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Hey Gun Owners: Better .357 revolver... S&W 686 or Ruger GP100


Howdy. I know there are several of you who post on this site who own several guns who know far more about them than me. Although I have a couple semi-auto pistols, I am wanting to add a revolver to my collection and for my shooting fun. Without even knowing about the passionate debate about these two guns, I narrowed it down to the S&W 686 and Ruger GP100. I plan on purchasing either the 2.5" or 3" barrel gun on whichever one I decide. So far, I like the looks of the S&W, but the Ruger is more friendly on the wallet. I have also read online about how Rugers are built like a tank. I have yet to hold either firearm, and doing so will play into my decision. I guess what I am asking: do any of you out there have a strong opinion either way about the better of these two firearms and what made you form this opinion? Has anyone out there shot both, and which one did you like better and why?

I know several of you are avid gun owners and I would love to hear your opinion either way. I know you won't let me down.


RoeDapple 6 years, 6 months ago

Take a trip to the gun dealer. Decide which one feels most comfortable to you. Can you arrange to fire one of each before buying? Although I prefer Colt firearms I have owned/do own Smiths and Rugers. Personally I find the release for the cylinder more natural on the S&W, a critical feature if a fast reload is needed.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 6 months ago

A couple of years ago, I bought an 80s vintage S&W 686. It has a smoother trigger pull than any other revolver I've ever shot. Don't know if the modern versions are as good. Never fired a GP100. My Ruger Security Six is a darned good sidearm.

motoadventure 6 years, 6 months ago

It comes down to which one you like better. Unless you want to change them, trigger, sights, and grip are the important parts, in that order IMO.

Personally, I'm a Dan Wesson fan. They have interchangeable barrels, so you can have one pistol with barrels ranging from 2 1/2" to 15" and small grips for carry or larger comfortable grips for target shooting/plinking. A Dan Wesson with a 6" and the full lug is very comfortable shooting .357 all afternoon, which isn't as fun with a snub-nosed revolver. Parts and barrels are still made and available.

At gun shows you'll find a DW for $300-375 in decent shape, around $400 for a nice one. More money if you are after a pistol pack with multiple barrels.

But back to your two choices, I'd always wanted a GP and they feel good in the hand, but haven't shot one. As for the Smith, it's been ten years since I shot one (a 586), so I'm no real help there. I can do this though:



RoeDapple 6 years, 6 months ago

The Colt Python is an extremely well made revolver but I wouldn't recommend it for someone wanting a "shooter". Not manufactured since 1996, I recently saw one advertised (a stainless steel, 3 in. barreled one) for $4500. When I had mine they retailed new for $699.

dcap 6 years, 6 months ago

I purchased a Taurus Tracker .357 revolver few years ago at Cabelas for $399, and I have been ver satisfied. Once if the big advantages of .357 is that you can also shoot the much less expensive .38 Special rounds. The Taurus is great! The revolver has a recoil reduction mechanism that makes it very easy to shoot. A lot of older people I have talked to have had bad expierences with .357, but they all like my pistol. Even my sister has shot it, and says its not bad. Shop around and consider Taurus.

labmonkey 6 years, 6 months ago

A couple things.... I plan on purchasing new so in a way, I am helping someone keep their job, and if you have seen my previous posts, you know the one thing I get on my soapbox about is buying American. Price is also a consideration as I do not want to get divorced :) That is why I have narrowed it down to these two (without even realizing there is a Chevy vs. Ford type debate about them). When I wrote the blog post, I was leaning toward S&W because I thought it was the better looking gun, but after some reading and talking with a couple friends who have owned many, many guns, they both recommended the Ruger as they have said S&W's quality control has gone downhill in the last five years and the Ruger was built to take unlimited shooting using the .357 (although I have a feeling I will shoot .38 more as that ammo is much cheaper). Now I am kind of back to square one.

KSWingman 6 years, 6 months ago


I carried a 686, like it a lot. Smooth double action trigger, excellent balance with a 4" barrel. I prefer the S&W cylinder release to Ruger or Colt.

I would feel properly armed with either weapon. I agree that you need to handle both, and shoot them both if possible. You'll find aftermarket grips that will suit your needs.

