A Real Steal

Taurus 856 Proves Protection Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive

By Justin Opinion

Packing six rounds of .38 Spl. into 16 oz. for a mere pittance, the 856 is a real steal for CCW.

It’s the year 2020. We have devices we can speak to and say “order dog food,” and it arrives the next day at our door. We have cars that make no sound and practically drive themselves. And a surprising number of concealed carry permit holders still carry a wheelgun — at least part of the time. Like all the choices we must make, there are pros and cons. Some of the many reasons given against them are quality revolvers are too expensive, too heavy or too bulky. And of course, there is the capacity argument — which we’ll get to.

The generously sized and shaped grips ensure a solid grip when touching off +P rounds!

Reasons in favor of the century-old technology in the waistband include reliability, safety and better access for those with less hand strength. Whatever your reason for considering a snub-nosed revolver for personal protection, take heart in knowing Taurus provides a very modern, very reliable and very inexpensive solution: the model 856 Ultra-Lite in .38 Special. And at a street price well under $350.

While not infallible, the revolver is traditionally more reliable and durable than a semi-automatic pistol in many ways. There is no mechanical feeding or ejecting — the most common malfunctions. There is no risk of pushing a round out of battery by pressing the muzzle against something, or someone, in a struggle. Doing so with most semi-autos would render them useless. The revolver is unfazed. The revolver is also an excellent choice for those with less hand or arm strength, for whom loading or working the action of the semi-auto can be difficult and “limp wristing” problems can induce stoppages. Indeed, the antiquated technology of the modern revolver can be an excellent choice for everyday protection in or out of the home.

The 856’s six-round capacity and ability to handle +P loads makes it a terrific choice for EDC.
A full-underlug shrouding the ejector rod inspires confidence in the durability of the little Taurus.

A Great Option

The Taurus 856 .38 Special is an excellent example of why small wheelguns make big sense. The 856 is available in several varieties, with materials — and colors — varying to suit any preference. For me, the most practical option is the Ultra-Lite in basic black. Employing an alloy frame, it weighs only 16 oz., unloaded. This means if carried inside the waistband or even in a pocket, it won’t feel like you’re shoplifting a shotput. When packing a six shooter, I prefer OWB carry in a good, stiff leather holster or IWB in a softer one. The combination of a cylinder full of protection and quality cowhide just seems like a rule that shouldn’t be broken. But I’ll confess a nice Kydex or soft, synthetic pocket holster is great for a quick trip to the corner store.

Testing the Taurus 856 UL consisted of shooting a lot of ammo of all types through it. I made it a point to stay on the trigger enough to get the gun hot and dirty. Parts expand with heat, and a good revolver is built with this in mind. The Ultra-Lite never once complained. No binding or dragging of the cylinder. The crane’s pivot joint is smooth, the cylinder spins freely and the ejector rod slides easily every time. The 856 is rated for +P .38’s and I put a fair number of those downrange as well. Because the 856 Ultra-Lite is so light, you’ll feel those +P loads a bit, but the synthetic grip Taurus provides does a great job soaking up recoil. The well-textured grip gives you a firm grasp on all four sides, and the well-cushioned backstrap (resembling an off-road truck tire) might leave some imprints in your palm, but they’ll be in one place — this gun just doesn’t move in the hand when you shoot it.

To test the Taurus 856 UL for accuracy, I chose a mix of .38 Special regular and +P defense loads and fired them from a CTK Precision rest at 10 yards. From four different loads, the 2″ snubby was on the mark with the 6-shot groups averaging 1 1/2″ and the 3-shot groups making clover leaves at 1/2″. The best performer of the day was Remington’s Gold Saber 125-gr. +P JHP — a long established “best in class” defensive round in my opinion. This Taurus puts them where you point it, and it likes +P. However, the most pleasant round to shoot was Hornady’s 90-gr. FTX, which still produces impressive ballistics and superb accuracy, with much less recoil.

The rubber grip offers both energy-absorbing cushion and excellent traction.
The exposed hammer allows you to thumb it back for more precise single-action shots with the 856.
The Taurus proved to be a shooter in Justin’s hands, delivering this tight group with some Remington Golden Saber ammo.

Where It Counts

Fit and finish of the Taurus 856 Ultra-Lite are good, and the gun has features one might not expect to find on a budget-friendly revolver. My immediate favorite was the nice wide hammer spur with excellent knurling — worthy of a target gun. Another premium touch is the full barrel lug shrouding the ejector rod. A spring-driven latch pin on the crane helps ensure an extra tight lockup, which is virtually rock solid at the full-cocked position. The aforementioned soft grip has an integral thumb rest in just the right spot — on both sides — something the lefties will appreciate. The sights are basic and cast into the frame, with a traditional trench-type rear and iron blade front. The front blade is nicely serrated, but could use a dab of color for faster acquisition. The trigger is of course double action/single action, and I measured it at 12 lbs. and 7 lbs., respectively. The trigger shoe itself is smooth-faced and well radiused; I found it very comfortable to shoot. The pull is on the heavy side, but smooth to the break. It’s possible to prep the trigger at just the break point, with some practice.

Oh, and about that capacity topic I promised to revisit … Most snubbies in this category and weight class give you five shots. The 856 gives you six, and at a cost of only 0.100″ more bulk versus a S&W Air Weight. Six- or seven-shot semi-auto pocket 9’s are all the rage these days. Carrying a reload strip (or two) is flatter in the pocket than any spare magazine. Combining similar capacity with a simpler platform that won’t jeopardize the next car payment makes the 856 Ultra-Lite shine — no matter what color you get! 

For more info: www.taurus-usa.com, Ph: (800) 327-3776

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