taurus85-1

Two years ago, I re-named the then-new Taurus Curve the Taurus Turd. It all came about because I panned a gushing Guns & Ammo “review” of the novelty self-defense gun without sights at gunssavelife.com. G&A then threatened to sue GSL for ridiculing their “review.” Thankfully, they backed down. Personally, I’m no fan of Taurus after a bad experience with their customer service. But I’ve put all of that under the bridge.

Taurus Model 85

I won this Model 85 at a Guns Save Life monthly meeting some time back. It had occupied the “New In Box” shelf in my safe since then and I recently took it out to give it a test drive. Taurus didn’t give it to me to review (and keep), so I don’t owe them anything. And while Taurus and I don’t have a lot of love for one another, I’ve still got fond memories of the first Taurus 85 I bought as a gift to fiancee #1. That one left with her twenty-plus years ago.

This 85 doesn’t achieve the perfection that GLOCK claims of their products. Then again, if GLOCKs were so darn perfect, then why the adjustable backstraps? And why can’t they decided whether or not finger grooves are a good idea?

But back to the Model 85….

 

Taurus Model 85
Two five-round, slow-fire strings of .38 Special at 5 yards. It shoots plenty accurately for personal defense purposes.

First Looks

This old-school snub-nosed revolver is made of not-so-old-school stainless with a matte finish.  The manufacturing looks well done, with parts fitting together well and little to no tool marks. It’s a five-shot revolver, chambered in .38 Special and rated for +P loads.

One of its biggest selling points is its price. The model 85 carries a $371 MSRP, but can be easily found for about $300. That’s pretty affordable for those on a limited budget.

Why a 5-shot revolver over some of the newer, small-framed .380 Autos or even similar 9mm products?  Revolvers can be fired from inside a pocket or purse without malfunctioning, giving a bad guy or gal the suprise of a lifetime. Revolvers are also operate using the original point and click interface. And malfunctions in wheel-guns are typically much fewer and farther between than with affordably priced semi-autos.

Another plus: wheel guns will deliver contact gunshot wounds with less likelihood of a malfunction. They’re easy and simple to load and unload for novices — anyone who’s ever watched a wester can figure one out. What’s more, I have it on good authority that when God shoots recreationally, he brings his revolver.

The .38 Special is a versatile round. It’s a potent man-stopper in the old FBI load, the 158-grain semi-wad cutter hollow-point in +P. The recoil adverse can shoot standard-pressure loads with lighter bullets down to a 95-grain, .380-style projectile. In fact, you can load up paraffin “bullets” into primed cases and practice shooting indoors if you’re truly hard-core (and don’t have any neighbors). Try doing that with Gaston’s Perfection™.

The Taurus Model 85 is comfortable to hold and looks good. The cylinder release is a little more difficult to engage than I’m accustomed to with tuned S&W Model 64s and 65s. The cylinder doesn’t swing out perfectly smoothly, but it doesn’t hang up or bind up either.

The ejection rod felt as though it had been lubricated with extra-fine sand, but a big drop of oil smoothed it right out. That was the extent of the pre-shooting lubrication/maintenance I employed.

First Shots

The lighting at the C.I. Shooting Sports range where I test fired the gun was a long way from what I’d get on a sunny day outdoors. To make matters worse, the poor illumination made the gray front sight kind of fuzz out against the same stainless steel gray of the rear notch for my almost 50-year-old eyeballs. So I used my handy red Sharpie to color the top half of the front sight blade red. I could have used a match and sooted the front sight blade, too.

taurus85-3
The Taurus 85 will make quick work of insane clowns trying to beat you with a giant wooden mallet.

The trigger pulled smoothly, although it stacks at the end. Like most guns could probably be tuned into something better by a skilled ‘smith. As you’d expect in a revolver, it’s a fairly long pull, and my big trigger finger tends to bump into my support hand when fired in my favored two-handed isosceles stance. Ladies or guys with girlie-sized hands probably won’t have that problem.

The revolver weighs in at 22+ ounces empty, twice the weight of a loaded Kel-Tec P3AT. That’s a few ounces lighter than a Ruger SP-101, so it’s not a complete boat anchor…more like a partial boat anchor, but that heft helps tame the recoil. As a long-time instructor, I’ve shot a few ultra-light snubnosed .38s. Some of the exotic featherweight metal guns feature recoil akin to corporal punishment of the hands.

By the time I’d shot through nearly two boxes of factory Remington 130gr. FMJ ammo, my trigger finger ached. Granted, I had test-fired a few cylinders of 158gr. the old FBI .38 Special +P loads too. Those were extra lively, but manageable.  By the time I finished shooting the +Ps and some more miscellaneous practice ammo, my trigger finger was begging me to go home.

I encountered zero malfunctions, which was exactly what I expected. I had a handful of shell cases hang-up a bit when lackadaisically plunging the ejector rod, but that’s a user-caused problem – I’ll take the blame there. Given how it’s not a full-length ejector rod (as on K-framed Smith & Wessons), that’s not unexpected. The primer strikes looked good, too, as they should.

