The standard loading on the Taurus Judge is two shells of .410 buckshot with 3 rounds of .45 Long Colt. You turn the cylinder so the .410 comes up first. This is a combo pack from Winchester with ten rounds of their PDX1 .410 ammo developed specifically for the Judge, and 10 rounds of .45 Long Colt.
I tested the Judge Public Defender Poly 2″ with both the Winchester loads and Hornady 225 grain LeverEvolution ammo.
The Public Defender Poly is 5 oz. lighter than the steel version of the same gun. It weighs 23 oz. Under the plastic is a steel subframe that makes the gun strong and completely corrosion resistant except for the cylinder.
The Winchester PDX1 .410 shotshell was developed specifically for the Taurus Judge line of revolvers. It consists of a shot cup with 12 BBs and 3 plated disks. The thinking is that the disks tend to stay together due to their profile, as opposed to buckshot that is round and forces the balls apart quicker in the pattern. The 12 BBs are meant as additional insurance that something hits your target.
This is a typical “as advertised” group with the PDX1. Two disks went into the same hole and the third hit slightly off that, about an inch. With the 2″ barrel the BBs spread mostly beyond the target area at 7 yards.
Here is another with a slightly wider spread. The PDX1 doesn’t group consistently. Mostly the 3 disks hit within a few inches at 7 yards, but not always. This is another “as advertised” target on a different day. These tests were spread over several weeks with at least six boxes of PDX1, including the combo pack.
The total payload of the PDX1 is 310 grains, split over the 3 disks at 68 grains each and 12 BBs that total 100 grains.
There are claims that the disks actually catch the rifling of the Judge and spin, like a lead waddcutter bullet, but the measurements don’t suggest that they do.
The rifling of a .45 Long Colt revolver measures about .454 on the inside, but the smallest measurement I was able to get on the inside of the Judge was .405, one thousandth of an inch tighter than the disk. This is not an absolute measurement because it isn’t the proper tool for the job. I have not seen a recovered disk to check for scoring from the rifling.
The Hornady LeverEvolution .45 Long Colt I tried averaged 735 feet per second, two hunder under what the cartridge will do in a rifle.
The 225 grain load that comes in the combo pack measured slightly less, at 700 to 720 feet per second.
Keep in mind that when you buy shells for this Public Defender Poly, this is a 2.5″ cylinder. The 3″ .410 rounds stick out and do not fit this gun.
This was the standard spread on regular 3 pellet 000 buckshot from Winchester. This is their new branded load the SXZ. They are significantly wider than the average PDX1 shell.
The standard buckshot loads clocked at just over 800 feet per second. The .36 caliber 000 buck are about the same weight as the disks in the PDX1, but they don’t have the extra 100 grains of BBs slowing them down so they pack a little more punch.
Taurus International Manufacturing Inc.
Civilian gunfights almost always happen by surprise. You could argue that in home defense situations there is sometimes a warning that a threat is imminent. You may have dogs that bark, or an alarm system that wakes you in the night, or you may think to grab a gun if a stranger knocks at your door. But daytime threats, at the gas station, at the bank, in the parking garage, in the bad neighborhood you were forced to stop for a red light, can appear from anywhere at any moment.
In such cases, if you even have the ability to defend yourself, how fast you are able to get a projectile into your attacker may mean the difference between your life and death versus those of your attacker. For this reason, the Taurus Judge series of .410 shotshell double action revolvers has gained immense popularity. While researching for this article I googled around for holster options, and many holster makers now have the Taurus Judge at the top of their list to catch the eye of interested buyers. As a defensive handgun, the Taurus Judge has eluded all speculation. The Judge has arrived.
This polymer version of the 2″ Public Defender is the most practical of the Judge line for daily carry. Though the 23 ounce gun is only 5 ounces lighter than the steel Public Defender due to a steel under-frame, the 5 ounces is a welcome reduction in a carry gun, and the plastic coated frame is completely corrosion-proof. The cylinder is blued steel, which can rust, but the Taurus finish is extremely durable and in a holster will most likely last several years with no appreciable wear.
