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Taran Tactical Sand Viper: The Gun Of John Wick 4 [Review]

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

EDITOR'S NOTE: John Wick 4 features the Taran Tactical Pit Viper. The Taran Tactical Sand Viper is the same firearm, but with a different color coating and an optic cut.

There can be no samurai without the sword. The samurai’s sword wasn’t just a weapon, but also the physical and spiritual identity of this warrior class. It wasn’t enough to simply own a sword; samurai spent their days practicing to hone their craft. It was their job. 

The deadliest warrior wasn’t necessarily the one with the best sword but the one that was most proficient, a concept that some can’t comprehend to this day. This is the reason the samurai were so feared and respected.

As Japan became more “civilized,” there was less need for the old warrior class. Eventually, the Japanese government made it illegal to wear swords in public in an effort to abolish the samurai (sound familiar?). If there was no need for the samurai, then there was little need for samurai swords. With no one left to use them, the evolution of the Japanese sword ground to a halt. 

Today, the idea of using a samurai sword for any practical purpose is long gone. Why would you bring a [long] knife to a gunfight? The firearm has replaced the sword, but the underlying agendas remain unchanged: “No one should own a sword in the civilized world.” The same mentality is argued today with different ingredients. 

Unlike the sword, firearms have continued to progress through technological advances and practical usage. The double-stack 2011 pistol can be found toward the current middle end of the evolutionary spectrum of firearms. 

This offspring of the 1911 started out in the competition world, but eventually bled into the tactical and everyday carry (EDC) realm. With arguably the best trigger of any pistol, great ergonomics, modularity, and high capacity, it’s easy to see the reason for the 2011’s current celebrity status. 

Initially, custom gunsmiths built 2011s, but now mass-produced offerings have pushed the pistol into the mainstream. This brings us to the Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI) Sand Viper, an evolved 2011 that has all the characteristics of a modern pistol. 

Taran Butler is the founder of Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI). Butler is well-known for training A-list Hollywood actors and actresses in the art of gunplay. He’s been in the competition game for decades, racking up one of the most impressive resumes in the practical shooting world. 

Spending that much time competing will teach you a thing or two about guns. Butler transfers this knowledge to his students and also manufactures his own line of firearms. 

The Sand Viper is intended to be a competition gun, but it can still be stuffed into an EDC holster. However, to carry this on a daily basis would be like having a Formula One car as a daily driver. Yeah, you could probably do it, but it might be a bit impractical. You get all the bells and whistles for the game, and these are the same features that make it such a great shooting gun. 

Competition shooters are known for putting insane amounts of rounds down range, and the equipment needs to be up to the task. There’s nothing that’ll make you contemplate seppuku like having a great match performance thrown away by a malfunction. 


In the competition world, the Sand Viper would be considered an Open Division pistol. The compensator and red-dot sight essentially make it a Top Fuel dragster. It features a commander-length barrel with a single port compensator, bringing it up to government length. This means you don’t need a special holster, as you can use a standard 2011 holster. 

The slide is pre-cut for an optic and features a Trijicon SRO. 

Taking the rear sight out of the equation allows the red dot to be mounted as low as possible, reducing the sight to bore axis distance. The Aftec extractor is standard on many competition guns, providing a big leap in reliability from the classic 1911-style extractor. It used to be an art form to tune an extractor, but the Aftec with its saddle and spring tension system has pulled the curtain back on the magic show of reliable extraction. 

The safeties, slide stop, and magazine release are all extended, making them easier to reach during manipulation. The extremely refined fire control group is responsible for the phenomenal trigger pull, at 1.75 to 2.25 pounds. 

The beavertail grip safety fits precisely to the frame and the activation is measured in millimeters. Having a functional beavertail safety along with a sub-2-pound trigger takes a lot of know-how and attention to detail.

The slide and frame of the Sand Viper are DLC coated in Coyote bronze. The high spots on the slide are polished in an attractive contrast of matte and gloss. The full-length dust cover is cut back and an accessory rail is also added. The grip is layered with silicone carbide to ensure the gun won’t slip around in your hands. 

