The Taurus Model 85 – A Sci Fi Favorite

What’s that joke from Phineas and Ferb? Something like if I had a nickel for every time this happened, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice. That’s how I feel about the Model 85’s use in Sci-Fi movies as a dressed-up future blaster. The Taurus Model 85 is about as simple as a gun gets. 


It’s a five-shot, compact revolver. The barrel is typically 1.87 to 2 inches long. Some 2.5-inch and 3-inch options were also available, but it’s mainly known for being a snubnose revolver. Taurus produced and imported the gun for 49 years and only recently replaced it with the 856 series. For movie guns, I can see why it made sense. It’s cheap for one and easy to find. Revolvers and blanks get along fantastically. 

That all makes sense. What’s interesting is how the gun became a space-like blaster in two movies and two TV shows. Let’s explore the Model 85 and its time as a movie star. 

The Model 85, AKA The Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B

In the short-lived but brilliant series Firefly and the follow-up movie Serenity, our main hero, Captain Mal Reynolds, carries a sci-fi blaster directly inspired by the Volcano pistols of 1854. Of course, the weapon isn’t a lever-action caseless ammo weapon. In real life, it’s a Model 85 dressed up in a brass casing. 

The pistol’s design is unique and features a slick look that can’t be accomplished with a standard semi-auto pistol. While the creator credits the Volcano pistol, it has late 1800s early semi-auto vibes. In the show and film, the pistol is used as a semi-auto handgun that feeds from a magazine in front of the trigger guard. 

Using the Model 85 allowed the gun to fire blanks without issue since the design couldn’t actually function as a semi-auto. If you haven’t watched the film or TV show, it’s a hive of great guns dressed up as Sci-Fi blasters. You can join the rest of us who complain about Fox canceling it way too soon. 

The Model 85 as the 2035 Future Pistol 

2035 isn’t that far away, and I don’t think we’ve reached anything close to what the film I, Robot promised us. I have a Roomba, and it hardly works. We certainly don’t have guns that look as cool as Detective Spooner’s pistol. Spooner’s pistol is the weapon seemingly issued to Chicago PD, as we have seen it more than once in the hands of police officers.

In real life, the Model 85 is the core of this gun. According to the loaded magazines in the film, it’s dressed up to be a 9mm pistol. The gun does feature Walther P99-like grips, then a whole load of custom crap slathered on the weapon to give it that future vibe and to enclose the old-school Model 85 design. 

Unlike the Serenity pistol, the pistol looks neat and doesn’t have an absurdly out-of-this-world design. It’s easy to see why they still used the Model 85. It allowed the pistol to be fairly conservative in design. This same configuration was later seen in a later season of Stargate SG-1. 

Why The Taurus? 

As mentioned, the Taurus Model 85 was cheap and readily available. You could strip one down and encase it in parts easily. If it broke, it wouldn’t cost much to replace it and do it again. Revolvers make a lot of sense when making sci-fi weapons, especially small revolvers like the 85. 


If we started enclosing a standard semi-auto in sci-fi features, we’d have some complications. First, the guns would start to look incredibly bulky. Semi-autos are already considered bulky compared to revolvers. Plus, we’d have to contend with a slide that has to reciprocate and some shell design could impede this function and create issues. 

Revolvers work well with blanks, and the short barrel of the Model 85 makes it easy to create some nice muzzle flash for the film. It makes a lot more sense when you start thinking critically about it. I wonder, what’s the next revolver to become a sci-fi pistol? 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.