As you can immediately tell from the pictures here, I was really curious as to the actual ballistics of the 2″ Judge with the most popular load for the gun, the Winchester PDX1 .410 shotshell. This round was created specifically for the Judge line. It contains 3 plated disks and 12 standard BB gun sized BBs. I also wanted to look at some standard 000 buck shells in .410, as well as the .45 Long Colt, which is the cartridge that has the same external dimensions as the .410 shotshell (except of course shorter) and for which all Taurus Judge revolvers are made to shoot.
If you aren’t familiar with the Judge and you are wondering how on earth a pistol can be sold as what amounts to a “sawed off shotgun” in .410 gauge, the Judge utilizes a loophole in the gun laws that specifically applies to the .410 only. Because there is a genuine firearm caliber in the same head and body size as the .410, the .45 Long Colt, there have been for generations pistols and revolvers, and even derringers, made with rifled barrels and longer chambers that can specifically handle the .410 shell. The .410 in a handgun used to be a novelty, in the occasional small production revolver and most notably in derringers, but the Judge took the concept prime time, in a reliable gun with a built in gun lock and a lifetime guarantee to boot.
The concept of the Judge stems from the thinking and popularity of the small double action .38 Special revolver for concealed carry. Manual safeties, slides, magazines, and all of the moving parts in them can go wrong, hang up, and they rely too much on the operator to use correctly. A double action revolver can be fired in any position, in a pocket, backwards, upside down and sideways with your pinky. It doesn’t need a firm grip to fire and continue to fire reliably. It doesn’t need you to do anything right or correct to work perfectly. There is a lot to be said for this, if your gunfight happens to be by surprise and the only shot you can get off first might be a hail Mary from halfway out of your holster at your attacker’s lower torso.
Supersize this concept and you have the Taurus Judge. Even this 2″ version it is still easily twice the size of the .38 Special J-Frame. The firepower, theoretically at least, is also easily twice, but the actual ballistics are confusing. Generally we measure ballistic performance in the “foot/pounds” formula, which is the weight (in grains) times the velocity (in feet/second) squared divided by 450,400. In a 2″ version, the .38 caliber revolver often measures under 700 feet per second for a 110 grain bullet. This adds up to roughly 120 foot/pounds of energy. In a 6″ revolver the same load might get several hundred feet per second more than in the 2″ gun, because more powder is able to burn behind the bullet before it exits, and because that velocity is squared in the formula, the “muzzle energy” in the standard formula is always skewed toward velocity. This makes a 2″ snubbie .38 Special look very weak. Nonetheless it has been carried successfully and used for defense for generations.
The 2″ Taurus Judge suffers this same fate. Because a lot of the powder burns outside the barrel the velocity is reduced considerably from the ballistics you would expect out of the same shell in a longer gun. I was able to measure the Winchester PDX1 .410 shotshells at 610-650 feet per second, averaging about 625. The package says 750 feet per second, which must be what they clock in the longer version of the Judge. The total payload for the PDX1 shell is about 310 grains. That works out to about 268 foot pounds in total energy delivered if all of it reaches your target. Each of the 3 disks in the shell measure about 68 grains, which works out in the same formula as 58 foot pounds, not a lot of punch individually, but as a whole, including the 12 BBs, a serious defensive round.
Winchester has a number of slow motion videos of the PDX1 on their website and I suggest that you check them out before passing judgment on the actual effectiveness of the cartridge. They claim that the disks penetrate ten inches in 10% ballistic gelatin. This is supposed to equate to a full torso penetration on a human. They also claim that the 12 BB sized shot in the cartridge penetrate 4-6″ inches in the same gelatin, and that this is the likely penetration in human tissue as well. But if you look closely into the specifics of ballistic gelatin, the way the FBI measures whether the gel is made correctly is with a BB gun, at about 600 feet per second (think Crossman 760), and those BBs are supposed to go about 8 centimeters, or 3.5-4″ inches into the gel. I don’t know about you, but when I was in BB gun fights as a teenager with my Crossman 760, those BBs never broke the skin.
