Smith & Wesson 686 Upgrade

With the lack of availability of firearms for me to review these days due to shortages, an increased demand from my real job, and an old Italian disease ( lackafundsa), it seems that I have been in the mood to update some of my old handguns with new grips, especially my revolvers. The Ruger GP100 was the first, which was followed by the Ruger Redhawk.

In my review of the Smith & Wesson Model 686 I stated that I would probably not exchange the provided rubber grip with another. The key word here was ‘probably’ and being true to my nature it was only inevitable that a grip change would take place. Well, that time finally arrived.

A search wide and far was made and I settled on a grip made by Hogue grips. Their grips are excellent and the cost is not (too) outrageous. I wanted a grip that would not only accent the looks of the 686, but would contribute to the control of the 686 during the firing of.

I have found through the ages that felt recoil of large caliber revolvers has stages. When firing .38 special, the felt recoil if primarily in the hand and wrist. When firing .357 magnum cartridges, the felt recoil travels further up the arm to the elbow. When firing .44 magnum cartridges, the felt recoil travels even further and can be felt in the shoulder area if the revolver is gripped properly. The felt recoil of these cartridges, when fired, is sharp and snappy. Pistols, on the other hand, somewhat mitigate felt recoil through moving parts. Even a 10mm cartridge in full-hunting configuration, when fired through a pistol suitable for the caliber,  feels less in felt recoil(to me) than firing a .357 magnum in a revolver. But I am getting off topic.

The Smith & Wesson Model 686 that I have has the round-butt configuration. I opted for the Hogue K or L Rd. Conversion Goncalo Stripe Cap Checkered, Sku: 19223. This is a round-butt conversion grip that makes a round butt revolver feel like a square butt revolver. This grip was very similar to the grip that I installed on my service pistol except that grip was smooth-sided, and this grip has a ‘cap’ that, while it extends the butt just a bit, also rounds the butt that eliminates the chopped off look of the grip.

Of the grips available, this grip was one of the few that was in-stock, as many of the exotic hardwood grips are custom made to order. The wood has an excellent pattern. I choose a diamond checkered pattern for finger purchase, as this pattern helps to mitigate the handgun from rotating in the hand, which makes the handgun much more predictable and controllable.

All edges are rounded to prevent the lowest possible profile, which aids in concealment (if the 686 was carried IWB or OWB under a garment or two). That is not to say that a Smith & Wesson with this grip is easy to conceal in the first place. However, with a good IWB holster, the Smith & Wesson 686 can be concealed, although summer IWB carry might be a bit of a challenge.

The grip is nicely sculpted around the rear of the trigger guard area and sweeps upward to the top of the frame at the backstrap. The backstrap of the revolver reveals itself at the top of the backstrap, but like an iceberg, does not reveal all by hiding the majority of the frame inside of the grip throughout the rest of its surface. The shape of the grip leads one to wonder if the frame is round or square.

The grip has my favorite finger grooves and feels full and wonderful in the hand. The texturing and shape are just right for my hand, although I would like a bit less material at the rear of the trigger guard. As with pistols, I want as much of my hand high on the backstrap. With a build-up of material at the rear of the trigger guard, my fingers feel a bit cramped when taking a high hold on the grip. Although it ideal to have the trigger pull the trigger straight to the rear, it is more common that the finger pulls the trigger at an angle that can pull the barrel of the revolver downward if not compensated for. I find that with the grip’s design, I have no issue with taking a high, two-hand, thumb-over grip on the revolver.

The Smith & Wesson Model 686 has excellent, smooth lines and the K or L Rd. Conversion Goncalo Stripe Cap Checkered  grip accentuates those lines. Some grips have a tendency to take away from the overall look of a revolver while some, as in the case of these grips, make the revolver and grips seems like a continuous, seamless unit.

You may notice from the pictures that there is no screw joining the grip. That is because it is not needed. The grip mounts with a ‘yoke’ that is placed over top of the alignment pics on the lower end of the frame. This is similar to when mounting a grip on the Ruger GP-100. A screw at the bottom of the grip pulls the grip and revolver together.

The grip, by the way, is a tight fit to the revolver. Some mild sanding on the top “ears” was necessary for the grip to slide all the way onto the frame. However, this was because the side plate of the revolver was not perfectly flush with the frame and this added a hair of thickness to the frame. Wood, being forgiving, almost perfectly molds to the frame.

At this point I do have to say that the grips that I purchased do nothing to help mitigate felt recoil, as do the stock rubber grips. The felt recoil of the .357 magnum cartridge, when fired, is sharp and the frame of the revolver comes back hard in the hand. A proper grip with these revolvers does more to help control the flip of the muzzle and rotation of the revolver in the hand than just the handle of the revolver alone. I am more used to shooting pistols than I am revolvers lately and the transition between the two sometimes take some time to get used to. A good set of grips on both pistol and revolver helps me make the transition between the two as pleasant as possible.

I have spouted off on The Altamont Company and their products in the past, and I will spout off on them again when I decide to purchase a set of grips from them. However, when I am looking for an excellent grip for pistol or revolver, Hogue grips are still a favorite of mine. They manufacture an excellent grip at an excellent price for the quality.

Once you place an order with Hogue, it takes between two and four weeks before you see the product arrive in your mailbox, if it is a custom order. In-stock orders take less time and the grip arrived within a week. Some folks just don’t want to wait that long for a custom grip and the option to continue is yours. When the order ships, you will receive an e-mail stating such. The order comes nicely packaged, protected, and ready for mounting.

In parting ways, I do want to mention that Hogue has more kinds of grips for the Smith & Wesson K/N frame round-butt revolvers, ranging from classic to custom in many woods and other materials, than I can list here.

If you are interested in any Hogue product, dop in on their website.


About Taurian

Taurian is a U.S. Army veteran and former LEO and Defensive Tactics Instructor. Taurian also has over fifty years of experience as a Technical Writer and Training Program Developer. After leaving home at the age of ten without any shoes, Taurian continues on with many years devoted to the keeping and bearing of arms.

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