Sunday, January 20, 2013

Taurus Model 85

  I had a chance to take this Taurus M85 to the range earlier this week. As this is not my firearm, I feel that it's worth mentioning that this will be more of an overall impression instead of a review based upon years of use.
  A relative loaned this .38 spl  to me for the day, and I'll be the first to admit that I only shot it for a few hours. This gun has been in the family for years but doesn't get much use. 100 rounds were shot by me this week. This Taurus now has a whopping 250 rounds through it. There have been no reliability issues thus far. The round count is ridiculously low, and I'd be very surprised if there were any problems. I'll call the reliability rating an 'Incomplete' until it gets at least a few hundred more rounds through it.

  BTW, this gun was purchased about 8 or 9 years ago. Taurus has since discontinued the Model 85, but I still see them a lot at the gun shows and LGS. They now average about $300 in my area. The only similarly priced revolvers are made by Charter Arms and Rossi (which Taurus now owns). Used M85's in the various configurations are easy to find.

  You'll notice that the gun is wearing wooden grips. When the Model 85 was purchased, it came with the standard rubber boot grips. The wooden hand grips were included in the package, and that was a nice extra from Taurus. The owner prefers these grips and has lost the rubber ones. I included a similar pair of rubber hand grips from a J frame S&W to use as a size comparison. Unfortunately they don't fit (they need a cutout on the inside) the Taurus despite being the same size.
  So let's talk about the grips shown in the picture above. They're OK. You can get a little more of your hand on them than with the standard boot grips. Most will not be able to get their entire hand on them. Instead of two fingers, I get two fingers and half of a pinky wrapped around the grip. The owner claims to be able to get all 3 fingers on the hand grip so obviously her hands are quite a bit smaller.
  The checkering is more decorative than useful. It was a cold and wet day at the range earlier this week. Despite shooting from under cover, quite a bit of mist coated the gun. I really didn't have any issues keeping a good grip on the gun even though these hand grips only provide mediocre traction.
M85 vs LCR
  It is nice that wooden handgrips do not cling to your clothing the way that rubber does. This will help your shirt drape over the gun when carrying concealed instead of bunching up. It may also help when removing the gun from a pocket if that's your carry method.  Pocket carry is more difficult with these wood grips in place. I prefer the standard rubber boot grips.

  I had a hard time using speed loaders with the walnut handgrips and eventually just used speed strips instead. The wooden grips need some kind of cut out. As both the gun and grips are out of production it doesn't really matter at this point. It is something to consider when shopping around for replacement grips for any revolver.

  I brought my Ruger LCR to the range as a comparison gun. Obviously the two handguns don't have much in common in regards to weight, and grips. There wasn't however a huge difference in felt recoil. I spent the day switching back and forth between .38's and never paid a lot of attention to the recoil. It was surprising since I expected the steel frame Taurus to have a bit less kick than the Ruger. The difference was slight.

  The Taurus was a little louder than the Ruger.  The amount wasn't huge, but it was noticeable. This was no doubt due to the 3 ports on either side of the front sight. I consider them next to useless for recoil reduction in a 2" gun.
  They're one of those features that look cool, and probably help sell more handguns. Taurus was offering that option on a lot of their Model 85's when this weapon was purchased. Most of their competitors were not. Porting probably helps a bit more when used with a longer barrel, but it was ineffective in reducing recoil on this handgun.
  (BTW, I have a chance to borrow a new S&W Airweight, and put it up against my wife's older version of the Airweight. As her gun is ported and the new model is not, it should make for an interesting test. I hope to get something up on that over the next couple of weeks).

