The evolution of carry guns during the past few decades has been astonishing. As a young cop, I carried a 4-inch-barreled revolver, later a “Wonder Nine” semi-automatic pistol, often a 1911, and a snub-nosed .38 for backup. The snub-nose was the universal off-duty gun, and a very few carried small automatics. After a few years in a busy district with high violent-crime rates, anyone with anything besides cotton in his or her cranium realized the small calibers were worthless. The .38 was little enough.

The first slimline 9mm handguns were a step up, although not easy to use well. Today we have much better choices. The small guns have good triggers, good sights and good reliability. It is easy enough to make a small gun that feels like a child’s building block or a bar of soap; the geometry must fit the hand properly and allow a good gripping surface for proper aiming and recoil management. Fit, feel and balance mean a lot. The smallest guns have a lot of compromise in each area, and while small guns are often cut-down versions of service pistols, the best types are those that are purpose-designed as compact pistols from the ground up. The new Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O. is one such pistol.

Taurus GX4 Specifications

READY RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX — The T.O.R.O. ships with a pair of magazines, a slide plate and two interchangeable backstraps.

Size means a great deal. Military and police veterans accustomed to carrying a load on the hip don’t think anything of packing a Glock 19, Commander .45 or short-barreled .357. But that does not describe most concealed carry permit holders, and they need a pistol that will not become a drag. The KelTec PF9 showed the world that a small 9mm could work, and that market — the small, easily carried 9mm market — is now the dominant one. Every maker wants a piece of the action, and if a pistol has certain improvements and is offered at a fair price, all the better.

Among my favorite compact 9s is the Taurus GX4. The pistol holds 11 rounds with the flush-fit magazine and maintains a 3.06-inch barrel. It boasts good sights and an efficient recoil-reduction system. Best of all is its reliability with a wide range of loads. It weighs less than 19 ounces loaded, which is comfortable on the hip in a modern CrossBreed IWB holster. There are no sharp edges to abrade the skin.

The slide wears both forward and rear cocking serrations, which are well-designed and useful, and the front of the slide is beveled for easy holstering. The sights are standard “low-mount” style, with a white dot on the front aperture and serration on the rear face of the rear unit. The slide lock and magazine release are positive in operation but well-protected against inadvertent operation. The bane of small pistols is the magazine catch releasing the magazine while the pistol is holstered and the fingers contacting the slide lock in recoil, tying the gun up. This should not happen with the GX4 T.O.R.O.

(ALMOST) TAILOR-MADE — The interchangeable backstraps allow the gun to be better fitted to the shooter’s hand, which makes for a far more versatile pistol.

It ships with a changeable backstrap not found on most small pistols. This allows you to choose either the “small” or “large” grip option. As for texturing, I like this treatment a great deal. The result is a good mix of adhesion and abrasion (tending toward abrasion). The pistol isn’t uncomfortable to fire, and the grip will not be unduly shifting in cold or wet hands.

The trigger guard is large enough that it gives ample room for larger fingers — and maybe even a gloved finger, depending on the individual. The trigger is the typical polymer-frame, striker-fired type with a blade safety lever — not a conventional flat model, but flat where the finger interfaces. The pistol initially required about 6.3 pounds of pressure, but after a few hundred dry-fire repetitions, it broke at 5.8 pounds and stayed there. The break-in was normal, and the trigger is ideal for a small pistol. While the sights are acceptable, I feel that the GX4 trigger action is a major part of the pistol’s accuracy potential.

The pistol has a stainless steel chassis containing the trigger action, and the controls are Teflon-coated. While Teflon is a corrosion-resistant coating, it is also self-lubricating. The dual-spring system that has proven so successful for function and recoil control is included in the GX4 T.O.R.O. and contributes significantly to the little pistol’s shootability. There is also a roughened area on each side of the frame that serves as a finger-index point. This area is important and useful, as the shooter should absolutely keep his or her finger off of the trigger until he or she is ready to shoot, regardless of circumstance. For both beginner and master alike, it offers a tactile indication of where to place that trigger finger whenever it is not occupied firing.


The gun ships with a 10-round flushfit and 11-round extended magazine, the latter of which features a finger rest. The finger-rest magazine will be an aid in shooting the pistol for some, while other shooters may see little difference.

The slide is optics-ready, with a removable plate and mounting plates available from Taurus. Options include the Shield RMSc, Holosun HS507K, Holosun HS407K, Sightmark Mini Shot A-Spec M3, Springfield Armory HEX Wasp GE5077-MIC-RET, SIG Sauer ROMEOZero, Riton 3 Tactix MPRD 2, Trijicon RMR and Trijicon Red Dot. Many shooters — professionals and novices alike — are adopting such optics and shooting very well with them. If your larger handguns are optics-equipped, it certainly makes sense to adopt the GX4 T.O.R.O. with red dot as a concealed carry handgun. Draw, look through the optic with both eyes open, and place the dot on the target; you will have a hit if you handle the trigger properly.

Range Time With the GX4

I expected the pistol to perform as well as the previously tested “slick-slide” GX4, and it did. I ran a wide range of FMJs, lead-bullet handloads and modern JHPs. I don’t usually fire +Ps in a compact gun; the powder burn isn’t sufficient in a 3-inch barrel to consume the heavier charge and build good velocity. Just the same, I sent a modest number of Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P and Black Hills 100-grain Honey Badger +P loads, which turned in a different recoil impulse but nothing unpleasant. The standard-velocity 125-grain Honey Badger is a pleasant load to fire in the GX4 T.O.R.O.

The pistol has proven reliable and fast-handling, getting on target quickly and sitting quite comfortably in the hand. In fact, I find the GX4 among the most easily controlled compact pistols I have tested. The trigger is a fantastic choice for personal defense, with a well-defined break and rapid reset; I like it a bit better than Taurus’ G2 and G3 triggers. As for recoil, the pistol is more pleasant to fire than most 9mm single-stack polymers and not terribly far behind the Glock 19. This is in part because the pistol’s geometry limits muzzle flip. The white-dot front sight helped in removing the X-ring at 7 yards.

Moving to a long 15 yards, I was able to keep a full magazine in the 8-, 9- and 10-rings. I shot in a cadence, firing only when I recovered from recoil and regained a proper sight picture: Fire, allow the trigger to reset during recoil, and fire after aligning the sights again as rapidly as possible; the result was a tight combat group. As for absolute accuracy, which admittedly isn’t very important for a combat pistol but tells us something about fitting, I settled into the MTM K-Zone shooting rest and fired at 15 yards. Results were excellent by any standard for this size pistol. The pistol’s sights are well-regulated for 124-grain loads, with 147-grain loads falling just below the aiming point.

Taurus GX4: Affordable and Ready

The Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O. gets a clean bill of health. It is an affordable, high-quality pistol delivered red-dot-capable. One concern is to be certain any holster you choose is cut for optics; my older CrossBreed accepts a red-dot mounted Taurus, but all makers may not have the cut in place. If you can source a holster for this little number, you’ll be going about not only well-armed, but also comfortably so.