[Review] Taurus 905: 9mm Snubby

“Why in the world would someone want a REVOLVER, of all things, in 9mm?” I hear you ask. To which I reply, “Because! Why not?” With 9mm being the most popular concealed carry caliber now, why not? Not everyone who carries a concealed gun carries a semi-auto…there are still two or three of us out here that like revolvers. Given the popularity and effectiveness of today’s 9mm round, it only makes sense to stuff it into a revolver’s cylinder. After all, it isn’t exactly new to shoot an autoloading cartridge in a revolver.

A Look Back

As the saying goes (paraphrased), “this ain’t the rimless cartridge’s first rodeo in a revolver.” OK, so that’s not quite what I had in mind, but my point is this…rimless, semi-auto cartridges have been fired in wheel guns for many years.

The 1917 Revolvers

A good example of a revolver adapted to shoot a rimless cartridge originally designed for a semi-auto pistol are the Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers, model 1917. The guns were very similar, with 5.5-inch barrels, a six-shot cylinder and a trigger pull that, to put it in the best light, would obviate accidental discharges. Some of the triggers were so heavy it took two men and a boy to pull them. I tried a S&W revolver once and had to put my trigger finger in traction when I was through with it. Well… maybe not that bad but the double-action pull was …very… stiff. Just the thing for a muddy battlefield. The major difference between the Colt and S&W guns (except for trademark cylinder rotation, basic gun shape and cylinder releases) was that the S&W had a shoulder machined into the chambers for the rimless cartridge to headspace on. But, you still had to poke the empties out one at a time, with no rim to catch the extractor star. Back to the war…here’s the story:

Colt 1917
Colt 1917

As those of us who passed junior-level U.S. History, we know that World War I started in 1914. America was a little late to that dance in France and didn’t get involved until 1917, which turned out to be the closing 18 or 19 months of that war. Even so, we girded our loins mightily and started sending thousands of men (and more than a few women) “over there.” Armed with the excellent 1903 Springfield and the .30-06 cartridge, our boys were well-armed. Plus, the addition of the then-almost-new Colt 1911 .45 ACP semi-auto pistol complemented the small arms inventory. But, there was a glitch…we didn’t have enough of that pistol to equip all the troops who needed it. So, the powers that be decided to issue revolvers, from both Colt and Smith and Wesson, chambered in .45 ACP to aid in commonality of ammo for supply purposes (not to mention its well-respected power factor).

To Rim, Or Not To Rim?

The only problem was how to eject the fired cases. True revolver cases have a rim for the extractor “star” to grab, which the rimless .45 auto case lacks. So, instead of expecting the boys (in the heat of combat) to fire six rounds and then find a convenient stick with which to poke the empties out of the chambers, a new method was needed. There had to be a better way. There was. Invented and patented by Smith and Wesson (but used legally by Colt, thanks to the Army’s pressuring of S&W), the half-moon clip was the answer. Called half-moon because of their half-circle shape, these little metal clips saved the day. Once all six shots were fired, the shooter opened the cylinder and pushed the ejector rod which kicked out both half-moon clips at the same time with their empty cases attached. These clips were difficult to load and to remove the fired cases from, so they came to the combat theater pre-loaded with three .45 auto rounds. All our intrepid doughboy had to do was to drop two clips into the cylinder, close said cylinder, and blast away. Open cylinder, extract/eject moon clips, repeat.

Half-moon clips
Half-moon clips

The clips solved the problem. And, after WWII, an ingenious engineer at S&W (Naomi Alan) devised the full-moon clip – variations of which are still in use to this day in 9mm revolvers and others, including the one we’re reviewing. The 1917 revolvers were used again in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. They lasted past that era in the inventories of some smaller country’s armories. The 1917 revolvers are still popular today with civilian shooters and collectors. Enter the .45 Auto Rim in 1920, which was just a .45 ACP case with a small rim added. That gave the gun makers (especially S&W) the impetus to design large, target revolvers built around it. With the rim, the case behaved like any other revolver case. Those S&W guns were top-notch, the ammo accurate – these revolvers were used on many target circuits and command a really nice premium on the used gun market.

There have been many different revolvers that used moon clips. Today, the 9mm cartridge is more popular than ever. Some shooters, most notably Jerry Miculek, use the round for competition. Jerry can empty his S&W model 929 8-shot revolver into a target in about the time it takes for you to blink your eyes twice. (He’s also shot that gun for the record at 1,000 yards, which boggles my mind). In terms of a gun for concealed carry, the 9mm round is still pretty much king. And now, small-frame revolver fans can have the best of both of those worlds: potent 9mm defense ammo and a five-shot snubby. Enter the Taurus 905.

