Review: Taurus SPECTRUM .380 ACP
March 19, 2019
Photos by Michael Anschuetz
Taurus says its new SPECTRUM is a “groundbreaking, game-changing” auto pistol design. It’s a striker-fired, double-action-only .380 ACP personal-protection pistol that’s been carefully engineered for shooter comfort and ease of use.
The company points to five areas where the SPECTRUM has received special attention—ergonomics, slide racking, trigger, recoil management, and takedown. Before I get to what Taurus says about those elements, let’s get the preliminary information out of the way.
The double-action-only .380 ACP SPECTRUM has a 2.8-inch barrel. Its magazine capacity is six or seven rounds, and it comes with two magazines. The seven-rounder has an extended base pad that serves as a grip extension. I have medium-size hands, and with the flush-fitting magazine inserted, I can get two fingers fully on the grip, and my pinky finger tucks up under the butt. With the extended magazine inserted, I can squeeze three fingers onto the grip.
The pistol’s overall length is 5.4 inches, and height is 3.82 inches with the flush-fitting magazine. The pistol’s slide and frame proper are 0.89 inch thick. Its widest point is outside the slide stop, and that measurement is 0.98 inch. Grip circumference is 4.75 inches. Empty weight is 12.3 ounces with an empty six-round magazine inserted. With the seven-round magazine loaded with 100-grain ammunition, the weight is 15.1 ounces.
The Taurus SPECTRUM comes with low-profile fixed sights. Both are plain black, and they are integral to the slide. The front sight is a simple ramp (it’s more like a bump), and the rear sight has a square notch. My sample pistol came with a Viridian E-Series red laser already installed. It has an ambidextrous on/off switch conveniently located up front that can be reached easily with the index finger.
The laser’s housing is made of polymer and attaches to the trigger guard and features a 5mW red laser. The laser is powered by a single 1/3N battery (battery life is six hours in constant-on mode). The laser features an auto shut-off that turns the laser off after five minutes.
The Taurus SPECTRUM’s slide is carbon steel, and the frame is polymer. The slide is contoured at the rear where cocking grooves are typically located and has polymer overmold inserts on each side instead of grooves. The frame also has polymer overmold surfaces on the grip’s backstrap, frontstrap, and sides as well as in the beavertail area.
The only external controls on the sleek SPECTRUM are the slide stop lever and the magazine release button. They are both located on the left side of the gun, but the magazine release can be switched to the right side. There is no external manual safety.
Now let’s look at the five areas that Taurus focused on when designing the SPECTRUM. In the ergonomics department, the Taurus SPECTRUM has unique contours that allow the shooter’s hand to naturally conform to the grip. Obviously, this provides a more secure grip. The extended magazine is ergonomically contoured to fit the shooter’s hand. All edges of the pistol have been softened to make for snag-free fast draws. All these features combine to help provide a natural point of aim.
As for slide racking, the previously mentioned soft-touch polymer ovemold inserts take the place of typical slide cocking grooves, and they are more than just stylish elements. They were designed to enhance positive slide racking by creating contact points for enhanced traction and minimizing short strokes. They also are intended to make manipulating the slide more comfortable.
The trigger is not your typical hinged or levered striker-fire type of trigger. It’s a solid fingerpiece, and the mechanism provides a long and smooth trigger pull with a reasonably crisp release. The mechanism is a true double-action-only system that features a non-energized striker with no pre-cock or pre-load. My pistol’s trigger pull averaged 8 pounds, 4 ounces as measured with an RCBS trigger pull scale. The mechanism uses a long trigger stroke, and it allows for staging. It’s not a match-type trigger pull by any means, but by doing a lot of dry-firing, I developed a good, consistent pull before testing the gun’s accuracy. During dry-fire practice, the laser was very helpful illuminating any jerky trigger squeezes by allowing me to easily see the movement.
As I mentioned earlier, the frame has soft-touch polymer overmold areas strategically placed on and around the grip. Taurus says these proprietary polymers improve grip retention in wet or dry conditions, providing a stable, firm grip, which in turn maximizes shooter comfort and helps manage recoil.
Takedown is easy, quick, and, unlike other striker-fired mechanisms, does not require the trigger to be squeezed. Takedown requires turning the takedown pin with a flathead screwdriver or other such tool (I used a coin).
I can attest to how easy and quick takedown is, but I had a little hiccup when reassembling the pistol. Everything went well except for installing the recoil spring and guide rod. It took me a few minutes to get the spring fully compressed without it moving around on me, but once I did, everything else went smoothly. By the way, the takedown pin automatically goes into the locked position after reassembly, but for safety’s sake, shooters should always check that it is in the correct position at the end of assembling the pistol.
Because the SPECTRUM is made for up-close and personal encounters, it is not intended to be a precision-shooting tool. So I fired it for accuracy at a distance of seven yards. At that accepted self-defense distance, the pistol was more than accurate enough for its intended purpose. In fact, you might consider it impressive accuracy.
The results of five, five-shot groups with five .380 ACP factory loads with bullets weighing 90, 95, 99, and 100 grains fired from a bench-rest are listed in the accompanying chart, but briefly, all strings went into nice, tight clusters. They definitely would do some damage to an attacker. Even though the mechanism is a DAO, I was able to make well-aimed, well-controlled shots. The results are pretty typical for a pocket pistol; however, I can say that the SPECTRUM is slightly more accurate than my Smith & Wesson .380 BodyGuard but not quite as accurate as my SIG P238.
What the chart does not show is how easy the Taurus SPECTRUM was to operate. In this regard, Taurus’s claims are spot-on. The SPECTRUM’s slide was very easy to rack, noticeably easier than my S&W BodyGuard and my SIG P238. Once I got used to the SPECTRUM’s trigger pull by dry-firing it repeatedly before shooting any live ammo, I was able to control the pistol during the live-fire portion of my evaluation. And for ease of carry, well, I carried the SPECTRUM in a pocket holster for several days, and I hardly noticed it was there.
One more thing Taurus says about the SPECTRUM is that it “pairs fashion and function with more elegant color choices.”
I assume that’s where the model’s name comes from. It’s offered in eight “Standard” colors: black, gray, or white frame with black or gray overmold and black or stainless slide (MSRP: $289 without the laser) and three “House” color combinations: black frame with Flat Dark Earth overmold and black slide; white frame with cyan blue overmold and stainless slide; and gray frame with mint overmold and black slide (MSRP: $305 without the laser). Plans are for special-edition colors to be offered throughout the year.
I’m not very interested in these fashion aspects—I’m not exactly what you would call a fashionista—but function is critical in a personal-protection pistol. Once function is proven to be 100 percent, user comfort and ease of operation are important, and in my limited testing the SPECTRUM has been totally reliable, easy to use, and comfortable to carry and shoot.