A historic flood ripped through the streets and marketplace of Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1941, which was coincidentally the same year another destructive power poured through the city’s factories: the first Taurus firearm, a revolver called the Model 38101SO.
The Brazilian manufacturing conglomerate Forjas Taurus, S.A. (translation: Taurus Forge) was initially a small tool manufacturer before moving heavily into firearms production — but it also now produces helmets, large machine tools, tooling, bulletproof vests, riot shields, gardening tools and plastic waste containers.
There are contested viewpoints on the quality and originality of Taurus products, but its history has a few answers as to why.
The History of Taurus Guns
The first Taurus gun, the Model 38101SO, in 1941 was a genesis of components from multiple models — Colt, Smith & Wesson and Spanish brands — according to Taurus USA. The company was founded in 1939, but now exports to more than 70 countries.
Their presence was fairly local until 1968 when they began to make a foray into the U.S. market. This was the same year the Gun Control Act of 1968 (later updated in 1986 by the Firearm Owners Protection Act and in 1993 by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which established the background check system) restricted importation of firearms.
Around this time, a conglomerate named Bangor Punta purchased Smith & Wesson, which was finalized in 1965 around when the Model 60 was released, according to the conglomerate’s timeline. In 1970, Bangor Punta purchased 54 percent of Taurus.
From 1970 to 1977, Smith & Wesson and Taurus were sister companies both owned by an overarching authority. During this time, the two companies shared technology and methodology, which explains the heavily similar products some in the industry point out as clones from one company or another.
In 1974 Beretta won a contract to produce small arms for Brazil, and started production in Sao Paulo in a Brazilian factory with Brazilian labor — as per the contract.
The Beretta Model 92 was then produced for the Brazilian Army. After the contract expired in 1980, however, the facilities (and everything in them: drawings, tooling, machinery and a skilled work force) were sold over to Taurus.
This is why the Taurus PT-92 and PT-99 9mm pistols seem so similar to the reciprocal Beretta models. They had access to the same exact production plant and resources.
In 1977 a group of investors bought Taurus from Bangor Punta. That group was headed by former Smith & Wesson employee Carlos Murgel, according to a 1999 Miami New Times article, and Luis Estima, according to the Smith & Wesson fourth edition catalog. Estima has been the chairman of Forjas Taurus since 2014.
Later in 1982, Taurus extended its reach into the U.S. market by opening up headquarters in Miami, Florida. Although small, the company hit the ground sprinting. In 1984, they announced at the S.H.O.T. Show in Dallas that they were starting to offer a lifetime repair policy on their firearms.
In 1990, their Miami manufacturing plant opened its doors. In 1991 Taurus International Manufacturing Inc. started manufacturing and marketing PT-22 and PT-25 pistols.
Taurus celebrated its 50th anniversary at the 1990 S.H.O.T. Show and gave away a 1990 Ford Taurus to a New Mexico dealer. Whoopee.
Forjas Taurus acquired the rights and equipment to produce Rossi firearms in 1997. Taurus now makes three models of their .38 special revolvers and four types of .357 Magnum revolvers. In December 1997, BrazTech International L.C. was created to import Rossi firearms in North America. All revolvers sold by BrazTech are made in a São Leopoldo, Brazil facility owned by Taurus.
For the sake of clarity and review, Forjas Taurus, S.A. is a publically traded company based in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was founded as a tool and die manufacturer, but now produces several types of machinery and products. This conglomerate owns Taurus Holdings, Inc., the American extension that was started in 1982.
Taurus Holdings, which employs about 300 people in Miami, manufacturers Taurus firearms and helps import, market and sell a few brands of firearms through subsidiary companies. These companies are Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc.; BrazTech International, LC.; and Heritage Manufacturing, Inc.
What Happened to Taurus Guns at the Turn of the Century?
In 1997, new safety mechanisms were installed on Taurus guns (revolvers, pistols and rifles) in what was called the Taurus Security System.
This system made the weapons inoperable by turning a key clockwise in an installed mechanism until the mechanism clicks into place. Taurus International installed these mechanisms in a time in the U.S. when mandatory gun locks were largely requested by members of the public.
About nine models of Taurus sold between 1997 and 2013 were subject to a voluntary recall as part of a $39 million settlement of a lawsuit that “alleges nine handgun models had defects, including one that caused some to inadvertently fire when dropped,” according to a media report.
The case did not include the popular G2 models, but the nine presented, and their PRO models, in the lawsuit are:
- PT-111 Millennium
- PT-132 Millennium
- PT-140 Millennium
- PT-145 Millennium
- PT-745 Millennium
As a result of the 2013 case, the pistols could be returned through the appropriate third party source for a refund of up to $200.
In 2015, Companhia Brasileira de Cartuchos (CBC) bought Forjas Taurus and Taurus Holdings, Inc. To assuage the U.S. market and steer quality back into the firearms, they took steps to make changes to the brand (which even sports new logos these days) and the products.
