I've had a few questions from readers after my recent post about 'Bullet and cartridge effectiveness for self-defense'. In particular, individuals have asked questions about cheaper brands of handguns, particularly Taurus and Rossi (the latter made by Taurus in Brazil, so they're effectively the same thing).
I've owned several Taurus handguns (Taurii?), and been pleased with them; indeed, I'll gladly buy more of them, subject to certain conditions (of which more in a moment). However, there are lots of reports out there of poor quality control, fit and finish. Rather than try to summarize them, I'll simply point you to a few external sources of information.
- Reddit's guns section has a long thread titled 'Why Gunnit Hates All Things Taurus'.
- Grant Cunningham, premier revolver gunsmith, tells us 'Why I don't work on Taurus revolvers'.
- Reports of defects and quality control aren't just hype: Taurus has just settled a defective handgun class-action lawsuit for $39 million.
OK, reading those links, one might well ask why anyone in his right mind would buy another Taurus firearm. The reason is simple. Some Taurus firearms are poorly assembled, or contain defective parts. However, others work fine right out of the box, and will probably continue to do so for years. If you buy a good one, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you won't. (The same has been said of more expensive manufacturers, like (for example) Smith & Wesson, from time to time.)
I've owned two Taurus PT-145 pistols, one PT-745 and one first-generation 24/7 in .45 ACP, and one PT-111 in 9mm. Over time I've sold all of them except the PT-111, which still sits in my gun safe as a "loaner" gun for disabled and handicapped students who can't yet afford their own. All of those guns except the 24/7 are subject to the class-action lawsuit settlement; yet not one of them ever gave me a single problem, and I see no reason to return the PT-111 I still own. As for revolvers, I tend to concentrate on Smith & Wessons and Rugers; yet, a few weeks ago, I traded for a Taurus M44 .44 Magnum revolver with a 6½" barrel, in almost-new condition. It passed the famous 'Jim March revolver checkout' with flying colors, so I was happy to take it. I've shot several of the large-frame M44's before, and found those particular weapons to be every bit as good as the equivalent (and more expensive) Smith & Wesson Model 29. I'm sure there may be M44's with problems . . . but then, I'm also aware of the poor lockwork design on the first few versions of the S&W Model 29, which resulted in some cylinders spinning freely and even revolving backwards after a certain number of heavy-recoil rounds were fired! Only in later versions of the Model 29 did Smith & Wesson solve that problem.
I do agree that under heavy use, Taurus revolvers (and their Rossi stablemates) will probably show signs of wear sooner than a higher-quality weapon. You get what you pay for. A Taurus is half to two-thirds of the price of a revolver from Smith & Wesson or Ruger, and there's a reason for the former's lower price, as Grant Cunningham has pointed out. Certainly, if I intend to shoot a lot of heavy-recoiling rounds, I'll use a higher-quality gun. However, for low to medium quantities of normal ammunition (not thumb-busters like Garrett Hammerheads!) during an average range session, or for low-round-count hunting with Federal's excellent 300gr. CastCore load, I anticipate many years of enjoyable use from my Taurus M44. Given that I got it as a trade deal, costing me nothing in cash, I reckon I'll get full value for money out of it.
Will I buy or trade for more Taurus handguns? Yes, but probably only used larger-framed revolvers at present. There are enough good-quality semi-auto pistols out there at competitive prices that I think I can get better value for my money, particularly in the used market. (For example, I recently bought a lightly-used compact Ruger SR9c, in the original box with all accessories, for under $300. That's in the same price range as its [new] Taurus equivalent. The new, full-size Ruger 9E is currently available from CDNN for $299.99, outstanding value for money in anyone's book.) As far as revolvers are concerned, I'll check them out very carefully on an individual basis, whether new or used. If they pass Jim March's demanding test, I'll probably be OK with them. If I expect to put a high round count through them (e.g. several hundred rounds every year for training and practice), I'll probably choose a more expensive, higher-quality brand in preference to a Taurus. For lower-round-count, occasional use, there's less need to worry about that.
(I'll add that a used gun from a quality manufacturer will hold its value and give you good service, provided it was in good condition when you got it and doesn't need expensive repairs. Check Armslist for your state, and look at services such as Gunbroker. You can find bargains online, if you know what to look for. If you don't know, join firearms forums such as The Firing Line, read through their archive of older threads, and ask questions there. Within a few months, your knowledge will have expanded greatly. Frankly, if I can pick up a used, good-condition Taurus M44 for about $400 - and they are sometimes out there at that price level - I'll take that in a heartbeat in comparison to a $700-$800 used S&W M29, and use the money I've saved for something else I want.)
It's up to you and your budget. If you want higher quality, it's going to cost you. It's like buying a car. A lower-cost vehicle will provide perfectly adequate transport for many purchasers. However, if you expect to put more demands on your car, or want higher performance, or need it to last more than ten years, a more expensive brand will probably be better suited to your needs. In the context of the car market, I'd describe Taurus and Rossi as the Kia's of the firearms world, whereas Smith & Wesson or Ruger could be likened to Ford, GMC or Chrysler. That should put them in perspective.