A long-term Taurus Spectrum review is something that I’ve wanted to do ever since the gun was announced. Unfortunately, this gun failed to deliver in the short term – never mind any lengthier testing period.
Taurus attempted to break the industry mold on .380 pocket pistols. So, they designed the gun with a smooth look and now offer it in a wide range of color combinations. Additionally, the Spectrum was hyped by many Taurus representatives as being part of a new era of quality and reliability for the company.
I hoped Taurus representatives were being honest, and I wanted to give the pistol a fair shake. If it proved reliable, it would be a welcome addition to the growing class of subcompact handguns for self-defense.
Unfortunately, my gun has not been reliable – even after a trip back to the factory for a rework. Reading a number of Taurus-friendly websites, I’ve seen many others have had problems with the Spectrum as well.
It’s too bad really. The general shape and lines of the gun suggest it might be a better shooter than many of the .380 ACP pocket guns that are on the market. Combined with the assurances that the gun represented a new era of improved quality at Taurus, I was intrigued by the handgun’s possibilities.
In this shooting review, I will detail my problems with the pistol. In all fairness, there are a number of things I really like about this pistol. I cover those as well.
If additional repairs and testing are performed, this page will be updated to show the most current information. Your experiences with this gun are welcome in the comments section below.
- General Information
- Range Testing
- It's Not All Bad
- Final Thoughts
With the tagline of “Shaping the future of everyday carry,” Taurus positions the Spectrum as a compact pistol designed for self-defense. It is on this use, personal protection, that I will evaluate the Spectrum.
The Spectrum is chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge, and standard magazines hold six rounds of ammunition. The guns have polymer frames with a striker-fired system. Unlike some other striker-fired pistols, this one does not need to have the trigger pulled for field stripping.
Two significant things set the Spectrum apart from other .380 ACP designs. First is the most obvious: the color combinations.
Taurus intended that the Spectrum meet the aesthetic desires of a broad range of concealed carrying citizens. As such, the gun was initially available a range of color options available. After the initial launch, the company offered in a plethora of color combination options. The announced color combination options are listed below.
However, it appears that Spectrum sales – at least for the range of non-standard colors – failed to meet expectations. Within a relatively short amount of time, Taurus scaled the offerings back to only black frames with your choice of a matte stainless or matter black slide.
The second significant design difference is the increased use of soft polymer at key points of the frame and slide of the gun. These are used to improve the shooter’s grip when firing and manipulating the gun. They also are said to have the benefit of softening the impact from recoil.
News of the Taurus Spectrum leaked in the weeks leading up to the 2017 SHOT Show. I was intrigued by the information I received, and I was truly interested in seeing what Taurus had come up with.
At the show, I met with several Taurus representatives throughout the week. Each told me in his or her own way that the company was gearing up for big things.
Employees I spoke to acknowledged that the company had disappointed some of its customers with past quality control issues. However, everyone emphasized that things had changed; there was a new culture in the company: one that was customer-focused and encouraged quality craftsmanship.
The Spectrum, I was told, was just one example of the “new” Taurus.
One of the people I spoke with about the Spectrum was Dustin Srouffe, the lead engineer at Taurus. Srouffe was generous with his time and quite candid in his discussion.
Srouffe said that the Spectrum was a completely new gun. To start with, the Spectrum was designed by an all-American team of engineers. He said the design team members had experience on large projects with other gun companies. Additionally, the team members were all shooting enthusiasts.
Srouffe indicated that the team was given wide latitude when it began work on the Spectrum. Team members were allowed to develop a pistol they would want to shoot rather than a gun designed around an arbitrary set of specifications or marketing dictates.
In addition to having a great group of engineers working on the Spectrum, the company brought in some outside partners to ensure they developed the best gun possible. For example, an industrial design firm helped develop what Taurus considers the best-in-class ergonomics.
So, what did they come up with?
Features & Styling
Taurus representatives hammered home that the Spectrum was developed with ergonomics as a main goal. From the shape of the grip to the contour of the slide, the pistol is designed to be comfortable in the hand with good trigger reach and excellent control.
