My experiences with a Taurus 85UL

My experiences with a Taurus 85UL

This is a discussion on My experiences with a Taurus 85UL within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Previously Posted on Another Forum I no longer go to. With updates added. 04/18/2009 Taurus 85 Ultra-Lite, Stainless Steel I had been yearning for a ...

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Thread: My experiences with a Taurus 85UL

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Brady's Avatar
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    May 2008
    South Carolina

    My experiences with a Taurus 85UL

    Previously Posted on Another Forum I no longer go to.
    With updates added.


    Taurus 85 Ultra-Lite, Stainless Steel

    I had been yearning for a snubby revolver in 38 Special +P for some time now. Summer is coming and it gets really hot and muggy here in the south and it becomes very difficult to conceal anything well. My tax refund had arrived the previous week and I had a little extra cash for discretionary spending. It was Friday, 3 April, 2009 and I had just gotten off work so off to the local gun shop I go!

    I've owned Smith & Wesson revolvers before (large frames) and I was familiar with their quality and intended to give my attention to the S&W snub-nose models. They were nice but the little birdie on my shoulder kept whispering in my ear, cheap cheap… cheap cheap. On average, each Taurus model was from $100 to $140 less than its comparable S&W cousin. I was willing to consider a Taurus because I had heard so much about how they had improved so greatly over the years from their past quality troubles. In the end they (Taurus 85UL and the little birdie) got me. It was $349 + tax.

    I took home the Taurus 85 Ultra-Lite, Stainless Steel with 2-inch barrel. The barrel shroud is labeled just ".38 SPECIAL" but their web page clearly states that it is +P rated. It is double action only (DAO) with the concealed hammer that follows along the contour of the frame. It sports the now standard rubber boot grips with finger groove and a handy & comfortable palm swell. It is comfortable enough to hold in spite of my pinky finger dangling in the air, which I hate on a semi-auto but don't seem to mind as much here. The front and rear sights are both fixed. There just isn't any room to put anything adjustable there.

    It has the 'key' safety lock on the back of the concealed hammer. I played with it for a while to see how it worked but probably will never use it. Turning the key raises the lock out from the hammer and stops it from opening far enough to cock and fire by butting against the frame. Simple and effective. It comes with 2 keys.

    It is a nice looking little revolver that has the Taurus Ultralite-Alloy frame that is a light silver color with a matt finish. The barrel shroud, cylinder and cylinder hinge are a darker 'gray' color that does not show as well in the picture as in person (sort of a two tone if you will). Inserted in the barrel shroud is the 'bright' stainless steel barrel. Actually, when comparing my revolver to the pictures on Taurus' web site it looks more like the Titanium model and the Titanium model is the only one on their web site that sports the concealed hammer. It would also be more in line with the weight I got on the kitchen scale. But I certainly did not pay the Titanium price. It was at least $150 more.

    Taurus International Manufacturing Inc

    Taurus' web site reports the 85UL SS 2-inch as weighing 17 ounces. The only scale I have in the house is a food scale in the kitchen, not the greatest but it'll do. It shows the little Taurus weighing in at somewhere between 14 ½ and 15 ounces empty (they are cheap scales), did I mention the little birdie that sits on my shoulder? Add 5 rounds of Speer Gold Dot 38 Special +P, 135 grain and she weighed in at about 17 ½ ounces.

    Off to the indoor range. That night I shot the following due to time constraints.
    35 rounds of Remington 38 Special, 130gr. FMJ
    25 rounds of Magtech 38 Special +P, 158gr. SJHP

    The little Taurus felt surprisingly good for as small as it is, I think the palm swell in the grip helps a lot. The trigger is a long DAO pull but smooth and was not a big problem. At only 15 feet it was accurate enough, but I'm inexperienced with snubbies so only time will tell for sure. Everything went well without a problem.

    Note for future reference: HOLD TIGHT onto that grip when firing +P ammo, it rocks!

    I didn't get around to cleaning it until Wednesday Night. It was a little tough cleaning it with Rem-Oil, all the residue didn't come off. Oh well, I'll get it later with some Hoppes #9. I wiped it down and loaded it with some ammo to put it in the armoire for an emergency grab.

