Saturday, March 24, 2012

Taurus M380 Review and Range Report

Earlier this month I published my 2012 Wish List of mouse guns that were recently released or announced at the annual SHOT show.  It took about a week and I discovered one more thing to add to the Wish List that brought the total up to 5 "sure would like to get my hand on" items for 2012.  The wish list is HERE, and the add on is HERE.

The first item on the list that I managed to find in-stock and have delivered is something that's pretty special for me.  It's the Taurus M380 Revolver.  What makes it special is it's diminutive size and out of the ordinary ammo that it takes.  To my knowledge, it's the first modern revolver chambered for the .380acp cartridge.  It's also stainless, tiny, and did I mention it's chambered for .380acp?  It's also the first Taurus revolver that I've ever purchased.

Revolvers chambered for rimless semi-auto pistol cartridges aren't new.  Back in the 90's I was shopping for a revolver and had the choice between a Smith and Wesson model 60 chambered in .38 Special  or a then new S&W model called the 940 Centennial that was chambered in 9mm.  I'm not sure why I decided to go with the model 60 that day, but in hind-sight it was a bad move.  Smith and Wesson discontinued the 940 quickly and they command collector prices today.  While treasured, the model 60 may have appreciated slightly because it is a pre-lock model but there really isn't much to make it special or collectable.  Later, I did purchase a Smith and Wesson 625 that is chambered for .45acp.  The 625 is a popular revolver and is still produced today.  Taurus also makes revolvers in 9mm and .40 S&W.  At one time Ruger had a 9mm version of their SP101 and the current rumor mill says that Charter Arms will eventually be releasing their own revolvers for rimless cartridges.

One odd thing about revolvers accepting rimless cartridges like the .380, 9mm, and 45 is that they require the use of full moon or half moon clips for speedy unloading.  It is possible to use these revolvers without the moon clips, but extracting the spent brass will involve poking each spent case out of it's cylinder with a dowel or pencil.  Without a rim, the star extractor of revolvers have nothing to grip and pull the spent brass from the cylinder.  Personally, I don't mind using moon clips and find them to be a very fast way to reload a revolver.  Once you get used to the moon, or Stellar clips you will probably decide they are no more of a hassle than extra magazines for your semi auto pistol.

The 2012 Taurus catalog gives some details on the revolver.  I'll fill in the gaps with my own observations.  I'll start with weight.  Taurus lists the M380 as weighing 15.5 oz.  This is totally untrue as my scale told me it's really 15.2 oz in Stainless.  I love when guns come in under published weights, don't you?

Taurus lists the M380 as a Mini revolver with a 1.75" barrel and a total length of 5.95".  Based on these two photos, I would have to agree with them.  I have found the LCR to be the easiest revolver to carry up until today.  After looking at the pictures you can probably see why.

Maybe you noticed the grip change.  While the stock grip is probably quite nice, I think it defeats the purpose of this mini hide out.  Out with the rubber grip and in with a set of boot grips from Kelley Arms.   I had never ordered from Kelley Arms before, but am totally pleased with the grips, customer service taking my order of the phone, and speed of delivery.  Let's see what the grip replacement did to the weight of the revolver.

13.8 oz. for an all steel gun?  Are you kidding me?  Nope.  The scale doesn't lie.  Those stock grips are some serious heavy weights.  They also pad the back strap and increase the total length of the revolver.  By my measurements, it's now just a hair over 5 3/4".  Not a huge difference, but every little bit helps with pocket guns.

Let's add a quality pocket and IWB Remora holster, Stellar Clip, and 5 rounds of Black Hills 100 grain FMJ and see what we end up with.

And with a spare reload

That's not too bad at all.  20.5 oz for the revolver, holster, and 10 rounds of ammo.  The M380 should carry like a dream for you.  With the grips changed, my total weight drops to 18.9 oz.

I made a video of the unboxing and just some general thoughts about the pistol after having the chance to handle it a bit.  It ended up being longer than I thought it would be, but I wasted quite a bit of time on explaining how moon clips work.  I will say that both the Taurus Stellar Clips and the stainless replacements from TK Custom, both work great in the gun.  The TK Custom clip stripper was also really handy at the range.

I was really excited about taking the M380 out to the range and give it a good work out.  I did have two big concerns in the back of my mind about this mini revolver.  My first concern was the heavy trigger that was too heavy to measure with my 12 lb. maximum Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gage.  I'm not a great revolver shooter, actually I'm a pretty poor revolver shooter.  I much prefer the triggers on striker fired guns or single action 1911's.  Because of that, it's rare that I practice with revolvers very often.  My concern was if I would be able to hit the broad side of a barn with this mini M380.

My second concern was the velocity I would see from the micro 1.75 inch barrel.  Along with the short barrel, there is also the gap between the cylinder and forcing cone.  While I was in full paranoia mode, I read something on the internet that said you could expect 50 to 100 fps velocity loss due to the gasses escaping out of the cylinder gap.  Heading out to the range today, I really didn't know what to expect so I took along my chronograph so I could do some velocity testing.  Last week, I tested 4 different .380 loads shot into denim and gel.  Part of that testing included catching bullet impact velocities.  The Federal Hydra-Shok was running about 895 fps from a 2.5" barrel.  I shot 5 rounds from the same box today and the Taurus M380 averaged 885 fps.  I'm not going to get bent out of shape over 10 fps.  I'd call that velocity similar to a 2.5" auto loader.  My concern was unfounded.