If you have a problem with the gun, Taurus offers lifetime warranty on their modern production guns. While I needed no service with this little pistol, my sole experience with Taurus warranty service wasn’t auspicious. Let’s hope that recent rumors of improvement in that area are true. Or — better yet — you won’t need to find out.

The Whole Package

For the money, this old-school snubby offers good value and should provide a lifetime of service unless you’re working it heavily. It’s a very affordable pocket gun that does what it’s supposed to do and does it well.

 

Specifications:  Taurus Model 85

Model85SS2FS
Caliber: 38 Special +P
Finish: Matte Stainless Steel
Caliber: 38 Special +P
Capacity5 rounds
Weight: 22.2 oz
Overall Length: 6.5″
Barrel Length: 2″
Front Sight: Fixed
Safety: Taurus Security System,Transfer Bar
MSRP: $371.21

Ratings (out of five stars):

Aesthetics: * * * *
I think it looks pretty, but then again, I think Mila Kunis is hot, so take that for what it’s worth. Everything fits together nicely and it looks professionally manufactured. It’s certainly old-school and lacks some of the sexiness and features of some of the newer self-defense semi-autos.

Accuracy: * * *
The average end user is never going to use this wheelgun to poke holes at Olympic shooting competitions. For minute-of-bad guy, this gun gets it done. I suspect it will shoot tighter groups than I was able to achieve. Given the limited sight radius, long trigger pull, and a front sight blade that disappeared in the poor lighting where I shot, the Model 85 gives you the minute of bad guy deterrence you want in a snubby.

Ergonomics-Handling: * * * *
The rubber grip provides a comfortably solid hold on the handgun. It points naturally. It’s got some heft, but it’s not like the anchor my  Ruger SP-101 is. The long trigger pull trigger pull is smooth but stacks at the end. Large-handed shooters will have to adapt.

Ergonomics-Firing: * * * *
Better than average for a snubbie revolver. Its heft and the grips help attenuate perceived recoil. Your trigger finger will take the bulk of any punishment the 85 doles out. You won’t want to take it to a class where you’re shooting 250 rounds over a weekend, but for a 50-round trip to the range, the little Taurus handles about as tolerably as a revolver of this type can.

Customization: * * *
There’s no rail. There’s no adjustable grip panels, although you could probably swap out the grips (although I think you’d be a fool to do so unless you’ve got unique needs). The trigger could benefit from a fluff and buff by a gunsmith. Holsters, speed loaders, and gear are relatively easy to acquire as it’s the same size as the millions of S&W J-frames out there.

Overall: * * * *
The Taurus Model 85 provides good value for its low-$300s street price. For those on a budget needing a purse or pocket revolver (and who don’t mind the exposed hammer) it’s very viable option. You can spend more on a Smith or Ruger, but if you want to keep a few more dollars in your pocket, you can rely on the Model 85 to do what you need a pocket gun to do.

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33 Responses to Gun Review: Taurus Model 85 2″ Stainless Revolver

  1. Had an 85. Sold it awhile back. It was used but ran great. Now the wife wants one. Oh yeah for you Indiana/Illinois folk Big R has these for 259everyday(blued). Had on sale for 239 last month.And SS for 279…CUBS WIN(and Chicago didn’t burn down).

    • “CUBS WIN(and Chicago didn’t burn down)”

      Yeah, watched it until the end. That was probably the best baseball game I’ve ever seen.

      I was surprised there seemed to be more Cubs fans in that stadium than Indians fans…

      • Cubs fans are like a disease. Once they infest one stadium… they move on to another.
        Back to the Taurus. Love my model 85. Had it for a few years. Zero breakage and zero malfunctions. Unless operator induced. It’s a wild ride with +p ammo. Wouldn’t ever get rid of it.

      • Don’t know how this was tracked but 80% of tickets sold were out of Ohio and a very substantial % of those were Chicago and you Jp can go suck start a glock.

  2. “In fact, you can load up paraffin “bullets” into primed cases and practice shooting indoors if you’re truly hard-core (and don’t have any neighbors).”

    Those yellow 3M cylindrical earplugs loaded flush with the mouth of the case (wad-cutter style, primer *only*) works very well and won’t leave marks on interior surfaces. Used to do that with my Super Redhawk .44 mag…

    https://www.amazon.com/3M-Uncorded-Earplugs-Conservation-312-1201/dp/B008MCU0N0/ref=sr_1_3?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=1478189695&sr=1-3&keywords=3m+ear+plugs

    • Like the author, I also thought she was hot.
      Then I realized I didn’t. Figured she’d become un-hot somewhere along the line.
      Then I rewatched the first season of 70s Show and realized I don’t think she was hot then either.

      Now I honestly have no idea why I once thought she was smoking hot.
      Attractive, yes, beautiful, no.

  3. Sounds like Taurus upped their game. I had 3 model 85’s back in the 80’s, and all 3 were turds. Soured me on the brand for a long time. Now? I still have reservations based on what I see while working at a retail gun shop. The 85’s don’t come in for repair / return as often as the other models, but I can’t bring myself to spend the cash on one. I may have to reconsider.

