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Taurus 856 Review

The Taurus 856 is a modern 6-shot, lightweight 38 revolver. It’s lightweight, holds six rounds, and is affordable. But is it the right gun for you? It’s purpose-built for self-defense. Find out in our Taurus 856 review.

Taurus 856 Review Sheathed Shaw Ammo

Taurus has been making revolvers for years. Initially, they made copies of Smith & Wesson series firearms.

Recently, Taurus has started making guns entirely of their design.

Throughout the years, saying Taurus has had quality control issues would be an understatement.

However, those issues do seem to be getting better.

You can pick up a Taurus revolver cheaper than other competing options, such as Ruger and Smith & Wesson. This is a significant plus for value-minded consumers.

Our Taurus 856 review is to help you decide if this budget-minded handgun is a good choice for you.

Taurus 856

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Size/Purpose

As stated earlier, this gun is definitely in the self-defense category.

It would make a good carry gun as well as a good glovebox, work truck gun. 

The Taurus 856 is sized similar to the Smith & Wesson J-Frame. The most notable difference is going to be the wider cylinder.

The Taurus 856 holds six rounds in a 38, as opposed to five rounds in a J-Frame. 

The cylinder does seem a lot wider when you have the gun.

That said, it’s not that big of an issue for concealment when it comes to carrying.

Taurus 856 Review right left

You could easily tuck this gun in a purse designed for on-body carry or into a small IWB holster.

Weight

Weighing in at a pound unloaded, the Taurus 856 isn’t what you would call heavy. 

It’s light enough that you can carry this gun jogging or doing other physical activities. That said, this will be just a little bit heavier than I would like for those activities.

I want my gun to weigh under one pound loaded when doing those types of activities.

While this lightweight is a plus for carrying a gun, it is a downside to shooting a gun.

We’ll cover that later.

Frame 

The frame on the Taurus 856 is your standard revolver frame. Overall, the quality and fit, and finish seem good.

I’m impressed with how far Taurus has come over the last couple of years.

Taurus 856

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There are no sharp edges on the frame of the Taurus 856.

Instead, everything seems well-rounded, and I really can’t see any immediate design flaws when looking at this firearm.

Caliber & Barrel Length

Right now, the Taurus 856 is only available in 38 Special. The upside is they do offer this gun in both a two-inch barrel and a three-inch variant.

Three-inch variants are very awesome and a gun I’m thinking about picking up.

Taurus 856 Review front right

I currently own the two-inch Taurus 856.

The two-inch guns seem to have a lot more recoil than the three-inch variants, even though the three-inch variants only add a little bit of weight.

There aren’t a lot of three-inch revolvers out there, and I’m thrilled to see Taurus offering this with the Taurus 856.

Versions of Gun

As stated earlier, the gun is available with both two and three-inch variants, but Taurus also offers a couple of different finishes.

For example, you can get the gun in two-tone finishes as well as black or stainless.

Taurus 856

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Taurus has never been known for having great finishes on their guns.

That said, I’m impressed with the finish on this Ultra-Lite. It’s not the prettiest finish in the world, but it does seem to be durable.

I didn’t expect to be saying that in this Taurus 856 review.

Taurus 856 Review Right

I’ve scratched this gun up quite a bit, and it’s not showing.

However, I don’t baby my guns by any means, and this finish seems to be holding up quite well.

I have friends who have stainless Taurus revolvers of new production, and their finishes also seem to be durable.

Capacity

The capacity of the Taurus 856 being six rounds is a major plus in the small revolver world.

Most small revolvers, such as the J-Frame and Ruger LCR, tend to have five-round capacities when chambered in 38 Special. However, there are guns such as the Kimber K6s that have six-round capacities.

That said, that gun comes in at a much heavier weight since it’s an all-steel gun.

Taurus 856 Review cylinder stand

The Taurus 856 is the only revolver I’m aware of to be this small and light while still offering a six-round capacity.

Going from five to six rounds may not seem like a lot, but it’s significant if you look at it from a percentage increase.

Cylinder Latch

The cylinder latch on the Taurus 856 is very nicely rounded and very well designed.

It’s a standard Smith & Wesson style latch that you have to press forward to disengage.

However, it’s ergonomically placed when pushing it I don’t have to break my grip to drop the cylinder out.

Taurus 856 Review cylinder release

The cylinder itself seems well built, and the ejector is relatively thick.

