When personal defense is the goal, the choice of firearms has a direct bearing on the success or failure of the mission. While mindset and training are vital, the firearm itself is material to the individual’s survival. The choice should be reliable, powerful enough for the task at hand and accurate enough to accomplish the mission. Reliability is an absolute, never to be compromised. Powerful enough begins with the .38 Special +P.
Handguns are not very powerful, and so you need to deliver what wound potential they have as efficiently as possible. Practical accuracy is a combination of handling, good sights and good trigger action, and your skill maximizes that combination. For much of the previous 170 years, the revolver has been the primary defensive handgun. Those who did not trust firearms relied on the saber and bowie knife until improvements shrank the blade’s role to a backup, while the sidearm became more reliable and trustworthy. With the introduction of the semi-automatic pistol, many believed the revolver remained the more reliable system long after good quality self-loaders appeared. General George S. Patton once famously remarked, “If you want to kill a man, use a revolver. If you want to make a lot of noise, use an automatic.” He was in a tight spot in Mexico when he ran out of ammunition in his revolver. Determined that he would not be in that situation again, he carried two revolvers.
Today, the self-loader has proven reliable and durable; most will stand more use—and more importantly, more abuse—than the revolver. And no handgun is simpler to use, faster into action and more reliable than a quality revolver. Just the same, when many shooters think of the revolver, they have an image of the 4-inch barrel .38. Those are the very guns that rode in almost all police holsters until the early 1980s, remaining there for quite a few years afterward, which was not that long ago.
The 4-inch .38 allowed an average officer to qualify on a yearly basis, was inexpensive and accurate enough for the job at hand. Recoil was about all the occasional shooter wished to handle. Most issue loads left much to be desired, although some were better than others. While that impression of the revolver is not totally without merit, neither is it true of contemporary revolvers. Modern revolvers are more advanced and have features that of which few would have dreamed when issued the 4-inch .38.
Those handguns represent—in my opinion—a new modern baseline for personal defense. The revolver represents a different philosophy for some shooters; they worship a different totem, and sales figures show that they are no small number, although they are less vocal than 1911 or Glock fans.
The Modern Revolver
The modern baseline is a revolver chambered for a powerful cartridge, such as the .357 Magnum. No debate there—the .357 Magnum is versatile, accurate, highly developed and effective. A quality revolver, chambered for the .357 Magnum, is capable of striking man-sized targets on demand at 100 yards or more in trained hands. A 4-inch barrel revolver is accurate and easily carried. The modern revolver also has design features that make controlling Magnum loads less difficult.
The modern revolver has sights superior to anything in the past and may feature some type of unobtrusive laser light. Among the most interesting is the Taurus 627SS, a revolver well-suited to sporting use, which is important. However, my example is a front line, defensive handgun as well. Among the best go-anywhere, do-anything handguns, in my opinion, is a 4-inch-barrel .357 Magnum revolver, and the 627SS is among the best I have tested.
The Taurus 627SS
Taurus built the 627 on what they call a medium frame, or the K frame as I call it. Stainless steel construction is never a bad choice, although it does need maintenance since stainless is just that—stain less—and demands some care. The handgun might be described as target sighted. Normally, target sights are not recommended on a service pistol. It is not an issue gun for institutional use; it is a personal-defense handgun. Take a close look at the sights’ design. They are much different from the target sights on revolvers a generation ago. The foot connecting the sights to the frame is shorter than the long wedge once on such revolvers, which I like very much, and the ramp front post is highly visible.
The revolver features a heavy under-lug barrel. My example features a ported barrel. I have not been fond of ported handguns and still reserve my opinion until I fire the handgun in question. (Custom-grrade Magna Porting is a different matter.) The conservative ports of the 627 do not seem to rob the handgun of velocity and seem effective in limiting muzzle flip. They blow gas at an angle from the top strap. Just the same, I would caution firing the ported handgun from a retention position below the eyes; ejecta may invade your eyes.
