Need some advice

Discussion in 'Centerfire Pistols & Revolvers' started by rowdyredneck, Jul 28, 2005.

  1. rowdyredneck

    rowdyredneck New Member

    Jul 28, 2005
    Hi, I just joined and I'm looking for a little advice. About six or seven years ago I bought a used Smith and Wesson 686 .357 magnum with a 4 inch barrel. I've shot maybe 8 boxes of shells over the years and I've been very dissapointed with its accuracy, or lack of for a better term. I also have a Ruger Super Single Six .22 with a 6 1/2" barrel that puts the S&W to shame in terms of accuracy. I have shot equally .38 Special and .357 Magnum and I can't seem to get a decent pattern with either load. The gun seems to hit consistently low even though I have adjusted the sights as far as possible to compensate and the pattern is scattered all over with no decent grouping. I shoot from about 20 yards.
    How much does barrel length affect accuracy, and what is a decent accuracy range to be expected from this gun? I was fairly inexperienced with handguns when I bought it and the shop owner told me barrel length doesn't affect accuracy or range (which I don't think is correct). I'm very happy with my Ruger .22 but I've always been dissapointed with my S&W. Would a longer barrel improve accuracy considerably? I'm thinking of either trading towards another .357 with a 6 inch barrel, or else trading towards a Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Mag. What kind of accuracy could I expect with either of these guns? Is there any lighter load I could shoot in the .44 to lessen the blast for longer shooting sessions? And what's a ballpark figure on the value of my 686? It has rubber Pachymar grips, I don't have the originals since it came with these. I paid $260 for it when I bought it and its still in very good condition.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2005
  2. Welcome to our nightmare, rowdyredneck. :)

    You say your S&W hits low but you don't say what bullet weight you are shooting. If you are shooting light bullets [110 or 125 gr] you might try heavier bullets [130 to 158 gr] as light bullets will shoot lower than heavy ones.

    Have you slugged the bore and chambers? If the bore and the chamber throats in the cylinder are different sizes then you will get poor accuracy.

    Barrel length can affect accuracy by increasing the sight radius of the gun which reduces sighting errors. The longer barrel can increase long-range accuracy by increasing velocity which flattens trajectory. But a longer barrel, in and of itself, is no guarantee of better accuracy.

  3. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA
    Your S&W revoler is abnormal. I have several in 357, 44 mag, 41 mag in both 4 inch barrels and 6 inch barrels. Except for the added accuracy due to a longer sight radius, all shoot well and accurately. I personally prefer the 4 inch vareity S&W's as the handling is a little better with the shorter barrel. In fact I put the 4 inch barrel on my 44 mag for that very reason and saw little change in the accuracy. Normally S&W revolers are sweethearts, shooting well, handling well, with excellent triggers, and with excellent accuracy beating out almost any semiauto you can name. I'd say either get another new one or send the gun to S&W for an overhaul with an evaluation for accuracy. A new gun might be the cheaper route if they want you to pay for a new barrel.

    As for expected accuracy, off the bench at 50 feet mine will produce one to two inch five shoot groups or better all day if I do my part. These are accurate handguns!

    I shoot 357 medium loads in the the 357, 44 special loads in 44 mag brass in the 44 mag, and 1000FPS loads in the 41 mag with 210 grain bullets. All my loads are reasonalbe and no where near max. I do avoid 38 spl cartridges as they build up a ring of fowling in the cylinders making shooting 357 again troublesome.

    Don't give up on S&W revolvers as they are really neat guns. You just got a bad one, probably well worn from the previous owner. Your particular model is probably the best of the best for S&W revolvers or at least that is my experience.

  4. 22WRF

    22WRF Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2004
    I own several Smith's in.357. and 38 Spl. 4", 5" and 6" barrels.
    At 20 yards barrel lengths don't make much difference.
    One of my best shooters a Mdl 19 4" will shoot 2" groups at 20 yrds.
    I have to go with the loads your shooting not the gun.
    148/158 gr with a light to medium will shoot will shoot the best.
    For the range I load 2.8 to 3.4 grs of bullseye and wadcutters.

