Carrying a handgun concealed requires finding the right balance between caliber, capacity, size, and weight. For some, nothing short of a full-size, all-steel 1911 in .45 ACP will do. For others, a .380 caliber, 6+1 pocket pistol meets their needs. A couple of catchy phrases capture the breadth of opinions on this matter: “Make mine a nine” (referring to 9mm ammunition and firearms) or “Five to stay alive” (referring to the popular five-shot Smith & Wesson J-frame revolvers). While the J-frame revolvers remain popular for concealed carry, Taurus offers a comparable alternative in its 856 Magnesium Hy-Lite — a lightweight, snub-nosed revolver that’s essentially the same size and weight of many of the J-frames, yet holds not five but six rounds of .38 Special. So if you’re keeping score, it’s literally “+1” for the Taurus. Bottom line: At $492, the Taurus 856 Magnesium offers a reasonable solution for someone looking for a light-weight, accurate carry gun.
This Taurus 856 Magnesium revolver arrived in custom cardboard packaging with an owner’s manual, warranty card, and a CD containing an electronic catalog of all Taurus firearms. Also included in the package were two keys, part of the Taurus Security System—a means of locking or disabling the gun. The revolver was gray in color and its metallic surface had a textured feel. The gun looked tough and durable. In addition, the fully shrouded ejector rod, 6-round cylinder, and rubber stocks made the Taurus look big and heavy. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
You could open and load the Taurus 856 Magnesium with your eyes shut because the cylinder release is in the same place as it is on most revolvers. If you shoot right-handed, push the cylinder release toward the cylinder with your right thumb then use the fingers on your left hand to push the cylinder out to the left. The six-round cylinder is noticeably larger than a five-round cylinder. Unfired cartridges drop in with ease. Pushing the cylinder back into firing position yields a positive click from a detent on the top of cylinder arm engaging with the frame. All of these parts align well and while there is minimal play, nothing feels even remotely sloppy.
Unlike J-frames that can handle higher-pressure .38 Special +P or .357 Mag rounds, the Taurus 856 Magnesium calls for standard .38 Special rounds. As a reminder, the right side of the barrel is marked “DO NOT USE +P AMMO” and, just below that, “.38 SPECIAL.” The owner’s manual—a standard Taurus revolver manual—also includes stickers that warn against the use of anything greater than standard .38 Special ammunition.