The Versatile Taurus Judge

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms

As a fan of science fiction, I was intrigued by the introduction of the Taurus Judge. Here was the Blade Runner’s gun in steel! I had also read a passage about a .410 revolver in a SciFi epic but cannot remember the name. In any case, the Taurus Judge is real and among the most popular revolvers in history. The concept of sending out more than one projectile with a single pull of the trigger is a popular notion, and the Judge delivers.

Taurus Judge with black grip and silver frame on a white background, barrel pointed to the left.

From the ‘rubber’ grips to the fiber optic front sight the Judge is a well thought out revolver.

The .410 bore and .45 Long Colt combination seemed natural. While it has been done before, Taurus brought the reputation of a major maker to the plate. Today there are lightweight and steel frame revolvers with various barrel lengths available. It seems almost everyone owns a Judge or two. Yet I have never seen anyone carry the Judge for concealed carry.

The Judge Makes a Great Field Gun

The Judge is a bedroom gun as well as a field gun. As a field gun for protection against snakes, the Judge makes a lot of sense. While the old Snake Charmer shotgun did just fine, I prefer more than one shot; the Taurus gives us five.

The Judge chambers the .45 Colt cartridge, and there are versions that chamber either the 2.5-inch or 3-inch .410 shell. For my two cents, you might as well get the longer cylinder and chamber 3-inch shells. The cylinder of the Judge is pretty long—2.7 inches with the 2.5-inch barrel revolver and a long 3.2 inches with the 3-inch chamber. That makes for a heavy gun and a wide frame. The Taurus is a swing out cylinder, double-action revolver with fixed sights. By the way, the piece would be illegal if it were a smooth bore: it would be a short shotgun, so the barrel is rifled.

White haired woman in light brown shirt with sunless points a silver Taurus Judge straight in front of her for target practice against a background of miscellaneous items and greenery.

The Taurus Judge is fast on target and plenty accurate enough for personal defense.

A word to the wise, this is not the revolver to hotrod the .45 Colt. Recoil is prohibitive even though the Judge is designed to be portable and light enough for field use. It handles quickly in tight quarters. Most of the practice should be with a good, low-pressure load such as the Federal 225-grain JSP. This load is pleasant to fire and accurate. Make no mistake; a .452-inch .45 caliber bullet is going to get the attention of anything it hits. Mild shooting and accurate just the same, the .45 Colt hits hard.

The choices in home defense loads often come down to which .410 load. There are loads with birdshot and even special 000 buckshot loads. The birdshot loads are fine for dispatching reptiles or rodents. Buckshot is the preferred defense load. The Federal four-pellet buckshot load in 2 ½-inch seems fine for across the room personal defense.

Target with white background and orange and green target areas with holes from lots of birdshot and a couple of ball rounds

Lots of birdshot, and a couple of ball rounds from one handgun.

While the idea of getting a hit from a handgun-sized shotgun is viable at close range, the Judge must be aimed just as carefully as any other handgun. An advantage is that the buckshot load, with its relatively small and soft shot, will not penetrate as heavily as ball ammunition. When firing the Judge, the broad and easy-to-pick-up fixed sights are an advantage. The rubber grips that soak up recoil and give good adhesion are also good design features.

As for the lightweight frame gun, it is a good bit easier to pack around. The trade off is that recoil and muzzle flip are greater. It is a trade off; the lightweight revolver isn’t painful to fire, although with the heavier loads you know you have touched off something special.

The Taurus Judge As a Home Defense Revolver

With buckshot, the Judge should be considered a 10-yard gun at best. Past 10 yards, the range dispersion of the buckshot is such that the load becomes ineffective. At close range, four tightly clustered buckshot balls should produce a cessation of hostilities. With the 3-inch shells, five balls may be had with even greater effect.

The Judge is definitely a bedroom or home defense revolver with the .45 Colt. Accuracy at long range isn’t match grade with the shallow rifling, and it isn’t meant to be. In testing the Judge with a number of loads—including the Speer Gold Dot, a heavyweight 250-grain hollow point—the Judge keeps five rounds in a six-inch circle at 10 yards. Not many bedrooms are 10 yards long.

expanded silver Speer Gold Dot, .45 Colt on a mottled grayish background.

This is an expanded Speer Gold Dot, .45 Colt.

I think the .410 bore chambering is a neat trick but so is the .45—and here’s why. In the Judge, we have a modern double action defensive revolver in a proven caliber. I might add a proven non-magnum caliber that doesn’t snap the wrist in recoil. Yet, the revolver is light enough to handle quickly by virtue of its five-shot cylinder. The Judge offers a fiber optic front sight that gets on target quickly.

The .45 Colt in its original 255-grain loading earned an excellent reputation for effect on target. The bullet sometimes tumbles in the target. On the other hand, the modern Gold Dot load—although traveling a little over 700 fps from the Judge—expands to some .75-inch in ballistic media. That is .75-inch with a 250-grain bullet. That is a guaranteed wounding effect.

Young man in gray t-shirt and sunglasses with light brown hair points a silver Taurus Judge at a target with miscellaneous items in the background against a wooded area.

My associate and firearms expert (and soldier) Lee Berry gave the Taurus Judge a through test.

When in the wild, the big cats and feral dogs are more often a threat than bears. Perhaps the first three chambers could be loaded with buckshot and then ball rounds? If you are hiking in snake country, perhaps a first load of birdshot? That is versatility.

The Judge is a pure defense revolver. It isn’t for hunting and it isn’t a target gun.

It is a lifesaver.

While specialized, those specialized situations are pretty important!

