This article will review the Taurus UltraLite Titanium (ULT) .38 Special revolver with Crimson Trace Lasergrips (CTC). Without appearing like a Neanderthal, this was my first exposure to both products. Before the reader turns the page with a condescending snort (“What more can be written about a snubnose .38 Spl?”), I ask for a chance to explain. This article is more personal than most. I was in a motorcycle accident incurring multiple injuries to my left leg, foot, shoulder, and arm. Overall, considering the results from most motorcycle accidents involving speeds over 45mph, I am lucky and will return to my old form with time. I advocate full face helmets to any reader who rides. It was during my recuperation that events conspired that brought me my new appreciation of the .38 Spl snubnose.
My concealed carry weapons up to this point have been semi-automatic. My injuries prevented efficient loading, unloading, reloading, or malfunction drills of semi-automatic pistols. While all of these things are doable one-handed, I saw no reason in doing this on a daily basis when a revolver solves the problem. I daresay most experts recognize the .38 Spl as the minimum for a personal defense round. The mere mention of .38 Spl always conjures up images of the snubnose revolver. My daily carry of the Taurus ULT snubnose led to a more appreciative understanding of what the .38 Spl snubnose revolver offers. I should have learned by now that any weapon design that has been around as long as the snubnose has certain attributes irreplaceable by other models.
The Taurus UltraLite Titanium (ULT) represents the final refinement of the classic .38 Spl snubnose revolver. The five-shot ULT with a two-inch barrel weighs only 13.5oz and is rated for +P loads. This is achieved by combining titanium and UltraLite alloy in its construction. The UltraLite alloy and titanium makes the ULT highly corrosion resistant, an important consideration for a concealed carry weapon that will be carried against your body for extended amounts of time. The Taurus ULT’s weight, simplicity, and reliable firepower attracted me to it. This will happen when one side of your body is “dragged” along by the other. Any malfunction drills are a cause for concern with only one functioning arm.
The Taurus ULT revolver was a constant companion for several months in a BlackHawk CQC Speed Classic holster. I tried several holsters before settling on the Speed Classic as my primary carry holster for the Taurus ULT. The Speed Classic is an adaptation from the Berns-Martin design-a “minimalist holster for a minimalist handgun” is how BlackHawk literature states it. At first I was skeptical, but I am now a true believer that the Speed Classic does indeed offer secure carry, while still allowing for a quick draw. The secret lies in its thin wet-molded leather construction and expandable heavy duty elastic, which holds the weapon firmly without having to employ any sort of retention straps. The draw stroke rotates the butt forward, expanding the holster for the weapon to quickly clear. The Speed Classic’s trailing edge belt loop holds the Taurus ULT high and tight to the body so that a T-shirt or other covering garment is kept to a minimum for concealed carry. The belt I use, no matter which holster type or weapon I carry, is a CQC Pistol belt also from BlackHawk. The belt’s carbon fiber finish allows it to blend in with dress pants or blue jeans, yet the reinforced spine gives increased stability for supporting a holstered weapon, extra ammunition, or flashlight.
My Taurus ULT has a concealed hammer, which limits any snagging on clothing when drawn in a heated fashion. The concealed hammer design features a double-action only (DAO) trigger. The Taurus ULT’s trigger was typical DAO in terms of pull length and weight. I did notice a slight “hitch” or “tick” in the Taurus’s action when the hammer was about to release forward when deliberately squeezing off a round. This was not noticed when the rounds were fired in a rapid fashion at close range-the likely mode when called upon in a close range defensive encounter.
This leads me to another reason for my sudden appreciation of the “snubby.” During my recovery, I had the opportunity to read Ed Lovette’s classic The Snubby Revolver. Ed’s background as a Special Forces officer, CIA para-military officer, and law enforcement trainer makes him imminently qualified to discuss what is needed in a weapon for self-defense. Ed’s book is a must read that struck a real chord with me. The first key requirement listed by Ed for concealed carry is that a weapon be present! This sounds simple enough, but how many times has that custom 1911 that shoots one inch at 50 yards been left behind due to size constraints faced in certain concealed carry scenarios? An individual will be required to react to an attack under the most unfavorable conditions. It is unlikely you will be attacked when already fitted out with a chest rig full of magazines, AR across your shoulder, and Glock 34 holstered in a tactical thigh rig.
Interestingly, The Snubby Revolver puts to rest the notion that the snubnose revolver’s major drawback is the limited number of rounds carried. Ed Lovette’s research minimizes the reload’s importance during personal defense incidents. A reload was needed less than 10% of the time in the engagements he has studied over the years. More than likely, a concealed weapon will have to be produced after the aggressor has launched an attack. That weapon needs to be ultra reliable no matter if fired upside down, pressed against someone, or used with the weak hand. It needs to be chambered in a round that will have an effect sooner rather than later.
This is a description of the .38 Spl snubnose. I am not turning in my Glocks or 1911s. It is just that the Taurus ULT demands a closer look based on my refined appreciation of what works for personal defense.
To my surprise, I found the ULT easy enough to handle at the range. I had read articles describing recoil in snubbies weighing less than twenty ounces as severe. I found the Taurus’s recoil much lighter than what I imagined with the Hornady loads. I felt the Taurus ULT’s recoil stinging my palm after a couple of one-handed cylinders’ worth of firing-nothing more. The ULT did not twist in my hand or raise up uncontrollably, negating the possibility of an aimed second or third shot. Rapid fire was controllable, keeping all five rounds centered in a target’s upper torso even though I had no left arm available for support after my accident. This is a compliment to the Taurus grips.
