August 2009

Judging the Judge: A Viable Self-Defense Revolver for You?

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.

We’ve 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.

Taurus Judge Revolver

We thought the Judge would be a good gun for the trail. It would take care of all sorts of varmints big and small for the woods traveler, and look good doing it. We liked this gun a lot.

 

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.

Fit and finish and lockup were excellent. We liked the feel and

Taurus Judge Revolver

The imposing look of the Judge is backed by solid operation with a variety of types of load. We thought the Ultra-Lite Judge was a handy, well-balanced and useful revolver. The Taurus Judge lineup is surprisingly well developed for such a specialty handgun. We don’t really believe the company’s claim that the gun is named for the “number of judges who carry it into the courtroom for their protection.” How does one arrive at such a number? But if Taurus tells us that hundreds (or even dozens) of black-robed guys and gals have sent in personal anecdotes to buttress this claim, we will gladly grovel. There are three primary Judge product groups: a trio of blued guns, a trio of stainless guns, and two Tracker-nomenclature guns that Taurus identifies as part of the Judge line on its website. The blued guns include our test unit, the Ultra-Lite Model 4510TKR-3BUL, whose specified weight of 22.4 ounces (we measured it at 25 ounces) makes it handier than the Model 4510TKR-3B, which weighs 29 ounces. The 3B is cheaper at $546. Both are lighter than the Model 4510TKR-3BMAG, which comes in at 36.8 ounces and an MSRP of $587. In the stainless finishes, there are three similar guns. Like our Ultra-Lite version, the stainless Model 4510TRACKER-3SSUL weighs 22.4 ounces on the company’s scale, and sells for $652 MSRP.

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.

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

Taurus Judge Revolver

Then there’s the Model 4510TKR-3SS with a matte finish and 29-ounce weight, $592; and the Model 4510TKR-3SSMAG, 36.8 ounces and an MSRP of $634. Taurus also lists two longer-barrel guns among its Judge complement, the Model 4510 TRACKERB, a blued 2.5-inch chamber gun with a 6.5-inch barrel and a 32-ounce weight. It lists for $546. The stainless Tracker Judge is the 32-ounce Model 4510 TRACKERSS, 6.5-inch barrel, MSRP $592.

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. However, it might just fill a perfect niche for you. The gun worked, did what it was supposed to, but somewhat disappointed us in its limited range with 410s. We would give it a grade of A, for providing an excellent, portable, functional answer to a perhaps rare problem. We liked it just fine with 45 LC loads, and the addition of extra length for 410 shells didn’t hamper its use as a 45 LC, we thought. The 45 LC loads hit slightly high, but well within reason for a self-defense gun. We tried just one hand-crushing round of Cor-Bon 45 LC Magnum loads in the gun, but recoil was intolerable and not really what this handy gun is all about.

OUR TEAM SAID: As noted, there are other versions of the Judge available. There’s a blued all-steel version for about $545, but we could see no need for a heavier version of the Judge than our test Ultra-Lite. It let us control recoil well enough, and the lighter weight makes it that much easier to pack. As a trail or self-defense gun, the Judge has a lot going for it. As a last-ditch effort in the courtroom, we strongly suggest any judges planning to pack it make some practical pattern tests before they carry this gun loaded with 410 shotshells into any courtroom. That’s the best way to avoid their appearing before another judge to tell about all the bystanders who get nailed along with the bad guy.

ACCURACY AND CHRONOGRAPH DATA

TAURUS JUDGE NO. 4510TKR-3BUL 3-INCH 45 LC/410-BORE

GUN TESTS REPORT CARD SUMMARY