Looking at the pistol, I saw a gun with natural-looking curves instead of large flat areas. Srouffe told me that this design was intentional. The human hand is not flat, nor does it have hard edges. So, a gun that has large flat areas and sharp corners may not be comfortable.
From the profile of the gun, it is plain that the front and backstraps have gentle curves. When you turn the gun 90°, you can see that the sides of the grip also have gentle curves: thicker in the palm of the hand and thinner in the area where the trigger finger will reach to press the trigger.
Likewise, the slide is also rounded to eliminate sharp edges. The only flat spot on the slide is along its top where the sights are.
The machine work on my gun was not perfect. It wasn’t bad for an inexpensive gun, but you can see the rounding on the slide is not perfectly smooth. See the above photo for an example.
Overmolded Inserts – Of course, one of the things that some people have obsessed about is the use of rubber-like inserts in the frame and slide. These inserts are a proprietary polymer from PolyOne. If you are not familiar with the company, PolyOne deals with a wide range of polymers, composite materials, polymer additives and other products.
The overmold inserts are not true rubber, but I will refer to them as “rubberized” to try to convey how they feel in the hand. The material is softer than the polymer grip frame, but not so soft that your hand sinks into it.
The rubberized material also offers more friction for gripping the gun without having any sticky feeling. Frankly, the inserts have a great feel to them.
There are four areas where the inserts are applied: the backstrap, the front strap that wraps around to the sides of the grip, the left side of the slide and the right side of the slide.
On my pistol, the overmolded material was a near-perfect fit with the frame. However, it did not look seamless with the slide inserts. The pieces attached to the slide look like they may come out. However, they have remained affixed to the slide without any issues throughout the testing. Click on the above photos to see what I am describing.
A Rainbow of Colors – As I stated earlier in the article, Taurus originally offered a multitude of color options on the Spectrum, and this is where the gun drew its name.
There were three frame colors available: black, white and gray. The slide is available in both a black and stainless finish. The overmold inserts were available in more than 20 colors:
- Taurus orange
- Laguna blue
- bronze gold metallic
- flat dark earth
- monster green
- rose quartz
- purple haze
- indigo blue
- torch red
According to Taurus, the company was supposed to offer several color combinations as “standard” options – such as my gun with a black frame, black slide and black overmolded inserts. Some color combinations were only to be made available through distributor exclusives. So, if there was a specific color combination you wanted, it may have only been available through a company like Cabellas or as a special order through your local gun shop.
Taurus representatives explained there were also supposed to be three “House Colors” that will be non-traditional combinations offered only by Taurus. These are:
- white frame with a stainless slide and cyan overmold
- gray frame with a black slide and mint overmold
- black frame with a black slide and flat dark earth overmold
These color combinations should have been available through local dealers but they commanded a slightly higher price.
Here is a quick look at the specs of this new pistol:
|6 (flush fitting), 7 (extended)
|Width (widest section)
|17-4 stainless steel
|fixed low profile
|MSRP, standard colors (2017)
|MSRP, house colors (2017)
|MSRP, all colors (2021)
Two quick notes…
First, when Taurus announced the gun, the press release stated the slide would be made of 17-4 stainless steel. After production began, Taurus changed the specs to show carbon steel as the slide material. As of 2021, Taurus once again shows the slide is made of stainless steel.
Second, the MSRP dropped significantly since its introduction. The gun was already inexpensive – now it is just plain cheap. I can only speculate about the reduced price.
“Safe Carry Condition”
Taurus states that the Spectrum offers a higher degree of safety than other striker-fired pistols. A Taurus representative explained the system as not having any pre-cocking of the striker combined with a striker block. The trigger pull handles the entire cocking and release of the striker to help prevent any accidental discharges.
The lack of a pre-cock is the reason why no trigger pull is needed before disassembly. For some people, this is a significant benefit.
(Only A) One Year Warranty
From the outside, the management at Taurus seems inconsistent. The Taurus warranty situation seems to be an example of this.
