ONE UP RE­VOLVER

THE NEW TAU­RUS UL 856 MARKS THE RE­TURN OF THE COM­PANY’S SIX-SHOT RE­VOLVER, NOW WITH A LIGHT­WEIGHT FRAME

Concealed Carry Hand Guns - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - STORY AND PHO­TOS BY BOB CAMP­BELL

The new Tau­rus UL 856 marks the re­turn of the com­pany’s six-shot re­volver, now with a light­weight frame.

By Bob Camp­bell

While some hand­guns are trendy or per­haps even flashy, the snub-nose .38 Spe­cial re­volver has been pro­vid­ing good pro­tec­tion for more than 70 years.

De­spite its age, new mod­els of this old re­li­able weapon are con­tin­u­ally be­ing in­tro­duced. One of these is the new Tau­rus Ul­tra­light 856 (UL 856), a light­weight ver­sion of the com­pany’s old 856 steel wheel­gun. And un­like many hand­guns this size, this one has a six-shot cylin­der.

HANDY SNUBBIES

While I have car­ried a steel-frame .45 for many years, I have also re­lied on the snub .38 five-shooter of J-frame size as a backup and oc­ca­sion­ally as a pri­mary arm.

When mak­ing a run to the gro­cery store at the last minute or work­ing in the yard, a light, handy re­volver seems a good fit. I do not rely upon any cal­iber be­low .38 Spe­cial, and the car­tridge has a de­cent track record with high per­for­mance am­mu­ni­tion.

While those ex­pe­ri­enced in per­sonal de­fense re­al­ize that the first two or three shots count for the most in in­ter­per­sonal com­bat, we re­al­ize as well that five shots is cut­ting it short in a de­fen­sive en­counter, par­tic­u­larly if con­fronted with mul­ti­ple as­sailants. The six-shot Colt De­tec­tive Spe­cial of­fered an ad­di­tional round of ca­pac­ity over the five-shot Smith & Wes­son J-frame. Easy to shoot well and smooth in op­er­a­tion, the De­tec­tive Spe­cial .38 was a good belt gun, but not the pocket gun the J-frame is. The hand­ier J-frame is in pro­duc­tion, the De­tec­tive Spe­cial isn’t, although the light­weight Colt Co­bra is.

Some years ago, Tau­rus Firearms in­tro­duced its ver­sion of the J-frame re­volver, the Tau­rus 85. The Model 85 was and still is a good value for its mod­est price. The Tau­rus 85 is still a five-shooter, how­ever.

THE UL 856

Tau­rus also had de­vel­oped the 856, a steel six-shot re­volver now dis­con­tin­ued. The new UL 856 main­tains the six-shot ca­pac­ity while build­ing the gun on a light­weight alu­minum frame. The new cylin­der is slightly larger than the Model 85, but only slightly so. The cylin­der mea­sures 1.4 across ver­sus 1.34 for my Smith & Wes­son five-shot Body­guard.

The ap­pear­ance of the Model 856 se­ries hand­gun is so sim­i­lar to the Model 85, most re­al­ize the hand­gun is a six-shooter only af­ter close ex­am­i­na­tion. While the cylin­der is larger, the frame it­self isn’t. The UL 856 tilts the scales at a listed 15.7 ounces. The frame is laser en­graved “Ul­tra-Lite.” My test gun came with a dark matte fin­ish, but the re­volver is avail­able with a matte stain­less-steel fin­ish as well. The ejec­tor rod is shrouded, a good fea­ture that pro­tects the rel­a­tively thin ejec­tor rod and the bar­rel is a heavy type.

The front sight is a sim­ple ser­rated ramp type and the rear sight is a groove in the top of the re­ceiver.

The ham­mer is ex­posed and nicely ser­rated for easy cock­ing. The trig­ger face is wide.

The grips are among the best fea­tures of the hand­gun. The syn­thetic grips are well de­signed for re­coil con­trol. The de­sign keeps the hand out of con­tact with the metal frame of the re­volver. They are nicely tex­tured for ad­he­sion and abra­sion and the rear of the grip gives a lit­tle dur­ing fir­ing. There is a slight shelf on each side of the grips to guide or rest the fore­fin­ger. The grips will not need re­place­ment with af­ter­mar­ket types.

The grips dif­fer from my J-frame re­volvers, although they’re sim­i­lar in size to those on my J-frame 649 and per­haps larger than the cus­tom grips on the SW 442. They are small grips for con­cealed carry and some with large hands may find the small fin­ger doesn’t have a place to go. That’s OK be­cause the grips are in­tended for re­coil con­trol and they did that job well.

As for fit and func­tion, the ac­tion, the

“THE SYN­THETIC GRIPS ARE WELL DE­SIGNED FOR RE­COIL CON­TROL. THE DE­SIGN KEEPS THE HAND OUT OF CON­TACT WITH THE METAL FRAME OF THE RE­VOLVER.”

trig­ger, the hand and the bolt stop seem well aligned. When the ham­mer is down af­ter fir­ing, the cylin­der ex­hibits a tight lockup. The Tau­rus key lock se­cu­rity sys­tem is not used with this re­volver. It would be poor tac­tics to rely on un­lock­ing the gun if you needed it and I do not miss this fea­ture.

