(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Matt M.
Back when I was looking for my first carry gun, a friend told me to look into Taurus for good quality at a reasonable price. I wanted something foolproof for pocket carry, something which would defy my best attempts to snag the draw, but could also be shot empty in-pocket just in case.
I wanted a round powerful enough to stop fights quickly, improving everyone’s chance of survival. Being a big guy, a little weight was nothing to write home about. So, when I saw a stainless steel Taurus 650 on Gunbroker for $312 out the door, I bought it.
The 650 is essentially the J-frame as concieved by Jersey dockworkers. It’s chunky and angular with a beefy underlug, a Brazilian pitbull to Smith’s rat terriers. Mine came used with scars on its bead-blasted jaw and back, nothing a little Blue Magic polishing cream couldn’t turn into an elegant patina of character. True to my expectations, she was smooth and svelte in all the right ways, streamlined like a predatory fish too slick for a trawler’s net.
Two things amazed me from the start. First, my stainless 650 has a silky-smooth action. You can say what you want about Taurus’ lousy quality control (true), variable quality (true), and tortuous customer service (yes and no), but their steel revolvers can be hot stuff. An 851 I sold a while back had the best trigger I have ever felt on a wheelgun. Ever. While the 650 has a…substantial trigger pull, you’ll hardly notice the weight behind the clockwork.
Second, the sights. Look, I love modern notch-and-groove revolvers and can actually outshoot the laser with ‘em if you’ll give me some time, but they aren’t for everyone. While a little red paint really makes the front sight pop, older eyes may struggle to reach out and touch someone. Any way you cut it, this particular action was so slick I was making accidental double-taps DAO; she needed new sights to go full-throttle.
My solution was Crimson Trace Lasergrips (LG-85), the small, smooth-plastic ones for concealment. Costing me an outrageous $200, I was crushed when they broke easily on installation. However, CT customer service is awesome and I haven’t had an issue now that Loctite, not torque, is holding the gun together.
As you probably know, this setup emits a laser when you get a firm grasp on the gun, holds its point of aim well, and is the ultimate dry-fire training aid. Mall ninjas will breathe easy knowing that the laser is hidden when your finger rides the frame, the only place it should be until you are ready to shoot.
Unfortunately, they will hate the absence of front-cocking serration for press-checks, but you can’t have it all.
Speaking of foolproof news, snubbies are great pieces to maintain. Contrary to popular belief, revolvers are not more reliable than autos per se, but more tolerant of neglect (vs. abuse). They are also not easier to clean than (some) automatics, but they are simpler. Open cylinder. Clean everything in sight. Close cylinder.
Advanced armorers like you and I might remove the cylinder entirely by loosening the front sideplate screw, but Taurus gave us the collective finger by permenantly fusing cylinder and crane with a proprietary tool. While I can completely clean a polygonally-rifled Glock with a Bic pen, napkin, some oil, and sixty-seconds, there is a wonderful rhythm to cleaning revolvers cylinder by cylinder.
And now, the warts come out…
THE GUN IN ACTION: CARRY
Unfortunately, the 650 is too heavy for pocket carry unless you’re a large-framed or super-committed individual fond of tight pants. The issue isn’t the hangy-weight — she’s not far from a single-stack nine — but the dangling in pleated pants loved by urban-professional. Unlike your carrier-deck pocket-auto that prints so nicely, revolvers roll around unless put into a self-defeating square holster. However, if slipped into a Safariland #25 in a jeans pocket made to fit, no one will ever ask you about the strange tumor on your upper thigh.
Fortunately, pocket carry rewards those who can bear the weight. Centennial-style DAO revolvers lack the hammer- and slide-related constipation universal to the roughage that passes for “pocket pistols” these days. Come the moment of truth, you can count on your pocket suppository erupting forcefully with its stout tonic when your assailant least expects it. Should you be caught unawares and forced to “keep it in”, your little secret will leave a permanent brown spot on your clothing as five golden nuggets spew forth into the fray.
If you’ve never handled a “hammerless” revolver, seriously, go find a patient gun-store clerk who will let you try one on for size.
If pants-pocket carry isn’t for you, the 650 pairs nicely with ankle holsters, deep concealment rigs, and anything else ever thought up for a snub-nosed revolver. Unlike the eccentric plastic fantastic LCR shown here, the 650 should fit perfectly in almost any holster made for a Smith & Wesson J-frame, i.e., you have a century of cheap, quality gunleather to choose from.
