Umarex Smith and Wesson 586/686

Time for a review of what is regarded as one of the finest multi-shot pellet pistols ever made – the Umarex 586/686 (the only difference between the two is finish – the 586 is black, the 686 nickel finish).  Can it really be as good as people say?

Real steel background

In 1856 partners Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson formed a company to manufacture a pistol which used a then revolutionary self-contained metallic cartridge.  This pistol, the Smith and Wesson Model 1, was an instant success and the outbreak of the US Civil war in 1861 created huge demand for this and subsequent Smith and Wesson handguns.  The company continued manufacturing a number of different types of pistol until the present day, though it has always been best known for revolvers.  The company continued to be controlled by the Wesson family until 1964 when it was bought out by Bagnor Punta, a large US conglomerate.  Since then it has had a number of corporate owners, including British engineering company Tomkins from 1987 to 2001.

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Bonnie and Clyde’s car, 1934

During the early to mid 1930s, Smith and Wesson were involved in research to develop a handgun cartridge capable of penetrating vehicle bodywork.  Police were involved in frequent fire-fights with bootleggers and gangsters and found that conventional bullets often failed to pierce the heavy bodywork on contemporary vehicles.  The result was the .357 Magnum cartridge, introduced in 1934.  This was a more powerful development of the existing .38 special round (confusingly, both are the same calibre – .357 is the nominal bullet calibre of the .38 cartridge).  The round was made 1/8″ longer than the standard .38 to prevent inadvertent loading in a .38 pistol not designed for this high pressure ammunition.

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Smith and Wesson 686 with 6″ barrel

Many handguns were designed for the  .357 round, but the extreme power of this ammunition caused vicious recoil and mechanical failures on some pistols.  In 1980 S&W introduced revolvers chambered for the .357 featuring the heavier “L” series frame, designed to withstand long term shooting with this round.  These 6 and 7 shot revolvers were available with 4″, 6″ and 8″ barrels and were constructed of blued carbon steel (the 586) and polished stainless steel (the 686).  The “L” frame revolver series is very popular and these pistols have been adopted by civilian shooters and police departments across the US.

The Umarex 586 and 686

The Umarex 586/686 are powered by CO2 (retained inside the grip and accessed by removing the right side of the plastic grip) and were originally available with 4″, 6″ and 8″ rifled barrels, though the 8″ version seems to have been dropped at some point.  Barrels and barrel shrouds are interchangeable, and some early versions were supplied with all three.  The barrel and shroud are easily disassembled by removing the inset plastic retaining nut at the end of the barrel with the supplied tool.  Pellets are held in a removable ten shot pellet holder which swings out on a crane on the left of the frame.  The pellet holder is the only part of the cylinder which rotates when the trigger is pulled.

The crane is released by pushing forward on the cylinder release on the left of the frame.  No safety catch is fitted though Umarex claim that the pistol is provided with an internal safety mechanism which prevents a loaded pistol from discharging if dropped or jarred.  There is no accessory rail fitted as standard and the 6″ version weighs a hefty 2.8 pounds.

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Early gloss finish 6″ 586

The 586 and 686 are identical other than for finish.  The 586 is black (gloss black for early models, semi-matt black for later models) and the 686 is provided in what Umarex describe as a nickel finish, but which is actually a rather matt silver.  Both models share a black rotary pellet holder, which looks a little odd on the otherwise silver 686.

Packaging and presentation  4.5/5

Like most Umarex pellet shooting pistols, the 586/686 comes in a distinctive blue hard case. The case is well padded with foam which features cut outs for the pistol, a single rotary pellet holder, CO2 and spare barrels and shrouds.  The pistol is provided with a short user manual.

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8″ 586 with 4″ and 6″ barrels

The Umarex hard cases may not be of the absolute best quality, but they’re way ahead of the packaging for most replica pistols.

Visual accuracy  8/10

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Smith and Wesson 686, 6″ top, Umarex 686, 6″ bottom

Overall this is a very good visual replica.  The profile and look of the original are well replicated and only the cast rear part of the cylinder looks notably different.  The cylinder release and adjustable rear sight are well replicated in form and function.

The only small visual anomaly on the Umarex replica is that the cylinder pawl indentations and fluting on the replica reflect the ten chambers in the rotary pellet holder rather than six (or seven in some versions) of the original.  And of course the black pellet holder on the 686 does rather stand out.

Revolvers have fewer markings than their semi-auto brethern.  The original revolver has “Smith & Wesson” engraved on both sides of the barrel, the S&W logo under the safety catch on the left side of the frame and trademark information on the right front of the frame.  The replica has the S&W logo and name on the left, but otherwise includes only Umarex markings.

Functional accuracy  8/15

Functional accuracy is fair, given that these replicas don’t have a full size cylinder.  The rotary pellet holder does swing out on a crane which is released by the cylinder release catch.  However, the 586/686s don’t really replicate the loading and operation of a revolver in the way that other Umarex products such as the TRR8 revolver or the series of Dan Wesson replicas do.

