The Taurus Judge
I have been asked to do a full review of Taurus .45/.410 revolvers for Guns and Shooting Online, but declined. I simply refuse to waste that much of my time and effort on a product that I already know is inherently incapable of delivering acceptable results. However, in response to popular demand, I agreed to do this abbreviated mini review.
At present, Taurus is offering six models of .45 Colt/.410 bore shotshell combination revolvers, if you count different finishes (blue or stainless) as separate models as Taurus does. Note that these are not "convertible" revolvers supplied with two cylinders; these Taurus revolvers fire both .45 Colt cartridges and .410 shotshells from the same cylinder. The variations include "Tracker" models with 6" barrels in blue and stainless steel, similar models with 3" barrels in blue or stainless steel and an "ultra-light" version (at 22 ounces empty, not really) with a 3" barrel built on an aluminum alloy frame. These five models are all chambered for 2-1/2", .410 shotshells.
The sixth model, named the "Judge," seems to have generated the most interest. It is a stainless steel version with a 3" barrel and a cylinder lengthened to accept 3" .410 shotshells. Taurus incorrectly identifies the 3", .410 shotgun shell as a "Magnum" on their web site, but in reality it is simply a "high brass," not a magnum, load. Here are some basic specifications for the 3" chamber Judge:
All of these Taurus revolvers are supplied with a fiber optic front sight and a rudimentary fixed rear sight consisting of a square groove cut into the top of the frame. The rubber handgrips are Taurus' "Ribber" type to help moderate the considerable recoil, especially of the Ultra-Light version.
Taurus double action revolvers have traditionally been built on what is essentially a copy of S&W lock work, which is faint praise at best. The cylinder swings out to the left for loading/unloading in the usual manner and rotates counter-clockwise (out of the frame) when operated. Their DA trigger pulls average an unacceptable 12 pounds or so, but their SA trigger pulls are usually quite good at about three pounds. The sample Judge 3" was typical Taurus in this regard. Unfortunately, a good SA trigger pull achieves little in a revolver that is inherently inaccurate.
These are basically five-shot, double action revolvers chambered for the venerable .45 Long Colt (LC) cartridge. However, the cylinders of the five standard models have been lengthened to also accommodate 2-1/2" .410 bore shotshells. This results in a cylinder that measures 2.690" in length and a frame window to match. The cylinder of the "Magnum" .410 Judge has been lengthened to an incredible 3.190" in order to accept 3" long .410 shotshells. Because of their dual-purpose mission, the six groove, right hand twist rifling in Taurus .45/.410 revolvers' barrels is intentionally cut shallow to minimize the inevitable disruption of .410 shot loads, which does not bode well for accuracy with conventional bullets or shotshells.
The cylinder in a .45 Colt Peacemaker revolver, which is properly sized to the cartridge, measures 1.609" long. That means that a .45 Colt bullet fired in a 2-1/2" chamber Taurus has to jump over an inch of additional free space just to reach the forcing cone. Fired in a 3" chamber Judge, that same bullet has to jump an additional 1.5" of space to reach the revolver's forcing cone! Expect the 3"-chambered Judge to be even less accurate than the model with the 2-1/2" chamber owned by W.W. Stowe.
The bottom line is that, while Taurus revolvers in general have earned a reputation for mediocre accuracy, these .45/.410 revolvers have dramatically lowered the bar. One author, writing for a respected gun magazine, praised the Judge to the skies (naturally, since print magazines never publish an unfavorable review of an advertiser's product), but admitted that it would barely keep its bullets on a humanoid silhouette target at 25 yards! Considering that practically any Colt or Ruger .45 LC revolver will average 2-3" groups at that range with factory loaded ammo and no tuning whatsoever, the Judge's accuracy as a .45 LC revolver is simply unacceptable.
Naturally, firing a .410 shotshell in a revolver with a 3" rifled barrel is not likely to produce very satisfactory results. The same writer mentioned in the paragraph above patterned the 3" Judge with 11/16 ounce, #4 and #6 .410 shot loads and reported very few pellets outside of an 18" circle--at five yards! Pardon me, but .410 shotshells are customarily patterned at 30 yards. These are the kind of deceptive shenanigans required to produce a favorable review of the Judge revolver. Here at Guns and Shooting Online, we try to avoid such deceptions, which is why I declined to do a full review of the Taurus Judge revolver.
Guns and Shooting Online reader W.W. Stowe kindly wrote to me to pass along his test results shooting .410 buckshot shells in his 3" barrel, 2-1/2" chamber, Judge revolver. At 25 yards, shooting a four 000 buckshot .410 shell, it will keep all four buckshot somewhere on an 18"x24" target board and at 16.6 yards (50 feet), it will keep them on a paper plate (a 9" circle). Needless to say, that is totally unacceptable accuracy for a revolver. I want my revolvers, even snubbies, to (at least) put five bullet holes in a 3" circle at our standard test distance of 25 yards. If I had a revolver than spread four holes all over an 18"x24" target, I'd drop in in the ocean!
My advice to anyone looking for a .45 LC revolver is to buy a Colt or a Ruger. If you want a .410, a number of good shotguns are so chambered. The Taurus Judge is a "one size fits all" approach to being both and, consequently, is unsatisfactory as either.