The new Taurus 380 Mini combines a legacy of handgun action with a semi-autopistol chambering. The 380 Mini is a close relative of the Taurus Model 905 revolver, which is chambered for the 9x19mm round.
The 380 Mini is a five-shot, double-action-only revolver with a 1.75-inch barrel. A hand-filling rubber finger-groove grip encircles the round butt frame. One item of note: The crosspin in the frame that helps keep the grip from shifting is not centered in the lower frame as is found in S&W revolvers. So if a grip change is desired, while S&W grips might otherwise fit, a work-around will be needed or Taurus-dedicated grips must be used.
The 380 Mini has decent sights, uncommon with small-frame centerfire revolvers. It has an integral ramped and serrated front sight, while the rear sight is a flat, black, smooth-faced metal blade, which fits in a cut in the topstrap. This sight is adjustable for windage by moving it in its slot using a very small slotted screw at the top right side of the frame. Such an adjustment is easy—if you have a very small screwdriver. Fortunately my friend who was along to help had one, saving me the embarrassment of using a knifepoint to do the adjustment and no doubt marring the gun’s finish in the process.
The trigger is smooth-faced and rounded, but its rear edges are abrupt—not sharp, mind you—but with the slow trigger pulling needed for accuracy work, this became uncomfortable.
The 380 Mini is double-action-only as mentioned earlier, but it does have an exposed hammer from which the single-action capability has been removed, as has the hammer spur. The body is contoured and polished such that its shape follows the curved lines of the top rear of the frame. This all makes the outline of the 380 Mini just that much smaller, with no hammer spur to catch on anything.
In the lower rear of the hammer body is the unobtrusive Taurus Key Lock. Two hexagonal keys are provided. Turning the key 180 degrees to the right (with the gun muzzle pointed away from you, of course) locks the firing mechanism but still allows opening the cylinder for loading, unloading and cleaning.
The fluted cylinder releases and moves easily on its crane when the thoughtfully shaped and checkered cylinder latch is pushed forward. I particularly appreciate the lack of sharp edges on the latch, as I invariably get nicked on my right-hand thumb due to recoil when firing this-sized revolver if it’s chambered for anything above .22 LR. To load the 380 Mini, five cartridges are inserted into the Taurus Stellar moon clip and then the package is loaded into the swing-out cylinder.
Ammo & Cleaning
In regard to firing the M380, an owner should take note of another worthy bit of information in the supplied instruction manual. Taurus states the gun is built to withstand the regular use of +P jacketed (emphasis added) ammunition. Not recommended is using +P ammunition loaded with lead bullets, as the case neck tension on jacketed ammunition intended for use in semi-autos is not tight enough to prevent the softer lead bullet from becoming unseated and moving forward from its case as multiple rounds are fired while all are in the cylinder.
It is all too possible for this jarring to move the lead bullet enough that it protrudes from the cylinder face. This then stops the cylinder from turning and causes difficulty in opening the cylinder. The cylinder has to be rotated backwards to gain enough room for this protrusion to clear the window in the frame.
Next, and easily overlooked, is advice on what not to use for cleaning a handgun that has Titanium in its construct, as does the 380 Mini. The instruction booklet states that while normal care and cleaning procedures can be used, under no circumstances should you use any abrasive material to clean the front face of the cylinder or any other part of the revolver (emphasis added). The use of such an abrasive material can remove the gun’s finish, which is a protective layer. This can greatly reduce service life of the cylinder and the revolver. For those who don’t like the black rings that form on the cylinder face with this revolver, you had best learn to live with them. Think of them as a small price to pay for the weight loss derived from using Titanium.
At the range, accompanied by Ted and A.J. Stuart, and later by Bill Cassidy and Bill Beradelli, we did the zeroing. The rear sight needed only four clicks left windage to be dead-on at 10 yards for most all of the ammunition tested. I think point of impact did vary slightly with different bullet weights, but no more than an inch or so, even at 15 yards. This observation is questionable, though, for despite having all the above-noted help, we all quickly got tired (and bored) attempting to shoot nice groups with the 15-pound double-action trigger pull.
The consensus was the gun was more-than-okay to shoot and shoot well, and get good hits on man-sized threats at 10 and 15 yards, with mostly good center hits. Bill Cassidy opined he was quite taken by the little gun and said he considered buying one. Bill Beradelli just busied himself shooting nice groups, while AJ and Ted recovered from the chronograph work.
As to the “why” of such a heavy trigger pull, my best guess is this is due to the combination of using a moon clip to hold the rounds with the clip somewhat acting as a cushion to the hammer/firing pin strike. The 380 Mini has a frame-mounted firing pin (not hammer-mounted), which most often demands a heavier-than-traditional hammer blow. With all this, Taurus correctly came down on the side of insuring—as best as they could—that the user gets a “bang,” not a “click.”
Now, while there are pros and cons regarding the effectiveness of the .380 ACP cartridge for self-defense, many knowledgeable gun people are comfortable with it. Of course. the same can be said for using a revolver at all—and a snub-nose one at that. Weight, size and reduced recoil are driving forces. Just having one caliber also keeps life simple. If you already have a .380 semi-auto, a revolver in matching caliber makes sense if there is any intent of the revolver being used by someone who is not able to or disposed to learn the manual of arms necessary to effectively use the semi-auto.
Other advantages also come into play, such as where laws or personal preference require or dictate that ammunition and gun be stored separately. A standard revolver requires either fumbling around for loose rounds or digging them out of the box to then individually load them into the gun. With a full moon clip, this fumbling is minimized. Just grab gun and full clip. With just slight fiddling with clip and cylinder, the gun is quickly loaded and you’re good to go.
Of course, not everyone has the strength to control the recoil of a more powerful cartridge, nor sufficient strength to control the gun in recoil. The heavy trigger pull is a negative here, though, and in my experience there’s no effective gunsmithing work-around. Bottom line: The firing pin location, the removal of the hammer spur which somewhat lightens the hammer weight and changes the momentum of the hammer force and a clip which somewhat cushions the firing pin strike, along with the varieties one finds in ammunition manufacture all add up to needing a heavy mainspring.
With all these things considered, the Taurus 380 Mini is worth a long look. For more information, contact Taurus at 800-327-3776 or check out the Taurus website at taurususa.com.