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Why do GP100's always seem to be "second" choice?

This is a discussion on Why do GP100's always seem to be "second" choice? within the Ruger Double Action forums, part of the Pistol & Revolver Forum category; Thanks LOWEGUN, we can always count on you to give us the straight dope, without all the brand prejudices. Many of the things I thought ...


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Old October 26th, 2013, 07:23 AM   #61
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Thanks LOWEGUN, we can always count on you to give us the straight dope, without all the brand prejudices. Many of the things I thought were different about the 686 and the GP, I had always suspected, but didn't know why. I used to shoot a model 28, but switched to a Blackhawk in 75 due to my silhouette loads being too hot . The old K frame smiths were a pleasure to shoot, but a bit delicate for my style .



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Old October 28th, 2013, 04:56 PM   #62
 
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I like the trigger more on the 686.

However I like the fact that Ruger doesn't have an internal lock.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 07:24 AM   #63
 
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Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iowegan View Post
There's an old saying ... "ignorance is bliss". In this case, how revolvers are designed really applies. Let's start with a history lesson.

Prior to the 70's, most cops carried a S&W 38 Special revolver ... Model 10s being the most popular. All S&W revolvers were hand fitted and indeed were precision ... both in function and accuracy. S&W's K-frame 38 Specials were the best bang for the buck for decades and would hold up to 10's of thousands of rounds of 38 Special ammo. Along came the demand for 357 Mag revolvers. S&W's N-frame revolvers were just too big and heavy so S&W modified their existing K-frames and came up with a Model 19 (later a Mod 66 in stainless steel). These revolvers held up well with 38 Special ammo but had a very high failure rate with 357 Mag ammo. This was due to two main issues ... the lower part of the barrel was cut away to allow room for the cylinder yoke causing barrels to crack at the mouth. The yoke tube was too thin and would peen with 357 Mags, causing excessive endshake.

Meantime (starting in 1972), the new kid on the block (Sturm Ruger), introduced their K-frame sized 357 Mag revolver ... the Security-Six (Speed-Six and Service-Six in the same family). Ruger used many of the S&W design features but built the crane (yoke) in such a manner where the barrel was full sized inside the frame and had a much thicker crane tube. These major design changes allowed Security-Sixes to hold up to a steady diet of 357 Magnums, even with the pre-'95 SAAMI 43.5k psi standards. The Security-Six family of revolvers had a full sized grip frame and a cylinder mounting system much like S&W revolvers.

In the early 80's, S&W came up with a new design that fixed the K-frame barrel cracking problem ... a slightly larger L-frame design called a Mod 586 (blued) and Mod 686 (stainless), however this new design still had the same skinny yoke tube as a K-frame that would not hold up to 357 Mag chamber pressures. By 1995, S&W's K-frame and L-frame 357 Mags failure rate was so high that S&W petitioned SAAMI to lower the chamber pressure specs by 25% (from 43,500 to 35,000 psi). Turned out, Mod 19s and 66s still wouldn't hold up to the lower SAAMI pressures so S&W discontinued all K-frame 357 Mag revolvers.

S&W has always been notorious for "engineering changes" as noted by their dash number (ie 686-1 was the first engineering change to the basic 686). The 586/686 no-dash and -1 models were recalled for inferior firing pin bushings that would recess with magnum ammo and allow the primer to back out and hang up on the recoil shield. This was fixed with an engineering change (dash 2), however S&W also changed the fixed hand (Ruger calls it a pawl) to a "floating hand". Floating hands caused a high failure rate so S&W did another engineering change (-3) and went back to the fixed hand. A dash 2 with the floating hand replaced with a fixed hand or the -3 were the very best 586/686s that S&W ever made. The dash 4 engineering change was a goofy ejector (star wheel) plus S&W went from nice Gonco Alves wood target grips to cheap Houge grips. The dash 4 was the last decent model because -5s and beyond had MIM hammers & triggers plus S&W went to the in-frame firing pin, replacing the hammer nose firing pin that was a proven design used for 100 years. All 586/686 revolvers up to a -4 were all hand fitted ... very precision, however after MIM parts started being used (-5 and after) revolvers were assembled, not fitted .... so quality and precision went down the tubes. In all, assuming the factory "M" recall modification was done (no-dash and -1) and a fixed hand was installed (-2), all 586/686's from a no-dash to a dash 4 were excellent revolvers, provided pre-'95 high pressure loads were not used.

