.410 Revolver Ammo – Hornady Triple Defense

Hornady’s new .410 revolver ammo is called Triple Defense. We found that it redeems the poor ballistics of these handguns and makes them a viable alternative to standard single projectile handguns.
The Triple Defense round consists of a hollow base 115 grain conical bullet, followed by two 65 grain balls. Together they add up to just about the same as a traditional .45 Long Colt round, on which The Judge and guns like it were based.
Shotgun rounds are extremely hard to chornograph, but after three boxes we got five rounds to give us a viable average of almost exactly the 750 fps. that it says on the box.
At ten yards Triple Defense puts the main projectile at point of aim 100% of the time. The two balls are generally within about 6” of the slug, but sometimes one may disappear off target.
What makes the round really impressive is that at 10 feet it always shoots to point of aim with no flyers. This is the Birchwood Casey hostage target, and we shot several of them at 10 feet with no failures.

Hornady .410 Triple Defense Ammo

If you remember back to our original story on the Taurus Judge Polymer, one of the biggest problems with the gun was an almost complete lack of ballistic integrity. The most “cutting edge” round, from Winchester, wasted nearly a third of the total payload on steel BBs that travel at roughly the same speed as a Crossman BB gun. With all the popularity of .410 gauge personal defense pistols, they looked to be something of a dud when it came to actual self defense. Seeing this, Hornady had engineered a new addition to their Critical Defense handgun ammo specifically for short barreled .410 pistols, called Triple Defense, and through powder blending and some interesting projectile choices, the .410 revolver can now at least be used as an effective self defense weapon. We tested this new round on the chronograph and with targets at normal close combat distances and this new Triple Defense round proved itself a formidable foe with enough flexibility to take advantage of the strengths of the .410 round at both short and moderate distances. The .410 revolver is still more of a novelty weapon than a serious contender or your best self defense gun, but for the millions of guns out there already, at least we now have a smartly made accurate round with enough punch to matter.

At the heart of the new round is the front bullet. Instead of using disks or balls for the main payload, Hornady has designed a proprietary hollow base slug that weighs about 115 grains. Flying at our our measured velocity (which is also the box velocity) of about 750 feet per second, this one round is roughly the equivalent of a .380ACP, but not quite. Behind that main bullet are two balls, each weighing 65 grains. This gives you a total payload of about 245 grains, roughly the same as your average .45 Long Colt, which is the cartridge that The Judge is actually made to fire. What? You didn’t know that The Judge isn’t actually a shotgun pistol? It’s true. That is why there is rifling in the barrel, because officially The Judge is made to fire .45LC, which conveniently is the same case and rim diameter as the .410 shotgun shell. Ballistically, a .45LC historically pushes a 255 grain lead bullet at just under 750 feet per second. So this Hornady round is roughly packing the same energy if all the projectiles hit the target at once.

That brings us to hitting the target, which has been my biggest bone of contention with .410 revolvers since they were introduced. Handgun combat distances are generally between 10 feet and 10 yards. That is roughly the difference between across the bedroom to across the living room. The original thinking with The Judge was that it would make hitting your target easier, because the shots spread out. That would be great if the shots were at all predictable, or ever landed in the same places. Standard 3 pellet buck shot in a .410 tends to string itself out, and sometimes the balls hit each other and bounce clear off the target. The disks are just as hinky. Sometimes they make one hole, and sometimes they make no holes because they got sideways and nicked each other. And those BBs, forget it. They are a complete waste of foot pounds.

These Hornady rounds for The Judge and similar revolvers seem to be well researched to be effective at both short and longer distances. That hollow base front bullet is bumped by the ball behind it, expanding it to bore diameter. This catches the actual rifling of The Judge and allows the bullet to hold point of aim out to 10 yards and beyond. The two balls are sub-caliber, so they seem to somewhat “float” forward with the main bullet. This allowed us to reliably hit a 6” circle at 10 yards. In maybe 4 out of 10 shots, one of the balls would be off the target, like we have seen with standard buckshot, but overall it wasn’t a bad average considering that most shots seemed to do exactly what you would expect them to do at this distance.

