TFB Review: Taurus Executive Grade 856 Revolver

As part of a renewed focus on quality control and enhanced features for its customers, Taurus has just launched a new grade of firearms, their “Executive Grade.”  The first of the Taurus Executive Grade firearms to hit the market, the Executive Grade 856  revolver, looks a bit like a matte stainless 3″ 856 Defender combined with the bobbed hammer of their 2″ 856’s, topped off with square-butt checkered Altamont walnut grip stocks that fully encompass the frame.

Taurus Revolvers @ TFB:

The unique aspects of the Executive Grade firearms are that they are assembled in a dedicated production room with a core staff off production specialists who hand fit, polish, assemble, tune and quality control check the revolvers.  The Executive Grade 856 features chamfered chambers and a smoothed, polished and contoured trigger guard. The Executive Grade firearms also have a unique Taurus Executive Grade engraving on the frame of the firearm.

Executive Grade firearms also ship with a very nice Pelican Vault TSA-approved hard case that one can choose to affix a metallic Taurus Executive Grade decal to-or not.  The hard case with a custom cut foam pistol liner, two removable foam levels and metal padlock inserts is a great upgrade as opposed to a cardboard box or soft case.  These upgraded features bump up the MSRP to about $200 more than their other 3″ barreled 856’s.

TB Review: Taurus Executive Grade 856 Revolver

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Specs, per Taurus:

  • Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Action Type: Double Action Only
  • Firing System: Hammer
  • Front Sight: Serrated, Removeable
  • Rear Sight, Fixed (Trench Style)
  • Grip: Altamont Walnut Checkered
  • Caliber 38 Spl +P
  • Frame Size: Small
  • Barrel Length: 3.00 in.
  • Overall Length: 7.50 in.
  • Overall Height: 4.80 in.
  • Overall Width: 1.41 in.
  • Weight: 25 oz
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Finish: Hand-Polished Satin
  • MSRP: $689

First Impressions

Out of the box, the Taurus Executive Grade 856 looks very nice.  On top of every Executive Grade pistol will be a black envelope with the words “You’ve been promoted”.  Inside is a “premium lifestyle, premium rewards” affirming note specific to each different Executive Grade firearm from Bret Vorhees, President and CEO of Taurus USA.  Underneath the envelope is the firearm itself, in the aforementioned custom-cut foam.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade letter

Taurus 856 Executive Grade letter

The 856 itself looks nicely put together, with the hand-polished satin finish contrasting nicely with the old-school looking square butt checkered walnut grips that are more reminiscent of an older Colt or Smith & Wesson.  Looking over the crane, cylinder, plunger, and underside of the trigger mechanism, I was able to see that the parts were appropriately lubricated before shipping, but not overly so.  One wouldn’t want to get excess gun oil on your slacks before the board meeting, after all.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Curiously, the sights are a combo of the gutter rear sight of all 856 revolvers and the serrated black front sight from the 2″ barreled 856’s, rather than the more squared-off front sight of the other 3″ barreled models like this one.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

The grips aren’t a perfect fit to the frame (there are some gaps here and there) but overall not bad.  They look good, but again they’re a curious choice for a gun with a DA only concealed hammer designed for concealed carry.  Something like the VZ grips or the low profile Altamont walnut grips on the other 3″ 856’s would be a more logical stylistic choice for this gun, in my opinion.

Out of the box, I did not observe any obvious blemishes, boogered up screws, loose parts or machining marks anywhere on the Executive Grade 856.  The DAO trigger pull averaged 11lbs, with most of the resistance in the first two thirds leading up to a staging point, followed by a crisp final break.  Though there was some stacking resistance in the first two thirds, the overall pull was smooth with no grit, which is what one wants from a double-action pull.  It’s not quite as nice as a Smith & Wesson performance center DAO, but almost. Overall, the first impression of this revolver was adequate.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Range Results

My initial range session with the Taurus Executive Grade 856 was interesting.  The front and rear sights have adequate daylight between them for defensive use, but I found the black front sight hard to immediately pick up upon presentation to the target from a holster, even trying with a variety of different color and light transmission shooting lenses on a sunny day.

