Brazilian-made Taurus pistols have been with us for several decades, enjoying a spotty reputation. Their striker-fired “PT” line has represented, for most consumers, a low-cost alternative to Glocks, XDs, M&Ps, SIG 320s, Kahrs, et al. Over the past few years, Taurus PT Pistols have been implicated in a number of “drop-safety” incidents, both in the USA and Brazil. Taurus has paid out several substantial settlements as a result. However, the latest is a class-action matter in which Taurus has agreed to pay out a settlement of over thirty million dollars, plus agree to recall at least a half million pistols already in consumers’ hands . . .
As noted, the issue is “drop-safety.”
The question on the floor is: “Do American consumers have an inherent right to expect that any modern pistol, intended for serious purposes and in current production, be mechanically immune from trauma-induced discharges?” In other words, should a pistol be safe from discharging as a direct result of an external blow, such as would occur when the pistol is accidentally dropped onto a hard surface?
US courts have consistently said “Yes,” to that question. This latest “settlement” by Taurus puts a stinging exclamation point at the end of that single-word reply.
I have been involved in a number of civil cases, where it was alleged that a pistol discharged when dropped. Most involved Glocks. In every case, the allegation was proven false. The plaintiff was simply lying, along with his sleazy lawyer. In every one of those cases, the defense team was able to persuasively demonstrate the discharge in question was a direct result of pressure being applied to the trigger, and no other reason.
I tell students that all modern pistols of reputable manufacture, including Glock, SIG, S&W, FNS, Walther PPQ, SA/XD, Kahr, Beretta, et al, are designed to be mechanically drop-safe. While we don’t deliberately drop pistols, to test the theory, over nearly fifty years I have witnessed many pistols accidentally dropped during training, and never once observed a discharge as a result, with any brand.
In fact, I advise students to let a pistol drop to the ground when they lose control of it, rather than fumble with it in an attempt to regain control. The risk of an AD during fumbling far exceeds the risk of an AD when the dropped pistol strikes the ground. It now appears, at least with some Taurus pistols, that may not be good advice. Not many of my students bring Taurus PT pistols to Class. However, as a result of this recent revelation, I now tell them to either send it back to Taurus to get fixed, or bring another brand of gun.
SA (Springfield Armory), manufacturers of the excellent XD line of pistols, ran into a similar issue two years ago. SA found it necessary to recall their XD/S. A single customer, an XD/S owner, said he experienced a “slam-fire” with his XD/S pistol during the normal loading process. No injury nor property damage resulted, but SA still asked the customer to send the weapon back to them, which he did.
During subsequent thorough testing at the factory, with all brands of ammunition, SA was unable to duplicate the reported slam-fire, with the pistol in question, nor with any other copy of the XD/S tested. No other slam-fire incidents, other than the single one mentioned above, have ever been reported. Unlike in Taurus’ case, there was never any civil litigation.
Nevertheless, engineers at Springfield Armory recommended to management that a small design change be implemented with the XD/S that would make the pistol absolutely drop-safe, and thus altogether immune from slam-fires and other trauma-induced ADs. Springfield Armory courageously decided to voluntarily recall the XD/S for retrofit at the factory. The recall was done professionally, and included my copy. All work was done at no charge. Shipping was pre-paid, both ways.
Springfield Armory deserves a lot of credit for, at great expense, quietly and professionally correcting this ostensible design error, an error which, as noted above, is probably mostly imaginary. Of course, we see automakers doing recalls all the time. In designing and manufacturing cars and guns, not all outcomes are foreseeable, no matter how much “computer simulation” we do. I want all gun manufacturers to be widely successful. I’m sure Taurus will correct this problem, and that top management has learned the lesson, albeit belatedly.
Yes, guns are inherently dangerous. A fact not in dispute. But, mechanical drop-safety in serious, defensive pistols is, and should be, a universal requirement. While there are never any guarantees, any pistol that fails that test is one I will never own.