Review text and images by Mark Ormerod.

The Smith & Wesson Model 66 is a stainless K frame .357 Magnum revolver (it can also fire the slightly less powerful .38 special) which has at various times been issued to members of the US Military as a sidearm.

Tanaka offer it in 3 configurations (all stainless as expected from the model's "6" designation) - the M66 2.5inch (with Hogue grips), M66 2.5 inch normal grip (featuring replica hybrid metal / wood grips) and the M66 4 inch (with a plastic replica of S&W's wood target grips). The model looked at here is the 4 inch one - and our findings are expected to be the same for the shorter models - except with an even shorter accurate range and much lower power. Note that for the purposes of fitting real steel replacement grips all K frames under 4 inches feature a round style butt, while the 4 inch model features a square style butt (these variations match those found in the real steel equivalent).

I became interested in the 4 inch iteration of the M66 as a possible smaller backup weapon - as it would allow me to employ an all revolver sidearm loadout. I've previously had a love/hate affair with Tanaka's (SAA's aside where its love all the way) - loving their finish and feel in the hand - but thoroughly hating their wild variability in power and accuracy. I really didn't fancy a Model 500 - like its real steel equivalent it is, in my opinion, a huge oversized mess. I already had a high power target piece thanks to my Marushin Redhawk and the 500 would have to do something very special to be anything near on an equal footing with that. Initial reports on the internet seemed to suggest the latest version of the double-action PEGASUS system was significantly better than the old one - and this did seem to ring true for the Model 500 I got a chance to have a look at. There's more details on the 3 different versions of the PEGASUS system in our Detachable Cylinder SAA review - but essentially this is a PEGASUS 2 replica which means improved gas seals and an adjustable hop.

So in the box (which features the Hogue gripped 2.5 inch model) you get the M66, manual, some BB's, the usual Tanaka gas charging rod, cylinder removal tool and the ubiquitous but useless speedloader. To look at the M66 is lovely. The stainless finish is definitely one of Tanaka's best and even the ABS grips look the part - complete with Smith and Wesson medallions. As a visual replica this looks the business however its when you pick it up, that for me, the problems start. As with all the plastic grips on a Tanaka they feel cheap and horrible. It also seems that Tanaka are still having problems getting their silver finish to stick to their heavyweight materials and instead are having to use a featherlight ABS compound. It is simply too light and that really is at the heart of my first issue with it. Maybe I'm spoilt by metal slides, frames and bodies or heavyweight materials - but this feels like a toy. There’s no creak or give – but at 510 grams it just doesn’t feel as solid as it should. Its a real pity - as to look at it looks like the real thing – to everyone but the person holding it. The usual Smith and Wesson trademarks, lettering and .357 Magnum markings are all present and deeply etched and the cylinder catch also offers a working safety should that float your boat.

The sights are the usual partridge style front (with orange low light insert) and adjustable bomar style rear combination. The rear sights come with white markings - again to help in low light with target acquisition. The chamber is considerably smaller than that found on the say the M29 series – but this is as you would expect for a replica with a smaller calibre chamber. I found that despite this I could get around 50 rounds before power started to drop noticeably from a single charge of Propane – so certainly not bad. The gun employs the usual internal BB reservoir - again this is smaller than on the larger framed models – holding 6 BB’s in the chamber holes and a further 5 internally giving you a total of 11.

So onto firing – and single action the action is light – double action the pull is a little harder but not enough to throw off your accuracy – with the report being fairly quiet compared to a SAA or a GBB especially. Due to the short barrel the BB isn’t getting up to full speed before the gas disperses – although given its size the velocity of around 280 FPS with a 0.2g BB isn’t bad. The good news is that the power inconsistency seems to have vanished in this model – the bad news is that despite the now adjustable hop the accuracy is awful.

Whilst its possible to hit human size targets and occasionally maybe an exposed arm or head in CQB range (20 foot or under) you’re going to struggle to hit anything at all over that distance. The hop doesn’t really make any difference to the flight of whatever weight of BB you use – it simply means that at some point when you set it to high the BB will go skywards. Past 20 foot your shots seem to randomly hook to the right to varying degrees. I found the most consistent shot pattern was achieved with 0.3g ammo and the hop turned off completely but even then once the shots were heading past that magical 20 foot mark they were going everywhere but where I was aiming.

So a not particularly auspicious encounter with me for the newer PEGASUS 2 system - although to be fair, we are dealing with a piece with an extremely short inner barrel which was always going to impinge on accuracy. As a CQB backup this isn't bad - although given the limited accuracy which well necessitate possible double taps or follow up shots - the capacity is going to be a pain. It really doesn't have the accuracy or power for me to recommend it as a primary. Its really suited as a last ditch revolver for when the enemy are literally on top of you and as such it isn't going to let you down.

The finish looks lovely - but I'd personally wait until Tanaka can finally sort out the lack of weight. For a true CQB backup or primary - and given that the alternative's aren't *that* much bigger than the M66 I'd wait for the next issue of the 4 inch M29 (possibly with the new PEGASUS system) or plump for the much more accurate and powerful 4 inch Marushin Anaconda's

Model : Tanaka S&W Model 66 4 Inch
Weight : 510 grams
Length : 241 mm
Power : 280FPS with Propane, 6mm 0.2g @ 15oC
Capacity : 11 rounds
Hop : Adjustable

Mark Ormerod.

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