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Taurus 856: Return of a Classic Revolver

Taurus 856 revolver

[Editor’s note: Taurus announced the new Defender 856 at the 2020 SHOT Show. The new guns are +P rated with a 3″ barrel and a front night sight.]

Taurus USA announced the return of the Model 856 revolver.

While the gun is interesting on its own, I find that it is an even more compelling introduction when it is put head-to-head with the Colt Cobra. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first take a look at what the gun is.

Just the Facts

At its most basic, the Taurus 856 is a 6-shot, compact revolver with a steel frame. It comes in at less than 1.5 pounds unloaded and is chambered for the venerable .38 Special cartridge.

The gun has sights typical to concealed carry revolvers of this size: a fixed front ramp with a trench-style rear that is integral to the frame and top strap.

Taurus uses a set of its own rubber stocks on the gun. I’ve not had a chance to shoot a gun with these grips yet, but they look to be an improvement over some of the grips the company used in the past. The profile looks similar to Pachmayr Compac grips I’ve used occasionally on my Smith & Wesson J-frames.

(Update: Taurus will introduce new frame colors for the 856 at the 2019 SHOT Show.)

Six Shots or Only Five?

When Dirty Harry asked that question, he was talking about the rounds in his 6-shot .44 Magnum. But a lot of cops were asking themselves the same question when that movie was released. Should their backup gun hold six shots, or only five?

While many compact wheel guns use a 5-shot cylinder to decrease the gun’s width, there are a lot of people who are hesitant to give up that extra round of ammunition in their defensive handgun.

Guns like the Colt Cobra battled the 5-shot J-frames from Smith & Wesson for position in the ankle holsters of cops in the 60s and 70s. That single extra round of ammo made the decision easy for a lot of lawmen. A little extra width and weight were a cheap price for 20% more firepower.

With the renewed interest in the compact revolver, companies have expanded their wheelgun offerings in recent years. This includes Colt, that rolled out its updated Cobra in 2017.

Bull vs. Snake

The new Taurus 856 is a direct competitor to the new Cobra. Both are compact, steel-frame revolvers with 6-shot cylinders.

There are differences, of course. Here’s a look at some of their specs:

Taurus 856Colt Cobra
caliber.38 Special.38 Special
capacity6 rounds6 rounds
actiondouble action/single actiondouble action/single action
barrel length2"2"
overall length6.55"7.2"
unloaded weight22.1 oz25.0 oz
frame materialcarbon steel or stainless steelstainless steel
height4.8"4.9"
width1.41"1.40"
sightsserrated front ramp, fixed trench style rearfiber optic front, fixed trench style rear
gripTaurus branded rubberHogue Overmolded
finishmatte blue or matte stainlessmatte finish
MSRP$329$699

While I would prefer the Colt’s fiber optic sight to the Taurus’s serrated ramp, the specs seem to heavily favor the Model 856 when you factor in the final comparison: the price.

The Colt Cobra is more than twice the price of the Taurus 856.

I would never buy a self-defense handgun on price alone. However, the huge price difference is likely to sway many people standing at a gun counter.

For me, the key differences are the ones not listed in the spec chart above. What kind of reliability can I expect out of each gun? How smooth is the trigger? Does the gun feel good in my hand?

Those are things that I can only determine through testing of the guns.

Final Thoughts

Taurus USA and its parent company have been through some rough years. I don’t know if the bad times are truly behind them, but I do like the guns I’ve seen announced at the SHOT Show this year. The guns expand on the company’s best lines and are interesting enough to bring in new buyers.

The Model 856 seems to be introduced with the same reasoning. It is a known winner and is competing in a popular niche with relatively little direct competition: compact, 6-shot revolvers. With such an inexpensive MSRP, I suspect these guns will be good sellers.

If Taurus quality control can keep these guns in the hands of its customers and out of the repair center, I think this gun can go a long way in restoring trust to the Taurus brand.

