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Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. DA/SA Centerfire Revolver

This Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. (Taurus Optics Ready Option) concealed-carry revolver comes with the ability to mount a red-dot sight.

Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. DA/SA Centerfire Revolver

Why should semiautomatics have all the fun? With the introduction of the Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O., you can now have a concealed-carry revolver capable of mounting a red-dot sight. It’s about time, and you have to wonder what took so long, because Taurus’s solution is as simple as it is groundbreaking.

The Defender 856 features a gutter in the topstrap that serves as the rear sight. On the T.O.R.O. version (which stands for Taurus Optics Ready Option), two holes in the gutter are drilled and tapped for attaching an optics plate. The plate is on the Holosun K footprint, which is a modified Shield RMSc footprint.

The T.O.R.O. capability aside, the Defender 856 is an excellent defensive revolver. The Defenders in the 856 line have three-inch barrels, which I think is the sweet spot for a .38 Special +P revolver—short enough to carry but long enough to shoot easily. This model has a matte stainless-steel barrel, frame and cylinder; a blued version is also available.

Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. Revolver Accuracy Results Chart

Nominal weight is 23.5 ounces. With the sight and plate aboard it’s 25.3 ounces. Overall length is 7.5 inches, and width is 1.4 inches. Height is 4.8 inches, and the Holosun 507K sight I used increases that to 5.75 inches.

It’s a single-action/double-action revolver. Double-action pull measured 10 pounds, two ounces with a good bit of stacking but still acceptable for a close-range revolver. Single-action pull was four pounds, five ounces.

Cylinder end shake was just .003 inch. Timing was okay, although the drag mark from the cylinder bolt stop was fairly evident. The cylinder release is scalloped and checkered for sure operation, and the hammer spur is likewise checkered.

The one-piece three-inch barrel is roughly oval in shape and has a relief cut for the ejector rod—basically a full-length underlug. “Taurus Armas Made in Brazil” is engraved on the left side of the frame, below the cylinder release. The Taurus logo is on the right, behind the cylinder, and below the cylinder are “Taurus Int’l Mfg Bainbridge, GA,” the model number and the serial number. The caliber is engraved at the bottom of the barrel.

Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. revolver topstrap optics plate with Holosun K footprint
Taurus created the T.O.R.O. version of the Defender 856 by drilling and tapping the topstrap to accept an optics plate. The plate has a Holosun K footprint.

If you’re not going to mount a red dot right away and still want to shoot the gun, as I mentioned you have a gutter topstrap rear sight and a pinned-in black blade for the front. Unlike other Defenders, the T.O.R.O. version’s front sight is not a day/night sight, which makes sense. Why add cost with a day/night sight when the revolver is primarily intended for red-dot use? Do note, though, that the irons will not co-witness with the dot.

The grips are black rubber and well-designed. There’s a checkered texturing on the side panels and a pattern of rectangles on the backstrap. The grip also has a slight palm swell, a molded thumb shelf on both sides and a pair of finger grooves.




While I do love the increased sighting radius a three-inch revolver provides, that doesn’t mean I can drive tacks with it from the bench. At least not with iron sights. On the other hand, with the Holosun sight mounted on the top of the Defender 856 T.O.R.O., I was able to shoot some darned small groups. Sure, it’s only 15 yards, but in a near apples-to-apples comparison with the Defender 856 Ultra-Lite I reviewed here a while back, groups with the reflex-sighted T.O.R.O. were 20 percent smaller on average.

The Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. revolver is chambered in .38 Special Plus-P
The gun is chambered for .38 Special +P, an effective defense round and very shootable in this revolver. The addition of the reflex sight also makes it quite accurate.

The revolver/reflex-sight combination proved accurate in double-action firing at speed, with one caveat. I did find it sometimes difficult to pick up the Holosun’s circle-dot reticle in the sight’s window when coming up from Low Ready. This isn’t unusual for me with dot sights, but I think it’s exacerbated by the small grip of the revolver. Unlike most semiautos with red dots I’ve shot, it’s not possible to get enough pinky pressure on the bottom of the 856’s grip to help keep the muzzle flat, which enables you to pick up the dot faster.

But it’s simply a matter of training. The more time you spend with it, the better you’ll get. Thanks to the comfortable, well-designed grip and the three-inch barrel, it’s a very shootable gun. I fed it only +P loads, which I believe is a good power level for a self-defense revolver. The revolver handled them easily.

Recommended


Holster makers—including Mission First Tactical, Galco, Comp-Tac and several others—have already jumped on board with rigs for the Defender 856 T.O.R.O.  That kind of support on the aftermarket makes sense to me. I think this gun is going to catch on with people who want to carry a short-barreled revolver—or own one for both CCW and home defense—who either struggle with iron sights or just love the benefits of a reflex sight.

Taurus Defender 856 T.O.R.O. revolver textured grip
The grip has different texturing patterns on the back and sides, plus a thumb shelf and two finger grooves.

TAURUS DEFENDER 856 T.O.R.O SPECIFICATIONS

  • TYPE: DA/SA centerfire revolver
  • CALIBER: .38 Special +P
  • CAPACITY: 6
  • BARREL: 3 in.
  • OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 7.5/4.8 (w/o sight)/1.4 in.
  • WEIGHT: 23.5 oz.
  • CONSTRUCTION: Matte-finished stainless steel frame, stainless steel cylinder (as tested)
  • GRIPS: Textured rubber w/finger grooves
  • SIGHTS: Gutter topstrap rear, ramp front; drilled for optics mount
  • SAFETY: Transfer bar
  • PRICE: $461
  • MANUFACTURER: Taurus USA, TaurusUSA.com

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