Smith And Wesson 686 Problems And Their Solutions

The Smith & Wesson 686 is one of the most popular revolvers around. But like any firearm, it can develop some issues that drive you nuts. I’ve been shooting 686s for years, so I’m very familiar with the common problems they have.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the most frequent 686 issues and show you exactly how to diagnose and fix them. That way, you can keep your revolver running smoothly for years to come. Stick with me and you’ll be a 686 problem-solving pro in no time!

Some of the most common problems with Smith & Wesson 686 gun are Trigger Lock Issue, Carry Up Failure, Misfiring, Spring Problem, Jamming Issue, Cylinder Issue, Timing Issue and Accuracy Problems.

Common Smith And Wesson 686 Problems And Their Solutions

1. Failing to Fire

You pull the trigger on your 686 but just hear an empty “click” – what gives? Start by inspecting the ammo and making sure you loaded the cylinder properly. Faulty rounds are a common cause of misfires.

If the ammo checks out, take a look at the gun’s timing. If the cylinder and barrel aren’t aligned correctly, it can lead to light primer strikes and failures to fire. A quick trip to the smith for realignment typically fixes this.

A worn out or broken firing pin spring is another easy-to-resolve culprit. The spring needs to provide sufficient force to ignite the primer when struck. Replacing an old spring takes just a few minutes.

Lastly, give the revolver a thorough cleaning. Built-up residue inside the mechanism can prevent firing. Scrubbing out all that gunk will often get your 686 running like new again.

1. Trigger Lock Issue

Having trouble with your Smith & Wesson 686’s trigger lock mechanism? I feel your pain. This handy revolver comes with an internal locking device meant to help safely secure it when not in use. Unfortunately, sometimes these locks can get stuck in the “on” position, leaving you unable to fire the gun when you want to use it.

Don’t worry – with a few simple steps, you can manually deactivate the lock and get your 686 shooting again. First, carefully inspect the lock itself. You’ll notice a tiny keyhole on the side of the frame, typically above the grip. Insert the proper S&W unlocking key and turn it a quarter-turn clockwise. Listen for a faint click. That’s the sound of the lock disengaging.

If unlocking it with the key doesn’t seem to work, try removing the grip panels on the revolver’s frame. Under there you’ll see the lock mechanism itself. Try gently wiggling it with your fingers – sometimes debris or gunk can make it stick. Be very careful not to force it though. You don’t want to damage the mechanism.

As a last resort, give Smith & Wesson customer service a call. Their gunsmiths are very familiar with this issue and can walk you through manual ways to deactivate the stubborn lock. They might even send you a replacement mechanism if yours is hopelessly jammed up.

2. Carry Up Failure

Having trouble with carry up failures on your trusty 686 revolver? This annoying problem happens when you pull the trigger but the cylinder doesn’t rotate and carry the next chamber in line up to the barrel for firing. Not cool.

The most common cause is a worn out sear or sear spring. The sear is the internal part that catches and holds the hammer cocked until the trigger is pressed. If it or its spring become too weak or damaged, the cylinder timing can be thrown off, resulting in carry up failures.

The good news is the fix is pretty straightforward – just replace the faulty sear and/or spring with new factory parts. Numrich Gun Parts and other outlets carry S&W components. Installation isn’t too tough but does require detail stripping the revolver.

If you don’t feel up to swapping the parts yourself, any competent gunsmith can do it for you. Or you can just send the 686 back to Smith & Wesson and their service technicians will get it repaired and shooting reliably again in no time.

3. Misfiring

Here’s an expanded explanation of misfiring issues with the Smith & Wesson 686 revolver, written in an easy to understand, conversational tone:

Misfires can be super frustrating when you’re excited to hit the range with your 686. You pull the trigger, but instead of a satisfying boom, you just hear a sad little click.

What’s happening is that when you pulled the trigger, the firing pin struck the cartridge’s primer as expected. But for some reason, the primer or powder inside the cartridge didn’t work like they should, preventing the round from igniting and discharging properly.

There’s a few potential causes of this misfiring:

– Dirty, worn out, or faulty ammunition. Always inspect your cartridges closely and clean your 686’s chambers.