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What are your thoughts on the Taurus Judge? Have you used one? Planning to get one soon? Share in the comments section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

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Comments (12)

  • DaddyDe


    I currently have 2 of Taurus’ Judges… I have the Public Defender version of The Judge which has a 2-1/2″ cylinder and 2″ barrel and I have the Magnum version of The Judge which has a 3″ cylinder and a 6-1/2″ barrel. I have only used 410 ammo in either gun. When I want to fire a .45 I use different handguns as they are significantly more effective as partially explained in the article above. Our ranch is heavily infested with rattlesnakes, packrats and other rodents and for me, “The Judge”, is extremely effective. I normally fire birdshot and I am usually fairly close to the target when firing – especially at the rattlesnakes. Probably less than 10′. One shot normally hits the snake in the head and disables or kills it instantly. We have encountered 33 rattlesnakes so far this summer and carrying the judge is way more easy and fun than carrying a shovel around with you. The Magnum is considerably larger and heavier than the public defender but I was able to add a Crimson Trace laser sight to it to help make sure I hit the snakes head. However the Crimson Trace is not compatible with the Public Defender. I love both of the weapons for what I use them for however for legal conceal carry and personal defense against two legged vermin they would not be my first choice.


  • Joss Oh


    Three comment/questions:
    -1- Winchester .410 3″ self-defense shells are about an1/8th too long, so you cannot close the wheel. Does this mean the pistol cannot accept any 3″ .410 shells?
    -2- on firing some of the Winchester .410 2.5″ self-defense shells, it appears there is over-pressure which can “push” the casing backward a tad, causing the movement to freeze or lock up. Anyone run into this, and if so what does Taurus have to say about it, if anything?
    -3- does anyone know of a frangible Colt .45 round on the market? Would seem to be a no brainer, given the intended/advertised purpose of self-defense and the general owner-user desire to avoid collateral injury from flying shotgun shell loads and multi-room travel from the standard Colt .45 slug.


  • Mark


    Actually looking forward to acquiring a Judge Magnum to see how it compares to firing an existing mod of an over under Stevens Model 22/410 break open shotgun chambers 410shotgun shells under with 22LR over.. Like the versatility of 45 round along with 410 and 22LR though.


  • Fred


    And then there are people bright enough not to shoot cats with bird shot


  • Moses george


    Just my 2 cents (I don’t own, nor have I ever shot The Judge, though I am planning to pick one up, which is how I found this review) I feel a lot of people discount 410 gauge shot shells. I hate to admit to such an idiot mistake, but BLOWBACK from a 410 #6 shot hurts (I found this out while testing a 410 on a dead tree trunk, like I said, idiot mistake, but I was young XD) a 410 shell in a hallway directly to the torso/face at 10-20 feet? I’d never want to be in that position! I think a lot of gun enthusiasts underestimate small shot/low caliber as well, but who has had gravel thrown in their face? Wether thrown from a hand, or a tricked out car peeling out, It’s disruptive, and in combat that can make all the difference, especially since birdshot won’t kill your neighbors, or even the people in your own house should you miss. Once again just my 2 cents, but I can’t wait to pick up a judge


  • Danny Barfield


    I sit in a ground blind hunting hogs and deer with a 45-70. The judge is good for snakes crawling under the blind and for the bears coming in to close to my blind. I can load it accordingly.


  • bob



    you are right and one in a million for remembering that novel!



  • Cody Weaver


    I believe the sci-fi novel you are referencing that mentions a .410 revolver is Joe Haldeman’s the Forever War. Good book, one of my favorites. It also mentions a badass micro-caliber rifle with a reputation for tumbling projectiles, used to good effect by the main character.
    My limited experience with the judge didn’t compel me to run out and buy one, but the carbine version does interest me a bit more. An acquaintance of mine has one, but I havent shot it.


    • Gary Breitag


      I have a friend who is handicapped and has a permit to shoot from a pickup, he has shot numerous pheasants with his judge with 3″ number 4 shotgun shells.


  • Stormy1


    Funny the article brought up concealed carry. I bought a Taurus Public Defender in SS about 5 years ago for the express purpose of carrying it as a pocket pistol. Shooting the 2 1/2’s with the short barrel and bobbed hammer, it serves its purpose very well. Unfortunately, they have dropped the bobbed hammer and the newer ones are easier to cock, but tougher to pull out of a pocket or concealed holster. You can still find them around, just not making them any more. Go figger. The first round you are going to get is #9 AA birdshot, then 2 410 PXD-1’s if the birdshot doesn’t sober you up. The last two are 45 LC PXD1’s hollow points. Hard to miss with the first three. The 45 LC’s in the small frame and short barrel are very hard to control. Definitely only for up close and personal use as far as I am concerned. Very versatile around the farm in cargo pants or coat pocket. Loaded up it weighs over 2 pounds, so I usually defer to my 642 Airweight for long days and dressier pants.


  • Michael J.


    One time a feral female cat was invading our yard, attacking the house cat and the native barn cats. On the opportunity I had to shoot it when the dog had it treed, the only weapon I had close at hand was my .410 New England shotgun. Shooting up directly up into the cat at a distance no better than 10 yards, with 3 inch high power 4 shot, the cat dropped down. It was too wounded to move, but no where near dead, still staring and growling. I had to finish it off with another shot.

    Folks, if a full 3 inch shell out of a long barrel shotgun can’t kill a damn house size cat at 10 yards, I don’t know how a 2.75 inch shell out of a snub nose pistol is going to work against a PCP ridden miscreant. Sorry, but I just don’t see this as a viable option for self protection.


    • joel rawlston


      i cast and hand load 4 / 36 caliber round balls in a 2-1/2 shell . at say 10 yards they stay together nicely . I wouldnt want to catch them with my chest at that range or closer .


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