Saturday, March 13, 2010

REVIEW: Taurus PT709 Slim

UPDATES at the end of the review
3/27/2016 - Magazine issues and broken spring plate and dehorning those sharp tips on the front of the slide!

2/13/2012 - Crimson Trace Laserguard and Traction Grips.

Carrying concealed is a exercise in compromise. The variables are almost limitless, due not only to gun caliber, but also due to people's body sizes and shapes. Google search, "What is the best carry gun" and you get back 29,000,000 hits, each author giving his/her own advice or, as many articles do, leave you with no real suggestions just some broad ideas.

For me, I'm always looking for that balance of caliber, gun weight, gun size, price, ease of concealment, etc. I love the size of the Ruger LCP, but the little pistol feels awkwardly small in the hand and day-to-day is a .380 enough? I have a Kimber Ultra Carry II in .45 ACP, but fully loaded, it's heavy and harder to conceal than my Taurus Model 85 .38 Special. I love the little revolver, is 5-shots in the Model 85 enough? Can I really reload a revolver under stress? See what I mean?

I was definitely going to get a small 9mm semi-auto but I hadn't done it. After shooting the Kahr PM9 several times, I was really leaning toward it. But when Taurus announced the 9mm PT709 Slim I was intrigued. My interest increased when a friend of mine bought one and reported that he loved it.

While at a local gun shop, I had the luxury of handling lots of small 9mm pistols side-by-side.

After deliberating, I purchased the Taurus PT709 Slim. It seemed to strike the best balance of size, caliber, capacity and price for my purposes. The first thing you notice when you pick the pistol up is the thin grip. The grip is the hardest part of a conceal gun to keep hidden so Taurus kept the one on the 709 thin and short. Your pinkie hangs off the end - yet another compromise - but it's a carry item. Overall, the gun feels really good in my hand and the checkering molded into the provides a good, solid grip. The way a pistol feels in a gun store isn't very telling in regard to how it performs.

Even before real shooting, the double action pull seemed a bit heavy and the single action break was a bit hard - just a bit. So, I popped in a snap cap and dry fired it about 100 times and it seemed to smooth out.

The Taurus PT709 is a SA/DA with second strike abilities. I got to test this at the range when a round of cheap Wal-Mart Winchester white box didn't fire. It worked as advertised, after pulling though the double action, the primer popped and the gun fired.

At the range the PT709 proved itself. I sent 100 rounds down range at a variety of distances. The pistol was shooting low and to the left at first, but after adjusting the sights, it seemed to be dialed in. The recoil of the gun is very manageable. For a short nosed semi-auto muzzle lift isn't very bad. To put is in perspective, it's not nearly as bad as the Kahr PM9 but worse than a Walther PPS.

My friend Doug (really accurate marksman) picked up the PT709 for the first time and snapped off seven rounds, in 1-1.5 second intervals, and kept them all in a three inch group at seven yards. Not a bad accomplishment for a regular guy his first time 'at bat' with a new gun. I didn't have the same result my first time. My grouping was about 5-inches but I started pulling them in the second and third magazine.

Notice the target pictures above. Standing freehand, I was able to shoot a 2.6-inch group on an 8-inch Orange Peel target and a 1.7-inch group (on a 5.5-inch Orange Peel target) at 50-feet resting on a sandbag. On the bags, I loaded the pistol with the full 7+1 rounds. I was pretty happy with the outcome. The PT709 isn't a target pistol (and I was using cheap Walmart ammo), it's a short barrel defense pistol, so these results are more than satisfactory. I'm sure a professional marksman shooting high quality match grade ammo could do even better.

After a two boxes of 50, I started noticing that the trigger was much smoother and the break was much lighter. As the trigger improved, so did my shooting.

Overall, there's nothing really "blow me away" impressive about the Taurus PT709 Slim. It does have a nice mix of things that make it desirable to some and will make it less so to others. It has a SA trigger, that after some break in, is really nice. There's the critical DA second-strike ability if a round doesn't fire the first time. It has a thumb safety for those that feel better using it (I don't use it when carrying). There is a built in trigger safety. It has low-profile, adjustable sights (similar to the Glock). It's thin and really easy to carry concealed, even for a medium framed guy like me. It's holds eight rounds of a proven defense caliber. It comes in all black, stainless (mine) and titanium. It's super easy to breakdown and clean. It's very accurate. And it's relatively inexpensive, $415 for the stainless version, under $379 for the blued version.

Some of the negatives: It's a little longer than the Kahr. Some people dislike Taurus (I agree that they have had a past with ups and downs but they seem to be really dialed in now). It has a thumb safety (don't like it, don't use it).

While the gun lacks 'super wow factor', I really like it and am glad that I bought it. I'm carrying it in a CrossBreed Super Tuck where it's invisible and extremely comfortable.

Taurus has really upped the ante and it producing some inventive, good-looking and reliable firearms.  I have no problems trusting my safety to the Taurus PT709. Plus, it's so easy to conceal, so there are no excuses to leave home without it. My conclusion is that the price to performance ratio definitely puts it in the 'consideration' category when shopping for a small, carry 9mm.

My Taurus PT709 Slim now has over 800 rounds through it and it's performed flawlessly. Other than a few feeding issues early on, the last 700 rounds have fed and fired without a single hiccup. As you can see in the accompanying photo, I've added a Pearce Magazine Extension and a Hogue Handall Jr. Grip Sleeve. Both additions have really improved the purchase I can get on the grip and have improved accuracy.

