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Education / Training S&W 586 & 686 pellet guns – Part 1

S&W 586 & 686 pellet guns – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


Smith & Wesson 586 is a beautiful air pistol.

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.

Realistic cylinders
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.


Ten-shot clips slip off the cylinder crane for loading.

Grippy grips
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.


Right grip pops off for access to the CO2 cartridge. The complex hardware inside the molded rubber grip is the reason aftermarket grips are not available. 

Barrel swaps
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.

29 thoughts on “S&W 586 & 686 pellet guns – Part 1”

  1. B.B. Under the paragraph “Barrel Swaps”, you mention a 2.5″ barrel, along with the 8″, 6″, and 4″. I didn’t think that there was a 2.5″ option. Where can I get one? I don’t believe Pyramyd offers them.

  2. B.B.,

    Thanks for the report. Randy and I are so pleased with the 586 revolver. Like I said in the last few blogs, I can’t get him to shoot anything else… (We’ve got to get in practice with the field target rifles)…. So I traded it off to Anthony Storey when he wanted it as part of the trade for his tricked out P70 field target rifle.. So next month, when we’ve got more practice done, I’ll buy a pair of the 586 revolvers from PA, to play with after FT Practice!!

    I know I’m a tough coach!!

    Back to the pistol…
    I love the rubber grips!! This pistol feels so good and balanced in my hand.. The report is just right, not a sharp sound, not quiet, not loud, just a real nice pistol pop.. It seems to satisfy the cowboy in me, and for sure in Randy..

    We get about 50 good shots per CO2 cartridge, more if we warm up the gun and cartridges..
    The magazines are real quality.. one thing though, be sure to push the pellets in all the way, or they will get messed up when you close the cylinder. Or worse yet, get the mag stuck with a wedged smashed pellet!!
    Don’t try to shoot it down to the very end of cartridge, (60-70 shots tops) you could end up with one stuck in the barrel…. (no big deal, the next full cartridge will blast it out)..

    The way the cartridge is loaded and pierced, is very cool, but for some reason on the one we had, the adjusting screw to take up the slack, has burrs on it or something and it is tight to move. We have worked it out with some oil, but it’s still a little hard to take out the slack before putting back the handle grip, and closing the piercing lever.

    The sights are very adjustable, and work well for my old eyes, out to 15 yards anyway..

    The fit and finish on the pistol is as good as any could expect for the money..
    The best thing is the accuracy, and tight groups it holds.. when using a rest, at 20′, 1″- 10 shot groups are easy, with most in the dead center, 1/2″ group!!

    Randy has been sick, and didn’t know I traded it off until just now.. “WHAT!!!!(loud enough my wife said what’s wrong from the other room) HE SAID” I love that gun!! It fits me so well, and so fun to shoot… That’s the problem, I said… FT practice first… play later…

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  3. I first tried this pistol, or one like it, judging from BB's post, in a sporting goods store just outside of Portland, Oregon in the late '80s. I was trying to decide between it and Crosman's 357 model. There was no comparison. Just pulling the hammer back on both guns, the Smith felt like a real firearm. The Smth was, as I remember, heavy like the real thing and had QUALITY written all over it. The Crosman by comparison felt much lighter, although the trigger pull was excellent on both revolvers. I wound up buying Crosman because of the vast difference in price between the two, plus I wanted revolvers in all three bbl lengths for teaching. I believe the Crosman's were about $25 each at the time.

    Over time i bought a ton of spare cylinders for them. I would load them when it was my wife's turn to drive us places. Crosman had it set up so you got two 10-shot and one 6-shot mag (if I remember correctly). I had no use for the 6-shots, but soon accumulated a bunch of them.

    I preferred the realistic action of the Smith in loading the clips: the Crosmans broke open like British WWII-era Webleys (I had one as a kid…$20 by mail in .45 ACP that came with half-moon clips!) to access the clips. I did feel however that it was kind of dumb on S&W's part not to offer clips the same color as the 'stainless' colored revolver body.

    If you loaded the Crosman clips with new, bright metal pellets and shot at sundown with the sun low behind your back, the cavity of each pellet would light up like a tracer round. Also, I liked that the Crosman clips held any type and length of pellet I wanted to try in it.

    A couple years back I bought a new Crosman 357-SIX. I was happy to see the piercing key was now internal and not visible from the outside, but I was a tad disappointed with the new Hogue-type soft grips. I prefer the older, 'hard' grips on a revolver. Somehow the soft grips take away from the look and feel of the revolvers I grew up with. My S&W .44 magnum is the same. It doesn't quite look or even feel 'right' with the Hogues, even though I am thankful for them when firing full-house handloads!

    Joe B.