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The Company And Its Reputation

Before we get into the specifics of this revolver, be aware that I have owned (or own) and reviewed several Taurus guns. If you are interested in the history of Taurus, please read my review of the Taurus Spectrum .380 – I go into some detail about the company. This company, Taurus, is an interesting one. I have owned many Taurus/Rossi/Heritage Manufacturing guns over the years. (The other two companies are owned by Taurus). My experience has been, on the whole, good. That is not to say that I have not had run-ins with their customer service, or what passed for that, in the past. I once had a PT1911 in for repairs that seemed to be geared to a calendar based on glacier years. But, I had to return my Spectrum .380 for a spring and the wait time was much shorter. I will say that, of all the Taurus guns I’ve owned, I’ve only had to send those two back. (And, technically, the Spectrum didn’t have a problem – they just wouldn’t sell me a recoil spring from their website. That’s about to change, I think…read on).

A New Leaf?

So, it was with some interest that I read this communication from the CEO of Taurus, Bret Voorhees that I received April 29 in my email. Here it is…

To Our Customers,

As the new President and CEO of the Taurus companies here in the U.S.A., I want to address an issue our companies are currently facing and reassure you of the efforts going into improving our customer service.

It became very apparent to me that we are not meeting our goal to provide world-class customer service to those of you who have put your trust in our products. My intention is to fix that, so if the situation does come up where you must utilize one of our firearm’s warranty, that we take care of you in a way that leaves a lasting positive impression about our companies.

[It goes on to say how they are going to work hard to regain the shooter’s trust. I have quoted the important part to show how Taurus is trying to up its game. It is signed:]

Bret Vorhees
President and CEO of Taurus Holdings, Inc.

If even a part of this comes to pass, Taurus’s reputation should rise among shooters. Of course, it’s like when I say I need to lose 40 pounds – wouldn’t I look & feel great – but I haven’t done it yet. My reality is that I am still overly large and nothing changes until I change. We will keep an eye on Taurus and see if the weight really comes off, so to speak.

Having said that, let’s look at the gun they sent me to review, the 9mm model 905 2-inch snubby. To start off with, here are its specifications, from the Taurus website and my measurements…

Frame sizeSmall
Capacity5 rds
Action typeDA/SA
Trigger pull weightsSA: 3 lbs 10.6 oz, DA: 9 lbs 15.6 oz (measured, avg.)
Caliber9mm Luger
Height4.40"
Width1.40" (measured, 1.388” across cylinder)
Weight21.00 oz.
Barrel legth2.00"
Overall length6.50"
Front sightFixed, measured .129” width
Rear sightFixed, measured .129” width
SafetyTransfer Bar
MSRP$530.63

I own a Taurus .38 Spl. Snubby, the model 85 Ultralite. I carry that gun a lot. The main difference between my gun and the 905 (besides the caliber) would be the fact that the 905 uses a steel frame and my ultralight’s frame is aluminum. The weight difference is noticeable but not a deal-killer. It might be a little heavy for pocket carry, but I found that there are nice holsters available for J-frame-size snubbys. That is an advantage – a holster for a S&W J-frame fits the Taurus 85. There are many holsters available for the 905, as well. The only difference is the fraction of an inch width addition for the 5-round 9mm cylinder of the 905 (1.388”), versus the 5-rounder of the.38 Spl. 85 series (1.348”).

Taurus 85 cylinder width
Model 85 cylinder width
Taurus 905 cylinder width
Model 905 cylinder width

So, carry is definitely an option. I have a holster, an inexpensive IWB number with a steel clip, that fits both easily. A J-frame holster, made for that series of guns that have a cylinder width of 1.3”, should fit with no problems.

Taurus 85 vs Taurus 905
Model 85 (top); Model 905, bottom. Note the different logos on the side plate.

The Gun

Let’s look at some photos I took of the 905, with appropriate commentary…

Taurus 905 left side
Gun, profile. Note the “bull” logo on the grips – it’s smaller than before.

Taurus 905 right side

Taurus 905 front sight
Front and rear sights. The post and the notch each measured .129” wide.

Taurus 905 rear sight

Taurus 905 grip
The grip is very comfortable.

It’s apparent that a lot of thought went into its design. Note the texturing – good in all the right places. Plus, like several other similar grips, it covers all the backstrap. That’s important with a little kicker like this gun is…it bucks pretty good with factory 9mm ammo so a little padding over the backstrap is appreciated.

Taurus 905 cylinder open
The open cylinder.