Anthony Acitelli was named president and CEO of Taurus Holdings. He had 20 years of experience in the U.S. firearms industry, most recently as the senior vice president of sales with Colt.
In a 2015 interview with Shooting Sports Retailer, Acitelli spoke about repairing its reputation with consumers and Taurus retailers about quality issues with various Taurus models.
“We’re hearing from the marketplace [on] the quality concerns. We don’t get responses like we used to even a year ago. What we did here coming through the door is to contain the quality control of the product from Brazil and we did the re-pricing action in the marketplace,” Acitelli said to Shooting Sports Retailer.
The repricing was in reference to the Millennium G2 PT-111 and PT-140, listed at MSRP $319 and $339. Their prices were fiercely slashed to entice dealers into carrying the products once again.
In 2012, Taurus acquired Heritage Manufacturing for an undisclosed sum. The company was founded in 1992 and produces “Western Single Action Revolvers” — the Rough Rider 22LR and 22 Magnum combo revolver. They’re located in Opa Locka, Florida.
New 2017 Taurus Handguns
To increase its position in the marketplace, there are two new Taurus handguns: the Taurus Spectrum and the Taurus Curve now with a Viridian laser and light.
In 2015, Acitelli said the Taurus Curve had three times the sales the company thought it would have and that supply couldn’t match demand. Its polymer frame caught the eye of those in the industry — its 3.7” by 1.2” frame was molded in a curve to fit against the body for more comfortable concealed carry.
A 380 auto with a six round capacity, this 13 oz. double-action only handgun has a listed MSRP of $419. It has a bore axis sighting system.
The Taurus Spectrum is a striker-fired, semi-auto pistol for concealed carry chambered in .380 auto. A selling point in dealer locations is its bright and varied color scheme. It has a 7-9 pound double-action only trigger and a comes equipped with a striker block.
It has a similar capacity as the Curve, but its dimensions are 5.4” by 3.82” with a .89” width. The standard color offerings are listed retail $289 with the house color combinations at $305.
Taurus Handguns Offer a Line Up for Concealed Carry and Everyday Carry
Under new management and quality control measures, Taurus handguns are being pushed toward a new reputation built to better serve the international firearms industry.
Aside from the previously mentioned Spectrum and Curve, there are several available Taurus pistols in the American market:
There are multiple Taurus revolvers to choose from in multiple calibers and configurations. Here is a brief description of a few options in their 2017 catalog:
- The Judge Series: Available to carry both 45 colt and .410 2-1/2" shotshell, this 5-round, DA/SA revolver is available in either black or matte stainless steel finish. There is a 3” barrel option (29 oz., $629 and 9.5” long) or a 6.5” barrel (32 oz., $589 and 12.5” long). It has a transfer bar mechanism that prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin when the trigger isn’t pulled fully to the rear. This series also comes with a fixed red fiber optic.
- The Tracker Series: The Taurus Tracker series has 12 different revolvers: the Taurus 17SS6 chambered in .17 HMR with 7 rounds, the Model 44 and Tracker4 chambered in .44 mag with 5 rounds, the Tracker 627SS4 (4 inch barrel) and 627SS6 (6.5 inch barrel) chambered in .357 magnum with 7 rounds, the Tracker Model 970 .22LR with 7 rounds, the 990 Tracker nine-shot .22LR (with barrels either 4 inches or 6.5 inches), and the 991 Tracker chambered in .22 magnum with the same barrel length options.
- The Raging Series: The Raging Bull 444 ($839 and 53 oz.) and 444 multi ($889 and 29 oz.) come in either matte black or matte stainless. They have a spurred hammer and rubber grip with a cushioned insert. The 444 multi comes with fiber optic sights and has a titanium cylinder and aluminum alloy frame. The 444 models come in 44 mag and have options with a red cushioned insert grip. The Raging Bull 454’s ($1,129) caliber is, who would have guessed it, 454 Casull. It holds five rounds, is 63 oz. overall and about 7.5” long.
- The Concealed Carry Series: These have a large variety. The CIA 650 (24 oz.) comes chambered with either five rounds of .38 special or .357 magnum. The 38 special +P DAO CIA 850 is an Ultralite model that’s 8 oz. lighter than the CIA 650. The Taurus 4510PD is a newer iteration of the Judge (with the same caliber listed above) scaled down to a smaller size with different finishes and an option for a polymer frame. The Taurus 605 uses .357 magnum ammunition and comes with a variety of grips and finishes, and it has a lightweight polymer option. The Taurus 85 model accepts 38 special +P ammo, has a 2 inch barrel, is available with a blue or matte steel finish, has a polymer frame option and features Ultralite models.
That list includes a number of the popular options, but by no means is an all-encompassing account of every option. Notably, these revolvers range widely in price and parts, so there’s an option for anyone looking into this brand.
As a final note, buying a Taurus firearm means getting a one year NRA membership.
About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter in his final year of studying public relations and apparel at the University of Idaho.