By R.K. Campbell
Taurus International Firearms is among a very few companies that most of us have watched grow and become accepted in the United States. Unlike the older companies such as Colt and Smith and Wesson, many of us are able to gauge the success of Taurus by our own experience and see the growth of the company within our own lifetime. Forjas Taurus or Taurus Forge began as a tool making company over sixty years ago in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Today the company is among the largest firearms manufacturers in the world. The first firearms product was a double action revolver similar in appearance to the Smith and Wesson Military and Police revolver. This revolver combined various elements from Spanish revolvers, Colt, and Smith and Wesson in its design. This original product was designated the Model 38101S0. The closest modern counterpart is the Model 82 Taurus. With the acceptance of this revolver, Taurus began making headway and has experienced continuous growth ever since.
Taurus first attempted to enter the North American market in 1968. The original sales were disappointing but a change came in 1970. Taurus was obtained by corporate giant Bangor Punta who also acquired Smith and Wesson at the same time. With controlling interest in the two companies, Bangor Punta held the revolver market close. During this time there was some sharing of technology as a result of the corporate umbrella. There have been claims that Taurus was more responsible for upgrading technology than Smith and Wesson. The facts are difficult to ferret out in this type of discussion, but we may only observe that Taurus was ahead of Smith and Wesson in introducing transfer bar ignition to double action revolvers. Sight technology also seems to favor Taurus revolvers in general at the time and there is little doubt that there was much incentive for Taurus to develop a superior product for the United States market.
During the 1970s there were several moves that resulted in the company gaining significant ground in the firearms market. First, Taurus was purchased by the present ownership from Bangor Punta, resulting in an independent company. In 1977 a move was initiated to improve product quality and to produce new models. Another huge marketing and production coup occurred at about the same time. In 1974, Beretta won a contract for the Brazilian service pistol and the contract specified Brazilian labor and a Brazilian factory. Beretta set up a factory in Sao Paulo. When the contract of filled in 1980, Beretta elected to sell the plant to Taurus. While the grounds, the plant and the machinery were valuable Taurus also picked up excellent human resources in the form of an experienced and well trained work force. The Beretta pistol as supplied to the Brazilian forces was the original Beretta 92 9mm design. This pistol was a selective double action design. The pistol featured a slide lock safety that allowed the pistol to be carried cocked and locked or on safe with the hammer down for a double action first shot. With minor design changes this pistol became the Taurus PT 92. When introduced to the North American market many shooters found the quality comparable to Beretta. Just as important, many shooters preferred the slide lock safety design of the PT 92 compared to the slide mounted safety adopted by later variants of the Beretta 92. The PT 92 has undergone continual upgrades and today is a very popular handgun. Among the most recent success stories for this handgun is the adoption of the type by Philippine police agencies after a rigorous test program. Interestingly, Taurus was chosen over Beretta during this test program based on design features rather than the low bid.
Taurus opened an office in the United States in 1982 with a serious effort to improve and maintain the distribution system. However, the most important and far reaching decision yet made took place in 1984. At the 1984 SHOT show, Taurus made an announcement that changed the way the industry does business. This was the implementation of a lifetime repair policy. Any question concerning Taurus quality was resolved with this announcement. The company took full responsibility for the repair of any Taurus firearm that gave the owner a reliability problem. In 1994 Taurus was awarded the ISO 9001 designation from the International Organization for Standardization. Superior manufacturing process and marketing practices were at the base of this award.
The revolver illustrated is among the first Taurus marked revolvers offered for sale in the United States. Purchased for well under two hundred dollars by the original owner, this revolver has served as a home defense revolver until relatively recently. The revolver outwardly resembles the Smith and Wesson Military and Police revolver but there are important differences. The modern Taurus features a transfer bar ignition system. The transfer bar is used rather than a firing pin in the hammer to transfer energy from the hammer to the firing pin. The firing pin is mounted in the frame. When the trigger is pulled fully to the rear, the transfer bar rises upwards. The hammer falls and the transfer bar is struck, which transfers energy to the firing pin. When the hammer is in the down position the transfer bar is in the lower position which precludes the revolver from firing if the trigger is not pressed fully to the rear. Most agree this is the superior system for safety. Also, the frame mounted firing pin seems to be superior when it comes to withstanding heavy loads.
The revolver is well finished in a polished blue. There are no tool marks or apparent flaws in the metal work. The action is smooth enough and the grooved trigger is comfortable and gives good control. The sights are wide and well suited to defensive use at moderate range. This type was immediately popular with civilian shooters and security personnel. It was recognized as a good buy with good quality. As for accuracy, the author fired several five shot groups with this revolver at a long twenty five yards. Taurus revolvers have the reputation of not achieving good accuracy with lead bullets, but the results of this test did not mirror that claim. The Taurus .38 Special revolver was fired with the traditional Winchester 158 grain lead roundnose loading. Velocity was 780 fps ten feet from the muzzle. A five shot group fired from a solid bench rest shooting position was obtained with a dispersal of three and seven eights inch. A second group, fired with the Winchester 130 grain full metal jacketed USA ‘white box’ load (822 fps) exhibited a five shot group of three and one half inches. This is adequate for informal target practice and personal defense.
