People love semi-automatic pistols. They can make revolvers look, feel and shoot like a weapon of a long gone era. From what I buy and what I see my friends buying, there was a time when I wondered if anyone still bought revolvers anymore. Well, I own a revolver. And it’s a good one. Actually, it’s a fantastic one!
I bought my first Taurus handgun in 1989 when Mel Gibson and Lethal Weapon made the Beretta 9mm “the cool gun to own”. I couldn’t afford that Beretta so I bought the less expensive, copy-cat Taurus PT-92. Several of my “friends” panned the Taurus saying that they made cheap, knock-off guns and questioned their long-term quality.
For a time I actually felt a little embarrassed that I owned such an “inferior” gun. Well, 19 years later and somewhere between five- and ten-thousand rounds the gun has failed to feed maybe twice, even though at times I’ve fed the old girl some of the cheapest ammo I could find. I’ve changed the recoil spring once and dabbed on some sight paint to brighten the faded white sight dots. So my opinion now is that Taurus makes a quality gun that just happens to be priced for the average guy.
When it comes to a potentially life-saving self-defense tool, the basic rule of thumb is reliability first. If you’re really going to bet your life on a gun, I personally feel that a reliable .38 Special is a better choice than a problematic .45ACP with a history of failures and jams. So for me, the gun I carry at least five days a week is a reliable Taurus UltraLite Model 85 revolver loaded with .38 Special +P Federal Hydra-Shoks.
I once heard a great quote, “Revolvers are like forks, you pick them up and they just work”. While that might not be perfectly true, it’s true enough for the point to be effectively made. I went to a local well-stocked gun store and started weighing my options. I wanted unbeatable long-term reliability, minimal weight, easy concealability, enough stopping power to get my butt out of a sling, heaven forbid, and priced under $500.
After an hour of deliberation, I finally landed on the Taurus UltraLite Model 85. It gave me a nice mix of all the things I was looking for and came in at only $299 (I’ve seen it for $320 in late 2008). The price left me with money in my pocket so I even added a Crimson Trace laser grip for $170.
The Model 85 is a 5-shot .38 Special that's +P rated and comes in a stainless/alloy version and a blued version. It's sights are very difficult to use as are most snubbie's, but they are not target guns. The laser turns the sights into a back up rather than a primary aiming system.
Crimson Trace makes two types of snub-nosed revolver grips - a soft rubber four finger version and a hard plastic three finger version. I went with the hard plastic three fingered version for several reasons. First, it most closely matched the size of factory the grip that came on the gun. Second, the hard plastic will not “catch”, “hang”, or “stick to” a pant leg (if ankle carrying) or a shirt like a soft rubber. Third it was about 1/2 of an inch shorter making it easier to conceal.
I anxiously took the gun to the range and ran 50 rounds though it. The trigger was heavy and not perfectly smooth but other than that, the gun shot well. The Smith and Wesson’s I dry fired in the store had triggers that were much lighter and definitely smoother but with factory installed CT laser grips, they were coming in at $800. That was well over my, and my wife’s, budgeted limit for this purchase.
The light gun felt great in my hand but the weight in no way gave the +P ammo a heavy kick that you get with a snub nosed .357.
On my second trip to the range, I tried moving my target stand out to about 25 yards. Big mistake I couldn’t hit a thing. Double action, I was having a difficult time getting bullets to hit the IDPA targets let alone getting one to hit somewhere on the 8” Shoot N-C that I stuck on it. Switching to single action, I started hitting the target with enough regularity that my confidence in the gun immediately sky-rocketed though the confidence in my double action trigger finger bottomed out.
At ranges that more closely resemble self-defense situations (15 feet or so) the gun is dead on. The Crimson Trace laser makes aiming fast and easy and as long as you pull the trigger smoothly, the bullet hits the target with in an inch or two of the laser dot. I love shooting this gun. I practice shooting isosceles, on handed, weak handed, and from the hip. If the target is 15 feet away, I can effectively hit the target at will, which is a good thing.
After about 600 rounds and another 600 dry fires, the trigger has really smoothed out - a lot! It’s still not a Smith and Wesson but if I had $800 to burn, I’d have bought an Air Light. I don’t have that kind of money to throw around so I went with what I consider the next best thing. A Taurus.
Carrying, this gun is as comfortable and light as any I’ve every tried. I carry it on my ankle or in a bellyband , some times for 12-14 hours in a day and its barely noticeable. I actually feel naked without it!
- Why did I buy the gun? Concealed carry self defense.
- How long have I owned the gun? Just over a year.
- Would I buy it again if faced with the decision? Absolutely, without a doubt or a moment's hesitation. Period. And I'd add the laser grips again too.
- How have my feeling changed since I bought it? I like it more now than when new. Much more.
- Best and worst? Best is weight and quality. Worst is trigger pull but even that's not bad like it was fresh out of the box.
- Would I recommend the gun? Yes. I think it's a great value and I'd bank my life on it.
In summary, the gun is very easy to carry, light weight, super reliable and with the CT Laser Grips very easy to get on target. If you are looking to get a small frame revolver on working man wages this is definitely a gun to look at. Let your friends tell you how a Smith and Wesson is better. Just smile back at them knowing you own twice as many guns as they do...