I tested Hornady 125gr, 140gr, and 158gr HP/XTP loads with the Taurus. The Hornady loads produced minimal muzzle flash when fired. This is often overlooked in testing ammunition intended for defensive purposes. I settled on using the Hornady 158gr HP/XTP loads for carry. Unlike the .357 Magnum, where the 125gr loading’s high velocity makes it a favored choice, the .38 Spl, especially with a two-inch barrel, needs a heavier bullet to be most effective. The Taurus instilled confidence with its accuracy as I worked over both paper and steel targets. It comes equipped with fixed sights. While I was pleased enough with Taurus ULT’s accuracy, easily running plate racks at 7yards and engaging human targets at 10 yards, I felt a nagging tug at my psyche for something more.
The ULT will not be employed on a square range when it is really needed. The chance to acquire the front sight and pull the trigger smoothly to the rear will not happen. This is how I arrived at the Crimson Trace Lasergrips (CTC) Model LG-385. I have noticed the steady acceptance and popularity of CTC products over the years. CTC literature and common sense strongly suggested it would be in my interest to explore employing the Lasergrips on the Taurus ULT. The visual red dot would aid in accurate one-handed firing, and would help aim the Taurus no matter what unorthodox firing position I might find myself.
Another consideration for a weapon expecting use in close quarters is that the CTC Lasergrip allows for aimed fire while still keeping the weapon close to the body. This reduces the chance of a weapon take away if extended out for aimed fire. The short sight radius offered by the Taurus ULT’s two-inch barrel makes aimed fire at distance challenging no matter what type of fixed or adjustable sight is on it.
Another CTC advantage is that I did not have to give up my BlackHawk CQC Speed Classic holster. The CTC laser mounted in the grip area does not change any frame dimensions, negating the need for custom holsters.
I first sighted in the Lasergrip at home by indexing the laser to the same point of aim as the revolver’s fixed sights down a long hallway. This proved right on once I tested it for sure at the range. The CTC Lasergrip has both windage and elevation adjustment set screw accessed with the small Allen wrench provided with the grips.
The grips were easy to install on the Taurus ULT. I do urge that you pay attention to the directions about battery orientation and refrain from overtightening the grip screws. My earlier exposure to laser sighting devices proved negative in terms of the laser holding zero and holding up to recoil and muzzle blast. The CTC Lasergrips had no such issues. The laser emitting diode is situated high on the right grip panel with the activation button located on the grip. The CTC Lasergrip is not solely defined by the laser installed in it.
The CTC Lasergrip is ergonomically designed to offer the shooter more comfort and control when shooting the Taurus ULT. The backstrap is wider than the stock grips and come up higher on the revolver’s frame, allowing for recoil to be distributed across a wider area. This translates into less recoil imparted to the shooter and the added width fit my hand better enhancing the handling characteristics of the Taurus UltraLite Titanium.
The CTC Lasergrip did take a little getting used to. No matter how steady I thought my fixed sights were, the laser on the target seemed to dance around. One important note is that I had no problem seeing the laser on the target even when testing outside in bright sunlight. Most defensive encounters (80%) occur in low light conditions where the laser is crisp and bright and actually may work as a deterrent when seen by an attacker.
After a couple of boxes of shells, I found nothing extraordinary about running a plate rack with the CTC Lasergrip equipped Taurus ULT fired from the hip at 7-10 yards using only the laser. I advocate training with the CTC Lasergrip as seriously as one would with open sights. I discovered my fire was slower at first when using the CTC Lasergrips. I was looking at both the fixed sights and laser before firing the shot. The laser’s advantage rests in the natural tendency to focus on the imminent threat versus at the front sight interposed between the threat and the shooter. The laser will be seen on the target where the eye is naturally drawn. I found the key to greater success is to look at the target, pick up the flash of the laser, and squeeze off the round without referencing the fixed sights. I think shooters have to gain confidence that the bullet will indeed strike where the laser is aimed. This is achieved by practice. Training with iron sights puts so much emphasis on sight picture that it takes time getting used to finding the laser on the intended target without referencing the front sight. Trust me, if you sight the CTC Lasergrip in properly, the bullet will hit where the laser is projected.
Once I fully heal, I do not foresee giving up carrying the Taurus ULT. I am a firm believer in flexibility when it comes to concealed carry. Even if the Taurus ULT is not my primary weapon, the ULT’s light weight makes it an ideal back-up gun, even if a Glock, 1911, or something else is the primary weapon. I now realize that the Taurus UltraLite Titanium is not a compromise candidate, nor is it only worthy of consideration based on my physical condition due to the accident. If the ULT is a potent weapon one-handed, think how efficient it will be when used with both. The combination of the Taurus UltraLite Titanium with the Crimson Trace Lasergrips gives concealed carry practitioners a real advantage in reacting to an attack. The compact, light weight, powerful, and reliable Taurus ULT provides no excuses to be left home. The Crimson Trace Lasergrips act as a force multiplier making the Taurus ULT even better in a defensive encounter. You can not ask for much more than that.
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