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Taurus 709 Slim Photo Review

22 Sep

I posted last week about finally purchasing a Taurus 709 Slim in 9 mm after spending a lot of time considering and looking at the various .380 pocket pistols. I found the LCP/TCP/P3AT all too small for me to easily handle, grip and shoot with confidence. Although the 709 is really too big to pocket carry in most situations, it is small enough (and SLIM enough!) to tuck easily into a waistband or a jacket pocket.

I have the model 709SS with a matte stainless slide. Here are the full specs on the 709:

  • Model : 709SS
  • Finish: Matte Stainless Steel
  • Status: Available
  • Caliber: 9 mm
  • Grips: Checkered Polymer
  • Capacity : 7 +1
  • Weight: 19 oz
  • Barrel Length: 3″
  • Frame: Compact
  • Action: DA/SA
  • Front Sight: Fixed
  • Length: 6″
  • MSRP: $498.00

I’ve had the pistol for about a week and have carried it a few times and spent some range time with it. Instead of doing a conventional written review, I thought I’d try a ‘photo review’ to bring out my impressions on the Taurus 709.

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Taurus 709 Slim in 9mm Parabellum. The 709 is an attractively designed pistol with a number of nice features for CCW.

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Left side of the Taurus 709 Slim showing the slide release, magazine release and safety. Unfortunately for us lefties, none of these controls are ambidextrous.

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Racking the slide on the 709 is not difficult and the slide release locks the slide open upon firing the last round.

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Field stripping the 709 is done via Glock style levers on the frame just above the trigger. You must pull the trigger to fully release the slide for removal so be absolutely sure there are no rounds in the chamber before disassembly..

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The underside of the slide is machined well with no rough spots. When the slide is attached to the frame, there is very little movement/wobble.

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The frame of the 709 is polymer with steel inserts for the slide rails and a steel barrel locking block. Interior components are on par (thickness and appearance) with other polymer pistols that I own.

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The Taurus 709 (bottom) compared to the S&W M&P9. This photo doesn't really show the actual size difference between these two pistols. The 709 weighs approximately 10 oz less and is much more compact in carry mode.

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The 709 placed on top of the M&P9 to show the dimensional differences between the two pistols. Again the photo doesn't do justice to the real size difference the you feel when handling them.

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Taurus 709 (top) and S&W M&P9 (bottom). This photo does a nice job of showing how small and slim the 709 is in comparison to a full size service pistol.

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The 709 fills the hand fairly well for a compact pistol. I fired 120 rounds during my first range session with the 709 and didn't experience any FTF or FTE issues. Recoil is snappy but I didn't find it difficult to manage.

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I found the 709 to point naturally in my hand. 'Memory pads' on the frame work well to keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire. I was able to shoot 3" to 3 1/2" groups at 15 yards with several brands of ammo including my own reloads.

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While not really a pocket pistol, the 709 is quite compact and is easily concealable. I'm currently looking for an inside the waist band (IWB) holster for concealed carry.

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One nice feature of the 709 is the manual thumb safety. Here it is pictured in the 'safe on' position. Also take note of the Glock-style safety incorporated into the trigger. The 709 has a two stage trigger with a rather long but light first stage followed by a short but heavy second stage. The second stage is heavier than I prefer but it's manageable. It also offers you 'second strike' capability where you can pull the trigger again double action style of for some reason you get a light primer strike the first time.

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Thumb safety in the "safe off" position. As mentioned previously the safety is not ambidextrous and can be tricky to engage with a left handed grip. The magazine release can be seen in the bottom of the photo. It's not ambidextrous either but I was able to engage the release easily with my trigger finger. Magazines drop freely when the release is pushed.

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The rear polymer sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. My pistol shot quite low at 15 yards even with the rear sight fully extended. This is apparently a common problem with the 709. Taurus has offered to pay for shipping it to Miami for repair, but I'm not ready to part with the pistol for an extended repair period (I'd be interested in knowing whether anyone has found a commercial replacement front sight that would correct the problem). Just below the rear sight is the 'Taurus Security System' that can be engaged with a key to make the firearm in-operable.

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There is a relatively large area around the feed ramp where the cartridge case is unsupported. I didn't have any issues with several brands of factory loads but I did experience case bulging with my reloads. The Taurus manual specifies the use of factory loads only and I would agree!

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Several of my fired reloads exhibiting case bulging in the area of the unsupported feed ramp. These were 124 grain bullets over 5.3 grains of Unique which is a rather mild loading according to the Speer manual. I will be sticking to factory loads in the 709 in the future. I've not had any case bulging with these same reloads in my other 9 mm pistols.