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Taurus Raging Hunter: .44 Magnum Hunting Revolver

Taurus Raging Hunter

Taurus announced its latest addition to its hunting revolver line: the Raging Hunter. It will be officially unveiled at the 2018 SHOT Show.

This massive .44 Magnum is a 6-shot wheelgun with a traditional double action/single action trigger. However, the gun has a distinctly non-traditional look about it.

To start with, the 8.375″ barrel is a two piece design with a steel sleeve inside of an aluminum housing. The housing has an octagonal shape with a large slab sides. “TAURUS” is spelled out along the side. The barrel housing also has a deep black finish that contrasts the matte stainless frame. An all blued version of the gun is also available.

barrel of the Taurus Raging Hunter

Lest you think the barrel assembly is purely for show, it does have some features that may appeal to you. For example, the aluminum housing helps to lighten the load to provide a better balance to the gun. Also, the top of the barrel housing has a Picatinny rail for the addition of a scope or red dot optic.

Taurus also elected to port the barrel of the Raging Hunter. This should help tame the power of the .44 Magnum so that us older shooters who have begun to develop arthritis don’t feel quite as much of the recoil impulse. The porting should help keep muzzle rise down and improve the ability to get on target.

Also helping to tame recoil is the “red stripe” grip that Taurus uses on its heavy recoiling guns. This grip is made of a soft rubber with a red cushioned insert along the back. I’ve found these grips to be fairly good at lessening the impact into the hand when shooting.

grips on the Raging Hunter

Using an aluminum barrel housing may help reduce weight as compared to an all steel system, but this gun is not a featherweight. Unloaded it weighs 55 ounces. That’s about 3.5 pounds.

Taurus set the suggested retail price at $919 for the handgun. Your dealer may be willing to sell it for less.

caliber.44 Magnum
capacity6 rounds
actiondouble action/single action
barrel length8.375"
overall length15.75"
weight55 ounces
height7.1"
width1.8"
sightspinned front, adjustable rear, Picatinny rail for optic
griprubber with cushioned insert
finishblued and matte stainless or all blued
MSRP$919

The “Raging” moniker is not new for Taurus. Several of the company’s more powerful revolvers have had Raging as part of the name. For example, the Raging Judge Magnum was a wheelgun that expanded the .45 Colt/.410 bore Judge revolver line to include the .454 Casull cartridge.

Probably my favorite Raging revolver was the ill-fated Raging Judge XXVIII. It was a revolver chambered for the 28 gauge shotshell. Alas, it appeared Taurus could not make the design work under the legal constraints of the US government and had to shelf the project. At least I got to see one before it was pulled from public view. I imagine it is stored in the same warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant is kept after Indian Jones rescued it from Nazi Germany.

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Taurus 692 Multi-Caliber Revolver: .38, .357 and 9mm

Taurus 692

Rumors of a multi-caliber revolver being introduced at the SHOT Show are true. Say hello to the Taurus 692.

The Model 692 is a revolver that is chambered in .357 Magnum. As most shooters know, you can shoot .38 Special loads from a .357 Magnum wheelgun. The twist, however, is that you can also shoot common 9mm rounds through this gun with the use of a conversion cylinder.

Quick Note

Some readers have contacted me saying they cannot find these locally. At the time of this update, here is the best priced selection of in-stock M692 revolvers:

Taurus already offers a 9mm revolver, though it cannot shoot other cartridges from the gun. (Read more on the Taurus 905.) The 692 is designed to give your greater cartridge flexibility with a single gun purchase.

Swapping a revolver’s cylinder is easy and takes just a minute with a screwdriver. One of the things I like about the cylinders on this gun is that they are unfluted. Generally, I like a fluted cylinder, but the unfluted version looks good on this gun.

Taurus 692 revolver

Taurus offers the 692 in two different barrel lengths: a 3″ model for concealed carry and a longer 6.5″ model for target shooting and fun at the range. Interestingly, Taurus elected to port the barrels on this model. The porting should help reduce muzzle rise and felt recoil, though it is possible this could increase the visible flash in low light.