– An oil, grease or residue buildup inside the revolver that impedes function. Be sure to clean it thoroughly.

– A weak or broken firing pin spring unable to ignite the primer. Replacing the spring often fixes this.

– The gun is just dirty and needs a good scrubbing. Carbon and gunk buildup can prevent ignition.

– Very rarely, an internal part like the hand, sear or cylinder stop may be broken or out of spec. A gunsmith can check this out.

The good news is that most 686 misfires are ammo related or just need some basic cleaning and maintenance to get it running right again. But if the problem persists after trying fresh cartridges and a good cleaning, a gunsmith should be able to pinpoint and fix any mechanical issues causing the malfunctions.

4. Spring Problem

It can be scary when your trusty 686 starts having spring problems. This excellent revolver uses a number of springs to control the hammer, trigger, cylinder timing, lock up, etc. So issues like repeated failures to fire, inaccurate timing, loose lock up, misfires, and jamming can happen if one breaks or loses tension. No fun!

The good news is springs are easy and inexpensive to replace in most cases. The most common one needing swapping out is the hand/pawl spring that controls cylinder rotation. Weakening of this spring allows the timing to be thrown off, causing all kinds of problems.

Installing a fresh S&W factory spring realigns the timing and gets everything working smoothly again. The hammer and trigger return springs also wear out eventually and can cause faults if not replaced.

For lock up issues, consider lightly peening or stoning the teeth on the star extractor to improve engagement with the cylinder. This quick fix often re-tightens loose lock up without needing replacement parts.

5. Jamming Issue

One of the most common problems that many owners have faced with their Smith And Wesson 686 is jamming. This can be really frustrating, especially when you’re out on the range trying to enjoy a good shooting session.

To understand and fix this issue, let’s first look at how your revolver works. The cylinder rotates with each pull of the trigger, aligning a new chamber with the barrel for firing. Sometimes, due to wear and tear or dirt build-up, the cylinder may not rotate smoothly, causing jamming.

The solution to this problem is simple – clean around the star ejector. This is located on the backside of the cylinder and is responsible for pushing out spent casings after firing. Use a toothbrush or a cleaning brush to remove any debris that might be hindering its movement. It’s important to maintain cleanliness in this area to avoid any future jamming issues.

6. Cylinder Issue

One common issue with this concealed carry pistol is a cylinder that becomes loose or difficult to open and close. This can be frustrating, especially when you are in the middle of a shooting session.

The good news is that there are a few simple solutions to this problem that you can try on your own before seeking professional help.

One reason for a loose or difficult-to-open cylinder could be a loose extractor rod. The extractor rod is responsible for ejecting spent cartridges from the cylinder. If it becomes loose, it can cause the entire cylinder to feel wobbly.

To tighten the extractor rod, you will need to use a tool called an extractor rod wrench or a small flathead screwdriver. First, make sure your revolver is unloaded and in safe condition. Then insert the wrench or screwdriver into the small slot at the end of the extractor rod and turn it clockwise to tighten. Be careful not to over-tighten, as this can cause other problems.

If tightening the extractor rod does not solve the issue, you may need to work on breaking in your revolver. Sometimes, a new Smith and Wesson 686 may have a stiff cylinder that can become easier to open and close with use. To break it in, you will need to repeatedly open and close the cylinder while applying a bit of pressure.

Do this for several minutes, and then try firing a few rounds. If the issue persists, continue to repeat the process until you notice an improvement.

If you have tried both of these solutions and are still experiencing a loose or difficult-to-open cylinder, it is best to contact Smith and Wesson for further assistance. They have a dedicated customer service team that can help diagnose the problem and provide a solution.

7. Timing Issue

Timing issues occur when the cylinder doesn’t rotate smoothly while firing or cycling. This can cause misfires, jams, or even failure to eject spent cartridges. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, it’s likely that your revolver has a timing issue.

Identifying the Problem

The first step to solving any problem is identifying it. So how do you know if your Smith & Wesson 686 has a timing issue? There are several signs to look out for:

  • Misfires or light strikes: If the cylinder doesn’t rotate properly, the firing pin may not strike the primer with enough force, resulting in a misfire or light strike.
  • Jams: When the cylinder doesn’t rotate smoothly, it can cause cartridges to get stuck while loading or ejecting.
  • Failure to eject spent cartridges: If the cylinder isn’t timed correctly, spent cartridges may not be ejected properly, leading to malfunctions and delays while shooting.


