December 16, 2021
By J. Scott Rupp
Size matters, and the size that matters most today is small. As in super-small. As in today’s crop of “micro-compact” high-capacity 9mm pistols. Arguably begun by SIG’s P365, the roster of such guns has grown quickly and now includes the Springfield Hellcat, Ruger Max-9, Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield Plus, Glock G43X and the subject of this article: the Taurus GX4.
The folks at Taurus have been busy of late for sure. The well-regarded G3 and G3c semiautos are only a couple of years old, and earlier this year we saw the introduction of the optics-ready T.O.R.O. versions of those pistols. And Taurus wasn’t about to be left out of the micro-compact competition, so now we have the GX4, an 11+1 pistol with a 3.06-inch barrel, an overall length of 6.05 inches and an unloaded weight of just 18.5 ounces.
Instead of rolling out a litany of comparisons, I generated a chart showing key specifications for the guns in this category; it’s on the last page of the article. With the exception of the Glock, I was able to measure the front-to-back grip width, since I own a P365 and had samples of the rest my disposal because we were using them on the 2021 season of “Handguns & Defensive Weapons.”
As you can see, the dimensional specs on these guns are fairly close, and while there are a few differences in features, the biggest takeaway here is the price. The Taurus GX4 costs a lot less than all the rest, almost half as much in some cases. Does that make it a lesser pistol? Not at all.
The polymer frame has excellent stippling along the sides of the grip and on the frontstrap. That same stippling is found on the backstrap, and here’s one area where the GX4 stands out from its competitors: It comes with interchangeable backstraps, which are easily changed by driving out a pin.
The backstrap that comes installed has a slight palm swell, but if a more pronounced swell fits your hands better, you can switch to the other one. Swapping them does not change the trigger reach length.
Recent Taurus designs have incorporated features to help you locate your support-hand thumb in a thumbs-forward grip and also a spot to index your trigger finger when your sights aren’t on target (safety rule No. 3!). On the G3 series these are dished-out areas above the trigger guard, but here they are stippled panels. Taurus calls them “indexing” and “recoil management” pads. I don’t know much advantage they actually offer, but they certainly don’t hurt.
The trigger guard is squared off, the front left smooth. The frame sports a slight rise behind the magazine release to discourage accidental activation, and the area around the slide-lock lever is contoured so the lever won’t snag on clothing during the draw. There’s a slight recess built into the bottom of the frame that, combined with a similar recess in the magazines’ base plates, enables you to get a fingertip in there to strip out a stubborn mag.
Inside the polymer frame is a stainless steel chassis that houses the fire-control system and adds rigidity to the frame. Operational controls get a Teflon coating for smoothness and corrosion resistance, and other internal metal parts are nickel plated. The recoil spring is a dual, captured affair, with a flat-wire sleeved portion sliding over a smaller round-wire section.
Not cutting any corners, Taurus also elected to coat the stainless steel barrel with satin black Diamond Like Carbon to resist wear and provide increased lubricity.
All this is housed in an alloy steel slide that’s gas nitrided for corrosion and wear resistance. The wide serrations found fore and aft aren’t particularly deep or aggressive, but they get the job done. The front of the slide is beveled for easy holstering, and there’s a decent-size cutout at the rear of the barrel hood that allows you to see if there’s a round in the chamber.
Sights include a drift-adjustable serrated rear and a white dot front that’s screwed in. We’re talking Glock pattern here, so you won’t have any problems finding aftermarket sights should you wish to go with tritium or fiber optics.
The gun ships with two 11-round magazines that have bright yellow followers, and there are numbered witness holes from 4 to 11. Ten-rounders are available for those who live in restrictive states, and Taurus is selling 13-round magazines as an option for those who want more capacity.
Taurus calls the trigger “flat-face target-style” with a grooved safety lever. However, I would argue it’s actually not flat because it has a slight dogleg in it. But it’s not a bad trigger, breaking at 7.2 pounds on average—although take that with a grain of salt because the trigger shape made getting good measurements a bit of a challenge.
It’s got less than a quarter-inch of take-up, and the break is pretty crisp for a striker-fired pistol. The reset is short and nicely tactile.