  4. Hey Wayne – I’m at work now so I don’t have ready access to my email… what did you think about my ‘499 shot tube in the Markham Model D’ idea? 499 shot tubes are only $12 ea.

  5. BB, Wayne sent me a Markham Model D to work on – primarily to figure out a way of replacing the broken and missing rear sight with something that was functional but required no modification to the gun. He wanted to make it into a usable shooter.

    Well, since the shot tube is made for real lead BB’s it’s too big for steel. But I muzzle loaded a pellet (backwards) and the gun spit it out at about 130fps, which is good enough for 15′ paper punching.

    Since the removable shot tube assembly has a very simple design, I had the idea of just making another one using a 499 shot tube and whatever other hardware I’d need (I’d do something near the breech to make sure the BB’s didn’t fall through and into the gun). Seems to me this would give us an 1890’s Markham Model D with match-grade accuracy and the ability to shoot modern BB’s. To me this sounds like fun.

    What do you think, or are you having a conniption over the idea of actually shooting a 19th century BB gun?

  6. Vince,
    Go for it!!

    Since we have to make a rear sight anyway, it’s not going to be original.. and your idea seems sound to me.. and with the masters OK… let’s go for it..

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  7. BB,

    Last night’s discussion of BC caught my attention, just because of my silly Quigley experiment (need to get the wife to put that on Netflix for me). Superdomes shoot really well for me at normal ranges (30-45 yrds), but I noticed they were not penetrating the can on both sides at 50yards, whereas the cheap Crosman points do, if I recall correctly. I used Chairgun II, and the reason was fairly obvious: Superdomes have just a little higher BC than a Wadcutter, whereas the points were double or more. This is trivial at 50 yards in this case, but as the range increases, I’m thinking there might be better choices and I need every advantage I can get:).

    Anyway, what are some good high-BC pellets of moderate weight that you recommend I try out at the 14 fpe level? The points are better than they get credit for, but I’m suspicious of their consistency. CPL’s and JSB exacts are on the top of my list, but let me know what else I’m missing.

  8. BB,
    Could you maybe coax Crosman or another company into making a tight fitting, economical (plastics is becoming more acceptable) revolver in .22cal? Or maybe ask for the options of 4, 6, or 8inch barrels. Maybe even a way to mount a small dot sight. The goal in mind for an air pistol like this (8inch, 22cal with a red dot sight) would be pest control. This would both open up the market to the ever needed semi automatic .22cal with a punch with the various barrel options.
    Shadow express dude

  9. Wayne and BB, I just ordered 2 shot tubes. One is for the Markham, the other is so that I can try to adapt one to a Daisy repeater (like a Red Ryder).

    I’ll take pictures, you’ll see them if it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll just pretend I never even broached the subject.

  10. Vince,
    I’m interested in the Red Ryder experiment, also. The 499 “chassis” looks suspiciously similar to a Red Ryder. One problem you may encounter is that the 1938B (current model) is a little more particular about how you hold it to feed a BB, at least that’s what I’ve found in comparison to my 1938.

  11. BG_Farmer,

    Shot from an Air Arms .22 cal s410..

    Kodiak 21.1gr – 21 ft lbs at 50 yds
    Logun Penetrator 20.5gr also 21
    Logun Penetrator 16gr- 17 lbs/ 50 yd
    Napier Pro Hunter 15.4gr- 18 lbs/50
    JSB Exacts 15.74gr- 18 ft lbs/50 yds
    Beeman FTS 14.6gr- 13 ft lbs/50 yds
    Crosman Premier 14.3gr- 14 ft/50yd
    Beeman Trophy 13.8gr 11 ft lb. at 50 yards

    And last and least is: drumroll please…
    SuperDome 14.5- 8 ft lbs/ 50 yards


    I’m making plans to market them now.. let’s rock and roll dude!!

    just a little quick you say???
    I’m always seeing the future.. that’s why I can’t spell.. I have imagination..

    I’ve got an idea for you..
    How about forcing all comments on the current blog, so that some of the regulars, can help with the work load..

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  12. BG_Farmer,

    You might try this site for figuring out what you need: http://www.straightshooters.com/ See if your gun is listed; if not, pick a 14fpe one. Go to the “Our Take” screen and then look at “Velocity Test Results”. They take you from muzzle velocity all the way out to 50 yards for many pellets so you can see how well a pellet retains its energy in each gun. I would caution about the Napier ProHunter results; I was unable to recreate them while others like CP’s, Superdomes, SuperPoints, and JSB Exacts were close to that reported. Re a 14 fpe gun (in .22 for example, say the RWS34), you can see how BB’s recommendation (the CP) starts out a lot faster than the Kodiak and ends up retaining just as much energy at 50 yards. I use CP Lites in my .177 RWS 46 (~12 fpe) and CP .22’s in my Talon SS 24″ C02 ( 17 FPE). I’ve found that Superpoints shoot really well in my RWS 46 .22(~14fpe). Another BB article indicates it may be because their wider/thinner skirt provides a better fit in the barrel. So the BC’s are just a starting point to find what your gun likes; what it will hit and how hard is definitely a consideration.
    I find that my 14fpe gun shoots pretty good up to 55 yards and maybe can be stretched to 65, but it is a high arching lob that is definitely losing energy. If you are trying for much further than 50 yards, you probably should think about a more powerful gun.


