The Taurus way to a 5.56x45mm rifle

    As you may (or not) have seen among  the myriad of AR platforms in different calibers fighting for the attendees’ attention during this year’s SHOT Show,  Brazil’s Forjas Taurus is another entrant in this apparently crowded market segment with its T4 (or FAT 556, in some earlier fact sheets), an M4 clone fully manufactured in the company’s facilities now concentrated in the city of São Leopoldo, just 33 km away from the traditional premises in Porto Alegre, capital city of Rio Grande do Sul State. You may find it interesting to learn how it all happened.

    Taurus is a long-time manufacturer of revolvers (since the 1950s) and semi-auto pistols (1980s), having also ventured in the field of submachine guns (Beretta M12 variants and joint ventures with Chile’s FAMAE) and pistol-caliber carbines (also in collaboration with the Chilean company). It was only a matter of time until it turned its eyes to the military/LE rifle market. In April 2009, the Taurus stand in the LAAD Defense & Security exhibition in Rio de Janeiro was full of posters, literature, and, of course, display guns announcing the company’s intention to start a cooperative program with Israel’s IWI to manufacture the 5.56x45mm Tavor bullpup rifle in Brazil. The frisson it raised in the market, however, gradually died away and it seemed that rifles were no longer in the company’s plans.

    “Shalom, Brazil!”: one of the many IWI Tavor rifles displayed in the Taurus stand during the LAAD 2009 Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.

    Another shiver, however, was felt exactly two years later at the 2011 LAAD show, when Taurus presented its own 5.56x45mm ART 556 rifle and CT 556 carbine designs. The guns were to be available with 1:7in pitch 254, 368, 419 and 508 mm barrels, and with semi-automatic and selective fire options. Following obvious market trends, polymer components were found everywhere in the guns, as well as Picatinny rails, the use of STANAG magazines, et al. Operation was a pretty conventional gas action with piston and a rotary bolt with six locking lugs. The lower receiver and foldable/adjustable stock were just the same as used in the company’s MT40 G2C submachine gun (200mm barrel) and CT40 G2 semi-auto carbine (412mm barrel) announced at the same occasion.

    This scope-fitted, long -barrel ART 556 rifle occupied a prominent position in Taurus’ stand in the 2011 LAAD exhibition.

    Photographed at the Taurus Porto Alegre facilities in November, 2011, an ART 556 prototype displays design similarities with the company’s .40 S&W CT40G2 carbine and MT40G2 submachine gun. The “G2” suffix was a provisional measure to distinguish the weapons from the earlier Taurus/Famae CT40 and MT40 guns.

    Initial testing with prototypes made in the Porto Alegre factory proceeded regularly for about one year or so, the author having a chance to briefly test fire an early example in November, 2011, with a slightly more complete hands-on evaluation taking place in September, 2012.

    This ART 556 is seen here in author’s hands fitted with a foregrip/tactical flashlight unit. Flip-up sights were used on the top rail.

    Gas-operated with a piston and rotary-bolt locking system, the semi-auto CT 556 carbine had a 318mm barrel in 1:7in pitch, weighed 3.4kg empty, and was 800mm long overall. By folding the polymer stock to the right, this was reduced to 600mm.

    The CT 556 standard sights, similar to those used in the company’s new subguns, were mounted on the top receiver rails, but foldable or red-dot units were a better choice. The grip-type shape of the magazine housing’s forward end tended to attract many shooters’ supporting hands, but not the author’s.

    All in all, the examples tested worked flawlessly all the time and appeared to just being plain able to fight for its share in the military and LE market. But, remember, to reach that expected stage the Taurus weapons would have to undergo a long and costly test certification program, tooling set up, and series manufacture process, which apparently made the company have second thoughts as to if the whole thing was necessary. In fact, late in 2012, it appeared that the path to follow would probably involve what many companies worldwide had done: make an AR-based platform and go! At that time, examples of both AR-15 rifles (16-in barrel, semi-auto only) and M4 carbine (12.5-in barrel, selective fire) lookalikes were completed, myself also having had a chance to fire them at the factory.

    Two Taurus-made (company logo on magazine wells) AR platforms ready in late 2012. The top weapon is a semi-auto 16-in barrel gun, while the other is a selective-fire carbine with a shorter barrel.

    When building its first AR-type platforms in 2012, Taurus had practically decided to take this way into the 5.56x45mm rifle/carbine market.

    In 2013, negotiations led to the Florida-based Taurus Holdings company to associate with Diamondback Firearms LLC, of Cocoa, FL. The agreement was expected to lead to the production for Forjas Taurus of the DB15S (16-in barrel) rifle and the DB15B (shorter barrel) carbine, and this was again made public during a LAAD Exhibition, the April 2015 version. It looked like that the bull-head symbol had finally found its place on commercially-available Taurus 5.56x45mm guns. But that was not to be the case: commercial disagreements between the two companies put an end to the project, having it gone back to the original “Made in Brazil” model.

    The DB-15B semi-auto carbine as exhibited in the LAAD 2015 Show. Note the use of Magpul pistol grip, stock and magazine.

    The DB-15S carbine made by Diamondback Firearms for Taurus.

    Receiver markings on a Taurus/Diamondback DB-15 carbine… which was never to be.

    The resulting Taurus T4, both in semi-auto-only and selective-fire variants, then, finally made its (final?) entry scene in the recent SHOT Show. With barrel lengths of 368 or 292mm and two handguard options (aluminum or polymer), all pertinent details were there in Vegas. Hope you’ve see them.

    An early Taurus T4 (previously, FAT 556) carbine illustration.

    As shown in the recent SHOT Show, the Taurus T4A2 rifle also displays the company’s new Bull logo on magazine housing, pistol grip and retractable stock. Barrel here is the 368mm variant.

    Available videos of earlier prototypes:

    CT 556, November 2011:

    CT 556, September 2012:

    AR-platform prototypes, late 2012:


    Ronaldo Olive

    Ronaldo is a long-time (starting in the 1960s) Brazilian writer on aviation, military, LE, and gun subjects, with articles published in local and international (UK, Switzerland, and U.S.) periodicals. His vast experience has made him a frequent guest lecturer and instructor in Brazil’s armed and police forces.