New Smith & Wesson Performance Center 986

Some of the nicest guns on the market today are being made by the Performance Center at Smith & Wesson. One of the latest offerings is the new Model 986.
This revolver is a blend of seemingly opposing approaches to gun design. To start with, this wheel gun uses a rimless cartridge: the 9mm. Rimless cartridges are not normally used in a revolver due to the lack of a protruding rim to interface with the cylinder and ejection star.
A non-typical caliber is not the only dichotomy found in the 986. The Performance Center uses a 2.5″ barrel (with a recessed precision crown) and reduced the gun’s weight with specific cuts and material use, which would be consistant with a gun aimed at maximum concealment. Yet, the team went with an oversized grip and full size combat sights – two things not normally associated with a concealment firearm.
Smith & Wesson Model 986
The result is a handgun that balances very well in the hand and is chambered for a serious self-defense cartridge. While not as easy to conceal as a Model 642, the gun can still be carried under a jacket or shirt with grips that allow a very good control of the gun during recoil.
I had a chance to see and shoot one of these at the recent SHOT Show, and I was impressed by it.
I’ve always been intrigued by 9mm revolvers. When I saw that Smith & Wesson would be introducing a new one in 2017, I made it a priority to see it.
My initial impressions are very positive. The gun looks like a high end performance gun. The grips are a rich wood that set nicely against the matte stainless steel frame. The Performance Center opted for a titanium cylinder that is a darker color that is closer to a light graphite. Combining the three colors looks great in person.
Smith & Wesson Model 986
As I mentioned, the gun uses titanium for the cylinder. It is unfluted, and it chambers seven of the 9mm cartridges. As you might expect, it is cut for moon clips. Smith & Wesson includes a pair with each revolver. I would note that buying extra clips is a very smart decision. Clips can be lost or damaged at the range.
The gun weighs a little less than 32 ounces unloaded. To me, that tends to be on the heavy side for a concealment pistol. However, the weight is very well balanced, and it feels much lighter when holding it.
Recoil from a 9mm revolver can be stout in small guns. To give this statement some context, SAAMI specifications on 9mm +P ammunition puts it in the same ballpark as the .357 Magnum.
Surprisingly, the recoil on the Model 986 was closer to that of a .38 Special and not its Magnum brother. Muzzle rise was easy to control thanks to the full size grip. Also, there was no sting to the hand as you might get from a J-frame.
These guns have the actions tuned by the Performance Center. While the double action trigger is not the nicest I’ve felt (that’s a toss-up between my 20 year old Model 10 and a friend’s Colt Python), it is very good and well worth the investment. The single action trigger is light and crisp – on par with the venerable Python.
Anything coming out of the Performance Center is a step above the typical (good quality) Smith & Wesson catalog. As with anything else in life, you have to pay for the added work and tuning. This gun carries a suggested retail price of $1,129. Considering all of the additional work done on these guns, the price is quite reasonable.

Richard is a writer with a background in law enforcement and sports photography. In addition to his work in the firearms industry, he writes in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. More of his work can be found at GunsHolstersAndGear