My Pocket Carry Dilemma

14 Sep

I’ve been debating, ever since Ruger introduced the LCP, on what it was that I wanted in a pocket carry pistol. I handled all the offerings including the LCP, P3AT, TCP as well as the 380’s from Sig, Walther and Bersa. And I had the opportunity to shoot an LCP and a PPK.

To be honest, the LCP, P3AT and TCP all felt too small to me to hold comfortably. I’m left handed so I had difficulty in activating the slide release on the LCP and TCP (the Kel-Tec doesn’t have a slide release).

I’ve also been going through a ‘caliber reduction’ phase – or at least trying to limit the number of new calibers I add to my collection. Reason being I reload most of my own ammo so adding a .380 ACP to my arsenal would also require new dies, brass, powders and bullets.

I really like the overall fit and finish on the 709 (as an aside I also really liked the TCP, perhaps even better then the LCP).

So I ended up purchasing a Taurus 709 Slim (a .9mm). It’s only slightly bigger than the pocket pistols yet it fits much more comfortably in my hand. And I have a .9mm caliber pistol which I feel more confident with compared to a .380 if needed for self defense.

I’ve read some conflicting reviews on the 709 in the various web forums. Some work well and some apparently have had issues. I’m not clear on the percentages… whether it’s the same people with issues posting on every forum and blog or whether there are that many 709’s with problems. There also seemed to be a trend toward issues with early production runs vs. more recent production, at least in what I was reading.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be shooting and carrying the 709 and will post my impressions.

The Vltor Fortis Bren 10 Pistol – more delays

8 Sep

When Vltor announced in 2008 they would be producing a pistol (based on the Bren 10), members of the Bren 10 cult were excited. Now that two years have passed with no shipments of the pistol in sight, fans are still hopeful although perhaps growing skeptical.

Defense Review Photo

At the 2009 SHOT Show, Vltor displayed 4 pre-production prototypes:  (1) Standard Model, (2) Vice Model, (3) Special Forces Dark and, (4) Special Forces Light. Then in April 2009 claimed that the demand for their existing product lines had skyrocketed, causing delays with the Fortis pistol. I’m sure that was true, but it was also a disappointing chain of events for fans of the pistol.

Vltor brought functioning prototypes to the 2010 SHOT Show, claiming that the pistol was in production and that the first years worth of production had already been sold. Now more recently Vltor has announced another delay and mentioned they have in fact not taken orders for any of their production. This time a new estimated shipping date has not been given.

Sporting Products, LLC out of West Palm Beach, FL will be the sole distributor for the pistol. If you sign up through their web site, they will keep you updated on their availability (although the  site still claims the Fortis will be available in late May 2010).

Bren Ten

You can follow the development and availability of the Vltor Fortis on their blog. It’s not updated very frequently, but it does a nice job of chronicling their delays over the past two years 🙂  But more seriously, I’m still excited about the project and look forward to the day when I can handle a production copy of the new Bren 10.  Whether it takes 6 months or 6 years it is still an event to look forward to.

Ruger Named 2010 “Manufacturer of the Year”

1 Sep

Congratulations to Ruger for being named the 2010 Manufacturer of the Year by the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence. Named in the award notes were Ruger’s development of the SR-556 platform, their first compact pistol (SR9c) and an enhanced web presence.

The Shooting Industry Academy had this to say about Ruger and the award:

For diligently working to meet the desires of customers at all levels: consumer, retailer and distributor. For continuing the Voice of the Customer program, which has resulted in a new product category with the SR-556 and Ruger’s first true compact pistol, the SR9c. For ongoing efforts to enhance information access through a Web site that features expanded video content, up-to-date product information, customer input and an interactive online catalog. For expanding engineering and production staff and processes to support new product development and lean manufacturing.

Ruger also won Manufacturer of the Year honors in 2008, 2005, 1993 and 1992.

The Caracal: A New Pistol From United Arab Emirates

30 Aug

Caracal (Turkish word meaning ‘black ear’) is the name of a medium-sized cat ranging over Western Asia and Africa. It’s also the name of a new pistol to be imported to the US from the United Arab Emirates by Caracal USA.

The pistol is produced in full size, compact and sub compact versions in 9 mm, 9×21, 357 Sig and 40 S&W. The full size version holds 18 rounds in 9 mm and 16 in 357 Sig or 40 S&W. A video clip with segments of the Caracal in action:

Development of the Caracal started in 2002 led by the Austrian firearms designer Wilhelm Bubits who previously had designed the Steyr M pistol.

