It’s the time of the year when temperatures are dropping throughout the country, and shorts and shirt sleeves are being replaced by long pants, boots and winter jackets. This time of year is great for those who practice legal concealed carry, since the clothing appropriate for this weather make it much easier to distribute defensive equipment around the body. However, cool weather brings with it other considerations. Is a small-caliber pocket pistol, one that travels so well in the heat of summer, going to offer enough stopping power against a threat wearing layers of thick, protective clothing? Can you hold on to the tiny grip with gloved hands? Are the small controls going to be workable with cold, wet fingers?
With these considerations in mind, the recently re-released Taurus 445 Ultra-Lite .44 Spl. is a defensive option worth looking at. Although regularly decreed a dead technology by fans of semi-automatic pistols, defensive revolvers just seem to stick around. And the arrival of frost on the window pane is a good reminder of why. Revolvers are simple to operate, with no levers, buttons or magazines to wrestle with. The grips are larger and easier to hold on to, and the larger triggers and trigger guard openings are much more glove friendly. Best of all, when chambered for big-bore loads like the .44 Spl., short-barreled medium-framed revolvers offer serious stopping power.
Gun Features As it strived to stay in touch with the market and bring innovative revolver options to dealers’ shelves, Taurus let some product lines fall to the background. The 445 Ultra-Lite revolver represents the revival of one of the variety of discontinued .44 Spls. that used to populate the Taurus catalogue. It's a welcome return of a practical and powerful defensive option.
The 445 Ultra-Lite is a double-action revolver featuring a 2-inch barrel, fixed sights, a five-shot cylinder and an unloaded weight of 22 ounces. The stainless-steel barrel and cylinder have a matte finish that blends seamlessly with the lightweight alloy frame. The full-size Ribber grip is comfortable and hand-filling, designed to manage the stout recoil of the .44 Spl. load.
The wide combat trigger offers a smooth double-action pull reminiscent of much more expensive revolvers, while the single-action trigger is short and crisp, gauging at just 3 pounds 10 ounces. Unlike earlier versions of this revolver, the 2-inch barrel is unported. The overall fit and finish of the revolver is very good. The cylinder shows a nice, tight lock-up with the hammer cocked. The 445's hammer is fitted with a Taurus security lock and, as with other Taurus products, the revolver arrives from the factory with a Lifetime Repair Policy.
The .44 Spl. Cartridge While working with this gun at the range, I had the opportunity to show it to another shooter who mentioned he was in the market for a concealment revolver. He was not familiar with the .44 Spl. loading, which was not surprising, as the round’s heritage dates back to the 19th century. During that time, when America was still mostly a frontier, blackpowder rounds like the .44 American, .44 Russian, .44-40 Winchester and .45 Colt had proven themselves to have the reliability, accuracy and stopping power needed for effective self-defense applications.
In 1907, Smith & Wesson decided to capitalize on the popularity of these big-bore rounds while incorporating the use of recently developed semi-smokeless and smokeless powders. The company’s new round was based on the venerable .44 Russian, which had a reputation for accuracy. The parent case was stretched a bit to make room for the bulkier powders, loaded with a .432 caliber 246-grain bullet that traveled at about 755 fps, and the .44 Spl. was born. With the arrival of the .44 Mag. in the 1950s—a souped-up, longer-cased variation of the .44 Spl.—production of guns chambered specifically for .44 Spl. tapered off.
As defensive revolvers have become smaller and lighter due to advancements in metallurgy and gun design, the .44 Spl. has enjoyed a few revivals. One of its supporters has been Taurus with its 445 series of revolvers. In some ways, it takes a lightweight revolver like the 445 to appreciate what the .44 Spl. still has to offer.
Many of the alloy snubnose guns on the market today are chambered for .38 Spl. or .357 Mag. The former is an adequate load, but certainly not the most powerful. The latter has plenty of power, but at the cost of a concussive report, a sun-bright muzzle flash and a wrist-wrenching level of recoil. The modern .44 Spl., loaded with bullets between 135- to 250-grains in weight, traveling at sub-sonic speeds, offers more knock-down power than the .38 Spl., but at a reduced level of recoil and flash than the .357 Mag. After explaining some of this to my new friend at the range, I simply passed him the revolver and some defense-grade ammunition and let him take it for a spin. He found out for himself that while the recoil produced by .44 Spl. rounds from a trimmed down revolver is still stout, when the loads are fired from the 445 it's not the punishing experience one might expect.
Range Tests The features of the 445 Ultra-Lite revolver worked together to provide a positive shooting experience. The full-size Ribber grip does a great job of reducing the punch to the palm that comes with shooting big bullets from a light gun. The revolver ran flawlessly with all of the ammunition tested, and the HKS CA-44 speed loaders and Tuff Products Model 644 Tuff Strips both proved to be handy for carrying and loading extra rounds of ammunition.
Accuracy testing was conducted from a bench rest with targets set at 25 yards using five consecutive five-shot groups. The Double Tap 180-grain Remington jacketed hollow point is one of the hotter loads available for the .44 Spl., and it produced the best five-shot average of 2.43 inches. A close second place went to the Hornady Critical Defense 165-grain FTX with a five-shot average of 2.56 inches. The Double Tap and Hornady loads share the title of best single five-shot groups, with both loads producing a 2-inch five-shot group in the course of testing. The third load tested was the CCI Blazer aluminum cased 200-grain Gold Dot jacketed hollow point. This ammunition produced an average group size of 3.12 inches at 25 yards, with a best single group of 2.50 inches. This is an impressive set of groups for a production snub-nosed revolver at this distance.
Final Thoughts Taurus' decision to re-release this .44 Spl. medium-frame Ultra-Lite revolver is a good one. With .44 Spl. ammunition readily available from major ammunition manufacturers such as Cor-Bon, Federal Premium, Hornady and Winchester, as well as boutique operations like Buffalo Bore, Double Tap and Grizzly Cartridge Company, shooters should have little difficulty keeping this revolver well-fed. Despite my focus on the 445 as a "winter" gun, it really does belong in a year-round defense plan. This revolver's lightweight, smooth trigger and potent punch make it a solid option for personal protection.