A Review of the Taurus G3

A value proposition caused me to buy my first Taurus semi-automatic pistol, a 9mm PT 24/7 Pro. That was at least fifteen years ago. Sometime thereafter I bought one in .40 S&W, and later I picked up a .45ACP PT 24/7 Pro DS. These guns have always been among my favorites. I’ve watched the YouTube videos and read the rants on forums about problems and issues with these earlier semi-automatics while mine have continued to perform flawlessly. There was a recall and a settlement of a class action lawsuit regarding the PT-111 Millennium. With that all in the past, I’ve been comfortable for years recommending the Taurus Millennium series as a carry gun to budget-minded customers.

Current reports from wholesalers and Gunbroker indicate the Millennium G2 is one of the top selling concealed carry handguns. That makes sense as it typically sells for around $200 and is very close in size to the popular single stack nines that hold six or seven rounds and cost more than twice as much. The G2’s capacity is 13 rounds. Even though I own more expensive guns in brands that everyone stands up and applauds, I keep a G2 handy in a Nate Squared IWB holster for whenever I have reason to leave the house on short notice. I know some of you reading this have concerns about Taurus quality due to publicity and recalls, but I personally have been a heavy and consistent Taurus user for years and haven’t experienced any of the reported problems, nor have any of my customers. Taurus has faced those earlier problems and apparently fixed them. They also offer a lifetime guarantee on their firearms.

Now Taurus has released an upgraded, larger version of the Millennium G2, calling it simply the G3. Before my pre-release evaluation copy of the G3 arrived, I found myself hoping it would be a 9mm version of the Taurus TX22. I recently reviewed the TX22 and called it a .22 in 9mm clothing. The G3 is not configured like the TX22 and I think the Taurus engineers missed an opportunity there. But it’s close and they did what they set out to do—make a G2 big brother.  

The Taurus G3

The G3 has a lot to offer, starting with the grip. Aggressively stippled grip patches on the side panels, the front strap and the back strap provide a no-slip grip that does not become uncomfortable during extended shooting sessions. The stippling is little bit finer, more sandpapery, than what’s on the G2. Further defining ergonomics of the grip is a palm swell located high on the backstrap. The palm swell, along with thumb shelves on either side of the frame, help the shooter obtain a fast, secure grip that orients the muzzle. The combination makes the G3 a natural pointing machine. Integrated into the frame above the trigger are what Taurus calls Taurus Memory Pads, which are small recesses that offer a natural location for indexing of the trigger finger when not actively engaging the target. The thumb shelves and memory pads are on both sides of the frame to accommodate left- and right-hand shooters. These features are carryovers from the Taurus PT 24/7 Pro.

Ambidextrous Thumb Shelves and Memory Pads help provide a secure grip for the shooter

A version of the PT 24/7 dubbed OSS was designed as an entrant when The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) issued requirements in 2005 for a new .45 ACP service pistol. That USSOCOM request was at first delayed, later cancelled, leaving Taurus with an excellent candidate for the concealed carry market. Not long after I bought my first one, a friend who is a Texas State Trooper told me the Texas Department of Public Safety had seriously considered the Taurus PT 24/7 before the decision was made to outfit the troopers with Sig Sauer P226s in .357 Sig. Many of the troopers preferred the Taurus, but politics apparently intervened.

The lineup at Taurus changes from year to year. The PT 24/7 pistols were in the 2017 lineup but dropped for 2018. It’s refreshing to see a full-size, striker-fired Taurus back on the market with the G3. The MSRP is $345.23 in all black and $360.70 with a stainless-steel slide, which will translate to around $300–$325 at gun stores when the guns are readily available. Taurus wanted to give its customers a lot of gun for that $300–$350 price tag and it appears they did just that.

The G3 weighs 25 oz. and has a 4″ barrel. The pre-release gun I received for evaluation has one 15-round magazine and one extended 17-round magazine. The slide is rounded and tapered in the front making it easy to holster and snag free around clothing. It has standard 3-dot white sights, which are a little smaller than on my G2, making them harder for these old eyes to see. The rear sight is adjustable. Mildly cut serrations front and rear make slide operation easy and the Picatinny rail for lights and lasers is present. A small viewport at the back of the chamber serves as an indicator to see if the gun is loaded.