So I don’t have any durability concerns with this gun over the long term.

Sights

The sights on the Taurus 856 leave a lot to be desired. If anything is going to get a negative on this Taurus 856 review, it’s going to be the sights. 

Look, they’re standard revolver sights, so I can’t complain that much as they’re on par with just about everything else out there.

But they’re not as good as the sights on the Ruger LCR.

Taurus 856 Review sight picture

The Ruger LCR has the same crappy rear trough style sight, but it can replace the front with a high contrast front.

It would be nice to see Taurus do this.

Instead, they have the front sight milled into the gun. You have no ability to adjust your point of impact.

You’ll have to use multiple ammo types and find one that works well with this gun, not only the Taurus 856 but also your specific Taurus 856 in general, to account for manufacturing intolerances.

The rear sight on this gun is also way too narrow for my taste.

I’ll likely end up taking some high-contrast nail polish or paint and painting the front sight just to provide a little more contrast when shooting this firearm.

Taurus 856

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Trigger

The trigger on the Taurus 856 is available in a double-action-only variant or double-action, single-action. My variant has a hammer, so it is a double-action, single-action gun.

The trigger itself is pretty heavy and, really, your standard revolver trigger. That said, it feels like it’s on par with most Smith & Wesson J-Frame triggers I’ve felt.

It’s relatively smooth and easy to operate.

Taurus 856 Review trigger

The trigger has just a slight bit of creep in the single-action before a nice soft rolling break. It’s a concise and easy use single-action trigger.

No complaints there in the Taurus 856 review.

Hammer

The hammer on the Taurus 856 is nicely rounded and doesn’t have any sharp edges. It also has nice aggressive texturing on the top of the hammer, making it easier to cock it back.

The hammer is also wide, further making the gun easier to cock.

Taurus 856 Review hammer

I think Taurus is paying attention to all the little details on this gun, and I’m pretty pleased with it.

Grip

The factory grip on the Taurus 856 is good. It’s small enough that it’ll conceal well, and it’s big enough that it fills your hand.

Taurus 856 Review grip

This grip does help with recoil a little bit, but not as much as I would like. So I’ll probably replace this with something a little softer, like a Hogue grip which should give me more control over recoil.

Aftermarket

The aftermarket for the Taurus 856 is almost non-existent.

Currently, there aren’t many holster options, and that’s something we’re working on rectifying. There just aren’t a lot of accessories for this gun besides grip.

The sights are milled into the gun, so you can’t replace those. And the only natural area for improvement is the grip and the trigger.

Taurus 856

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You can have a gunsmith work on this gun to smooth it up slightly. Not many people will do that. So I doubt the company will come out with aftermarket springs kits and trigger parts to smooth out the trigger on the Taurus 856.

Aesthetics

Aesthetically the Taurus 856 is going to differ depending on the finish and variant again.

But, in my opinion, the three-inch guns are beautiful. They’re just very proportional, and they look great.

The black finish isn’t the best-looking out there. And if I had the option, I probably would have gone with the stainless finish.

The stainless finish on the Tauruses just looks better, in my opinion.

Shooting

Shooting the Taurus 856 is a handful. Recoil is reasonable, and it’s something I can deal with. 

That said, this is not a fun gun to shoot. 

This is a gun you’re going to shoot just enough to remain proficient.

This is not a gun you’re going to want to sit there and put a couple of hundred rounds through in a day’s range session. 

Taurus 856 Review Shaw Blade Ammo

I really would like to get my hands on one of the three-inch variants as I have a feeling those might be a little bit easier to shoot.

One of my favorite guns out there is the Ruger LCR in 38 with a three-inch barrel.

The reason for this is that a three-inch barrel helps tame the recoil on such a lightweight gun. I’m hoping that the three-inch barrel on the Taurus 856 will do the same.

Price

MSRP on the Taurus 856 varies from $341 up to $440. You can usually find these guns for 50 to $75 below MSRP. 

At that price, these guns are an exceptional value. When Taurus’s quality control wasn’t quite there, I don’t think these guns had a lot to offer over something like the Smith & Wesson J-Frame or other lower-priced Smith & Wesson offerings.

Taurus 856

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That said, when the Taurus 856 comes in much lower than Smith & Wesson and Ruger models with a similar setup, it’s hard to ignore the Taurus.

If you’re on a budget and you were looking for absolutely the most value for your dollar, then I would check out the Taurus 856.