One additional thing to take into account: the new 686 is a seven shot revolver, while the GP100 holds the traditional six. HKS makes speedloaders for the 7 shot L frame revolver.

beatrice 6 years, 6 months ago

While I know virtually nothing about guns and can't contribute in a positive way to the conversation, I saw an exhibition of firearms recently at Phoenix Art Museum that you might find of interest. Pretty amazing work. http://www.phxart.org/exhibition/RayWielgusTheArtofEngravedFirearms.php

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 6 months ago

Go see what fits best in your hand and then choose based on that and whatever ammunition is most available (in general). I've thought about the exact same thing for next time I go hiking around in Colorado but I haven't gotten around to buying or hiking yet.

RoeDapple 6 years, 6 months ago

"While I know virtually nothing about guns and can't contribute in a positive way to the conversation . . "

bea, . .

You just did!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 6 months ago

For most of us, the longer the sight radius is on a handgun (the distance from the rear sight to the front sight) the more accurately it can be aimed. You'll probably shoot a revolver with a 6" barrel much more accurately than the same type revolver with a 3" barrel. That's all figuring things within reasonable limits. Your mileage may vary. (from a source)

Tom McCune 6 years, 6 months ago


I actually have both of the models you mention. I prefer the Smith. The action is a little smoother and the loading is a little better. But both both of mine are a few years old, and newer models may have different quality.

Abdu Omar 6 years, 6 months ago

Over the years, I have found a high powered gun becomes cumbersome to shoot at targets. A .357 is a powerful gun. I have a Walthers PPK .380 and it is easy to shoot, doesn't cost an arm and a leg for ammo and is a nice looking gun. Mine has been fired a lot and I enjoy it because it is easy to handle.

labmonkey 6 years, 6 months ago

I have a 9mm Glock 17 and a S&W .380 Bodyguard.... I wanted to add a revolver to my little gun collection and a .357 has the versatility of shooting .357, .38 specials, and .38 special P.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 6 months ago

White Box Winchester .38 Specials are the most affordable practice ammo that I've found. If you shoot Specials a lot in a .357 be sure to scrub the cylinder clean on a regular basis to make sure .357s will still chamber and extract without problems.

labmonkey 6 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the advice about keeping the chamber clean... I guess I will have to be more vigilant about keeping it clean than my Glock (which I only clean about twice a year).

RoeDapple 6 years, 6 months ago

I cast my own semi-wadcutters (50% wheelweight/50% linotype) and can load 50 rounds for (well) under $5. That's especially helpful with the .44 mag

saoirseglen 6 years, 6 months ago

My personal opinion is that Ruger firearms fit my hands better than Smith & Wesson ones. They also fit the other characteristics of my fingers and palms better. I also like the more affordable price of Ruger over Smith & Wesson.

With equal length barrels and cylinder capacity I would strongly recommend that you try an example of both with both hands. You need to figure out for yourself which one fits your hand and finger measurements and feels more comfortable when held. If the ergonomics are off, you could purchase aftermarket grips to remedy that, but it is still important to have something that fits your hands well and feels comfortable starting out. Secondly, figure out if the balance of the revolver feels good to you or if it is too heavy. Granted, with .357 Magnum loads you will want weight to reduce the amount of recoil you feel when firing, but if the firearm is too heavy you may not practice with it much, just as if it is too light it will recoil too much and not be as pleasant to practice with.

Quality speaking, both manufacturers make great products historically. That being said, I like the transfer bar safety that Ruger has on most of their revolvers in case the revolver is dropped and the hammer is struck while it is in the fully down position it will not fire. I also like having a rugged firearm that is not too expensive to purchase new or used.

RoeDapple 6 years, 6 months ago

lab - A friend once fired 5 shots from his .308 Winchester (no scope) at a milk jug filled with water without hitting it. I had a Ruger Security Six with 4 in. barrel at the time and told him to step out of the way. He laughed and said I would never hit it. On the second shot it exploded from a direct hit. I miss that old Ruger . . .

riverdrifter 6 years, 6 months ago

You hit it from 250 yards with a handgun? Even a blind sow...