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The 586/686 cannot be field stripped.  Any disassembly requires splitting the casing halves.

Shooting  38/40

This where the 586/686 really excels.  Using fresh CO2 and RWS CO2 Target pellets, my 6″ averaged 390 – 410fps, dependent on temperature.  A little lower than the Umarex claim of 425fps, but more than enough for target shooting at 6yds.  Accuracy is very good indeed.  At 6yds, freestanding, using a two-handed grip I can generally achieve groupings in the 1¼” – 1½” range.  I imagine that the pistol is capable of sub 1″ grouping, so this is probably a reflection on my shooting technique.  The fully adjustable sights are clear and easy to use and can be adjusted to place a pellet precisely where you want.

Despite being a heavy, long gun, the 586/686 doesn’t feel unbalanced and it is comfortable to hold and shoot.  It can get tiring if you’re shooting for an extended period using a single-hand grip, but is considerably better with two hands. It is one of the loudest guns I own and I have not suffered any misfeeds or failures to fire while shooting.

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The ten shot rotary pellet holder seems easier to load than the eight shot version used on Umarex semi-auto replicas.  It also seems less finicky about having pellets bedded down in the holder and less prone to misfeeds.  When replaced, the grip covering the CO2 fits well with no looseness of rattles – unlike some other replica revolvers which store CO2 in the grip.  The CO2 pierces cleanly, without any leaks and I got around 60 full power shots from one CO2.

The double action trigger pull is fairly heavy, but smooth and consistent.  The single action pull is light, precise and consistent.

This is a delightful and very satisfying gun to shoot.  Of all my replica pistols, this is the one which feels most like shooting with a real firearm, though happily without the shoulder-wrenching recoil of real .357 ammo.

I was also able to try an 8″ version.  In theory the longer barrel should allow greater accuracy, but I didn’t find this to be true.  I found that the longer barrel unbalanced the pistol, and shooting even a full ten shot magazine quickly got tiring so that the wobbles set in.  In this case, I do feel that less is indeed more.  I haven’t tried the 4″ version, but I would imagine that power and accuracy would be very similar.

Quality and reliability  13/15

Mechanically, the 586/686 is absolutely superb.  The indexing, trigger and hammer action are creamy smooth, precise and consistent.  I’m not aware of any reliability issues with these replicas, though like any pistol, internal parts and seals do eventually wear and degrade over time.  Lubrication is important to keep a 586/686 in top condition, and achieving this effectively requires dismantling.  This can be daunting as inside you will find a complex arrangement  of pins, pawls, sears and plates.  There are also several tiny springs waiting for an opportunity to twang off into the middle distance.  However, if you feel confident, there are several good on-line guides explaining how to disassemble and re-assemble these pistols.

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Later 4″ 586 in matt finish

The finish on the early model gloss 586 is extremely good.  It doesn’t particularly resemble blued carbon steel, but it is attractive, well applied and hard wearing.  Later model 586s have a more matt finish, which is just as resistant to chipping and scratching, but to me at least doesn’t look quite as good.  I have never been a big fan of the nickel finish on the 686.  Like the nickel finish on several other Umarex pellet firing replicas, it’s actually a rather dull, matt silver.  It does seem well applied and hard wearing, but looks nothing like the shiny polished stainless steel original.  You only have to look at (for example) the beautiful shiny nickel finish on some Tanaka revolvers to see what’s achievable and in that context, the finish of the 686 is a little disappointing.  The black pellet holder on the 686 is also an anomaly – surely on a pistol in this price range it should be possible to provide something which doesn’t look as if it has been borrowed from another gun?

I’m not aware of any other pistol which exudes quality in the way that the 586/686 does.  Just pick one up and you’ll see what I mean.  More a family heirloom than a toy.

Overall Impression  13/15

This a class act in every way.  Very nicely made and finished, reliable and a pleasure to shoot.  What more can you ask from a replica pistol?  Well, I generally prefer replicas which not only look good but also replicate the operational function of the original.  The 586/686 isn’t quite so good in this respect, but it’s such a fine pistol that the first time I picked one up, I knew I had to have it.

Conclusion

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This a fantastic air pistol, in fact I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better replica pellet shooter.  No surprise that it’s also one of the most expensive replicas.  But then, as they say, you get what you pay for.  And what you get here is a beautifully finished, well made, heavy, loud, accurate and powerful multi-shot pistol.  It isn’t perfect.  Nothing is.  But it’s pretty damn close.  Flaws?  I feel that the 8″ version is too heavy and unbalanced for sustained accurate shooting.  I think the black rotary pellet holder looks stupid on the silver 686.  And I’d prefer if the whole cylinder revolved and this replica generally better reflected operating a real revolver.  But on the whole the main drawback is that the 586/686 mercilessly exposes poor shooting technique.  It’s no good trying to blame suspect accuracy on the gun – if you miss the target with this pistol the problem almost certainly lies with you.  If you’re lucky, you may even find that using a 586/686 improves your shooting.  So, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?

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