Concluding Thoughts

The Taurus 856 is a good option if you’re looking for a lightweight revolver with a six-round capacity. Understand it still has the downsides of a lightweight revolver. 

This gun is going to have a fair amount of recoil for its size. The quality of Taurus products seems to be improving. 

That’s giving me a lot to like about this gun.

My biggest complaint is going to be the sights. There’s nothing you can do to improve them, except to paint the front sight. 

Taurus 856 Review right stand

So you’re still going to be stuck having to test a variety of ammo and find which one shoots to the point of aim, point of impact with your gun.

But considering all its competitors have the same issue, I guess I can’t complain too much.

I hope our Taurus 856 review has been helpful, and please comment with your thoughts and opinions on this gun below.

Pros

  • Price
  • Finishes and Options

Cons

  • Finish
  • Recoil

27 Replies to “Taurus 856 Review”

  1. Charles Ray says:

    Seriously, is this “Harrison” guy mentally retarded?

    1. Victor says:

      Are you? You wrote nothing of value or even care to explain your position. The review is easy to read and thorough. I’m sure you would have done a much better job but you have no website or business in which to share your abundant knowledge with others.

    2. Rick says:

      You just identified the problem with online comments. You said nothing at all, but because no one knows where you are and you’d never say that to someone’s face, you post an insult. Don’t agree with the review? Just say so and tell us why. Otherwise go back to your video games.

    3. Bob says:

      Not likely, but it is very likely that you are Chuck.

      Maybe a flag comment feature is needed on this site so we can dump idiotic comments like Chuck’s.

  2. The 856 Taurus six shot revolver stainless steel review was excellent.
    It was concise, it gave the “pros and cons“ and delivered an understanding as to its application, it’s purpose, and more importantly ,a relevant meaningfulness as to how you use this weapon and how appropriate it would be for self-defense.
    The author was fair and balanced as to Taurus’s history of their Q/A and some of the enroads- they have made recently to shore up earlier issues of less than quality craftsmanship and workmanship. The author also adressed the price point and the obvious ballistics as well as the “practical use of this weapon for self-defense“. Overall it was well done.

  3. Hank Ebinger says:

    I thought that your review was both very informative and thorough. It reaffirmed my reasons to purchase one.

    1. Harrison says:

      Glad you found it helpful!

      1. Rod says:

        Recently purchased the 605 taurus and find it a great gun. Like you said the sights are problematic but grip and functions are,good. Did you find the cylinder release Alitalia high for speed loader use?

  4. Harry Jackson II says:

    Very good and thorough review.

    1. Marvin Dunkentell says:

      Just purchased my first one and can’t wait to test it out at the range!!

  5. Ken says:

    I purchased the 3” version, and it doesn’t seem to have sighting difficulties that you mentioned. Trigger pull, both SA and DA is heavy, stacking and has a lot of creep, but is getting better with dry firing. It is a good serviceable revolver. It prefers heavier weight bullets.

  6. R Jonah says:

    The newest iteration or it may be just the all steel version has a pinned sight. You can put the night sight from the 3 inch on the 2 inch.

    A lot of goodies from the Colt Detective Special work with 856.

    Precision and Wolfe both have springs kits.

    I’ve moved my S&W 337 Airlite to an ankle or driving holster and the 856 to primary carry.

    I found that after years of carrying a 2in snub, the 3in Defender really slows my draw. I didn’t think that inch would matter…but it does.

    Thanks for the article.

    Regards,
    RJ

    1. patrick maiers says:

      Jonah I have the 2″ and the 3″ and I like both !!

  7. I have my TAURUS 856 UL-aluminum frame(15.7 ounces)-matt black-(mfg. FEB. 16 2019)-(purchased for $279.99 MAY 25 2019 NIB)-is factory original with rubber grips–is my EDC-use an ALLEN SPIDERWEB size 00 pocket holster-keep in a hard “POKEMON” zipper box with gun lock and .38 snap caps inside-carry HORNADY CRITICAL DEFENSE 110 grain FTX standard pressure #90310-gun is beautiful- accurate and perfect in every way-is a SUPER shooter-i love it !!!

  8. Raymond J. Butts Jr. says:

    WHAT IS THE EXACT MODEL NUMBER THATYOU HAVE?