Fortunately, timing issues can be easily fixed by following one of these solutions:

  • Use a larger hand: The hand is the part that turns the cylinder when the trigger is pulled. If it’s worn out or damaged, it may not rotate the cylinder smoothly. Replacing it with a larger hand can often solve timing problems.
  • Clean and lubricate: Sometimes, a simple cleaning and lubrication of the revolver can fix timing issues. Make sure to follow proper cleaning techniques and use high-quality gun oil.
  • Send it back to Smith and Wesson: If neither of the above solutions work, it’s best to send your revolver back to Smith & Wesson for repairs. Their expert gunsmiths will diagnose and fix any timing issues with your revolver.

8.  Accuracy Problems

Noticing your 686 isn’t shooting as tight groups as it used to at the range? Don’t worry, accuracy problems are common with any handgun after a lot of rounds downrange. Luckily there’s a few things we can check to get your revolver back to driving tacks.

First, take a close look at the barrel itself. Over time, the rifling inside can become worn or eroded, hurting precision. A competent gunsmith can re-cut the rifling to clean it up and restore accuracy.

The crown at the muzzle end also matters – any dings or damage there can diminish precision. Having your smith recrown the barrel is quick insurance to maximize accuracy potential.

It’s also possible that cylinder timing has loosened up over thousands of shots fired, throwing off that all-important barrel alignment. Again, a revolver expert can troubleshoot and re-time the cylinder for reliable accuracy.

Don’t forget good old fashioned cleaning and maintenance too. Built up fouling in the barrel and chambers can make precision decline. Keeping your 686’s bore pristine pays off in tighter groups.

And lastly, be sure to use quality factory ammo matched to your particular revolver. Testing different loads will reveal which ones your 686 responds to best for peak accuracy. Premium ammo makes a difference.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

How can I fix the trigger pull issue with the Smith and Wesson 686?

You can try polishing the internal components or replacing the springs to improve the trigger pull of the Smith and Wesson 686. If the problem persists, it’s best to take the gun back to Smith & Wesson for professional inspection and repair.

Is the Smith and Wesson 686 revolver considered a reliable firearm?

The Smith and Wesson 686 is generally known for being a reliable and trustworthy revolver among the shooting community. However, individual experiences may vary based on usage and maintenance of the gun.

What are some special features of the Smith and Wesson 686 revolver?

The Smith and Wesson 686 is a six-shot double-action revolver designed for powerful handgun cartridges. It features a rugged stainless steel frame and a sturdy build that has made it a favorite among revolver enthusiasts for decades.

How can I trust the Smith and Wesson 686 to be a reliable gear for self-defense?

The Smith and Wesson 686 has gained a trustworthy reputation in the shooting community for its solid build, precision, and dependability. However, before relying on any firearm for self-defense, it’s crucial to practice with it and ensure it functions flawlessly for your specific needs.

Is the Smith and Wesson 686 notorious for any specific issues?

The Smith and Wesson 686 is not notorious for any specific issues. However, like any mechanical device, it may encounter problems over time, most of which can be resolved with proper care, maintenance, and periodic inspections.

Can I charge the Smith and Wesson 686 with special action ammunition?

Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines and firearm manual to select appropriate ammunition for the Smith and Wesson 686. Using specialized ammunition without proper research may cause performance issues and damage to the gun.


In conclusion, we have discussed the various problems that are commonly faced by owners of Smith and Wesson 686 handguns. We also provided solutions for each of these problems that can help you keep your weapon reliable and safe to use.

By following these suggested solutions, you can ensure that your handgun remains in top condition and performs well at the range or during testing. It is important to remember that regular maintenance and proper care are key in preventing these problems from occurring.

We hope that this guide has been helpful in addressing any concerns or issues you may have encountered with your Smith and Wesson 686. Remember, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed, but also feel confident in troubleshooting and fixing minor issues yourself.

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