Range Report: Taurus 605 Defender .357 Magnum

Taurus Defender 605 .357 Magnum revolver with VZ grips

Double-action revolvers remain a strong choice for personal defense and an important part of the firearms scene. Taurus offers good quality revolvers at a fair price in many variations and calibers. Recently, Taurus introduced a Defender version of the six-shot Taurus 856.

The Defender treatment features a mid-length three-inch barrel, hand-filling grips, and a tritium front sight. These revolvers are slightly longer than traditional two-inch barrel snub nose revolvers but easier to shoot well. This revolver is based on the proven Taurus 85 snub nose revolver but with a few upgrades including a six-shot cylinder.

Taurus Defender 605 stainless steel revolver with Hogue rubber grips
The author’s 605 Defender is the stainless steel/Hogue grips combination.

605 Defender Features

Taurus has now applied the Defender concept to the proven Taurus 605 revolver. This revolver is a five-shot .357 Magnum revolver. The new 605 Defender retains the five-shot .357 Magnum cylinder while adding the Defender upgrades previously applied to the 856 revolver.  

My version features a stainless steel finish and Hogue rubber grips. It doesn’t get any better than Hogue for control. These pebbled rubber grips are a big reason the Defender revolver is comfortable to fire with magnum ammunition.

The five-shot cylinder is plenty strong to contain magnum pressure. While the shooter would give up long before you blow up a magnum revolver, the five-shot cylinder features bolt stop cuts over the meaty part of the cylinder, rather than cut over the chamber. This makes for added strength. The heavy cylinder locks up not only at the rear but by a spring-loaded detent on the crane.

The stainless steel version with Hogue grips is one of four combinations offered. There is a Tungsten Cerakote offering, another with Altamont grips, as well as a blue version with wooden grips as well. I cannot comment on recoil control with other types of grips as I have not handled those versions.

The Tungsten gun looks great. However, for carrying under a shirt in the heat when the pistol is subject to being soaked in perspiration, the stainless gun makes the most sense. On the other hand, Tungsten Cerakote has an excellent reputation for low wear and fending off corrosion. As for the blue gun, keep it oiled… Stainless is still the default in my home for hard use.

Taurus Defender 605 matte blue revolver with Hogue rubber grips
A matte blue version of the 605 Defender is offered.

The 605 is practically as snag-free as a revolver may be. The barrel is a smooth profile with a nice underlug design. The previous 605 was two-inch barrel revolver with large wooden grips. The new gun is better balanced.

The .38 Special isn’t as dependent on barrel length as the .357 Magnum for velocity. The magnum uses an impressive powder charge of relatively slow-burning powder. The .357 Magnum may break 1,440 fps with a 125-grain JHP in the four-inch barrel. A two-inch barrel may generate 1,250 fps at best.

This makes the three-inch barrel a good compromise for concealed carry and the same load will register 1,350 fps. There is still a lot of flash and unburned powder, but this combination hits hard. (Results with Remington 125-grain SJHP.)

Two Taurus Defender revolvers on a wood shooting bench with an open box of .357 magnum ammunition
The Taurus Defender did well on the range.

The three-inch barrel is concealable in an inside-the-waistband holster. Even a high-riding hip holster is useful. Yet, the Taurus 605 Defender is little larger or heavier than most .38 Special revolvers. The longer ejector rod of the mid-length Defender barrel makes for more positive ejection of spent cartridge cases.

The front sight is a tritium dot surrounded by an orange circle. This is an excellent feature and an advantage on home defense.

The 605 is a true double-action/single-action revolver. While we should use double-action fire, the single action option — cocking the hammer for a deliberate shot or a shot at a very small target — is viable in certain situations.

Three-inch barrel and two-inch barrel Taurus revolvers
A three-inch barrel revolver such as the Taurus Defender, top, handles well compared to a two-inch revolver, lower.

A reptile or ridding the area of a varmint are examples of incidents in which single-action fire may be used. The action is smooth in double-action, and the single-action trigger is sharp and crisp. The double-action trigger is as smooth as any double-action trigger in current manufacture.

The revolver handles .38 Special ammunition, as well as the longer .357 Magnum cartridge. The magnum generates considerable recoil and isn’t for everyone. As a last-ditch defense against dangerous animals, this handgun is about as light a magnum as you may deploy. For most uses, and for most people, .38 Special loads for personal defense are all we may handle in a lightweight, easy-to-pack revolver.

I began the evaluation with Remington’s .38 Special 130-grain FMJ ammunition. This is a mild load — accurate and clean burning. The jacketed bullet doesn’t lead the bore, making cleaning easier. The Taurus 605 Defender is fast to an accurate first shot. The double-action trigger is smooth enough to allow a trained shooter to make accurate double-action shots to 10 yards or so — and a bit further with training and attention to detail.

As reader Vincent Lavallee pointed out, there are several power levels of the .357 Magnum. If you can find the Remington Golden Saber, this load averages 1,150 to 1,200 fps in snub nose magnums (about 150 fps faster than .38 Special +P loads). The .357 Magnum 110-grain JHP is loaded to about the same velocity as 125-grain JHP loads but recoils a bit less due to the lighter bullet.

