A Big-Bore, EDC Shotgun? Hands On, Full Review and Test

To learn more, visit http://www.taurususa.com/product-details.cfm?id=599&category=Revolver&toggle=&breadcrumbseries.

To purchase a Taurus Judge on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.htm?T=taurus%20judge&ltid-all=1&as=365&cid=680&ns=0&numberperpage=50&.

In 2006 there were not a lot of good things happening. The U.S. was neck-deep in war with Iraq, a dozen coal miners died in a West Virginia mining disaster – followed later in the year by the tragic loss of 65 more in a Mexican mine. Popular culture didn’t have much to offer either. Almost every popular movie that year was a remake or a lackluster sequel, and the music scene was equally bleak. CSI (the original, real one) was still in its early years – a gem among a swarm of burgeoning “reality” shows (a disease that has still not run its course) – so that was a good thing. Another good thing that happened in 2006 was the debut of a unique and interesting handgun from Taurus – The Judge.

The Taurus Judge was a controversial handgun when it was presented, and remains so today to a degree. But even the most skeptical nay-sayers raised at least one eyebrow and the notion of a fairly small revolver that could fire .45 Colt and .410 shotshells in whatever order or manner the owner saw fit. That’s a lot of potential firepower to carry under your cloak or have in the nightstand drawer. While the Judge is now available in a wide range of sizes and finishes, I opted to go with the classic blued Judge with a 3-inch barrel and 3-inch chambered cylinder.

One of the inherent challenges in creating a short-barreled handgun that shoots both the .410 shotshells and .45 Colt bullets is the rifling. Although the rifled barrel was invented in the fifteenth century, it didn’t become nearly common until about the time of the American Civil War. Putting rifling in barrels has been the proven way to stabilize the flight of the bullet, which results in better accuracy. For shot however, rifling in the barrel is counter-productive, as it tends to scatter the shot faster than a normal flight pattern from a smoothbore shotgun. Taurus did a lot of work to come up with what they felt was the best compromise between these opposing needs, and the Judge has very shallow rifling compared to a traditional handgun barrel.

The amount of available ammo for the Judge is both plentiful and diverse.

Critics of the Judge have often cited accuracy, or more correctly the lack thereof, as a primary weakness. Having very little experience with the Taurus Judge myself, I tried to take an objective view of this topic and let the targets do the talking. What I learned regarding the Judge’s potential accuracy is: “well, yes and no”. I have no doubt that in 2006 the testing results would have been much different, but in 2016 I find that it all depends upon which ammo you use. That goes for the .410 and the .45 loads. A number of ammo makers – many of them top brand names – make a special load or two just for this design of handgun. My testing varied from “I can throw a rock better than that”, to “Hey, I’ll take that group from any short barrel handgun!”. And just in case you’re wondering, “Hey, why isn’t the Judge considered a short barrel shotgun?” – One word: rifling. Though there was no guarantee of approval, the fact that shotguns by definition have smooth bores and this handgun has a rifled barrel keeps it in the “legal” classification. Folks have been making shot loads for handgun calibers forever, so it’s really a way of approaching that from the opposite angle.

The single-action is short and crisp. The deep rubber ribs in the grip absorb most of the kick.

From a distance of 7 yards, the results from the Judge were good with almost all types of ammunition used, and a wide variety was tested. If you buy a Taurus Judge and expect it to print cloverleaf groups at 25 yards, then you must be leading a life that is full of disappointment. This tool was designed as a self-defense weapon, and that sort of business usually takes place up close and fast. Even 7 yards is a stretch, statistically – but it has become our “official” self-defense perimeter. And speaking of self-defense, several of the premier ammo makers offer either a .45 Colt or .410 self-defense load suited perfectly for the Judge. Two noteworthy offerings are Hornady’s Critical Defense in .45 Colt and Winchester’s PDX1 in both .45 Colt and .410. These loads are not only formidable and well suited to stop an advancing threat, but they are also considerably accurate.  Another ideal use for the Judge would be pest control. I can certainly see the benefit of having some of the more potent .410 loads on hand if I found myself in a blinking contest with a rattlesnake or cornered rat. The #4 shot loads from Federal would be ideal in this work, with patterns that spread to around 8 inches at 7 yards.

