By: Richard A. Baker
If this were 1950’s or 1960’s, that perception might have some validity, but this is 2010.
Around the time of World War II, manufacturers all over the world were trying to fill a monumental demand for guns. In South America, manufacturers like Llama and Taurus moved from making tool and die equipment to making guns.
Taurus produced its first revolver in 1941. Distribution of Taurus firearms was limited to South America until 1968 when the company began exporting revolvers to the US. As with Llama, the Taurus firearms were regarded as poor quality, and deservedly so.
The world changed for Taurus in 1970, when Bangor Punta Corporation, the parent company of Smith and Wesson at that time, bought a controlling interest in Taurus. With Smith and Wesson sharing design and manufacturing information with Taurus, the company began producing revolvers that not only looked like Smith and Wesson models, but were functionally almost identical.
Taurus had a similar stroke of luck in 1980, when Beretta’s contract to produce firearms for Brazil’s military expired. Taurus bought Beretta’s Brazilian factory and, in the deal, got all of the tooling, technical drawings and even workers that had been used by Beretta.
Taurus has taken a lot of criticism from gun owners for “copying” Smith and Wesson and Beretta, but the developments above explain why many Taurus firearms closely resemble models from Smith and Wesson and Beretta.
In 1984, Taurus created Taurus USA, a subsidiary that it used to market the company’s firearms in the US. It wasn’t long after that Taurus revolvers and pistols were on the shelves of just about every gun store in the United States.
The market for Taurus firearms has primarily been those buyers who can’t or won’t spend hundreds more to buy guns from the more established names in the gun industry. Taurus hasn’t forgotten that target market, and continues to produce revolvers and pistols that are very close in design to Smith and Wesson and Beretta, but at much lower prices.
The company has also made its mark by producing models that are distinctively Taurus. The Taurus Judge and Taurus Raging Bull are two very popular revolvers that effectively have no competition. If you want a Judge or a Raging Bull, you buy Taurus.
To help solidify the company’s reputation as a manufacturer of quality firearms, Taurus implemented a lifetime warranty on their guns. Any defective Taurus firearm is repaired under warranty for the lifetime of the gun, even if the owner is not the original purchaser of the gun.
Taurus got a public relations boost with many in the gun community in 2000, when the company’s executive president, Bob Morrison, went public with allegations that Taurus and other gun manufacturers were being both bribed and threatened by the Clinton administration. Morrison publicly detailed a phone call from Clinton administration official Andrew Cuomo, who allegedly offered government contracts if Taurus would sign an agreement similar to one to which Smith and Wesson had agreed that would place restriction on gun sales.
Today, the Taurus line includes over 300 model of pistols and revolvers in a wide variety of calibers. In an industry whose age is measured in centuries, a sixty nine year-old company like Taurus would be considered an infant. But in those short sixty nine years, the company has gone from near-total obscurity to being one of the largest firearms exporters in the world.