6 Smith and Wesson 686 Problems that Are Most Common

The Smith and Wesson 686 is an L-Frame revolver that comes with a six or seven-capacity cylinder. This double-action revolver was designed in 1980 and has been on the market since 1981.

However, some common issues are present with this revolver.

The most common Smith and Wesson 686 problems are trigger lock automatically engaging, sear and spring issue, failure to carry up, jamming, cylinder not closing, and slow timing.

I’ll talk about these typical Smith & Wesson 686 problems in this post. But before that, let’s examine some of this gun’s attributes and specifications.

Features & Specifications of Smith and Wesson 686 Gun:

Smith and Wesson 686 Specs
Cartridge357 Magnum, 38 S&W Special +P
Capacity6 or 7 Rounds
Barrel Length2.5/3.0/4.0/6.0/8.3 Inches
Weight (Unloaded)34.1/36.8/38.9/43.9/48.3 Ounces
Length7.5/8.18/9.56/11.94 Inches
Twist Rate1×18-3/4″
SafetyInternal Lock
SightsFront – Red Ramp Rear – Adjustable White Outline
Smith and Wesson 686 Problems that Are Most Common
Smith and Wesson 686 Problems

Common Smith and Wesson 686 Problems and Solutions

Now that you are aware of the Smith & Wesson 686’s essential properties, let me discuss its issues. Let’s quickly review the 686 troubleshooting techniques listed in the table below.

Quick Overview of the Problems and Solutions

Problems with Smith and Wesson 686Solutions
Trigger Lock Automatically EngagingUnstick the mechanism by removing the side plate.
Sear and Spring IssueReplace the sear and sear spring.
Failure to Carry UpPeen the flat surfaces of the teeth of the extractor star.
JammingRemove the unburned powders and keep the barrel upwards while removing the casing.
Cylinder Not ClosingTighten the extractor rod and break in the cylinder.
Slow TimingInstall a new hand which is bigger than the factory hand.

1. Trigger Lock Automatically Engaging:

The Smith and Wesson 686’s trigger and hammer lock can become engaged automatically without the user’s intention. Although the probability of this issue occurring is thin, you should be aware.

If the internal lock engages, you won’t be able to pull the trigger. So, while in a dire situation, if this issue occurs, you are in greater trouble.

The Fix:

You may try to unlock the lock. But if it gets stuck, you have to disassemble the gun by taking out the side locking plate (Fig 1). Now, you can manually unlock or unstick the locking mechanism.

 Side Locking Plate

Fig 1 – Side Locking Plate

If you want, you can also uninstall the whole mechanism so that the gun does not automatically lock up again.

2. Sear and Spring Issue:

The 686 revolvers can sometimes prevent fire while shooting. But if the gun does this every 5 or six rounds, or once with every cylinder, it is not good news.

Sometimes, when you pull the trigger, the cylinder won’t rotate and the bullet won’t fire. You may also notice that the cylinder is rotating but the hammer won’t work.

The Fix:

This is usually an issue with the sear and the sear spring. Replacing these parts will fix the issue most of the time. If it does not, you might also need a hand repair.

The sear and spring are rare to buy. So, it is best to send the gun to Smith and Wesson for repair. But if you manage to find the sear and spring, you can easily replace them.

3. Failure to Carry Up:

When the cylinder falls short of locking into place for the subsequent round, a failure to carry up occurs. This problem could be brought on by the teeth on the extractor star.

Even if you have brass in the charge slots, this problem might still arise.

The Fix:

To solve the carry-up problem, peen the extractor star’s teeth. You must specifically peen the teeth’s flat surfaces.

Make cautious not to overdo the peening procedure. Otherwise, the cylinder might carry too much up and the bolt could pop out of the cylinder notch.

4. Jamming:

Although this is a minor issue with the Smith and Wesson 686, you should get this fixed. During your shooting session, the revolver can occasionally jam.

Unburned powder under the star is typically the reason for this issue. Additionally, a filthy gun may occasionally jam.

The Fix:

Start by looking for unburned powder surrounding the star. Remove the powder. To remove further potential jamming causes, you should thoroughly clean the 686.

You should keep the barrel pointing upward as you remove the casings. This may also aid in minimizing the issue.

5. Cylinder Not Closing:

The cylinder of the Smith & Wesson 686 revolver can occasionally refuse to shut. A loose extractor rod is the primary cause of this issue.

Additionally, the cylinder system needs to be broken in by going through the opening and shutting phases. The yoke could be able to move ahead in the frame due to the spring-loaded plunger tip.

The Fix:

First of all, you should inspect the extractor rod of your Smith and Wesson 686. It may not seem loose to you. But you should still tighten it up and shoot a couple of rounds.

If the problem still exists, try opening and closing the cylinder until it closes smoothly.

6. Slow Timing:

When a Smith & Wesson 686 has fired more than 1000 or 2000 rounds, this problem typically happens. Before the cylinder is in place, the hammer may get cocked when you pull it.

The cylinder will not lock as a result. After cocking the hammer, you might need to manually turn the cylinder to get it into the locking notch. s

When the hand or the slot deteriorates, this problem arises (Fig 2). The cylinder does not fully revolve as a result of this.

Damaged Hand and Slot
Fig 2 – Damaged Hand and Slot

The Fix:

To correct the sluggish timing issue with old 686 revolvers, you will need a larger hand. First of all, disassemble the revolver and detach the stock hand.

Using a punch and the tension spring, now insert the hand into the slot. Pull the trigger a few times after installing it to make sure the hand is functioning correctly.

Reassemble the revolver after that, and check the timing of the hammer and cylinder. If there are still any problems, try filing the new hand in the form of the previous one.

User Feedback on Smith and Wesson 686

The Smith and Wesson 686 is a well-known revolver for the 357 and 38 special round ammo. Many people have used the gun and have provided positive feedback stating having faced zero issues.

In this post on The Armory Life forum, people have praised the Smith and Wesson 686. One person has also said that it is a great gun for hunting deer.

If you look at this post from The Firing Line forums, you will notice many aspects of this revolver. People have shared their experiences where some of them have faced a few problems with the gun.

Top 3 Alternative Guns of Smith and Wesson 686

Here are some best alternatives for the Smith and Wesson 686:

Ruger GP 100
– Features a triple locking cylinder for better alignment.
– Supports 357, 10MM, 327, 44 special, and 22 LR cartridges depending on the model.

Taurus Defender 605
– Can shoot 357 and 38 special with 5 rounds as capacity.
– Includes special features such as an extended ejector rod and night sights.

Beretta Manurhin MR73 Sport
– Has a 5.25-inch barrel with excellent accuracy.
– Includes adjustable sights and a trigger.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What materials are used to build the Smith and Wesson 686?

Stainless steel barrel, frame, and finish.

How many variants of the Smith and Wesson 686 are available?

6 variants depending on the barrel length.

What is the action type of the Smith and Wesson 686 gun?

Double-action or single-action.

Can you change the grip of the Smith and Wesson 686?


Has there been any recall with the Smith and Wesson 686?

Yes. Once in 1987.

What is the rifle ammo type of the Smith and Wesson 686?

Centerfire rifle ammo.

Is the Smith and Wesson 686 still in production?



You may face some common problems if you own this revolver. So, I have included the solutions to these most common issues that the Smith and Wesson 686 users face.

Follow the procedures properly to get your Smith and Wesson 686 problems fixed.

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