  4. Bought one a few months back new for $230. It’s a better gun than the price would indicate and in place of the Ruger LCRx I sold, a lot easier on the hand. I guess I’d say it is what it is. I really like the new grip.

    • Really? A LOT easier on the hand than a Ruger LCRx? What kind of loads do you shoot? I put 50 rounds of 158 grain through an LCR last weekend and figured the LCRx with the bigger grip would be a little nicer to my hand.

      • It’s the weight. The snubby LCRx is 13.5 oz with the boot grip vs. 22oz for the Taurus.

        The bigger 3-inch LCRx I bought with the full size grip is only 15.7 oz. I’d be pretty happy with it if not for the snagtastic adjustable rear sight.

  5. Hates on Glock but can’t write an article with using the name. Bashes on Glock for the grip while trying to use revolvers that all have removable and replaceable grips. Whines about the disappearing front sight due to poor lighting. To bad it doesn’t have a rail like Glock to see with an add on light.
    Made a decent article shit

    • Why is it that Glock fans always seem to have absolutely no sense of humor? Is it because Glocks are Austrian, or what?

      • I didn’t come here for humor I read this for a serious review and a possible purchase. You read an article about a chevy truck you don’t want half of it bashing chevy blazer or maybe you do funny guy. It’s a good article otherwise but seriously if that’s all you got then hush

  6. 25 years ago, when I was a kid working 2 jobs, I bought a couple of Taurus pistols. I thought they were a step up from Intertecs, Jennings Bryce, etc., (plus they were what I could afford). I had great luck with all 3 of them. No problems whatsoever. Fast forward 20 years, I am a Glock and S&W revolver guy. When my wife got into shooting with me, I told her she could pick any gun she wanted. She hates revolvers and didn’the care for Glocks. Heresy! Anyhow, she picked a Tcp. It broke immediately. Then a 709. Wouldn’t work right out of the box. Their customer service sucks! You will be lucky to see your gun again inside of 6 months, if they even send the right gun back. I wouldn’the touch a Taurus auto with a stick, but I hear their revolvers are still decent.

  7. Still own an 85. Have had wonderful luck with the revolver side of Taurus products. Owned a Taurus “Raging Bull” in .454 Casull, 2.5″ ported barrel. Amazing to shoot in low light!!

    But loved the gun, it was maybe the best SA trigger I owned. Sold it to purchase a Ruger .454 Alaskan, and (though I’m a big Ruger fan for many reasons) I’m not sure it was really a ‘step up’.

  8. Why the Glock hate? Ruined an otherwise unremarkable review. Note to self, don’t take a class from this guy as he cannot stay on target.

  9. Had a model 85 and after about 150 rounds it became inaccurate as hell. I don’t know what the problem was, the cylinder seemed to be lining up correctly. It just wouldn’t put a round where you wanted it, they were all over the place. Never did figure it out.

  10. I owned the standard blued 85. No problems at all and it was as accurate at self defense ranges as a j frame. My step son has an 85 with a 3 inch barrel. Makes me want a 3 inch snubbie. Completely changes the feel and performance of the gun. In a good way.

    • I don’t understand why it is so hard to find a new quality-brand 3-inch carry revolver. Not everybody wants a J-frame size revolver for pocket carry. I want one for IWB carry, because the 5 shot models are slimmer in the waist band, and the longer barrel is not going to make it any less concealable, while offering clear benefits in balance, velocity and sight radius.

      There are so many nice 3 inch revolvers they used to make, but these days the only small frame ones seem to be marketed as ‘kit guns’, and they stick adjustable sights on them. A feature almost nobody wants for a concealed carry gun, and for good reason. If Ruger offered the 3-inch LCRx with the original channel sights or low profile novaks, I think the clouds would part over me and the angels would sing. I’d be almost as a happy with a 3-inch 442 or 642.

  11. Taurus revolvers would seem to be foolproof, until you get one that isnt timed properly, i e you pull the trigger and the cylinder doesnt revolve enough on one chamber to have the firing pin hit the primer. Didnt think it was possible till I came across a Rossi 357 that did it. Taurus took it back and replaced it after a 2 month lay over. The replacement had loose screws but at least would shoot all 6 rds.

    Taurus are perfect for somebody thats going to buy it, shoot it one time, then put it in a nightstand drawer. Thats about it. If you really value your life, spend the extra hundred on a Ruger or Smith.

  12. Purchased a Model 85 Stainless (Rosewood grips) around 1992 for Mom. She didn’t care for it so I kept it.
    Not to easy to take carefully aimed shots, what with a very small front sight and a itty-bitty notch in the back. Double action is a bit crunchy as well. On the other hand, thumb cocking and shooting single action is nice. In fact, in that mode is is a clean and crisp as any high end semi-auto, revolver or rifle and often surpasses them (I own three SIG’s, a Browning, and an Accutrigger Savage 110 for comparison)
    Found out the there really is no need to use the sights, just a straight two-handed torso to extended-arm motion, looking down at the front of the barrel for reference. Worked wonderfully that way. Just a little practice to hit centers in DA mode consistently. Also recoil in negligible, even with +P 129 gr. Federals.
    Firm grip, point, shoot. Fun.

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