The big surprise was in our 10 feet tests. This is far from “point blank” distance, and we were able to reliably, every shot, pick out the bad guy in the Birchwood Casey hostage targets. The way this new Triple Defense .410 round is constructed, it seems like it will be consistent, regardless of where it shoots in your gun. The round itself is ballistically viable for self defense, and when you couple that with repeatability, it means that you can train reliably with your firearm for an actual gunfight situation. Knowing that the round is going to behave the same way shot after shot after shot makes all the difference.

If you are still not a believer in the .410 revolver, don’t worry. Ballistically there are quite a few of us who will never be fans. This is however a genuinely viable round. In a 2 ½ “ barrel a .32ACP is probably clocking around 750 feet per second with a 60 grain bullet (though the box will say 1,000 fps). Likewise the .380 with a 90 grain bullet. If someone asked you to stand 10 yards away and simultaneously shoot a .380 and two .32s at you, before you get a chance to shoot back, what would you say? I doubt your answer would be “I’d rather that than a .45!” What matters is that you are comfortable with your self defense gun, and if a .410 revolver is what your are comfortable with, this new Hornady round makes respectable, and even formidable. The recoil is very manageable in this two finger grip, and follow up shots are easy. Hornady has redeemed the .410 revolver with the performance of this round, and it should be making its way into your favorite neighborhood gunshop soon.

{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Anthony DiGiovanni May 1, 2017, 2:29 am

    Gun are made to kill plain&simplefrom the .22,25auto to the largest. To call a gun a novelty gun is stupid.Muggings , carjackings take place up close. Home break ins can be close also.Thugs do not rob people from acros the street.there is no such thing as a NOVELTY GUN.

  • Don L January 4, 2017, 8:47 pm

    I did quite a bit of research before I bought my 410 pistol. The experts test and rate guns handguns said if you are going to buy a 410 pistol buy the Taurus that shoots the 3 inch shells or don’t buy one at all you need the 3in magnum for the penitration you need . I bought the Taurus 3 in magnum , I have used a lot of different ammo and to me their is one that is by far the best it is the Winchester 3in magnum Witt 4 disks and 16 bb’s to me the pattern you get with this ammo is by far the best at close range and the disks will go out quit the distance and still have a good pattern.

  • john April 4, 2014, 4:28 pm

    Bought two boxes and had 5 misfires.i don’t believe it is my governor because it fires pdx,45 acp and long colt fine.I had to shoot the 5 rounds a second time to get them to fire.I do not feel safe using this ammo and would not recommend it.

  • jason turner March 2, 2014, 5:37 pm

    I just bought a Taurus Judge the 3in. 4-10 shells are to big . Do i need the2 1/2in shells?

  • Rudolph December 17, 2013, 11:23 am

    Agreed, point and pull. End of problem.

  • Green October 29, 2013, 10:54 pm

    I think if I wake up in the dead of night, without my contacts, still half sleep, and I see an intruder running towards me, I want something I can quickly grab from the nightstand (so no rifle or shotgun, it has to be a handgun). And it has to be something that 1 shot, hastily fired under duress while panicking, half blind without my contacts and in the dark, will still get the job done.
    I don’t want to fire a .44 mag or 9 mm and miss. And I don’t want to try to race to a full sized 12 guage in that split second.
    These .410 revolvers seem like the absolute perfect gun to keep in your nightstand for those situations.
    I don’t own one yet, but I’m looking forward to getting one when my finances are in order.

  • Larry October 13, 2013, 11:25 pm

    Why not take the gun to a gunsmith, and have him put in a TC full choke with straightning ribs. Then you can shoot #5 or #4 shot. At 25 yds , you have a30 in pattern.