The spread on the PDX1 with the 2″ Public Defender was about as advertised, with some inconsistency. I don’t believe that, as Winchester says, the disks actually grab the shallow rifling of the Judge. The Judge has extremely shallow rifling, just enough to make the gun legal, and specifically to reduce resistance on the wad of the shotshell. The disks are about .40 caliber, and with calipers inside the bore of the Judge the smallest measure I was able to get was just over .40 caliber. If they grab, though they are positioned forward of the plastic wad in the shell, they don’t grab much. As advertised, at 7 yards, most shots with the PDX1 land all three projectiles in close proximity, sometimes with more than one in the same hole, but after putting several boxes of PDX1 through this Judge, I can say with certainty that this is not guaranteed. At 7 yards I had several shells scatter their contents all over and even off the target.
I measured the silver package Winchester 000 buck as well, which is 3 each of 36 caliber balls, also about 68 grains each for a total of a 210 grain payload. The speed reported by my Pact Pro Chronograph was 810 feet per second, which is significantly faster than the PDX1 due to the 30% lower weight of the payload. But the chance of all three balls hitting your target at even 7 yards away in the 2″ gun is substantially less than with the PDX1. I tried both the silver box Winchester 000 buck and their newer branded SZX. The spread was more consistent than the PDX1, but barely on the target at 7 yards. There is more energy in the 3 balls on a closer shot with the buckshot compared to the PDX1, but the target had better be very close.
With .45 Long Colt, the Hornady 225 grain FTX (a LeverEvolution round) measured a consistent 735 feet per second, and the Winchester 225 grain came in slightly less, at around 700, 266 and 245 foot pounds respectively. This is severely less than the potential for the cartridge. In a rifle the LeverEvolution round travels at over 900 feet per second for example. I was not able to find any .45 Long Colt Hornady Critical Defense, but they do make a 185 grain load and I suspect that due to the Hornady powder blending technology that goes into the Critical Defense, the performance will be at least marginally better. You can see in the pictures that Winchester makes a combo pack for the Judge with 10 rounds of PDX1 and ten rounds of .45 Long Colt. These 225 grain shells are from that pack.
The benefit of a short gun is concealability and comfort. The price of a short gun is velocity, and potentially effectiveness. You can’t escape the physics.
What you carry in the Taurus Judge Public Defender Poly for ammunition is a matter of preference and priorities. 7 yards is over 20 feet away, or longer than your average bedroom. The Judge has always been referred to as the “carjacker gun,” mostly because of an early advertising campaign from Taurus showing this particular benefit of the Judge. But the way the gun was named was not what you think. The original .410 revolver was released as the Taurus Tracker, or model 4410. When Bob Morrison, who was running Taurus at the time, heard that Miami court judges were carrying the gun for personal defense, he changed the model name to the Judge, and the legend was born.
In a quick and close situation, like a carjacking or an expected charge from a guilty criminal defendant, even the sting of a Crossman 760 might be enough to distract your attacker so that you have a chance for a second shot without return fire. This Public Defender Polymer is extremely manageable for recoil, flip, and the grip makes the gun 100% comfortable. You can shoot it all day with no pain. This is not a hand cannon situation where a second shot is not going to be an option. You waste 100 grains on those 12 BBs, shaving almost 200 feet per second off your main projectiles. But can they save your life?
If, at the end of the analysis on the gunfight you were forced to engage in, that little BB of the PDX1 turned out to be all you could get on target, it might have been enough to give you that second shot. For a second shot, I can confidently say that point blank, within close range, the entire 310 grain payload of the Judge will blow a half inch hole through anything human or animal. Individually the disks of the PDX1 are not going to get headlines for power. On paper they have the same muzzle energy as a 25 ACP, and much less than a .32. Together they add up to what a standard 3 ball 000 buck .410 shotshell has, albeit a little slower. If you opt for straight buckshot, the balls have more on them, but you lose the hail Mary aspect of the BBs, and they don’t group as tight generally as the disks in the PDX1. The choice is up to you. We are now several generations into the Judge line of revolvers and there is one thing you can be sure of with this Public Defender Poly. The gun itself won’t let you down.