Taurus 856 Executive Grade First Impressions

Taurus 856 Executive Grade
Taurus 856 Executive Grade

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- When Taurus announced the 856 Executive Grade earlier this year, there were two reactions. One side was dismissive of another Taurus dud. The other side was full of excitement that the Executive Grade was hailing a new era for Taurus, bringing in a fantastic revolver at affordable prices. While I was skeptical, I was also hopeful, and eager to get my hands on one to see if the hype was more than just marketing. Luckily, I got some to help put one through its paces along with the staff from Primary & Secondary. How did the Taurus 856 Executive Grade hold up?

Ergonomics of the Taurus 856 Executive Grade

The Taurus 856 Executive Grade sits somewhere between a K-Frame and J-Frame in terms of size. It’s a steel frame, six-shot revolver, topped off with a three-inch barrel. Considered a small frame gun by Taurus, it comes in at 25 ounces unloaded, putting it just slightly heavier than my S&W 640 Pro and deceptively light for what you get. Part of the weight savings is thanks to the chambering, being a .38 Special +P gun, avoiding the need for a heavier magnum cylinder. Some may complain about the lack of firepower, but I’d say this is ideal, striking a balance between ballistics and shootability when looking for protection against two-legged predators. The gun is truly double action only (DAO), with a bobbed hammer and no single action notch, reinforcing its focus as a defensive firearm.

The Taurus 856 Executive Grade comes from the factory with a satin finish and beautiful presentation wood grips. Our example had the wooden grips removed and replaced with some Taurus branded G10 grips from VZ Grips. These are offered in a variety of colors and textures direct through Taurus. While it would’ve been nice to have some time on the factory offerings, G10 grips provided a solid purchase under recoil and likely would be my choice for any serious use. The backstrap is completely covered, allowing for a high purchase with these, though some more material may have helped improve trigger reach for larger-handed shooters.

Controls

Controls are pretty simple on the Taurus 856 Executive Grade. The cylinder release latch presses forward, much like a Smith & Wesson revolver, with nothing of note there. The ejector rod is full-length thanks to the longer three-inch barrel of the gun, with slight checkering at the end.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade
The hammer is bobbed, allowing you to thumb it upon holstering for piece of mind

The trigger is a long DAO pull, but with no stages, making for one consistent press to the rear. Despite the lack of stages, some shooters were able to easily stage the trigger for one last sight verification if that’s your preferred method of shooting. A few of us felt that the trigger pressed further back than on examples from Ruger or S&W, though this could be more related to grip or trigger shoe shape than actual travel. Reset is distinct and occurs at the full length of travel, with zero inkling of a false reset. Overall, the trigger is solid, certainly better than a Ruger SP101, and competitive with other popular options.

Sights

Sights are simple on the Taurus 856 Executive Grade. The rear sight is a fixed notch, much like what you’d find on an old Model 10. Unlike the vast majority of fixed sight guns, the 856 Executive is regulated for 130-grain FMJ bullets, which are about the most common load on the market. This should improve the likelihood of finding a load that shoots to your sights. The front sight is a simple black blade and is held in by a roll pin, allowing you to easily swap heights if desired. The only changes I would make would be painting the front sight in the Claude Werner method and darkening the rear notch.

Range Time with the Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Initially, I was disappointing in the Taurus 856 Executive Grade. All of the hype online had me expecting something that felt similar to an old S&W K-Frame or a new Kimber K6S in terms of the trigger, recoil absorption, and more. However, that mindset quickly changed. The first thing that started to reframe my mindset was handling the Taurus 327, which is a standard Taurus gun chambered in .327 Federal Magnum. The difference in the quality between these two guns is stunning, like they’re from two different companies. It’s honestly stunning to see how much better the Executive is, and what Taurus is capable of at a slightly higher price point with more quality control. That alone was impressive.

Then I also thought about the price point of this gun. Online I’m frequently seeing the 856 Executive coming in under $600. You can’t buy a decent K or L frame for that much money, and the SP101 isn’t doing that either. Of course a K6S feels nicer, they’re hundreds of dollars more expensive. In the modern revolver market, this gun is a godsend, especially if Taurus can keep this level of quality at this price point. Once I made these realizations, my appreciation for the gun began to grow.

Live Fire

Over the course of a day and a half, a group of us fired roughly 700 rounds through the Taurus 856 Executive Grade. The vast majority, if not all, of this was with PMC Bronze 130gr FMJ. While we didn’t do any sort of burndowns like with the Taurus G3 Tactical, we did get the 856 Executive too hot to touch a few times. During testing, there were no efforts to clean or lubricate the gun. Despite this, the Taurus ran flawlessly, producing zero stoppages, malfunctions, or hang-ups of any sort. Shockingly, no extra force was required to seat or eject rounds, nor open and close the cylinder.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade
Note the Executive Grade stamp on the left side of the frame

Another impressive feat was the performance of the G10 grips. I’ve never had a pair of revolver grips which didn’t need modifying to improve their function. Across 700 rounds, exactly zero spent cases hung up on the grips, regardless of how forcefully or gently the ejector rod was pressed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any speedloaders on hand to check for compatibility with the grips, so I cannot speak to that aspect.

Recoil was a bit surprising at first, but at only 25 ounces, the gun is light for a six shot steel frame gun. Once my mind was reframed, things were smooth sailing, making this a dream to shoot all day. Unfortunately we weren’t able to put any rounds on paper to verify accuracy during our range time. That being said, we easily made head shots on an IPSC torso out to 20 yards, which gives me a warm fuzzy for what the gun is capable of producing.

Initial Impressions of the Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Overall I’m really pleased with the Taurus 856 Executive Grade. This sample of one seems to be well on par with modern offerings from Smith & Wesson and Ruger. While it’s too big for ankle or pocket carry, the gun checks the boxes for a solid carry gun along the waistband. I’d love to see Taurus introduce a snub nose version with a 2-2.25″ barrel, making for a solid competitor to the S&W 640 Pro or SP101. If Taurus can keep up with this level of build quality, they’ll have a winner on their hands for sure, and a place at the table of serious shooters. This is especially important in convincing quality companies to support the gun with support gear like speed loaders and holsters, the latter of which is already shaping up. I don’t own an 856 Executive Grade, but I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one after shooting this one.

Current MSRP on the Taurus 856 Executive Grade is $689, but street prices seem to be coming in well below that.


About Dan Reedy

Dan is an Air Force veteran, avid shooter, and dog dad. With a passion for teaching, he holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has trained with Darryl Bolke, Mike Pannone, Craig Douglas, among several other instructors, amassing over 400 hours of professional instruction thus far. In his spare time you’ll find him teaching handgun, shotgun, and less lethal classes.

Dan’s work has been published by Primer Peak, and The Kommando Blog, and he has been featured as a guest on Primary & Secondary.Dan Reedy headshot

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Montana454Casull

I bought my Tauras Raging bull 454 Casull for $480 new from ODSS 4 years ago . This economy is a rip off joke and everything is way overpriced . Let’s go Brandon #FJB

Wild Bill

I am going to look at it at the Wannenmacher Gun Show in Tulsa on 11 November.

Wild Bill

Yes, the current administration wants to crush the public’s demand by so that the government can continue to buy. If the administration would stop spending or supply increase then prices generally, would come down.

Boom

This is a pretty good write up.