Gamo PR 776 vs. Umarex S&W 586
The “You Asked For It” Gun Test Part 1
By Dennis Adler
And we’re back. During the week off I have been looking into availability for a number of very interesting new CO2 models coming out this year, but I have recently been reminded by a few readers that there are some older CO2 models that are still exceptional and that should be written about in Airgun Experience. While older models that have been around for almost 20 years, they can be compared, not only to newer guns, but to each other. One such pair is two pellet-firing revolvers based on classic Smith & Wesson wheelgun designs, the Umarex S&W 586 and newer Gamo (S&W-inspired) PR 776. Both are rotary magazine pellet revolvers capable of 400 fps velocities and superb accuracy out to 10 meters with their 6-inch rifled steel barrels.
First I want to revisit the S&W licensed Umarex S&W Model 586-6. This hefty revolver is based on the centerfire S&W Model 586 Distinguished Combat Magnum, which was manufactured from 1981 to 1999. S&W and Umarex introduced the CO2 powered, pellet-firing versions just as the curtain came down on the .357 Magnum S&W model. The CO2 revolvers were made in matching 4-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch barrel lengths, and with high gloss black or nickel finishes, the latter designated as Model 686. (Originally the airguns had interchangeable barrels like a Dan Wesson centerfire model, and one could purchase different length barrels. Unfortunately these were discontinued in 2004 and today extra barrels are only available on the secondary market).
From the onset these were expensive air pistols with a pricey retail around $300 which, considering that the last suggested retail price for the .357 Magnum versions was $494 (now valued at $650 according to the Blue Book of Gun Values), made it a comparably high priced CO2 pistol back in 1999. But look what you got (and still get) for the money. Like a centerfire or rimfire S&W revolver, the airgun comes in an S&W blue molded carrying case with accessories. With the CO2 model you get two 10-shot rotary pellet magazines, a cleaning brush and takedown tool for removing the barrel. The 586 also has windage and elevation adjustable rear sights and interchangeable front ramped blade front sights in three different widths. And it has the balance and heft of the real centerfire pistol, weighing 45.4 ounces compared to 46.3 ounces for the .357 magnum. The centerfire model, by the way, was resurrected by S&W in 2012 as the S&W Classics Distinguished Combat Magnum (and retails for $839).
Handling the S&W Model 586 CO2 model
The S&W 586 is a grand old design that harkens back to the original S&W L Frame revolver, which was developed to provide a bit more heft and recoil management with .357 magnum rounds. The .357 magnum cartridge was developed by S&W in 1935 and up until the L Frame, either the lighter weight K Frame or larger N Frame had been used for the .357 magnum models; the L Frame would not be developed for another 45 years.
The Model 586 Distinguished Combat Magnum, which introduced the L Frame in 1980, is the model upon which this Umarex S&W CO2 pistol is based. The L Frame revolvers featured full lug barrels, red ramp front sight and white outline rear, a semi-target hammer, target trigger, and adjustable front and rear sights. In 1994 the grips were changed from walnut Goncalo Alves to contoured rubber synthetic grips, which was the design used on the CO2 model in 1999.
The Umarex S&W Model 586 has a very realistic look, almost no hint of being a CO2 pistol, with a full-size muzzle (the 4.5mm barrel is recessed 7/16ths of an inch). The barrel shroud bears the SMITH & WESSON name and the left side of the frame has the S&W trademark emblem under the cylinder latch thumb release. The only quick tells is the slightly elongated grips and the separation line between the swing out pellet cylinder magazine and the front of the fixed, narrow-fluted cylinder portion, cast within the frame. Except for the pellet magazine, the rest of the cylinder does not rotate (the cylinder bolt stop is actually at the right front of the pellet magazine instead of at the rear). The right side of the air pistol bears traditional safety warnings on the frame, the Umarex name, Made in Germany (one of the key quality features of this gun being built at the factory in Germany and not outsourced to Taiwan), and a proof mark. The barrel has the caliber markings, and the S&W license trademark is stamped on the barrel lug. Aside from the bold warning text, the rest of the markings look typical for a firearm.
This is a big revolver and not too much smaller than an N Frame magnum so there are advantage for accuracy; it is solid as a rock in your hand. It has a comparatively light double action trigger pull compared to a centerfire revolver, which makes it even more accurate with 4.5mm pellets, and a single action trigger press that is firm but deliberate. A short pull and the hammer drops. With a two-handed hold the 586 is a target pistol, just like its Distinguished Combat Magnum counterpart.
This CO2 model may have been around for almost 20 years but it has not lost its appeal. Would I like it more updated to pellet-loading cartridges from the 10-round rotary magazines? Certainly, but only if everything else remained the same and after this many years in production that’s not apt to happen. The next best choice is the smoothbore S&W Umarex Model 327 TRR8 with BB loading cartridges. However, for the sheer enjoyment of shooting for accuracy with a pellet firing wheelgun, the S&W 586 CO2 model is almost impossible to beat.
In Part 2, I’ll examine its newer (2016) Gamo counterpart, a slightly different and more affordable CO2 revolver with the same goal in mind.