Revolving Perfection: S&W Combat Magnum Model 66
There is one name in the handgun community that is instantly recognizable that concurs up images of old time cops like Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan patrolling the streets in the name of law and order and that name in Smith & Wesson. The company is inseparable from a long gone era where guns were made of steel with a limited capacity. Although not many law enforcement agencies still use wheel guns that doesn’t mean they aren’t still being made or sought after. We recently spoke to the representatives from the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company and they have been kind enough to send us one of their new production classic K frame based revolvers, the Model 66 Combat Magnum chambered in .357 Magnum.
Why Now ?
The K frame revolver is nothing new to the shooting world, in fact the K frame has been around for more than 100 years and served as the basis for hundreds of thousands of pistols. The K frame was the backbone of law enforcement for decades until the modern high capacity 9mm pistols replaced them. While revolvers like the Model 66 might have replaced in the law enforcement world, they still enjoy a tremendous following. When Smith & Wesson reached out to us and asked if we wanted to perform a test and eval on their revolvers, many of us here at the site jumped at the chance. Smith & Wesson has embraced technology and really taken a look at their older pistols to see if they could be modernized and brought to a new generation of shooters.
I have to admit, I might be one of the only gun writers on staff that doesn’t have a ton of time with revolvers, in fact the only revolver I own is a small J Framed Smith & Wesson Model 49 that I inherited from my Grandfather almost 10 years ago. One of the great things about being in the gun industry is that I get the opportunity to shoot and handle firearms that I ordinarily wouldn’t be exposed to. That was exactly the case with the Model 66 Combat Magnum that I now have sitting in my range bag as I type this article. It’s not a pistol most of my friends would expect me to own or enjoy shooting, but one of the best things about being a firearms enthusiast is shooting guns is trying new guns and finding that they do in fact grow on me.
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson
Country of Origin: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States of America
Caliber: .357 Magnum
Capacity: 6 Rounds
Barrel Length: 2 3/4″
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Frame Material: Stainless Steel
Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel
Grip Material: Polymer
Action Type: Single Action / Double Action
Weight: 33.5 Oz
Overall Length: 7.8″
Handling and Inspection
While I’ve only had the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Master in my hands a few hours I will say that it’s a very different animal than my small and easy to handle Model 49 revolver. The weight of the largely stainless steel revolver even with a sub 3″ barrel is evident the moment you remove it from the box. There are a few other things that caught my attention when I did my quick look over of the Model 66. Smith & Wesson did an excellent job on the brushed stainless steel parts of the pistol. There were no odd machine marks, scratches or irregularities that I was able to detect. A polymer handle comes standard on the Combat Magnum and I found that it was smooth where it should be and lightly textured in the appropriate spots. After a few minutes of handling I think I would prefer a little texture on the finger grooves of the front strap.
The heart of any pistol is the trigger, so I made sure to fondle and dry fire this pistol repeatedly during my initial unboxing. My impressions of the trigger is that it’s long and smooth in double action mode and short and crisp in single action. This is where my relative inexperience with revolvers comes into play, I found the single action to be a much shorter pull than I expect. My fellow testers said that in their opinion its perfect. A gauge test in the near future will put an end to any debate on amount of lbs needed to fire the pistol.
One final feature that Smith & Wesson has incorporated into the design of this pistol is a firing pin lock that can be activated with a key similar to a handcuff key. This is generally becoming commonplace in all revolvers made in the last few years. While this enhanced safety feature maybe seen by some as useless and just another step to control people, I can almost promise you that it is being mandated by equal parts safety for the shooters and safety from potential litigation by someone in the future, if it hasn’t already happened.
We are scheduled to have this out on the range in two days, with a full compliment of .38 S&W and .357 Magnum ammunition to try out. So far we have four shooters who are signed up to try this new offering from Smith & Wesson and give us their opinions on how it handles. My initial thoughts are that being such a heavy pistol at 33.5 Oz that it’s shear weight alone will help eat up the felt recoil. The weight of this pistol is heavy but not unbearable in fact it’s very close in weight to my new Sig Sauer P-210 I recently purchased. The weight is not a deal killer but it is just something I wanted to note. This pistol might not be the best choice for conceal carry use, partially because of it’s weight and partially because of the limited capacity. The .357 Magnum caliber is a proven effective round but how it handles in a short barreled heavy frame revolver will be an interesting test to perform.
Final Thoughts Before the Range
Check back soon and see how the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum did and what our evaluations thought. What do you think of the Model 66 ? Is it still relevant in todays market are have shooters turned their back on revolvers for good ? It’s this writers opinion that revolvers still have a viable place in the gun market, but unfortunately seem to appeal to a shrinking demographic in the firearms market. A shrinking market but one that one completely disappear