With mortgages, student loan debt, and bills, having the coin to get the means for personal defense can be tricky. It gets even more confusing as the fads and what is in or out seems to be changing with every passing year. But you don’t need a $1000 gun with a ton of extras to prevail. Despite all the trends going on, budget minded revolvers continue to be popular. At the top of the heap is the Taurus Model 85.
The Model 85 has been around for decades, manufactured by the Taurus firm out of Brazil. It is similar in size, though a bit beefier than the Smith & Wesson J frame revolvers which remain the gold standard of small revolvers. But at its heart, it features the same 5 shot capacity and hand ejector action as well as the same diminutive blade front and rear notch rear sights. The standard Model 85, (the one we have today) is of all steel construction with an exposed hammer, 2 inch barrel, and uses Taurus’s ribbed rubber grip. It also features a keylock on the hammer spur that can be used to disable the gun for safekeeping.
It is also chambered for the quintessential snub nose revolver round–the 38 Special. The gun is a double action revolver, requiring a long pull of the trigger to discharge the gun. But the hammer may be cocked for a lighter trigger pull. While the basic Model 85 is bland and basic, Taurus offers other variants utilizing lightweight alloy frames and various hammer or hammerless configurations and calibers. But all the variety in the world won’t save a gun if it can’t shoot.
I took the Model 85 for a workout armed with 300 rounds of ammunition–one hundred rounds of Winchester 130 grain FMJ, and an equal amount of 38 Special +P Remington Ultimate Defense 125 grain hollow points and Remington 158 grain LRN ammunition.
This is how the ammunition fared in a three shot average over my Caldwell Chronograph:
Winchester 130 grain Full Metal Jacket–813 fps
Remington Ultimate Defense 125 grain +P–930 fps
Remington 158 grain Lead Round Nose–706 fps.
*figure given in feet per second.
The Taurus Model 85 is an excellent shooting handgun–especially class of small, short barreled revolvers. The m85 is heavy for a snub-nose and the rubber grip fills the hand well. Thanks to this, recoil was quite soft even with the +P loads. The sights, being just a fixed notch and blade arrangement, are clearly not meant for target work, but they pick up well for what they are. The trigger pull proved quite smooth in double action at eleven pounds, but tended to stack at the end of travel.
All loadings produce acceptable accuracy at both seven and twenty-five yards, firing double action. However, the 158 grain loading produced the best accuracy. At the former distance, a 2 inch pattern was easy to achieve and deliberate fire produced a steady 8 inch pattern at twenty-five yards.
Some might say that revolvers are too slow to get hot, but the Model 85 was hot to the touch at various points in the little torture test. Constant shooting and reloading did it and that was how I found the one quirk with the Model 85–the reload.
Breaking the cylinder open and a smart smack of the ejector rod will often throw the empty cases right out, despite the rod itself is not long enough to make the cases clear the cylinder. Here the comfortable grip gets in the way–hanging up an empty case when the time comes to reload. The thickness of the grip also impedes the proper use of a speed loader as well. They fit in tightly and require a good shake to free the rounds from the HKS loaders I was using that day. Will you need to reload quickly? Probably not. But I would be more comfortable getting the gun back into action in a hurry with modified grips.
It is especially true with firearms that you do get what you pay for, but in the case of the Taurus Model 85, you get a good bit for the price point and it is easy to see why the model is a flagship of Taurus. Though not as polished as some others, the M85 does not have the tool marks and burrs common on some other budget minded handguns. All the parts are well finished and well fit for a tight lockup of the action. On the face of it, the m85 is a very run of the mill defensive revolver without adjustable sights or even a lightweight alloy frame. It is a no frills gun that keeps the cost lower while still being able to hold its own against the competition. At its price point, it is tricky to find a defensive handgun that is both reliable, shoot-able, and easy to use. In that respect, the m85 is a true contender. While I wouldn’t star in a Hollywood action movie with this little five-shooter, I am confident it could get me home.