The double-action pull measured 11 lbs., 4 oz. on the Lyman digital gauge.

The single-action is a crisp and consistent sub-five pound short stroke.


Some guns acquire a reputation for being either hard to shoot or for having excessive recoil. I’ve heard people say both of those things about the Judge over the years, but I don’t necessarily agree. I found the Taurus Judge quite manageable to shoot, even with the most potent defense loads. The ergonomics of the pistol have something to do with that, starting with the comfortable size.

The Judge is just about the same size as a Smith & Wesson K-frame, so the reach to the trigger is fairly short – even for those with smallish hands. The “ribber” grip accounts for a great deal of the shooting comfort. The rubber grip is ribbed like the cooling fins on a motorcycle engine, which allows them to flex and absorb considerable impact. Even heavy recoil that sends the muzzle skyward is not uncomfortable to shoot if there is no stinging sensation in your hand.

The Judge from Taurus packs in a lot of power into a portable package, and is pretty intimidating from the muzzle end.

The trigger is, of course, a double-action/single-action design. The pull weight is good to very good, with the double action taking 11 pounds and 4 ounces, and the single action breaking consistently at less than 5 lbs. There is some grit in the action, but not enough to detract from a pleasant pull with a very crisp break.

The sights on the Judge are fixed. The rear sight is a forged notch and channel at the top of the frame, typical of duty revolvers. The front sight contains a red fiber optic filament that picks up ambient light nicely and provides a good sight picture. Our sample of the Judge printed high and right with consistency using most of the ammunition tested. A slightly taller front sight might help if that is a standard condition.While shooting the Judge, I had a couple of timing jumps with the cylinder that caused the trigger to lock. However, releasing pressure on the trigger and re-engaging cleared it up every time. Not an ideal condition, but provided the user understands it and knows how to recover, not the end of the world. ACCURACY For what should be obvious reasons, the accuracy testing was limited to single projectile loads – .45 Colt and one rifled slug. Rested on a bag from 15 yards, several brands were fired at identical targets using the same center aim point.

While shooting the Judge, I had a couple of timing jumps with the cylinder that caused the trigger to lock. However, releasing pressure on the trigger and re-engaging cleared it up every time. Not an ideal condition, but provided the user understands it and knows how to recover, not the end of the world.


For what should be obvious reasons, the accuracy testing was limited to single projectile loads – .45 Colt and one rifled slug. Rested on a bag from 15 yards, several brands were fired at identical targets using the same center aim point.

The Winchester PDX1 Defender in .45 Colt is not only a powerhouse defense round; it impacted closest to the point of aim and made a respectable group.

This five-shot group of Winchester PDX1 demonstrates its consistency on this standard IDPA target. This is the author’s ammunition of choice for the Judge.

The most disappointing round was the Herter’s rifled slug, throwing 5 shots out at an over 8-inch overall group size. My theory is that the rifling on the slug and the rifling in the barrel, almost certainly not in sync, cause an unstable projectile. Winchester PDX1 Defender was the impressive brand of all those tested with the Taurus Judge. It comes in two types: .45 Colt bonded jacket hollow points, and a .410 “Defense disc” load. The latter of these would be my first choice to load in the Judge and have it at the ready. The load is a .410 shell loaded with three copper plated discs backed by 12 plated BBs – traveling at approximately 750 fps. The potential for stopping power with this load is significant, and I think it exemplifies why a handgun like the Judge can be a formidable self-defense weapon.