In 1986, Ruger introduced the GP-100 to compete with S&W's L-frame 586/686. The GP-100 was nearly identical in size, profile, and weight as the S&W 586/686 with the same barrel length, however it had many features that were not available from S&W. Ruger had planned to keep the Security-Six product line (K-frame sized) but after two years, sales had dropped off so much that Ruger discontinued the Security-Six. By eliminating the full sized grip frame and making the cylinder and the frame larger, Ruger was able to maintain the GP-100's weight about the same as a Security-Six (within 2 oz, assuming the same barrel length). The GP-100 was designed to handle high pressure pre-'95 357 Magnum ammo with ease. It had a much improved cylinder retention design and a much better trigger spring design plus a more massive frame. Additionally, GP-100s had a "plug-in" front sight that could be changed in seconds with a red insert or other types of front sights. Try that with a S&W! The "grip stud" that eliminated the full sized grip frame allowed the shooter to tailor grips to their hand size, especially if they had smaller hands where compact grips fit better. This feature is not possible with a S&W or even a Security-Six because of their full sized grip frame.

So here's how they stack up ... a new Ruger GP-100 versus a new S&W Mod 686:

Cost: S&W 686 MSRP is $829, GP-100 (stainless steel) MSRP is $759.
Strength: Both have about the same life expectancy with 38 Special ammo, however GP-100s have a much longer life expectancy with 357 Mag ammo... at least double.
Front sight: Ruger's plug-in front sight (not available with fixed sight models) can be changed in seconds. The pinned front sight on fixed sight model can also be changed but it requires more work. S&W front sights are not removable without major expense and the services of a good gunsmith.
Grips: Because of the grip stud design, GP-100s will accommodate virtually any size grips. 686s have a full sized grip frame making smaller grips virtually impossible. Both models have excellent aftermarket support for grips.
Trigger pull: Out of the box, 686s typically have a smoother and lighter DA and SA trigger pull. 686s use a leaf spring for the hammer, which is more linear. GP-100s have a coil hammer spring that stacks near the end of the DA trigger stroke. Some people prefer the "stacking feel" of a GP-100, whereas other prefer the "straight through" feel of a 686. An inexpensive spring kit and a little buffing in the right spots can make a GP-100's trigger pull just as good as a 686.
Accuracy: Both brands are equally accurate. Some people shoot one brand better than the other but that is more a matter of personal preference than reality.
Fit and finish: Older 686s had a much better fit and finish, however newer models compare about the same as a GP-100.
Function: Both brands function nearly identical. The only minor difference is the cylinder lock where the GP-100's lock is pressed in and a 686 lock is pushed forward.
Capacity: GP-100s (in 357 Mag) are restricted to 6 rounds whereas 686 Plus models can hold 7 rounds (6 round capacity is normal).
Safety: S&W uses an internal hammer block to prevent the revolver from firing when dropped. Ruger uses a transfer bar that accomplishes the same mission ... no appreciable difference.

I own a bunch of older S&W revolvers to include a 4" 686-2 with the floating hand replaced. I also own a 4" GP-100 in stainless steel that had a full action job. In all honesty, there's very little difference in these two revolvers, however I wouldn't own a newer 686 (-5 or later). Feature wise, the GP-100 is far more robust which IMO, makes it a much better buy.
IOWEGAN-
Thanks very much for your post. I own a S&W 686-3 with a 4" barrel, and after reading your history lesson, I'm really happy that I own that dash number. I was concerned that my revolver had the floating hand, and now that I know it doesn't, I'm relieved. Thanks for the information.

Last edited by Junkman; January 15th, 2016 at 07:46 AM. Reason: Delete
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Old January 15th, 2016, 07:38 AM   #64
 
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Hi IOWEGAN - Thanks for your post. I own a S&W 686-3 with a 4" barrel, and after reading your history lesson, I'm really glad that I own that dash number. I was concerned that my revolver had the "floating hand", but now that I know it doesn't, I'm relieved. Thanks for the information.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 07:48 AM   #65
 
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I've owned a 686-1 6" since about 1988. I wasn't really aware of the GPs when I bought the 686. Once the GPs became more common I recall going back and forth on whether to trade my 686 for a GP. Ultimately I kept the 686 for two reasons: first the 686 trigger was smoother than the GPs. Second, although close, the 686 was a little better finished. But I always liked and respected the GP100s. I finally bought a new GP100 4" about a year ago. Other than a slight creep to the SA trigger and a few milling marks where it isn't critical such as the recoil shield, the GP is every bit the revolver as my old 686-1. And with shooting the GP100's trigger is getting better. I really can't say is better than the other, they are just different
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Old January 15th, 2016, 08:44 AM   #66
 
