The newly-released Taurus Spectrum is both small and ergonomic, but most will see it as a colorful extension of their personalities (although many of us would just order it in black frame, black slide and black soft-touch inserts). I suspect that the colorful aspect of the Spectrum will be appreciated mostly by the younger generation and female shooters.
Looking at the graceful lines of the Spectrum might lead one to believe it was designed by a car designer rather than a firearms engineer. Its ergonomics and ability to be easily concealed will be appreciated by all but those with very large hands.
WHAT IS THE SPECTRUM ALL ABOUT?
It would be easy—but a gross oversight—to look at the Taurus Spectrum and see only a nice-looking, micro-compact pistol available in a full palette of colors. To be certain, it is that, but it also has ergonomics and design features not found combined in other similarly sized pistols. The smooth, rounded design of the Spectrum creates a snag-free pistol for a rapid draw and a slow, smooth reentry into the holster. This is more than standard “melting” or “de-horning,” whereby a squared-off design is modified to make it smooth. The Spectrum is designed from the outset for ease of handling with a smooth draw and re-holstering.
Most pistol manufacturers tout their slide serrations for a secure grip to enable easier slide-racking and performing press checks. With the Spectrum, Taurus focuses instead on the basic design of the slide by providing relief cuts in each side of the slide. These start with a narrow cut approximately one-third of the way back from the muzzle end and widen as they progress toward the rear of the slide. This design guides your thumb and forefinger back to the soft-touch panels found at the rear of the slide, where you would usually find slide serrations.
Other pistol manufacturers also feature various types of grip-checkering or texturing to provide a secure and slip-free grip on the pistol. Taurus engineers designed the Spectrum’s grip frame with a small relief at the tang and a tapered relief leading to the rear of the trigger guard that forms a small shelf for the thumb and trigger finger to rest on. Soft-touch grip panels are also molded into the rear of the grip (including the tang), the sides and the front strap to help provide a secure grasp on the pistol. The extended magazine does not have soft-touch material on the finger rest.
Another area in which the Spectrum stands apart from most of its competition is the double-action-only (DAO) trigger. The striker is not fully or even partially pre-cocked when the slide retracts under recoil. Pulling the trigger fully retracts the striker, depresses the striker block and then releases the striker. The trigger pull is longer and heavier than on most striker-fired micro-pistols but is very smooth. The trigger does “stack” as it passes the midpoint of the pull.
After shooting a regular striker-fired pistol for a while, it will take a bit of practice to remember to release the Spectrum’s trigger completely before pulling it for a follow-up shot. Given the far-forward position of the trigger while at rest, as well as the rounded trigger guard, there isn’t a lot of room for your finger on the trigger. Forget about wearing gloves unless you have a small-diameter trigger finger and very thin gloves.
“It would be easy—but a gross oversight—to look at the Taurus Spectrum and see only a nice-looking, micro-compact pistol available in a full palette of colors. To be certain, it is that, but it also has ergonomics and design features not found combined in other similarly sized pistols.”
This trigger design also gives the shooter re-strike capability. Tactically speaking, however, it is best to perform a “tap, rack, bang” immediate-action maneuver rather than pull the trigger a second time in the hope that the recalcitrant round will fire. Finally, the Spectrum is available in a wide variety of colors and color combinations. The initial production pistols are similar to the original Model T Ford: You can have any color you want… as long as it is black. I’m sure this simplified the production process as Taurus moved from building prototypes to production. Once all the kinks are worked out of the production process and the supply chain—and probably by the time you read this—multiple colors and color combinations will be available.
All told, there will be three frame colors (black, white or gray); two slide choices (black or matte-stainless); and 20 overmold colors, for a total of 120 possible combinations. There are eight standard offerings, three house combinations and potentially 111 other color combinations. Some of these other color combinations are unique to specific distributors.
INNER AND OUTER WORKINGS
The semiautomatic Spectrum operates using a locked breech, as do most modern centerfire handguns, rather than the blowback operation found on older .380 ACP chambered pistols. The slide, barrel and recoil spring assembly look very similar to those found on a Glock or M&P striker-fired pistol.
Takedown is simple, and it is not necessary to pull the trigger. First, remove the magazine and make sure the pistol is unloaded. With the slide in the forward position, turn the takedown pin counterclockwise 90 degrees using a screwdriver or the rim of a .380 Auto case (9mm cases work fine too). The slide is then released and will slide off the front of the frame. The recoil rod, spring and barrel can then be removed from the slide. Reassembly is in reverse order, but it is not necessary to rotate the locking pin back into position. When the slide is installed and is slid completely to the rear, the locking pin will rotate into position on its own. Just verify that it is in the vertical position after reassembly. The only safeties are the very long trigger pull and the striker block. Due to its weight and long pull, I doubt anyone will pull the trigger inadvertently. There is no trigger safety or drop safety as are found on many striker-fired pistols.
The magazine release is easily reversible for southpaw shooters: Just reach into the magazine well with a pick or needle-nose pliers, unhook the spring, reverse the release button and reinstall the spring. The slide lock works in conjunction with the magazine follower to lock the slide back after the last round is fired. It is quite small, however, and it is difficult to depress and release the slide with a magazine inserted. Sights are a subjective item. Some will say they aren’t even relevant on a short-barrel defensive pistol. Others insist that good sights are necessary on any firearm, no matter how big or small. To say that the notch rear sight and post front sight on the Spectrum are minimalist is being kind. They exist, but unless the lighting and contrast are just right, they are of limited use. The front sight pretty much disappears into the target area unless there is a lot of contrast.
