You bet, especially the eight-shot Taurus 608 .357 Magnum, which outduels the Taurus 607 and S&W; 686 seven-shooters.
1995, Taurus International introduced the first commercially produced seven-shot .357 Magnum revolver, the Model 607. In 1996, Smith & Wesson revised its medium-frame Model 686 .357 to accept seven rounds, while Taurus upped the ante by chambering the large-frame 607 to hold eight rounds and christening it the Model 608. Of course, these moves by two of the world’s largest revolver manufacturers raises an obvious question: Why weren’t six rounds enough? The answer: Taurus and S&W; wanted to rekindle interest in the wheelgun so they could take back some of the market from autoloading pistols. To do that, they had to bring the wheelguns’ round capacities more on par with large-caliber semi-automatics while maintaining the revolvers’ shootability.
In the general market, all three products, the discontinued seven-shot Taurus and the new eight-shots, have attracted recreational shooters who prefer the simplicity of the double-action wheelgun and who like the versatility of the .357 Magnum cartridge. But we wondered if the extra-shot products offer any advantages in the various handgun competition disciplines.
The International Revolver Championships are a natural place for these products to find a following, but since no commercial speed loaders are currently available for them, they would be at a disadvantage in events that require reloading under time. For Bianchi Cup they present no real advantage in that all courses of fire are limited to six rounds and in the Moving Target Event, the competitor must reload under time pressure.
However, if the Steel Challenge is revived, these revolvers will certainly give the revolver-class competitor a distinct margin for error in the tournaments’ five-shot strings. Also, they might be good choices in the revolver class at the World Shootoff Championships, a shooter-against-shooter event that involves five targets for the revolver competitors and at the Second Chance Bowling Pin Shoot held in Central Lake, Michigan. In particular, the Second Chance event suits the conformation of these revolvers. The competitors in the five-pin main event fire five consecutive runs at five bowling pins set on a steel table. They are scored on the total time it takes to clear all five from the table for an aggregate of the five runs.
Due to their chambering for the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge, we decided to take a look at the Taurus and S&W; high-capacity revolvers for use in pin shooting. While the .357 is capable, especially with special heavy-bullet handloads, of driving the pins the necessary 3 feet rearward to clear the table and avoid time penalties for pins left on the table, bowling pins do not always cooperate. Off-center hits result in pins that fall over, spin, dance, and block the way for others to clear the table. The resulting challenge is then to clear the “dead wood” off the table, and this is where those extra shots could make a big difference to a revolver shooter.
If the competitor with a six-shot revolver gets a minor log jam with one of the pins blocking the path of another, it requires a minimum of two shots to clear the dead wood, and with a conventional revolver there is only one extra shot available. The implications are a time penalty and a significant drop in the standings. For revolver-loving pin shooters, the 686, 607, and 608 seem to be obvious solutions to this problem.
But which product is the best? Here’s what we think.
The S&W; 686, Plus 1
The seven-shot 686 is a mid-sized revolver weighing 44 ounces in its 6-inch-barrel configuration. It is constructed of stainless steel with a tasteful brushed finish accented by a contrasting color case-hardened hammer and trigger. The top strap is bead blasted to a matte finish and serrated to prevent glare, and its sights consist of a click-adjustable white-outline rear sight and a highly visible, fluorescent, red-ramp front. A welcome refinement on the current 686 is the addition of an ergonomically contoured cylinder-release button that fits the configuration of the thumb with the hand in a normal shooting postition. The new S&W; 686 also has the more versatile “round butt” grip frame that can accommodate a wide selection of aftermarket grips to suit any hand size. The lockwork is of the time-proven leaf-spring design, and there were no malfunctions or failures to fire noted in our testing.
With its intermediate size and weight, it was comfortable to grip by its finger-grooved pebble-finish rubber grip. Its overall configuration allowed for a good position of the trigger finger around the narrow smooth trigger. The narrow, smooth trigger allowed the finger to roll over its surface, preventing the tendency to pull the sights off target during the long double-action stroke.
Manipulating the trigger through the double-action pull of 11 pounds, we found the stroke was relatively smooth for an out-of-the-box revolver. More important, it was consistent from shot to shot. When fired in single-action mode for accuracy testing, the trigger broke crisply at 31/2 pounds.
In our speed-plate test, the 686 had vigorous recoil, but due to its grip and narrow, smooth trigger, it nonetheless gave excellent shot-to-shot accuracy control and our second-fastest first-shot average.
The first thing you notice about the large-frame Taurus revolvers is their heft. Our test 607 revolver, a now-discontinued model with 61/2-inch barrel, weighed in at a hefty 56 ounces. This weight is distributed well forward by a massive underlug that is integral with the barrel.
While the Taurus line of revolvers resembles the S&W; line externally, their lockwork is powered by a coil, rather than the traditional leaf spring and has a floating, frame-mounted firing pin rather than the hammer-mounted pin of the S&W.; While coil springs and frame-mounted firing pins are a more modern development in revolver design, all the revolvers exhibited complete reliability in our testing with positive lockup, ignition, and indexing of the chambers.