  9. John Weber says:

    I have the all steel Taurus 856 with a 2 inch barrel. I find it very accurate and so far reliable. I previously had an 85 UL that I thought the world of after about 2 years of moderate shooting the trigger lock decided to activate itself and I couldn’t unlock it. I got rid of it. Next I went with a 2″ 856UL and when staging the trigger I’d get misfires. Afterwards I swore never another, but I decided to give the all steel 856 a try and do far I’m very, very pleased.

  10. Don Van Winkle says:

    Great review sir! Spot on. I looked at many .38 SPL revolvers and the prices on used S&W, Colts, & Rugars are way too high. $699 down to $559. The Taurus 856 Defender in 3” barrel is $419 brand new so I got it,

  11. Robert says:

    Hello, Just purchased this cool little revolver her in CA where we are so limited. So I’m in the 10 day waiting period. Question how do we know if we have the .38+P or not? Thanks for the review.

  12. Esteban says:

    I have the all steel blued 2″ and like it. The recoil is not an issue as I am not a small guy. I did replace the Taurus grip with the Hogue as I don’t like my pinky to be lonely. In the nightstand I have Hornady Critical Defense for personal defense.

  13. Lone Rider says:

    Good review of a decent gun. I’m a fan of these myself. On my second (Foolishly traded the first, wanted a replacement). Both stainless 2″. The first one had the front sight integral to the barrel as on the review model; new one has a pinned front sight. Both work excellent and the grip though ugly is very comfortable. I’ve been shooting less than a year and can hit the center area of the target one handed with one so recoil isn’t that bad, once you get used to it. Non ‘newbie’ shooters will probably have an easier time than even me. The stainless steel version I have (not ultralight) probably helps in this regard. I will say the finish on the second one seems slightly poorer is a cosmetic way; the caliber stamping under the barrel is of uneven depth, as if the stamp was off its center axis, and a few of the chamfered edges on the frame are not as even as I’d like. I personally don’t care about this, and yes I know this is nitpicking but figured I’d mention it. Still, for the price you cannot beat one of these. And the single action trigger pull is smooth. They are fun to shoot, big enough they aren’t a pain to shoot, small enough to wear, and yes you can get holsters for them; mine resides in a 1791 brand deerhide holster which was listed as fitting the taurus 856 when not in use at the range. In a pinch they will tend to fit most non-kydex / plastic j frame holsters, just snugly, but then unlike kydex leather stretches.

  14. Robert Phillips says:

    I have the all steel 856 so not the ultra light model. I wanted it for the little increase in weight. I enjoy shooting in and use it as my carry off and on in.

  15. Michael says:

    I swore off Taurus in the 90’s after experiencing poor quality with several of their revolvers. But, the 3 inch Defender caught my eye and with the low price I took a chance and I am so glad I did! This is the revolver I’ve wanted S&W to make for years. I have been quite impressed with this revolver and it is real close to becoming my primary EDC.

  16. Randy Lunsford says:

    Has anyone ever drop tested this model . I have both the hammer and non hammer models and was wondering if dropped will they fire .

    1. Harrison says:

      They both have a safety device with a block that has to come between the firing pin and the hammmer for the gun to go off. The hammer isn’t long enough to hit the firing pin without that block. That block is only pushed up when the trigger is pulled.

  17. John Weber says:

    Well it’s 4 months later since my last reply and I’m still very satisfied with my all steel 856 in stainless steel. I noticed on my 856 the front sight blade can be replaced. I might add I recently picked up an S&W 642 and the point of impact is 4+ inches to the left at 5 yards and the barrel/sight are canted to the right. I sent the gun back to S&W I was told it’s going to take at least 5 to 7 weeks before they get to it. The point I’m making is this, with my experience the only new guns I’ve had no issues with are Henrys and Glocks all others like S&W and Ruger have quality control issues. Ruger deals with it it quickly and politely. As for S&W well 5 to 7 weeks tells me they’ve been sending out a lot junk or they just don’t give a damn. It seems like only Taurus is chastised for quality control issues when it’s acceptable for other manufacturers that are priced considerably higher. Back to my 856 I’m very satisfied and I guess Im lucky I got a good one.

  18. Bob says:

    Thanks for the thorough and detailed review Harrison, it has helped me to decide for purchasing this revolver. Good price at Palmetto State Armory for the concealed hammer model – $299.

  19. Jim says:

    What would you replace front sight with? Would hogue grips add any length? I have big hands and would like to have my pinkie supported.

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