The Judge is not the one you want to take to the match. And it’s not the one you want to use to deal with the threat that’s 20 or more yards downrange. Most any tool that is designed to do more than one thing is seldom the best at any one of those things. And so it is with the accuracy of the .45 Colt and the .410 shotshell from the Judge. The good news is that over the past decade ammo makers such as Winchester and Hornady have put the research and effort into maximizing the benefits of this gun. At 7 to 10 yards I would trust the Judge to hit where I aim – as long as I aim a little low. The gun I shot put just about everything high at distances from 3 to 15 yards. Beyond 10 yards I would start to lose confidence that I would hit my target and not what’s behind it. But like any good tool, if used as intended it gets the job done.

The sights on the Judge give a good sight picture, but are not adjustable.

The Taurus Judge holds five rounds of .45 Colt or .410 and has great shock-absorbing grips.


The popularity of the Taurus Judge over the past ten years is no anomaly. What may have once been considered a novelty or gimmick gun has proven itself worthy of consideration in serious conversations about self-defense. I think anyone planning to use a pistol such as the Judge owes it to themselves to test a wide variety of ammunition with the gun, so they understand what it will and will not do, and where their shots will go. Loaded with some of today’s specialized defense ammo, this pistol can do a good job of defending hearth and home. For very close quarter defense, as would be common in the home, I think the Judge can excel. It would also come in handy on a day outdoors where one may be surprised by critters that bite. The versatile Judge has been the choice for many for a decade, and for many good reasons.

To learn more, visit http://www.taurususa.com/product-details.cfm?id=599&category=Revolver&toggle=&breadcrumbseries.

To purchase a Taurus Judge on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.htm?T=taurus%20judge&ltid-all=1&as=365&cid=680&ns=0&numberperpage=50&.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Tail Gunner October 8, 2018, 12:57 pm

    All things considered — trigger, 1st shot accuracy, follow up shot. No.

  • Dan October 8, 2018, 10:25 am

    We walked into a snake ambush . First they took out our guy with the cellphone then they kept our heads down with sustained fire from their saw and riflesnakes while they flanked us. It was a massacre. Don’t go unarmed into snake country. Or maybe just walk away.

  • Mike W January 9, 2017, 8:43 pm

    I had the same timing issue with my SS 3″ Judge with 3″ barrel. A gunsmith cleaned up the action, and resolved the problem for a very low cost. I have not had a problem since having the Judge maintained. I bought the Judge to have in my RV, so I would not shoot through three or more trailers next to me if the need arose.

  • Tommy January 9, 2017, 2:35 pm

    I’ll just stick with my old reliable proven weapons thank you very much!
    Ithaca 12 GA Stakeout and S&W Model 15 with hand loaded 158 gr Hornady meat mashers!
    Custom Bushmaster with Compact 6X Ziess scope for crowd control and everything else! 😉

  • Bill Ludeman January 9, 2017, 2:16 pm

    Purchasing this exact model gun proved to be a serious mistake for me. I took it to the range and I put it on paper. I am a better than average pistol shooter. I have been shooting as a hobby for over fifty yrs and own a fair pile of firearms. I rank this as one of the worst I ever bought. The 45 LC rounds patterned like a shotgun when they hit the paper at all at 21 ft. And they hit very high at that range. The shotgun ammo was worse. I wasted money trying the PDX and half a dozen other gimmick rounds. My head was reeling as I left the range. I had to go back and try it again thinking that maybe I was “off” that day.
    My STRONG suggestion is if you buy any of these variety of gun that you trot out to the range with several large sheets of paper and pattern it with all ammo you may consider using. The good news is that I had no trouble selling it for 10% less than I paid for it, but I did feel like a clod for selling something I knew to be awful. If you think you can depend on this as a house or car gun or self defense piece you MUST try it on paper. Absolutely one of the worst performing mistakes of my life. It terrifies me that people read the hype and don’t test. Actually this author says it hits just not where its aimed and that its ONLY good at short distances -A very expensive and oversize derringer ? I like the concept well enough that I have been tempted to try the Governor to see if they got that one right.
    I FULLY AGREE THAT THIS REPORT SHOULD HAVE INCLUDED DETAILED PAPER TARGETS I want to know the range and the spread of each round tested. I do not believe you could hit a snake with # 4 at 21 ft on average. Show us the paper and the distance plus the ammo info. Last word. Since it was my money and my life I went to the range. Everyone who owns one should definitely do this. I was terribly disappointed. Trapper

