July 17, 2020
Founded in 1939 as a tool-and-die forging factory, Taurus expanded to producing firearms in 1941. The first was the Model 38101SO, a .38-caliber revolver. By 1968, Taurus was exporting its revolvers to the U.S. market. In 1971, Bangor Punta Corporation, Smith & Wesson’s then-parent company, purchased majority ownership of Forjas Taurus that led to the two firearm manufacturers to shared designs and manufacturing technology. (Gun enthusiasts will remember several Taurus model revolvers that appear and function similarly to famed Smith & Wesson models.) In 1977, Forjas Taurus came under new ownership that divorced Taurus’ relationship with Smith & Wesson.
Taking a step back three years, Italy-based Beretta won a contract in 1974 to produce small arms for the Brazilian army. However, the contract required Beretta to build a factory in Brazil and hire Brazilian labor. The contracts were completed in 1980, leaving Beretta with a manufacturing plant in São Paulo they sold to Taurus. Along with the facility, Taurus came to own the tooling, engineering drawings and retained the experienced work force to continue operations. Soon after, the Taurus PT-92 and PT-99 9mm pistols were introduced. Initially based on Beretta’s 92-series, Taurus’ version differed primarily in having a frame-mounted thumb-activated safety lever whereas the Beretta 92-series positioned a safety and decocking lever higher at the rear of the slide.
In 1982, Forjas Taurus formed Taurus Holdings, Inc. in Miami, Florida, and established its international manufacturing operations with its subsidiary. Manufacturing and assembling certain parts in the U.S. eased difficulties with import regulations of certain designs capable of accepting unlimited magazine capacities, and it sped up delivery of products to the American market. To that end, the U.S.-based office provided Forjas Taurus insight to American gun trends.
Brasileira de Cartuchos (CBC), also headquartered in Brazil, purchased Forjas Taurus and Taurus Holdings, Inc. CBC is also best known for its ammunition brands Magtech and Sellier & Bellot (S&B). While changing management strategies, Taurus products became popular and continues to dominate the affordable-price-point categories with top-selling designs including its pistols, revolvers and rimfires.
Brazilian Gun Culture
There is no legal big-game hunting in Brazil, though there is an increasing interest in gun collecting and competition shooting. All firearms in Brazil are required to be registered with the minimum age for owning a gun being 25. It is illegal for citizens to carry a gun outside of a residence, and a license to own a gun costs $R1000, or about $188 U.S. To add, there is a $R85 Brazilian Real fee (about $16 U.S.) to register each gun for three years. In contrast to the gun control movement advancing in the U.S., the opposite is happening in Brazil. The country’s gun-rights movement started in 2005 when a majority of Brazil’s citizens voted against banning the sale of guns and ammunition to civilians.
Forjas Taurus (translated “Taurus Forge”) is the small-arm manufacturing business of a multi-faceted company. The small-arms factory is located in Porto Alegre, a short flight from São Paulo. In November 2019, I went there to see the 80th anniversary of Taurus manufacturing. The timing of Guns & Ammo’s visit also occurred in the wake of pro-gun-rights decrees signed by current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
President Bolsonaro is a strong advocate for repealing the disarmament law and wants to allow Brazilians to own and carry guns for self-defense. On January 15, 2019, Bolsonaro signed an executive order to help make it easier for civilians to purchase guns by increasing valid gun ownership period from five to 10 years and allowing citizens to own up to four firearms once proof of secure storage in the home is established. On May 7, 2019, Bolsonaro signed another order to allow rural gun owners the right to use guns on their own property, as well as easing import restrictions of arms into Brazil. Gun collectors, sport shooters and hunters can now travel from their homes to shooting ranges, and veterans with 10 or more years of service can bear firearms. Brazilians were also given the right to purchase as many as 5,000 cartridges a year, or 1,000 a year for certain restricted firearms.
Highlighting Brazil’s evolving gun culture, shortly after my arrival I was allowed to examine Taurus’ first revolver model with serial number “9” made in 1942 (based on a Smith & Wesson Model 10 in .38). Taurus was also excited to show me a commemorative Raging Bull model created for President Bolsonaro.
The Factory Tour
Visitors enter a dull, concrete wall topped with electrified concertina wire and Area Restrita signage punctuated by skull and crossbones as a warning to would-be trespassers. Behind the executive offices and engineering buildings is an open courtyard that revealed bright art illustrating smiling characters, birds and flowers on the opposite side of the concrete walls. This is where those who work at Taurus loiter during breaks.
Surrounding the courtyard are buildings containing the different manufacturing, finishing and assembly processes. In one building, a conveyor belt carries hundreds of trays of thousands of metal-injection-molded small parts through a series of ovens with temperatures reading nearly 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. (I was told that two of these massive machines were acquired from the Swatch company.) In other areas were castings and forgings of barrels, slides and receivers organized in stackable crates with paperwork in each.