Some years ago, Taurus introduced a Yoke Detent system similar in function to the older and revered Smith and Wesson Triple Lock. That spring-loaded component sets in the yoke and bears against the frame, ensuring the revolver locks tightly. The action is smooth, and trigger reset is rapid. The 627 is a seven shooter, rather than the traditional six-shot revolver—a neat trick in a K frame revolver—and the feel of the action is different. I have the distinct impression of a slightly faster lock time, perhaps 1/7th shorter than conventional? In any case, the action is smooth. The single-action press is a crisp four pounds ,and I like the option of a single-action capability for precision shots at longer range.
The outstanding design feature is the Ribber grip. When a steel frame bites into the hand, recoil is uncomfortable. The Ribber grips give a little in recoil and separate the hand from the metal of the frame. Muzzle flip and recoil combine to erode the firing grip. The Ribber grip cushions recoil and maintains excellent adhesion. Plus, you have no need for finger grooves with the Ribber because you have a good fit every time you grasp the pistol.
Firing the Taurus 627SS
When firing .38 Special practice loads, such as the 158-grain Blazer, there were no problems in recoil. The front sight simply hung on the target, and the bullets flew into the X ring. When firing .357 Magnum loads, the muzzle flip and recoil slowed me down, although at no time did I feel uncomfortable or feel the characteristic sting of Magnum recoil. You may comfortably fire this Magnum in long sessions. However, much of the discomfort in firing Magnum loads comes from muzzle blast. The report was there but manageable and, of course, I wear hearing protection when firing. The revolver is a great tool for fast work. When firing the 627, I had the impression the action was shorter and follow-up shots faster with the seven-shot cylinder. The combination of that short action, Ribber grips and conservative barrel ports makes for a great shooting Magnum revolver.
The Versatility of the Taurus 627SS
Part of the appeal of the revolver is versatility. You may use light .38 Special loads for familiarization and marksmanship practice. For those who prefer the .38 Special +P, and it has merit, use a load such as the 129-grain Hydra Shok +P. The Federal Hydra Shok is accurate and seems mild in this revolver. Moving to the Magnum—a load for which I have the greatest respect—is the Federal 130-grain Hydra Shok. That load consistently breaks over 1,400 fps in every 4-inch barrel .357 Magnum I have used to test it. The Hydra Shok fragments after adequate penetration and gives excellent results in ballistic media. It is among the most powerful handguns that may be mastered for personal defense, and the 130-grain Hydra Shock is an excellent loading.
If you are hiking in country that holds the promise of meeting dangerous animals, you may load the Federal 180-grain Cast Cor and have the greatest penetration possible. There just are not many handguns and calibers that afford that type of versatility with such portability. A personal choice that I find interesting is the Federal 180-grain JHP. Designed for use on deer-sized game, the 180-grain JHP, at almost 1,100 fps, has much to recommend. I have seen what it does to game animals and have no problem relying on it for personal defense. Expansion is excellent and accuracy is far greater than I can hold. A different and unconventional choice, but for those living in a true four-season climate and facing felons that are heavily bundled, the 180-grain load is a sensible choice.
How accurate is the Tracker? With several handguns, I feel I can shoot right to their potential. That is not true of the 627 Tracker. Like all quality handguns, the Tracker prefers one load to the other, although overall results are good to excellent. From a solid bench rest, most loads will group 5 shots into less than 2 inches. I have the feeling this handgun would be a consistent 1.5-inch revolver at 25 yards, or less, from a machine rest. It is certainly good enough for whom it is designed and is a reliable, accurate and powerful handgun well-suited to all around use.
I dug out an old Uncle Mike’s holster from the box and found it a very good holster for field and range use. I took off the safety strap (it was removable) and found the holster offered good retention. If riding on horseback or four wheeling, I would use the strap. However, just as it is, it works fine.
A Crimson Trace lasergrip comes fitted on the revolver. That device is a boon to overall combat ability. The laser does not take the place of iron sights, but it is a good option to have in dim light or for personal defense in the home. Keep watching for an in-depth report on the Crimson Trace.
5-shot groups, 25 yards
|Blazer 158-grain TMJ||2.25 inches|
|Federal 129-grain Hydra Shok +P||1.75 inches|
|Federal 130-grain Hydra Shok||2.0 inches|
|Federal 180-grain JHP||1.25 inches|
|Speer 158-grain Gold Dot||1.5 inches|
Have you fired the Taurus 627SS? What were your results? Share in the comments section.