  • Steve Dunnington August 21, 2013, 6:18 pm

    Great review. I really like the concept of the 410 and the triple defense. It sure makes me feel like I’ll hit something. haha

  • Spence August 10, 2013, 2:42 pm

    I’ve had trouble with some of the Federal Handgun .410’s. On some, not all, of them push the primers back and jam the cylinder making it very difficult to impossible to fire a another round. Has anyone else had this problem?

    • Milo Mindbender October 13, 2015, 5:47 am

      Same issue, same ammo. I am going to try some others before I make a final decision on the fate of my judge.

    • Ray July 21, 2016, 12:44 am

      I’ve had this problem. I called Taurus & they said winchester hve hard primers. Try a different brand of ammo. D firing pin struck d primer but it didn’t fire. I had 2 fire it again. If that don’t work, u’ll hve 2 hve it serviced.

  • Tim August 6, 2013, 11:31 pm

    A Judge with a 6″ bbl and the Federal buckshot designed for it, a six to twelve inch group at ten yards, every time. Most of the time the wad is on the paper as well.

  • bugeater August 5, 2013, 5:27 pm

    you said the word yourself–universal. and I continue to have FUN. Defense is one thing. universal supposes it can be used for many things. It is not a city gun–however it makes a great barn rat gun with birdshot. It is used almost every week in many different situations. swing open the cylinder–change to a different round and poof–you have a different use available. We just differ on use–you just have one–I have many. It works well for me.

    • Dale August 11, 2013, 5:00 am

      I have a good friend who carried a Taurus Judge as his CCW weapon for several years. He was always satisfied with its performance, giving that he fed it appropriate ammunition. He eventually went to a smaller framed semi-auto. for concealed carry, but he still uses the Judge as one of his home defense guns.

      Granted, the Judge (and the Smith & Wesson Governor) are NOT target guns, but they weren’t intended to fill that role. Most self defense shooting occur at 7 yards (21 ft.) or less. Given that distance and the correct ammunition, the Taurus or the Smith would be very effective self defense weapons. I wouldn’t consider either of these guns to be a “novelty” weapon.

  • Harold August 5, 2013, 3:00 pm

    You just have to put a red lens in a Mag lite for a lazer

    • Joseph March 26, 2016, 4:52 pm

      Can you recommend one?

  • Steven August 5, 2013, 2:15 pm

    All that tech stuff is great, but gets lost in the real world,…..
    .410, 5 shots, excellent HD gun,
    like I told my wife, point and pull,
    “he ain’t gonna hurt you while he’s trying to find his eyeballs”

  • Dan August 5, 2013, 11:17 am

    Finally, someone calls the judge for what it is. Shotguns work, but a 67 ga (that’s what a .410 is) with a 2 inch barrel cannot be compared to a 12 or 20 long-gun. That’s like comparing a .38 to a 300 WinMag, no comparison. Whoever said that their judge is like shooting 4 9 mm chunks of lead as if emptying a judge is like shooting someone 20 times with an actually 9mm is completely lost. Based on this logic, why don’t I toss a handful of 20 9mm rocks at them. Never mind the fact that they’ll only be travelling at 30 fps. Never mind the fact that rocks, or even lead balls, weigh a lot less than 9mm bullets. All that matters is the diameter of the bullets you shoot. Heck, why do those morons use .338’s for grizzly when they could have a Taurus judge that’s like shooting the bear four times with a .375 H&H every time you pull the trigger because each projectile is almost the same diameter? Wouldn’t that be so much better? Better yet, why don’t I start firing a massive 200 caliper projectile from an atl atl. What a wonderful logic.

    • Steve Hughes December 24, 2013, 4:37 am

      Dan… you’re a smart-mouth fool who has nothing of value to contribute here. Glad I don’t have to rely on you for… anything.

    • john April 4, 2014, 4:33 pm

      It has pretty much been establish that the 410 revolvers are just a novelty and are not the ideal self defense weapon but I also would not want to be shot with one.

