This review of the Smith & Wesson Model 986 Performance Center appeared originally as a Gun Locker review in the June 2017 issue of Shooting Illustrated. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select Shooting Illustrated as your member magazine.
As even many non-shooters know, Smith & Wesson has been producing some of the finest DA revolvers on the planet for a long time. Some of the greatest models ever distributed were designed and manufactured by the Massachusetts-based firm, such as the great triple-lock revolver, introduced in 1908. Subsequently, Smith & Wesson has continued to design and produce fabulous revolvers, and nothing has changed today. One Smith & Wesson success story in the double-action revolver line has been the L-frame series of handguns, like the Smith & Wesson Model 986. Originally designed for the .357 Mag. cartridge, L-frames have been a popular firearms for sporting, law-enforcement and self-defense. Smith & Wesson introduced the 9 mm cartridge to the L-frame series some time back, and it is offering a couple of different models through the company’s Performance Center.
For those not familiar with the Performance Center, it’s the division of the company responsible for putting fine touches on already-good designs. In other words, it’s a custom manufacturer within—but apart from—the regular the Smith & Wesson factory.
One of the latest offerings from the Performance Center is the Model 986 PC, a 2.5-inch revolver chambered in 9 mm. The concept of this stubby revolver seems reminiscent of the 2.5-inch Model 19, the K-frame .357 Mag., but the differences are tremendous. It sports many of the Performance Center signature features, such as the custom barrel, which is flat-sided. Such a feature not only enhances the revolver’s appearance, it also cuts a little weight. The barrel’s muzzle boasts a recessed crown.
The 2.5-inch Smith & Wesson Model 986 PC is a stainless-steel revolver, yet it features an unfluted, titanium cylinder. At first glance, it would seem that such a bulky cylinder might defeat the point of a snub-nose revolver, but the lightweight titanium makes it a non-issue. The pistol’s action is expertly tuned by Performance Center personnel. Part of this process includes the addition of a bossed mainspring, providing a much smoother, lighter trigger pull than a standard production revolver. The action was quite smooth and creepless in both double and single action.
The seven-shot Smith & Wesson Model 986 PC comes with a pair of moon clips to accommodate the 9 mm cartridges. Handling of the seven-shot, loaded moon clips is smooth, easy and fast. The revolver is fitted with a fine set of S&W wooden stocks. They are thin and feature subtle finger grooves, along with a sufficient amount of stippling in the center of each panel. Comfortable in the hand, they make the revolver quite compatible for concealed carry.
The Smith & Wesson Model 986 PC features the standard Smith & Wesson adjustable rear sight, accompanied by a ramped front sight that features a solid-orange insert. This arrangement makes a great sight picture for both experienced and novice shooters.
Firing the truncated Smith & Wesson Model 986 PC was quite comfortable and the revolver functioned flawlessly. The action remained smooth in both double- and single-action modes. Rapid-fire in double-action resulted in ringing steel plates at short ranges with no problem. Reloading the full-moon clips with 9 mm ammunition proved somewhat troublesome. They aren’t easy to load, particularly prior to having a number of rounds run through them. Further, removing empty cases was no simple task. Needle-nose pliers proved to be quite handy for the job, but reloading shouldn’t be that tiresome.
For shooters looking for a good range revolver, the Smith & Wesson Model 986 PC should be appealing. It’s easy to handle with several types of ammunition. Competitive shooters will also appreciate the revolver. Of course, the greatest advantage of a 9 mm-chambered revolver is ammo compatibility. You can use the same ammunition whether you feel like carrying/shooting your wheelgun or your semi-automatic. Moreover, 9 mm ammunition is plentiful and relatively inexpensive, and it seems almost everyone has some on hand.
The Smith & Wesson Model 986 PC is a well-considered, well-designed revolver built with the competitive or everyday shooter in mind.