Taurus International: A Company of Improvement

Firearms enthusiasts are known to be quite passionate — a point that often cuts both ways. Firearms are, after all, something that people take very seriously, especially when it comes to personal and/or home defense. Safety and reliability are highly valued, and without each, the trust is gone.

It is also important to remember that gun owners are vocal about what they like and perhaps even more vocal about what they don’t like. That point is clear if you head to various online discussion boards, where Taurus International, the U.S. division of Brazilian-based Taurus Armas S.A., seems to have more than its fair share of detractors.

Taurus new facility
The 200,000-square-foot facility in Bainbridge, Georgia, has been the home of Taurus USA since 2019. (Photo: Taurus USA)

Past and even some current owners have complained of quality issues, along with poor customer support, while some gun shop owners claim Taurus was among their top returns for problems. The point was best summed up by those who suggested for a few dollars more you could get a Colt or Glock.

Taurus International has taken the criticism to heart and has been attempting to address quality control issues, improve its customer service, and strive to rival the offerings from Colt, Glock, and other established brands.

The Origins of Taurus

One factor that has likely played against Taurus is that it is generally seen as a new entry in the U.S. firearms market, and arguably for good reason. The Taurus Holdings company was only founded in 1982 in Miami, Florida. In the world of firearms that makes it a relative newcomer compared to venerable firms like Colt, Remington, and Smith & Wesson.

Many old timers likely have caches of ammunition older than the company has operated in the USA.

Of course, it should be remembered around the same time as upstart Gaston Glock first brought his polymer-framed 9mm pistol to market. By the end of the decade, the Glock 17 took the world by storm, while Taurus didn’t.

However, this is just part of the larger Taurus story, which dates back a century.

A Manufacturer is Born

Taurus Armas S.A. was founded as Forjas Taurus S.A. (Taurus Forge) in 1924 as a tool and die forging company. At least that’s the story according to the company’s Wikipedia page, while other sources suggest the company began in 1939. It remained a small machining operation located in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul in the years leading up to the Second World War.

It became a firearms maker with the introduction of the Model 38101SO, the company’s first revolver.

Taurus was able to make the transition thanks to newly available material and machining technologies, as well as the availability of a skilled labor force. Though not stated on either the official website or Wikipedia is the fact that World War II certainly offered a unique opportunity for the company. European manufacturers weren’t exporting their firearms to South America, nor were any companies in the United States.

That opened the door for a local business.

The Model 38101SO, a .38 caliber revolver, may not have been seen as anything special — but it was being offered domestically in Brazil when other options simply weren’t available. That could have been the end of the story, but in the 1960s, Taurus began to export its revolvers to the U.S. market.

A Bit of Luck

In 1970, Bangor Punta Corporation — the parent company of Smith & Wesson — purchased a controlling interest in Taurus. That partnership made a lot of sense for both parties. Many of the Taurus revolvers were already similar in design to those from Smith & Wesson, and it allowed the established firm to suddenly increase the number of products it could offer.

However, the union was short-lived.

In 1977, Forjas Taurus came under new ownership and severed the relationship with Smith & Wesson. Yet, during those seven years, a great deal of technology and methodology was passed between the two companies. Taurus released a line of basic .38 caliber service revolvers, including the Model 82, and it is hard not to see the S&W DNA.

Taurus 82
The Taurus Model 82 was noted for being similar in configuration to the Smith & Wesson Model 10. The Model 82 was introduced in 1982 and became the standard sidearm of police forces in Brazil. (Photo: Creative Commons)

It was also during that time another major event occurred.

In 1974, the Italian-based Beretta won a contract to produce small arms for the Brazilian Army. A sticking point of the contract was that it required Beretta to build a Brazilian factory and use Brazilian labor. When the contract ran out just six years later in 1980, Beretta sold the plant to Forjas Taurus, which also acquired significant drawings, tooling, and machinery and even retained the very experienced workforce.

Practically overnight Taurus Armas went from being in the revolver business to being a major player in the pistol business as well. It immediately sought to improve on the Beretta design, resulting in the popular and acclaimed Taurus PT-92 and PT-99 9mm pistols.

Taurus PT-92
The current version of the Taurus PT-92 features a three-position, frame-mounted ambidextrous safety that is more secure than a slide-mounted safety—allowing for a classic “cocked and locked” mode as well as a functioning DA decocking lever. (Photo: Taurus USA)

Coming to America

The big milestone for Taurus Armas was in 1982 when it formed the aforementioned Taurus Holdings, Inc. and opened a shop in Miami. That, in turn, became Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc.

While the brand remained largely unknown in the United States, that changed over time — both for good and bad.

The company is quick to note that its products have earned coveted industry recognition with numerous accolades and offered an unqualified lifetime repair policy beginning in 1984. Yet, in 2015, Taurus USA settled a lawsuit for $39 million and recalled nearly one million handguns produced between 1997 and 2013 due to “safety defects.” That lawsuit alleged nine handgun models had serious safety issues, including one that caused some to inadvertently fire when dropped.

Addressing the Criticism

Taurus has sought in recent years to address its past problems and rebuild consumer confidence. That included a renewed focus on continuing to bring its offerings to market at competitive prices.

Taurus ribbon cutting ceremony
On December 5, 2019, Taurus USA held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony in Bainbridge, Georgia. In attendance was Governor Brian Kemp (center in the blue suit). (Photo: Taurus USA)

In 2018, Taurus announced that it would relocate its U.S. manufacturing and business operations from Miami, Florida, where it had been located since 1982, to a new 200,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in Bainbridge, Georgia. This move, completed in 2019, provided the company with much-needed engineering and production expansion.

Expanding, Growing, and Improving

It has greatly expanded its product offerings, which now include revolvers, pistols, and rifles. Even as some former owners and retailers have remained cautious, the industry has taken notice of the new Taurus.

Taurus Expedition
The Taurus Expedition became the first bolt action rifle from Taurus USA. (Photo: Taurus USA)

Its Raging Hunter won the American Hunter’s 2019 Gold Bullseye Award, while that same year, the Taurus TX22 .22LR was named Guns & Ammo’s 2019 Handgun of the Year. Most recently, the Taurus GX4 won two Caliber Awards for Excellence at the 2021 National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) Expo & Annual Meeting in Columbus, Ohio – the Best New Handgun award and the Best New Overall Product for 2021.

Back on the forums, there have been comments that as long as the company listens to the gun-owning community and continues to produce desirable and competitively priced firearms, its fortunes will only rise.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based freelance writer who regularly covers firearms related topics and military history. As a reporter, his work has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and websites. Among those are The National Interest, Forbes, and many others. He has collected military small arms and military helmets most of his life, and just recently navigated his first NFA transfer to buy his first machine gun. He is co-author of the book A Gallery of Military Headdress, which was published in February 2019. It is his third book on the topic of military hats and helmets.

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