      • Sam February 29, 2016, 5:38 pm

        Who pretty well established that crap? I can tell all you guys from experience a .410 will shoot at 1830 fps. a long gun is hard to use in the tight confines of a house, and a .410 with the proper ammo will kill as well as any other.

  • bugeater August 5, 2013, 10:52 am

    The author of this needs to cut the gun some slack. this gun and its bigger brother (which I have) does what it is supposed to do, make shooting fun. Ignore the numbers, shoot more and different things. When I first acquired this 3 inch X three inch I also didn’t expect much, however a year later I knew what it would do. with custom .45 lc loadings I found a 200 grain XTP would make a 4 inch pattern consistently at 25 yds from rest. And believe me I also found it expands reliably in any soft medium. when out in the woods I found a 3 inch .410 with #8 1/2 shot takes out grouse ( and snakes) quite well at short ranges. loaded with federal .410 5 ball loads it does a great job at ranges out to 25 yds. considering not more than just over 100 years ago we were still into black powder, considering all the little tricks one can do with this gun, and considering that most of the owners of this gun will disagree with you, makes your statements for the most part seem a little biased. However I agree you should do what you do, write, it seems appropriate.

    • Administrator August 5, 2013, 11:06 am

      These weren’t sold as fun guns. They have been bought almost universally for self defense. If you are going to shoot .45LC, why do you need a Judge? The rifling is shallow and it is about half as accurate as any other .45LC revolver on the market.

  • william August 5, 2013, 8:33 am

    So this weapon is like a 410 shotgun, only a pistol, im looking for one for my mom, she 70, how hard is it to cock this weapon

    • DX August 5, 2013, 1:25 pm

      Pretty damned I would say. Especially seeing how its a hammer cock back. I’d go after the smith and wesson Governor instead of the judge – look into it. Far more better, as I’ve shot both of these guns. I would say getting her a full sized .410 or 20ga would be better though – the stock will absorb A LOT more recoil than her hands. Just my 2 cents though!

    • JLA August 5, 2013, 4:53 pm

      You don’t cock it. It’s a double-action revolver, just point & shoot. The double action trigger is likely to be around 12lbs. If I were you I’d take her to the store with you, & let her try out the trigger to see if she can handle it.

    • Dale August 11, 2013, 4:26 am

      The Taurus Judge is a five shot double action revolver. The Smith and Wesson Governor is a six shot double action revolver. There is NO NEED to cock either of these two guns. Yes, they both have that capability, but with ANY double action revolver, all you need to do is pull the trigger.

      Take your mom to a shooting range that rents guns, and let her fire different brands models and calibers until she finds one she likes AND can shoot comfortably. If you have friends that are gun owners, ask them to let her try some of theirs.

      Eventually she will find a gun/caliber she can shoot effectively AND comfortably. Not every one is capable of shooting the same gun that you or I or a police officer might choose to carry, BUT with enough research and experimentation just about anyone can find a firearm that can be a use-full and practical self-defense weapon.

  • Diego August 5, 2013, 8:09 am

    I feel that even with the slower velocity round it shows that at 30 feet the round his it’s objective. At ten feet your good as gold. With five rounds at your disposal and usually keeping two in colt 45 I still think that the judge is a formidable defense weapon when at home, On the street or in the car. It’s been proven many times so getting the right round is very important, With any weapon as a matter of fact. I would like to have one of these and maybe will in the near future.

  • Gray Ryder August 5, 2013, 8:04 am

    I have range tryed both the Winchester 3″ 410 and the Hornady 2.5. At 25 feet the Hornady has a far constituent group pattern than the Winchester. The Hornady cost for 20 rounds is as equal to that of the Wincheater 10 round count. Hands down this article relative to the 410 is right on. However, personal experience, the Hornady, use is my first in-home line of defense followed up by a 12ga pump of 00 Buck.

