In the world of concealed carry, Smith & Wesson’s small and lightweight J-frame occupies a top spot — if not the top spot — in revolvers. Larger and heavier revolvers usually don’t get a lot of attention for concealed carry, and rightly so, because they’re larger and heavier. But there’s at least one larger-than-J-framed revolver worth a look for concealed carry: S&W’s 686 Plus, a stainless-steel wheelgun built on S&W’s legendary, medium-sized L-frame. While the overall length measures 8.2 inches (due to the 3-inch barrel) and the weight tips the scale at 36.8 ounces, it’s not too much to carry concealed. With the right rig — meaning: a gun belt and a great holster — you can make it work very well. And even with the wider cylinder holding seven .38 Special +P rounds, this stainless-steel beauty is a breeze to shoot and a serious defender.

A few objections (or “buts”) usually come to the fore in this matter:

But Wait, the Revolver Is a .357 Magnum.

So why not carry the more powerful round? Well, you certainly can, but I’m not sure the .357 Magnum advantage outweighs all the drama caused by firing these rounds. A .357 Magnum still offers a great ball-o-fire and a massive report, the effects of shooting such a high-velocity round. And no matter how much steel and rubber is working to absorb the recoil, you’re still going to feel it and have to fight it to get back on target. Moreover, today’s .38 Special +P rounds are so good, I’m just not sure it’s worth it to bump up to .357 Magnum. In fact, when practicing at the range, I’ve found that shooting Magnums through this gun first and then shooting the less-powerful .38 Special rounds works out a lot of my bugs and, psychologically, I’m more ready for (and better with) the .38s because, hey, I’ve shot the .357s, handled them, and yet I’m not carrying them in the gun.

But Wait, the Gun Is Too Heavy.

Well, it’s heavier than most carry guns, yes. But it’s not impossibly heavy. You know how people say their gear or gun is so light or comfortable they forget they’re carrying? That won’t happen with the 686 Plus. Of course, you shouldn’t forget about any gun you’re carrying, but that’s a sermon for another day. Yep, there’s some serious weight to contend with when your gun is a medium-framed, stainless-steel revolver. But sometimes, the joy of how well a gun shoots makes you overlook drawbacks such as a weight. Admittedly, I can only manage about four to five hours of carrying this gun concealed, but that’s about as long as I go with any carry gun.

But the S&W 686 Only Carries Seven Rounds and It Takes Too Long to Reload.

This is a disagree/agree issue for me. While it is comforting to be able to drop a magazine from an auto-loading pistol and push in a fresh one in mere seconds, I’m not convinced that I’m undergunned with only seven rounds on board this revolver. Most single-stack nines are six, seven or eight rounds. And as for reloading, carrying a speedloader and practicing will shorten the time needed for a reload, if one is needed at all.

S&W 686 Plus retails for $849, offers the versatility of being able to fire two different calibers and will put a smile on your face because shooting it is easy and effective and fun, partly due to its greater weight. Moreover, these factors make it a viable concealed carry gun — no buts about it.

Related: Gun Review: 5-Shot Snub-Nosed Revolver

More info at: