RIGHT-SIZED RE­VOLVER

THE RE­TURN OF S&W’S HANDY MODEL 66 WITH NEW 2.75-INCH BAR­REL WILL MAKE AN EX­CEL­LENT EDC GUN

Concealed Carry Hand Guns - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY STEVEN PAUL BAR­LOW

The re­turn of S&W’s handy Model 66 with new 2.75-inch bar­rel will make an ex­cel­lent EDC gun. By Steven Paul Bar­low

Some­times you have to tip too far in one di­rec­tion and then the other un­til you come to the per­fect bal­ance.

That’s what has hap­pened with the re­cent re­turn of the Smith & Wes­son Model 66 Com­bat Mag­num, this time with a 2.75-inch bar­rel. This hand­ier ver­sion pro­vides an ex­cel­lent bal­ance of size and power for a .357 Mag­num re­volver in­tended as a carry gun.

A cou­ple of new fea­tures make this model, of­fi­cially the Model 66-8 (the eighth it­er­a­tion of this gun), even bet­ter. But it all starts with that old fa­mil­iar frame.

JUST RIGHT K-FRAME

Smith & Wes­son’s re­volvers built on the larger L and N frames can han­dle the pound­ing of the .357 Mag­num car­tridge bet­ter and the heav­ier guns are bet­ter for re­coil man­age­ment, but they’re rather big for carry guns.

Many of the com­pany’s small J-frame re­volvers are now cham­bered in .357 Mag­num. They make great carry guns, but the su­per lightweight mod­els can be bru­tal to shoot and dif­fi­cult to con­trol.

The Model 66, with its K frame, is in the Goldilocks po­si­tion. It’s just right. It fits the av­er­age hand very well and, while it doesn’t com­pletely tame the mighty .357, it does make it eas­ier on the shooter. The 2.75-inch bar­rel is new for the Model 66 and it too seems to be just the right size, thanks to the new cylin­der lock-up.

EX­TRACT THOSE CASES

In the past, the knock on .357 re­volvers with bar­rels less than 3 inches was that they ne­ces­si­tated a short ejec­tor rod that didn’t al­low spent cases to fully clear the cylin­der when ex­tract­ing them.

With the new Model 66, the cylin­der still locks at the rear by way of a pin on the ex­trac­tor star. But the end of the ejec­tor rod no longer locks into the shroud un­der the bar­rel. In­stead, there is a ball de­tent on the frame in the re­cess where the cylin­der yoke en­gages it. It locks there. This would seem to be a stronger sys­tem, so it’s a win-win for this re­volver as it also al­lows for a longer ejec­tor rod that can eject the spent cases more fully to clear the cylin­der.

So, what else does the Model 66 have to of­fer?

OTHER FEA­TURES

The Model 66 fea­tures a matte stain­less steel frame, cylin­der and two-piece bar­rel. Its ham­mer, trigger, cylin­der latch, sights, ejec­tor rod, rub­ber grips and frame screws are all black, giv­ing the gun a pleas­ing twotone ap­pear­ance.

The gun fea­tures S&W’s on-board lock sys­tem with the key hole right above the cylin­der latch. When en­gaged, the lock pre­vents move­ment of both the ham­mer and the trigger. I’ve heard many com­plaints about the lock, mostly from older re­volver purists, many of whom still are still in re­volt over stain­less steel and rub­ber grips.

To my way of think­ing, if the lock of­fends you, don’t use it. Se­cure your

gun an­other way, in a safe or lock­box, and for­get about the lock. I’ve used the lock sys­tem in the past on one of my other S&W re­volvers as an ex­tra layer of se­cu­rity when I had to stow my gun in a lock­box chained out of sight in my car.

AD­JUSTABLE SIGHTS

This Model 66 fea­tures a metal ramp front sight with a red plas­tic insert. The rear sight is a fully ad­justable low-pro­file unit. Given the wide range of bul­let weights and power lev­els of ammo that this gun is ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing—from light .38 SPL tar­get loads to hot .357 Mag­num hunt­ing loads—hav­ing ad­justable sights is an ex­cel­lent fea­ture. In shoot­ing this re­volver, how­ever, I did find that the rear sight notch was rather small and at times hin­dered quick sight ac­qui­si­tion. So, how did the shoot­ing go oth­er­wise?