  • Bruce August 5, 2013, 7:31 am


    I am a big fan of the Judge with 410 rounds. When I went to buy one the sales rep said I would not be able to hit a 3×3 foot target at 15 feet. He might have been right but I did some research and found the Federal rounds made just for the Judge. I bought the triple aught buck which had 4 balls each. I had a constant pattern of 5-6 inches at 20 yards. The pattern was always the same, almost a perfect square. The wad they use holds them together out further. I also bought some 4 shot and that is amazing. At the time only could buy them online. I would use this before my 45 cal Kahr semi-auto for personal defense any day..

  • Larry Atlee August 5, 2013, 7:08 am

    I dont mean to sound critical. But i have a 3″ chambered judge and i use 5 36 cal balls at 1600 FPS. It makes very nice groups at standard 21 feet. 9 out of ten it patterns on a paper plate, almost never get a flier. I realize you were testing a specific round. But there are better choices out there. More speed and more pellets is a real winner. Just sayin. Regards Larry Atlee

    • Administrator August 5, 2013, 9:00 am

      1600 fps is laughable. You aren’t getting half that.

  • Steve Hughes August 5, 2013, 6:26 am

    You know, I really hate to say this, but, “The .410 revolver is still more of a novelty weapon than a serious contender or your best self defense gun”… is a special kind of stupid statement. A “dud”…? Friend, I’ve been shooting both the 6” barrel and the PD regularly for several years now. Using the RIGHT ammo – Federal (which, as far as I know, is the ONLY .410 ammo specially engineered for the Judge, tho’ I’m sure you’ll get aggressive arguments from Winchester and Hornady) Personal Defense 4-ball buckshot – sends 4 (count ’em, 4) nearly 9mm chunks of lead at your target every time you pull the trigger. That’s TWENTY (nearly) 9 mils coming at you out of the Judge in a matter of seconds, in Federal’s consistent pattern (w/very occasional flyer) about 3-7 inches across at 5-15 feet. (Don’t believe it? Get out on the range!) If you’ve achieved a FAIRLY good center mass placement, you’ve delivered a devastating, penetrating, organ/artery crushing, DEADLY impact that is anything BUT a NOVELTY. Ok. A couple minutes on birdshot/BBs; it seems we agree that it’s (nearly) worthless in a self-defense situation, slugs; considering the 4-ball buckshot alternative, they are for blowing fairly lightweight hinges and, perhaps for fun, the odd medium-to-small predator. That leaves other manufacturer’s ammo, which often – no, frequently – performs unreliably, for several reasons. First, Federal’s engineering magic really does produce a much more reliable, much more consistent pattern than any other ammo I’ve shot. And believe me, I LOVE this gun, so I’ve shot a LOT of EVERYTHING I can find, including some stuff from “custom” guys who promise a lot more than they can deliver. Second, any ammo that combines buckshot and BBs is wasting BBs and short-changing you on hitting power. I’ll only address one: PDX-1. The 3 discs appear to fly less reliably and each one consists of less mass (and we agree on the less mass question, right?). And, strictly in my experience, the pattern is MUCH less consistent, especially as distance increases. Then there’s the BBs. I’m willing to grant that, if very well placed, they might blind a thug, tear his face off or throat out at close range, perhaps even blow off a hand or an arm/leg if you’re very lucky. But there’s insufficient penetration – WAY to little penetration – hence, far less stopping power. Finally, let’s talk 45 colt. As we know, it was the caliber of choice for most folks until not too long ago. I’m sure you agree, it KILLED a gruntload of folks over the years. Accuracy? With practice, if you can’t do pretty darn well at 25 yards, you can’t shoot worth a crap (or you’re as blind as me…). At 50 yards, and any barrel longer than the PDs, if you’re already a good shot, or if you’re willing to practice a lot to get there, this gun/round can be a KILLER combination. But let’s NOT lose sight of what this fine, fun, easy to aim wheel gun is DESIGNED TO DO and DOES VERY, VERY WELL: it is a devastating defensive weapon with ballistics more than adequate for up-close and personal situations. Period. The Public Defender is hanging out on nightstands and even carried by more folks than you’d suspect, and its big brothers have become far more mainstream than you apparently realize. Let me encourage you to get out there and do some shootin’, boy. Or at LEAST a lot more reading… I think you’ll find your current opinion is dead WRONG! By the way, my OTHER carry gun is a Porsche… an XDs in .45… the first gun in several years to successfully compete for my attention with MY Judge PD.

