I’ve received a few messages to the Facebook site, asking me to give my thoughts on the Taurus Judge…but that would be a short article, because I don’t feel very good about the weapon, or any of the variants in its family (eg the, “Public Defender,” etc). Being a regular shooter, competitor, shooting student and gun press reader, I’ve heard some ridiculous claims attributed to the Judge over the past few years since they came out. I’ll be at the range, practicing, and someone will inquire as to what I’m shooting, and then extol to me the virtues of the MIGHTY Taurus Judge, and all of the magic that it can accomplish in their hands. I thought I would take some of the most interesting and comical claims I have heard, firsthand, and talk about them.
1. “It works against carjackers!”
So does an ice scraper. So does ANY other gun. I’ve never knowingly dissected a carjacker, but I’m pretty sure that they contain no endogenous force field mechanism that renders projectile weapons ineffective. The Judge, in any of it’s iterations, is a LARGE gun. If you keep a loaded gun within your arm’s reach in a car, specifically to repel unlawful boarders, you could easily find a smaller, lighter, more reliable pistol or revolver that would most definitely serve in that role better than the Judge.
I’d pick ANY of these other three revolvers (and one is a .22) over the Judge, all day, for self-defense.
2. “It’s the ultimate personal defense weapon!”
Hmm…sure. Of course, all things with any type of physical matter are capable of greatness, I suppose… but ULTIMATE? I can think of several other guns I would rather deem the, “ultimate personal defense weapon.” But instead of comparing a Judge to an H&K MP5K or a FN PS90 or an M4 variant (which is what I think of as a PDW) let’s focus on the one portion of that statement that is easiest to refute…PERSONAL.
Nobody is concealing a Judge in normal clothes. If you carry one, and think it is concealed, you might just be kidding yourself. The grips are sticky, clothing clings to them and tend to print more than a less tacky grip. The cylinder (the hardest part of the revolver to conceal) is BIG, long and wide. A conventional revolver, in the same caliber (.45 Long Colt) would be easier to conceal. So, to ME, “personal,” means you have the weapon on you, ready to DEFEND yourself. A ten inch long revolver in nightstand at home, does you no good at all when you are getting bent over by a team of thieves outside the Circle K.
3. “.410 Ammo is DEVASTATING!”
It certainly is! It is devastating to paper, cardboard, tin cans, ear plugs, clay pigeons, snakes, and probably small rodents. But to a determined attacker? I’d say (unscientifically, as I haven’t tested this hypothesis) that is would be just slightly more effective than pepper spray. Shot, as in bird shot, produces AWESOME results on a shoot-n-c target. It gnarls it up! But that effectiveness on paper doesn’t translate into effectiveness on humans. Bird shot is light, and the powder charge that propels it is light. The barrel it travels down is short, and the spread is large. The FBI wounding data recommends a minimum of 12″ of penetration on bare gelatin…and the lowly .410 birdshot would NOT achieve this.
“OH YEAH? WELL WHAT ABOUT THE BUCKSHOT LOADS?” maybe, you say? 000 buckshot from a true shotgun can yield impressive results! Sitting on top of a 12 gauge powder charge, a spinning mass of 000 buckshot will gnaw a gaping hole in a human as it hurtles along around 1250-1375 feet per second or more. But what’s it doing out of your Judge? 800 feet per second? 600 feet per second? Slow enough to see with the naked eye? So YES! Lobbing three or four 9mm lead balls at a badguy might stop him…or they might bounce off of his sternum or skull, and do nothing. I can think of NO professional firearms instructor from the civilian, law enforcement or military subsets that recommends .410 buckshot loads as a viable self defense load.
Remember, each pellet creates a wound. A 70 grain 000 pellet, traveling at less that 1000 feet per second creates a wound…and so does a 90 grain .380 slug traveling at 1100 feet per second. And most everyone I know agrees that the .380, despite the best ammo available, is just on the lower edge of the performance envelope we are trying to achieve (which is 12″ of penetration in bare ballistic gelatin). Would you carry a .380 for defense? Would you carry a .32 ACP for defense? Would you carry an UNDERPOWERED .32 ACP for defense, EVEN IF it held 20 shots (5 shells times 4 pellets per shell)? All things to consider…and ENOUGH for me to consider something other than a Judge.
