hefty to me, no doubt because I’m used to handling shorter-barreled revolvers. And the reduction in recoil was obvious. I fired this gun along with a 4.0-inch-barreled  Model 686, and even though the 7.0-inch barrel produced more velocity and power, it had noticeably less recoil and muzzle rise.

Seven-round cylinder capacity is odd, too, as wheelguns are generally sixshooters. But that extra round is mighty handy, whatever your intended purpose. In spite of this seven-shooter being an odd duck, HKS, 5 Star Firearms, MaxFire, and Speed Beez make speedloaders for it. And Tuff Products makes seven-shot speed strips. The single-action trigger pull on my 3-5-7 7x7 was very good, if not exceptional, measuring 3.38 pounds and breaking crisply with zero creep—like you would hope a single-action trigger would be. The double-action trigger pull was typical of S&W revolvers, averaging 12.5 pounds. Other than the unique features for the 3-5-7 series, it’s common S&W. It has a brushed stainless finish. The hammer is 0.38 inch wide and checkered for positive purchase. The trigger is 0.315 inch wide with a smooth face. The sights consist of a red-ramp front blade and a white-outline rear that is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The barrel-cylinder gap was a bit uneven and was wider on the right than the left; it measured roughly 0.006 inch and 0.003 inch, respectively. Endshake was 0.001 inch. The barrel groove diameter slugged 0.3550 inch.

An Excellent Shooter

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The unfluted cylinder is a signature feature of Smith & Wesson’s 3-5-7 series revolvers.

Accuracy testing was done at 25 yards with the revolver mounted in a Ransom Rest, and this gun really shined with some loads. With two of the four .38 Special loads, it put 25 rounds in less than 2.0 inches. With three of the four .357 Mag. rounds, it put 20 rounds in less than 2.0 inches. The .357 Mag. Federal 125-grain JHP 20-shot aggregate group was just 1.30 inches wide. Another .357 Mag. load it loved was the Federal 158-grain JSP, which put 24 rounds into just 1.40 inches. Need I say that this gun can shoot? The 7.0-inch barrel provides more velocity, making it shoot flatter for a longer distance. The Federal 125-grain .357 Mag. load averaged 1,633 fps, which makes 740 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. This compares to the nominal .357 Mag. ballistics of a 125-grain bullet at 1,450 fps from a 4.0-inch barrel, which produces 583 ft-lbs of energy. The 158-grain bullet at 1,374 fps produces 662 ft-lbs of muzzle energy compared to that from a 4.0-inch barrel that runs 1,235 fps for 535 ft-lbs of energy. More energy at the muzzle means more retained energy at distance. If you’re looking for a long-barreled .357 Magnum revolver that looks good, has collector value, is hefty enough to keep recoil manageable, has extra ammo on board, and shoots great, the 3-5-7 7x7 Model 686 Plus checks all the boxes.

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The test sample revolver was exceptionally accurate. Fired at 25 yards and mounted in a Ransom Rest, it placed 20 rounds of .357 Magnum Federal 125-grain JHP ammo in a tight 1.30-inch cluster.

Smith & Wesson Model 686 Plus Specs

    • Type: Double-action revolver
    • Caliber: .357 Magnum, .38 Special
    • Capacity: 7 rds. 
    • Barrel: 7 in. 
    • Overall Length: 12.3 in. 
    • Width: 1.55 in. 
    • Height: 6 in. 
    • Weight: 48.2 oz. 
    • Grips: Wood
    • Finish: Satin Stainless
    • Sights: Fully adjustable white-outline rear, red-ramp front
    • Trigger: 3.38 lbs SA pull, 12.5 lbs. DA pull (tested) 
    • MSRP: $1,009
    • Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
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