Smith & Wesson Distinguished Combat Magnum

Smith & Wesson Model 686 Distinguished Combat Magnum
Smith & Wesson Model 686 Distinguished Combat Magnum Model 686 (Photo: Smith & Wesson)

Like all Smith & Wesson products, the Distinguished Combat Magnum is beautifully finished and absolutely reliable. It is a conventional enough double-action revolver of the type they have been producing since before the start of the century, but it incorporated one new feature, their ‘L’ frame.

The Smith & Wesson Distinguished Combat Magnum series of revolvers was introduced in 1980.

Introduction

Smith & Wesson have long categorized their pistols according to the size of the frame, the smaller and lighter weapons using the ‘K’ frame and the very large revolvers the ‘N’; the ‘L’ frame falls between these, giving additional strength and size to cope with today’s magnum ammunition but not increasing the size by an inordinate amount.

What’s the difference between K and L frame?

The Smith & Wesson Distinguished Combat Magnum are marked on the frame, under the barrel where the cylinder yoke sits. Both use the same size grips. The “L” frame has a slightly larger, beefier frame, and the cylinder is significantly larger in diameter than the “K” frame. The “L” frame guns usually have full-length lugs on the underside of the barrel, the “K” frames usually have a half-length lug.

Design

These are, in fact, four distinct models in this range; the Smith & Wesson Model 586 Distinguished Combat Magnum comes in steel with a blued finish and has 4 in or 6 in (nominal – the actual lengths are as quoted above) barrel lengths. The Model 686 is similar but in stainless steel with a satin finish. Both models have adjustable rear sights. Model 581 is steel, blued, with a 4 in the barrel and fixed frame notch rear sight, while the Model 581 is the same but in stainless steel with a satin finish.

Smith & Wesson Model 586 Distinguished Combat Magnum
Smith & Wesson Model 586 Distinguished Combat Magnum (Photo: Smith & Wesson)

There are certain refinements; revolver with 4 in barrels and ‘target accessories’, and all revolvers with 6 in barrels are furnished with a trigger stop; the ‘standard’ 4 in barrel models – ie the 581 and 681 – will not have a trigger stop. The Model 586 and Model 686 are fitted with Goncalo Alves checkered target grips cut away for use with a speed loader, while the Model 581 and Model 681 have straightforward checkered walnut grips.

Police Combat Competitions

Smith & Wesson have said that they developed Distinguished Combat Magnum from lessons learned in Police Combat Competitions, and on the range, this appears to be borne out in practice. The trigger is wide and smooth, with a good double-action movement and a crisp let-off in the single-action mode.

Smith & Wesson Model 681 Distinguished Combat Magnum
Smith & Wesson Model 681 Distinguished Combat Magnum is chambered in two calibers: .357 Magnum and .38 Special (Photo: Smith & Wesson)

The pistol balances well come quickly to the aim and is as accurate as anyone could wish. There is sufficient weight and good balance to prevent excessive throw-off after firing so that the shooter can quickly regain his point of aim. For practical shooting contests, or for service, it would be hard to fault this weapon.

This revolver has a very stout frame with a fine K-Frame grip. The full lug barrel offers recoil dampening weight toward the muzzle, and contributes to its portability. The S&W double action is very smooth and the gun is accurate, reliable, and powerful, and its heavy frame makes it very long-lived. It’s longer cylinder enables it to handle bullets that not even the worshiped Model 27 can digest. There is no other double-action revolver that handles as well as this gun, not even the vaunted Colt Python.

Technical specifications: Smith & Wesson Distinguished Combat Magnum

Manufacturer:Smith & Wesson, Springfield, MA, 01101, United States
Type:six-shot, solid frame, double-action revolver
Caliber:.357 Magnum / .38 Special
Barrel:4 3/8 in (110 mm); 5 7/8 in (149 mm)
Weight (empty):4 in barrel: 42 oz (1190 grams); 6 in barrel: 46 oz (1304 grams)
Magazine capacity:6 rounds
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