As the tour continued, the innocuous shapes of metal took the form of revolver and pistol frames, as well as other parts hung from hooks on specially designed hangers used to organize and finish each part through various processes before assembly. In several locations, there was a wall illustrating the evolution of each part as it passes through each stage of manufacturing, from raw material to a complete product. Though it put the entire manufacture of a specific product in perspective for visitors, I believe these boards are also helpful to employees who work on a specific process and may not be completely knowledgeable about every part in a gun. Should they come across a misplaced or lost part, they can reference to board to quickly identify for what product it was intended and locate from where it came, perhaps. (In the rare chance that this would happen, Taurus has security systems in place that would effectively shut down all operations until all parts were accounted for and mistakes identified.)
Besides the Taurus firearms we are already familiar with, I was also introduced to several products exclusively produced for the Brazilian military and police, including the blowback-operated SMT9 9mm submachine gun with 7.9-inch barrel and 30-round magazine, and an M4 variant. The U.S. market briefly saw such a rifle known as the "T4," introduced at the 2017 SHOT Show, but the U.S.-made T4 was an entirely different rifle than Brazil's. Brazil's T4 carbines were among the firearms decreed to be legal for possession among law-abiding citizens by President Bolsonaro in 2019.
Since 2010, Taurus has also been manufacturing Model 1911s. They’ve recently expanded to offering Commander and Officer models in 9mm and .45, and these were on hand for evaluation, also.
Other news included that the Raging Bull line of hunting revolvers would be phased out of production and replaced entirely by variations of the Raging Hunter. The main difference is the Raging Hunter features an aluminum barrel sleeve with an integral optic rail, while the Raging Bull required a proprietary mounting system to attach an optic.
Taurus is also manufacturing pump-action shotguns based loosely on the 870-style receiver, but given unique features such as an angular triggerguard, optic rail, protected post-aperture sights, and a heat-shielded barrel, adjustable carbine stock and pistol grip. This new shotgun wears the CBC branding rather than Taurus’ and was labeled “Pump Military 3.0”. However, it is unlikely that this model will arrive to the U.S. market.
At the anniversary party, Taurus recognized its two longest-serving employees and presented them with honors. I caught up with them privately afterwards and managed an interview. Lourdes Dos Anjos and João Carlos “Toro” de Mello had each worked for Taurus 40 years.
“I figured that Taurus was a good and decent company, and I really had to keep the job because of hard times where I used to live. My goal at first was to hold onto this job and not lose it,” Toro recalled. Since, I now work here proudly. I’ve raised my children, seen them graduate, and have developed lots of dedication to the job. Despite my age, I’ll always keep doing this job with responsibility.”
Lourdes added, “My dream was to start working at Taurus because it is a good and solid company. I thought to myself, I’ll work as hard as I can so I can be here as long as possible. Now it’s been 40 years and I’m grateful for that.”
During their tenure, Toro and Lourdes have been content working the same position for which they were originally hired; Toro is still a fork-lift operator, and Lourdes a production assistant. Their answers were surprising as I thought back to the average American’s interest in pursuit for a higher position and ambition towards success. Success for Toro and Lourdes was hard work and stability, and they both proudly achieved it.
Returning the next day to the factory revealed the quality control processes to include test-firing and computer-controlled inspections. It was interesting to examine finished firearms and note where they were headed. (I’m still curious what the Saudi Falcon Club thinks of their new Taurus TH40s.)
Taurus’ automation, network of conveyors and control was efficient and modern. As a firearm assembly passed along a work bench, serial numbers were scanned by a computer and logged for tracking. Any defects or adjustments needed are quickly identified in each process. In fact, I found a number of processes mesmerizing such as robotic arms that accurately picked up a part and rotated it through several sanding and polishing stations before returning it to a basket.
Bluing was still a conventional process that involved a series of bathes and oilings, while a number of products were diverted through Taurus’ new Cerakote applicators in another environmentally controlled dust-free room. There I saw a Circuit Judge carbine being given OD and FDE-colored finishes, which actually made an attractive-looking revolver I never considered before.
A Lasting Impression
Seeing the inside of any company that is staffed by several hundred employees who are unanimously passionate about their products is an incredible opportunity that I didn't take for granted. Visiting Taurus in Porto Alegre gave me a better appreciation for what goes into the firearms that so many Americans are seeking to buy. Taurus’ enthusiasm was contagious, and I returned home feeling optimistic and hopeful, hopeful that the average American gun owner will always have access to affordable, quality firearms. Brazil's pro-gun culture enjoys a momentum that is sure to carry on through the firearms on their way to America’s market.
Inside the Factory
Parts boards are available to employees for quick reference of each product being machined or assembled. Whether a forged, stamped or MIM part, the evolution of these parts from raw material or bar stock is interesting to observe. Shown is a Taurus PT-92 with a frame-mounted safety lever.
Many Taurus firearms feature metal-injection-molded (MIM) parts such hammers and trigger spurs. The MIM process affords the manufacturer the ability to create complex shapes and designs in mass quantity before they are machined, polished and heat treated prior to assembly.
