We can argue all day about the differences in 9 mm and 40 S&W, but .357 Magnum has never had to defend its efficacy. Although potent, this iconic cartridge doesn’t reach its full potential unless launched from a barrel longer than a conventional snubby. As the market is scarce for affordable wheel guns that meet this description, Taurus USA released the 605 Defender, a three-inch-barreled version of its ever-popular concealed-carry revolver.
Like its older brother, Taurus’ new offering is a double/single-action design that allows rapid follow-up shots or precise, easy-to-squeeze singles. Keeping with its slim profile, the 605 Defender trades off that sixth round for better concealability and weight reduction. Also, to the tune of previous generations of 605s, the Defender hits the streets with an extremely easy-to-swallow MSRP just south of $475. Yet, this still fetches premium features like Hogue Grips, an Ameriglo night sight and even a slick-looking matte stainless finish. Purists can rejoice, as a handsome blued option with traditional wood grips is also available for a few dollars more. In addition, an all-black and two-toned model round out the lineup for those looking to add a bit more flair.
My relationship with the new revolver started at the 2022 SHOT Show. I liked how it felt in my hand and found it to be an altogether robust piece of equipment. The rubber grips feature some aggressive finger grooves that allow for a more-refined purchase and are great if your hand is on the smaller side. For semi-automatics, I typically balk at these; however, for magnum revolvers, I deem them almost necessary.
Working my way forward, I noticed the simple notch that comprises the rear sight. If you understand what it is you’re looking at, you’ll quickly gain an appreciation for what Taurus did here. As this revolver is built with reliability at the forefront, this simplistic approach to an aiming device eliminates any possible means of a zero drifting or, even worse, loss of the entire sight. This notch is paired with an Ameriglo tritium night sight in the front. I found that this sight grabs the eye and nearly centers itself with the rear when presented.
If we slip down toward the left side of the firearm, we’ll see some of the other features that make for a solid carry piece. These include a recessed ejector rod that keeps it out of harm’s way and eliminates this as the prevalent snag point it often is. The cylinder release is also found on this side of the gun and must be pressed forward to swing the cylinder out for loading and unloading. Taurus seemed to put a lot of work into ensuring that the lock-up was rock solid, and, although tight, it could be “flicked” out without much effort. Aside from looking cool, this is an essential feature to me, as it hastens reloads during an emergency. If we flip the gun over, the right side of the firearm is devoid of any controls or features and presents a clean profile that allows any cover garment you might be wearing to hang freely.
Continuing to the business end, I liked that both the muzzle and front sight are rounded. Together, these features create a funneling effect and all but guide this handgun into its holster.
For testing, I selected a lightweight practice round, a heavy jacketed hollow-point defensive round and a solid-lead 180-grain load. As the .357 Magnum has its roots in hunting, I decided to include the latter for protection against dangerous game that might try to ruin an otherwise-perfect hike or camping trip. Starting with the lightweight fodder, I sent 25 rounds downrange in groups of five and found the recoil to be exceptionally manageable; however, when I moved toward the heavyweights, things started to get real. Those who purchase this gun looking for the whole .357 Magnum experience will not be disappointed, as these were an absolute thrill to fire. Peering over to my chronograph, I was impressed with the numbers I saw and quite surprised at what an extra inch of barrel yielded in the velocity department.
Standing, I sent a few more boxes of ammunition downrange without cocking the hammer. Although the single-action trigger was crisp and relatively light (for a production firearm), the double-action was a little on the heavy side. Those who carry a wheelgun of this nature often seek that extra pull weight, as it provides a little more assurance that they won’t accidentally discharge the firearm during a stressful situation. Nonetheless, dumping the cylinder into the center mass of a man-sized target was certainly obtainable and could be accomplished in short order with a bit of practice. There wasn’t a malfunction to speak of during the entire test, even something as simple as having to pound out a stuck case. Guns in this price range typically have rough cylinders that like to hold onto fired shells, which really slows down emptying and reloading, so finding that reliability in the 605 Defender was a big selling point.
My overall impression after shooting it was positive. I did feel that it had an excessive double-action trigger pull weight, given that my trigger-finger discipline allows for lighter options. I recognize, however, that this also makes it a good handgun for beginners who are still building muscle memory. Aside from that, some porting would be nice to help tame the heavier cartridges, but I suppose it wouldn’t be .357 Magnum without the ride. Ultimately, I really like what Taurus brought to the market. This solid wheelgun is a welcome break from the sea of polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols that bombard us every January, and a perfect option for protection in the outdoors.