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Taurus PT-99 AF.

* For the last few years 9mm Parabellum double-action auto pistols closely resembling the Beretta Model 92 series, but made by the Brazilian firm of Forjas Taurus, have been offered on the American market. It seems that some years ago the Brazilian military adopted the original Beretta Model 92, and Beretta set up a factory in brazil to manufacture these pistols and other small arms. This facility, including Beretta's tooling and blueprints, was acquired by Taurus, which continued to manufacture these "Brazilian Berettas," as they are sometimes called.

The original Taurus, designated the PT-99, was a virtual duplicate of the Beretta Model 92, save for a squared, dished out triggerguard. In addition, a version featuring an excellent low-profile, fully adjustable rear sight was introduced as the PT-99. (See "Taurus Model PT-99" in the January 1983 G&A).

Since the introduction of the Beretta Model 92 about a decade back, the Beretta has undergone numerous minor design changes, culminating in the version just adopted by the U.S. armed forces. the major difference between today's Berettas and the Taurus is that the Berettas now use a slide-mounted, hammer-dropping safety, whereas Taurus has retained the sear-blocking, frame-mounted safety of the original Beretta Model 92. The matter of safeties is somewhat controversial. Some calim that the hammer-dropping type makes the operation of lowering the hammer on a live round much safer. Other combat authorities, like Jeff Cooper, state that the sear-blocking type offers tactical advantages since one can run or dive for cover, gun in hand and on "safe," without the necessity of reverting to the heavy double-action pull for the first shot of each subsequent burst.

Other than in their differing safeties, the Taurus and Beretta are basically identical 15-shot (plus one up the spout) double-action autos chambering the world-standard 9mm Parabellum. The design uses a tilting under-barrel locking block whose lugs engage recesses in the slide. Overall quality and workmanship of the Brazilian Taurus autos seems closely comparable to the Italian pistols.

Recently, Taurus upgraded their autos with a series of minor modifications, and I was pleased to evaluate the new PT-99 AF, as this improved version is called. The principal changes are: 1) The magazine catch has been moved from the lower left grip panel to behind the triggerguard. (Beretta has also done this.) 2) The safety has been given an additional, right-side lever to make it fully ambidextrous. 3) The front sight has a red insert and the rear sight notch a white outline. 4) An automatic firing pin safety has been incorporated, similar to that used in recent Beretta and Smith & Wesson autos as well as Series 80 Colts. 5) The feed ramp has been modified to handle a wide variety of high-performance JHP loads reliably.

These modifications serve to make a fine gun even better. I had been very favorably impressed by the PT-99 I originally tried, and I liked this PT-99 AF even more. Fit and finish were truly first-rate, with some surfaces matted and others given a high-gloss polish for a handsome two-tone effect. Steel parts are machined forgings, by the way, while the frame is aluminum alloy cold-formed under pressure for great strength and durability.

I shot this pistold in several sessions at Angeles Shooting Ranges in Little Tujunga Canyon and at the Target Range in Van Nuys. Off the bench, most loads printed groups in the 2-1/2 to 3-inch range at 25 yards. Best accuracy was displayed by Winchester 115-grain Silvertips, followed by Federal 123-grain FMJs and a handload using the Saeco #377 cast bullet with 7.8 grains of Accurate Powder #7.

In firing close to 400 rounds, we encountered only one malfunction, when a single Eagle/Sampson JHP hung up on the feed ramp. Functioning was perfect with Federal and Frontier JHPs, Wincheser Silvertips, Hornady/Frontier truncated cones and handloads using the Saeco #377 cast bullet that duplicates the contours of the Hornady truncated cone. Functioning was also flawless with all ammo using FMJ bullets, including Federal, Winchester, Eagle/Sampson, PMC and Pro-Load.

This, like its Beretta counterpart, is one of the easiest pistols to fieldstrip. After making sure the pistol is completely empty, simply push in teh dismounting catch plunger on the right side of the frame and lower the catch on the left. The slide assembly will come off the frame; the recoil spring and guide and barrel and locking block can then be removed to complete stripping.

In all, the Taurus is a truly first-rate, first-quality auto pistol, and I would have no hesitation recommending it for any service or defensive duty. The only criticisms I have are that its grip is somewhat bulky for people with small hands, and the trigger pull on our sample gun was a bit on the heavy side at 6 pounds (single action). But, the best part of the Taurus is the price. There are plenty of other excellent 9mms around, but how many of them have a suggested retail of only $350? I believe the Taurus can stand comparison with any service auto at any price, including those costing hundreds of dollars more; this pistol is one of the finest values on the handgun scene today--and that's no bull!

Accompanying all Taurus handguns is a lifetime warranty. Information on their complete line of handguns is available from Taurus International, Inc., Dept. GA, P.O. Box 558567, Ludlam Branch, Miami, FL 33155.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Libourel, Jan
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:May 1, 1985
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