The grip almost clears speedloaders – I had to whittle on my 85’s rubber grip to provide more clearance and this one is practically the same size as the 85’s. I also like the cylinder releases’ shape. Speaking of loading the cylinder (and extracting fired cases), here’s what happens when you don’t look through the gun’s box thoroughly when you first shoot this gun…

Taurus 905 extractor no star

I knew this was going to happen, since I didn’t see any moon clips in the box. Imagine my surprise when I discovered these…

Taurus 905 full moon clips
…five full-moon clips.

THAT’s more like it. What this proves is that I am too impulsive and want to get right to the shooting part without thoroughly examining the box it came in. Heck, I was ready with a handy stick to poke the empties out…Moral of the story, always look through everything that comes with a gun (or TV, or car, or…you get it). You can order extras from Taurus – they are $21.99 for five of them. This would speed up reloading this gun a lot. I could see carrying several of these clips on your person if you carried this little gun for self-defense. At least it is very easy to place rounds in the clip and then to remove the empty cases. Now…let’s shoot this thing!

Shooting This Little Beast

I know some folks who can’t shoot 9mm autoloaders because they kick too much. Go figure. I admit I have a small problem shooting full-bore defensive ammo through a light, little gun like the Kahr CM-9 I used to own…it liked to jump around. This revolver does tend to want to bite the hand that holds it, but it’s not too bad. You just have to grip ‘er tight and show it who’s boss. When shooting revolvers, I like to place my offhand thumb in the web between my shooting hand’s thumb and forefinger. I press down and this tends to hold guns down in recoil some. (I know, it isn’t the same “thumbs-forward” grip I use with semi-autos but I’ve done it for years and it works).

Held properly, the gun doesn’t rise much in recoil, but it does come straight back pretty quickly. When you figure that the cartridge that most snubbies are known for (the .38 Special) has an average pressure of around 17K – 21K pounds, it’s no wonder that this 9mm kicks a bit. 9mm pressures tend to hover around 35K (the same neighborhood that the .357 Magnum lives in). This provides a pretty decent “thump” in your hand. Even so, it was fun to shoot. I shot three different factory loads through it – good ol’ Winchester White Box, CCI Blazer Brass and a new one to me, Fiocchi 9mm. All bullets were 115 grain, and velocities hovered between 1000-1100 f.p.s. Here are some targets:

target shot with fiocchi
Fiocchi.

This was interesting ammo. It was sent to me to try, something for which I’m grateful. It is made in the USA, and seems to be very high-quality ammo. They don’t make just .22 ammo anymore…I got samples in 9mm, .380, .45 ACP, and 6.5 Creedmoor. I’m anxious to try the rest of it. This isn’t the tightest group I’ve ever shot, but it’s representative of the breed. This load averaged 1014 f.p.s. out of the Taurus’ 2-inch barrel.

target shot with blazer
Blazer Brass.

With its reloadable case, this bargain ammo does alright. It shot a bit high, but all in all it performed fine. It clocked at 1034 f.p.s.

target shot with winchester
Winchester.

I’ve read forums where this load, the famous “Winchester White Box”, was greatly disparaged in terms of reliability and accuracy. I don’t see it. Granted, this isn’t a one-hole group, but I’d sure hate to be on the receiving end of my very first shot with this gun – the hole in the middle of the target. This ammo went out the barrel at 1052 f.p.s., not bad.

To Sum Up

Looking for a new 9mm? Don’t need uber-capacity? Looking for something a little different? Check out this gun. Taurus sells a bunch of 9mm revolvers – folks who carry snubbies tend to like the increased 9mm power factor that is something on the order of around three times that for an average .38 Special load, a caliber that practically owns the snubby market. Also, if you carry specialized loads in your snubby, you bring even more power into play. (Look up NovX 65-grain 9mm ammo as an example). I’ve heard many shooters disparage the .357 in a snubby due to its ferocious recoil, flash and blast. Well, you can get almost that level of performance from your little 2-incher without taking your hand off at the elbow (some say this happens with that .357) because of recoil. Personally, I tend to shy away from the hard-kickers the older I get. I could see carrying something like this model 905 though, just because of that increased power factor over the .38. The recoil wasn’t that bad when I shot it – I could get used to it, for sure.

If you want to try something different, pick up a 905. Let us know what you think in the comments below. And, as always, stay safe!

Mike
Written by Mike

Mike has been a shooter, bullet caster and reloader for over 40 years. Never one to be satisfied with the status quo, he is often found at his reloading bench concocting yet another load. With a target range in his backyard and after 40 years of shooting, his knowledge of firearms and reloading is fairly extensive. He is married, with four sons and daughters-law and 9-and-counting grandkids.

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