The second Taurus firearm reviewed is a Taurus PT 92 9mm. This is one of the earlier pistols. In this version the slide lock safety serves only as a safety. In modern versions the slide lock safety also acts as a decocking lever. The decocking action was a result of market pressure by police agencies and others, many of which now authorize the Taurus for duty use. However there have been numerous examples of shooters who inadvertently activated the slide mounted decocking lever when moving the pistol to the safe position, resulting in the hammer falling to the down position. As a result the pistol would have to go through a long double action trigger press. This limited the ability of the pistol to be carried cocked and locked. While this issue has been addressed to an extent with heavier springs, the early pistols are more popular with some shooters.
This 9mm pistol has served as a training tool for the author for some time. The PT 92 allows an instructor to demonstrate double action first shot control, single action firing, cocked and locked carry, and carrying a double action first shot pistol without the safety activated, all in the same pistol. The Taurus PT 92 has proven reliable, accurate, affordable and low maintenance. There is little more we may ask of a self loading pistol. The PT 92 pistol utilizes the same oscillating wedge lockup originally used in the Mauser C96 pistol, just as used in the Beretta Model 92. The open top slide is another factor that has proven popular with the Taurus PT 92. It is worth noting that despite a number of highly publicized slide fractures with other makes there seem to be no documented slide fractures with the Taurus pistol. This is despite the fact that the Taurus has been in use for well over twenty years in the United State in competition and in the hands of enthusiastic handloaders. The type is proven.
A self loading pistol usually must maintain a balance between tightness of action and accuracy. The pistol must have tolerances that invite reliability but be tight enough for accuracy as well. The Taurus PT 92 strikes a good balance. The pistol illustrated was test fired for this report with several types of 9mm Luger ammunition. With the Mastercast remanufactured 147 grain loading (918 fps) the pistol demonstrated a five shot 25 yard group of some two and one quarter inches. With the Hornady 124 grain XTP (1,121 fps) the accuracy demonstrated was two and three sixteenths inches, and finally the Federal 9BP 115 grain JHP demonstrated accuracy of three and one half inches. This is good accuracy for what many refer to as an ‘economy’ pistol.
All Day And All Night – The 24/7
Perhaps the most important addition to the Taurus line in recent years is the 24/7 pistol. As the name implies the pistol is meant to offer around the clock protection to both civilians and police. With a modern polymer frame and double action only trigger, the 24/7 and the similar Millennium handguns are excellent all around defensive handguns. While there are compact variations that offer light weight and comfort, the author has found the longer barrel Pro series to be particularly accurate and tractable in long firing sessions. The original versions featured license built Heinie sights but the latest versions appear to use Novak type sights. A great advantage of the 24/7 pistols over the Glock competitor is that the 24/7 features a positive manual safety. The frame mounted safety is easily activated and the user may elect to ignore the safety or use it as they wish. There are many professionals who feel that a self loading pistol without a safety abrogates many of the advantages of the type. With the Taurus there is a choice.
The Taurus Pro 9mm Luger has proven a particularly accurate handgun. Like most polymer frame handguns, it is slide heavy which must be accounted for in tactical shooting, but the pistol can be managed well with effort and training. The author’s personal 9mm Pro was fired for accuracy at twenty five yards. The Hornady 124 grain XTP clocked 1,145 fps and exhibited a five shot group of just less than two inches. The Hornady 147 grain XTP clocked 970 fps over the Competition Electronics chronograph and exhibited a five shot group of one and three quarters inch. Clearly this pistol is accurate enough any foreseeable problem solving mission. Reliability has been exceptional and the seventeen round magazine holds a good reserve of ammunition. The long barrel of the 24/7 Pro gives an extra measure of velocity, with the Cor Bon 115 grain JHP +P loading breaking 1,400 fps and placing five rounds into two inches at a long 25 yards.
The PT 1911
It was inevitable that Taurus would pursue an entry into the 1911 market. While the market would seem crowded at first glance, there seems to be an insatiable desire for quality 1911 pattern handguns. The Taurus PT 1911 offers an interesting combination of features including Heinie custom sights (since changed to Novak), forward slide serrations in the tactical manner, a custom grade beavertail safety and extended slide lock safety and also a machine checkered front strap. The overall effect is pleasing. The Taurus PT 1911 offers features of a much more expensive handgun. Modern engineering changes to the 1911/1911A1 template include an external extractor and positive firing pin block. The result is a pistol with the dynamic handling qualities of the 1911 intact but with features that make the piece easier to manufacture and maintain. The PT 1911, like several other introductions, has been successful for Taurus. The PT 1911 is offered in several variations including a version in .38 ACP Super.
The author’s personal blue steel early model PT 1911 was fired for accuracy from a solid bench rest firing position at twenty five yards. The first load was a new variation from Mastercast, using a plated 200 grain bullet. Clocking 928 fps this load gave a three and one half inch group. A load using the 230 grain XTP bullet from the same company clocked 840 fps and exhibited a three inch group. The Speer Gold Dot 200 grain +P loading clocked 1,060 fps and exhibited a group of three and one quarter inches. The PT 1911 is accurate enough for personal defense, competition and informal target work. This handgun has proven reliable after a modest number of short cycles during the break in period.
Taurus has risen from a tool company to a force in the firearms market. Their pistols and revolvers are in daily use for personal defense, competition and police work. The only thing lacking in the past to cement their position was an extensive military and police test program to quality the types for critical use. The adoption of the pistols by the Philippine police has given the company more credibility on the international market. At present, Taurus International holds an enviable position in the firearms market with a line of handguns unequaled in the market place for diversity. Compact handguns, hunting handguns, single action ‘cowboy’ revolvers and tactical handguns are found in the lineup. This forward thinking company has given the consumer a good product at a fair price. That combination is a recipe for success.
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