  13. BB,
    does the barrel thread into the frame? if so what spacing or spacer is used for barrel-cylinder gap.

    what’s unique to my dan wesson revolver is that it has a barrel nut that keeps the barrel and barrel shroud under tension. (like the strings of a guitar persay). Wouldn’t this promote accuracy.

  14. BB, Wayne, & JC,

    Thanks to all for your time. The rifle is .177 just because the pellets are more abundant and cheaper, and I never cared about hunting with it. Its gratifying to correlate the Superdome results from my humble barnlot with CGII, Wayne, and JC. Superdomes are good pellets and very accurate, but I want to minimize drift, which is harder to deal with than trajectory and they had obviously lost roughly 1/2 of their velocity by 50 yards; its all downhill from there. Of course, the perfect pellet BC wise may shoot like —- in this rifle:).

    Likewise for CPH: I need to try them, but this is one case where I wanted to maximize (or at least optimize) velocity to minimize drift, and they start out slow. Perhaps I should rethink if the BC and weight compensate. BB's recommendation is the authority in my book.

    I agree with JC's characterization about effective range at this power level, but in this case, I can deal with a lazier trajectory than if I were hunting for example. I was only looking at retained velocity, etc., as they affect my ability to hit the target at 100+ yards (I hope).

    Anyway, the only way I ever learned anything was to try to do something different, so that's what I'm doing. I'm probably the only person in the world who can't make this shot on the first try:).

  15. Wayne,

    Thanks for your wonderful review of the 586. I was getting ready to pull up PA and order mine. Thanks for telling us how loud it sounds, cause tne PG County SWAT
    team would come and pay me a visit. Other than that I would have had one on it’s way.

  16. Mr. B.

    Randy & I shot ours indoors in the pool room, (echos abound).. so I was saying it's not very loud, just a nice pop, not sissy, but still not loud..
    It's won't be bringing in the swat team.. so order today, don't delay…

    Because PA is slow on filling orders these days… even for stuff they have in stock!!

    Must be all the Christmas stuff coming back and getting exchanged for other stuff.. double work for the sales and Tech people..

    Ashland Air Rifle Range

  17. Wayne,

    You’re not guiltless either! Are you sure PA has not hired you on the sly?

    The 586 will have to wait though. You will understand more in a few days…


    .22 multi-shot

  18. I purchased a 586-8 from Pyramyd a few months ago. It’s a great pistol looks and feels like the firearm version.

    Made in Germany but not sure which manufacturer, RWS maybe?

    Mine has the 8″ barrel which makes it look even better in my opinion.

    It’s fairly quiet and decently accurate for a pistol but not as accurate as my Crosman 2300T.

    The rubber grip is comfortable but I would like one made of walnut it would really dress up the gun.

    The only problem I’ve had with it is the magazine will hang up sometimes when firing it double action. You have to make sure the pellets are firmly seated in the mag or it will jam.

  19. Hi BB,

    I’ve had the Umarex 586 for a year now and love it. I agree with your comments with the exception of the double action mode. Mine is rachety and stiff. I did put a tiny dab of moly on the back of the trigger where it contacts the cam at the back of the trigger guard which helped a lot, although it has to be renewed often. Otherwise the single action is great. Great practice for the real thing, which I am thinking very seriously of getting soon.

    Duncan Idaho

  20. I have the 586 6" & love it!

    I can't wait to hear more about what B.B has to say about it.

    BTW… I noticed Crosman brought back the C40 but only in black on PA's site. Listed as the Crosman CB-40. Are they going to make it available in the silver or zinc color too?

    – The BBA –

  21. bad thing though it look like the new Smith & Wesson have a bad dull blue finish not only that the barrel don't say Adult only I find it offences and disrectful as I'm a adult but after that the gun handle real good very powerful to crimp the pellet and go through dry walling as I had a px4 and it couldn't even good through dry wall lol at 10 ft I think it doing more then 425+ as the px4 is rate to do 380 umarex stated but don't know cant believe them any more after the bad fake painted blued jop if any one know more is this a bad shipment I seen anther bad blue dull jop on youtube I don't know if this is how they come now but it sad $249

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