The concern about being able to shoot the revolver accurately was really bugging me.  After I shot the unboxing video, I tried to smooth out the trigger by repeated dry firing with snap caps.  The most consecutive trigger pulls I could manage was 40.  The trigger is really that heavy.  I can't even estimate the weight, but I will say it's the heaviest I've ever owned.

The weather was great today so I spent the late afternoon at the range with the M380.  I ran through about a hundred rounds.  One full box of Blazer Aluminum and some odds and ends that included: Federal 90 grain Hydra-Shok, Remington/UMC 88 grain JHP, Winchester 95 grain FMJ, and the abysmal Armscor 95 grain FMJ.  Everything shot fine except for 3 Armscor rounds that didn't go off when the primer was hit.  I blame the ammo and not the gun for this problem.

My first 5 rounds on a target grouped 4 inches to the left of point of aim.  After adjusting the rear sight, the rounds came closer to the point of aim.  Overall, after 20 rounds, I really started to like this revolver.  I started to like it quite a bit to be truthful.  Even with the smaller hide-out grips I installed, recoil was negligible.  I adjusted to the trigger rather than fighting and mentally agonizing over it's weight.  Then the hits started coming and groups started showing up on the target.  I did make a range video.  I believe these shots were rounds 25 through 40.  They were definitely in the first 50 rounds through the gun.

Overall, I'm really pleased with this revolver.  Being the first acquisition from my 2012 Wish List, this could have gone either of two ways.  The first was that the revolver would be a huge disappointment due to my inability to shoot it with any kind of accuracy and it would end up as trade bait or put away in storage.  The second outcome would be the acquisition of a new pocket gun that I would actually end up adding to the carry rotation.  I can definitely say that the second outcome is reality.  I've actually had the M380 in my pocket since leaving the range this afternoon and it will be in my pocket as often as possible over the next week or so as we get adjusted to each other.

I think this revolver has the potential to be a more than an oddity in the revolver world.  While small, I found the revolver easy to shoot with very manageable recoil.  It was also 100% reliable with several different ammunition varieties.  The easy windage adjustable rear sight had me putting rounds on target quickly and built my confidence with the pistol.  For those seeking a small revolver with less recoil than the typical .38 Special, this may be the revolver for them.  The construction and fit & finish of this Taurus was really quite good when you consider the relatively low cost.  I think the revolver is a good value for the money.  Should something go wrong in the future, I always have "The Tauruslifetime Repair Policy" as a safeguard.

February 2013 Update
I recently put up a new blog article about reducing the trigger pull.  You can read that HERE.


  1. Interesting review but I would be very unenthusiastic about owning a M380 based on it and in that one comparative picture along side the LCR it looks like you had to photoshop the M380 to make it the same size as the LCR.

    By the way have you heard anything from Heizer?

    1. The Elsie Pea folks asked for the comparison photo with the LCR. They are apples and oranges in my opinion. The only common trait they share is a fully loaded similar weight within a few tenths of an ounce. with a shorter barrel and shorter cylinder the M380 is a hair over 1/2 inch shorter than the LCR. With my after market grips it's almost 3/4 of an inch shorter.

      Have not heard anything from the folks at Heizer. I keep watching for reviews, but all I see is stuff rehashed from SHOT 2012. Since the Annual NRA Meeting and show is in their backyard this year, they may be planning something around that weekend. One can always hope.

  2. Thanks for the review and great pics! I was glad to see your comment about adjusting to the heavier trigger. I think folks get too hung up on trigger pull. Frankly, I prefer a heavier trigger pull in short-barreled revolvers. Keep up the great work!

  3. How do I adjust the trigger pull?
    We bought one for the wife but compared to the lcp
    the trigger is heavy.
    We like the him because i have a 380 auto and can use the same ammo. Don't have to have more ammo for different guns. Its enough having 5.56, 30 carbine, 9mm, 380 and 22. To many ammo cans in the closet.

    Thanks for a great review

    1. Hey Mark. I purchased a trigger spring tuning pack that I'm going to try on the M380 at some point this winter. If someone was going to carry this is a self defense tool, it's best to leave the trigger as is and just dry fire with snap caps or run live rounds through it at the range and hope the pull softens up a bit as it breaks in. I know it's not much fun to practice with such a heavy trigger pull, but revolver springs are tricky to balance and you could end up with a less than reliable revolver if the springs aren't balanced correctly.

  4. How do I adjust the trigger?
    Bought one for the wife because she cant rail the semi autos. Fits very nice in her pocket and no hammer to worry about.
    Trigger pull is a little heavy


    1. This is what I finally ended up doing to adjust the trigger pull weight.

  5. What kind of .38 speed loader is that? I've never seen one before.

    1. 5 Star Firearms makes the speed loader. Not cheap, but the best rarely is. They are now available in different colors.

  6. I am still looking and researching this revolver, I like the size and the fact that I don't want to buy new ammo and a different gun. I have a Bersa 380 and like it but I would like a small revolver and this fits the bill not to metion the same ammo. But I was told that they discontinued the Taurus M380 is that true?

    1. 2015 Taurus Catalog. M380 is on page 9. Unfortunately, I have no additional information regarding discontinued status that I can offer. It's probably best if you called Taurus and asked them about it.