Taurus Model 850 CIA Ultra-Lite 38 Special Revolver 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 2nd, 2013


Click pictures for a larger version.







Taurus Security System internal key lock blocks the hammer from movement.





Synthetic rubber grip is well-fitted and well-textured for a secure hold.










Taurus has been building double-action revolvers for several decades now, and just in the past few years, has really expanded their line. The last time I counted, and I am sure it has changed by now, Taurus had eighty-seven different revolvers in the catalog. Their small-frame five-shot revolvers look very similar to a Smith & Wesson J-frame on the outside, and are pretty much the same size, but differ internally a bit. I suppose that after the Taurus Judge series of revolvers, the small-frame five-shot guns are their most popular, and for good reason; they are reliable, accurate, and affordable little guns that can be relied upon as a weapon for concealed carry. Particularly well-suited for the role of a concealed carry revolver is their new 850 CIA Ultra-Lite 38 Special, which is the subject of this review.

The 850 CIA shown here is made primarily of stainless steel and aluminum, with a few plated carbon-steel small parts. The grip is a very comfortable textured black synthetic rubber, which covers the backstrap of the grip to cushion felt recoil. What makes the 850 so well-suited for concealed carry is its snag-free concealed-hammer design. Many people erroneously call this type of revolver “hammerless”, but that is incorrect. The hammer is concealed within the frame, to prevent the weapon from hanging up on the draw, and to keep dirt, pocket lint, and other debris out of the internals of the weapon.

Specifications for the 850 CIA are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of resistance, as measured using my Lyman digital scale. Linear measurements are listed in inches. The cylinder length does not include the ratchet star. DA is the double-action trigger pull. 


Overall Length 6.625 inches
Overall Height 4.26 inches
Weight Unloaded 16.7 ounces
Barrel Length 2.05 inches
Cylinder Length 1.512 inches
Cylinder Diameter 1.345 inches
Barrel/Cylinder Gap 0.002 inch
Trigger Pull DA 9 pounds, 7 ounces
Cylinder Capacity 5 cartridges
MSRP Not yet listed

I commend Taurus on the tolerance of the barrel/cylinder gap on this revolver. This, as well as the last two Taurus revolvers that I have measured, had gaps of only two one-thousandths (.002) of an inch. A small barrel/cylinder gap such as this contributes to higher velocity, and less fire and burnt powder spitting out the sides of the revolver. I did not bench test this weapon for accuracy, but instead fired standing on my two hind legs and using a two-hand hold and a modified Weaver stance.  Firing at paper and steel targets from seven out to one hundred yards, the little snub performed admirably. I only hit about fifty percent with it at one hundred yards, but was not expecting to do any better. This little revolver and its like perform very well at combat distances for a defensive weapon, and hits out to twenty-five yards were very easy to make. The Taurus was not painful at all to shoot, even with Plus P ammunition. However, my favorite load for a snubnose 38 Special is the Buffalo Bore 158 grain semi-wadcutter hollow-cavity standard-pressure load. This load uses a low-flash powder to reduce muzzle flash, and is purpose-built for short-barreled revolvers like this Taurus. This load ran over the chronograph at an average of 868.6 feet-per-second from the stubby barrel of this Ultra-Lite, recorded ten feet from the muzzle. I fired this ammunition at a distance of ten feet into ballistic gelatin, and it performed perfectly. The bullets consistently penetrated fifteen inches, and expanded reliably, as can be seen in the picture. Recoil of this Buffalo Bore load is very easy to handle in the little Taurus.

A gun such as this rides well in a jeans pocket, or when carried in a good belt holster. Shown here is a hybrid Kydex/leather holster from SHTF Gear. This holster comes with spring clips for the belt, but leather belt loops are optional. The holster fit the Taurus perfectly, and stayed open for easy re-holstering, which is very important with an inside-the-pants holster. The Kydex is thin for a slim profile, and the leather protects both the wearer and the weapon.

The Taurus 850 Ultra-Lite CIA was one hundred percent reliable with every load tested, and would make a very good carry gun for those who prefer the simplicity of a double-action revolver. The trigger pull was very smooth, but slightly heavier than I like, but that is easily corrected, if desired. Adding a Crimson Trace Lasergrip to this revolver would greatly improve its usefulness as a defensive weapon, as most unpleasant social situations take place at night, and the CT Lasergrip makes hitting much easier in the dark.  At the time of this review, I do not have the suggested retail price on this 850 Ultra-Lite, so check with your local dealer on pricing.    

Check out the Ultra-Lite CIA Taurus 38 and other Taurus firearms and accessories online at www.taurususa.com.

For the location of a Taurus dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.

To order Taurus firearms online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

To order quality 38 Special ammunition, go to www.luckygunner.com and www.midsouthshooters.com.

To order the SHTF Gear holster, go to www.shtfgear.com.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.



Model 850 CIA comes with hard case, instructions, and keys for internal key lock.



The 850 CIA has a concealed hammer for a snag-free draw, and the design also keeps dirt and debris from getting into the weapon.





Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure Low Flash 38 Special load expands quickly, and penetrated 15 inches into ballistic gelatin when fired from the barrel of the Taurus CIA.



SHTF Gear hybrid Kydex/leather holster conceals the Taurus very well. Leather belt loops are optional.