RoeDapple 6 years, 6 months ago

Yup . . . but that was twenty years ago. Probably couldn't get close now! ;-)

RoeDapple 6 years, 6 months ago

That there blind sow helped me out often back a few years ago. Haven't seen her too much in recent years . . .

jaywalker 6 years, 6 months ago

It's the Ruger for me, but I reckon that has to do w/ comfortability w/ the grip more than anything else. Just a more level and accurate weapon for me personally.

oldvet 6 years, 6 months ago

I have the Smith 686 Stainless with a 2 1/2 and it is a great gun. Heavy enought to absorb the recoil, comfortable for shooting. I use .38s for casual plinking and the .357s just to keep up with the recoil difference and for defense. It is a bit heavy to use as a CC weapon except with a good solid holster and during the winter when a jacket can be used so that it is not noticeable. In the summer I use a J-frame Model 36 and .38+P. But my favorite is still the .45. Like the 686, it requires a solid holster and a jacket to conceal.

labmonkey 6 years, 6 months ago

Roe... I can't even see 250 yards looking through the open sights on my Nagant (anything over 150 yards I better just have my old Remington 700 30.06 with scope)... so a handgun is out of the question for me. I did fire a Taurus .460 once... hit the beer can from 50 yards away with the first shot. I think the owner of the gun was going to take it to Texas and go hog hunting with it.

labmonkey 6 years, 6 months ago


I think I am leaning toward the Ruger now after research (S&W's quality control issues and Ruger's customer service is second to none), and the kicker will probably be the $225 price difference.

Liberty275 6 years, 6 months ago

I had a wicked .357 back in my younger days, all nice and stainless. So I'm a little biased.

The SW seemed to me to be the heavier pistol, therefore more durable. Also the SW looked more modern. The Rugers always looked a little cowboyish.

That was 20 years ago. Maybe it's different today. I know I'd rather nice .45 auto than either the ruger of sw.

oldvet 6 years, 6 months ago

Plenty of good used 1911s out there and the design is as dependable as ever, as proven over 100 years. For a defense weapon, you can even buy a new one reasonable, you don't need all of the fancy sights, grips or lasers on a good, solid defense weapon. Ammo is plentiful and cheap so that you can practice a lot. And if you really want a high-capacity .45, look at the Springfield XD - 14 rounds of .45 available in a 13 double-stack magazine +1.

labmonkey 6 years, 6 months ago

If this was 15 years ago, I would probably get the S&W... but I have had four gun-nut people I know pretty much tell me the same thing if I am buying new... the S&W is a better looking gun, but the Ruger was built to handle constant shooting of the .357 rounds and it is hard to break them.

I already have two semi-autos and I just wanted a revolver. I don't carry (and if I ever do, I will probably just carry my little .380 Bodyguard) and shoot for pleasure/practice at the Bullet Hole or my parents' farm. I have plenty of rifles for my parents' farm, but wanted a little more variety for the Bullet Hole.... hence a revolver.

puddleglum 6 years, 5 months ago

my opinion: The smith has a superior trigger, a 686 with 80's wood grips is the best, I dont like the newer rubber form fit grips...I like ruger's current line of handguns better than current smith production. you must purchase a custom shop smith if you are expecting quality that matches their 80's and earlier quality. buy a nice clean older 686 K frame and go to town...if you must buy a new one, buy the ruger.

facts: ruger makes a superior finish, which will outlast the quality of any era S&W ...blued or stainless. the new smith stainless finish comes with factory scratches! awful. The ruger is a better deal, if buying new. I own two 686 4" smiths, a GP. and an SP101, which I like a lot. local pawn shop on 6th st carries all of these guns, they have an older 686 for $399. and several of the new 7 shot smiths $650. I forget what the GP sells for new, depends on stainless vs. blued finish. SP101 sells for about $479 new or maybe a lil less.

buy american, buy local

RoeDapple 6 years, 5 months ago

labmonkey - "I have had four gun-nut people I know pretty much tell me the same thing if I am buying new"

Ouch! I prefer "weapons enthusiast". "Gun-nut" sounds so negative . . . ;-)

labmonkey 6 years, 5 months ago

I aspire to be a gun-nut... so I meant no negativity :)

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