Taurus CT556 5.56x45mm Carbine
By Ronaldo Olive
Brazil’s Forjas Taurus, now reaching its 75 years of existence, is certainly well known for its wide line of handguns, both revolvers and pistols, available in the market. But it was only in late-2008/early-2009 that rumors circulated that Taurus was about to enter the rifle market. This was fully confirmed during the 2009 LAAD – Latin America Aero & Defense exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in April, when the IWI Tavor TAR-21 5.56x45mm bullpup rifle was announced as the path that would lead the Brazilian manufacturer into the highly-competitive military/LE market slot. The Israeli-designed gun was prominently displayed and promoted at Taurus’ stand, together with the information that it would be license-produced at the company’s main industrial facilities in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul State.
But that was not going to be. In spite of strong promotion efforts at that fair – which included a lot of exhibited guns, huge posters, and hand-out publicity leaflets – the proposed program soon lost its initial impetus for reasons not yet very clear, and Taurus then decided to go ahead with an in-house design. This became self-evident in the 2011 LAAD show, when the company announced and displayed examples of its brand-new 5.56x45mm ART556 selective-fire fire rifle and CT556 semiautomatic carbine. At the same time, a new family of 9x19mm and .40 S&W submachine guns (SMT9, SMT9C, SMT40, SMT40C) was also shown, these sharing some components with the long guns. On the subgun side, it should be recalled that Taurus had for long produced its 9x19mm MT-12 and MT-12AD (derivatives of the Beretta M12), as well as the MT-9 and MT-40 (local versions of the Chilean FAMAE SAF). For the record, development of the new SMGs took, in fact, precedence over that of the rifle, the buzzguns receiving their Brazilian Army ReTEx (Relatório Técnico Experimental, or Experimental Technical Report) certificate during the second half of 2011, thus allowing them to be marketed. They are now in service with several law enforcement agencies in Brazil.
For the 5.56x45mm family, development go-ahead was apparently decided in June, 2010, and prototypes were being tested about nine months later. Four barrel lengths were anticipated: 254 mm, 368 mm, 419 mm and 508 mm, but Taurus eventually concentrated on a intermediate 317.5 mm barrel (six RH grooves, 1:7 in pitch) for its CT556 semiautomatic carbine aimed at the LE market (full-auto is not an option for the Brazilian police forces). This is the model that the author was allowed to fire on two different occasions (2011 and 2012) at the company’s facilities in Porto Alegre.
The gas-operated gun uses a pretty conventional piston and six-lug rotating bolt locking system; the gas regulator being located directly above the barrel. Construction employs a light alloy extruded upper receiver and a polymer lower receiver with steel inserts where appropriate. As expected by the current market trends, NATO-standard Picatinny rails abound on the CT556: a lengthwise unit on top of the gun, and shorter elements at the three-, six- and nine-o’clock positions of the handguard. The massive front (fixed post) and rear (windage- and elevation-adjustable flip-type U-notch/aperture) sight structures standard to the carbine interfere with the use of add-on items such as scopes and red-dot sights on the top position, but these can easily be removed and exchanged for flip-down sights that can be found everywhere. Sight radius is 340 mm
In the ergonomics department, the carbine offers something new in the magazine (STANAG-compliant) housing area – the forward end of which is so shaped as to allow its use as a forward grip. Magazine release is done by either pressing forward a blade at the rear of the well or pushing in a button located in the right wall. The ambidextrous fire selector (safe/semi-auto positions) is conveniently located within reach of the operator’s thumb. The cocking handle, located well forward near the front sight position, can be easily adapted to work on either side of the gun. The foldable polymer stock can be adjusted to three different lengths to suit the user’s preference, and, when folded to the right, still allows the carbine to be fired in an emergency.
In physical terms, the CT556 has an overall length of 750-800 mm (depending on the stock adjustment) and a folded-stock length of 600 mm. Weights are 3.29 kg (no magazine), 3.43 kg (empty 30-round magazine), and 3.84 kg (full 30-round magazine). Trigger pull weight is 3.8 kgf.
The author’s two firing encounters with the Taurus carbine were very brief and informal, with no more than a couple hundred rounds or so being fired flawlessly. Very far from being a comprehensive hands-on evaluation, they were enough to show that a straightforward gun had emerged from the Porto Alegre factory. However, as the official Brazilian Army certification program has not been carried out yet, this may mean that the future of the CT556 carbine is still uncertain. Unconfirmed reports that the company has a “Plan B” for its entry into long gun LE/military market are, in fact, getting stronger, and this may mean taking an AR-15/M4 clone production option...
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