Troy Sellars, Caracal USA has this to say about the new pistol:

I can guarantee it is more accurate than the other polymer pistols on the market due to the full length rails and other engineering aspects. The recoil impulse is lower as well due to the barrel sitting 4mm lower than other pistols. I shoot it more accurate myself than my G17 and the guys at the indoor range were impressed about how accurate it was. They were also amazed at the lower felt recoil.I can’t make you buy it but I would encourage you to give it a chance. When we get them out there, stop by your local indoor range and put a few rounds through one.

Thanks, Troy Sellars
Director of Operations
Caracal USA

Troy also indicates that a shipment of Caracal’s is en-route to his US warehouse this week, and pending US Customs approval, will be available shortly. No word yet on price, but in my opinion it will need to be priced at or somewhat under the current polymer pistol offerings from Springfield, Glock, S&W, Taurus, etc to be competitive in the marketplace.
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Full Size


Sub Compact

Chiappa Rhino Revolver

26 Aug

Chiappa is reporting that their Rhino line of revolvers has cleared all the US import requirements and testing and is available for distribution through MKS Supply. You can read all about the unique aspects of the revolver on this flier. There are a number of models available from 2″ to 6″ barrels in either polished or black finish. The 6″ version features integral top and bottom picatinny rails (pretty cool an practical in my opinion).

It’s certainly an interesting design with a number of possible advantages over a traditional revolver. There are a number of sites that cover all the mechanics, features, etc of the Rhino. So I will focus on the marketability of a radically re-designed revolver….  in other words, will shooters be flocking to gun shops to buy a Rhino?

Gun buyers in general (and especially revolver buyers) are a conservative group of people and tend to go for time tested designs. The fact that the Rhino is so different in operation and appearance will be a deterrent to many buyers – at least initially.

I will say that I’ve been surprised at how quickly the polymer-framed Ruger LCR caught on (granted Ruger is a well-respected manufacturer with a solid customer and dealer base). And with both S&W and Taurus now also offering polymer framed revolvers, it seems like revolver buyers may not be as old and starchy as I once believed (no offence to revolver buyers, I’m among the old and starchy myself).

There will certainly be people who buy a Rhino simply because it’s unique. If these buyers have good experiences with the gun, and if the gun is well received by the gun media, it may go on to have a long and successful life on the US market.

Price is another factor. MSRP starts at $775 and goes up to nearly $1,000. There are a lot of good, proven pistol and revolver designs available at this price. The Rhino will need to be something special to compete in this price range.

Premier Collector’s Firearms Auction of the Year

11 Aug

If you’re a fan of fine collectible firearms, then you must check out the Rock Island Auction’s online catalog for their September 10-12 auction.

There are hundreds of firearms to be auctioned off including one of the most desirable of all Winchester’s, estimated at $300,000 – 500,000! It is an extraordinary “One of One Thousand” Winchester first model 1876 lever action rifles. This fine gun is certainly above my pay grade but it’s fun to look at the pictures!

The 1876 is just one of 250 Winchesters to be auctioned off. There are also over 400 Colts, fine English and American doubles, and a array of American and European military arms.

There are even guns for those of us with a more modest budget. Consider this Smith & Wesson M&P model 10 revolver made between 1948-1951. It’s in excellent condition and is offered with the original box and hang tag. It’s estimated to be worth between $850-$1,200.

I’m going to be browsing through the catalog over the next few days and will post anything else that strikes my interest. Then I need to start convincing my good wife how much I need another gun 🙂

Smith & Wesson’s New S&W500™ Bone Collector™ Revolver

11 Aug

Smith & Wesson and professional hunter/hunting personality Michael Waddell have joined forces to bring you the S&W model 500 Bone Collector revolver.

The Bone Collector is essentially the same as their regular 10.5″ barreled model 500 – if there is anything ‘regular’ about the model 500 X frame series of revolvers! Any differences between the two models appear to be limited to the two tone color, Bone Collector logo, unfluted cylinder and slight changes in front sight (red ramp instead of an orange ramp). The unfluted cylinder adds 3 oz to the weight of the Bone Collector.

While on the surface a pistol named “Bone Collector” is a bit odd, Michael Waddell and the Bone Collector brand has a powerful following – complete with a fan club, tv show, a big social media presence, and a host of hunting-related product endorsements. I don’t know the specific demographics of this fan base, but on the surface they appear younger (by several decades!) than traditional revolver buyers. It seems like smart marketing by S&W to target younger buyers. I think the idea of a ‘special edition’ model 500 will also appeal to S&W collectors.