Being that the Executive Grade is marketed as an upgraded product, in my opinion, the front sight could have used a little more of an upgrade. Something like the Ameriglo H3 GR orange outline night sight that Taurus equips some other 856 and 605 revolvers with would be a better fit.  It’s only $30 MSRP and I really wonder why Taurus did not choose to put that sight on this gun.

Hold on Loosely?

With a full underlug barrel and stainless steel cylinder and frame, the Executive Grade 856 is weighty for a compact revolver at 25oz unloaded.  Recoil was accordingly soft, yet the grips had a slight tendency to scootch downward in the hand, gloved or ungloved.  This can be resolved by lightly roughening the backstrap, but its enough to require a slight readjustment of the grip for each shot.  With .38 Special, if you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade – note fouling escaping in the gap between grip and frame

3 cylinders in, I had my first issue.  The grip stocks came noticeably loose, to the point where I could see a gap between them.  Being that Taurus 805 stocks are held on by a single screw, I’d advise Taurus (or an owner of this revolver) not only to double-check that screws are torqued correctly but also to use some light Loctite on the grip screw to prevent this from occurring on a singular failure point.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade-gap between grip and frame when grips came loose

Another immediately noticeable issue was that a full press of the plunger jams empty cases up on the too-wide grips, which in turn jams all the cases in place.  Once you learn to just give the plunger a light tap, the chamfered chambers do the rest to make sure the cases fall free.  This same wide grip issue precludes the use of some speed loaders, though speed strips still worked ok.  I have to think that if this revolver was given a real workout in the design process, this issue would have been noticed and addressed by using different, narrower grips.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade – Note the gap between grips as well as cases hung up on the grip

Ammo Variety and Accuracy

I used a wide variety of ammunition weights, regular and +P pressures and various bullet profiles/materials with the Executive Grade 856 (sadly, I did not have 200gr on hand).  The Executive Grade 856 never failed to fire any ammunition for all 250 rounds fired in this review.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Once I learned to just give the plunger a light tap, it ejected almost all cases smoothly, even on strings up to ten cylinders in a row.  The only ammunition it did have trouble with sticking in the cylinder after firing was some super cheap Hungarian ammunition from MFS.  This did not occur with any other ammunition, so I will chalk it up to being an ammo-specific issue.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Accuracy-wise, the Executive Grade 856 is a adequately accurate CCW revolver.  Being that the Executive Grade 856 is not a target revolver, I opted to test it by firing offhand with smooth trigger pulls (no staging) at 10 yards.  The Executive Grade 856 printed groups of roughly 1.75-2″ in size, with the best results being with Hornady’s 110gr FTX ammunition.  By staging the trigger, it was also accurate enough to empty a cylinder into a 4″ gong at 25 yards and a silhouette target at 50 yards, so adequate enough for defensive use.

Overall Impressions of the Taurus Executive Grade 856

The Taurus Executive Grade 856 is an interesting step from Taurus.  The renewed focus on quality control and premium features represents a “brand repositioning” that opens the doors to a lot of new higher grade products from Taurus, as well as an aspiration by Taurus as an overall company to improve brand image overall.

The Taurus Executive Grade 856 stands pretty much alone in its MSRP as a revolver with its price to features comparison, and that’s what will help it get a foot in the door with FFLs and potential customers.  Where it struggles is in exactly what it wants to be, with grips that get in the way of case ejection and are a bit more “target” style than CCW style, and sights that don’t fit with the overall “upgraded” image.

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Objectively, the Executive Grade 856 has a nice DAO trigger, adequate sight picture, and an excellent provided case.  Subjectively, the revolver itself, combined with the case and a few other extra features, fitting, and manufacturing attention, represents a fair value for the quality of the core product.

With a little more attention paid to features such as the grip and the sights, this could be a real contender for a mid-grade revolver.  If you’re a Taurus fan like Hop, the Executive Grade line should be exciting news and perhaps you should give the Executive Grade 856 a look.  Personally, I wouldn’t give the Executive Grade 856 a front-row parking spot in my gun safe or the keys to the executive washroom just yet.

Pros:

  • Nice, smooth, trigger pull
  • Chamfered chambers
  • Comes with an excellent case
  • Good core value

Cons:

  • Grips can cause ejection and speed loader compatibility issues
  • Odd sight combination
Taurus 856 Executive Grade

Taurus 856 Executive Grade


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