Shooting enthusiasts who embrace the polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols tend to find a particular brand they like and stick with it. My brother prefers the feel and handling of the Springfield XD's, while my leanings are of the Glock persuasion. As a result, we can sometimes get a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to branching out and trying other varieties of popular striker-fired semi-autos. At the 2013 SHOT Show, Taurus trotted out the second generation version of its subcompact PT 111 Millennium 9 mm. The fit and finish was excellent, the grip felt great and the trigger was intriguing. This first taste left me wanting more, so I made arrangements for a test drive.
The PT 111 sent for testing demonstrated the same positive characteristics as the floor sample at SHOT. The blued slide is beveled at the muzzle and rounded at the back, giving the pistol a more slender profile than some of its box-like competitors. The sights are of the three-dot variety with a rear sight that can be adjustable for windage. The ramped 3.2-inch, stainless-steel barrel contains traditional six-groove rifling. Removing the slide from the frame reveals interior workings influenced by the Glock pistol design. A steel insert inside the polymer frame provides four short rails to support the slide, and dual recoil springs on the guide rod assembly help to manage felt recoil.
A loaded chamber indicator, located on top of the slide, provides both visual and tactile confirmation when a round is chambered. On the right side of the slide is the key hole for the Taurus Security System (TSS). When this internal security lock is engaged using the provided keys, the pistol cannot be fired, cocked or have manual thumb safety disengaged. A quick twist of the key brings the pistol back into action. The trigger contains an additional safety to prevent the pistol from firing unless the trigger is fully depressed.
The muzzle end of the frame features a molded-in tactical accessory rail. It's about 1-inch long and will accept many of the compact lights and laser sights on the market. Behind the rail is a small dimple to provide a touch point for resting the trigger finger between shots. The controls are located on the left side, including the slide catch, magazine release and a thumb safety switch that swings up into safe mode and down to fire.
The top of the PT 111's grip is contoured to provide a comfortable hold and to protect the shooting hand from the slide. Patches of aggressive texturing located on the frontstrap, backstrap and the sides of the grip frame provide a reliable gripping surface. Thanks to a slightly extended polymer magazine base, the grip is a true three-finger grip, but it might be a tight fit for large hands.
Although the PT 111 is a striker-fired pistol, Taurus lists it as having a single-to-double action trigger. When a round is chambered, the trigger is set to "single" action mode. In this mode, the trigger requires 2 pounds, 5 ounces of pull to swing it back to the break point, where 6 pounds, 8 ounces of pressure are required to complete the firing cycle. The trigger reset is short and crisp with a click that can be clearly heard and felt. The user can then ride the trigger for quick follow-up shots. The PT 111 also has a second-strike trigger mode. If the striker hits a hard primer and the cartridge fails to ignite on the first strike, the trigger can cycle the striker again, but the trigger will have a consistent 6 pounds, 8 ounces of pull all the way through the trigger stroke. It's a nice feature that not all striker-fired pistols offer.
Since the PT 111 is designed to operate as a slim, lightweight, concealed-carry gun, it was a good match for the model 9 mm Luger-SM Versacarry carry system. The Versacarry can't quite be called a holster, because there's about 75 percent less bulk to the system than other inside-the-waistband holsters. It can be described as polymer strap with a belt hook at one end and an angled, Delrin-coated barrel-retention rod at the other. An optional trigger guard can be installed and positioned for use by left- or right-handed shooters. The Versacarry was easy to slip on or slip off for just about any IWB carry position. Another bonus of the Versacarry is that it will not interfere with the installation of a light or laser on the PT 111 tactical rail.
At the shooting range, the PT 111 passed its tests with aplomb. Felt recoil was moderate using standard pressure loads, and +P loads were manageable to work with as well. Both of the 12-round steel magazines shipped with the pistol were rugged and reliable, dropping free and clear when the magazine release was pressed. The thumb safety is small and sleek, but thankfully not overly tight, so with a little practice it’s easy to operate. The rear slide serrations are crisply cut for a solid, positive grip surface for cycling the slide. The grip texturing provide excellent traction against bare skin and shooting gloves. This level of texturing is ideal for a defensive situation in which a no-slip grip is important, but it may start to wear on bare hands during an extended practice session.
The PT 111 is by no means a long-range target pistol, but it proved to have solid defensive accuracy at defensive distances. Fired from a bench rest into targets set at 15 yards, this pistol produced surprisingly consistent five-shot groups, ranging from 2 inches to 2.5 inches in sized. Off the bench at the same distance, using a two-handed grip, the PT 111 kept an IPSC silhouette steel plate ringing away with consistent hits. This gun did not experience a single malfunction in the course of testing, which included ammunition ranging from practice grade full-metal-jacket rounds to hopped-up hollow points. With all of the elements of this pistol coming together as they did, it was a better shooting experience that one would usually expect from a subcompact 9 mm.
The new Millennium G2 PT 111 meets all of the important requirements for a subcompact concealed-carry pistol, and then some. It's light, slim, simple to run, reliable and it is combat accurate. The easy-to-see sights and ergonomics of the just-right-size grip make it comfortable to shoot. But the finish and features of the PT 111 out class the modest $349 price tag. Usually one would pay upward of $500 for a semi-auto like this one, so this very likeable pistol from Taurus may be one of the best buys of the year.
Manufacturer: Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc.; Taurususa.com