Sunday, July 26, 2009

Riding The Mechanical Bull

I have decided to delve into a dangerous subject: the quality of Taurus firearms. With my personal safety at stake, I've decided to be as judicious as possible and start with full disclosure. My experience with Taurus firearms entails shooting my friend's PT1911, and another friend's dad's Millenium Pro compact 9mm. I do not own a Taurus, but I am open to the idea. Let me explain why riding this particular mechanical bull may lead some into a crisis of conscience. What led me to write this was my experience working with my NG unit at a recruiting event just yesterday. I was talking to a local cop, and when he turned his right side toward me, I saw a two tone Taurus 24/7 Pro (pictured below) .40S&W on his hip. My knee jerk reaction was "Holy crap! He's carrying a Taurus on duty!". I told James of my reaction, and he reminded me that the 24/7 Pro has virtually nothing but stellar reviews. Upon that revelation, I decided to examine my knee jerk reaction in some more detail.

For those of you who haven't been around guns for very long, Taurus has a long and sordid history with its quality control measures. About half the people you talk to in real life either swear by or swear at Taurus handguns. That was especially true when I was shooting handguns competitively in the junior division from roughly 1999 to 2003. Taurus's quality control was famous, or rather, infamous at my local shooting club--but worse, it was a hotly debated subject with both sides viciously defending their view. I was shooting a borrowed Browning Hi-Power, and new to handguns, so I was fairly ambivalent. The only thing I knew was I could come near affording a Taurus PT92 (a copy of Beretta's 92FS) even on my wages from washing dishes at the local college cafeteria.

Fast forward a few years and Taurus's line of handguns has grown, and the debate rages on, though I believe (or would like to) that Taurus has turned a corner, QC wise. What has sparked this hope is that Taurus pushes the envelope in handgun research and development. They also actually listen to their customers and produce new designs based on customer feedback. How novel! One of the new designs is the PT709 Slim (below). It is a single stack 9mm along the same lines as something Kahr might put out, but will be several hundred dollars cheaper than Kahr.

If it proves reliable, the Slim looks like it could be quite a nice concealed carry piece.

But something always pulls me back from buying a Taurus. My only complaint with Taurus is that their low price comes from a generally "adequate" fit and finish. Both Taurus guns I've shot had lots of sharp edges all over the grip and controls. The Millenium Pro I shot had an awful trigger and felt slightly cumbersome in my hand. That said, I could shoot bowling pins with it at 10 yards. My buddy's PT1911 is really quite nice. The problem is that there are odd sharp corners on the backstrap that are not present on my Springfield Armory 1911. Also, the PT1911's ambidextrous safety broke after maybe 200 rounds, and the bluing started wearing off after only a couple of months of normal use for a concealed carry gun. But the trigger is really nice, the sights are fantastic, and it is every last bit as accurate as my Springfield. But it cost less. And if you're worried about the bluing, Taurus offers a stainless model for about $50 more than a blued one.

So what's my conclusion? Well, I don't know. I'm still interested in Taurus pistols. I really want another 1911 but the S&W 1911PD I want as a range toy is about $1000. A similar one from Taurus is about $650. I also can't seem to get enough 9mm pistols, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a PT709 show up in my stable in the future. Though my experience with Taurus has been pretty good, I still can't bring myself to reccomend them as a cheap defensive weapon with the same assuredness I do Ruger's P85 and P90. However, if the stories of Taurus's repentance and transformation are true, they will have my full support (that and 75 cents will get you a USA Today). Taurus continues to draw my curiousity as they continue to ambitiously develop new models. They certainly draw my applause for listening to their customers. I wish others would follow their example in that regard. I guess until I actually own a Taurus, my advice will have to be that you thoroughly research the model you're interested in and maybe shoot one before you buy. Then again, that's good advice for any firearm you buy.

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