S&W’s new Competitor revolvers are true performers at the range and on the hunt
Of all the revolvers I’ve tested in recent years, I’d have to say that Smith & Wesson’s new “Competitor” M686 .357 Magnum and M629 .44 Magnum Weighted-Barrel revolvers rank as two of the most accurate and shootable among them.
These well-made handguns combine light, smooth actions with near-pinpoint accuracy, making them true high achievers. For the person who competes and hunts with wheelguns, either of these Performance Center magnums is an excellent choice.
From the minute I picked up the Competitors at the Florida Gun Exchange’s new store in Ormond Beach, it was clear that they were well-made handguns. Officially called the Model 686 Weighted Barrel and Model 629 Weighted Barrel, the .357 and .44 are nicely crafted from satin-finished stainless steel and accented with black rubber Hogue grips and matching black target sights. This color combination is striking, and the guns were nicely complemented by the matte-black Leupold 4x28mm scope I mounted on the .357 and the matte-black Aimpoint H-1 that I put on the .44.
I examined both guns on my workbench for tool marks and other defects in manufacture and found no problems. These two handguns are very high in quality.
I also measured the trigger pull on each gun. The M686 was 4.0 pounds in single action (SA), and its double-action (DA) pull weight was 10.75 pounds. The M629’s trigger pull measured 3.5 pounds in SA and 11 pounds in DA. This compares very well to my 40-year-old, mint-condition M29-2. It has 3.5-pound SA and 11-pound DA pulls. The older-series M29s were built by expert craftsmen, and the gunsmiths at today’s S&W Performance Center are definitely capable of producing guns that equal anything S&W produced in the past.
After measuring the trigger pulls, I examined the barrel/cylinder gap of each revolver to be sure that the cylinders of both were properly aligned. The gap on all chambers of the .44 was .007 inch, which is exactly the same as the gap on my M-29. The gap on the .357 was a consistent .004 inch. In addition, both guns were properly timed, and there was no sideward or back-and-forth play in the cylinder of either gun.
NOTE: This was excerpted from a recent issue of Gun World magazine.
Story and photos by Dr. Martin D. Topper