    The cylinder wouldn't close. Shake it a little and try again, still won't close. Maybe the rounds aren't seated in the cylinder right. Looks OK, still won't close. Removed the ammo, cylinder closes fine. Opened the cylinder again, inserted the ammo. Close the cylinder, it still won't close. Frustration! I held it up to the light sideways while trying to close the cylinder, Uh-Oh! The firing pin is still forward! Took the ammo out. Pushed on the firing pin. It was lose but stayed inside the frame. I closed the cylinder and dry fired it. The firing pin remained forward again. I thought, man! I broke the firing pin! I couldn't get to the gun shop until Saturday but I called them ahead of time. The man on the phone said to bring it in and let their gunsmith look at it, it may be something simple.
    Simple! My firing pin broke!
    I thought, 'my snubby is a week old with less than a hundred rounds through it and it's DEAD'!

    So I fretted until Saturday and took it in. The gunsmith was very understanding of my concern and he opened it right there at the counter in the middle of the store, that's where his work bench is (I just thought that was strange). He started taking little bitty parts out and when he got to the firing pin the spring was compressed and would not push out. A little wiggle work and it came off and he found a small sliver of metal had gotten in between the spring and the firing pin and jammed itself compressed. The piece of metal was not brass which was my first thought but we could not determine where it came from. Nothing appeared to be damaged or missing. OK, I'm a little shook but relieved.

    He asked me if I had been dry firing it. I said yes a little. He looked me in the eye and said "don't dry fire a Taurus". That didn't make me feel comfortable. He put it back together and then he… DRY FIRED IT! I guess you have to make sure it does function. I thanked him and left thinking that the next time I take it to the range I probably should wear full body armor and a welder's helmet.

    Tuesday I took it back to the indoor range, without the welder's helmet, and fired the following;
    50 rounds of Atlantic Arms (cheapo) 38 Special, 130gr. FMJ WC
    15 rounds of Remington 38 Special, 130gr. FMJ
    25 rounds of Magtech 38 Special +P, 158gr. SJHP

    No problems noted. Man, it's getting dirty.

    Thursday after work, it's time to try cleaning it again. I got all my gun cleaning paraphernalia set out on the dining room table including the Hoppes #9 (there's no one here to object). :0)
    I gave it a thorough cleaning and really scrubbed out the barrel and chambers. But getting the chamber end of the barrel and the front of the cylinder clean is proving to be tough. I used a medium stiff toothbrush and scrubbed them with the Hoppes. The barrel end got a little better but the cylinder face was having non of that. I scrubbed and scrubbed but the cylinder now has 'raccoon eyes' around each chamber.

    Going back to Taurus' web site, the data says the frame is constructed of Ultralite-Alloy and in a separate entry it states that the "finish" is stainless steel. Does this mean that the finish is a coating? And that I have burned the coating around the chambers of the cylinder by using +P ammo and that it will forever have 'raccoon eyes'? If I use a stiffer brush perhaps brass or bronze, will it take the finish right off the metal? There are several places where they could have been a little more attentive to detail, like rough edges at the back of the frame cutout for the cylinder. A small file may do the trick but then, will this remove the finish and start a process of the finish peeling back from the frame?

    I've been told one can remove the 'eyes' with various semi/abrasive cleaners but decided against it.

    I've since learned better about this but, looking back it is kind of humorous.

    But here is the kicker, take a look at the front of the cylinder hinge. See that black speck? That is a hole! An air bubble hole? I took a straight pin and inserted it into the hole without any resistance whatsoever. Then I used some needle nose pliers to hold the pin, marking the depth as I pulled it out. It measured almost exactly half an inch.

    The gun handles well but the perceived quality questions are making me nervous. I was thinking that 300 trouble free rounds would be proof of its worthiness, but now I thinking… maybe a trade is in my future?

    The old adage still holds true, even for cheapskates, "you get what you pay for"!
    All in all, the little Taurus will probably suffice for its purpose but in the back of my mind I keep thinking…
    'You should have gotten the Smith'.

    If that little birdie ever sets down on your shoulder…

    KILL IT!

    She did it again! a couple days ago. The firing pin spring got stuck again during a run at the range. It's going back.

    A check at the Taurus web site appears to require me to pay shipping to get it to them. I'm going to call them Monday to see for sure. I certainly don't feel that I should have to pay to send it since it is so new. When this all over, lil'miss 85UL is going to find a new home.

    Well I did not send it in the last time. I had thought that since it appeared to clear itself there was no need and if I had no more problems with it, it would be OK.