In the past, Taurus offered a lifetime warranty on its products. That policy died for newly designed firearms like the Spectrum as a cost-savings measure. For a time, Taurus offered only a one-year warranty on its products.
The good news is Taurus reversed itself once again. As of this update, Taurus is offering a lifetime warranty again. I hope they keep it.
On the range is where the true test of a gun begins. The gun should be able to shoot reliably and accurately in a controlled environment if it is to be trusted as a self-defense tool.
Unfortunately, my Taurus Spectrum was not reliable at all.
Failure: The First 26 Rounds
Short Story: Of the first 26 rounds I attempted to shoot, only 11 discharged. The remaining 15 failed to fire.
Long Story: I set off to my local range with 12 different factory loads that totaled more than 1,000 rounds. My hope was that I could get a good base line of testing in.
I wanted to determine if the gun would be reliable with a variety of ammo loads. I also wanted to see what kinds of velocities one could reasonably expect from self-defense loads.
Unfortunately, testing did not go as planned.
I loaded the first magazine with five rounds of Armscor 95 grain FMJ. This load has performed very well for me in other .380 ACP pistols including the Ruger LCP and LCP II, the Kel-Tec P-3AT, Rock Island Baby Rock and even a prototype SCCY CPX-3 pistol.
After firing three rounds without a problem, the fourth round failed to fire. I heard a “click” from the gun, but there was no discharge from the weapon. When I ejected the round, I saw that there was a dent in the primer from the firing pin. Nevertheless, the round failed to discharge. I replaced the round with a fresh one and fired two more shots without a problem.
I then loaded five rounds of SIG SAUER Elite 100 grain FMJ into the magazine. With this ammo, the gun went 3 for 5. I now suspected the problem may be the gun and not the ammunition. However, I moved on to the next load: the Winchester Train & Defend 95-grain FMJ load. The Winchester only went 2 for 5.
Now I was certain the malfunctions were caused by the gun and not the ammunition. So, I used a different magazine with five rounds of the Winchester ammunition in the pistol. There was no improvement as 4 of 5 failed to fire.
I had one of the range employees give it a try to eliminate me as a variable. He also had the same problems. We field stripped the gun and used a little gun solvent and compressed air to ensure there was no debris in the firing pin channel. Although I hoped this would cure the gun of its malfunctions, it did not. With another magazine, five more dented primers and no discharges.
Tired of merely denting primers, I loaded everything up and returned to the office to contact Taurus.
Even though I had hoped for a working gun, I tried to remain positive and figured I would get a chance to test how well I was treated by the company’s customer service department. Unfortunately, my initial impression is that Taurus treats its customers in a manner I deem to be unacceptable.
Taurus claims to allow you to submit a gun for warranty work via an online form. The concept is simple: you complete a work order and send it in with the firearm for examination. Unfortunately, the website did not recognize my serial number and made me call anyway.
My first call was made on Friday, January 26. I called customer service at 10:35 am. It took less than two minutes to navigate a phone tree. I was on hold for a total of 30 minutes before I had to hang up and go to an appointment.
My second call was made on Tuesday, January 30. This time I called a little earlier: 9:28 am. After navigating the phone tree, I heard a recorded message telling me that the Taurus customer service line was overwhelmed and that I should try calling back later in the day or later in the week. The system then hung up on me.
Later in the day, I tried to contact the company through its customer service chat function featured on the company’s home page. Unfortunately, it did not seem to work. I was able to enter my name and other data, but it never opened a chat session with a Taurus representative.
On Wednesday, January 31, I again called Taurus. This time I used the company’s 1-800 number hoping for a quicker route to a person. Unfortunately, it appeared to dump me straight into the same phone tree that I navigated the first several calls.
After waiting on hold for 48 minutes, a young woman came on the line. Though she was nice, she didn’t seem to be paying close attention to my description of the problems as I had to explain the issue more than once.
After going through several standard questions (did you try different kinds of ammunition, etc.) she agreed to process a return of the gun. She created a return label for me and indicated that she would flag my gun for a fast turnaround due to it being a new pistol.
