Taurus Model 94SS .22 Revolver

By Chuck Hawks

Taurus 94SS4
Illustration courtesy of Taurus International.

The Taurus Model 94 could, at a glance, easily be mistaken for a Smith & Wesson Model 63 stainless steel 22/32 Kit Gun. This impression is reinforced by the fact that the Brazilian made Taurus revolvers are basically knock-offs of the S&W action, even to the backward turning cylinder that tries to rotate out of the frame when the trigger is pulled. This, by the way, explains why S&W design revolvers require double and triple locks just to keep the cylinder in the frame.

There are differences between this Taurus version of a kit gun and the original. The Taurus tested came with a 3" barrel instead of the 2" or 4" tube standard on contemporary S&W stainless steel kit guns. The Taurus cylinder holds 9 cartridges instead of 6. The Taurus has slightly larger and more rounded grips that offer a better grip than the skimpy S&W wood grips.

The cylinder play with the trigger all the way back (as it would be when the gun was fired) would be considered excessive for a Colt DA revolver, but was average or slightly better than average for a S&W pattern revolver. The cylinder gap of the little Taurus was uniform and extremely tight. Probably too tight, as even the smallest bit of unburned powder trapped in the tiny gap made the cylinder hard to turn for the next shot. The fit of the cylinder crane at the front of the frame was not perfect, but was very good, better than most contemporary S&W production.

And the Brazilian import, perhaps surprisingly, has a better fit and finish to its external metal parts than most of the S&W Kit Guns of similar vintage that I have seen. Altogether, my first impression of the Model 94SS was good. It seemed a slightly huskier and generally improved version of the S&W Model 63.

It may seem strange to new 21st Century shooters that anyone would copy the inferior designs of a company with a reputation as tattered as Smith & Wesson's. However, the fact is that once upon a time, through the 1950s and early 1960s, Smith & Wesson revolvers were considered high quality firearms. Back in those days actual human craftsmen assembled and finished Smith & Wesson's mass produced revolvers with considerable pride and attention to quality.

S&W revolvers, being cheaper to mass produce than Colts, were widely procured by police departments all over North and South America. So when Taurus of Brazil sought a revolver design to copy, the S&W seemed a natural choice despite the fact that it is widely regarded as mechanically inferior to the more expensive Colt double action.

The Taurus 94SS reviewed here was purchased new in 1997, is a one owner gun provided by a personal friend and Guns and Shooting Online reader, and has seen enough limited use to be "broken-in'" but is in excellent-plus condition. Here is a summary of the basic specifications of the Taurus Model 94SS (circa 1989-1998):

  • Type - Small frame rimfire revolver ("kit gun")
  • Finish - Stainless steel
  • Action - DA/SA with transfer bar safety
  • Caliber - .22 S/L/LR
  • Capacity - 9 rounds
  • Barrel length - 2", 3", 4", 5" (3" as reviewed)
  • Sights - Serrated ramp front, adjustable rear
  • Trigger - Wide, grooved
  • Grips - Service pattern checkered Brazilian hardwood
  • Weight - 25 ounces
  • Length - 7.75" (3" barrel)
  • Dates of manufacture - 1991 to 1998
  • Fjestad's 2004 used value in 98% condition - $210)

Revolvers with 4" and 5" barrels came with a fully shrouded ejector rod. The same basic revolver was available as the Model 94 in blued steel.

After 1998 the 2" Model 94SS was updated with a fully shrouded ejector rod in the usual heavy and ugly Taurus style. The 3" barrel was discontinued, but 2", 4" and 5" barrels are still offered. Current M94SS4 (4" barrel) specifications are similar to those above with the following exceptions.

  • Sights - Serrated ramp front with orange plastic insert, adjustable rear
  • Trigger - Smooth
  • Grips - Rubber
  • Weight - 26.5 ounces
  • Length - 8.75"
  • 2005 MSRP - $375

As previously mentioned, the metal to metal fit of the Model 94SS reviewed here is good. Unfortunately, the wood to metal fit of the handgrips is not. The wood around the backstrap of the revolver is proud by up to 1/16" and the contour of the grips does not match the shape of the grip frame at the top. At the back of the trigger guard the two halves of the grips do not even match-up and the gap between wood and grip frame is substantial. All in all, a very inferior job of stocking a revolver.

I spent a pleasant afternoon at the Isaac Walton outdoor shooting range near Eugene, Oregon with the Taurus 94SS. The weather was partly sunny and temperatures were in the high 60's F. There was a mild breeze from directly behind the bench rests on the 25 yard range, which I judged not to be a factor in the accuracy results. The Model 94SS was steadied over a large sandbag on the bench rest, supported by both hands, and fired single action for all accuracy testing.

Two brands of .22 LR High Velocity ammunition were used, both with copper plated hollow point bullets. I regard that type of ammunition as most appropriate for a kit gun, which is primarily intended to be used in the field. These were CCI Mini-Mag HP and Remington Golden Bullet HP loads.

The groups produced by the little Taurus revolver were, frankly, disappointing. Outside of its poorly fitted grips it looks like a pretty good gun, but the shooting results were well below average for .22 LR revolvers with fully adjustable sights.

I fired both 5-shot and 9-shot (full cylinder load) groups for record with the CCI ammunition, and 9-shot groups only with the Remington ammunition. Perhaps surprisingly, there was no practical difference in center to center spread between the 5-shot and 9-shot groups fired with the CCI Mini-Mags. My feeling is that this tends to indicate that the gun's accuracy (or lack of it) was primarily a function of the Taurus revolver and not my shooting.

With CCI Mini-Mag ammunition the Model 94SS averaged 4.75" groups. The smallest group measured 3 1/2" (5 shots) and the largest measured 6 3/8" (also 5 shots).

With Remington Golden Bullets the Model 94SS was more consistent. The largest group measured 3 11/16" and the smallest 3 5/16". The average was right in-between at 3.5". This is better, but still unacceptable for small game hunting and barely adequate for plinking at short range.

I don't know what to say about these results except that none of the (admittedly few) Taurus revolvers I have tested, rimfire or centerfire, have come up to the standard of accuracy that I consider normal for their caliber. Remember that the test gun was in excellent condition and had previously been "broken-in." It was thoroughly cleaned before testing, so its poor performance can not be attributed to "newness" or fouling, nor can it be expected to improve with use.

The reliability of the Taurus Model 94SS reviewed for this article was inferior to the vast majority of the revolvers that I have encountered in a lifetime as a "revolver man." There was one failure to fire a round, but that was probably caused by a questionable cartridge. Rimfire ammunition is inherently less reliable than centerfire ammo. The cartridge in question fired when given a second chance.

Of more concern was the revolver's inability to cleanly eject all the spent cartridges on a consistent basis. And it didn't seem to matter if a full cylinder load or a partial cylinder load of 5 rounds was involved. About half of the time the extractor star would override the rim of one of the fired cases, failing to eject that case and also preventing the star from reseating, thus tying up the gun until the case was manually pried from its chamber.

To do this required that the ejector rod be pressed all the way in and held with one hand to allow sufficient space to pry out the recalcitrant case with the other hand. All in all, a tiresome process. Pushing the extractor rod forcefully seemed to help, but did not eliminate, the problem. I do not know if this is typical of all Model 94 revolvers, but I would not be surprised to discover that it is a fairly common problem due the very close spacing of the chambers in the cylinder and the relatively small "bite" of the extractor star on each case rim.

My inescapable conclusion is that this Taurus revolver, while commendably inexpensive on either the new or used markets, is not a good value. Guns, like anything else, can be too cheap, and I fear that is the case with the Taurus Model 94SS.

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Copyright 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.