    A few days ago I was at the range spending some money. She quit again. I took it to gun store where I bought it and had it shipped back to Taurus for a broken transfer bar. I'll let you know when I have an update. This is not looking good.
    ...he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Luke 22:36
    Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project

  2. #2
    Distinguished Member Array Gideon's Avatar
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    Well, it happens to the best of them. Had a Ruger SP101 that locked up on me during my first range session. But after it got fixed it's great! I'll probably turn out to be a great little gun after they're done with it. Let's face it, they all have quality issues from time to time, even Glocks, Sigs and H&K's. I've had to send a Colt 1911 back under recall and a Ruger LCP as well.

    Hope it works out for you!

  3. #3
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    'What Gideon said. I think we all suffer through at least one 'problem child'. If it's any consolation, I'm the not-proud owner of two Hi-Points that I can't even give away in good conscience. Hang in there, I'm sure they'll work it out.
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  5. #4
    Senior Member Array Sportsterguy's Avatar
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    Bummer! My old S&W 36 keeps on chugging along after 37+ years.

    Hope Taurus does you right. HAD a PT-92 that was a lemon. It and a Springer Champion have been my only problem guns over the years.

    Best of luck.
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  6. #5
    VIP Member Array OldVet's Avatar
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    Hiding inside a bottle of Jim Beam Black in S. FL.
    Just a reminder of something I learned from SCUBA magazine and that business:
    No magazine (SCUBA or Gun) is going to bite the hand that feeds it; meaning, Guns and Ammo isn't going to call a particular gun a PofS in one of its articles when the same maker pays for advertising in G&A magazine.

    Get the picture? The best data on a gun is from people who have no financial connection with that gun's maker. Talk to people at a range or a gunsmith, anyone who doesn't necessarily have that gun on display in their counters.
    Retired USAF E-8. Curmudgeon at large.
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  7. #6
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    VIP Member Array sgb's Avatar
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    Friends don't let friends buy Taurus. Just my .02
    "There is a secret pride in every human heart that revolts at tyranny. You may order and drive an individual, but you cannot make him respect you." William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830)

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  8. #7
    Member Array ScubaDuba's Avatar
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    Don't let that make you swear off the pistol...well maybe that one, but not all of them. My Dad has the Ti version, and we have fired umpteen zillion rounds in it without a problem. Maybe you just got a lemon.
    Healthy children will not fear life, if their parents have integrity enough not to fear death.

  9. #8
    Member Array rangefinder's Avatar
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    I've heard that the ULs have some reliability problems. My 85 is steel and I've put a lot through it over several years. It's performed flawlessly. I prefer the steel versus Ti or UL.

    Hopefully when it comes back from Taurus it'll be in A-One condition.

  10. #9
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    I have two Taurus snubs (Tauri?). First is a basic M85 in polished stainless. Got this one around '92 when the 1911 went in for a trigger job and I felt naked without some sort of serious centerfire piece for defense. The only thing wrong with this one was that the original wood stocks wouldn't clear a speedloader on the left side, but a $12 pair of rubber grips from Taurus fixed that problem and made the gun a dream to shoot. I carried that gun a LOT for 10 years and put thousands of rounds through it. It's resting in a friend's safe in my old state, so I have a carry piece available when I visit.

    In 2003, I decided I wanted either a hammerless or a shrouded-hammer snub. I had read a favorable article about the Taurus 851 in Gun tests magazine, but I didn't set out to buy one - I just absorbed the information. The day I bought, I compared 2 S+W J-frames - a 638 Bodyguard and a 642 Centennial with a Taurus 851. Fit and finish were about equal, but I left the store with the Taurus because it had the best trigger of all three. This is an "ultra-lite" - officially, an 851SSUL - about 17 ounces empty. I don't care for the fact that the barrel is ported, but it's a solid shooter and I probably have 2000 rounds though it by now. Never a problem dry-firing it, either. This gets carried frequently in a pocket holster when I don't feel like suiting up with a bigger gun. Practice rounds are mostly FMJ, carry stuff is +P in various weights. I shoot enough of the +P to keep familiar with the snap in this light gun. Oh, and my 851 has a slick little rear sight with windage adjustment - novel, rugged, and nothing you'll find on a S+W.

    The 'stainless' finish on the frame appears to be a hard-anodized matte or brushed finish, not a coating per se. Obviously, the cylinder, hammer and lockworks are steel. No rough edges on the finish anywhere visible.

    I can't imagine what that hole is in your cylinder crane; I'd look at it under some magnification to see if it's a machined hole or some sort of defect (the latter being hard to imagine, as it's so obvious).