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Out of the box a S&W always seem to have smoother actions lighter trigger pulls. I read a lot here where GP100 & SP101's need cleaning up tear apart to remove burrs & $hit. Shim triggers etc. Maybe this is why a GP100 is s 2nd gun of choice over s S&aw 686 or 586 etc. But this is how the individual perceives it?? My go to DA .357 is my S&aw Mod.66 no dash very smooth action my smaller DA a Ruger SP101 .327 FM my carry CCW guns 2 Ruger LCR's. My heavy .357 is a Ruger Vaquero Bisley. I will always favor S&W's but my quest right now is a Blued GP100 .357!!! I have more Ruger vs S&W's but I don't consider Ruger's as 2nd guns!!!
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Old January 15th, 2016, 09:44 AM   #67
 
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My GP 100 trigger cleaned itself up by simply shooting it.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 10:32 AM   #68
 
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Have both and I bought the gp100 because I forgot I had a 686. The 686 if a safe queen and the gp100 is a range toy and I like playing with reloads and powders so yeah. There are advantages to being second

If I knew I had the 686 i wouldve bought a Toklat 454c instead.

The primary reason I bought the gp100 was because I liked the modular design and wanted to finish the gun myself. I also liked the gp100 ergonomics better than the smith.

The 686 trigger is better and it just shoots better, but the gp100 isn't that far behind.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 10:43 AM   #69
 
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My first center fire revolver was a SW 686 snub.Traded it for a GP100,the GP model fairly new at the time,and assumed would far outlast the Smith.
In fact,had I still owned and used the Smith I am sure all would be fine.
The GP100 was four inch,intended for possible hunt,and it certainly withstood the test of time- I swung to Ruger single action center fire and GP101 for .357....... and and the GP 100 never left the safe.

Neither one is 'bad'.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 11:28 AM   #70
 
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While I do not believe there is any real difference between the current models of S&W and Ruger revolvers, the perception probably does go back to the LEO "revolver days". Two of the agencies I worked for out west in those days would not approve Ruger revolvers or pistols for duty use. I later discovered that the reason was not so much due to Ruger being perceived as "second rate" but revolvers and pistols being crafted from cast steel did not meet the guidelines of many western agencies in those days.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 03:22 PM   #71
 
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Not a second choice, the GP100 is my first choice

Note, that I have access to a mint 6" 586 made in 1989 that my Dad owns, I can shoot it whenever I want, but I have my own GP100's to shoot.

Not that S&W is bad, but I like the durability and industrial toughness of the GP100, and they shoot every bit as well as 686's. In fact, I had some "trade fodder" this summer and had a choice between an unfluted 6" 686 and the unfluted TALO 6" GP100, could have had either and I went with the GP100......so the 686 was second choice Also had an urge for a 3" 686, I got my 3" adjustable sight GP100 and the need for a 3" 686 went away.

People also rave and beat down doors for 3" S&W 65's........I have my 2 3/4" .357 Speed Six, I don't need the 65. The Speed Six rode on my hip today while I took my daughter out shopping in a semi-sketchy area, so I trusted the Ruger with the life of my daughter, not a S&W
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Old January 15th, 2016, 10:02 PM   #72
 
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I have about 25 handguns of various manufacturers. My first handgun was a S&W 686 6" .357 Mag, that unfortunately I had to sell during a divorce. I have many Ruger handguns but I've always wanted something to replace that void. While I have nothing against S&W, since I do own a couple of them too, to me the GP100 was the choice! To me, the GP100 is not second place.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 10:12 PM   #73
 
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Last 686 I shot had the worst trigger of any handgun I have ever felt. Not only gritty, but the pull was probably 16+ pounds. Junky.
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Old January 15th, 2016, 11:01 PM   #74
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gqucool View Post
Out of the box a S&W always seem to have smoother actions lighter trigger pulls. I read a lot here where GP100 & SP101's need cleaning up tear apart to remove burrs & $hit. Shim triggers etc. Maybe this is why a GP100 is s 2nd gun of choice over s S&aw 686 or 586 etc. But this is how the individual perceives it??...
S&W definitely has the 'name' and past reputation over Ruger in the DA revolver arena, but Ruger has certainly made a name for itself since the GP100 was first offered. The S&W design is over 100 years old, whereas Rugers are 'modern' revolvers, designed from 'clean slates' over the past 40 years. S&W revolver actions are great, when skilled and experienced people carefully fit and assemble them. The GP and SP revolvers may not always have the best out-of-the-box trigger actions, but that can be dealt with easily and inexpensively, due to the user-friendly modular lockwork. I found it very easy to 'tune up' my GP100, compared to the last S&W revolver I owned.
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Old January 16th, 2016, 02:17 AM   #75
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawkingcolorado View Post
When I was researching a new 357 revolver, seems like the 686 was "the gun" to get over the GP100...Despite some of the final conclusions on the 2 revolvers being pretty much equal... Why is this?
I want to look at another 357 for C&C possibly and once again will look at both weapons closely.

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