  So let's recap on recoil. I used the lightest snub nosed .38 spl on the market (at this time) for a comparison gun (because that's what I have). I fully expected to see a big difference in recoil considering that the Taurus uses a steel frame vs. the polymer LCR frame. The Model 85 also has larger grips and the gun is ported. Despite these major differences, recoil wasn't really any harsher with the LCR. If I had to make an unscientific guess, I'd say that the Ruger had about 10% more felt recoil. I'll take that little bit of increased kick for the added ease of carry that the 13.50 oz  Ruger has over the 21 oz Taurus.
  I don't really think that carrying concealed is "Fun." It's usually somewhat uncomfortable carrying a handgun. Even though a CCW weapon is supposed to be "Comforting" instead of "Comfortable," I'll take the lighter weight gun any day. It's not that bad carrying the M85 around, but I'd prefer something that weighs less or gives me a larger ammo capacity for that weight.

  The fit and finish of this gun is very good. Cylinder lockup is tighter than that of my Ruger LCR and S&W Airweight. The blueing is attractive, and I couldn't find any blemishes or tool marks. The exterior is smooth and shouldn't shred your clothing.
  You'll notice in the large picture below that there is a small gap in between the frame and grips. This is about the only flaw that I can find in this gun's fit and finish.

  As you have probably noticed, this .38spl has a bobbed hammer. It's a great choice for concealed carry. Unfortunately you are limited to shooting double action instead of having the SA/DA option. Removing the hammer spur helps keep the revolver from snagging on clothing when the gun is being drawn. I prefer the version with the shrouded hammer, but there's nothing wrong with the bobbed M85. To each his own.
  There's one good thing about the bobbed hammer and being forced to only shoot double action. The shooter actually learns to shoot double action. I see people at the range ONLY shoot their revolvers as a single action because it's easier and more accurate that way. They get almost no practice shooting the weapon as they would in a defensive encounter.

  Extraction was equal to my S&W and Ruger. Nuff said on that.

Taurus M85
Ruger LCR
  Sights are generally nothing to get excited about on snub nosed revolvers. The Taurus sights are a little better than most. As usual, the front sight is serrated to reduce glare. If you like painting your front sight orange it's best not to bother. The paint will not last due to the porting, and the hot gasses covering the front sight after every shot.
  The rear sight is merely a groove cut into the frame. That is normal, but Taurus also cut a shallow groove behind the rear sight. This actually helps your sight picture. Pick one up, and compare it to some of it's competition.  The M85 has better sights than those on my LCR and Airweight. This is in spite of the Taurus currently selling for a little over $100 less.

7 yds
Damn flyer
  Accuracy is OK with this gun. I think that these groups could be cut down a bit with some more practice with this firearm. I consistently shot low with the M85.
  The trigger pull on the Taurus is much heavier than I'm used to on my revolvers. It's not a bad trigger overall, but it is heavy. It's relatively smooth throughout the pull, and I could easily get used to it with practice. As the LCR probably has the best trigger for guns in this category it was a bit of a difference bouncing from gun to gun. Of course the Ruger sells for over $100 more.

  Obviously it is a 5 shot. Most J-frame accessories will fit this revolver, and the aftermarket is pretty good.

  Did I mention that it has a lifetime warranty?

  It is also rated for +P ammo.

Um... sorry I got your gun wet.

  It's a shame that Taurus dropped this model from their current lineup. The M85 was one of the firearms in their catalog that had a reputation for reliability. I would purchase one without any reservations based on this gun and the many years that the M85 was on the market.

  If money was not any issue, I would prefer the Ruger LCR or S&W Airweight over the Taurus M85. This is based upon the weight of the gun and it's trigger pull.
  Many people are currently on a tight budget. That $100 (or so) difference between the Ruger, S&W, and Taurus could be a big deal to them. I think that this is a fine handgun for the money. You can do better, but then again you could do a hell of a lot worse.
  I would feel well armed with this handgun and a pocketful of speed strips in most situations. Should the owner ever decide to put this gun up for sale... it's mine. I have no problem recommending it with the usual warnings. If you're not a shooter then you'll hate snub nosed revolvers. I've seen too many people buy these little guns and put them away for years after shooting a box or two of ammo. If you plan on using a J-frame revolver for home defense (and not for CCW), I would suggest adding some larger grips such as these made by Hogue.
  Even though they've been discontinued, it is still easy to find them at most gun stores.

7 yds

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