Also in the picture is my friend's Ruger LC9. We shot these to guns side-by-side and surprisingly, the Taurus actually outperformed it in several tests. Click this link to read that review. I've read several reviews of people getting 709 Slim lemons and I can believe that could happen. Luckily, I purchased a peach.


I put a Crimson Trace Laserguard on my Taurus 709 Slim. Unfortunately, the Hogue Handall Jr. grip doesn't fit with the Laserguard installed. That's too bad because I liked the the grip so much I'm tempted to remove the laser and sell it on eBay and so I can put the grip back on. But, along with the Lasergrip, I bought another Crossbreed holster to accommodate the new shape of the pistol (in the photo the Taurus 738 TCP is at the top in a MiniTuck and Slim is bottom in a SuperTuck). Those two items were a lot of money while the Handall Jr. was $7. Geez. I'm going to look into getting some grip tape and see if that works. I'll keep you posted and the Handall might fit my buddy's Ruger LC9.

I have Crimson Trace lasers several of my carry guns and I love them. They're reliable, bright and well built. The Laserguard I have on my Taurus TCP is awesome. It is so logically designed it's idiot proof. Just hold the gun like normal and the laser turns on. No thinking and no change of habit, like the LaserMax, just use a proper shooting grip and it works. I have found that I have to sight them in, shoot them, then re-sight them before they'll stay put but that's not a big deal. You gotta love the folks at Crimson Trace.

So, I'm going to live with it as is for at least 90 days, shoot a couple hundred rounds with it and see how it goes. I'm looking forward to hitting the 1,000 round mark with the Slim. That should happen pretty soon.


 As you just read above, before I could install the Crimson Trace Laserguard, I had to remove my beloved Hogue Handall Jr. grip sleeve. So, in it's place I added a Tractiongrip from  Tractiongrips has several precut systems for a variety of pistols. I bought one that was custom made for my Taurus 738 TCP, but they didn't have one for my 709 Slim.

I traded a few emails with Donald Meyers, of Tractiongrips, and he sounded optimistic about creating a custom set for the 709 Slim in the future. The absence of a custom set didn't stop me from buying though. After sorting though the pictures, I thought that the set created for the Smith & Wesson Sigma Series ($6.99) might work with a little trimming, and I was right. I used the oval pieces in the thumb dimples (if that's what you call them) and I trimmed down the side panels so they fit perfectly. I had enough left over for a small piece on the Pearce pinky extensions on each magazine. Luckily, I'd bought a universal Tractiongrips set ($4.99) that I trimmed down for the back strap.

After a quick trip to the range, specifically to test the Tractiongrips on my Taurus TCP and 709 Slim, I can tell you that I love them. On the TCP, the grips do little to alleviate the discomfort of shooting a tiny .380 but they do amazing work of keeping the pistol securely in your hand without adding any bulk. On the 709 Slim, the gun felt glued to my hand without feeling sticky and almost made me forget my Hogue grip sleeve.

As for concealed carry? I've only had them a couple of days but in that time, I haven't noticed any clothing snag or other issues though I've only carried the 709 Slim once and the TCP three times. So far so good. I just hope they stay adhered for at least six-months. Any longer than that and I'd consider it a bonus. But for $6.99 if I have to replace them once a year, I'd be fine with that. I'll let you know in six months.

 Recently, I was practicing dropping and reloading magazines when, upon hitting the ground, the extended base-plate slid forward. When I examined the situation closer, I noticed that the spring plate had snapped. While I am a Taurus fan, I have to believe that this would not have happened with my Glock nor either one of my M&Ps nor my Ruger. It also proliferates my, and others, feeling that Taurus' are built with a little less quality than other mainstream brands. I have put thousands of rounds thought my Slim with virtually no malfunction but this is something that disappoints me.

I set off to buy couple of new magazines while I waited to see what Taurus had to say about the broken spring plate.

I shopped around and found some PT709 Slim magazines on eBay. When the magazine arrived I anxiously opened the packaging and slipped the magazine in got stuck. STUCK! It would not go into the mag-well! I got out my trusty Harbor Freight calipers (see image) and sure enough, the new magazine was half a millimeter thicker than the original. That's not much but it's enough.

This was one of the new "Made in the USA" orange package versions. The last one I bought in the grey and black packaging fit perfectly.

Luckily, the eBay vendor refunded my money without hesitation and mentioned that "a batch did seem to be bad." This might explain why there has been such a shortage of magazines. If Taurus moved the manufacturing of the 709 Slim Mags from Brazil to the US and there was a tooling issue, this might have had a big chain reaction on supply.

The PT709 Slim is designed to be carried concealed. The single-stack, less-than-an-inch profile and compact frame are near perfect for comfortable, inside-the-waistband carry–the way I carry most often even in an open carry state.

But, have you noticed that the front of the slide, on either side of the front sight, are two really sharp points! For a CCW that's designed to be hidden away, sharp points suck! They can poke into your skin and, over time, wear a hole in your pants.

Notice in the photo of the Slim in my Crossbreed how the nose sticks down below the kydex and the leather. You start to feel those horns. Now, notice how I had a local gunsmith de-horn the slide. Much better. For thirty bucks, he melted the tips, blended the front sides and bead blasted it to match the original finish. Overall, it looks pretty good. I'd call it 7/10 on looks but 10/10 on comfort. This is something I should have done a long time ago.