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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (15)

  • judy scott


    Do I have to use the 410 3 inch handgun for personal defense or can I use the regular 3 inch 410 for small game that I use in my double barrel 410 shotgun.


  • Alan Webster


    Help! My mother-in-law is wanting to get a new revolver and has settled on the Judge. Now her question is which is the smaller frame to fit her hands. The Taurus website says the Judge is a “compact” frame, and the Public Defender is a “small” frame. So which one is the smaller frame, please? I can’t find any information on the Taurus site, all they give is the overall length of the revolver and either ‘small’ or ‘compact’ frame.


  • Christopher McCay


    Took my 2.5 inch barrel judge to the shooting range used the 410 self defense round and 45 Colt round at 7 yards 410 round devastating to target. The 45 Colt round at 7 yards hit all rounds in head shots to target also this round smooth weapon performance low recoil. Best short range accuracy pistol out of the box I ever bought. Would recommend this pistol .


Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

%d bloggers like this: