Taurus 85 Revolver , A Lightweight .38 ~ Firearm & Ammo Review

By Bob Shell
Taurus 85 Revolver , a lightweight .38 ~ Firearm & Ammunition product review

Taurus 85 Revolver
Taurus 85 Revolver
Bob Shell
Bob Shell

Apache Junction, AZ -(AmmoLand.com)- In spite of all of the semi-auto guns available revolvers are still popular with many people. They are still carried with good reason.

First, they are dependable and as a rule are easier to shoot than small semi automatic pistols. The Taurus 85 Revolver used in the test felt comfortable in the hand and the trigger is decent, even the double action. Some of the small semi autos have triggers that are very difficult to use.

You would think that they could design a better trigger but apparently, that isn’t the case. People with small or weak hands would not be able to use some of them.

When you have to focus on pulling the trigger instead of the situation at hand, then you have a serious gun problem. A self-defense gun should be able to get into action immediately without worrying about side issues. My pocket gun is always a revolver for those reasons. For side carry, a 1911 .45 is my choice. That’s why they make so many different guns, so everyone can buy one that suits their needs. Some may point out that you have only five shots, which is true and valid limitation.

However, in the Taurus 85 Revolver, they are .38 special rounds (+P Rated), which are more effective then many of the small rounds used in the semi auto pistols.

With the modern ammo available, you have five rounds of good stopper loads. In addition, it is uncommon in self-defense shootings that you would need more then 5 shots, especially if you have some training. Would I carry the Taurus 85 Revolver? That will be determined during testing. Taurus makes an extensive [some say crazy number of models] line up of guns and for more info you can go to www.taurususa.com

A novel .38 bullet 75 grs, nice for light target work
A novel .38 bullet 75 grs, nice for light target work

Shooting the gun with lightweight bullets proves to be pleasant. Even with the Liberty Ammo, recoil wasn’t an issue. In fact, if I carried it with the 50 grain, Liberty would be a top choice. Even with the short barrel, velocities over 1400 fps were achieved. The 90 grain Hornady is another possibility for carry. The single action pull on the Taurus 85 Revolver is nice and even shooting double action, the pull is very reasonable, something that can’t always be said about some DA guns.

Some revolvers are ridiculous to the point where they are useless as self-defense guns. If you can’t get the gun in action immediately then it is better as a paperweight.

I don’t see any need to use heavyweight bullets in the Taurus 85 Revolver, because in order to obtain enough velocity to be effective, recoil starts to become unpleasant. With such a gun, practice is important and a cast bullet weighing around 125 grains would be ideal.

Liberty makes some really fine defensive ammo in most common handgun calibers
Liberty makes some really fine defensive ammo in most common handgun calibers

There are various cast bullets available including some 9 mm weighing 115 to 125. If you mold your own then you can size them to .357 or .358. Even a .356 should work okay for practice. Liberty Ammo makes some really novel rounds as they use very lightweight bullets at very high velocities. I have worked with them a lot and the velocities are as advertised and they are accurate. For info on this innovative company you can go to www.libertyammunition.com.

Hornady has been around for many years and they manufacture ammo, reloading components, and reloading equipment among other items. Sig is normally known for making fine guns but they have involved themselves in the ammo business. I have used their products in a couple of calibers and have always been satisfied. For info on their ammo line you can go to www.sigammo.com.

Sig produces quality ammo in some common calibers
Sig produces quality ammo in some common calibers. : http://goo.gl/93ncS3

The Taurus 85 Revolver grips are some kind of soft rubber and they feel comfortable and would aid in gripping. They also may absorb some recoil. The rear sight is a groove in the frame and the front sight is typical. I would add some white to enable the shooter to pick them up easier. We shot the Taurus 85 Revolver at 7 yards and group size averaged 2-3” which is fine for what this gun is designed for.

Slow single action shooting would probably produce smaller groups if that would interest you. The barrel is 2” and it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to use heavy bullet loads especially the + P types, although the Taurus 85 Revolver is rated for them. Besides excessive muzzle flash and recoil, I don’t see the gain in using such ammo. There is some good ammo out there in lightweight bullets, which would be effective and cut down the recoil to a manageable level. Shooting a gun that hurts you makes no sense because you will develop a flinch and avoid practicing with it. This is essentially a carry gun as opposed to a shooter. The action on the Taurus 85 Revolver demo we had was a little tight which would be usual in such a new gun, though it did smooth out some .

A unique feature of the Taurus 85 Revolver is the hammer spur is removable which would allow pocket carry without the fear of snagging. Just twist the hammer spur and it comes off then twist it back on for shooting.

The one feature of the Taurus 85 Revolver that stands out is the removable hammer spur.
The one feature of the Taurus 85 Revolver that stands out is the removable hammer spur.

The Taurus 85 Revolver would be good in a pocket or purse because of its light weight. Since it is a lightweight gun meant for self-defense, light bullets should be used for most testing. A couple of good examples are the Hornady Critical Defense Lite, which weigh 90 grains. Another possibility is the Liberty 50-grain loads. They produce high velocity and with the lack of weight, recoil should be manageable. For practice, a cast 125 grain bullet should be ideal as they are inexpensive and with the listed load recoil is mild. I don’t see any reason to use jacketed bullets for practice as they are more costly and less accurate.

Some suitable bullets for handloading. I would stick with the lighter ones.
Some suitable bullets for handloading. I would stick with the lighter ones.

The Taurus 85 Revolver’s Owner Manual gives the owner a lot of detail in regards to what type of ammo to shoot. They advise against handloads, which is a standard procedure for most gun manufacturers. The + P ammo is ok to use though they advise against using it a lot as it will accelerate wear.

Recoil would not be pleasant with + P loads especially with heavy bullets. In addition, there would be little to gain in the velocity department because of the short barrel. You would probably get an excessive muzzle flash with the + P fodder which could be a problem if you need a follow up shot and can’t see your target. Standard loads should be used for practice and the + P for carrying though you should shoot a few to get acquainted with their noise and recoil.

A nice combo, the .38 Taurus 85 Revolver with the Hornady lite ammo has virtually no recoil.
A nice combo, the .38 Taurus 85 Revolver with the Hornady lite ammo has virtually no recoil.

The Hornady Critical Defense Lite loads shot well in the Taurus 85 Revolver and the 90-grain Hornady had virtually no recoil. That would be an ideal load for the recoil shy person. There isn’t a lot of power but with the superior design of the bullet and good placement the results should be satisfactory. I did a second test and the results are very similar.

Again the secret to the success of this gun is to practice as much as possible.

Good shot placement makes up for other shortcomings either real or perceived.

Taurus 5 shot revolver -loaded
Taurus 5 shot revolver -loaded

LOAD                    BULLER             VELOCITY       COMMENT

Liberty                   50 grain                 1429               consistent
Liberty                   50 grain                 1469.6            impressive
Hornady Lite         90 grain                  996.9             nice
Hornady Lite         90 grain                  962                fair
4.5 grains 231      125 grain cast         841                nice
Sig                        125 gr FMJ FP       769.7             mild
Sig                        125 gr HP               777.9             consistent
3.2 grains 231      148 gr WC               618                accurate

A look at the Hornady Critical Defense Lite load.
A look at the Hornady Critical Defense Lite load : http://goo.gl/JnkQRz

This Taurus 85 Revolver is meant for close range self-defense, so reliability is an important trait. Of course it has to be 100% reliable or it is just a paperweight. Under certain circumstances where lightweight was important I would carry it. For someone looking for such a gun I would recommend taking a serious look at this piece.

  • Model: 85B2ULFS
    • Finish: Blue
    • Status: Available
  • Caliber: .38 SPL +P RATED
    • Grips: Rubber
    • UPC: 7-25327-61126-4
  • Capacity: 5
    • Weight: 17 oz
    • Rate of Twist: 1:16.5″
  • Barrel Length: 2″
    • Height: 4.28″
    • Frame: Small
  • Width: 1.346″
    • Action: DA/SA
    • Front Sight: Fixed
  • Length: 6.5″
    • Grooves: 6
    • Safety: Taurus Security System,Transfer Bar
  • Trigger Type: Smooth
    • Order #: 2-850021ULFS
    • MSRP: $371.21
A view of some of the .38 bullets that can be used.
A view of some of the .38 bullets that can be used.

About Bob Shell:

A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. For more information, visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com.

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Mike Jaye

The Ultralight gun is exactly this; Light, Fast on the trigger pull & easy to carry in my pocket.Also has good stopping power. A great bang for the buck, Thanks…

John Weber

About the only complaint I have is the dull matte finish. Shooting wise; ergonomics, reliability I rate it tops. Its NOT a good gun for the money, its a great gun period.

Mr Wolf

My mother is getting on up in years. SHE is still in good shape but time will eventually take its toll on us all. MY brother went to work out of town in area that has a particularly high crime rate. NOT to mention the status of race relations w our current elections under way. Any way my brother has never been a gun guy like me. My mother gave him her Gen 3 Glock 19 and I went w her to the gun store to pick out a new carry gun for her. We eventually landed on the Taurus… Read more »

jeff pierce

ive owned several.38 snubs in my 45 years of shooting.ive shot colt cobra, charter arms and presently own a charter arms undercover with shrouded hammervin .38. A tauris model 85 poly in .38, a tauris model 687 in .357mag.a tauris model pt22 auto and a bersa thunder .380 auto. ive always had the option of carry any type i want.I choose to arm myself with a revolver primarily because of reliability.With good factoryammo or my own reloads ive never had a failure to function.a 125 grain hollow point at +p loads have a time proven record of almost 80% 1… Read more »

Mark Price

” Taurus has iron clad warranty”–really? With Taurus the owner pays for shipping so add $50 onto the price of any of their guns. My experience with Taurus warranty is they put obstacles in your way and hope you just go away. I did and will never buy one,least not a new one. Many gun makers like Smith & Wesson pay for shipping which is how it should be.

