Saturday, September 12, 2015

Are Taurus and Rossi handguns worth buying?

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.

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.



c w swanson said...

You get what you pay for. I have a friend who has a Taurus revolver and is also very happy with it, but why gamble in buying a new gun? Go for a Ruger and know that if there is a problem, the factory will make you happy no matter what.

Jim22 said...

I agree with Mr. Swanson. I have owned a number of Ruger guns. I was unhappy with only two. One was an original Bearcat in .22 LR. It was so light it was impossible to shoot accurately. The other was a .44 Magnum semi-auto carbine. It would feed almost nothing from its tubular magazine. Other than that I have been very happy with every Ruger firearm.

There is a place for cheap guns like Taurus and Rossi but that place is not self-defense where reliability is paramount.

Oh, and Grant Cunningham won't work on Taurus guns? I don't think he is working on Any guns any more.

STxAR said...

I bought a new Rossi 357 with three inch barrel. It was a practice gun. The price was cheap, and I wanted to scout around the inside of a revolver without potentially messing up a SW.

I learned a lot. Rossi is the bargain Taurus. There were milling marks side the frame that rubbed the innards and made it rough. I learned how to smooth those out. The rivet on the firing pin was so proud it rubbed on the frame. I brought it down and smoothed it out. I learned a bit about the lock work and the machining methods they used. It was a cheap education, and I didn't feel bad about the possibility of ruining it.

It's my "holy crap" gun. wrapped in a rag in my tool box. I trust it to run 6 rounds without breaking. Maybe not much more, tho. I know who worked on it. :D

Uncle Lar said...

I own three .22 revolvers at the moment: a stainless Ruger Bearcat, a S&W K-22 with 6 inch barrel, and a Taurus 9 shot DA that I picked up cheap at an auction. Other than being tiny the Bearcat is everything a single action kit gun should be. The Smith is a joy to shoot. Out of the box the Taurus was unusable. Double action trigger pull well is excess of 12 pounds and it took two hands just to cock the hammer for single action. All it took was a hammer spring replacement and I had a good shooting DA kit gun for not much money. Hint: no one offered a replacement spring kit for the .22, but I discovered that one for their .38 line would work just fine.
In that same auction I picked up a Walther P22 which is an amazing piece of German engineering. Got it cheap because it's pink which doesn't seem to affect its shooting whatsoever. Also quite fond of the Ruger SR22 as well as the Mark II and III models even if those last two are a stone beyatch to work on.

The Raving Prophet said...

For me, it was never that Taurus made lemon guns. Everybody does. I've had issues with guns from a variety of makers. But with Taurus, it was that warranty repairs seemed to involve dealing with rude personnel, paying shipping both ways, take forever, and often not fix the problem. When even the Taurus CEO has to make a Youtube video to proclaim they're changing their ways (a few years ago), you know there's an issue.

I've tried them. They had their good points. The bad points were enough to get me to trade it and move on. There's too many other guns from companies with much better reputations and at prices that aren't much more for me to bother with Taurus again.

Yeah, it was probably just a freak thing. But I've had guns from Springfield Armory, Smith & Wesson, and others get returned quickly at no cost at all to me and they worked great. That I'll reward with repeat business.

SiGraybeard said...

I have several Tauri around the house; their pocket .380s, their single stack, small 9mm (709), a PT145 Millenium in .45ACP and a Rossi .22 LR revolver. They're all decent guns, and the only ones I have gripes about are their pocket .380s (their model TCP). Those are functional and if I only had one, I'd have no problems with using it at all, but my wife and I each bought one (several months apart) and while both are reliable when fed the Right Brand JHPs, neither gun fires the other one's Right Brand. With two physically identical guns not able to use the same brand of ammo, that's just a disaster waiting to happen.

The only thing the other brands have on the Taurus is better fit and finish; more attention to detail.

As an aside, my wife and I took a training class together; she used her 709 and I used a Springfield Armory XDm. The guys teaching the class told us it was the only time they'd ever seen a Taurus make it through the ~500 rounds we shot. Tauruses always failed sometime during the class.

Anonymous said...

I guess I should add my "Rossi Story". Some years ago, I bought a Rossi m720, a revolver in .44 S&W Spl. I had a problem almost immediately: With 180g bullets, it had shot a bit low and to the left. I had to run the rear sight one click short of the right limit to get centered shots. After a few range sessions, with the groups getting lower each time, I discovered that the front sight had fractured at the hole where it's pinned into the barrel. That's when I discover that the sight blade was ~plastic~!

I unpinned it and made a new one out of steel. That fixed the elevation problem, but not the windage. So I made another front sight with a "jink" in it, offset .040" to the left.

Why didn't I send it back to Rossi? Even then they had a rather dubious reputation for customer service, and this was something I could easily fix.

Still have it; don't shoot it often; does seem otherwise sturdy - after about 200 rounds, the action seems as tight as it ever was. Still, recently I bought a 1st Generation Charter Arms .44 Bulldog for serious carry.


Joe in PNG said...

If one goes the route of buying the lower tier guns, remember that the customer is the QC department, and test accordingly- at least 200 actually flawless rounds before the gun can be counted on for defensive purposes... which is pretty true of all gun makers.

Inconsiderate Bastard said...

I frequently get questions about gun brands from students, to which I will make suggestions but never recommendations. When Taurus or Rossi come up, always because of price and their resemblance to higher end guns, I suggest that they examine the guns very, very closely because what one gets out of the box is about the best one can expect, period, and to not fear looking at as many boxes as possible. I point them to Jim March's excellent Revolver Checkout ( and Chris Byrne's Semi-auto Checkout (

I've had a couple Taurus .22 revolvers as student guns and while they certainly were not S&W 63s, they performed acceptably. The two I had for several years were, of course, the best two I ran across over a few years out of perhaps 60 guns I inspected and they benefited - somewhat - from the ministrations of a very good gunsmith.

If one observes relevant model-based problem data and considers a Taurus or Rossi as an individual gun rather than an example of a type or model, one can successfully procure a quite suitable firearm.

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

500 rounds through a used Taurus 65 w/a 4" barrel; equivalent of a Smith Mod. 13. Works fine. 125 JHPs go where I want at 50 yards in to point blank. A good one is good.

Jonathan H said...

I carry a Taurus 738 TCP in .380 - I've never had a problem with it feeding FMJ or JHP from several manufacturers.
I have a Rossi 20 ga/ 22 combo that has never given me a problem either; it is a youth model I use for small game hunting since I like the light weight and short overall length. The 22 barrel will eject rat shot with a crimp and other specialized rounds that give a 10/22 fits.
I've never had a problem with Taurus/ Rossi, but my experience is limited.

Anonymous said...

I have only one Taurus firearm, a titanium 941UL 9 shot .22 Magnum snub nose. The only issue I've had with it is that it begins to gall while firing the 2nd cylinder double action. I've read that titanium heats up quickly and will do that but have no idea if this is why it does this. Otherwise - functions well. If I need more than 10 shots quickly, I may be in trouble.

Jason said...

WOW, thanks for the link to the checklist!

DaddyBear said...

I own an older Taurus .38 snubby, but it's the only Taurus or Rossi I will ever willingly own. I've known too many people who've had QC issues with their guns, and even the display models at the NRAAM had issues. When two big guys like AD and me can't easily work a revolver in double action, your guns have issues.