By Jeff Johnston, Field Ethos Editor
All of us are gun guys at Field Ethos, and we all carry everyday. When the Taurus GX4 came out in 2021, Taurus’ new execs told us they’d moved production to the U.S., upped quality control, and asked us to give it a chance.
I was skeptical.
It’s not that Taurus’ polymer semiautos were bad historically, it’s just that they were less polished than the top-tier guns, and I’m not going to carry a subpar gun for self defense.
Turns out, I was wrong.
And after a solid year of carrying the GX4 off and on with others for comparison, to me this 18.5-ounce, 3-inch barreled, 12-round concealed carry specialist has proven it’s just as good as guns costing a couple hundred bucks more. Taurus finally got its stuff together and paid attention to “minor” details like … the trigger.
As I wrote in 2022 in my review, I believe it may be the handgun that reinvents Taurus—if shooters give it a chance. But I also couldn’t understand why Taurus didn’t release an optics-ready model from the get-go to compete with all the others that currently dominate the marketplace.
Turns out, I was impatient.
In 2023, Taurus released its GX4XL T.O.R.O. model that added .7 inches to the original’s 3-inch barrel, as well as an optics-ready slide. It weighs just 20 ounces and, most importantly, is still only 1-inch thick. It holds a bunch of rounds and carries like a wallet.
I’ve found that the longer barrel (Sig did the same thing with it’s P365XL model just as Springfield did with its Hellcat Pro) is easier to shoot more accurately thanks to the longer sight radius and adds slightly more velocity to each round downrange, which I’ll take because I’ve found that .7-inches to a barrel doesn’t make a difference when carrying; it’s the grip length that does because the grip is the part that sticks out over the waistband and can print under the shirt.
Just like the original, the XL’s grip is just long enough so folks with impish hands can get their pinky around it—which greatly helps for control; ham-handers are now also in luck because they have the option of using the 13-round extended magazine and interchangeable backstraps that come with the gun.
Speaking of grip, it’s my favorite feature of the GX4XL. Its stippling is ultra-fine like sharkskin and, along with Springfield’s terrific Hellcat Pro, is my favorite grip treatment in the business. Its grip angle is slightly more obtuse than the Sig and closer to a Glock which I personally like better because it tends to put my hand higher up toward the bore’s axis and therefore better facilitates intuitive sight acquisition and recoil mitigation. This, of course, is highly subjective, so you’ll have to feel it for yourself.
Mainly, the trigger is great for a striker fired gun, and to shoot these small guns accurately, it must be so. Although its actual pull weight of 6 lb is deceiving, it feels like less thanks to its minimal creep, relatively clean break and very positive reset. Rest assured, it’s not a custom 1911—it can’t be—but it’s a vast improvement over the Brazilian-made Tauruses of old.
But all the aforementioned traits are wonderful on paper. It’s on the shooting range where the GX4XL separates itself even from last year’s GX4, which shot very well. From standing, drawing and moving positions, it’s one of those guns that just fits me, handles great and seems to strike the steel even when I feel like my pull wasn’t great. With the optic installed, I have no trouble hitting plates at 50 yards. It’s a gun that’s a great balance of concealability vs. shootability, i.e.,I can carry it all day, yet I don’t feel handicapped on the range with it, like I do with, say, a Ruger LCP or even the original Sig P365. I’ve yet to experience a jam.
In sum, if I were to take the Pepsi Challenge with this gun alongside four others in the same category—the 3.7-inch-barreled compact double stacks—for me the Taurus would come in first or second. But then when I’d open my eyes, I’d discover two things: 1. It’s not named Sig or Glock, and 2. It’s also around $200 less expensive than those guns. $500
Pros: high capacity, lightweight, reliable, great grip
Cons: not named Sig or Glock