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Smith & Wesson Model 66: Just a Great .357 Magnum Revolver?

Smith & Wesson Model 66. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Smith & Wesson Model 66. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Smith & Wesson Model 66 – a 3 Minute Review: The model 66 was legendary when it first hit the market in the 1950s, becoming a staple of U.S. law enforcement for over thirty-five years. The Model 66-8, S&W’s fresh new take on this classic has already become popular due to the original Model 66 having been discontinued in the early 2000s.

Today, we’re going to delve into the big picture of this gun and see if it lives up to the legacy its predecessor left.


The Model 66 had an emphasis on improving the sight quality, with slimmer sights and a red ramp sight that helps improve visibility and target acquisition. In five-shot groupings it measured at the worst 3.25 inch groupings, and at its best 1.25 inch groupings.

At twenty-five yards, the Model 66 can even equal the Sig Sauer P226 Legion and other such magazine-fed, red dot sight-assisted, or modified sidearms, making it viable even in these times. In my experience, the drastic sight improvements have really given this pistol new life in comparison to models from the 1960s–1970s when it was a police-issued weapon.


As with most revolvers, reliability is one of the Model 66’s selling points. A lack of moving parts means less can break on this firearm, but that doesn’t equate to invincibility. When firing magnum rounds specifically for a duration of time, the barrel of a revolver can begin to break down, including the barrel melting.

Overall, reliability is on par with most wheel guns. If you steer clear of Magnum ammo, you’re far less likely to encounter any problems and will find it an extremely reliable revolver that is ideal for concealed carry.


In my experience, the Model 66 is exceptionally smooth-functioning for a double-action revolver and doesn’t feel like a rough wheel gun in hand. The only negative I can place on it handling-wise is the size and blockiness of the Model 66, as those with smaller hands or a lack of familiarity with revolvers will likely struggle to fire this gun effectively. Practice and just getting used to the feel of the 66 can certainly deal with this, but I would not recommend this for those unfamiliar with such weapons.

To me the 66 is moderately easy to handle, but I wouldn’t put it in the same comfort tier as a Glock 19, S&W M&P 20, or other such magazine-fed pistols. In all fairness however, I am not exactly a consistent user of revolvers and this may be due to my lack of experience with them.


At four pounds and 11 ounces, the Model 66’s trigger pull is a perfect balance and like many K-frame revolvers pull easily in-hand. An excessively light trigger for a revolver actually doesn’t feel right from my experience, and the 66 excels at smooth firing because of its exceptional trigger.

Overall this is one of the best triggers I’ve ever felt, and definitely has lightened and smoothed out the trigger pull in comparison to the original models. It would even be an easy trigger for those inexperienced with revolvers to become familiar with and shoot accurately.

Magazine and Reloading 

True to the revolver name, the Model 66 is a six-shooter and only holds six rounds; arguably its most significant downfall. The cylinder action isn’t loose, therefore being quite durable and rugged for those who might not be as gentle with their guns as others.

Reloading is as speedy as could be for a revolver, especially if you’re utilizing a speed-loader. However, it still will be nowhere near as quick as a magazine-fed pistol, clocking it at its fastest near nine seconds. In a fight against a Glock or Sig, this would likely not end well for the Model 66 user not only because of capacity but reload time as well.

Length and Weight 

Coming in at 4.25 inches, the Model 66 is almost hand-made to be a perfect concealed carry revolver. It isn’t so short that accuracy is an issue at mid-range, yet it doesn’t profile when carried to the point you look like you’re hiding something. This makes the gun also very easy to handle, as it’s not too compact nor an excessively long western-style six-shooter.

Surprisingly, the Model 66 is only two pounds in weight, almost a full pound lighter than original models, and being on par with most other modern handguns. For me, this is the ideal weight for this revolver, as it makes recoil controllable while also not making you feel like a rock in your pocket. It is no doubt the lightest revolver I’ve fired, which made it a pleasure to shoot!

Recoil Management 

For me, the recoil of the Model 66 is not bad at all even when firing .357 Magnum. However, the structure and frame of the pistol itself may ‘amplify’ the recoil to those who haven’t used revolvers before but have used magazine-fed pistols. Overall reacquiring your target after firing is great with this revolver, as the recoil doesn’t throw the weapon to either side and keeps you relatively centered when aiming.

Compared to other higher-end revolvers like Ruger, I personally find this to have the best overall recoil. It’s just light enough to make it very manageable especially with great experience and this makes it excellent for a concealed carry revolver where every shot counts.


This can be hard to get a read on a regionality can make this hard – but $900 is usually the going rate and up. It’s extremely durable, shoots well, and is one of the best revolvers for concealed carry on the market. If there was one wheel gun I had to choose to be on my hip in modern times, this would likely be it. Which brings us to my verdict…

My Verdict?

If you’re in the market for a revolver that is functional and can be used for concealed carry, I cannot recommend the Model 66 enough. It certainly isn’t a Glock, an S&W M&P 20, or other such more modern tech-savvy weapons, but it is one of the most advanced revolvers out there.

When it comes to reliability in revolvers, this gem is the definition of it. It is an absolute must-have for anyone that loves wheel guns, whether as a collector or carrier!

Bonus Photo Essay: Meet the Best from Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson

Smith & Wesson Model 500. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Smith & Wesson Model 625

Smith & Wesson Model 625. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ. Image: Industry Handout.

Smith & Wesson Model 500

Smith & Wesson Model 500. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Smith & Wesson Governor

Smith & Wesson Governor. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

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Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared in large publications like The Armory Life, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog.

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Richard Douglas is a long-time shooter, outdoor enthusiast, and technologist. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, Cheaper Than Dirt, Daily Caller, and other publications.