Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. 38 Special Revolver


For years I’ve had a very challenging relationship with Taurus firearms, I have had in the past an experience that left me quite displeased. But after some time I have meandered back into a place where I would try again, the TX22 line of rimfire pistols got me quite hooked on 22’s. And years later I’ve got four of them.

But today we are looking at a new product from Taurus, their Defender 856 TORO. The TORO is according to Taurus the first ever optics ready revolver, and being a sucker for red dots and pistols I had to try it.

The Defender 856 TORO

The 856 model ha been around for a few years now, and it seemed a good host for optics I suppose because that’s where they went with it. The Defender 856 is a double-action revolver that holds six rounds in its stainless steel cylinder. The pistol uses a three-inch barrel and a target-style trigger for optimal performance. I was expecting a 357 Magnum but the TORO comes with 38 Special chambers, which is fine because I was probably going to shoot a lot of 38 Spl anyways.

What sets the TORO apart is its optics platform that mounts to the top of the sight rail and is affixed with two screws. 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 a matte black, which turns out is pretty sexy in my opinion.


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 in my opinion and as I lifted it from the box my first thoughts were about how handsome a little 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 ever 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 fits 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 Spl hand loads I had sitting on my bench and headed out the door.

To the Range!

As I lined up at my shooting spot, I contemplated what this little revolver would be good for. 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. But it still would be a great little pistol 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 that’s what I did, I fired the first cylinder of cartridges and as I expected I loved every minute of it.

I also installed the new Vortex Defender red dot, it was a perfect match.

The Holosun really needed no adjustment for now, so I let it be as I fumble another cylinders worth off 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 the police ranges back in the 80’s.

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 three-inch revolver I’ve ever 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 and Cons


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


  • 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 pistol. The grip is very comfortable, and the rubber texture does allow some additional purchase to hold it back. The 38 is not a large recoiling pistol but its 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 stash. I let a few friends shoot it as well that had smaller hands than I and they didn’t seem to have any issues with it.

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 pistol 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 pretty closely to the built in iron sights, which made it easy to co-witness and matched my natural aim-point.

Read Conclusion Here…


Taurus Defender 856 TORO .38 Special Revolver

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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