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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I am considering the purchase of either a Taurus 851 or S&W 638. Any of you fine folks own and have real life experience with one or both of hese guns. Help me decide.
 

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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.
 

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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.
Hello! Do you have any pictures of your 851 with the mentioned mods? Thank you!
 

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First photo: My 851, with the laminated walnut grips (since removed).

Second photo: Someone else's gun, with the Pachmayr Compac grip I now use. (I hope that the owner of the gun in question will forgive me, but I don't have a photo of my 851 with the Pachmayr grips.)
 

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Frankly, being familiar with both gun brands the Smith will be slightly better finished. Slightly smoother action. When I say better finish and action it is pretty subtle and the Tauruses break in very nicely which usually gets them up to snuff with the Smith's. The Taurus will have the better trigger to me and a little added weight which makes it far more pleasant to shoot.

I had a Taurus 650 and although stout, the trigger had a very crisp break and nice reset. I am not about hair triggers. I am more about crisp break and good reset especially in my CCW revolvers. The Smith trigger was not that great in the 640 which is the Smith version of the 650 that I test fired. It did not impress me. I liked the 650 better, as did other folks who tried them both that day at the range.

The other caveat is I HATE the recoil of air weights and MUCH prefer a steel snubby. They are better to train with, far easier on the hand and the couple of ounces difference isn't that tremendously earth shattering. The extra weight is desirable for a CCW snubby that shoots 38, or Magnum. The weight helps a great deal with follow up shot accuracy and balancing out the DA trigger pull. I thought maybe the Taurus might be cheaper in the SS 851 (blued is cheaper), however the stainless version of the Taurus 851 and the Stainless Smith 638 are the same price at Buds (where I cost out my guns to get a base line price). The strength for the Smith being fit and finish. The strength of the Taurus being better trigger (to me) and steel vs aluminum. I am not a big fan of aluminum frames either, they don't usually wear very well and tend to be very prone to flame cutting.

Here is where Taurus blows away the competition in value, when you get into the same gun in the Magnum rating with the Taurus SS 651 and the S&W SS 649. The Taurus SS 651 is $393 v.s. the Smith SS 649 at $579, that's almost $200 difference. The Taurus 651 is only $20 dollars more than the 851. This is to me is the real deal. You are getting a magnum rated snubby in the 651 roughly the same weight and all the features of the 851. You can shoot 38 standard, 38 +p, 38+p+ and Magnum in it. Another huge benefit is that the gun is manufactured for the high pressure of Magnum loads, it can take 38 special from here to eternity and stay tight. If you feel like it, run some Magnum through it or +p, no worries. Defensive ammo capability is fantastic in four different pressures to choose from. I prefer that my revolvers are over manufactured for the practice caliber I cycle through them, so I try to get all my 38 special revolvers in Magnum.

You also have the choice of the blued 651 at $348 which gets you more than a $200 savings over the Smith and is $20 less than the Taurus SS 851. Taurus does a really nice blue, similar to the old Colts.

My recommendation is the Taurus SS 651, best bang for the buck "as they say" ;) If you like blued revolvers the 651 in blue is a no brainer.
 

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I have both the 850 and 851. I know you mentioned the 651 (a 357), but I thought I'd mention it because I tried the 651 with a standard 357 load and it killed my palms. With that being said, an 851 using a 38+P round is deep in 357 territory anyway. So why pay for the 357 when I wont ever use it anyway.

Just my 2 cents.
 
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