The 607 exhibited a high degree of polish in its blued finish, and it was tastefully offset by a case-hardened hammer and trigger. The top strap was, like the S&W;, bead blasted and serrated to prevent glare and it, too, was equipped with the highly visible white-outline adjustable rear sight and fluorescent red-ramp front. The Taurus’ rubber, pebble-finish grips had shallow finger grooves that would fit a variety of hand sizes comfortably, we think.
Taurus has incorporated an integral recoil compensator on the barrels of the 607 and 608. It consists of eight ports, four on each side of the front sight to vent the propellant gases upward, holding the muzzle down in recoil. The compensator portion of the barrel is1.100 inch long. It has an expansion chamber below the ported portion and a reduced-diameter exit hole of 0.380 inch to force more gas to exit the ports, increasing the compensator’s efficiency. Between the extra weight and the compensator, we expected to see enhanced shot-to-shot recovery times, and we were not disappointed.
Though the compensator could be expected to offer some advantage on the 607, its trigger left something to be desired. The single-action pull was a consistent 4 pounds, but since pin shooting is done in the double-action mode, consistency there is of great importance. The double-action pull was an acceptable 121/2 pounds, but its stroke was gritty and rough, ending in an inconsistent release. One chamber had no perceptible lock-up before the hammer fell and others had a varying degree from moderate to hard. It was difficult to compensate for this variability in our speed-plate testing. Our shooters frequently had high misses with the one chamber that had no perceptible lock-up stage prior to firing. As it would rotate into position, there was no predictable pause prior to the hammer falling and the gun would fire early, while the front sight was still above the target at 12 o’clock. This was most annoying. The outcome would be that the extra-shot advantage would frequently be wasted by missing!
The trigger itself was wide, and though popular with conventional target shooters who fire single action, its width prevented the trigger finger from rolling around its face during the double-action stroke. This caused our shooter to slow the trigger stroke down because he had to compensate laterally to keep the front sight on target.
In speed-plate testing, the heavy, comped 607 was very comfortable to shoot and recoil recovery was quick, much like shooting .38 Special wadcutters in a conventional mid-size revolver. During shooting, the front sight rose only slightly over the top of the plates after each shot. While it did beat the S&W; by 0.4 seconds in the speed-plates test due to its weight and compensated barrel, its trigger resulted in a slower first shot and an occasional high miss, which we think diminishes its seven-shot capacity.
Overall, we believe the Taurus 607 would benefit from a narrower trigger and an action-smoothing tune up before taking on the pins at Second Chance.
Revolver aficionados familiar with the usual six-shot format are in for a surprise when they swing open the cylinder of the eight-shot 608. You must count the holes to make sure you are seeing things correctly.
This large-frame stainless-steel revolver improves on the 607 by adding still another round of .357 capacity. Our test product sported a mirror stainless finish except for its bead-blasted top strap. The trigger pull was 33/4 pounds single action, and 12 pounds double action. Built on the same frame as the 607, an empty 608 weighed 4 ounces less (52 ounces) than the gun it supplanted due to the extra chamber in its cylinder.
Another notable difference between the seven-shot and eight-shot products was that the double-action stroke on the 608 was smooth and consistent, giving a a feeling of confidence when mowing down a rack of speed plates. The consistent trigger, muzzle weight, and integral compensator complemented each others’ performance and gave us both our fastest first-shot average and fastest overall runs. The sensation cruising through the course of fire was like driving down a smooth highway in a heavy, older Cadillac: smooth, fast, comfortable, and confident.
Though we did find the performance of the Taurus 608 to be excellent, a polished, narrow trigger would be one minor custom refinement we would recommend for fast double-action control and that extra competitive edge.
Though the S&W; 686 at $528 retail had an excellent trigger action and portable weight of 44 ounces, its recoil was vigorous enough to prevent us from equaling the performance of the Taurus 607 or 608 on speed plates. In terms of its lighter weight and greater recoil, we think it would be best suited to use as a general-purpose revolver for hunting, recreational shooting, or perhaps self-defense. For pin shooting, though, the 686 was overshadowed by the controllability of the heavy-compensated Taurus guns.
Of course the 607, which retailed at $443 in its blued version, has been discontinued. Though it lead the extra-capacity revolver charge last year, we don’t think it will be missed. In our view, the 608 has a definite edge by offering eight rounds in the same size revolver and better shootability.
Overall, for pin shooting we recommend the Taurus 608. For a factory .357 Magnum, it was very comfortable and easy to shoot accurately and quickly. Also, it is the only eight-shot .357 available, and at a retail price of $504, it offers custom features like the integral compensator and a high level of performance with a production price tag.
If the 608 proves successful in the marketplace, we wonder if 1997 will see S&W; modifying one of its large-frame revolvers to bring us eight rounds of capacity in its revolver line. We hope so, because in terms of revolver capacity, more rounds mean more performance.