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Taurus model 85 revolver.

Revolvers made by the Brazilian firm of Forjas Taurus have come a long way from when they first appeared on these shores about 15 year ago. Back then they appeared to be nothing more than roughly made and finished copies of the proven Smith & Wesson design. They impressed one as being suitable for the bedside table or bureau drawer, but there was nothing about them that would appeal to the real gun enthusiast or connoisseur of first-class fine firearms.

Today the situation is very different indeed. Taurus is turning out some beautifully made revolvers that should appeal to the most discriminating gun buff--and at very attractive prices.

Before turning to the piece under consideration, let's try to clarify the relationship between Taurus and Smith & Wesson, since this matter seems to cause considerable confusion. In brief, the facts are that at one time the Bangor-Punta conglomerate did own both Smith & Wesson and Forjas Taurus, and Smith & Wesson engineers did assist Taurus with production and quality control matters. At present, though, there is no relationship between these two companies. Taurus no longer use the Smith & Wesson lockwork design in their revolvers, having gone to a transfer bar type of lockwork mechanism.

The Taurus Model 85 itself is a small, five-shot .38 Special "snubby" that closely resembles the popular S&W Chiefs Special. It is available in 2 or 3-inch barrel lengths. Our sample was the 2-inch version, in which guise at weighs 20-3/4 ounces and has an overall length of 6-5/8 inches. The major external difference between the Chiefs and the Taurus Model 85 is the latter gun's use of a shrouded ejector rod.

Since the importantation of 2-inch revolvers is proscribed by the Gun Control Act of 1968, one may wonder how these revolvers came to sport two-inch barrels. It seems that Taurus imports them as 3-inchers along with a quantity of factory-made 2-inch barrels. Then, after the revolvers have been duly imported as 3-inchers, Taurus, at their facility in Miami, unscrews the 3-inch barrels, replaces them with the 2-inchers, and sends the 3-inch barrels back to Brazil to come up on the next batch of revolvers. It's complicated, but all completely legal.

These revolvers are available with blued and satin nickel finishes and also made from stainless steel. Our sample was finished in a beautiful, highly polished blue that compares favorably with that on virtually any revolver on today's market. The top of the frame and barrel is given a nonglare matte finish, and the hammer and trigger are color case-hardened.

Fitting of the parts was likewise excellent. Lateral cylinder play was a little greater than I should have liked, but fore-and-aft play was nonexistent. Just below the cylinder crane there is a slight shelf that, on our sample, had a sharp corner on it; some observers thought that it might be harzardous, with the potential for nicking hands, but it caused me no problems during shooting.

The model 85 has a small, rounded butt frame. Current production revolvers come fitted with oversize grips of gorgeously figured Brazilian hardwood that fit the average hand very well. Checkering and wood-to-metal fit are excellent.

Sights are fixed. I was pleased to note that 158-grain bullets printed close to point of aim. (Most snubbies shoot very low from my hands.) Predictably, lighter bullets did group lower.

Single-action trigger pull was very clean and crips, but rather too light, breaking at less than 2 pounds on our sample. The double-action pull was extremely smooth and slick, comparable to those on many custom-tuned actions, with just a slight hitch as the hammer reached the full rearward extent of its travel.

In shooting sessions at both the Target Range in Van Nuys and Angeles Shooting Ranges in Little Tujunga Canyon, the Taurus Model 85 functioned perfectly.

Loads tried included Winchester 158-grain SWCs, Winchester 200-grain LRNs, Pro-Load 158-grain SWCs, PMC 130-grain FMJs, and Federal 125-grain +P JHPs. Unlike many competitive smallframe .38 Specials, Taurust Model 85s are fully warranted for use with powerful +P loads, and these hotter loadings proved easy to control with the Taurus' well designed grips.

Best accuracy was turned in by the Target Range's full-wadcutter reloads, which printed five shots into 2-1/4 inches at 50 feet, with four shots clustering into 1-1/2 inches--about par for one of these little .38 Special snubbies.

For some reason, the Winchester 158-grain semi-wadcutters did not stabilize well, and we encountered keyholing on the target. This was something of a mystery since no such instability was enountered with any other load, including the Winchester 200-grain "Super Police," even though the latter bullet is sometimes reputed to be unstable when fired at snubby velocities. In fact, this load printed the tightest group when the Taurus we fired double action at 25 feet at the reduced combat silhouette--about 2-1/2 inches.

This Taurus Mode 85 seems fully capable of holding its own in comparison to any revolver of the same type. It is a handsome, high quality piece, and it is very reasonably priced. The blued version we tried sells for about $178 suggested retail; it's $191 in satin nickel, $226 in stainless. Not only are these fine little revolvers excellent buys, but, like all Taurus firearms, they also carry a lifetime warranty. Information on Taurus' complete line of revolvers and auto pistols is available from Taurus International Firearms, 4563 S.W. 71st Ave., Dept. GA, Miami, FL 33155.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Libourel, Jan
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Nov 1, 1985
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