An automated robotic arms is programmed to retrieve parts (such as these revolver cylinders) from a tray and rotate them one at a time through several polishing steps.
Sanded & Polished
A robotic arm automatically picks up, sands, rotates and polishes a revolver’s cylinder through several steps within a booth. This station saves a lot of time that used to required manual labor, and gives each handgun a more consistent finish.
Putting it Together
The Taurus TH Series are polymer-framed, hammer-fired pistols. They offer a dependable action and are available as full-size and compact models in calibers including 9mm and .40 S&W. The hammer-fired semiauto gives shooters a secure double-action first shot and subsequent single-action follow-up shots with a lighter trigger pull.
Fire Control Unit
The fire control units of a striker-fired pistol such as those in the new G3 and G3c semiautos are preassembled at a station before being introduced into polymer frames.
A Taurus employee on a handgun assembly line inserts the fire-control unit into a polymer-framed pistol. Spare pins and small parts are available in bulk at each station and resupplied through a network of long plastic tubes.
A TH9 frame awaits pins to secure the fire-control unit on a fixture before receiving a slide assembly.
Debuting in 2019, purple frames are among the most popular colors of frames on Taurus’ line of concealed carry pistols. The G2c offers excellent capacity for its size with 12 rounds in the magazine.
The new G3 is the latest striker-fired pistol from Taurus, which offers the same trigger pull from the first to the last round in a magazine. Available with full-size or compact frames, the G3 comes in six model include a two-tone matte-stainless slide finish.
The Taurus TS9 is said to be coming soon to the U.S. market. It is a new striker-fired pistol featuring a 4.25-inch barrel and 17-plus-one-round capacity. It also features Taurus’ new Dual Trigger Safety Security System and is already being carried by a number of Brazilian special operations units. Though having the same capacity as the G3, the TS9 almost 1-inch longer than the full-size G3 and nearly a half-inch longer.
A completed Taurus G3 with its slide and fire-control unit installed on a tan polymer frame is assigned a serial number. The serial number appears on three locations: the frame, underneath the ejection port and on the barrel.
Taurus Judges and a pair of Circuit Judges are polished and inspected before either receiving bluing in a hot salt bath or a Cerakote finish in a special laboratory.
A rack of Taurus 82 revolvers are still wet with a black oxide finish produced by a chemical reaction between the iron on the surface of the metal and oxidizing salts in a hot bath.
This special-order Rossi Circuit Judge was given a tan Cerakote finish with a contrasting black polymer stock and forend. Though Rossi’s manufacturing plant is located in Montenegro, Brazil, the Circuit Judge is assembled at the Porto Alegre factory where the Taurus Judge is made.
Though known for its revolvers and pistols, Taurus also makes a number of rifles including the Rossi Circuit Judge and the T4 carbine. Rossi’s Circuit Judge is based on the Taurus Judge revolver, but features a 16-inch barrel, stock and forend. The T4 carbine is Taurus’ own variation of the M4 service rifle, and is not currently imported to the U.S.
The Cerakote Option
Cerakote finishes is a new offering from Taurus, and several employees are certified in applying the various colors. To effectively adhere the finish to the substrate material, careful surface preparations are made by applicators and each part is baked at a specific temperature in an evenly controlled oven for a certain amount of time. Each color has unique temperature properties. In this oven, Circuit Judge revolving carbines were given silver, tan and OD green finishes.
Taurus is a certified applicator of Cerakote products and offers a number of color choices available from Taurus and through specific distributors. These colors are offered on many popular models ranging from the PT-92, G2c, as well as personal defense revolvers and the Circuit Judge carbine.
A Taurus employee racks the slide and inserts a bright-colored chamber flag before concluding his final inspection of a two-tone G2c 9mm. In addition to examining overall fit and finish, trigger pulls are measured and dummy rounds cycled through the magazine and action. Information is entered into a database and pistols are then ready for test firing.
Engineers randomly select samples of each part and examines the final products against the manufacturing specs. Zeiss’ multi-sensor multi-axis measurement machine takes multiple measurements at various points for a precise comparison. Not only is this process applied to parts made inhouse, it is also used to check outsourced components made by local vendors.
80th Anniversary Celebration
Taurus Armas Global President Salesio Nuhs gives a speech honoring the 80th Anniversary of Taurus manufacturing in Brazil on November 11, 2019.
Before and after the 80th Anniversary celebration, potential clients and existing customers from around the world were on hand to view the current line of Taurus firearms with experts on hand to discuss the features and answer questions.
Taurus T4 Carbines
Global President Salesio Nuhs is hands on with the Taurus’ products as he discusses the features and benefits of the different T4 carbine models with clients and visitors. The T4 carbines are not imported to the U.S.
Despite the country’s predominantly spoken Portuguese language, Guns & Ammo’s December 2019 issue featuring the new Taurus G3 were found distributed at the Taurus Armas factory in Brazil. That same issue named the Taurus TX22 .22LR rimfire, the 2019 Handgun of the Year.
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