The G3’s trigger is much improved over earlier Taurus pistols. I measured it at a consistent 6 lbs. Once a cartridge is chambered, the G3 utilizes a single-action firing system. A feature you’ll only find on Taurus handguns as far as I am aware is the second-strike capability. In the event of a failure-to-fire, you can reset and pull the trigger again to restrike the primer. You can do it again and again and again if you want to, but of course somewhere along the line you should probably stop and get a new cartridge in the chamber.

David compared these different Taurus models at the range and liked them all

Since the G3 is both a new gun and an evolution of other Taurus products, I decided having some of those other products at the range for some comparison shooting would be a good idea. I took a 9mm G2, a .45ACP 24/7 Pro DS and the .22 Caliber TX22. I started the session by shooting the TX22 which is a delight to shoot and closely matches the ergonomics of the G3 test pistol. Then I shot a few groups with the G2. They were tight and set the bar. The 24/7 has great sights, a smooth trigger and ergonomics very close to those of the G3. But I didn’t shoot it much because it’s a .45, and for some reason I was a little extra sensitive to recoil that day.

I had several brands of 9mm ammo on hand and expected to shoot the G3 for a while before settling down and concentrating on getting a nice grouping for a photo. But I was in for a surprise. The first ten rounds I fired was from an old box of Winchester White Box FMJ and darned if they didn’t produce a group I figured would be hard to beat. I marked that one for my target photo, but as I continued shooting at other targets with various types of ammo, any one of several resulting targets could have been used to show off the G3’s accuracy. Naturally I had some flyers, but whenever I settled down on the sights and operated the trigger correctly, the G3 sent the rounds straight and true.

Let’s be honest. Not everybody has a six-figure income. For many of us, a $300–$350 gun that carries well, shoots well and has a lifetime warranty is exactly what we need for self-defense. It’s a good gun to use when introducing a friend or family member to the shooting fraternity. It can be an addition to any gun collection with a non-painful acquisition cost. And just wait. I bet Team Taurus will make owners of this gun proud by making it a winner in competition.

M&P®9 SHIELD™ EZ® No Thumb Safety Crimson Trace® Red Laserguard®

Somebody in Smith & Wesson’s engineering department must know me. It’s as if they said, “Let’s build a gun for Freeman. We need to provide enough firepower for him to feel comfortable carrying it for personal protection. Let’s help him with his eyesight by putting a laser on it that’s easy to operate. And speaking of easy to operate, you know the trouble he’s been having racking his slide and filling his magazines? Let’s fix that.” And so they did. Of course that’s a fictional scenario, but only the part that has my name in it. They built this gun for folks like me who want to be well-armed but are dealing with physical issues that make it difficult. The EZ designation on this Shield is the real deal. It is easy to rack and filling the magazine without a mag loader is a piece of cake. Another nice touch is the 1911-like grip safety, making a manual thumb safety unnecessary.

Shield EZ Rack With Laser
The profile of the Shield EZ is similar to other M2.0 Shields, but the barrel is .65″ longer.

This is a different Shield. I know this because I have an M2.0 Shield and I took them both apart to compare. I wanted to know how they made this gun so easy to operate. This Shield could easily be called an M2.5 because it has a different operating system. The EZ Shield is not striker-fired; it has an internal hammer. In essence, it’s single-action only because racking the slide cocks the hammer. The internal safety you would normally call a striker-block safety is a firing pin block safety on this Shield.

The internal hammer is part of the system that makes the EZ Shield easy to rack.

All of the M2.0 Shields have an excellent grip texture that allows for a secure grip. S&W’s advertising says the grip texture is optimized to size and recoil, and I’d say that’s about right. The Shield features an 18-degree grip angle, which we all know John Moses Browning figured out long ago was perfect for aligning sights and mitigating recoil. The S&W fish scale pattern cocking serrations are on the rear of the slide with an abbreviated version on the front. This gun has standard three-dot white sights but is also equipped with a Crimson Trace laser attached to the trigger guard and operated by a push-button switch positioned on the front of the grip where it can easily be activated by the middle finger or your shooting hand. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and the Crimson Trace laser comes with a tool for adjusting it for windage and elevation. It comes from the factory adjusted for 50 feet, which left it shooting high at the 10–12 yard distances we were shooting from at the range. It was easy to adjust using the supplied tool for that purpose. The laser’s lithium battery has a life of over four hours. There is also a master on/off switch should you wish to deactivate the laser for some reason.

