Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Umarex Smith and Wesson 686

After the Beretta 92FS and the Walther PPQ, I decided to try two more CO2 airguns that had a great reputation for accuracy. The Umarex Smith and Wesson 586 and 686 revolvers were said to be as good as many target pistols, so they formed option #1.

The only difference between the 586 and the 686 models is that the latter has a nickel body. These revolvers used to come with several barrel sizes and you could even buy the barrels separately to exchange them, but these days only the 4" and 6" versions of the 586 can be found and the 686 only comes in a 6" version, with its 6" barrel also available separately (I wonder why). I picked the 686 because I liked how the nickel contrasted with the black grips and clip, but other than this aspect, I am not aware of any essential differences between these models, so this review will apply just as well to the 586 model.

Operation

The Umarex pistols are revolvers in disguise and thus their operation differs significantly from the firearms they copy. The Smith and Wesson revolvers do not have such problem. The only important difference is that instead of a full cylinder, these replicas use a rotating clip that masks as the front part of the cylinder (and doesn't mask too well on the 686, because the clips are black). The rear part of the cylinder is fixed and its only purpose is to mimic the look of the cylinder.

There is no safety on these revolvers, so it is better to perform the CO2 loading without a clip inserted. To reveal the CO2 compartment, open the lever at the bottom of the grip and then pull out the right grip. The CO2 mechanism is similar to that of the Beretta 92FS. There is a retainer screw that needs to be unscrewed before inserting the gas cylinder. Once that is done, oil the tip of a CO2 powerlet, insert it into the compartment, and tighten back the screw without exerting any force - you are just trying to secure the powerlet, not to pierce it. Once this is done, place back the right grip and then firmly push close the bottom lever - this will pierce the CO2 cylinder. This piercing part is trickier than on the Beretta - I found the grip lever to be harder to close quickly and I even managed to be slow enough in doing it that I once wasted two gas capsules. Just hold the grip tightly with one hand and then press the lever firmly with the other until it snaps shut.

With the CO2 loaded, the next step is to load a clip. Again, I remind you that there is no safety, so stay away from the trigger during this operation. The S&W 686 mimics a swing out cylinder loading mechanism - the clip needs to be loaded on an arm that is unlocked by pushing a lever behind the left side of the cylinder. Swing that arm out all the way, then slide the clip on it and close it back. The revolver is now ready to shoot.

The 686 works either in double action by directly pulling the trigger or in single action, by cocking the hammer and then pulling the trigger.

Package and build

The Smith and Wesson 686 came in a larger plastic case than that of the Beretta 92FS and this is not only because the 686 is a larger airgun, but because there is a lot of space inside. The case feels slightly sturdier than that of the Beretta, but is still not as solid as a Plano case. As usual with Umarex replica cases, the S&W logo is nicely etched on the front of this case. The foam inside is already cut to offer a lot of storage inserts - I am not even sure what they are all meant to hold, but it is better to have more storage options than less. Unlike with the Beretta case, the foam inside the S&W case is glued to it - I like to store the airgun papers under the foam, but I cannot do that here. A manual, a warranty card, safety rules, and a Umarex brochure come in the case. There are also a few accessories - two clips, two front sights of different widths, a barrel removal key, and a barrel cleaning brush.

As usual for the high end Umarex replicas, this airgun is mostly made of metal - the main exceptions are the plastic front sight and the rubber grips.

The plastic front sights are a nice idea. The gun comes with one sight mounted and two others of different widths are included as customization alternatives. I found the one that was mounted to be of the right width for me, but others may find one of the other two alternatives to work better for them.

I liked the intention of these sights but they also happen to generate my only trouble with this gun. One problem is that their base is wider than the metal slot where they were supposed to fit over the barrel, so they cannot be attached in a straight position and instead they end up sitting tilted to one side or the other. This is not what I expected from German manufacturing. I had to remove the sight piece and file the edges of its base, to get it to sit flush with the barrel. Another problem is that the sight is long, is not made of very rigid plastic, and is attached by a single screw - the result is that it moves slightly when touched - this contrasts unpleasantly with the otherwise very solid feel of this airgun. There is no operational impact, however, and this is a much shorter list of issues than I had with the Beretta 92FS.

Front sight aside, the 686 is very solidly built and looks very nice, even better than the Beretta. It is also a very large gun and thus it is quite heavy too.

The clips deserve a bit of commentary as well. They are very solid and heavy and their size permits housing 10 pellets. They only come in black, so there is no nickel version to match the 686, but I actually like the contrast they make with the body of the 686 - they act as a cylinder accent. On the Beretta/Walther style of clips, the ratchet teeth are extending from the clip body, but in these S&W clips, those teeth are recessed, which is very convenient because you can store more than a pair of clips in contact with each other without having any contact (and wear) between those teeth.

Also, many online reviews mentioned that the extra clips that Umarex sells are actually having larger pellet holes than the clips that came with the revolver. If that was an issue at some point, it appears that it has now been resolved - I have seen no difference between the original clips and the extra set I purchased - they are identical.

Adjustable settings

I have already mentioned that the front sights can be changed to adjust their width. In a nice change of pace from the Umarex pistols, the 686 rear sight can now be adjusted for elevation as well as for windage. The adjustments are done by turning a couple of screws, so they can be done with more precision than on many other airguns.

Performance

The 686 behaves very differently from the Beretta and Walther pistols when it comes to CO2 consumption. It seems to regulate the use of CO2 much better, so it keeps almost constant power for 50 shots (5 clips), after which the power will drop abruptly. The first time I used it, I fired 6 clips and about halfway through the 6th one I felt the power dropping severely, so now I stop after 5 clips.

The better CO2 use regulation leads to shots being more powerful than with the Beretta/Walther, so they cut cleaner holes in paper targets and they are louder as well. The 686 is distinctly louder than the other CO2 airguns and in fact it might be the loudest airgun I have.

The sights, with all the adjustments available, are among the best sights I used.

This revolver is indeed very accurate. It lives to the reputation of being as accurate as a target pistol. Only its size and weight prevent me from shooting it as accurately as a target pistol, but without doubt, this is one of the most accurate airguns I have.

Special praise needs to be given to the trigger action. I expected it to be smooth and crisp in single action, but I was very surprised about how nicely the double action worked - it is both light and crisp, so this may well be the best double action available in any airgun pistol or revolver.

Conclusion

The Smith and Wesson 686 sets the standard by which CO2 airguns should be judged. Front sight nitpicking aside, it offers a superb build and operation coupled with excellent accuracy. I would only caution about its size - it could be found to be too large and heavy to use comfortably, but if that is not an issue, I cannot see why anyone would be disappointed with this revolver.

PS: Do you remember that at the beginning of the review I mentioned trying two CO2 airguns? Well, the other one is the Crosman 3576W, which I will review soon - I also plan to compare the two in a separate post.

3 comments:

  1. a fair review i would say but try the 8 inch its got even more clout and accuracy !

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    Replies
    1. Sadly, the 8" version is no longer available here in US, but this 6" version is still very good and I think it strikes a good balance in terms of size.

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  2. Sadly it's not available in 8" here in the u.k. Either I'm lucky enough to own one but my brother couldn't find one anywhere I think production has stopped in 8 " .

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