Long barrel on a Smith & Wesson=Long range accuracy

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Smith & Wesson Model 686 with 8 3/8″ barrel

That’s not a photo-shopped image.  The barrel really is that long.  Smith & Wesson used to make the 686 model with 8 3/8″ barrels (other models could be had with 8 3/8″ barrels too).

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686 Smith & Wesson with 6-shot cylinder

This particular revolver is an older Model 686-1.  It is a 6-shot .357 magnum.  Later models could be found with 7-shot cylinders.

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Firing pin mounted to the hammer

Being an older model, the firing pin is in the hammer.  No frame mounted firing pins or transfer bars here.  This is the same hammer design that Colt Peacemakers employed way back in 1873.


Wide target trigger

This particular revolver has a standard hammer and a wide ‘target’ trigger.  You can also see the rubber Pachmayr  grip has replaced the original wood grip panels.

Most people seem to think the long barrel is what makes this revolver such an accurate long-range shooter.  That is only partly true.  The longer barrel does provide more time for the bullet to be accelerated by the burning gunpowder.  Longer pistol barrels will yield greater bullet velocities over shorter barreled guns.  However, an eight inch barrel will not stabilize the bullet any more than a six-inch barrel.

What really makes this gun so accurate is the distance from the front sight to the rear sight.  This distance is referred to as ‘sight radius’.  Guns with longer sight radii are inherently more accurate.  As you set your sights on a target, you center the front sight in the rear sight notch.  With a short sight radius, it is easier to be off-target as only a slight misalignment of the sights greatly affects the barrel angle.  With a longer sight radius, the same sight picture will mean much less angle movement of the barrel.  The 686 with an 8 3/8″ barrel has a near rifle-like 10 1/4″ sight radius.

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.357 Magnum with a loooong barrel.

Long barrel means greater bullet velocity, improved bullet stability, but most of all a long sight radius.  If you are really good, you can shoot well with any length barrel.  The long barrel just makes accuracy easier.


About krasinsk1 Big John Tutorials

I've been an active shooter, reloader and gunsmith for 30+ years. I hold a Bachelor's degree from Montana State University and a Master's degree from the University of Oregon. I enjoy studying, collecting and shooting just about every type and kind of firearm.
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4 Responses to Long barrel on a Smith & Wesson=Long range accuracy

  1. Tony Mina says:

    Where can I buy one?

    • bigjohnk99 says:

      I looked in The Smith & Wesson current catalog and they had not revolvers listed with the 8 3/8″ barrel. I’m afraid the used gun market may be your only option. I bought mine used.

  2. Kurt says:

    I have a Smith & Wesson 629 classic chambered in 44 mag with 8 3/8 barrel. Are you selling this 357 if so how much. Got a love those long barrels

  3. bigjohnk99 says:

    I just replaced those rubber grips with older original wood grips. I like the look and feel of the gun even more now. It’s not for sale. In fact, I’m looking to buy a 629 with an 8 3/8” barrel.

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