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In the closing days of 1998, rumors circulated regarding the impending introduction by a major gun manufacturer of revolvers made of titanium, the space-age "wonder metal" that combines extreme light weight, superb strength and essentially total resistance to corrosion.

Although Smith & Wesson had already announced their titanium-cylinder AirLite Ti small-frame revolver, the big shocker came when Taurus International, based in Miami, Fla., took the wraps off their extensive line of Total Titanium wheelguns in January of 1999.

To be sure, titanium has been used for years to make some small, high-stress gun parts. No gun maker, however, had plunged head-on into the manufacture of a revolver in which the entire frame, barrel and cylinder are made of drop-forged and extruded titanium alloy, while maintaining the retail price at a reasonable level. Although titanium is a fairly common material, it is difficult to process, costing up to 10 times more than steel, pound for pound.

High cost aside, titanium offers higher elasticity and strength than steel, while weighing just two-thirds of an equivalent volume. Titanium is also virtually impervious to corrosion, another highly desirable feature to have in a gun, particularly one intended for personal defense on a daily basis. In fact, titanium is so corrosion-proof that it is widely used for surgical bone-replacement implants.

The Elemental Touch

Seeing the new Taurus titanium revolvers, I decided to try them out. I picked the two new titanium variations of the proven .38 Special Taurus Model 85 snubby, the Total Titanium and UltraLite Titanium. As a long-time fan of the .38 Special, particularly in +P loads -- for which these new guns are rated -- I wanted to see how these highly touted Taurus models would perform as concealed-carry sidearms for law-enforcement and licensed civilian alike.

The Taurus Total Titanium Model 85 series consists of four models differing only in their finish. The latter runs the gamut from what the manufacturer calls Bright Spectrum Blue -- a peculiarly attractive, shiny shade of blue -- to Matte Spectrum Blue, Matte Spectrum Gold and my personal favorite, Stealth Gray. Incidentally, all of these finishes are now Taurus trademarks.

Dubbed the Total Titanium Model 855G2G, the Stealth Gray version, like its stable-mates, is a compact five-shot revolver measuring just 6" overall and tipping the scales at 15.4 ozs. Although most of its major components are made of titanium, certain key parts must be hardened to levels beyond those possible with titanium.

Therefore, the trigger, cylinder latch, ejector rod, hammer and several small parts -- such as sideplate screws and springs -- are made from casehardened, high-tensile chrome-moly steel.

The 2" titanium barrels on all of these models have high-tensile stainless steel bore liners. This is due to the fact that titanium, being more elastic than steel, will not hold rifling. Titanium, however, allows the barrels to be ported, something not possible with stainless-lined aluminum barrels. Aluminum simply could not withstand the erosion caused by the hot gas vented through the ports. All of these compact Taurus titanium snubbies are, therefore, factory-ported -- three neat holes on each side of the front sight -- a crucial factor contributing to their superb shootability.

Another important reason to have ported barrels in these titanium revolvers is that they would otherwise be subjected to more intense recoil forces. This could result in some of the live cartridges in the gun having their bullets slipping out of the cases far enough to extend beyond the cylinder face and cause the cylinder to jam. Manufacturers of ultra-lightweight revolvers without barrel porting generally advise buyers as to specific types of ammo that should not be fired in those guns, in order to avoid that potential problem.

More Than Metal

Besides titanium construction, these new Taurus models incorporate other new and impressive design features. For instance, they have extended ejector rods that permit more reliable extraction/ejection of fired cartridge cases, a feature soon to be added to the entire Taurus revolver line. There is also a new spring-loaded detent added to the top of the yoke. This detent forces the cylinder to remain tightly aligned within the frame during firing and does away with the common latch at the tip of the ejector rod. Incidentally, this is a feature normally seen only in expensive custom revolvers from top-notch gunsmiths.

All of the new Taurus 85 titanium revolvers come with outstanding Santoprene (soft rubber) boot grips that also go a long way towards reducing felt recoil, particularly with +P fodder. The sights are fixed, consisting of a rear square notch and a serrated ramp blade up front. In addition, they all incorporate the hammer-mounted Taurus Security System that renders the gun inoperable through the use of a special key.

The Ultra-Lite Titanium version of the Model 85 differs from the Total Titanium models only in that it features an aluminum frame. The cylinder and stainless-lined ported barrel are made of titanium, with the Stealth Gray finish. This model, also dubbed the Multi Alloy by Taurus, is even lighter than the Total Titanium 85s, weighing just 13.5 ozs. The combination of matte aluminum and Stealth Gray make the Multi Alloy rather striking in appearance.

That Feathery Feeling

Shooting these two new titanium wheelguns was a truly different experience. Despite factory literature touting their controllability, I expected their recoil to be fairly harsh, given their feathery "feel" in the hand. Having fired virtually every type of lightweight snub-nosed revolver produced during the last quarter century, I know firsthand just how punishing these small revolvers can be.

After firing a couple of hundred rounds of assorted +P fodder through the Total Titanium and Multi Alloy revolvers, I must tell you my fears were totally unjustified. Of course there is recoil, but the combination of barrel porting and those soft rubber grips basically eradicate any shooting discomfort, even after extended firing.

Another performance plus of these guns is controllability, even in quick DA fire. Since muzzle flip is drastically curtailed, rapid target acquisition is the norm. In low light situations, the upward-directed blast coming out of the barrel ports did not seem to be any more problematic than the muzzle blast out of an un-ported 2" .38 Special.

Snubnosed centerfire revolvers are not particularly noted, nor intended, for extreme accuracy at long range. They are meant for quick and decisive firepower up-close, when one must shoot in order to remain among the living. Again, these Taurus titanium .38s proved that they are also capable of delivering respectable accuracy.

Tests fired at 10 yards with both models, in rapid, two-handed double action mode, stayed well within the vital area of the combat silhouette targets and averaged a rather impressive 2" groups.

When I say "rapid," I mean just that, as recovery between shots with both of these models is decidedly much faster than with a conventional, nonported lightweight snubby. Their trigger pulls, in both double and single action, were quite smooth, running approximately 12 lbs. and 3 lbs., respectively, for both test guns.

Both the Total Titanium and the Ultra-Lite Multi Alloy were fed similar diets of Federal, 158 gr. +P lead SWC HPs, Federal 129 gr. HydraShoks and Winchester 110 gr. Silvertips. While all of those hot loads performed admirably in these guns, the Ultra-Lite Multi Alloy seemed to prefer the Silvertips, while the Total Titanium model was a bit more partial to the Hydra Shoks. In the final analysis, this is all academic anyway, as these superb Taurus titanium .38s will do their job without fail when it really counts.
 Taurus 85 Total Titanium and Ultra-Lite Multi Alloy

 Caliber: .38 Special, +P-rated
 Action: Traditional
 Capacity: Five shots
 Length Overall: 6"
Weight, Total Titanium: 15.4 oz.
 Weight, Multi Alloy: 13.5 oz.
 Sights: Fixed
 Grip: Santoprene
 Barrel: 2", factory ported, with stainless
 steel liner
 Safety: Firing pin transfer bar, Taurus
 Security System
Suggested Retail Price
 Total Titanium: $529
 Multi Alloy: $515
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:GALAN, J. I.
Publication:Guns Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
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