    As far as the front face of the cylinder getting black from shooting, I wouldn't let it bother you. You can try using a coarse eraser (the type they used to put on ball-point pens), but you'll spend a lot of time getting rid of discoloration that will return on your next cylinderful. Again, the cylinder is stainless and there's no coating to burn off or flake off.

    My Taurus snubs have been the utmost in reliable guns, and I expected nothing less. My Taurus Millennium had a problem several years ago, and although I had to pay for outbound shipping, it was repaired promptly (2-3 weeks) and it's been fine since.

    If you read Grant Cunningham's (reputable revolversmith) blog, his doesn't work on Taurus wheelguns because of the variability in the quality and fit of the internals. I can deal with that; for me, I have two reliable and proven handguns for just a little more than I would have paid for just one S+W. They're not heirloom guns, so I won't weep if they get lost, stolen, or just wear out. They're simply adequate guns which are affordably priced.
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  11. #10
    Member Array ECHOONE's Avatar
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    Nov 2008
    Each company has there lemons,sorry you got the one! I've had a Taurus 85UL for over a yr now never had a problem with it,mine is blued,I don't have no air bubble holes nor do I have any racoon eyes shoots accurately and is very dependable,hell I'd buy another one,I don't think Taurus is the best manufacturer out there,but I don't think there as bad as all the S&W lovers make them out to be either,my .02

  12. #11
    Senior Member Array Rigrat's Avatar
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    The Taurus 85UL that I have and the 1 I bought for my mom have been great little revolvers.

    But as the one poster said you can get a lemon from every manufacture. I've heard and read about allot of different manufactures that have to be broke in or fluffed and buffed before they are reliable.

    You would think that if a weapon needs to be broke in to be reliable or has to be fluffed and buffed to be reliable , that the manufacture isn't polishing the parts enough and they are in a rough state.

    Anyway, I've been lucky my Tauruses have been reliable from the get go. The wife stoled it for her carry so I'm going to have to look for me anothersnub for my carry rotation.

  13. #12
    VIP Member Array Brady's Avatar
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    Thanks to all replies,
    I was later told that the hole in the cylinder crane was for a retainer roll-pin. But the hole-opening certainly is not round and the pin is inserted past the surface. I don't know how to disassemble it so I don't know how one would remove the pin if needed. Just another nervous twitch about the quality.

    I got a hold of CS yesterday and they told me it went into 'service intake' on 1Dec09, but I could not locate it on their web-page for repair tracking. It kept telling me the serial number didn't exist.

    I turned it in to the store on 14Nov09 and they shipped it out on the 17th so I don't know where it was sitting during the interval. Anyway she said I should get it back around 1Jan. I'll let you know what happens next.
    ...he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Luke 22:36
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  14. #13
    Member Array purwater's Avatar
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    I picked up an 85UL in gray a month or so back. I haven't had the chance to shoot it a lot, but so far it has been fine. I had a S & W 642 and the Taurus actually has a better trigger. I'll shoot it more as I get the time, but for now it does fine. Saved me a bit of money, but if I run into problems I'll know to look somewhere else for my revolver needs.
    G23 w/GTL21, G27, Ruger LCP, & Taurus 617 SS
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  15. #14
    Member Array sddykstr's Avatar
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    Dude, Taurus CS is dreadful, and it takes forever. Their guns are hit and miss, they either work great forever or are horrible from the get go. Trade that puppy in. When I got my pistol back from CS, they fixed the original problem I had and broke something else in the process. Works fine now after the gunsmith, but their gunsmiths are totally beyond incompetent, and the return process takes FOREVER! I love my Taurus but won't buy another because of this.

  16. #15
    Member Array cmontrose1's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    Abq., NM
    hmmm... Seems like more than 1 CHOSE a taurus over a smith based on the trigger... Same as I. No problems yet in the 5 years its been riding on my ankle. And shooting full 357 rounds, I can definately recomend the stainless steel model.
    P.S. I had a Smith model 60 that the firing pin broke off of during a range day. Honestly, it can happen to them all. Anything mass produced is sure to have a few lemons out there. Interestly, most bad stories about taurus are almost always second hand stories. IE, friend of a friend, cousin, etc. They forever get perpetuated throughout the web until it becomes "fact".
    As a side note, my kahr pm40 was also perfect and not one of the all too common lemons. I'd say I must have good luck, but I know way better then that! lol....

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