A backup gun is a proven life-saver. There are dozens of stories of officers whose lives have been saved because of the timely application of a little "second-gun surprise." When the need arises, with a backup or second gun you'll never be in violation of that first rule of gunfighting: have a gun. If your primary gun goes down, is lost or taken away, or you find yourself on the ground fighting for your life, that little "extra" in an ankle holster or back pocket can spell the difference between a win and a loss.
The same applies in an off-duty situation. Many agencies authorize officers to be armed off-duty and some mandate it. Honestly? I've always been stunned to hear of officers who decide not to carry off-duty. From a personal sense of responsibility to my family, and a just-as-serious secondary responsibility to the public, I feel being armed is more of an obligation than a luxury.
Toward that end, Taurus' newest generation of small-scale auto pistols fits the bill on both counts quite handily. Let's just clear the air right off the bat on one issue, though. Yes, 10 or 15 years ago, Taurus had a reputation for being at the low end of the scale in quality and reliability. Those days are over, primarily due to the administration of Bob Morrison, Taurus' executive vice president. Bob has brought Taurus' quality control and designs into the new millennium, which just may account for the new gun's name.
Today's Taurus delivers the kind of quality you would expect from any mainstream manufacturer. To guild the lily, the company offers a lifetime guarantee on its guns. No problems and no whining. If the weapon breaks, Taurus fixes it. Period. You can't offer that kind of service or guarantee unless you have confidence in your products.
Our test gun was the PT 111SS, one of several variants on the PT111 design. The test gun features a polymer frame, stainless steel slide and double-action-only function. At 18.7 ounces, the PT111SS qualifies as a true pocket pistol. De-horned, with rounded edges and subtle curves, the little gun rides easily in a lightweight nylon belt holster, shoulder rig, or pocket holster. Yet, small size aside, it still holds 10 plus one rounds of your choice of 9mm ammo.
Fit and finish were up to par with anything we've tested. The Taurus passed the "feels good" test, and while obvious it was a casting, the slide looked well finished. There is an external safety on the left side, right under the thumb. Even though it's double-action-only, the added feature of a safety can often put administrators' minds at ease and might serve to flummox a potential gun-grabber long enough for you to pound him.
The external extractor helps to assure reliability.
Another important safety feature is the Taurus locking device, built right into the right side of the slide. A simple quarter turn of a supplied key locks the slide and trigger. While an often-contentious feature, these kinds of things can prevent misuse by children or unauthorized "guests." Frankly, the jury is still out on the efficacy of a built-in lock on a personal defense gun. Will you remember to turn the lock off? Every time? These decisions are eminently personal ones and need careful consideration. Suffice to say we tested the system and it worked as it was designed.
The gun handled like any mid- to small-sized auto and felt just a tad "fat" in the hand. Not uncomfortable, but not skinny, like a Walther PP series. The test staff felt in control of the gun when they fired it, and the slightly bigger grip helped to tame the sometimes sharp recoil of the full-caliber 9mm loads.
With the magazine out, the little finger gets lost under the grip; however, the supplied magazines come with a finger rest, so unless you shorten the bottom plate, it shouldn't be a problem.
The PT111 series also has a passive firing pin block, only released when the trigger is pulled completely to the rear. It resets when the trigger is let off. This helps prevent inadvertent discharges from dropping or from partial trigger pulls or other abuse or misuse.
The sights are plastic, but robust, and we had no problems with our test gun. They are fixed, but bold and of the three-dot variety. The design is such that they don't catch on clothing or holsters.
Taurus’ key locking system effectively locks the slide and trigger, rendering the gun safe.
Ergonomically speaking, the levers and buttons on the left side are, from front to back: the take-down lever, slide release, and safety. The safety falls naturally under the thumb and "snicks" on and off with a satisfying click. Rear serrations allow easy slide manipulation and the sights, etc., are smooth enough that rapid charging or clearance drills don't deliver bloody fingers and pinched hands.