Contrary to what I have heard from other gun owners about extended delays, my Spectrum was returned to me in just a few weeks.
Range Trip 2: Still Sub-Optimal
I was pleased by the rapid return of my gun. Reading over the documentation included with the gun, it appeared the service tech replaced several parts:
- firing pin
- firing pin return spring
- firing pin spring
Also according to the documentation, 39 rounds were fired through the gun by the technician.
Taurus included an additional extended magazine in the box. Although there was no mention of this, I assumed this was a way of apologizing for the problems. While not the way I wanted to get a third magazine, I did appreciate the company doing this.
I was eager to return the gun to the range. I loaded up more than 1,000 rounds of ammo and headed back to my local dealer’s indoor range. Unfortunately, this trip resulted in disappointment as well.
While the gun was more reliable than it had been, it was still having many failures to fire. With 198 rounds fired, the gun was firing less than 88% of the time. While that might be a passing grade in today’s math classes, it is a complete fail for a defensive handgun.
With two dozen malfunctions, I called it a day and returned home with the gun. I now have to decide if it is worth my time to wait on hold to deal with Taurus customer service again.
One potential contributor to the reliability problem may be the way the slide and frame fit together.
When the slide assembly is attached to the frame, it appears to sit too far forward. This is best seen at the rear of the gun where the frame terminates about 1/16″ beyond the slide. When I returned the gun to the factory for repair, I assumed that the repair staff would fix this if it was a problem.
As the staff did not appear to address this seeming misalignment, I can only guess that they did not see it as a problem. As the gun continues to be unreliable, I wonder if it might be related after all.
Even if this is not causing the reliability issue, it suggests to me that quality control is not up to snuff. One of the main features of this gun is supposed to be its organic lines and lack of hard edges. This (apparently) unintended hard edge appears to be out of step with one of the main design features.
In my opinion, the Spectrum does not have a great trigger pull. It started out long and gritty. The upside is that the more I used mine, the smoother the pull became. However, it never got any shorter.
Long trigger pulls are something you can adjust to. I have several DAO guns with long pulls. They are no more or less accurate than other pistols. If I provide a smooth roll of the trigger, the gun goes bang and delivers the round where I want it to go. If I fail to do my job, I won’t get a hole where I want it.
To me, the trigger face seems wider than many other subcompact pistols. It didn’t have any sharp edges and was comfortable over the entire length of the pull.
My bottom line on the trigger is that it works fine, but it is not going to win anyone’s heart.
On the second range trip, I was able to get enough rounds over a chronograph for some measurements. All of the listed rounds shown are an average of 5 shots from the same package of ammunition.
|Aguila 95 gr FMJ
|Armscor 95 gr FMJ
|Glaser Silver 70 gr
|Hornady American Gunner 90 gr XTP
|Hornady Critical Defense 90 gr FTX
|Liberty Ammunition Civil Defense 50 gr JHP
|Perfecta 95 gr FMJ
|SIG SAUER 100 gr FMJ
|SIG SAUER V-Crown 90 gr JHP
|Winchester “D” Train & Defend 95 gr JHP
|Winchester “T” Train & Defend 95 gr FMJ
|Winchester PDX1 Defender 95 gr JHP
It’s Not All Bad
While reliability is a major problem for my gun, there are several things I do like about the Spectrum.
First of all, the gun fits my hand very well. I’ve shot a lot of small .380 pistols, and the Taurus Spectrum is the best fitting gun of all of them. Yes, due to hand size and finger length, every gun will fit different people in different ways. However, for me, the Taurus fits best.
With a flush-fitting magazine, my pinky curls under the magazine. Even so, the ring and middle fingers of my dominant hand have ample purchase on the gun while the rubberized inserts provide a good gripping surface.
The extended magazines have a uniquely shaped baseplate. It is designed with a pinky ledge that is better shaped for the size of the shorter digit. Some magazine extensions assume the pink is as long as other fingers. Taurus designed this one to work with the actual shape of hands – and I found it works very well.
