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The Surprisingly Practical Taurus Judge

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The words practicality and Taurus Judge usually aren’t seen together. Bringing up the Taurus Judge, even a simple question about it, will elicit insults and sneers. You’ll be told how ridiculous and useless or a weapon it is. Your typical Internet commando will make you feel like an idiot for even asking a question. Sales don’t lie though, and it’s been a steady seller for Taurus—so much so, in fact, that in an odd turn of events Smith and Wesson seems to be copying the Judge and producing the Governor (making some choice improvements over the Judge as well).

I can understand some feelings about the weapon, and can see why people could view the Judge as heavy and impractical. In reality, the Judge offers a new edge to the hunter, camper, and outdoorsman in general. Many of the Judge’s proposed weak points can turn into strong points.

For this piece, I’m focusing on the basic version of the Judge with a three-inch barrel and a two-and-a-half-inch chamber. It’s not to be confused with the Public Defender and Raging Judge Magnum.

I bought a Judge after my second deployment as a gift to myself. I didn’t buy the weapon to replace my bedside shotgun or my concealed carry weapon. I bought it for fun, and along the way I discovered its practicality.

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A snake gun is the most obvious practical use. An outdoorsman who runs across an angry cottonmouth should feel pretty confident wielding the Judge loaded with Federal No. 4 handgun load.  Snakes aren’t the only pests this weapon can remove; loaded with buckshot, it provides short-range eradication for raccoons, wild dogs, and the like. A specialized .410 Varminter round loaded with No. 12 produces a dense short-range pattern ideal for pests. The short barrel ensures a low lethal range and prevents over-penetration.

Loaded with .45LC, the Judge offers tried and proven stopping power against most dangers you’ll encounter, whether they are on four legs or two.

The sheer variety of loads for the Judge gives a solution for nearly any problem. Say you do have a wild dog running around your home, and you live close to other folks in your typical suburb. This dog is a threat, but you can’t start firing buckshot in your neighborhood. My only experience with animal control is being told, “We’ll send someone out,” and then proceeding to wait a few hours for nothing. So what do you do? Well, you can load your Judge with less-than-lethal rubber slugs or rubber buckshot. Even flash-bang and pepper rounds are available from websites like

Most of us have probably read a few stories about common-sense self-defense where the shooter was prosecuted in criminal or civil court or even both. Loading a non-lethal round can show you weren’t intent on killing a home intruder and gave more than ample warning.

A few odd specialty rounds I’ve seen offer a few more interesting varieties: flechette, chain and ball, a ‘Rhodesian’ load, and a Dragon’s breathe round that produces a ball of fire out of your barrel. For something a little more down to earth, ammo companies are now offering special loads of .410 designed for a rifled handgun. I’ve used both Federal and Winchester and had great results with both.

Two rounds I found very interesting and believe would be perfect for the outdoorsman. The first is the .45 Colt aerial flare, perfect for the lost woodsman who needs to signal for help. Instead of carrying a flare gun or fire and forget flares, you can have six cartridges tucked away for use in your bush handgun.

The second round is the .410 hollow-point 168-grain slug. This thing is a monster. According to Paraklese Technologies, the slug has a velocity of 1,300 feet per second and yields over 700 foot/pounds of energy. That’s some serious weight and power for your revolver.

You have a lot of carrying options for the Judge. It fits great in your standard large-frame revolver holster. For those who want something a little different, you have my favorite holster, the Blackhawk Serpa. I am very familiar with this line of holsters, having used a Serpa for my issued M9. I love these holsters. They are tough and rugged and can take a lot of abuse. They have my full confidence when it comes to securely carrying my firearms. I prefer the paddle to the belt adapter, but someone who wants to be “tacticool” can buy a full on Blackhawk leg rig and attach the Serpa to it.

A few accessories that deserve a mention as well are the Tuff speed strips. These hold five rounds of .45 Colt or .410, so you can mix and match to your heart’s content. When it comes to speed loaders, the only speed loader for .410 is the 5 Star speed loader, which is aluminum and quite aesthetically pleasing. You can use the speed loaders designed for the Charter Arms .44 special bulldog for your .45 colt rounds, too.

Crimson Trace has also released its famous grip laser for the Judge, giving you an edge at night without any added weight to the already hefty piece. I love the Crimson Trace grips, and I can’t wait to have a pair for my Judge.

Speaking of heft—as I mentioned before, the Judge is a heavy beast, but I never found it uncomfortable on my hip. The weight seems to help cut down muzzle rise and felt recoil a fair bit. The Judge wouldn’t be my concealed carry choice, but it’s a fine bush gun or an intimidating open-carry weapon.

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With all that out of the way, we come to the most important part—shooting this beast. First of all, let me tell you that shooting the Judge is very satisfying. It’s a lot of fun to blow a watermelon away with any of the rounds you can chamber for the Judge.

The shallow rifled bore is what takes the most out of this weapon. The light rifling doesn’t give you the tightest groups with .45 Colt, so this is no competition revolver. With that being said, it’s accurate enough to get the job done and then some. The light rifling also compromises the shot shell’s pattern consistency, but the rounds designed by Federal and Winchester specifically for the Judge deliver excellent patterns at the Judge’s limited range.

On a recent squirrel-hunting trip, I took the Judge with me along with my standard 12-gauge. A friend and I were really curious to see how the weapon handled small game. I loaded Federal Premium .410 handgun—a No. 4 load with a weight of 7/16th of an ounce.

We had bagged a few squirrels but had to wait to get into the ten-to-twelve-feet range of one for the Judge. A few hours into it we got lucky, and we came across a squirrel sitting on a low hanging branch, oblivious to us.

The target was about five feet above our heads, so we stepped out to get a better angle than straight up. I drew and took aim (easy to do with the Judge’s bright orange fiber optic front sight). I fired single action at about eight feet from barrel to squirrel. Most of the shot hit the squirrel in the upper torso and head, exactly where I had aimed. The shot penetrated sufficiently to kill the squirrel without any suffering.

Hunting with the Judge maybe a challenge, but it is satisfying. I’m tempted to try some very close-range skeet shooting, but I’m bad enough at that with a long gun.

I believe this weapon is a great companion for the outdoorsman and would be at home in the forest, the mountains, or the swamp. The Judge may not be the number-one self-defense weapon, but it more than gets the job done. It’s no competition revolver, but it’s a practical revolver. The Judge is a lot of fun and comes in an affordable package. The sheer amount of different loads available opens a lot of doors.  All in all, this is a great gun that will always have a place in my gun cabinet.

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