Still the name and skull in the logo on the frame of the pistol will be a bit unnerving to some.

Suggested retail is $1,597.00. The press release from S&W announcing the Bone Collector is below.


Smith & Wesson Introduces New Model S&W500™ Bone Collector™ Revolver
New X-Frame Revolver Built In Collaboration with Professional Hunter Michael Waddell

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Smith & Wesson® Corp., the legendary 158-year old firearms maker, has introduced a new X-Frame model in collaboration with Professional Hunter Michael Waddell – the S&W500™ Bone Collector™. Engineered by the Smith & Wesson Performance Center, the Model S&W500 Bone Collector combines old-world craftsmanship with modern advancements into a new-age hunting revolver. This firearm is powerful, functional and capable of harvesting about any big-game animal on Earth. The Model S&W500 Bone Collector embodies the look, feel and attitude of Waddell’s latest television venture, “The Bone Collector,” airing on The Outdoor Channel.

Delivering more than a ton and a quarter of muzzle energy, the Model S&W500 earned the distinction as the most powerful production revolver when introduced. Built on the company’s X-Frame, the Model S&W500 provides today’s hunters with a well-balanced and manageable firearm when stalking large or dangerous game. Chambered for five rounds of .500 S&W Magnum®, the new Bone Collector revolver is manufactured with a stainless steel frame, cylinder and 10.5-inch barrel design. The S&W500 Bone Collector is standard with a two-tone finish, synthetic rubber grips along with the company’s renowned smooth double-action and crisp single-action trigger pull. To help aide in recoil management, the Model S&W500 is also standard with a full 360-degree muzzle compensator.

Equipped with a variety of special features that only the individual attention of master gunsmiths can achieve, the Model S&W500 Bone Collector is hand-cut and fit to insure top-notch accuracy and precision. Additional Performance Center features include a heavy-duty ball detent lock-up between the cylinder crane and frame along with a chrome-flashed hammer and trigger. The trigger on the Model S&W500 Bone Collector also features an over-travel stop and the revolver is standard with a Performance Center action job. All these features contribute to a revolver capable of answering the needs of any serious handgun hunter.

“We are excited to offer hunters a great option for taking their hunting adventure to the next level,” said Tom Kelly, Vice President of Marketing for Smith & Wesson. “Handgun hunting is becoming more popular than ever with many states now offering a handgun hunting season or allowing handguns to be used during rifle season. Whether used for harvesting wild boar or whitetail deer, its popularity has exploded. The new Bone Collector is the latest in the extensive line of hunting handguns from Smith & Wesson. Providing today’s hunter with sufficient power and long range accuracy, handguns like this new S&W500 enable users to move easily through areas with thick vegetation that often prove difficult to navigate with a long gun.”

The Model S&W500 Bone Collector weighs in at 79.3 ounces and has been fitted with a red ramp front sight and an adjustable black blade rear sight to help aid in target alignment. When traditional sights are not being used, hunters will appreciate the integral weaver base located on top of the barrel, which allows for optics to be easily mounted. For convenient carrying once in the field, a swivel mount bolt sling has been added. Adding to its allure, the new Model S&W500 is engraved with the Bone Collector logo on the frame and will have a limited run of 1,000 units.

For more information on the Model S&W500 Bone Collector, including availability and pricing, please visit or call (800) 331-0852.

About Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (NASDAQ: SWHC) is a U.S.-based, global provider of products and services for safety, security, protection and sport. The company designs and constructs facility perimeter security solutions for military and commercial applications, and delivers a broad portfolio of firearms and related training to the military, law enforcement and sports markets. SWHC companies include Smith & Wesson Corp., the globally recognized manufacturer of quality firearms; Universal Safety Response, a full-service perimeter security integrator, barrier manufacturer and installer; and Thompson/Center Arms Company, Inc., a premier designer and manufacturer of premium hunting firearms. SWHC facilities are located in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. For more information on Smith & Wesson and its companies, call (800) 331-0852 or log on to;; or

Matt Rice
Blue Heron Communications
(800) 654-3766

A look back at the 2000 SHOT Show

10 Aug

I ran across an article on the 2000 SHOT Show and I thought it was interesting, looking back a decade, to see what was new and exciting in ‘Y2K’. Like every year, manufacturers introduced some real winners and some losers. Below are just a few highlights.

Smith & Wesson introduced their “new” Schofield Model 3, a modern version of the 1874 Smith & Wesson Model 3. It reportedly received much attention during the show. Being a S&W fan, I can remeber this pistol being at the top of my wish list (right next to a Shiloh Sharps) for a number of years.

