Friday, October 23, 2015

Testing a Taurus Tracker .44 Magnum revolver: first follow-up

I'm sure many of you read my 'torture test' of two Taurus .44 Magnum revolvers, which I published a couple of weeks ago.  One of them was the relatively lightweight Taurus Tracker 5-shot revolver with a 4" ported barrel.  I had this to say about its factory grip:

The smaller Tracker was less popular, partly because its lower weight didn't provide as much counterbalance to recoil energy, partly because the factory Ribber grip proved less capable of absorbing and controlling recoil than the Hogue grip I'd installed on the Model 44.  (The Ribber grips consist of a rubber core surrounded by horizontal layered 'ribs' of soft rubber, which 'squish' in one's hand as one tightens one's grasp.  One shooter described them as 'funky'.)  I found them acceptable, but not great.  If I keep this revolver, I'll replace them with a set of Hogue grips for this model, and I'll recommend the same to any of my disabled students who buy one.  Customer reviews of the Hogue grip on are uniformly very positive in comparison to the factory Ribber offering.

I had a couple of other issues with the Tracker, none of them serious enough to cause it to fail the test.  A gunsmith will address them during the next few weeks.  However, I thought I'd fix the grip problem before sending the gun to him.

The Taurus 'Ribber' grip looks like this:

(Image courtesy of Taurus)

I replaced it with this Hogue unit:

(Image courtesy of Hogue)

The difference is like night and day.  The Hogue grip transforms the Tracker, giving it acceptable recoil control even with full-house .44 Magnum rounds (I tested it with Federal 300gr. CastCore loads, which fit into its shorter cylinder, whereas specialty rounds like Garrett Hammerheads won't).  In fact, in this particular cartridge (as opposed to less powerful ones), I can't understand why Taurus doesn't just go with the Hogue grip as original equipment.  The latter offers so much improvement that it makes the gun as a whole a much more attractive proposition.

The 'lumpy' double-action trigger and slightly 'sticky' cylinders about which I complained in the test will be addressed shortly.  Once that's done, it'll be off to the range once more with the Tracker, and we'll see whether it's now up to my standards.  I must admit, I'm growing fond of it as a relatively light, well-balanced .44 Magnum for packing in situations where you don't need or can't afford the weight or bulk of a full-size gun, but still want short-range protection against potentially dangerous large game (elk, moose, black or any other kind of bear, etc.).  I think the Tracker offers a much better option for this purpose than the lightweight S&W Model 329 or Taurus Model 444 Ultralight, both of which recoil so hard as to be, IMHO, dangerous to the shooter's health (as I observed in the earlier test).  In my experience, the Tracker has enough weight to absorb recoil better than the ultra-light-weight revolvers, while being smaller and lighter enough than its full-sized Model 44 brother to be much more 'packable'.

I'd be interested in feedback from any of my readers who own, or have owned, a Tracker in .44 Magnum.  Did your experience square with what I've reported so far?  Did your firearm also need the attention of a gunsmith to attain satisfactory performance?  Also, did any of you have the 6" barreled Tracker, as opposed to its 4" stablemate that I tested?  How did you like it?  Please let us know in Comments.  (I think I'll have to look for someone with a 6" Tracker, to borrow it for comparative tests.)



Anonymous said...

You are a better man than I sir. I don't think I could comfortably shoot full power .44 Magnum in a lightweight model (but have never made the attempt). I have a pair of .44 Specials (Lew Horton 3" and Charter Arms Bulldog 3") and love them to death as is. I do have a S&W M29-3 in 6" barrel and enjoy full power loads in that.

I have a Hogue grip for a Security Six (.357) and agree with you - its an upgrade from factory grips.

No bear down here (except for the occasional escapee from across Mexican border) so little concern for them. If I was in deep forest where bear encounters are in bad breath range, I'd probably change my tune.

Thanks for the report.

The Displaced Louisiana Guy said...

I own a 4-inch Tracker chambered in .357 Magnum. I can't recall a single problem I've had with it, and I have had it for over 10 years. I put probably around 2000-3000 rounds through it in that time, most .38 special, but probably a quarter of that being magnum loads. In .357, the ribber grips are actually very nice. The trigger is decent, but has had a few thousand rounds, and likely as much dry-fire repititions. I honestly can't remember what it was like new. It was my first handgun, so I was in love with it, regardless of its features or faults. It's an old, familiar friend, now. If you shoot a lot of hot hand-loads you do have to clean the lead out of the porting, occasionally.

I realize that comparing my gun to the .44 is a somewhat apples-to-oranges comparison, but at least in .357, if shot a moderate amount (4-6 boxes each year) it will hold up well over a decade.

Just my 2 cents (and maybe not worth that).

richard mcenroe said...

My Uberti SA in .44 Mag lets you know you've pulled the trigger. .44 Specs are much more manageable and spend their nights in the cylinder as a house gun.

Able said...

Wandering off topic, as is my wont.

I'm quite taken with the 'idea' of the new Ruger Redhawk 4.2" .45 Auto/.45 LC (especially the ubiquity of ammo ... Oh alright, and cost, I'm cheap, I admit it).

So? Your opinion? Experience? Advice. All would be appreciated.

Peter said...

@Able: Me too! I've handled the 4.2" Redhawk and really like it (I already own a 5½" copy in .44 Magnum, so I know the gun pretty well). I'm sorely tempted to lay my hands on one in the not too distant future. Of course, I have my recently-acquired S&W Mountain Gun in .45 Colt, and a S&W Model 625 in .45 ACP, so I don't really need the Ruger, but what's need got to do with it?


Able said...

OK, sold.

If anybody asks, you made me do it (I only needed an excuse, the same reason I bought a Wilson Border Patrol - "but Larry told me to" and I have a bit of a soft-spot for Rugers anyway - just don't ask how many bp types I've aquired 'just because').

So that and a 5½" .44? "But Dear, Peter told me I 'had' to"!

P.S. If you receieve any 'irate' emails from an .. er, irate English lady. Just ignore them.

Joe in PNG said...

I'm also a bit more partial to the idea of a Ruger in .45 LC/ACP. I've put more than a few rounds of .45 ACP through a S&W 1917, and the cartage in a large frame revolver is more than manageable- a bit like a good, firm handshake.

And Ruger revolvers are built like tanks- Russian tanks.

Uncle Lar said...

Get that many brown bear in and around Nashville do you?
Have to take down the occasional bison or musk ox?
Name me any valid target in CONUS that a 240 grain Keith SWC loaded to 1,000 fps is unable to stop if you would please.
Just kidding sir. We're all big boys and have every right to play with our toys however we like.
I'll still pass on those 300 grain thumpers unless I get to fire them from my Marlin lever gun.

lee n. field said...

Thanks for the followup. Awaiting the gunsmith's report. (I'm one of the ones that bugged you for a followup.)