(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)
By Aaron James
My father’s Llama Comanche .357 magnum rode faithfully in the console of his work truck for nearly 20 years, while also serving as his nightstand protector in between the highway miles. As happens with so many revolver guys, he decided last year to swap it for something with a bit more capacity. He’s no pistol buff, so he came to me with a list of features he wanted in his new handgun: semi-automatic, chambered in 9mm, full-size, hammer-fired, a manual safety, and a double-stack magazine for the added rounds. Plenty of fish in the sea fit that description. Oh, and one last requirement: keep it under $400 . . .
Well that narrows it down. “Meet me at Academy Sports in 30 minutes,” I told him over the phone. “I know exactly what you need.”
If you’ve ever spent more than about 15 minutes online perusing gun forums, you know that there are plenty of opinions about Taurus pistols, and roughly 98% of them can be summarized thusly: “Got gun. Loaded gun. Gun broke. Sent off to Taurus. Got it back. Still broke. Took it to gunsmith. Gunsmith laughed. Fiddled with it and replaced X and Y. Took it to range. Fired three rounds. Broke again. &%$@! Taurus.”
If the internet is to be believed, the pro-Taurus camp basically consists of their marketing department, Jessie Duff, me, and about a half dozen others who just don’t know any better. I currently own a model 85 .38 special and a PT911 9mm. Both are excellent handguns. Neither has ever exhibited any issues through hundreds of rounds of ammo.
The Taurus Model 809 is, more or less, a hammer-fired version of Taurus’ 24/7 line of striker fired pistols. It has a three-position safety switch that allows multiple modes of carry. Upon unboxing, I detected a slight *wiggle* in the slide to frame fit; not loose, per say, or even cheap-feeling, but there’s an undeniable shimmy in it. Taurus fans will dismiss it; Taurus detractors will deride it.
After purchasing the pistol for dad, I took it to the range for him and fired off two mags full of FMJ just to ensure basic functionality. After that, I did a quick cleaning and put it away in its box, where it has been shuffled between his truck and his nightstand for the better part of a year. I chose to review it partly because I knew it needed a proper break-in of at least 200 rounds.
The most noticeable thing about this gun is its size. It is quite large for the 4” barreled class; this baby absolutely dwarfs a GLOCK 19. Its length and height are much closer to the full size 17. Its 30 oz. of unloaded mass made me check the polymer frame to see if it was actually steel disguised as plastic. Not that it’s a bad thing, mind you. For a gun that wasn’t bought for concealed carry, these things were features, not bugs. The full-length grip more than accommodates my slightly larger than average hands, and its 37 oz. (with a full mag) finishes taming an already mild-recoiling 9mm round. Yes, with a proper belt, holster, and cover garment, you could carry this gun concealed, but there are far better choices out there for that assignment.
There are plenty of nice features on this pistol. Novak sights, interchangeable backstraps, forward cocking serrations, and a rail for mounting lights or lasers are among the niceties found on the Taurus. Even though most of these things are expected on modern pistols, it’s still nice to have them on a budget gun.
But enough about her looks…how does she handle? To find out, I loaded her up along with 200 rounds of ammo and hit the range. As previously stated, I had already shot 30 rounds through it a year ago, but I have absolutely no recollection of how it felt. Evidently, it was rather unremarkable.
The trigger is a DA/SA affair, and I’d rate it decent in both modes. The double action is long and heavy, but not terrible. The single action is fairly light, but I wouldn’t use “crisp” as a descriptor. The trigger’s best feature is its incredibly short reset; perhaps the shortest I’ve ever experienced on a non-1911 pistol. And with each reset, the Taurus makes sure you can hear AND feel it, a quality I find very appealing. The worst feature of the trigger is the shape of it. At first blush, it appears normal enough, but near the end of its travel, it creates a weird downward angle that causes my index finger to graze the length of the trigger guard with each trigger press. No amount of adjustment on my part could correct it, so I soldiered on with the minor annoyance.
I must apologize for this horrid target. The Model 809 is far more accurate than this abomination indicates. For its part, the sights are good and the pistol pews where you point it; it’s just that I suck at pointing it sometimes. To my credit, other styles of target yielded much better results. There’s just something about that solid black background that makes my eyes cross.
Here’s a summary of the malfunctions I encountered during the 210 rounds I fired:
At the conclusion of the third full magazine, the slide failed to lock back on empty. Now I know this is going to sound like I’m making excuses for the gun, but I don’t mind when this happens. Since I don’t count the rounds I fire, I was unaware that the gun was empty, so I continued with my normal firing routine. There’s nothing better for diagnosing bad habits than squeezing the trigger and expecting a bang that doesn’t happen. Even still, it was supposed to lock back on an empty mag and it didn’t. Once.
Right around cartridge #100, I had a light primer strike. Instinctively, I tapped and racked even though the 809 has “second strike” capability given its DA/SA status. After I had finished the mag, I knelt down and retrieved the unfired round and loaded it into the empty magazine by itself. After a quick chambering, it dutifully exploded and sent its projectile downrange. For what it’s worth, it was a loose Winchester 115 gr. FMJ of unknown origin that I’ve had in a bag for years. It’s probably safe to blame the ammo in this instance, but I’m reporting the failure for you to draw your own conclusions.
That’s all. No stovepipes, no failures to feed, nothing of that sort. I’m pleased with the function of this piece. The gun runs as intended, and although I haven’t run 500-600 rounds through it as is my standard, I’m satisfied that it will detonate a round when asked. At the end of the day, that’s all I’ve asked this gun to do, and it does it. And with a street price of $350 (less at Bud’s Gun Shop online), that’s a helluva value, even if it is a Taurus.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * *
I think this is a handsome full size pistol, but there are nits to pick and not everyone will agree.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
Its size really comes in handy and it’s grippy in all the right places.
Customize This * * *
Holsters are available, but not as wide and varied as your bigger names (think Glock and M&P). Lights and lasers fit just fine on the chin.
Overall * * * *
I did my best to set aside my affinity for Taurus products for this review. Compared directly to the slew of $500 pistols on the market, it would be three stars at best. But this nifty pistol can be found in multiple places for around $300, and that price advantage nets it a full additional star.