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The beautiful medium-size Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 686 6-round/7-round .357 Magnum/.38 S&W Special +P is a stainless-steel revolver that debuted in 1981. This single-action/double-action (SA/DA) gun is part of Smith & Wesson’s medium L-Frame lineup. It has three variants with differing barrel lengths, capacity, sights, grips and other salient details.

The Performance Center moniker is engraved by the muzzle. It indicates these guns feature hand-cutting and fitting for the highest quality craftsmanship and highest performance within the Smith & Wesson pantheon of products. And Smith & Wesson wants you to show off what you have, so “Performance Center” appears on the modified logos of which there are four: two on either side of the frame and grip.

The smallest of the three is the Performance Center Model 686 Combat Magnum with the 2.5” length precision crowned barrel. This beauty has a glass bead finish stainless-steel frame, stainless-steel barrel and stainless-steel cylinder. The cylinder is cut for moon clips, which factory ship with the gun.

In front is a nicely visible red dot ramp front sight dovetailed into the integral sight base. In back is an adjustable rectangular-notched sight S&W uses on many other revolvers. Also, there is a chromed teardrop hammer. The custom wood grip has a beautiful grain, the famed Smith & Wesson logo, texturing, three finger recesses and a gently curved butt. Capacity is 7 rounds, and it has a smooth unfluted cylinder.

The trigger is chromed and backed by a trigger stop. Trigger pull is 3.5 to 4.5 pounds for single-action and 10 pounds for double-action.

Next is the 4” barrel model. It’s 9.5” overall and weighs 38.1 ounces. Normally Smith & Wesson varies the barrel length and sometimes the grip and/or sights from one SKU to the next under the same Model designation. But for the 686, it also the sights, barrel vent and more.

In front, this revolver has a big block orange front sight that’s interchangeable for other colors. It’s pinned into the frame instead of dovetailed. You can’t miss the orange block helping assure you won’t miss with it either. The ribbed and vented barrel is a beautiful piece of engineering.

Moving down, the cylinder has a 6-round capacity. Behind it is a Performance Center speed release thumbpiece. This release is larger, easier to hit and has a lighter engagement pressure than normal thumbpieces, all of which combine to make for much faster cylinder openings.

The 686 has a raised bump black synthetic grip with three finger recesses. The grip’s butt is gently curved along the bottom. It has the Smith & Wesson logo embossed (in black) on either side.

The third SKU has the 5” barrel. It’s essentially like the 4” barrel gun except it has a 7-round cylinder, overall length is 10.6”, and it weighs 39.3 ounces.

The medium-size Smith & Wesson Model 686 6-round .357 Magnum/.38 S&W Special +P revolver is made in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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