Monday, December 15, 2014

Smith & Wesson 686 Project

This post is about a Smith & Wesson model 686-2 that I picked up for a very reasonable price. If you look at the pictures below you will understand why.

First a brief history on the 686 model and the options this gun has. The official name of this gun is "The .357 Distinguished Combat Magnum Stainless".
The model 686 is a stainless version of the 586, being built on the medium sized "L-frame". It is chambered in .357 Magnum, using a 6 chamber cylinder, a 4", full under-lug barrel, square butt with 10 groove serrations on the front and back strap. A .375 semi-target hammer, a .312 smooth combat trigger, an 1/8 red ramp front sight with adjustable rear blade (currently MIA). The grip panels are over-size target grips made from Goncalo Alves.
The 686 was introduced in 1980, to solve the problem of their K-frame .357 revolvers falling apart under heavy use. A larger, more robust frame was required.

The new L-frame is similar in size to the Colt Python/Trooper/Lawman guns and the Ruger GP100 (which came later).

Interestingly S&W was worried about their sales slipping when the GP100 was introduced in 1985, here is an add from 1988 attempting to slander the strength of the Ruger.
The 686-2 was produced for just one year: 1987, the same year that Lear Siegler sold S&W to the British firm, Tomkins PLC for $112 Million (a move Tomkins ended up regretting).

Here are the pictures of the gun as it came to me:

 Upon picking up the gun I immediately noticed two things: 1. the rear sight was missing and 2. it had a strange "rattle".
 Replacing the rear sight is an easy fix (although not a cheap one!)
 Without taking the gun apart I could identify the rattle. The bolt plunger spring (and possibly the plunger as well) are missing. The cylinder latch wiggles fore and aft, the spring & plunger are designed to keep positive pressure on the cylinder latch.
Upon deeper inspection I found the gun had been taken apart by an amateur. Note the tell-tale sign...the slightly buggered screw head. This might explain the missing plunger spring. Maybe the person who took it apart was trying to fix it or lost the spring when they took it apart.

So here are my plans:
  • find the correct rear sight 
  • install the proper bolt spring &/or plunger
  • inspect, clean and lube the internal parts
  • fix the buggered screw head
  • polish the gun to a high shine
  • Install a set of Hogue grips and put the originals away for safe keeping
  • shoot and enjoy the gun
Here is what the gun's innards looked like when I took it apart
This what it should look like, note the area circled in red

After taking the gun apart, This is what I found, the bolt plunger spring was there, but the bolt plunger was MIA

 Thanks to Gun Parts Corp, I was able secure a new bolt plunger right away.
The bolt plunger came in a tiny plastic bag, I installed it immediately, partly out of fear of misplacing such a small part

Put the small end of the spring over the plunger, this will keep it from sliding off.
 Reassembly is assisted by the Wheeler Engineering S&W Trigger return spring tool
Then we begin polishing the metal, removing scratches and making the gun shine. I start with 600 grit W/D sand paper and work my way up to 2000 grit, then start with the Mother's polish.
While working on the polishing, I scored this rear sight on ebay
Screw head fixed

When measuring for the sight I found out that the early 686 models used the same rear sight as the K-frame guns. The later ones changed the distance from the rear sight adjustment screw and the smaller front screw. Mine measured 1 3/4" (1.74") from center to center. The other three holes are for a scope mount.

 Sight installed
 I added a Hogue grip, now it's time to go shooting!

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