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I have been thinking about this for awhile now ever since I retired. My first and only EDC was a ruger SP101 357mag 2.25 that I bought when they first came out. I carried it every day in a alessi talon IWB holster at 3:30 to 4:00 and was starting to get heavy(er) and was starting to bother my back. Then about 2 years ago I won a LCR 357 at a gun bash now its my new (lighter) EDC in a side guard quick clip holster in AIWB. Well anyway I guess you could say I kinda like revolvers ( I do have a few others ) but always something with more then 5 shots in 357mag. The 686+ seem to fit what I'm looking for witch is HD and a walking in the woods gun. My questions are what barrel length, 3"or 4" would be a better choice and what is a good price range to look for. MSRP is $849
 

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Looking at the S&W web site, you seem to be about $200 low on the MSRP, but they usually are discounted by the private gun shops. I think I paid about $725 for the last one, last November, before the panic. The gun forums indicate they are rather scarce at local shops nowadays.

I have the 4", 3" and 2.5"; the 4" is just too large for everyday CC but works fine under a winter coat. The 4" is also more accurate for me and rather softer with magnum loads. +P seem about the same in all three.

YMMV.
 

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Mine with the round butt and the 2.5" barrel is easily carried and concealed. I think they are in the $700 price range now. I have had mine about 6 years now and the price was less by a few bucks as I recall. If I were buying one now I'd want the 4" barrel for my purposes. It's hard to go wrong with a 686.
 

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Popped the cherry on this sweety today. I went with the 3" because it's easier to carry and more rare. I have a 4" SP101 so that base was covered. The 3" shot great groups out of the box. All that being said, I still prefer the SP101 due to saving 10-12oz.
 

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I love revolvers and own several including an SP101 which is my only shiny revolver. One of my favorites is the 586. I love the bluing and the full underlug of the 586. You can't go wrong with any version of the 586 or 686.
 

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I have the 686+ in 2.5, 3 and 4" barrels. (I have a SW Revolver problem).

If the role is HD and "Walking in the Woods" gun, I'm assuming that it will not be your EDC. If that is the case, I'd go with the 4" barrel. The 686+ in 4" is what I use for HD. It is simply a wonderful revolver.

If you can find one used you might be able to knock a $100 off the price. Most retail prices are around $720 - $760 + Tax (but that is in Georgia).

If I recall correctly, the current 686's have a new grip that covers the backstrap, and it slightly increases the length of pull. It's too much for me. But you can still buy the old Hogue's that expose the backstrap, or better yet a nice set of Ahrend's retro combats to pretty it up.

I know I'm getting ahead of you, but here are two grips I highly recommend - the pic is not great, it was to show my tung oil refinishing job compared to poly finished grips, but you'll get the idea. On this 686+ are a pair of Ahrend's retro combat stocks finished in tung oil. Next to it is a Round Butt Finger Groove stock with a poly finish. Both are very good.

I have found my 686+ 4" to be a very accurate revolver.

 

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The 686 4" is an awesome shooting revolver. Perfect balance, sight radius, recoil etc. I love this gun! A bit large for every day carry though....
 

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I really like the 686. I couldn't decide if I wanted the 4" or 3", so I bought both. The grips on the 3" is a nice wood with finger grooves and exposed backstrap. The 4" came with a synthetic grip that covers the backstrap, and it does make the trigger just a hair out of comfortable reach for me, as I have small hands. I will be replacing the grip with a nice aftermarket one, which will make it more functional and much prettier. I will say if I could only have one of them, I would have chosen the 4" model. I'm glad I didn't have to settle for just one, because I also really like the 3". I know that doesn't help you decide which one to get, sorry about that.
 

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I have a 686+ with a 2.5" barrel. Sweet gun get the rigth holster and you're good to go.
As a woods gun ! would go with the 4" barrel.
 

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Since it won't be for CC, I'd go with the 4". I think 4" is about the perfect length barrel for a K/L frame that will be a general use gun, balances well and tames those .357s just fine. That being said, if the SP101 was too heavy for you and you plan on carrying this for long periods in the woods, I don't think the 686 will do your back any favors either. I'm not sure what they're running for new ones these days, I picked up a lightly used 4" 686+ for $600 last year, the cheapest I've seen one in recent memory was (I think) $550.
 
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