Both versions of the revolver are available in either a matte black or matte stainless finish.

Although many people still refer to revolvers as six shooters, the Taurus 692 is not. It is a seven shooter. In both the 9mm and the .38/.357 cylinders, you have seven rounds. For the 9mm shooter, Taurus includes its stellar clips so the rounds are easily loaded and the empty cases can be extracted without any problems.

Taurus model 692

Up front, Taurus uses a pinned ramp sight. An adjustable rear sight is standard.

The Taurus 692 is a double-action gun that can be cocked for single-action shooting. The spurred hammer is fully exposed.

The suggested retail price on this gun is $659. Your dealer sets the final price, so I imagine you could get out the door with a Model 692 for less than $600.

caliber.38 Special/.357 Magnum, 9mm
capacity7 rounds
actiondouble action/single action
barrel length3", 6.5"
weight35 ounces (3" barrel), 46 ounces (6.5" barrel)
sightspinned ramp front, adjustable rear
gripTaurus Ribber Grip
finishmatte black or matte stainless
MSRP$659

Update from the SHOT Show

Taurus 692 at SHOT Show

The 692 was on display at the 2018 SHOT Show. The gun was pretty much as described, porting and all. The one thing I didn’t like was the huger “TRACKER” logo down the left side of the barrel assembly. Otherwise, the gun looked good. Early indications show a lot of interest in this revolver, so I am expecting to see Taurus sell a good number of them.

2019 Update

Yes, the Model 692 made it into production and can be purchased now. I know that the company has failed to deliver some announced guns in the past (28 gauge Judge cough, cough,) but this one is real.

Disclosure

GunsHolstersAndGear.com is a for-profit website. I do not charge readers a dime to access the information I provide.

Some of the links on this page and site are affiliate links to companies like Amazon and Palmetto State Armory. These links take you to the products mentioned in the article. Should you decide to purchase something from one of those companies, I make a small commission.

The links do not change your purchase price. I do not get to see what any individual purchases.

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Rumors of New Taurus Revolvers for 2018

If rumors are to be believed, Taurus has a number of new revolvers coming out in 2018. These have not yet been announced by the company, but I have had a number of sources provide details that make them appear credible. So, with a sizable grain of salt, here is what I am hearing:

Raging Hunter

(Update: This rumor has been confirmed, though with a few detail changes. See the details on the Taurus Raging Hunter here.)

Taurus has never been afraid to build a large framed revolver. The Raging Hunter appears to be designed in the same spirit as the Raging Judge Magnum (in .454 Casull, .45 Colt and .410 bore) and the ill-fated Raging Judge XXVIII (a 28-gauge revolver.) Only the Taurus Raging Hunter is a milder cartridge: the .44 Magnum.

From what I am hearing, the new revolver will have a Picatinny rail on the top of the barrel for adding a scope.The barrel is 6.5″ long with an octagonal shape. It is ported. The gun will ship with sights including an adjustable rear.

I am also hearing that the Raging Hunter will be available in both two-tone and black finishes. It will have the company’s recoil reducing grips with the red stripe down the back.

The Taurus Raging Hunter sounds like a revamped version of the older Model 444 Raging Bull. This was a .44 Magnum revolver that was offered about seven years ago. With the exception of the barrel, the gun was nearly identical to what has been described to me as the Raging Hunter. The older revolver’s barrel did not have a Picatinny rail but was vented instead.

Model 856

Taurus 856 Revolver

(Update: This rumor has been confirmed, though with a few detail changes. See the details on the Taurus 856 revolver here.)

The new 856 revolver is a six-shot, .38 Special handgun with a steel frame. It has a 2″ barrel and a weight of about 22 ounces. This makes it a direct competitor to the recently reintroduced Colt Cobra – another 2″ wheelgun that holds 6 rounds in the cylinder.