The laser fits seamlessly to the trigger guard. Front serrations are there for a press check if that’s your habit.

The 9mm EZ Shield has an overall length of 6.8″ and a height of 4.75″. With the Crimson Trace laser and an empty magazine it weighs 23.8 oz. It ships with two 8-round magazines. The magazines have what seems to me to be a lighter spring than normal for a 9mm, and they have a load-assist tab similar to those on .22 caliber semi-automatic pistols making magazine loading not quite the chore it is on most 9mm pistols when you have hand issues. The trigger is crisp with an average 5 lb. pull on my Lyman gauge. There’s a bit of take-up, but it’s smooth and the break is clean with a tactile reset. The grip safety requires a high, secure grip to activate, but you should be doing that anyway. There is a tactile loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide, something I miss on other M&P handguns.

The EZ Shield’s barrel is 3.65″ long as opposed to the 3″ barrel on the standard M2.0 Shield. The single recoil spring is longer and smaller than the double recoil spring on the standard Shield. The magazine is not compatible with the magazines from other Shields. The slide lock is slightly smaller but is easy to operate. Takedown on the EZ Shield does not require a trigger pull or pushing down a small internal lever to disengage the sear. Just lock the slide back, rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees and push the slide off the front of the frame. The recoil spring is a small, single spring with a strength that is balanced to provide consistent operation of the firearm and easy operation of the slide by people with hand strength issues. My wife and I both fall within that category, and we both found the EZ Shield easy to load, easy to rack and easy to shoot.

Because it’s hammer fired, not striker fired, takedown does not require pulling the trigger.

Reassembly had me going to the manual to figure out why I couldn’t get the slide to go back on just as easily as it comes off. It turns out that the rear end of the recoil spring assembly is not round. It has flat sides and must be oriented so the flats are on the side and the round portions are in the up and down position as you place the assembly back in position on the barrel. There are a couple of other tips for reassembly. If the hammer is up, push it down and do not depress the grip safety while removing or installing the slide.

Whenever I’m evaluating a gun for a review, I like to put it into the hands of several shooters whenever possible. My perceptions may be somewhat slanted according to my likes and dislikes and having input from others helps with a more objective review. Having more than one gun to evaluate on any given range trip also helps balance perspective. Being in the midst of the COVID-19 shelter-at-home period, several of my family members were more than anxious to head to the country in a private environment and shoot some guns. When it came time to shoot the EZ Shield, I was most interested in my wife’s experience with the gun because she has more hand issues than I do. We are both heavy keyboard users because of our professions and are somewhat convinced that keyboard and mouse use is as much an issue with the chronic pain in our hands as aging. For the past few years, I’ve been concerned that she hadn’t felt comfortable with any gun we have other than a lightweight revolver.

I didn’t try to persuade her to load the Shield’s magazines because in real life she doesn’t have to. She’s got me plus sons and grandsons to load magazines for her. But she’s got to be able to shoot the gun, and when I handed her the loaded Shield to shoot, shoot it she did. With just a bit of coaching from our youngest son who is an NRA Certified Handgun Instructor, she was putting rounds on target quite easily. After shooting the gun a bit, she announced she would like this to be her new carry gun, leaving me trying to figure out the logistics of getting another one for me to carry.

The Shields magazine has an assist tab to help with loading. The internal spring is easier than on most magazines, which also helps.

Four of us took turns with the EZ Shield going through several brands of range and defensive ammo. The Shield didn’t seem to care what we fed it. Accuracy was on par for a carry gun and there were no malfunctions of any kind. When it was my turn to shoot, I was just as anxious to try the new Gold Dot Carry Gun ammo as I was the EZ Shield. I didn’t Chrono anything, but I sure was pleased with the groupings I got using the Gold Dot ammo.

The Crimson Trace laser doesn’t interfere at all with carrying the EZ Shield in my Bianchi 101-16 Foldaway holster. The EZ Shield with the Crimson Trace laser also fits easily into an Uncle Mike’s size 16 Sidekick Ambidextrous nylon holster. There’s no doubt in my mind this is a serious personal defense handgun that can easily be carried and up to the challenge should it be needed, whether or not you have hand issues. If you do have hand issues, I urge you to give this gun a try. The S&W engineers must have been working with people just like you and me when they designed this gun.The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!

I found the Shield with the laser attached easy to carry in this Bianchi Foldaway holster. It is normally covered by my shirttail.

The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!