When it comes to .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolvers, most of the discussions I’ve had tend to focus on either the ultra compact J-frames or full size 686 (or similar) L-frames (and sometimes larger options). The former happens most often when discussing self defense applications. The latter is more prevalent when conversing about revolver divisions in competition settings. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like the K-frames such as the Model 66 have mostly been forgotten. Or maybe, it’s just the frame that no one talks about. Whatever the case might be, the Model 66 Combat Magnum is a fine K-frame specimen with probably one of the coolest names in the market.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the Model 66 Combat Magnum is $979. Street price as of writing this post isn’t far off from that and ranges from about $100 below MSRP to $20 over it. I suspect that has to do a bit with its sparse availability which is either due to limited production, high demand, or a combination thereof. Whatever the case, a new purchase should include:
- The revolver itself,
- a classic blue S&W hard-sided foam-padded case,
- a manual,
- and a cable lock.
Everything on this 7.8” long K-frame revolver with the exception of the synthetic grip is stainless steel. The barrel, the frame and the cylinder. It’s all stainless steel which contributes to its 33.5 oz heft.
Starting with the business end we have the barrel shroud which encloses the 2.75” barrel that is adorned on the top with a red ramp front sight. On the right side of the shroud we find the .357 Magnum cartridge designation along with the Combat Magnum moniker. The opposite side dons the Smith & Wesson namesake. Below the shroud is the groove that fully shields the full length extractor.
Following the barrel back towards the stock is the frame which is the home of the six shot fluted cylinder using a ball-detent lock-up design. The lock-up is sturdy with zero noticeable play as it should be. A fully adjustable rear sight is seated atop the frame. Behind the rear sight is the exposed hammer which can be thumb cocked allowing for single action operation. The trigger guard on the bottom of the frame protects the trigger.
The double action trigger pull is typically heavy as one would expect from a wheel gun, but smooth. It is much too heavy to get an accurate reading on the trigger gauge which maxes out at 12 lbs. The single action trigger pull is much lighter than the double action trigger pull as expected and averaged out on the trigger gauge at 5lbs 14.1oz.
The synthetic grip on the stock is okay. Some folks may not like the finger grooves. Other folks like me, won’t notice them. The texture is a bit too smooth for my liking. For the most part it does a fine job at allowing one to establish a firm grip on the revolver.
I’ve really enjoyed and admired the design and execution of this model revolver. In my opinion, it has this Goldielocks thing going on. It’s not too big. It’s not too small. It’s just right. It’s not too heavy. It’s not too light. Again, it’s just right. It’s got everything one needs and nothing one doesn’t. For example, the combination of the red ramp front sight and the adjustable black blade rear sight is just what you need to get the revolver zeroed for one’s preferred ammunition and visible enough to be very usable. Sure it could have a brighter fiber optic front sight, but that would be a bit more brittle and really isn’t absolutely necessary. The trigger isn’t fantastic, but it’s not bad. For lack of a better word, I’d describe it as practical. I can’t really find much to complain about myself, but I’m sure some one will point out the unpopular internal lock located just north of the cylinder release on the left side.
When I attempt to describe how it shoots I find myself coming back to the Goldielocks effect. It’s just right. With 38 Special, the result is a very pleasant shooting experience that is just right for working on marksmanship fundamentals. Hot 357 Magnum loads will certainly make their presence known but it isn’t too much, nor too little… I won’t say it again. The thing is the Model 66 has enough heft to dampen a fair amount of the recoil. Adding to that is a grip that is large enough to get a full purchase (the exception here might be for folks with extremely large hands) which results in a combination that allows for effective recoil control without much of the ouch factor some folks associate with shooting 357 magnum.
The combination of size, features, and how well it shoots makes the Model 66 Combat Magnum a very strong candidate for a self defense revolver that can be easily concealed. While I would normally encourage folks towards a defensive semi automatic pistol rather than a revolver, there are some situations in which a revolver makes sense to me. The first situation that comes to mind is in environments where a revolver keeps one on the right side of the law and a semi automatic pistol does not. There are other situations, but I will leave that for a future post.
The Model 66 is also available with a 4.25” barrel. This variant comes in a bit longer at 9.6” overall and heavier at 36.9 oz. I haven’t handled this particular variant so I can’t speak to it. However, I suspect that the extra weight and length will likely make the revolver easier to shoot while making it a bit more difficult to conceal.
Frankly, the Model 66 is a great option for a 357 Magnum six shooter worth looking at and considering if one is in the market for one.