Hello! Do you have any pictures of your 851 with the mentioned mods? Thank you!I have an 851, which I like very much. I've put about 1650 rounds through it, in the 8 to 9 months that I've had it. No problems of any kind with the gun - save one. At about 1200 rounds, the cylinder stop malfunctioned. That turned out to be powder residue fouling the internals of the gun in that area (which would likely happen to any revolver, eventually). After a good cleaning, it has been perfect ever since. The gun is accurate - I routinely get 1.5" groups at 10 yards. I've found the sights easy to use, especially after applying some hi-viz yellow paint to them. The gun has the right heft and feel....and points naturally very well. I definitely think that weight of the all-steel 851 to be an advantage for shooting - it simply reduces the recoil with stout loads. A good set of grips will go a long way toward improving your shooting. I had a set of nice laminated wood grips on the gun (which I made myself), but my arthritis has forced me to go back to rubber grips. So, my 851 wears the Pachmayr Compac grip now.
The finish on the gun has held up very nicely. It still looks virtually new. I would say that the quality of the bluing is as good as any other, perhaps better than some. I have to say that I think the bluing on the Taurus is BETTER than the bluing on my 1986 S&W Model 10, anyway.
Now on to the "downside", if I can call it that. The trigger on the 851 is rather stiff. NOT rough, just stiff. The gun has broken in nicely, though, so the effort has reduced a lot over time. I tried the Wolff reduced power springs in the gun, but this introduced FTF's (about 2 or 3 per hundred rounds). The Wolff springs did lighten the trigger effort quite a bit, though. I have since switched back to the standard hammer spring, in combination with the Wolff 9 lb trigger rebound spring (which is still lighter than the original). I get ZERO FTF's with this set-up. I am now so used to the gun that the effort doesn't bother me at all. The shrouded hammer is not a problem for me....and I shoot in single action a good bit of the time. The shrouded hammer IS an advantage for concealment and quick drawing of the weapon, no doubt. Some have trouble with the effort required to cock the gun and the small hammer spur, though. To be fair, the Taurus trigger might be a bit stiffer than the Smith J-frame guns, but not much. I've not owned a Smith J-frame, but I've handled a lot of them.....and brand new, the Smith trigger doesn't feel THAT much better than the Taurus. I've even tried several well broken in Smith Model 36's, the "classic" J-frame, if ever there was one - and the triggers on those were NOT much better than the Taurus, if at all.
I think that most, if not all, of the Smith J-frames are alloy guns at this point. For all-day carry, the light weight might be an advantage - but NOT for shooting. The heavier all-steel guns are definitely better, if you shoot a lot. I happen to believe that an all-steel gun will outlast any alloy framed gun as well, but others might dispute that (and probably will).
Lastly, I think that Taurus quit offering the 851 (38 Special variety). I know that they still offer the 651, though....which is exactly the same gun, except that it is .357 Magnum capable.
Anyway, I would say that the Taurus 851/ 651 would be a great choice. I am very happy with mine -and I don't feel it in the least "inferior" to the Smith J-frames. It certainly IS the equal of the Smiths as regards solidness of construction, reliability and accuracy, as well as quality of finish. If the Taurus has a disadvantage, it would be the trigger.....but NOT by much.