Allen Brunson

You speak untruth. I’ve sent my Taurus revolver in twice in twenty years. Both times the work needed was completed and it was returned to me within 10 days. Both times they paid shipping both ways and both times all work done was FREE of any charge.

mark price

Allen Brunson,i can’t speak for what happened to you,so you should not call someone a liar if you don’t know what happened to me. I just went to their website and looked at their policy and it is exactly what they told me when I wanted to return my gun for repairs. You can go check for your self. It states”all firearms must be shipped prepaid to our factory and must be accompanied by a work order? What part of the word prepaid do you not get? I tried to take it to a registered dealer and his charge to… Read more »


I had a Taurus 85 revolver until about 15 years ago and lent it to an ex girlfriend for protection. It was a really nice handgun and I wish I still had it. We broke up and I forgot all about it until a few years later. I bought a S&W 19-7 .357 mag to replace it. I like to have at least one revolver in my collection because revolvers are what I grew up with and it was the first handgun I got in 1973.

Bobby Joe

As an owner of a Taurus 85 Ultra-Lite, I found the additional information about the ammunition extremely helpful. It hurts to shoot this gun. My EDC is a S&W 686 Plus, and my carry ammo is Buffalo Bore 125 grainJ HP, so ordinary recoil is not a problem for me. But this tiny handle digs into my hand even with LAX bulk .38 Special. I happen to have some of the Hornady Critical Defense Lite ammo that was reviewed and recommended, on order! It is good to hear a positive experience by someone else.Lucky Gunner reported that the regular Hornady… Read more »

Dennis Peppers

I have a Taurus Ultra Lite 38 special that holds seven rounds. What is the model number for this revolver (no model number on gun) and is it +p rated?


It would have to be a Taurus 617 if it holds 7 rounds. If it’s the Ultra Lite version it’s actually Titanium. The model # for this gun is 617TBC (2-617021TBC)


I really was leaning toward an SP101…but you hardly notice it’s there. I cross draw because of shoulder issues. This thing is fast to produce and get on mass.


I have had my 85 ultra-lite for about 12 yrs, and it still the most accurate snubnose I have shot. Standard pressure 125 gr Hornady XTP’s is what I use for carry. The weight (17oz), makes it comfortable to carry on a belt, or IWB. Excellent revolver for CCW.

Bob Shell

I appreciate your comments there isn’t a lot more you can say about a revolver as they are relatively simple so as I do in many cases I include a lot of suitable ammo so the reader can be informed about what type of ammo works best in a particular gun. Most readers appreciate that added info so if they go & buy a gun they will have some info on suitable ammo

Bob G.

I guess I am a little confused. Was this a review of the Taurus 85 or various loads for snub nose 38’s? Because 3/4 of this review could have been for any 38 snub nose revolver. I am sure the author can out shoot me and has forgotten more about firearms than I will ever know. But if you are going to review a gun please review the gun and if you are going to review ammunition review that. Frankly as this goes it was a barely passable review of the firearm itself. I know little more now than I… Read more »

Dick Asshole

“I know little more now than I could have guessed before reading this.”

Then you are a F-in IDIOT and shouldn’t be allowed near a computer.

Roger Sheddy

I thought to look at the name of the author and noticed that the name of this site is Ammoland. I would guess that’s probably part of why he talks so much about cartridges…


How is a jacketed bullet somehow “less accurate?” Compared to a soft lead cast bullet, they may have very slight issues obturating and filling the groove diameter, but then they strip in the bore at higher speeds and reduce accuracy.

I’ve not experienced this, so maybe you could elaborate on this comment? Thanks, well written piece.

Bob Shell

Thanks for comment. Many times cast bullets are more accurate & less expensive then jacketed slugs. It depends on the gun and the bullet. Each gun is different so you can try both types to see what suits your needs. I use a lot of cast because they are just as accurate and less costly. Some guns however require the jacketed types for varying reasons. If you reload that gives you a large area to experiment.


In my own reloading experience, very hard cast lead works quite well for accuracy, especially as velocities increase. I used to use a late friend’s “pure linotype” cast bullets with a lot of tin and antimony in them, and they worked well even at Magnum speed without a gas-check. Not very easy to find such quality bullets nowadays, and while there is a price advantage to them, somehow I think that lead will increasingly come under (unwarranted) scrutiny as an environmental abatement issue both at private ranges and public lands.


“There isn’t a lot of power but with the superior design of the bullet and good placement the results should be satisfactory”
I don’t agree. Read that:

Mike Jaye

I love the gun. It is everything to me as said ; light fast shooting and powerful. This pocket pistol I’ll carry for life, Thanks…