This gun appears to be a reintroduction of the prior steel framed model 856 revolvers. Those were also 2″ steel framed guns that held 6 rounds and weighed 22.2 ounces. The original 856 revolvers appear to have been discontinued in later 2012. The guns appeared in the Taurus 2012 catalog, but not in the 2013.

The above photo is of the original Taurus 856 from 2012.

Older 856 revolvers also had an option for a magnesium frame that dropped the weight to less than a pound. The new guns do not appear to have this option.

Model 692

(Update: This rumor has been confirmed, though with a few detail changes. See the details on the Taurus 692 here.)

While the two rumored revolvers previously mentioned have older versions of them, this is one that may be a new entity entirely.

The Taurus 692 is supposed to be a .357 Magnum revolver that comes with a 9mm conversion cylinder. This means that you could shoot .38 Special, 9mm and .357 Magnum from the same gun. I know that Taurus offers a 9mm revolver and convertible rimfire revolvers, but I don’t recall ever seeing a centerfire convertible revolver from them previously. (Feel free to comment below and let me know what I’m forgetting.)

The gun is said to be available with a 3″ or 6″ barrel and have a steel frame.

Final Thoughts

While these new guns are just rumors at this point, all of them make sense to me. Taurus has not had a lot of new product introductions in the recent years and could do with an injection of some fresh models. As some of these seem to be reboots of older guns that were popular in their time, I see them as quick wins. With a new CEO dealing with legacy quality control issues and a class action lawsuit, grabbing some of the low hanging fruit is a smart – and safe – move.

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Korth 9mm Conversion for S&W L Frame Revolver

Korth 9mm conversion kit

Korth announced a new 9mm conversion kit to transform a Smith & Wesson L-frame revolver chambered in .357 Magnum. The conversion allows for the use of 9mm “rimless” cartridges in the revolver without needing a moon clip.

The conversion kit comes with the cylinder assembly and speed loader. To convert the gun, all one has to do is remove the lock screw that holds the cylinder assembly in the gun. Then slide out the old cylinder and replace it with the new. Tighten the screw down and that’s it: you now have a 9mm revolver.

The key to efficiently operating a revolver with rimless cartridges is the extraction of the fired shells. When a round is fired, the case expands and creates a tight fit inside the charge hole. The extractor star on a normal revolver pulls the empty case out and allows it to drop free. With a rimless cartridge such as the 9mm, there is no overhanging rim for the typical extractor to use to yank the spent case from the chamber.

Another problem with the 9mm is that the case is tapered. This means that an unfired round has relatively little contact with the inside of the chamber and can back out during fire. A round that backs out of the cylinder can lock up a revolver. This will prevent the gun from firing until the “jam” is cleared.

9mm conversion

Typically, the use of a thin piece of metal – a moon clip – would be used to overcome these problems. A moon clip requires the shooter to snap cartridges into it. Then all of the cartridges are inserted and extracted en masse. This system works well for many shooters, and I found it worked well with the Taurus 905 9mm revolver I previously reviewed. Revolver master Jerry Miculek has used these kinds of guns to win competitions and set world records.

However, a number of companies have tried – with varying success – to create revolvers that will run rimless cartridges without a moon clip. A number of decades ago Smith & Wesson did it with the model 547 built on a K-frame.

9mm revolver conversion

In more modern times, Charter Arms has made the Pitbull. The Pitbull is a series of revolvers that are chambered for the 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. While my experience with the guns have been mixed, some people like them a lot. My main issue with the Pitbull was reliable extraction.

Korth has not listed a MSRP on the conversion kits. If the kits are reliable and reasonably priced, I could see the company selling quite a few of them.

Korth 9mm speedloader

It is true that the 9mm doesn’t offer a lot that the .357 Magnum won’t do, but there are some self defense cartridges that simply are not made in the Magnum caliber. Also there are a number of odd people like me that just like doing weird things – like shooting 9mm from a revolver.