Today we are looking at a new product from Taurus: the Defender 856 TORO. The TORO (Taurus Optics Ready Option) is touted as the first-ever optics-ready revolver, and being a sucker for red dots and handguns, I had to try it.

For years, I’ve had a challenging relationship with Taurus firearms. In the past I had an experience that left me quite displeased. After some time, I meandered back to a place where I would try again, and the TX22 line of rimfire pistols got me quite hooked on .22s. Years later, I own four of them.
 

Related: New Taurus Optics Ready Carry Revolvers
 

Table of Contents

Meet the Defender 856 TORO
Unboxing
To the Range!
Pros & Cons
Conclusion

Meet the Defender 856 TORO

 

Taurus Defender 856 TORO .38 Special Revolver
According to Taurus, the Defender 856 TORO model is the first factory optics-ready revolver. (Photo: Jeff Wood/Guns.com)


The 856 model has been around for a few years. The Defender 856 is a double-action revolver that holds six rounds in its stainless-steel cylinder. It uses a 3-inch barrel and a target-style trigger for optimal performance. 

I was expecting a .357 Magnum, but the TORO is chambered in .38 Special, which is fine because I was probably going to shoot a lot of .38 SPL anyway.

What sets the TORO apart is the optics platform mounted with two screws on top of the sight rail. The plate itself uses the Holosun K footprint, which is also good because I have a Holosun 407K that would fit perfectly. The TORO is finished in matte black, which is pretty sexy, in my opinion.
 

Related: Taurus 856 Executive is a Budget-Friendly Showstopper
 

Unboxing

 

Taurus Defender 856 TORO .38 Special Revolver
Right out of the box, the Defender 856 TORO is a handsome wheel gun in a classy matte black. (Photo: Jeff Wood/Guns.com)


Upon opening the box, I was surprised a bit, as I was expecting something a bit different like I’d seen on the floor at SHOT Show. This model actually looked better, and as I lifted it from the box, my first thoughts were about how handsome a little wheel gun it was.

After opening the cylinder and checking everything out, I held the gun and pulled the hammer a few times. Like most revolvers I’ve shot, I found something romantic about the drawing back of the hammer. The trigger felt good as well – nothing fantastic or extraordinary, but certainly good. Everything fit tightly and rolled like it was on bearings.

I pulled the optics kit from the box and found the plate and mounting screws. I took it to my bench to get it mounted, using a drop of Loctite to secure the screws. I then installed my Holosun 407K and secured it with its own two screws. 

I again lifted the pistol into the shooting position to see how the Holosun showed – “pretty slick,” I muttered to myself. So, I grabbed a sack of .38 Special handloads I had sitting in my bench and headed out the door.
 

To the Range!

 

Taurus Defender 856 TORO .38 Special Revolver
This revolver is fun to shoot and easy to aim with a red dot installed. (Photo: Jeff Wood/Guns.com)


As I lined up at my shooting spot, I contemplated this little revolver's best uses. It’s certainly small enough to easily conceal and use as a CCW, though I am one of those that feel much better about carrying 15+ rounds for such purposes. Still, it would be a great little handgun to have in a pinch. 

I loaded a handful of cartridges into the cylinder and snapped it closed. I like how tight and timed this gun feels. The cylinder doesn’t have any slop and locks securely closed. I tapped the button to power up the Holosun, and it looked close enough to not even mess with it until after shooting a few shots. So, I fired the first cylinder of cartridges, and as expected, I loved every minute of it.
 

Taurus Defender 856 TORO .38 Special Revolver
My Holosun 407K went right to work on the TORO, and having the red dot did improve accuracy. (Photo: Jeff Wood/Guns.com)


The Holosun really needed no adjustment for now, so I let it be as I fumbled another cylinder’s worth of cartridges out of my pocket. I also had brought a few boxes of factory ammunition, but I was lucky to have inherited my grandfather’s supply of .38 SPL handloads. Grandpa was a huge fan of the little .38, and he cast thousands of 148-grain semi-wadcutters loaded into spent nickel cases he brought home from police ranges back in the ’80s.

I spent the late afternoon and into the evening shooting the little TORO at just about anything I could. It seemed about as accurate as any other 3-inch revolver I’ve shot. I can’t help but feel that the red dot allows some additional precision in aiming, though that could just be my personal bias.
 

Pros & Cons

 

Taurus Defender 856 TORO .38 Special Revolver
The Defender 856 TORO holds six .38 Special rounds, and the red dot helps make them count. (Photo: Jeff Wood/Guns.com)


Pros:

  • Comfortable grip
  • Light recoil
  • Quality fit and finish
  • Red dot sight easy to aim

Cons: 

  • Larger grip would fit my hand better
  • Trigger slightly jumpy


I guess I am warming back up to Taurus after all these years, and I have certainly grown to like this little wheel gun. The grip is comfortable, and the rubber texture does allow some additional purchase to hold it back. The .38 is not a large-recoiling round, but it’s not a .22, either. 

I would have liked a slightly larger grip to fit my hand, but of course that would have made it harder to conceal. I let a few friends with smaller hands than I shoot it, and they didn’t seem to have any issues with the grip.

The quality of the TORO was great. The fit and finish looked quite handsome and well put-together. The trigger was a little jumpy, but I suppose it’s fine – by jumpy, I mean there can be felt movements before it breaks sometimes. It seemed perfectly serviceable for a revolver of this type and price point. 

The added function of the red dot made shooting the TORO quite easy. Instead of focusing on the sights, I’d just cover the target with the dot as I squeezed the trigger. The red dot lined up closely to the built-in iron sights, which made it easy to co-witness and matched my natural aim point.
 

Conclusion

The Taurus Defender 856 TORO has turned out to be quite a breath of fresh air for me. When I first saw a red dot mounted on a revolver, I thought maybe we’d reached the bottom of the barrel. I was happy to be proven wrong.

I think it’s a great little handgun. It’s fun to shoot and accurate enough to be useful, especially at the affordable price point. I’d like something a little bigger for my hand size, but I was still able to shoot it well. If you want to try something new, the Taurus TORO revolver is certainly worth a shot.

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