Taurus Defender 605 revolver on a blue silhouette target with 5 bullets holes in the head
A fast group at 5 yards with magnum ammunition will save your life.

Velocity is about 1,340 fps in the Defender. These loads are not difficult to control in double-action pairs with sufficient practice. You will not be as fast as with the .38 but wound potential is high. If you deliver a bullet to the right place, a second shot is seldom needed.

Ammunition Performance

.38 SpecialVelocityRemarks
Federal 148-grain MATCH wadcutter701 fpsExcellent as a small game and target load.
Also serves well as a practice load.
Federal 120-grain Punch +P 903 fpsA first-class .38 Special Defense load.

.357 MagnumVelocityRemarks
Remington 125-grain JSP 1,402 fpsThis load doesn’t expand.
It will make a good defense load against large animals.
Remington 125-grain Golden Saber1,240 fpsA good medium velocity defense load.
Remington 125-grain JHP1,344 fpsThe most effective handgun cartridge we are likely to field.


Cylinder capacity: 5 rounds
Action type: Double-action / single-action
Sights:Night front sight with orange outline, fixed rear
Barrel length:  3 inches
Overall length: 7.50 inches
Height:4.8 inches
Width:1.41 inches
Weight: 24 ounces  

Taurus Defender 605 – Final Thoughts

This revolver is also a great choice for animal defense. The big cats often go for the head and are on you before you can react. The same is true with feral dogs. A self-loader thrust into the body of these dangerous animals would jam after the first shot. A magnum revolver may be pressed into the threat’s body and fired repeatedly.

I like the Taurus 605 Defender. This a credible personal defense revolver with much to recommend.

Do you have a favorite short barrel revolver for self-defense? What length barrel do you prefer? How does the Taurus Defender 605 compare to your favorite revolver? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Bob Campbell shooting the Taurus Defender 605 revolver with a one-handed grip
  • Taurus Defender 3-inch revolver with wood grips, right profile
  • Taurus Defender 605 revolver on a blue silhouette target with 7 bullet holes
  • Taurus Defender 605 matte blue revolver with Hogue rubber grips
  • Three-inch barrel and two-inch barrel Taurus revolvers
  • Taurus Defender 605 .357 Magnum revolver with VZ grips
  • Two Taurus Defender revolvers on a wood shooting bench with an open box of .357 magnum ammunition
  • Two upset bullets - The Federal Punch .38 Special. left and Remington 125-grain .357 Magnum, right.
  • Bob Campbell shooting the Taurus Defender 605 revolver with a two-handed grip
  • Taurus Defender 605 stainless steel revolver with Hogue rubber grips
  • Taurus Defender 605 revolver on a blue silhouette target with 5 bullets holes in the head

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. You refer to the stainless “version” in the review, however I think you’ll find all the current 605s are stainless, regardless of the color finish they produce them in. Taurus’s website says exactly that.

  2. I took a lot of heat back in 2015 when advocating for Taurus. They sponsored me which I greatly appreciated.
    Taurus had a few hiccups until Beretta bought them out and sent their chief design engineer to them to clean it up. His focus and strong work ethics certainly paid off with the introduction of an entirely new line of striker fire pistols starting with the PT111 millennium pro G2 to which became the G2 we all know and love. At the time , the best budget firearm out. Accurate, reliable and easy to carry and shoot. Then the focus turned to their revolvers and true to themselves improved upon an already decent platform with minor kinks in the design that needed ironed out.
    One , to save cost and time Taurus used a single stage coating process which caused the entire lineup to develop surface rust easily. This was evident with guns in humid places such as Brazil and Tampa, my old stomping ground.
    They finally switched to a three stage tennifer coating that seemed to fix this problem.
    Their wheel guns have been vastly improved upon over the last decade making them the best budget firearm company which offers the most variety, with Turkish developers nipping at their heels like Canick gunning for the gold, Taurus is competition now.
    The Tracker series are hands down robust big game droppers and are extremely accurate. Their smaller more concealable revolvers like the 605 and 856 are no less excellent and reliable.
    Once you find the right loads and rounds for your personal gun, you’ll be set for whatever you need it for.
    The grips are as comfortable you can find as well.
    Mind you there are better revolvers but at a much higher cost that S&W and Colts are top shelf imo but only Taurus offers a robust revolver that accepts two cylinders and fires 9mm, 38 &357 magnum loads from it. That versatility is exceptional for back packers, and others alike.
    This innovation is what keeps wheel guns/revolvers a viable option for everyone.
    Those that don’t like the limited round capacity can mitigate this by practice. Get good enough at all ranges and you’ll only need one or two to get the job done.

  3. 25+ years ago, got a S&W 3″ model 60. Ideal balance of size and weight for CCW. Compared to the “air weight” models so popular now, a 3″/20+ ounce revolver is so much easier to shoot. Glad that TAURUS now also realized that the 3″ non “air weight” revolver has many advantages for those new shooters or seniors who need personal protection. Note that HORNADY Critical Defense .38 spl ammo is my preferred choice even thou the model 60 is chambered in .357. Suggest the same load for the model 605.

  4. I would like to know weight comparisons to other well known revolvers to the Taurus revolvers!

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