When you have a 3-inch-barreled Smith & Wesson 686+ in hand, loaded with seven rounds of .357 Magnum, there’s not much upon which to improve. This is a heavy but carry-able handgun, a proven combat Magnum, with a smooth trigger and classic feel. I did find one way to make it a smidge better, both for shooting and carry: adding a Hogue Bantam Style Grip. This grip will set you back $24.26 but will enhance carry- and shoot-ability from the moment it’s installed.

You know Hogue primarily for its handgun grip solutions. But the company has branched into other product areas while innovating its grip offerings. And this includes grips for tired old revolvers that may not get a lot of attention these days. But it also offers this Bantam Style Grip for S&W’s venerable 686+, a carry gun you’ll hear about in a later column. Let’s just say the Hogue Bantam Grip added to its appeal as a carry gun in three ways:

1) The grip provides a flush fit to the stocks, leaving the back strap exposed. While that contributes to a more direct transfer of recoil into my hand when shooting, it also adds nothing to the overall length of the gun, making the 686+ no less concealable than it already was. Plus, it just looks classy. Note the pinky extension too.

2) The grip provides a rubber pebble grain on each side, which is a near-perfect substance/texture/finish for gaining maximum purchase. The grip swells enough to fill the hand and the overall effect is that you can easily hang on to this gun in virtually any conditions. But, the rubber doesn’t cause covering garments to hang up.

3) The grip provides perfectly molded finger grooves, allowing a firm hold — from the draw to the firing of seven rounds of .357 to reload to firing again to reholstering. Yes, a gun’s carry-ability increases with its shoot-ability.

Some of these features depend directly on how you carry and what holster system you use, yes. More on that, too, in a later column.

Installing the Bantam Style Grip differs from other grip installations. Once you remove whatever grips are currently on the gun (work with an unloaded gun and remember and follow all the gun safety rules, please), you slip the Bantam Grip on using the included tool. Actually, you work the Bantam Grip on using the tool to open it up and allow it to slide/move/snap over the frame and stock. Although it may scratch the inside a bit, use the tool to make sure the gun’s stock pin — a built-in guide for whatever grip gets installed — doesn’t gouge the grip as you install it. Eventually the pin will find its way to a particular hole in the grip and the grip will sort of snap in place. And that’s it.

By the way, you’re supposed to hang on to that installation tool. You don’t have to use it but it is super handy when installing or removing the Hogue Bantam Grip. I’m not sure I can find mine but, then again, I have no reason to remove the grip either.