There are better guns to carry on a belt. However, because revolver cylinders leverage the grip into one’s side and this snubby is both small and light, the 650 is an absolute dream to pack on the hip.
You may object, o millennial, that a gentleman’s revolver has no place in a world of autoloading death-machines. Since we are talking about instruments of grave bodily harm, let’s get something straight on the subject of firepower.
You know your needs. If you say that autos are more efficient (no cylinder gap), more powerful (capacity and ease of reloading), and easier on the hand (reciprocating slide) making for faster, more accurate shots caliber-for-caliber, you would be right. However, if you insist that the average American needs maximum firepower 24/7 and that a semi-auto is just as easy to whip out of your pocket as an edge-free DAO snubby, I will eventually change my opinion. Not of “Chiraq” and pocket rockets, but of you.
Seriously folks, if all your heroic fantasies play end in IDPA matches, you need to rethink the legal consequences of your thought life. Get real, and remember: few things communicate “GET AWAY FROM MY CHILDREN” more effectively than a mother’s desperation, a laser, and five hollowpoints so large they must be rotated into place.
THE GUN IN ACTION: RANGE
For your reading pleasure, I packed up two snubbies and 350 rounds of ammo before heading to the range. I was met there by two friends, an old salt of a city cop with an attitude and an insecure but eager new shooter. No innocents were harmed in the production of this review, although ten minutes of my AGH-BANG-OOOH-BANG-AAGHing around during accuracy testing traumatized two newbies one lane over. Also, the 125gr magnums had enough blast to regularly knock spent brass from the ceiling and rip sound insulation from the wall. Ah, what an afternoon. Forgive me Rog.
Everyone agreed that the gun was a dream to shoot as a twenty-five ounce paperweight should be with target loads. Everyone broke into a smile putting the wadcutters downrange, while the .38 +P and milder .357s felt like our pet’s preferred diet. Unfortunately, we had some problems with the grip, laser, trigger, cartridge ejection, timing, and overall reliability once she had swollen with heat. Everything else was fine, though.
Most of our problems came from the grip. Look at it. It’s too small to hold on to effectively, too smooth to keep from moving around, and the blasted button for the laser is recessed, forcing an un-natural hold. Seriously: el coppo snarko’s medium hands couldn’t get the laser to work 95% of the time the gun was in hand, and it moved around so much with magnum loads he refused to even try a string rapid-fire.
Newbie and I did not have quite as much trouble keeping the laser on (until our hands got tired of bending in ways contrary to nature) because we gripped higher on the backstrap. Unfortunately, a raising palm lifts all digits, leaving our trigger fingers at the top of the go-pedal with the absolute-worst-possible leverage. So much for that silken action. Without consciously contorting adjusting our grips, Newbie pulled so hard that almost all of the first 10 shots missed paper while I gradually succumbed to fatigue.
All parties had further trouble with the grip circumference being so small that the trigger finger ran into the hand.
Finally, as the shooting wore on, the gun became a hot, angry mess. Things expand with heat, and those rough-hewn Brazilian chambers took a sporadic choke-hold on spent brass from warmer fare. Furthermore, while we couldn’t tell how much of this was due to heat, the cylinder sporadically dragged on one chamber, grinding to a halt four or five times spread over an hour; we couldn’t get this to repeat off the range. Finally, the revolver is just a hair out of time; we had one failure to fire due to a light primer strike, although this was easily remedied by the wheelgunner’s tap-rack-bang: five more trigger pulls.
So, we hated the revolver, right? Wrong. It exceeded our wildest expectations.
Combat accuracy, as fast as you wanted, with a pocket magnum. What more could you ask?
It’s amazing what you can do with a good laser. While revolvers tend to point well in all hands thanks to their curved handle, pointing is irrelevant with a bright red dot waiting on the other end. While I am more accurate with iron-sights only, all shooters were able to shoot very accurately very fast, transitioning from target to target with ease. This gun was easy enough to shoot well that the range’s sweltering heat didn’t prevent our achieving sub 1” groups at twenty-five feet; note that Speer’s 135gr Short Barrel .38+P, 357, and my 158gr Magnum loads (left top, center, left bottom) printed left of lighter fair. Huh.