    • Mr. Dusty August 5, 2013, 11:22 am

      You make a lot of good points…but, quite frankly, you’ve reinforced the negative aspects of the handgun just as well (if not better) than the plus sides. There is .410 ammo that will result spectacularly in the little Judge but, as you said, the ammo selection is almost non-existent in terms of what will work well in a fundamentally flawed barrel. Sure it can fire .45 LC but the large gap between the bullet to the forcing cone and the shot-friendly rifling your grouping will look more like a shotgun pattern in comparison to most .45LC only guns. Most .410 slug ammo will perform mediocre at best and, like most .410 ammo from the Judge, does not pass the FBI Gelatin test. I personally consider the FBI standards less than nominal to your average civilian but it doesn’t change the prior statement nor how many people who consider it dogmatic/absolute.

      As for shot I’ve noticed the 000 buck seems to group decently enough at close ranges. However; it’s still a long shot away from the tight pattern a .410 rifle would exhibit. The ammo in this recent post shows a bit of promise…but any remotely functional firearm will fire at least one form of ammo exceptionally (particularly when it’s designed specifically for it). There are plenty of light .410 shotguns in all forms that shoot better, and most any .45 LC solely made to shoot the round will not only have superior accuracy but have a MUCH shorter barrel, something you could actually conceal feasibly.

      Now I can see why you’d like the gun, particularly since you own one and enjoy shooting it…but it -is- a novelty foremost, the marketing made that clear. Sure it’s lethal, so is the Desert Eagle and it makes a pretty terrible self defense gun. I don’t consider the Judge a poor choice by any means…but I also consider a .22 a viable self defense weapon (if used wisely with the right ammunition) and both are merely nominal in that regard.

      Realistically though in-home defense is better left to a full length shotgun, a carbine, or handgun with better accuracy. Outside the home there are multitudes of decent conceal/open carry micro-guns all the way up to a full sized revolver that will all generally group better and aren’t limited to perhaps 3 types (verses dozens upon dozens) of adequate ammo. The judge is handy in the woods for pest control…more nimble than a long-gun but with a heavier trigger, less accuracy, velocity, and range.

      To sum it all up: the Judge’s only real advantage is that it’ll shoot .45 LC and .410. It’s intrinsically heavy and long because of the ridiculous cylinder (the 3″ is even worse), it sacrifices power, velocity, and accuracy all for the sake of making a legal SBS. Just because it’s lethal and you have a particularly proclivity and/or attachment to the concept isn’t going to make it less of a novelty. However; just because it is a novelty doesn’t mean it won’t save your life effectively…just that there are more suitable choices for the average person. For in-home defense I go straight for the .243 semi-auto, for carrying I’d much prefer a regular .45LC.

      • bill hyde July 15, 2014, 1:12 pm

        a 243 for in home defense? You better hope your neighbors aren’t too close or not only will you be defending yourself but you might just commit a homicide in the process.

    • JLA August 5, 2013, 4:47 pm

      While I would agree with you that the 4-pellet Federal load is an extremely effective self-defense load and hardly a ‘novelty’ weapon, it is not the only round specifically loaded for the Judge. Both Winchester’s PDX & Hornady’s Critical Defense were also specifically developed for The Judge and S&W’s Governor revolvers. At this point I can’t say witch is the better load, Federal or the Hornady, because I haven’t had a chance to see the Hornady in action. Either way saying that the Judge is just a novelty weapon is pretty stupid!

  • David Lowrance August 5, 2013, 3:33 am


    Great article on the 410 defense ammo.


    • Administrator August 5, 2013, 9:02 am

      small world huh

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