Taurus introduced a titanium slide version of their PT-111 9mm Millennium pistol. The Millennium series, first introduced in 1998, has gone on to become a staple in Taurus’ semi auto line. I owned a steel slide PT-111 for a time and found it to be a decent, reliable pistol. Today Taurus catalogs the Millennium Pro (13 models from 32 ACP to 45 ACP) which is incorporates a number of enhancements over the original Millennium.

Kimber’s Classic 22 rimfire rifles were announced in 1999 but started shipping in 2000. The rifles didn’t make it to dealers the year before because they “weren’t up to [their] standards,” according to Dwight Van Brunt, vice president of Kimber marketing and sales. He claimed “these guns are better than the old Kimbers”. The rifle featured a new Kimber rimfire action with Mauser claw extractor and two-position safety.

Remington’s EtronX electronic ignition rifle drew large crowds at the 2000 SHOT Show. The rifle fired rounds “nearly instantly” using a standard 9-volt battery. To be fair, it was a 99% reduction in lock time compared to a standard Rem 700 trigger. Remington claimed “the elimination of lock-time makes a tremendous difference in accuracy”. Perhaps but the EtronX required a key to turn it on and off, a battery (when battery technology wasn’t what it is today), special primers and had an MSRP of $2,000. Not many people were interested in buying one. The EtronX was offered initially in .220 Swift, .22-250 Remington and .243 Win.

Marlin introduced the Model 1895M lever action chambered for Hornady’s then new belted magnum, the .450 Marlin. Based on the .458 Win Magnum case, the .450 Marlin was meant to be a modernized 45-70. I’m sure the first debate about the need for a .450 Marlin cartridge vs. up-loaded 45-70 loads occurred shortly after (and continues to this day).

Buck Knives brought their new Strider tactical folder, the model 880, to the 2000 SHOT Show. Designed by custom knifemakers Mick Strider and Duane Dwyer, the knife measured 9 3/8 inches open with 4-inch tanto blade. It featured premium blade steel, titanium liners and G-10 scales. I have one of these knives and it is huge – way too big to carry in your pocket. It’s also a blocky design and not terribly comfortable in your hand. They introduced a smaller folder of the same design (model 881) a year or two later that is much more practical to carry and use. Buck continued their affiliation with Strider through 2008, introducing a number of tactical folders and fixed blade knives.

Schrade debuted a new Tough Lock folder designed by Ron Lake and Michael Walker. It featured a blade of BG-42 steel, titanium hardware and a precision bevel in the blade tang that increased the knife’s locking capabilities. It was a good knife, but perhaps too little too late for the company. Imperial Schrade only produced knives for a few more years before closing their doors in 2004. Taylor Brands LLC purchased the brand and imports a line of knives under the Schrade name.

So that wraps-up my look back at the 2000 SHOT Show. Are there any significant gun or knife related introductions from Y2K that I missed?

Diamondback Firearms DB380

6 Aug

Ever since Ruger introduced the LCP at the 2008 SHOT Show I have been interested in getting a pocket-carry pistol in .380ACP. And every time I am nearly ready to lay some cash down for the LCP another pocket pistol that catches my interest.

This time my ‘discovery’ is the Diamondback Firearms DB380. Diamondback is a new manufacturer based in Cocoa, Florida. There is no mention of Kel-Tec on their web site, but I can’t help but think of the possibility of a relationship between the two (both are based in the same town, both making pocket pistols). The DB380 is currently the only offering from Diamondback.

To my eye the DB380 looks like a mini-Glock or what a S&W 380 Bodyguard would look like without a laser. I would consider both references to be compliments.

Jeff Quinn over at GunBlast did a nice review on the DB380 back in January 2010. He found it to be an accurate and reliable pistol in his testing and points out a number of features not found on other pocket pistols: excellent sights, good trigger and easy Glock-style takedown.

The specs on the DB380 and Ruger LCP are nearly identical in length, width, height, etc. When I compared them side by side at a gun shop I really didn’t notice any difference in their size. To me, the big difference between the LCP and the DB380 are the extra features on the Diamondback pistol that Jeff Quinn mentions in his review. It’s sights and trigger are much improved over the LCP.

Pricing on the DB380 is somewhat higher than on the LCP. Diamondback lists their MSRP at  $430 with prices on Gunbroker going around $350-$380. The LCP is nearly $100 less than these prices.

I still have not been able to decide between these two pocket pistols. I like many of the features of the DB380 but I am somewhat weary of buying a gun from a new manufacturer like Diamondback. Then there is the price…  the LCP is certainly a more attractive option for my wallet.