Actually, this gun was so easy to shoot that we could drill a bull’s eye rapid fire equally well (better, actually) with 125gr Magnums and .38+Ps. Below is the evidence of what 120 rounds per minute at twenty-five feet looks like in a revolver with a 3.8” sight radius and B(r)azillion-pound-trigger.
Honestly, this gun was so easy to shoot well that we got bored. So bored that I put up this 5.5”x8.5” bullseye at fifty feet and shot twenty rounds weak-hand only and got all but three on paper. So very bored that I put this big target out at seventy-five feet and shot strong-hand only, scoring 134/200. Keep in mind that by this time I was drenched in sweat, the inside of my nostrils black with terrible stuff contributing to my eventual demise, and my firing had was visibly trembling. 134/200. The things we do to bring you the truth about guns.
THE END OF THE MATTER
My hand hurts. It’s been three days now, and I still feel like I’ve been catching collapsible baton strikes. It was all a joy, however, to take my baby out for a spin (or forty) and share my fun with you.
But that’s just it. I shot remarkably well with this gun, very much enjoyed shooting full-power 125gr lighting-bolt Magnums, and could have pushed it much harder. I’m also a big guy with big, meaty hands prepared for days like this by decades of Sunday morning services. Someone with petite hands would probably love this gun as much as I but find themselves limited to lighter fare. Remember, this is a revolver with plastic grips: 100% of that recoil goes into the wrist. If this is you, it’s time to ask whether you’d be better suited carrying a larger .380 or adapting to a service-grade subcompact.
This is a great gun for people who know what they’re getting into. I love the smooth double-action, the laser, and the caliber paired with heft. It’s a revolver. It’s got class. I hate the grip and am mad about the gun being slightly out of time… just not mad enough to send ‘er in. I worry how much looser the gun will get with time and where I’ll send it for service given that my family’s last Taurus customer-care foray ended with a fixed revolver returned without sights (still waiting on those replacements, not to mention the grip screws I ordered last year…), questions I would not have with a Smith and Wesson. She cost me $312, but it also took two bills more to make her the hotrod she is.
So here’s the Truth about the Taurus 650. Don’t have a pocket revolver? Get one, you un-patriotic, IPSC-shooting, trigger-happy suburban daffodil (in spirit if not in truth!). Find a Stainless Taurus 650 for $350ish in great shape? Check the timing, but know that you’ve got a fabulous value on your hands put out by a solid company. However, if you’re picky, impatient, or want something really special to hand off to your grandkids, I would forgive you for looking into a police trade-in from more famous manufacturers for roughly $100 more.
Regardless, if you want to balance a high regard for life and the law with the need for an effective defensive tool, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat a setup like this.
SPECIFICATIONS: Taurus Model 650 Revolver
MODEL: Taurus Model 650
CALIBER: .357 Mag/ .38+P
CAPACITY: 5 rounds
MATERIALS: Matte stainless
WEIGHT, UNLOADED: 22.8oz
WEIGHT, LOADED: 25.3oz (Speer .357 135gr. GDSB)
OA LENGTH: 6.7”
OA HEIGHT: 4.2”
OA WIDTH: 1.4”
FRAME WIDTH: .7”
BARREL LENGTH: 2”
SIGHTS: Fixed, serrated front ramp
SIGHT RADIUS: 3.8”
GRIPS: CrimsonTrace LG-85
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Aesthetics: * * * *
A little chunky, but an otherwise timeless all-stainless design.
Accuracy: * * * * *
This may not have drilled one hole at 25’, but the ease of shooting well was unbelievable. The equivalent would be shooting effortlessly at 100 yards given a 1911 with no sights and a broken trigger.
Ergonomics-Handling: * * *
The grips are a love-hate thing. They aren’t fun for target shooting, but that didn’t exactly slow us down. Concealability also has to count for something.
Ergonomics-Firing: * * *
.38s were a pleasure, the magnums a pain. Did I mention the ease of accuracy?
Reliability: * * *
Revolvers with problems don’t get high marks. The failures to eject, cylinder binding, and sole failure to fire are forgivable only given the extreme heat we ran the gun to and a hard primer.
Customization: * * * *
Fantastic options for customization including grips, springs, sights, finishes, and a whole host of gunsmithing services. Not a five because it’s still easier to work on a GLOCK.
Overall: * * * *
For all its faults, this was the little Taurus that could. So long as she’s fed the right ammo for the task, my 650 makes shooters happy wherever she goes.