I love the versatility of revolversA revolver (also called a wheelgun) is a repeating handgun that has a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing.. For example, a .357 Magnum revolver can fire full-power .357 Magnum ammunition. That can be used for hunting fairly large animals or defending against deadly threats. Or it can be loaded with lower-recoiling .38 Special cartridges, which are still more than effective enough for self-defense or sporting use. The same versatility is found in the .44 Magnum revolver, which can also fire the lower-powered .44 Special round.
But perhaps the most versatile revolver caliber combo yet is the .45 Colt and the .410-gauge shotgun shell. Even though the caliber numbers appear different, both work very well when fired out of a .45 Colt rifled barrel.
The Judge: A Five-Shot .45 Colt Revolver
The Taurus Judge is a five-shot .45 Colt revolver with an elongated cylinder that allows it to chamber 2½-inch or 3-inch .410-gauge shotgun shells (depending on the particular model). Because the barrel is rifled, the Judge is not considered a sawed-off shotgun or “dangerous ordnance” by federal law. Thus anyone who can legally own a firearm can own a Taurus Judge.
The “Judge” got its name in 2006 when Bob Morrison, Taurus’ executive vice president at the time, learned that judges in Miami, Florida, courts were buying the original Taurus 4410 revolver for self-defense in the courtrooms. Judges were buying this gun because the .410 shotgun shell offered less chance of over-penetration in the courtroom than standard revolver cartridges, including the .45 Colt.
Taurus sent me a 3-inch barreled M4510 stainless steel Judge with 3-inch chambers to evaluate. This version of the Judge weighs in at 36.8 ounces. The majority of the Judge’s stainless steel is matte finished, while the hammer, trigger, cylinder latch release and ejector rod have a more polished finish. The overall appearance is utilitarian yet attractive.
The Judge’s grips are the standard Taurus black rubber “Ribber” grips, designed to cushion the hand from recoil. The rear sight is a groove cut in the revolver’s top strap, while the front sight is of the easy-to-pick-up red fiber-optic variety. This combo is a great choice of sighting equipment for a defensive revolver that will likely be firing shotgun shells most of the time.
Taurus Judge at the Range
I took the Judge to the range with three different types of ammo and began the testing at 30 feet. The first load was a Buffalo Bore Standard Pressure Heavy .45 Colt with a 200-grain Speer Gold Dot bullet. Muzzle velocity is 1,100 feet per second. It yields an impressive 537 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Recoil, while not uncomfortable, was noticeable, as one would expect when using a cartridge this powerful. If I were carrying the Judge for defense on the trail against large, hungry and ill-tempered animals, this Buffalo Bore load would be my choice. I was able to hold a 4-inch group with it. Even with this relatively heavy load and despite the elongated cylinder, the Judge pointed easily and operated smoothly. It looks much more ungainly than it feels.
.410 Loads in the Judge
Next up were two .410 shotgun loads. First up was the Winchester Super-X three pellet 2½-inch 000 Buckshot load. Recoil was noticeably lighter than the .45 Colt ammunition due to the much lighter combined weight of the round projectiles. The pattern was also noticeably large. At 30 feet, each shell spread its pellets in the 10-inch range. With this particular load, 30 feet is the safe maximum range for self-defense. Even at 30 feet, the risk is high that at least one pellet will be off the target if it is not hit dead center. This would not be a preferred defensive load for this gun. Fortunately, not all .410 loads are created equal, and Hornady’s excellent 2½-inch Critical Defense load was the last to be tested.
The Hornady Critical Defense .410 is loaded with a specially designed plain lead .41-caliber FTX bullet followed by two .35-caliber lead balls. Muzzle velocity is 750 feet per second, generating 294 foot-pounds of energy for the combined projectiles.
Each round fired from the Judge landed all three projectiles in a 2-inch group. Previous testing in clay blocks with the Bond Arm’s USA Defender showed that this load delivers a devastating impact. The Hornady 2½-inch Critical Defense load is — in my book — the load of choice for personal defense against most threats. Were I carrying the Judge for general self-defense, I would stoke the Judge with the Hornady Critical Defense .410 ammo and carry a Tuff Products QuickStrip loaded with .45 Colt Ammo as a reload. The strips, by the way, will also work with .410 shotshells.
I really liked this gun. If you are looking for a versatile revolver for self-defense, at home, on the street or on the trail, look no further than the Taurus Judge. Online prices run in the mid-$800 range depending on model and source.