During the accuracy evaluation, I was able to choose the target and make sure there was good lighting, so I was able to have fairly good holds on all shots fired. In a gunfight, however, you don’t get to choose the color of the target or the lighting conditions. I think the sights on the Spectrum would be greatly improved with a contrasting-color front sight or a rugged fiber-optic insert. I don’t believe the use of removable or adjustable sights is warranted, however; integral night sights, maybe.
FUNCTION AND ACCURACY
Due to the small size and 4-inch sight radius of the Spectrum, I wasn’t expecting much in the accuracy department. I was more concerned with function testing than accuracy. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. While you’ll never see anyone shooting a Spectrum in bulls-eye competition, it shot quite well at 15 yards. Hornady American Gunner 90-grain XTP ammunition performed the best in this evaluation, with a three five-shot group average of 2.58 inches and a smallest group size of 2.32 inches. Federal Premium 99-grain HST JHP ammunition came in second, with a three five-shot group average of 2.82 inches. The smallest five-shot group fired was 1.80 inches using PMC 90-grain FMJ ammunition.
The only function issues I encountered were with Blazer 95-grain TMJ (#3505) aluminum case ammunition. Two rounds failed to chamber properly, and two other rounds failed to fire. The two failure-to-chamber rounds jammed into the top of the mouth of the chamber. The two failure-to-fire rounds were both struck by the striker with a decent, but not hard, strike. I believe they should have fired, but they did not. They both fired when re-chambered and struck a second time. I have not experienced failure-to-fire issues with this ammunition in the past.
“If you are in the market for a .380 ACP micro-compact pistol and are considering pistols such as the Glock 42, S&W M&P Bodyguard, Ruger LCP II or the new Springfield Armory 911, also consider the Spectrum. They are all very similar in capacity, size and weight.”
Micro-compact pistols have some drawbacks, but being difficult to conceal, wearing even light clothing, is not one of them. My favorite place to carry a pistol the size of the Spectrum is in my front pants pocket using a DeSantis SuperFly holster. I do realize, however, that tactically speaking, it is not the best method of carry. For concealment with normal clothing and accessibility, an IWB holster is normally the best way to carry. With the proper clothing—which is not always possible—an OWB holster is even better. I didn’t carry the Spectrum a lot during this evaluation; but when I did, I used either a DeSantis Gunhide Tuck-This II ambidextrous IWB holster or a CrossBreed Designer Series MiniTuck with horsehide-backing IWB holster. Both worked well, but the CrossBreed, with its large horsehide backing, just seemed a bit much for such a small pistol. The basic Tuck-This II seemed to be a better match for the Spectrum.
DeSantis Gunhide’s DeSantis Tuck
This II is a good, all-around IWB holster for the Taurus Spectrum with a spare magazine. It is built from padded black ballistic nylon and is lined with slick pack cloth. The pants clip can be moved from one side to the other to allow for both cross draw and strong-side carry. The pants clip also allows the shirt to be tucked down in between the gun and trousers for better concealment. A magazine pouch is built into the front holster spine. I find the Tuck-This II to be a comfortable and flexible IWB holster. It will also fit other similarly sized pistols. MSRP: $44
CrossBreed offers several holsters (SuperTuck/MiniTuck/Appendix Carry/Mini Appendix Carry/Freedom Carry) for inside-the-waistband carry of the Spectrum. I used a Designer Series MiniTuck with a horsehide backing. This is a very nice holster, and you can count on your pistol being there when you need it. CrossBreed uses a leather or horsehide backing with a molded Kydex pocket that guarantees a secure fit for the gun. The belt clips can be adjusted for cant and ride height. MSRP: $65–$98 (depending upon style and backing material)
Once I got over my preconceived ideas about the Spectrum and its minimalist sights, I found the Spectrum a very credible EDC micro-compact pistol. Some will dismiss it immediately—as they would any .380 Auto pistol or any micro-compact pistol with just seven-plus-one shot capacity. For others, it might be exactly what they are looking for. I believe Taurus might have just carved out a nice, little niche market for itself. Again, I think the Spectrum’s main draw will be younger shooters and females looking for a micro-compact EDC pistol. Traditional shooters who consider it will probably limit their colors to black, gray and stainless. Some might want several Spectrums in different colors for various occasions or outfits. Give the price, that wouldn’t be out of the question!
If you are in the market for a .380 ACP micro-compact pistol and are considering pistols such as the Glock 42, S&W M&P Bodyguard, Ruger LCP II or the new Springfield Armory 911, also consider the Spectrum. They are all very similar in capacity, size and weight. No matter what pistol you end up with for your EDC gun, practice regularly, and make sure you always have it with you.
Avg. Velocity (fps)
|Hornady American Gunner 90-grain XTP||
|Federal Premium 99-grain HST JHP||
|Remington UMC 95-grain MC||
|Inceptor ARX 56 grains||
|PMC 380A 90-grain FMJ||
|MAKE & MODEL||
|Springfield Armory 911||6/7||5.5||3.9||1.10||12.6||2.7|
|Ruger LCP II||6||5.17||3.71||.90||10.6||2.75|
CARTRIDGE: .380 ACP
ACTION TYPE: Double-action-only (DAO) striker fired; semiautomatic
FRAME: Polymer with soft-touch overmold inserts (PolyOne Versaflex thermoplastic elastomer)
SLIDE: Stainless steel with black Melonite or matte stainless finish
SIGHTS: Integrated low profile; notch rear, post front
SAFETY: Integral striker block
LENGTH: 5.40 inches
HEIGHT: 3.82 inches
WIDTH: 0.89 inch
BARREL LENGTH: 2.8 inches
WEIGHT: 11.6 ounces (with empty magazine)
TRIGGER PULL: 8 pounds, 6.0 ounces (for 10 consecutive pulls using a digital Lyman trigger pull gauge)
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 6 (7 with extended magazine)
MSRP: $289 (standard colors); $305 (house colors)
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.