  • Pop January 9, 2017, 1:34 pm

    Strike 1, 2 & 3…your out!
    Taurus Judge is great idea in theory. I bought one for the novelty of it and I thought it would be good snake protection when I would go to TX to hunt pigs/deer.
    I bought one in 2007, light weight with 3″ barrel.
    STRIKE ONE: I took the gun to my gunsmith to tune it for me, prior to me breaking it in. He called and told me to come pick it up. Upon arrival he told me he tested it with all types of .410 shells, the hammer would not break the primer on the .410 shells. Many various .45 Long Colt cartridges no issues. He fixed the manufacturer defect and the gun would then shoot the .410 shells, weird. At the time it made me wonder how many “pistol buying newbie’s” put this gun in holster without a break-in period loaded with .410 buckshot and thought they were adequately armed? I’m sure there were a percentage that didn’t have a gun that would go bang.
    STRIKE TWO: I took it out at to the range to break in and shot a mix of .410 & .45 Long Colt rounds through it. The Federal & Rem. #4 & # 6 shot at 10-15 ft. (snake distance) had a pattern with a two hand hold of about 2ft x 2ft pattern, with no density of pattern whatsoever. At that point, the gun failed for snake protection.
    STRIKE THREE; I started thinking about the gun’s effectiveness for personal protection. If I were to use the gun for personal carry, to me the most effective would be to load with the .410 buckshot for close encounters. However, if forced to use the gun in a personal defense situation and I had two double tap a bad guy (hitting the target) he would now have 8 holes in his body. In a court defense (civil), I bet I would be better just shooting the dead guy with two rounds of .45 acp, to not be labeled as an over kill situation.
    In putting all this together, I sold the gun and moved on…food for thought for those considering a Taurus Judge.

  • Brad January 9, 2017, 12:20 pm

    Since the Judge barrel is rifled, I would like to see a 410 pistol sabot rounds that are now available. While I don’t expect much accuracy from a 3 inch barrel, it at least would show if the rifling of a slug is responsible for the large spread when tested.

  • Dean January 9, 2017, 11:08 am

    I have a Smith Gov and first regretted my purchase as an impulse buy. After trying the prescribed ammo I was quite impressed. The .45 Colt Buffalo Bore was the most powerful and the Gov handled it great. My target where coffee cans at 7 yards. Next were the 45 acp with moon rings. The 230 Gold Dots and Pmc hardball performed very good. The 410 ammo where Federal #4 shot and Federal trip buck. The 4 was the least impressive all things I fed the Gov but would work as intended for close shots at snakes or small game. The triple buck was just devastating of all .. Wow! Has four 31 caliber in line balls that stay in a 2.5″ group at 7 yards. This is the home defense stuff here !!!!

    • DickG January 16, 2017, 11:18 am

      I had the same experience with a Model 4 American Derringer in .45 Colt/ .410 (4″ barrel including chamber using 2.5″ Federal PD). .45Colt tumbled (which is not bad at 7 yards, accuracy okay at that range.) The Federal PD in 4×000 buckshot is devastating!

      A Friend had the same experience with the Federal PD 000 buck in his Governor but with 8″ pattern AT 60 FEET.
      In my opinion, birdshot and gimmick rounds are for birds. FEDERAL Buckshot rounds is the only way to go for Personal Defense.

  • Alan January 9, 2017, 9:34 am

    I think it’s a pig in a poke, too big and heavy for good concealed carry by the average person, and too poor as a hand held shotgun.
    I’ve worked with many different shot loads in the .45 Colt, my favorite caliber for the field.
    My Blackhawk gives acceptable patterns with my home loads of shot made from .444 casings, but the factory stuff just doesn’t work all that well. No rifled barrel will.
    For home defense, one would be better served by several of the older and the many newer revolvers.
    This is a play gun, for the gun nut who likes his toys. I’m one of those, but I’m also defense minded, and this just ain’t it.

