S&W 586 & 686 pellet guns – Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
Wayne asked for this report on the S&W 586, though I think you will see (from the comments we’re bound to receive) that a lot of readers either already own this gun or have seriously thought about it. When it was first rumored (early 1998) that Umarex was creating this revolver, I was excited because I’d tested their earlier pistols and found them excellent. If they put the same thought and care into the 586 platform, the results had to be good!
As good as their word!
In November 1998, a friend who worked at Smith & Wesson brought me an advance production model of the black-finished 586 with 6″ barrel, and I saw that Umarex had outdone themselves. This was their finest replica CO2 handgun ever–a position it retains to this day, in my opinion.
Very close to the firearm it copies
Let’s start our analysis with the prototype S&W 586 revolver in .357 caliber. I’ll lump together the 686 and the 586 because the two are identical except for the steel they’re made of (the 686 is stainless). The 586 has S&W’s L-sized frame (medium-sized) with the K-sized grip (small). That makes a rugged magnum revolver that’s easier for most shooters to hold. By swapping grip panels, they can size the gun to personal tastes over a broad range of hand sizes.
IN MY OPINION, the 586 is second only to a Colt Python as the finest .357 double-action revolver in the world. I won’t get into all the rationale behind that opinion, but I’ve thought about things like the smaller and more compact Model 19 which is even easier to handle but is not as rugged with full-house .357 ammo. Your opinion may differ, of course. But regardless of who you are, everyone who enjoys a modern double-action revolver thinks pretty highly of the S&W 586.
Two signature features of the 586 firearm revolver are a smooth double-action trigger-pull and a super-crisp single-action pull. Only the Colt Python is better, and not by that much. I was delighted to discover that the 586 airgun had an even better double-action trigger-pull than the .357, and a single-action pull with only a trifle of creep. Among non-10-meter air pistols, it has few equals, although the Crosman Mark I and II pistols might be two.
I have owned at least one 686 firearm, and possibly more that I can’t remember. Being stainless, the 686 revolver didn’t interest me as much as a 586 would have, and I parted with it some years ago. But not before verifying that it shot as well as any S&W .357, which is to say very good, indeed.
I bought one of the first 6″ 586 pellet pistols to be sold by S&W. The starting MSRP price was high–about $230 in 1998. The street price was more relaxed, at about $190. That initial price pitted the revolver against the Walther CP88, the Colt M1911A1 and the SIG CP225 (which were also made by Umarex and each selling for much less). I believe that slowed the initial acceptance, and the gun never recovered.
The revolver is a 10-shot true revolver with a swing-out cylinder/clip that comes off the crane for loading. The .177 pellets are much smaller than .357 rounds, so more care must be taken to load them right. Although the cylinder swings out to the side on a real crane, it isn’t as long as a firearm cylinder and some people object to that. They do so without thinking it through. If the cylinder were full-sized, it would weigh more than a pound, giving them something else to object to. Colt discovered that in the late 1800s when they converted their Single Action Army revolver into a .22 rimfire. Even though the thin cylinder looks odd, there’s a real reason it’s so thin and it does make sense.
You get something with this pellet gun that even S&W doesn’t offer–a pair of molded rubber grips. Smith & Wesson wood grip panels don’t fit every hand, like mine for instance, so many shooters replace them with rubberized grips from companies like Hogue. This pellet pistol comes that way from the factory. Since I’m used to Hogue grips, I view this as a bonus. The drawback is that there are no aftermarket grips available, as far as I know.
This is a CO2 revolver, and the cartridge resides inside the grip, of course. The right panel pops off to expose the place where the cartridge lies, and Umarex designed a lever mechanism at the bottom of the frame to push the cartridge up for piercing. They knew appearances were important with this pistol and it would not do to have an ugly winding key exposed under the grip.
Another wonderful feature of this revolver is not based on Smith & Wesson revolvers but on those of Dan Wesson. It has interchangeable barrels! Owners can change to 2.5″, 4″, 6″ and 8″ barrels at will. During the glory days of the gun, Umarex sold a pistol pac, not unlike the ones from Dan Wesson. In that set you got a single frame with the 4″, 6″ and 8″ barrels and shrouds. Those are collectible sets now, and the gun usually sells as a fixed-length barrel, only. You can still buy spare barrels and shrouds of different lengths, and a plastic wrench that comes with every gun lets you make the switch.
Size and weight were close
The specifications of the pellet pistol were remarkably similar to the firearm. My unloaded 6″ 686 weighed 45.8 oz., and the 586 pellet pistol weighs 46.5 oz. with a CO2 cartridge installed (but no pellets in the cylinder). The length, width and height are all within hundredths of an inch of those on the firearm. A Smith & Wesson owner will feel comfortable with this gun, which has no plastic on the outside.
I no longer own the pellet pistol, so this report is based on tests I did and photos I took when I had it, plus S&W sent a couple pistols with different barrel lengths for me to sample. I tell you that now so you will understand why I cannot expand my report beyond what I’m giving you. Next time, I’ll finish with the velocity and accuracy.