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Taurus Model 85 38 Special: Self-Defense on a Budget

Daniel has years of experience with firearms and does his best to give honest reviews.

The little Taurus is a very nice looking pistol

The little Taurus is a very nice looking pistol

The word "budget" is showing up more and more in the gun industry. "Budget" AR Builds. "Budget" sniper rifles. "Budget" hunting rifles. Most of the time when I hear the word "budget," I instantly think "cheap and poorly built". I also firmly believe that there is no reason that defending yourself should cost an arm and a leg. There are lots of really good self-defense guns out there if you want to spend the money, but not everyone can afford a high-end gun. So where do we draw the line? At which point does a gun cost more than a "budget" gun should? I think about $400. So, then the question becomes, what is a good, dependable handgun for self-defense that costs under $400?

First off, I am going to rule out semi-autos. Not that there are not good semi-autos for this price range, but there are a lot more things that can go wrong with an auto than a revolver, especially for an inexperienced shooter. In the heat of the moment, a lot of things can go wrong. With a double-action revolver, there is not a whole lot to go wrong unless the gun is defective. You pull the trigger, it should shoot. This does not mean you can throw your revolver in the bottom of your purse or glove box, and forget about it until it is needed. One should still practice with the gun they carry, and regular maintenance, cleaning, and inspection is a must.

So, since we now have decided that I want a double-action revolver, it is time to choose one. There are several really decent revolvers for under $400. If you want to bump up your budget to $500, it really opens up a lot more doors, but we are staying under $400.

I chose 38 Special caliber. The 38 special has been around for a long time, and there are a lot of really good self-defense rounds on the market for it with plenty of knock-down power. Since I cast, and hand load, I can put together 38 special ammo for close to the cost of 22 ammo, if not less. This allows for cheap practice with the gun to be carried. There are a lot of good choices in 38 special revolvers as well.

After shopping around, looking, and quite a bit of handling, I settled on the Taurus model 85. There were several others that I liked, including most of the Charter Arms revolvers, but I thought the Taurus was a bit smoother out of the box, and the trigger was better.

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So, let's talk about the gun. The 2", +P rated, 5 shot, blued steel revolver weighs in at 1 lb., 5.5 oz. The single-action trigger pull is smooth, at about 4 lb., 4 oz. The double-action is also very smooth, and not terribly stiff, although it is over 8 pounds. 8 pounds is the max my trigger pull gauge goes to, so I guess it's time for a new pull gauge. The cylinder latch is a bit stiff, but not horrible, and is smoothing up with use. The hammer pull is smooth and does not take a lot of effort. The front sight is the standard ramp, and the rear is just a notch in the top of the back strap. The gun does have a lock built into a hammer, although personally, I will probably never use it. The gun does have a transfer bar type safety, which allows it to be carried safely with all five chambers full. The gun has a hard rubber grip, which is a bit on the small side for me but is comfortable. The fitting on the side plate is nice, and although the side plate is noticeable, it does not stick out like a sore thumb. The cartridge ejector is smooth, with a positive return. The size of the revolver is perfect for purse or pocket carry.

The suggested retail on the gun is $356.06, but I found this one at a gun show from a dealer marked at $316. I was able to haggle the dealer down a bit from that price.

View of the sights.

View of the sights.

I did not have high expectations for accuracy from the two-inch barrel and fixed sights, but the gun proved me wrong in the first group. I only had a box of hand loads on hand when I first picked up the gun. The 130 grain Bullshop cast bullet propelled by four grains of IMR-SR7625 put the first five rounds from the gun under two inches offhand at 15 yards, and I did not shoot a group over 2.5 inches during my testing. The best group I fired at 15 yards was just under one inch, with a 125gn Cast bullet also from The Bullshop, over 3.6gn of American Select. Recoil was not as brisk as I expected, and the gun was actually quite pleasant to shoot. I fired about 100 rounds from the gun and had no issues whatsoever with function, or accuracy. Several other people shot the gun as well, including my wife, and all found it very manageable. My wife has only really shot rimfire pistols and says that she found the recoil and noise to be a bit more than she expected, but she was not intimidated by it.

Very first group fired from the Taurus at 15 yards, shooting 130 grain cast  hand loads.

Very first group fired from the Taurus at 15 yards, shooting 130 grain cast hand loads.

Overall, I am very happy with this gun for the price. The gun went way above and beyond my expectations for a foreign-made snubnose revolver, and I have nothing but high praise for the gun. I am actually considering getting one with a longer barrel for a range gun. I actually picked this gun up as a carry gun for my wife, and I must say, I wish that I could keep it for myself. I would 100% recommend this gun to someone looking for a cheap, dependable carry gun, truck gun, or whatever you may need a cheap dependable revolver for. This gun would be perfect for the man or woman who wants to be able to protect themself from harm but really can't afford to come up with the money that many guns cost. Most people should be able to afford this gun, without going into debt. Remember, the right to bear arms does not only apply to the wealthy.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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