4. “You just can’t miss with a shotgun!”
Whoah Nelly…we’ve all heard this. And anyone that has shot at anything with a shotgun with their eyes and head oriented at the target knows this is absolutely wrong. Your personal requirement for accuracy DOES NOT change with a shotgun. Especially at the close range distances that personal defense altercations occur, you will be literally making noise and praying for luck to hit someone with 5 shots from your wonder Judge if you close your eyes, turn your head and blast away. You can miss with a 12 gauge from 3 feet…the pattern is barely (if at all) bigger than the diameter of the free-flying wad cup.
5. “I shoot the .410 into ’em first, to scare him, then finish them off with the .45LC”
Hmm…Paul Howe once wrote that having a tiered approach to your weapons utilization was good. He wrote words to the effect that he would deplete all of the ammo from his M4, then move onto his breaching shotgun, then his pistol, then pick up enemy combatant rifles and continue to fight. And that is a solid plan! “Gaming,” your response, with a mixed load gun, that you no doubt have fired at least two cylinders of rounds through, is silly. IF one variable can change your, “defense schema,” then your plan is bad, and needs revision. In this case, what if you are attacked by TWO bad guys? THREE bad guys? Dividing an odd number of badguys by an odd amount of shells? That means that the first guy gets two rounds of shot, the next gets a .45 slug, and so does the next…MAYBE. How is the recoil different? Have you shot both, with precision, to determine how the points of aim will differ (don’t forget…no fudging with the, “SPRAY,” pattern of the shot; that is not a real-world solution). How is your shot to shot recovery with that load? All things to consider!
6. “The Judge is a DO IT ALL handgun!”
I don’t know what it is supposed to do, but it doesn’t do any of it well…meaning that there are BETTER solutions. The Judge is the strongside/crossdraw holster of the revolver world; it doesn’t do either of those things well. I suppose if it’s ALL you have, then it will work. There are those that might argue that .45 LC is an effective caliber, and I wouldn’t disagree at all! It IS a great cartridge, and there are guns that are smaller, more rugged, hold more ammo and are RELIABLE than the Judge. I would much rather have a large frame snubbie, that I can CONCEAL and actually have on my body, then a foot long shot-volver that doesn’t. The Judge is a novelty.
Also (Taurus apologists will be miffed) but I’ve found Taurus handguns in general to be just a few steps above worthless. They are not high quality, heirloom type firearms that will last for decades. I’ve seen guns that have been delivered from the factory, out of time, with some kind of odd mainspring deformity that results in an ever-increasing trigger pull until the gun is simply inoperable, or cylinders that won’t open, and the gun has to be sent back to Taurus, several times. Now, Taurus hasn’t ALWAYS made poor quality guns, but the samples in the past 10 years have suffered numerous issues. The old Model 85’s and K frame copies were decent, along with the older model PT92/99 series. But the Judge is none of those.
There are better tools available. The Judge seems to have become the defense firearm of choice for those folks that don’t heed Harry Callahan’s advice, of, “knowing your limitations.” It’s the gun that the guy that changes your oil recommends, or the old neighbor on the corner that sells tractors swears by. Sure, they may be subject matter experts on synthetic versus conventional motor oil, or how much horsepower your tractor needs, but when it comes to guns for defense, seek out people that know…
I can think of a niche for the .410 shotgun revolver, and that is as a very close range, snake defense piece, for farmers and others that deal with snakes regularly. I’d rebrand the gun, and call it the, “Snake Snapper,” and inscribe a WARNING on the sideplate of the gun that says, “This weapon is intended for use on snakes and paper targets ONLY! DO NOT USE FOR PERSONAL DEFENSE!” Or, better yet, get a .410 break-action Snake Charmer for anti-reptile utilization, and a Smith or Ruger revolver for self-defense, or a pistol from Glock, Smith, SIG or Beretta, and press on.