LOTS OF AMMO CHOICES

One of the best fea­tures of a .357 Mag­num re­volver is its ver­sa­til­ity that comes from the fact that it will fire such a wide power range of am­mu­ni­tion. I tried a selec­tion that in­cluded .38 Spe­cial, .38 Spe­cial +P, and .357 Mag­num loads from Fed­eral, Winch­ester and Rem­ing­ton. Bul­let weights ranged from 110 (Winch­ester Sil­ver­tips) to 180 grains (Fed­eral JHP), with ve­loc­i­ties from un­der 700 to well over 1,200 feet per sec­ond.

“THE RUB­BER GRIPS... DID A GOOD JOB WITH EVEN THE HOTTEST LOADS, IN­CLUD­ING THE FIRE-BREATH­ING WINCH­ESTER 125-GRAIN JHP .357 LOAD...”

A GOOD SHOOTER

I picked five loads and did some ac­cu­racy test­ing from the bench.

With a short-bar­reled gun such as the Model 66, I usu­ally shoot groups from 15 yards. This re­volver grouped most shots in the 1- to 1.5-inch range with a few sub-1-inch groups. It wasn’t an ex­haus­tive, sci­en­tif­i­cally con­clu­sive test, but it was enough for me to be con­fi­dent that this is one very ac­cu­rate re­volver. I be­lieve a stead­ier hand and more youth­ful eyes would have net­ted the same re­sults at much greater dis­tances.

With the mun­dane shoot­ing com­pleted, I did the rest of my shoot­ing off-hand, shoot­ing drills dou­ble-ac­tion from 7 to 15 yards and sin­gle-ac­tion skip­ping a 5-inch rub­ber ball along the ground from 15 yards out past 25 yards.

The trigger was ex­cel­lent. Dou­ble-ac­tion was smooth and con­sis­tent. It mea­sured 9.5 pounds on my trigger gauge. Sin­gle-ac­tion was crisp at an even 4 pounds.

The rub­ber grips fit my hand well and did a good job with even the hottest loads, in­clud­ing the fire-breath­ing Winch­ester 125-grain JHP .357 load that blasted out of the stubby lit­tle bar­rel and reg­is­tered an av­er­age 1,237 feet per sec­ond 15 feet from the muz­zle.

A WOR­THY COM­PAN­ION

Yes, the hey­day of the mid-sized re­volver with a 4-inch bar­rel as a ser­vice weapon is over. But put a shorter bar­rel on one, such as the 2.75-inch tube on this new Model 66, and you have an ex­cel­lent carry gun that fires the .357 Mag­num, a car­tridge with per­haps the best street record as a fight-stop­per.

This Model 66 is re­li­able—you can for­get about the stop­page drills you prac­tice with your semi-auto. It’s ac­cu­rate—if you do your part, you’ll make holes where you want them. It’s weather-re­sis­tant, good look­ing and it’s not made of plas­tic. We might win over a few re­volver purists.

“THIS HAND­IER VER­SION PRO­VIDES AN EX­CEL­LENT BAL­ANCE OF SIZE AND POWER...”

Right: The HKS speed­load­ers the au­thor uses for his Model 10 .38 Spe­cial also work for the Model 66 .357. Below: The rear sight is fully ad­justable, good for a gun that’s able to shoot such a wide range of ammo. But the au­thor felt the rear sight notch should be big­ger.

Top Right: The Fed­eral Pre­mium .38 Spe­cial +P 130-grain HST ammo is con­trol­lable, has very lit­tle muz­zle flash and is de­signed so the bul­let will ex­pand re­li­ably when fired from short-bar­reled guns. Bot­tom: The ramp front sight fea­tures a red plas­tic insert to help you ac­quire it more eas­ily.

Above: The Model 66 has an at­trac­tive two-tone ap­pear­ance and is sized right for both shoot­ing and car­ry­ing.

Below: The cylin­der latch on the frame is an­gled for easy ma­nip­u­la­tion by the thumb for right-handed shoot­ers. Vis­i­ble above the latch is the key hole for the in­te­gral lock.

Above: The S&W Model 66 with 2.75-inch bar­rel is a mid-sized .357 that pro­vides the right bal­ance of power and carry con­ve­nience. Below: The ham­mer is check­ered and easy to reach, but not overly long or ob­tru­sive.

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