Widespread concealed carry has led to the introduction of various compact handguns.
Yes, many people rightly tout the abilities of full size handguns, but the facts of life often intercede, making carry of full size handguns impractical in certain settings. Do not think that your full size handgun of choice will always be convenient to discreetly carry without some forethought or altering of basic habits. USCCA members know the importance of always being armed. A personal defense emergency is just that–an unpredictable, unplanned event. The plethora of .38 caliber snubnose revolvers and compact semi-automatics on the market is proof positive that convenience of carry sometimes outweighs desire to carry a weapon of highest potential.
Compared to rifles or shotguns, handguns are a compromise, with some lethality traded for portability. The 738 TCP from Taurus takes full advantage of this, using a lethal cartridge chambered in the smallest, lightest practical package. The 738 TCP is a semi-automatic chambered in .380 ACP, carrying 6+1 rounds in a package that weighs only 10.2 ounces. The gun measures 5 inches long by 3 5/8 inches high, and is only three-quarters of an inch thick. Two six-round magazines are shipped with the 738 TCP, and an optional eight-round magazine that extends below the magwell is also available.
The fixed sights are purposely minimal to reduce snagging for a handgun destined mainly for pocket or other types of concealed carry. Most handguns of such small dimensions are blowback operated, but the Taurus 738 TCP operates via John Browning’s swinging link design, as found in the 1911 and Hi-Power pistols. Recoil is minimized and reliability is enhanced by using the Browning method. At 3 1/3 inches in length, the barrel has an integral feed ramp and is bull nosed at its muzzle to engage with the slide, similar to what is found on bushingless 1911 models. There is no manual safety on the pistol, with only a slide stop lever found on its frame. The trigger pull is typical of double-action only (DAO) semi-automatics, although the 738 TCP is hammer fired, not striker fired, and is officially listed as a single action/double action (SA/DA) in Taurus literature. Importantly, the 738 TCP does not have a magazine disconnect so it can be fired with a round chambered, but without a magazine in place–an advantage for any weapon destined for personal defense, which predominantly occurs at close quarters.
Taurus offers three 738 TCP models based on the slide material: titanium, stainless steel, or blued steel. Our test model was the stainless steel slide variant, 738SS.
The Taurus 738 TCP is lighter than most weapons on the market. The titanium model (738Ti) weighs only 9 ounces. For comparison’s sake, even titanium-framed .38 Special revolvers typically weigh in at 13 ounces or more. Light weight is a feature much appreciated in any weapon destined for concealed carry whether in a pocket, belt, or other methods. Light weight often translates into not being left behind.
The rear of the slide is serrated for positive tactile feel when operating the slide. The polymer frame interfaces with the stainless slide positively along its length for smooth functioning. The trigger guard is slightly oversized for easy access to the trigger when in a hurry. The gun’s loaded chamber indicator can be referenced in the dark via touch.
My primary method of carry for the 738 TCP was in a DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster. I also sampled a Galco Stow-N-Go IWB and a DeSantis Insider IWB holster. None of these holsters were specific to the Taurus, due to its still-new status during the review period. The Galco Stow-N-Go was made for a Kahr P9 and the DeSantis Insider for a
The TCP benefits from Taurus giving it the "melt" treatment, rounding the slide’s edges and other points on the pistol to minimize any chance of it snagging on clothing when drawn.
This shows design following intent of the 738 TCP as a concealed carry weapon.
Recent advantages in bullet and propellant advances have benefited .380 ACP ammunition greatly. The Hornady Critical Defense 90gr. FTX .380 ACP is a great example of this. Hornady uses propellants that minimize muzzle flash while maximizing velocity. The FTX bullet is the result of much research into what features a bullet designed for personal defense should consist of: everything from the bullet profile that ensures reliable feeding to the polymer nose that guarantees proper expansion, no matter the medium the FTX passes through. Although .380 ACP ammunition has been difficult to find, availability seems improved lately, with ammunition being more readily found on dealers’ shelves.
Loads tested with the Taurus 738 consisted of Hornady 90gr. Critical Defense, Black Hills Ammunition 90gr. JHP, and Winchester 95gr. FMJ. The 738 TCP handled JHP profile bullets as easily as FMJ profiles, with a couple hundred of each fired during range tests. On the range, I first established the pistol’s reliability, then tried the gun out for combat accuracy and handling. For reliability testing, I spent several magazines’ worth of ammunition engaging plate racks and man-sized steel targets. No malfunctions were discovered.
As to handling, I found the 738 TCP ergonomic, with minimal felt recoil and little difficulty getting multiple shots off quickly even with the handgun’s light weight. The 738 TCP fits the hand better than some other polymer framed sub-compact semi-automatics on the market. After verifying reliability, I began drawing the 738 TCP from a pocket holster using more of a point shooting or flash sight picture, along with a one-handed firing grip. I found this to be a more realistic way of analyzing what the 738 TCP brings to the table for users considering it in the role it was designed for–concealed carry personal defense.
The Taurus’ trigger is familiar in feel, somewhat similar to a Glock trigger. The minimal sights proved adequate for hitting targets up to 7 yards away.
The Taurus 738 TCP’s strong suits are its light weight and small dimensions, thus ensuring it is always present.
The Taurus 738 TCP will find its way into several roles as a personal defense handgun and will definitely find a niche as a backup gun. Many will find the handy nature of the 738 TCP makes it indispensable and will not be able to leave the house without it even when a larger weapon is carried. Others will find it their primary carry weapon by default, especially in summer months or under social conditions were discovery of a concealed carry weapon is unacceptable. Ultimately, always having a weapon with you is more important than the full-size .45 ACP you leave at home because you did not feel like dressing around your handgun on any given day. The Taurus 738 TCP is a good balance of size to firepower for the practitioner of concealed carry.
Thanks to the United States Concealed Carry Association for this gun review. Want more concealed carry info? Get your free copy of the Armed American Newsletter right here.