CAR­RY­ING, DRAW­ING

I placed the Tau­rus in a Black­hawk! pocket hol­ster and found that it was a tight fit. Here is the deal on the pocket hol­ster and most IWB hol­sters for the 856: For most uses, a Colt De­tec­tive Spe­cial hol­ster will work. A hol­ster in­tended for the J-frame, if not tightly boned, will work too. But once the slightly larger 856 cylin­der has bro­ken in the hol­ster, it may be loose if you want to use it later with a five-shot J-frame. I am cer­tain many mak­ers will be up to speed soon with the 856.

I elected to dry fire the piece and prac­tice the draw be­fore head­ing to the fir­ing range. When draw­ing from a pocket hol­ster, you must be cer­tain to blade the hand in­side. If you move the hand in and get a grip while the re­volver is in the pocket the draw will be dif­fi­cult. You may also run the thumb over the ex­posed ham­mer to be cer­tain the draw is snag free. I found the re­volver as fast on the draw as any.

The trig­ger press is the typ­i­cal long dou­ble-ac­tion trig­ger press at per­haps 14 pounds. It wasn’t very smooth, but with 100 dry cy­cles and some lu­bri­ca­tion it smoothed some. This isn’t as smooth an ac­tion as a $600 re­volver, no use to kid your­self, but it is smooth enough to do good work to 7 yards and a bit beyond for those that prac­tice.

RANGE TIME

I took the Tau­rus to the range with sev­eral types of am­mu­ni­tion and speed­load­ers. I had on hand the

Black Hills Am­mu­ni­tion 158-grain cow­boy load, the Black Hills Am­mu­ni­tion 100-grain Honey Badger, the Winch­ester 125 grain Sil­ver­tip +P, and a hand­load con­sist­ing of the Hor­nady XTP and enough Tite­group pow­der for 895 feet per se­cond. The grips fit the hand well and helped in dou­ble-ac­tion fire, pre­dictably, it took a few cylin­ders of am­mu­ni­tion to get the feel and hang of the re­volver at 7 yards. The front sight that had been vis­i­ble in my study dur­ing dry fire tended to dis­ap­pear against a black tar­get. It needs a dab of red paint.

Fir­ing the low re­coil, 750-fps cow­boy load, the re­volver was pleas­ant enough. The bul­lets landed an inch and a half above the point of aim, a good set­ting for a com­bat gun. Af­ter fir­ing 50 rounds, I found the piece per­formed well enough for close range per­sonal de­fense.

The Honey Badger load gen­er­ated more re­coil with its 100-grain bul­let at 956 fps, but it wasn’t un­com­fort­able. I fired a tight group of 2 inches at 10

“THE BLACK HILLS AM­MU­NI­TION 100-GRAIN HONEY BADGER CUTS FLESH AND PENETRATES TO AN OP­TI­MUM DEPTH, PRO­VID­ING GOOD WOUND BAL­LIS­TICS.”

yards us­ing the sin­gle ac­tion trig­ger. Next, 20 rounds of the Sil­ver­tip 125-grain bul­lets at 960 fps gen­er­ated stout re­coil in the small re­volver. It is con­trol­lable and cer­tainly any­thing worth shoot­ing is worth hit­ting hard. The Hor­nady XTP hand­load gen­er­ated enough ac­cu­racy to make a good train­ing load. The re­volver han­dled this mix of am­mu­ni­tion well. Car­tridge extraction was never sticky and the piece in­dexed prop­erly with ev­ery trig­ger press.

GOOD VALUE

The re­volver isn’t the smoothest I have tested, but then its sug­gested re­tail price is just more than $300. I pur­chased mine at re­tail in a lo­cal shop for less than that. The com­bi­na­tion of a 20 per­cent in­crease in am­mu­ni­tion ca­pac­ity over the stan­dard J-frame re­volver is ap­peal­ing, yet the piece comes with very lit­tle in the way of ex­tra bulk. The sights are good ex­am­ples of re­volver sights once the front sight is painted to im­prove vis­i­bil­ity. The grips are an aid in con­trol­ling re­coil com­pared to other small re­volvers. The Tau­rus UL 856 makes the grade for per­sonal de­fense. CC

“THE TAU­RUS UL 856 MAKES THE GRADE FOR PER­SONAL DE­FENSE.”

The six-shot Tau­rus UL 856 (up­per left) com­pares fa­vor­ably in size to a five-shot S&W 442 and S&W Shield.

A high grade is given to these re­coil ab­sorb­ing grips.The hand doesn’t meet the steel frame on fir­ing.

Our Tau­rus .38 Spe­cial showed wear on the fin­ish af­ter a cou­ple of weeks of use. Note wide trig­ger. We liked the con­trol the trig­ger gave dur­ing fir­ing.

Black­hawk!’s pocket hol­ster is well made of good ma­te­rial. A lit­tle break in was needed with the 856’s wider cylin­der.

This is a load of Winch­ester Sil­ver­tips in the new Ly­man Speed­loader. The ex­tra round could be a life saver.

Note the 856 UL’s fairly heavy bar­rel.

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