Takedown requires a tool, but it’s not a big deal. Drop the magazine and check/double-check to make sure the chamber is empty. On the right side you’ll find the takedown pin. It’s slotted to accept a typical screwdriver blade—nothing special required. Turn it a quarter-turn and then, with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, pull the trigger. Remove the slide from the frame.
The press materials on the GX4 indicate the magazine release is reversible, but there are no instructions in the owner’s manual on how to do this. And in looking at it, I don’t think it’s actually possible—at least not simply or intuitively for those of us not mechanically inclined.
The GX4 impressed the heck out of me on the range. Fifteen-yard accuracy testing results are shown in the accompanying chart. Highlights came from Norma MHP and Hornady American Gunner, which both produced a 1.4-inch group, and the Hornady put four out of five shots into the same hole.
A lot of the credit here goes to the sights. As I’ve mentioned a million times in past reviews, I have astigmatism, and open sights can be really tough for me to see and shoot well. Not these. I love the way Taurus sights provide what for my eyes is exactly the right amount of light on either side of the front post when viewed through the rear sight.
Aside from that front/rear size relationship, I’m a big fan of the plain black serrated rear paired with a white dot front. I find it especially quick to use in defensive drills because there’s nothing in the rear sight to distract your focus on the front.
I was interested to see what difference the backstraps would make. I strapped on a Crossbreed belt slide holster and threw on a covering garment to run a number of drills at 10 yards. For me, the smaller palm swell was the better choice. It’s not that the times for first shot out of the holster or on Bill Drills (six shots rapid fire) were that much different, but the hit patterns certainly were.
With the large palm swell my shots were a little scattered, with more edge hits and a miss or two, while with the small one the bullet impacts were clustered toward the center.
When I slowed things down to focus on muzzle rise, I noted that, at least in my hands, the small palm swell definitely produced a more predictable and consistent straight up/straight back recoil path than the large one did. So it would be worth your time to experiment with this if you buy a GX4.
While the pistol proved to be 100 percent reliable, a few issues did arise during testing. If you simply insert the magazine, the slide will remain locked back, but if you smack it home as you properly would during a reload, the slide will go forward on its own.
While this didn’t occur at all in the early going, by the end it happened every time—with both magazines and with all four types of defensive ammo plus some SIG match I used to run drills. Some people won’t care about this, but I prefer to have a pistol’s slide go forward only when I want it to. It’s hard to say whether this issue is something in the design or only with my early production sample.
The other dig is probably specific to me and the way I shoot. My trigger finger tended to locate low on the shoe, well below the dogleg, and it would often drag on the bottom of the trigger guard. Eventually, it rubbed to a blister, although to be fair this was after a full afternoon of shooting from the bench and on drills. I’m not sure if this was due to the shape of the trigger or, again, the way I shoot.
But the pluses outweigh these minuses by a large margin. The gun draws nicely and comes on target quickly. My trigger finger placement issue aside, the combination of the trigger’s pull and short reset—along with the great sights—produced hits easily from the 10-yard line.
Control was excellent. Even with Hornady’s +P load the gun handled great, a tribute to the grip’s ergonomics as well as its stippling pattern.
As I mentioned, I have a lot of competing guns on hand, and I was impressed by how easy the Taurus magazines were to load to capacity. Some of the others require a lot of force to get those last few in, but the Taurus mags were a cinch. This is a feature a lot of people will appreciate.
I didn’t carry the gun extensively, and when I did carry it I had only an outside-the-waistband holster and not the inside-the-waistband rig I would likely use in everyday carry. Still, it concealed easy, as you would expect, and was comfortable.
There’s a tendency to think a gun that costs a lot less than its competitors is somehow inferior. While the Taurus GX4 isn’t perfect—and what gun is?—it offers the reliability, accuracy and shootability you want in a tiny 9mm with plenty of capacity. Taurus has done a good job with this pistol, and it’s worth checking out.
Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O. Specifications
- Type: striker-fired semiauto
- Capacity: 11-round magazines (where permitted)
- Caliber: 9mm Luger
- Barrel: 3.1 in., DLC coated OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 6.1/4.4/1.1 in. WEIGHT: 18.5 oz.
- Construction: gas-nitrided alloy steel slide, polymer frame w/interchangeable backstraps
- Sights: steel; drift-adjustable black rear, white-dot front
- Safeties: striker block, trigger
- Price: $392
- Manufacturer: Taurus, Taurususa.com