At the top of the backstrap, the frame curves inward to allow the web of the hand to seat well under the slide. This helps to prevent slide bite without the need for an extension that would increase the gun’s overall length.
The rubberized inserts feel good in the hand. They seem to increase the hand’s control of the gun without the need for aggressive texturing or checkering on the frame.
The inserts match up well with the frame and look good. On the slide, the rubberized inserts are not as elegant in execution. The small panels are obvious and detract from the gun’s otherwise clean lines.
Nevertheless, the inserts offer great purchase when manipulating the slide. On small guns, slides can be difficult to grip since there is less area to grab.
Taurus sculpted the slide so that the gripping area at the rear of the piece has a small valley that is obvious to the touch. In the center of this section is where the inserts lie. Gripping this area and manipulating the slide is very easy and natural to do.
As mentioned above, Taurus includes a slide stop lever on this gun. The lever worked perfectly and is easy to engage. However, it is not a slide release, and takes a great deal of force to push it down when the slide is locked in an open position.
Although small, I found the sights to be usable. I am at an age where my eyesight is noticeably worse than it was in my youth. I expected these sights to be hard to use, but I was wrong. I found them easy to find and precise enough for accurate shot placement at 15 yards. I would not call them ideal, but the sights are surprisingly good for a tiny gun.
Based on the pistol I purchased, I do not recommend buying the Taurus Spectrum. The gun is positioned as a self-defense gun, and that requires reliability. Unfortunately, my gun is not reliable.
It’s too bad the gun isn’t dependable. It has a good feel in the hand and less felt recoil than many other small .380 pistols. I wish things were different, but based on my experiences, this gun is not a good value and should not be purchased for protection.
If Taurus could consistently make these guns reliable, the Spectrum might be my first choice in .380 ACP subcompact defensive pistols.
If you are looking for a very small .380 ACP pistol for personal protection, I recommend the Ruger LCP and LCP II pistols. I found that these guns are reliable and reasonably accurate. However, they do have significant felt recoil due to their lightweight.
In my testing, I found that the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 was reliable. However, I did not like the handling characteristics or the excessively long trigger pull.
Many people suggest the Kel-Tec P-3AT in this category. In my own testing, I find these guns are a bit harder to shoot than the very similar LCP. Also, I found the Ruger pistols to be more reliable than the P-3AT.
I’ve had limited experience shooting the Taurus Curve. I found that it has an awful trigger, sits uncomfortably in my hand and is difficult to operate (slide, magazines, etc.) when compared to the competition. Combined with my current and past issues with Taurus quality, I am hesitant to suggest any gun from this company.
If you do not need a tiny pistol, but want to stay with the .380 ACP, take a look at the Smith & Wesson M&P 380EZ. This is a compact handgun that is designed to be very easy shooting with a light trigger and easy-to-operate slide.
Last Update: August 28, 2021
Every gun review you read should have a complete disclosure from the writer to reveal any potential biases. Unfortunately, few authors or websites bother to tell you the truth about things that have influenced their writing.
I purchased the gun featured in this article at retail from a local gun shop. I paid the same price as any other customer walking in the door. I did not get an early review gun – this came through the normal distribution channels.
Taurus is not an advertiser, nor am I in any talks with them to be one. In fact, I do not accept advertising on my website.
I have no financial interest in Taurus or any other firearm manufacturer. Taurus did not ask me to write this review, and I have not consulted with the company in any way other than what has been mentioned (calling customer service, etc.)
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Feel free to leave any thoughts or ask any questions about this Taurus Spectrum shooting review in the comment section below.
The Taurus Spectrum is a subcompact pistol designed for self-defense and concealed carry. It is chambered in .380 ACP and comes in a wide range of color combinations. Although company representatives assured me that Taurus had significantly improved its engineering and quality control, my personally purchased gun was not reliable.
At the time I wrote this Taurus Spectrum Review, Taurus had already been given one opportunity to work on and fix the gun’s reliability issues. However, the gun remained unreliable to a degree I deem unacceptable for self-defense use. At this time, I do not recommend the Spectrum for self-defense.