Taurus Model 709 Slim: A Pocketful of Firepower
By David Tong
This article is my impression of the Taurus 709 Slim, a single-stack 9mm Parabellum polymer-framed, striker fired pistol introduced in 2010. The march toward national concealed carry continues. Over 40 states now recognize the right to carry, with only the usual suspects of Illinois, New York and California mostly denying their subjects their fundamental self-defense rights via a shall-issue licensing model, or not allowing it at all.
The proliferation of ever smaller and lighter revolvers and pistols cater to a market where purchasers drive their development. Ah, but there’s a rub; the smaller and lighter you make the arm, the less pleasant it is to shoot due to recoil, even in the smaller calibers. With a handgun, in particular, this inhibits the amount of practice most are willing to undertake in order to be proficient enough to shoot well. In addition, this encourages the manufacturers of these smaller handguns to chamber them for less powerful rounds that are less effective. While all firearms can be lethal, the handgun has the particular problem of combining the disparate requirements of power and portability. Additionally, the age-old conundrum of having a pistol convenient to carry, yet not so small as to be clumsy to use, plus having adequate power and accuracy, has eluded most manufacturers.
Many of us grew up with steel framed handguns and I admit to preferring them to this day. I believe that they generally have advantages in both durability and safety through their higher tensile strength compared to a polymer/plastic frame. In addition, they are typically easier to control under rapid fire with the full power loads commonly used for defense.
The most commonly purchased handguns in the concealed carry marketplace these days are either some form of .380 Auto, or a .38 Special “snub-nosed” revolver. Neither of these popular cartridges with their 0.35-inch bullets exceeds 1,000 fps in the short barrels currently in favor.
Enter the Taurus Slim. This pistol is a typical modified Browning short recoil action, chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum round, in a package very little taller or wider than the plethora of .380's out there. Even with its 3” barrel, a 115 gr. JHP should exceed 1,000 fps. Of course, the shot for shot superiority over either is compounded when its seven shot magazine is compared to the five shot S&W, Taurus, Rossi, or Ruger snubby revolvers, or the typical six shot .380 auto.
The trigger action is interesting in that second strike capability in the event of a hard primer is possible through a second double-action trigger pull, rare in the world of striker fired pistols. While the recommended course of action is the usual “tap-rack-bang” drill, this may provide some reduction in stress should it happen during a defensive situation.
The pistol’s diminutive size is worthy of particular mention. This 9x19 caliber weapon can be easily and discreetly carried in a pocket. If you are a “power junkie,” as I am, its small size, lightweight, snag free outline, visible sights and adequate round make it very appealing in the realm of affordable defense pistols. Only the more expensive Kahr PM9 is smaller, while the Walther PPS is about the same size. Both the Kahr and Walther feature with double-action only triggers and six round magazines. (There is a review of the PM9 on the Product Reviews page.)
The Slim showed a higher level of fit and function quality than typical for a Taurus product. The magazine is worthy of special mention. It is finished very well, with a nice polished blue finish, a yellow follower to help aid confirming the pistol is empty when the slide locks back on the last round, and hand-cycling both ball rounds and the Winchester Ranger rounds went very smoothly, without any hesitation; the feed lip angle appears optimal. The magazine system is the heart (and bane) of any semi-automatic pistol, and this one appears to be a good one. It is retained by a plastic magazine catch, however, which may prove problematic in long-term use with a steel magazine.
The slide release is an MIM produced part, rather than a stamping, and so is the safety lever, which does not act as a decocker. All to the good, as it appears the Taurus engineers intended the Slim to be put into use as a single-action for the first shot, which enhances first shot hit probability. Neither part is ambidextrous, so the pistol is best suited for right-handed people and probably reflects a concern to keep the width “slim.”
I found the long take up on single action to be a bit odd, and the trigger blade does revert to the full double action stroke length when at rest, though simply pre-staging the trigger to eliminate this take up was easy and what I used. At the same time, the long stroke trigger may make the use of the 1911 style safety superfluous. In this, it resembles the Walther P99 “AS” (anti-stress) trigger, which operates similarly, though without the manual safety option. The trigger’s very short reset, akin to a Glock’s, made rapid fire easy.
The frame’s molded grooves on the front and rear straps was nicely done; no finger grooves necessary, and the overall finish was good for a plastic gun. It features small oval indentations on both sides of the frame for placing one’s index finger, which reflects modern “ready state” training. The pistol’s inner workings seem very similar to that of a Glock, with the preponderance of the metal parts being steel pressings.
I did not shoot the test pistol at 25 yards, slow fire, as I believe that this is a regimen that is not terribly descriptive of how this type of pistol is actually going to be used. Thus, I shot it at up to 20 yards slow fire for groups and mostly rapid fire, with full loads. The ammunition used was CCI/Blazer 115 gr. FMJ, Remington 124 gr. +P JHP and Winchester 127 gr. +P+ JHP Ranger SXT.
Recoil, as well as muzzle blast and flash, are greater than that produced by a compact service pistol. However, recoil was fairly easily controlled, although this is not a casual plinker by any means. I did not find either the +P or +P+ ammunition difficult to control and I believe that one should carry this kind of ammo.
Your pinky finger will not have a place on the short grip; that is the price you pay for the small size. The magazines do not have an optional finger extension, a la Walther PPK or Kahr PM9. Taurus supposedly lists a nine round extended magazine to provide a full grip and a couple extra shots, although I have not yet seen them.
While there is the usual internet chatter regarding reliability issues, most of them can be resolved via ammunition changes. The test pistol worked great and I consider it an excellent back up pistol, while being powerful enough to serve as a primary weapon.
What is interesting to me is that the 709 Slim is sized appropriately to the 9mm Parabellum cartridge, which at first blush appears to offer the solution to the “carry always and hit hard’ question that the legal concealed carry market demands. It handled fine in my size medium size mitts and worked flawlessly. Though I harbor no illusions about it being as durable or ultimately reliable as a Glock 26, it is much smaller.
The very reasonable 2010 street price of approximately $350 means that many of these pistols are going to ride in pockets (or more properly, in a good holster) to maintain Heinlein’s “polite society.” The Taurus 709 Slim's petite dimensions make it about the size of many .380's and.38 snubbys. I like it a lot!
NOTE: This review is mirrored on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2010, 2011 by David Tong and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.