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GUNS Magazine April 2010 - Page 40

here are three grades of shootability in the T shootin’ irons available from Smith & Wesson. The standard production grade has set a standard Massad Ayoob Photos: Joseph R. Novelozo of excellence in the handgun industry worldwide since 1856. At the other end of the scale are the guns from S&W’s Performance Center; very much like similarly named sections in the auto industry. The Center turns out special purpose racing iron, some of which gets raced at the national and world championship level, and some of which goes to connoisseurs of those particular machines who can afford to pay for the absolute best. In this economy more than ever, there are folks who appreciate performance, but just aren’t budgeted for top dollar right now. GUNS Magazine knows that… and so does Smith & Wesson. That’s why, a few years ago, S&W introduced its Pro Series. These are handguns conceptualized and tested in the Performance Center then turned over to the regular Production side of the house, allowing more affordable pricing. At the time the cover gun was sent to us, it was so new the A key feature of this new model is the sculpted 5" barrel, a work of art in its own right. The front sight, a Patridge style, is pinned to the frame and can be changed to suit the individual’s requirements. company hadn’t assigned it a stock number, and it came in a box marked “Model 686” and “4" barrel.” Well, it wasn’t. This specimen, serial number CML1430, is stamped “686-6” (the “-6” denoting the presence of the internal locking system). It is actually a Model 686-Plus, meaning an L-frame .357 Magnum with 7-shot cylinder. The barrel is 5" long, and shaped in the manner of the company’s popular 686 SSR, another revolver in the Pro Series. Jim Unger, head of revolver production at S&W, calls this configuration the “wedge barrel.” Tony Miele, head of the Performance Center, describes it as the “tapered barrel.” I can’t argue with either one of them. It is wedge-shaped, and it is tapered. Seen from above, the flat-sided barrel narrows a bit, a little more than 1/2" in front of the frame, and then continues in slim, straight lines to the muzzle. Seen from the side, the ejector rod shield is open on both sides, in the SSR style, and what might be called a “half underlug” sweeps up toward the muzzle, growing narrower along the way. This shape may help to reduce friction drag as the gun is being drawn from the holster. It definitely allows smoother, easier re-holstering, which admittedly is more of a tactical concern than a competition concern, and this sweet 7-shooter seems to have “competition” written all over it. The SSR is named for the Stock Service Revolver division in IDPA, the International Defensive Pistol Association. Because IDPA limits shooters to 6 rounds in their revolvers, the 686 SSR has the conventional 6-chambered cylinder. Says Tony Miele, “We had experienced very good success with the 686 SSR within the IDPA community. The 5" gun is a natural follow-on for ICORE shooters, who can have longer barrels and who can take advantage of the 7th shot.” ICORE is the International Congress Of Revolver Enthusiasts. Their formats seem a bit like the Steel Challenge, where a lighter-barreled revolver is an advantage because it swings faster between the multiple targets. Miele knows the ICORE game, and it sounds as if the new gun will be a fine candidate for it. A couple of other Performance Center touches adorn this Pro Series gun. The cylinder face is cut for full moon clips, 40 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • APRIL 2010

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