Taurus 85 Total Titanium: A Quality Revolver

Taurus is a name that evokes varied reactions in the firearms industry. One might even go as far as to describe them as being controversial. Why is this? Some say that their products are sub-par. Certainly, their products are less expensive than those of many other manufacturers, which appeals to those on a tight budget. I have friends who will not even consider having a Taurus firearm in their stable because of the perceived reputation.

But is that reputation even justified? Or are some folks merely being firearms snobs?

To sum it up as succinctly as I can, my experience with Taurus has been positive. My friends and I have owned a couple of Taurus revolvers. We’ve never had any issues with any of these handguns. Mind you, I didn’t shoot a hundred rounds per week through them; most were carry guns, which were shot occasionally and carried a lot more. But for the purposes that they served, they were completely adequate. I also owned a Taurus PT92AF pistol in 9mm that functioned perfectly.

Sure, any firearm can fail. I’ve had some failures from the most reputable makers on the planet, so it happens now and then. Most of the times I’ve heard of a Taurus having issues were from tertiary sources: “One of my buddies knows this guy who had one, and he said it was awful,” that type of thing.

Recent History

Since 1982, Taurus Holdings in Bainbridge, Georgia, has been manufacturing a wide range of firearms, including single-action revolvers, double-action revolvers, semi-auto pistols, and long guns. Over three hundred skilled workers and staff are employed at Taurus Holdings. Taurus Holdings manufactures some firearms and imports others from Taurus Armas, which is located in Brazil.

One notable aspect of Taurus is that they were the first to offer a Lifetime Repair Policy, which helped them gain popularity. Taurus, based in Brazil, actually began making guns back in 1941.

The Model 85

First introduced in 1985, Taurus’s Model 85 has been a mainstay in its self-defense revolver line. It’s the same size as (and strongly resembles) Smith & Wesson’s wildly popular J-frame revolver. Over the years, the Model 85 has been available in several frame materials, including steel, polymer, and titanium.

Taurus 85 in a book vault.
Seen here in a gun vault disguised as a book, the Taurus Model 85 Titanium makes for a compact, concealable package. Photo: Jim Davis.

Despite what some modern Pistoleros believe, the revolver is far from dead these days. It offers a reliable, compact package that still packs a wallop. Revolvers are still more widely used than many people realize.

The Model 85 we’ll be looking at today is the Taurus 85 Total Titanium, which was produced from 1999 until 2006. If you’re after one specifically, you’ll have to scour the secondary market. They do pop up frequently, so a little effort on your part can certainly yield results.

Tech Specs

We’ll briefly review the technical specifications to familiarize ourselves with the revolver. At 15.4 ounces, it’s a lightweight handgun.

The caliber is .38 Special, which is the most popular round for small revolvers these days. This revolver is rated for +P rounds, which are higher-pressure rounds than standard fare.

The overall length is 6.5 inches, with a barrel length of two inches. The outer portion of the barrel is titanium, but there is an inner sleeve of steel since titanium cannot function as a barrel material to shoot projectiles through.

The width is 1.346 inches, so it’s wider than most auto pistols. Height is 4.28 inches.

Capacity is five rounds, which is the same as most similarly sized revolvers these days. The front and rear sights are fixed.

Let’s go into some specifics now.

Finish

The finish on the titanium metal is listed as being blued. The finish on this Taurus 85 Total Titanium doesn’t look like a standard blued finish that we’d find on a steel revolver, though. Rather, it has a sort of iridescent quality, especially when seen in the sunlight. It appears to change color, with blue and purple being prevalent in the color. Without a doubt, it gives the revolver a unique look that sets it apart from others.

Taurus 85 blued titanium.
The blued finish over the titanium gives it a unique look, featuring different hues of blue and purple. The color changes with different angles, giving it an iridescent quality. Photo: Jim Davis.

Grip

The grip that Taurus uses is rubber and does a good job soaking up the recoil, which is not insignificant in this very light revolver. The surface of the grip has little, round bumps molded onto it, and these help to give purchase in the hand. Overall, the grip is superb in that it’s comfortable and effective. There is a small medallion molded into each grip with the Taurus logo that has an attractive look.

The Taurus in hand.
The Model 85’s grip is extremely comfortable and executed with a grippy, rubber feel. They go far in dampening the recoil of this very light revolver. Note the cylinder release is within easy reach of the thumb and the exposed hammer. Photo: Jim Davis.

Single Action/Double Action

This Model 85 has an exposed hammer. In addition to a double-action trigger, the hammer can be cocked and fired in single-action. This is a nice option, although for self-defense, double action fire is the most useful. When the adrenaline is flowing, that single action trigger pull is too light and could result in an unintentional discharge.

The double-action trigger pull was heavy but sufficiently smooth. In single-action, it was very light and crisp. When I think about it, the trigger pull on an economy-type pistol such as this is better than expected.

Exposed Hammer

The exposed hammer is nice in that it offers the option of single-action fire. However, I much prefer an internal or at least bobbed hammer. An exposed hammer can snag as the pistol is being drawn, especially if the revolver is being carried in a pocket. It would be a fast, easy job for a gunsmith to bob the hammer should the user desire such a modification.

Cylinder Release

The Taurus’s cylinder release is located exactly where Smith & Wesson places theirs, within easy reach of the thumb. It works precisely as it should. Ejection of spent cases also went smoothly, with no issues to report.

.38 Special

A quick word about the .38 Special. As mentioned, it’s the caliber of choice for most revolvers these days. It offers sufficient potency to repel attackers and yet is manageable in the recoil department. One round that I recently reviewed that would shine in the Taurus 85 Total Titanium is the Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special 110 Grain defensive ammo. Because it’s lighter than some other .38 rounds, there is less recoil. As well, it is not a +P round, which helps it to be a little tamer than others.

Hornady Critical Defense ammo.
Hornady’s 110 Grain Critical Defense rounds use a polymer tip that expands effectively. Seen here is an expanded round – this stuff really works! Photo: Jim Davis.

This round utilizes the Polymer Flex Tip rather than a simple hollow point. When the round hits, the polymer tip drives back into the projectile, which initiates expansion. It won’t plug up with clothing or building materials like some hollow points will, so expansion is extremely reliable.

Beyond that, there is a plethora of good defensive ammo for the .38, some of it even geared specifically toward short-barreled revolvers.

At The Range

To be blunt, the session with the Taurus 85 Total Titanium revolver was boring. In a good way.

It functioned exactly as it was supposed to. Recoil was definitely present, as one would expect with a revolver that weighs less than 16 ounces. It was not, however, prohibitive. In a defensive situation, it’s unlikely that the user would notice the recoil very much at all.

The Taurus at the range.
The little wheel gun functioned well at the range, as expected. The recoil was stout but manageable. Photo: Author’s collection.

The ejection of spent cases went well and smoothly. Accuracy was more than sufficient; we didn’t test it to see how tight we could get the groups. Rather, firing was rapid fire and at close range (within ten yards), so we were able to keep all rounds on a silhouette target easily.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative for a defensive revolver, the Taurus Model 85 in titanium should meet your needs without breaking the bank. It functions well and should do anything you’d reasonably expect a .38 caliber revolver to do.

A couple of speed strips or speed loaders with spare rounds in your pocket should see you through most encounters; in fact, those spare rounds would likely not be needed, but they’re sure nice to have.

This revolver’s finish presents a unique appearance that some people may really enjoy; the photos here really cannot do it justice.

Overall, it gets passing marks from us. And if you can’t find one of these particular models because they’re out of production, Taurus still makes the Model 85, so you can certainly land one of the current models at a very reasonable price.

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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