July 31, 2013

Judging the Judge: Is the Taurus Wheelgun a Viable Self-Defense Revolver?

We have a problem comparing unusual or unique handguns against anything else, and “The Judge” by Taurus fits into that category. Here’s what we thought of the Ultra-Lite version.

Gun Tests magazine has had more than two dozen requests for a Gun Tests evaluation of the Taurus Judge, a 45 LC- and 410-shotshell-chambered revolver that, on its face, might fit into many individuals’ self-defense schemes with its powerful, simple operation. The Judge bears that name on its barrel, and it’s supposedly destined for those judges who pack iron in the courtroom. They presumably have the occasional need to defend themselves from those on whom they pass judgment—or their friends. The idea of spraying the courtroom with a load of shot is presumably preferable to drilling only one of the unlucky people who happen to be in there, once said judge opens fire.

The Judge is catalogued in the Taurus line as the Model 4510, and there are several versions. Some are blued steel, others are stainless, and there are versions that accept longer 3-inch 410-bore shotshells. There are also Judges with 6.5-inch barrels. In this review, we try out an Ultra-Lite 4510UL with a 3-inch barrel, No. 2-441031UL to be exact. Here’s what we found.

Taurus Judge Model 4510TKR-3BUL 3-inch barrel, $620

We liked quite a few aspects of this five-shot revolver. The Judge featured a pleasant, glossy, all-black finish with aluminum-alloy frame and Taurus’ wonderful, recoil-absorbing rubber grips, called “Ribbers.” The front sight held a red-plastic insert that let it stand out fairly well against most backgrounds, as long as there was good overhead light. The rear sight was a square notch milled in the frame that, we thought, could have been cut a bit wider to make it easier and faster to align the front sight for more deliberate aim. The hammer and trigger were case hardened, and gave a reasonable DA pull and a workable, if slightly creepy, SA pull of around 5 pounds.

Taurus Wheelgun

Ray Ordorica/Gun Tests

We’d guess the maximum range for shot loads from the Judge would be 10 feet, and at that range a lot of shot would still miss your target. All patterns tended to have the center relatively short on shot, clustering it around the outer edges of the circle. Rifled bores tend to do that.

Fit and finish and lockup were excellent. We liked the feel and balance of this revolver, and thought it had adequate weight, especially with those excellent grips, for the power it had. In case you’re wondering, hot 45 LC loads give more recoil than 410 shotshells. The Judge has an imposing appearance with that 2.6-inch-long cylinder. We are aware Old West Reproductions in Florence, Montana, (www.OldWestReproductions.com) is initiating production of a modern field-type holster for this odd-shaped handgun, but at press time we didn’t yet have a photo.

We tested with only two types of 45 Long Colt, Blazer 200-grain JHP and Black Hills 250-grain flat-nose cast lead bullets. And we tested with the only 2.5-inch 410 available in this location, Winchester Super X, which was loaded with half an ounce of #4 shot. Our initial results with shot loads were disappointing. We shot at 8.5 x 11-inch paper from 10 feet and expected to see it full of holes. There were only four holes on the paper. Further testing indicated we could get good patterns only at 3 feet. Serious patterning on 4-foot-square paper gave a better indication of the usefulness and range of the Judge with shot. At 3 feet the pattern diameter was 1 foot. At 6 feet it was 18 inches, and at 12 feet from the muzzle, the pattern diameter averaged 34 inches. In all cases they were fairly well centered at the point of aim. We’d guess the maximum range for shot loads from the Judge would be 10 feet, and at that range a lot of shot would still miss your target. All patterns tended to have the center relatively short on shot, clustering it around the outer edges of the circle. Rifled bores tend to do that.

Taurus Wheelgun

Note that the patterns would be much the same diameter no matter the pellet size. The number of hits would of course increase with smaller shot, and penetration would be less. Whether this increased hit density is important is up to the individual doing the shooting. If you want this gun for snake country, #7.5 shot would be a better bet than the larger #4. And of course if you want this for close-range self-defense use with bystanders behind the target, as in a courtroom, the smaller shot that miss the target—and at any significant range, plenty of ‘em will—will do less damage at longer range. Personally, we prefer the idea of 45 LC loads for self-defense shooting.

The Judge did very well with 45 LC loads. Our best group was 1.6 inches for five shots at 15 yards, with the 200-grain JHP Blazer ammo. Black Hills’ cowboy loads averaged less than 3 inches at that range. Now, that’s 3 inches at 45 feet. The shot loads landed in 34 inches at 12 feet. Do the math, and we think you’ll find the Judge to be not all that useful in the field with 410 loads.

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