This texture isn’t so aggressive to cause discomfort, but just enough to get the job done. The grip itself is subtly contoured for better ergonomics and fits the hand like a glove. The oversized magwell is a vacuum when performing reloads. Three magazines are included in the custom gun bag; this is enough to get you started in the game. 

There are a couple options available for the Sand Viper, but there’s nothing like a full custom gun. In the competition gun world, the customer chooses their desired options and features. In the case of the Sand Viper, all of the best choices have been made for you. It represents the culmination of decades of competition experience, so you don’t have to spend the time figuring things out for yourself. 


Having a compensator on a pistol works wonders for controlling muzzle flip. What’s the difference between muzzle flip and recoil? Just like it sounds, muzzle flip is the amount of rise in the muzzle after discharging a round, whereas recoil is more of the energy felt in the hands. The compensator redirects the gases of the fired round up and out to keep the muzzle down. This is the reason compensated guns shoot so flat. 

The problem is if you use too much gas, the comp will work great, but at the cost of added recoil; it’ll keep the muzzle flat but feel harsher in the hand. Conversely, if you use lighter ammo that produces less gas, it’ll be softer but have more muzzle flip. Finding the right ammo recipe for your gun can be a tedious process of trial and error, and you have to find the happy spot of gas produced and energy created. The Sand Viper is prudently set up out of the box to work the compensator with factory ammo.

The red dot makes it easier to shoot accurately. One of the best aspects of having a dot sight and a compensator on a pistol is the ease of tracking the dot during recoil. In a perfect world, you would follow the dot through the recoil cycle and back down to target. The Sand Viper does an amazing job reducing the movement to almost nothing. Shooting it feels like cheating; it’s close, but the gun won’t shoot for you.  

On the range, the gun performs as well as it looks. The compensator may only be a single port but keeps the muzzle down. The light trigger, soft recoil, and minimal muzzle flip makes the Sand Viper a destroyer of ammunition stockpiles. Be conscious of how much ammo you have on hand, as the Sand Viper will eat it up while you’re not looking. No one ever worries about the fuel economy of F1 cars, so bring plenty of ammo. 

Seven different types of ammo were used to test this sword. 115-grain SIG Sauer HP, Remington HP, and Sellier & Bellot FMJs; 124-grain Sig FMJ and Sierra hollow-points; as well as 121-grain and 147-grain hand-loads were all used, with flawless results. 

Groups were shot at 10 and 25 yards, with only a couple of groups that measured bigger than an inch at 25 yards. The tightest group was with the Remington 115-grain hollow points at 0.830 inch. The largest group at 25 yards was 1.1 inches with the SIG 124-grain FMJ. Either way, this is more than capable for any task you can ask of a pistol. 

The only perceived downside is the grip safety. While it’s the best tuned factory grip safety out there, the shape is so streamlined that if you don’t grip the gun properly it might not activate. This is the nature of a grip safety in general. 

The idea is that the grip must be proper to shoot the gun. This might be an issue in a self-defense situation, but that’s not what this gun is intended for. Most competition guns have their grip safeties completely deactivated for this exact reason, so if you want to be a samurai you have to put in the work. 


A sword with heritage is said to be priceless, and collectors have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a prime example with history to match. 

While the Sand Viper isn’t priceless, it does come close at a cost of around $7,000. It’s not for the faint of wallet, but if you do the math on everything you get, it’s worth it for those in the market for this type of gun. It’s not just the cost of the material that’s expensive, but the know-how that goes into producing it. 

Like the original samurai sword, the Sand Viper has been created for a purpose. It actually performs to the same level of its aesthetics; it has all the features of a competition workhorse and the looks of a supermodel. 

Everything is thoughtfully put together to make this gun run like mad — an Aftec extractor, light trigger with quality parts, extended levers and safeties, a perfectly fit grip. It’s hard to envision such an appealing gun being used and abused like a normal competition gun, but that’s what it was made for. 

The Sand Viper doesn’t require a topknot, but it does deserve respect as one of the most striking and capable weapons ever tested. 


Taran Tactical Innovations Sand Viper

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 17, 22, 28 rounds
  • OAL: 8.5 inches
  • Height: 6.5 inches
  • Barrel length: 5 inches
  • MSRP: $7,000 ($7,773 as tested with Trijicon SRO)

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