    When you say no decent grouping is this from bench rest or just off hand?
  5. rowdyredneck

    rowdyredneck New Member

    Jul 28, 2005
    I've shot various bullet weights over the years. Right now the .357 loads I have are hollow point 110 grain. I don't remember what I was using before this box but I know they were solid jacketed bullets most likely around 130 grains. I have a few different boxes of .38 special ranging from 130 to 150 grains. I don't recall ever seeing much if any difference in terms of accuracy with the different weights even with the heavier .357 bullets; I usually shoot more .38 special. I normally shoot without a rest using both hands to hold the gun in a normal grip. I've always shot my .22 revolver this way and have had pretty good results. The grouping with the 686 is all over the place, most hit low and some miss the target completely and there is no real pattern, its just hit and miss. The rifling appears to be in good condition, so I don't know if I'm just a really bad shot or if this gun is plain worn out because my Ruger .22 is much, much more accurate. I'm going to try shooting with a rest this weekend and see if I can get any better results.
  6. inplanotx

    inplanotx Active Member

    Jan 28, 2002
    If you are consistantly hitting low, you are "heeling" the gun. This is anticipation of the recoil. With this, you are pushing the butt of the gun and down just as you pull the trigger. This will ultimately give you consistantly low shots.

    Want to break yourself of the habit? Have a friend go with you to the range. Let him load the gun each time so you cannot see what he loads. Make sure he skips some cylinders when he loads it for you. As you go through a cylinder full, keep a clear watch as to what you are doing as you pull the trigger.

    My bet is that you will be firing the gun while pushing on the butt of the revolver.


    Good luck.
  7. rowdyredneck

    rowdyredneck New Member

    Jul 28, 2005
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! :D I'm more into shooting rifles and it never occured to me I might be flinching as I pull the trigger because I never noticed myself doing it. This morning I took the 686 out and improvised a solid rest. I used a block of wood under the trigger guard and placed the butt of the gun solid against the bench so there was little chance of it moving. The target was a piece of cardboard I drew a 6" circle on and I was shooting from exactly 20 yards. The results were much better, all but one shot landed inside the circle. I shot 12 rounds, the holes marked with the X's are Winchester 150 grain .38 special which all placed within the circle. The six umarked holes are Winchester 110 grain hollow point .357 mag. The grouping was tighter on the .357 loads but they all hit slightly low. My sights are adjusted to the max to correct elevation, I never even touched them when firing both groups. It looks like most of my problem is shooter error, so I really need to work on the flinching. Would a heavier .357 bullet hit higher on the target?
  8. stash247

    stash247 New Member

    Oct 18, 2003
    Central Texas
    Yes. The revolver begins to recoil as soon as the bullet starts to move; it's barrel time is what effects elevation/ POI most, Since the lighter bullet accererates/leaves the muzzle faster, it does so with the muzzle in a lower attitude: the lower group.
    Us old, poor folks, with fixed sights, adjust the POI with load, since we can't, with the sights. Try the 140 Gr .357 load; it oughta put you close to center!
    Personally, the load that groups best is "the load", and I adjust technique, i.e., "hold over", to adjust POI.
  9. inplanotx

    inplanotx Active Member

    Jan 28, 2002
    Yup, what Terry said. Glad to have helped. Now, take a friend and have him load the gun with both real loads and used brass so that you do not know which is which and you will immediately see what you are doing. Glad you got her fixed! Good shootin, by the way! :)
  10. redtail

    redtail New Member

    Aug 4, 2005
    confidence in your weapon must have something to do with it. I bought my first handgun about a week ago, an elcheepo EAA 45. At first I couldn't hit the barn but with some pratice I could hit about a one foot circle shooting 20 yds at a 3" circle. After 300 rnds they were still all over the place and I was begining to get discouraged thinking the gun wouldn't shoot straight. After reading this post I went out and put the gun on a bench, (nothing under the trigger,just setting the butt on the bench),fired 10 rnds at 20 yds which all went in about a 4" circle. Stood up, loaded the clip,fired 10 rnds. 8 went in a 6" circle and 5 was in the 3" circle. Now I need something that won't jam.
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