S&W’S Mo. 66 and 69 Combat Magnum’s

The 3” K-frame with round butt has a lovely balance, both in the hand and to the eye, so much so that they’ve all become much in demand since their discontinuance and command premium prices as the carry guns of serious revolver users, not the safe queens of collectors. The 2.75” 66-8 “fits the profile, and has adjustable sights to adapt to the broad variety of .38 Special/.357 Mag loads for which it is chambered. This is about the shortest barrel length that allows for a full-length ejector rod, and what’s a quarter inch between friends?

Trigger pull was smooth but heavy. The two-piece barrel has proven itself accurate on S&W’s giant X-frame revolvers, and is adapted to the 66-8.  Off the bench, Black Hills factory new 148 grain match wadcutter .38 Special ammo drilled five holes in 2.65” and the best three, in 1.05”. Sub-three-inch group at 25 yards with a three-inch barrel revolver? Not bad! All shooting was done from a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench, two-handed. The “best three” measurement factors out enough unnoticed human error to get a good idea of what the same revolver and ammo would have done for all five from a machine rest.

The Model 69 shown at the height of recoil firing a 240-grain .44 Magnum
with strong modern Isosceles stance. Both revolvers proved comfortable and controllable to shoot when stoked with the magnum loads they’re rated for.

Most who carried snub .357s have loaded them with .38 Special +P. One of the most accurate such loads, and my favorite for training, is Speer’s Lawman 158 grain +P total metal jacket. From the short 66-8 it delivered five shots in 4.40” at 25 yards, four of them in 3.40” and the best three in 1.85”. Recoil was very controllable with the 66-8’s solid heft and the cushy neoprene grips it comes with.

Finally, Federal’s legendary 125 grain .357 Magnum load gave a 4.65” five-shot group, but that may be an example of that unnoticed human error I just mentioned, because four of them were in 2.10” and the best three in 1.35”.  All 25 yard groups were shot single action. Firing pin hits were optimal depth and centered. There were no malfunctions at any point in testing.

Despite the high-pressure of magnum loads, the author found the Model 69 ejected its brass easily.

Trigger pull in single action was consistent and crisp but relatively heavy at an average of five pounds 9.4 ounces. In double action, it was smooth and one consistent stage, but heavier than I liked: literally off the scale, which on my Lyman digital pull gauge maxes out at twelve pounds. A long life of double action shooting lets me guesstimate the DA pull weight at 14 pounds plus.

At an MSRP of $849, almost certainly less at real world retail in today’s market, this brand-new round butt K-frame .357 is comparable in price to a used one in mint condition. And…for Smith & Wesson collectors, this appears to be the only .357 Combat Magnum in history that actually says Combat Magnum right on the barrel!

Model 69

Introduced in 2014, the Model 69 is the first .44 Magnum S&W has produced in smaller-than-N-frame size, necessitating a five-shot cylinder. Built on the L-frame (.41 size), ours had the 2.75” barrel, and even fit in a couple of K-frame (.38-frame) holsters! Weight is a very portable 34.5 ounces. And it’s the first .44 to be called a Combat Magnum; look right there on the barrel if you don’t believe me.

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