  • Chuck January 9, 2017, 8:44 am

    I wish the author showed some patterns using the .410 cartridges ranging from bird shot to slugs…

  • Tom King January 9, 2017, 8:11 am

    I had one of the older long barreled versions. The one time i needed it, i could not use it. A neighbor’s pitbull was attacking my Dachshund. The Judge does not have the accuracy to be of help unless the target is large and close. I’ll stick with a regular handgun. I live in a rural area. If a snake is close enough to be a threat, I can hut it with a regular handgun .

  • Billybob January 9, 2017, 7:59 am

    Barrel pointed up ! Open cylinder ! Press ejector rod ! Then point barrel down and look at the round
    that didn\’t fall out ! One round doesn\’t clear grip and stays in the cylinder ! Cylinder most be rotated for shell to clear enough to come out ! Great snake gun for the boat !

    • Billybob January 9, 2017, 8:03 am

      S&W GOV is a 6 shot not a 5 like the judge ! The Gov has enough room for ALL THE CASES TO FALL OUT also !

  • Edwin Cintron January 9, 2017, 7:29 am

    I”ve own a Taurus Judge now for a few years it”s not a bad gun ..I do my own reloads and have come up with a good recipe that works well,at the range at 25 yards…..I”ll blow the shit out of a soda can…So I figure a soda can is smaller than a humans head…….I am ON target…….LOVE THT GOOD OLD 45 COLT….get hit with one of those guys and you will be in a world of hurt……….good shooting….

    • Joe V January 9, 2017, 9:34 am

      Would you be willing to share the load recipe for better distance protection…. I have the S&W Gov…..Thanks

      • DickG January 16, 2017, 11:26 am

        Try the Federal Personal Defense 2.5″ .410 4×000 buckshot for better distance accuracy. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

  • Joe January 9, 2017, 5:57 am

    Now if I lived in rattle snake country I’d have one of those hand canons on my hip loaded with that .410 scatter stuff. But I live in city limits and haven’t seen a rattle snake here in over 20 years. A few coral snakes mind you but no rattlers, cotton mouths, or copperheads so I don’t have a need. That being said, I still like the concept. Maybe as I get older I might be able to use it on the Butts of some of those two legged snakes that come with hoodies and red or blue scarves on their faces…

  • ScottM January 9, 2017, 5:47 am

    For the size, weight, ‘accuracy’, etc, I’ll stick to my Glock 19 or 26 thank you. IMO this is a gimmick marketed to people who don’t know what they don’t know.

    • Bisley January 9, 2017, 10:17 am

      Amen. I’ve always seen these things as an impractical novelty, and there’s nothing here that would dispute that. A .410 with a 26″ barrel isn’t anything that would be considered an adequate defensive weapon, and with a 3″ semi-rifled barrel and a cylinder gap, it’s a great deal less adequate. Given the size and weight of this thing, you would be better off with a .45 revolver of the same size(and a properly rifled barrel) — then you could, at least, hit something with the .45s. If anyone needs a snake blaster, .45 shotshells work well enough at the spitting distances one is likely to be shooting snakes.

  • Will Drider January 4, 2017, 10:15 pm

    The highlights:
    The fixed sights are not well regulated for all ammo tested.
    With its three inch barrel its 45LC accuracy is easily surpassed by other firearms with equal barrel length.
    Its accuracy with slugs tested is barely paper plate worthy.
    Cyclinder lockup can get you killed under stress so its recommended to train for that failure.

    I understand the statistical average distance regarding gunfights. This “average” is being used to give people a false sense of firearm adequacy because there are a hell of a lot of longer encounters that are swept from the consciousness and objectively of defensive handgun carriers.

    [X] Not a Fan.

  • Mike January 4, 2017, 1:31 pm

    Good, simple language review of what this weapon can and cannot do.

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