Judging the Taurus Judge title

Taurus Judge review

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The Taurus Judge is the Brazilian manufacturer’s best selling gun, according to the last sales stats I saw. That says a lot, but why? Welcome to my in-depth review of the Judge, focusing on its use cases and how it shoots.

Pros
  • It’s a lot of fun to shoot.
  • Reliable and easy to operate.
  • A trusty companion for trekking (especially in snake country)
  • Excellent grip
  • Accurate (at longer ranges than most people think)
  • Mild recoil
  • More affordable than its closest competition (e.g. Smith and Wesson Governor)
Cons
  • Not very practical for concealed carry (some disagree)
  • Limited capacity (the case with most revolvers)
  • Relatively short range

Introduction

Why call it the Judge? Well, the gun started out with the model number 4410. In 2006, a couple of things happened. Executive Vice President Bob Morrison at Taurus found out that some judges in high-crime areas around Miami, Florida were packing the gun for protection. He named it ‘the Judge’ because of that. Additionally, the model number went from 4410 to 4510 to illustrate the gun’s capability of shooting .410 shotshells and .45 Colt cartridges. The two model-numbered-guns are basically the same.

Taurus Judge gun right

The four Taurus Judge models

Public DefenderFour models with either a stainless, black or polymer frame, with stainless or black 2.5-inch barrel. Prices range from $456 - $560.
“Just Plain” JudgeFour models with either stainless or black frame; barrel lengths are either 3- or 6.5-inches. Prices range from $512 - $560.
Judge MagnumFour models like the plain Judge above except with 3-inch .410 chambers. Prices range from $512 - $560.
Raging JudgeTwo models with stainless barrel and frame. Barrel lengths of either 3- or 6.5-inches. Calibers are expanded to include .454 Casull cartridges. Price for either barrel length is $1168.

Fourteen different Judges. That’s quite a few. I owned a public defender with the 2.5-inch barrel and the polymer frame. It was interesting, to be sure. You always knew when you’d dropped the hammer, especially on a .410 shell. I know a couple of folks who carry a Judge, but I’m not sure that it is best for that task.

Let’s consider some possible uses for the gun.

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Why buy a Taurus Judge?

Taurus Judge Barrel Engraving Left

Trail carry gun

Living out like I do, I’m never sure what sort of critter I’m going to run across. With a couple of .410 shells up first and the other three chambers loaded with my .45 Colt handload, I’m good for just about all comers.

If you live in snake country, this gun is a natural.

I remember putting together, some 40 years ago, Speer plastic shotshells hand-filled with whatever shot I could find, usually #7 or #9. I would drag the empty capsule through the shot, filling it. I then popped the cap on the end and loaded it over seven or so grains of Unique (back when that stuff existed in my part of the country).

I put them up in .44 Special cases so I could shoot them out of my Charter Arms Bulldog or Smith and Wesson Model 29, two .44s I had at that time. They made a pleasing little pattern on the paper (little being the operative word).

The Judge is way, way better at doing this than my .44s. If you want a do-it-all type of handgun on your hike, here you go. Will a Taurus Judge kill a bear? Certainly it could. 

Taurus Judge night sight

Home defense

I could see using this gun, especially the longer-barreled version, in a home defense role. Granted, the .410 is anemic at best when it comes to shotguns but you can’t deny the “handiness factor” that this short gun exhibits. Load some slugs in it for an attention-getter. Again, stoking it with a couple of .410s and three .45s might work well. 

Taurus Judge barrel engraving

Concealed Carry?

Notice I didn’t mention concealed carry.

This is a personal matter, and you will do what you deem right but for me I don’t believe I’d carry one. I shot mine enough to know that, unless you were at most 5 yards away from the target, the shot dispersed enough to negate effectiveness.

When Taurus was designing the Judge, they experimented with different rifling depths. They wanted rifling that was just deep enough to stabilize a bullet but not so deep that the shot capsule would be spun a great amount, thereby spiraling the shot further apart at the target. So, they settled on the rifling that you see as you look into the Judge’s barrel – like Goldilocks, not too much, not too little. 

If you are going to carry the .45 Colt in the Judge, there are other guns out there better at that. Of the many that are out there, one in particular comes to mind – the Charter Arms Bulldog. Charter Arms specialize in small, concealed-carry revolvers in calibers ranging from .22 LR to .357 Magnum, with .44 Special and .45 Colt in the wings.

Am I totally against carrying a judge? Of course not – there are just better options. But, for a trail gun, it’s very effective.

If you’re in the market for a concealed carry gun and you’re interested in revolvers, I recommend you check out my guide on concealed carry revolvers, which I updated recently.

Taurus Judge rear sight
Rear Sight

Plinking at the Range

My friend Ed, who owns this Judge, and I sure had fun shooting it. It is a great gun with which to win sucker bets. If you had frangible targets that were safe to shoot, this is the gun for that task. Just don’t stand back too far away from your target.

Shooting the Taurus Judge

Before we look at specifications and photos, let’s shoot this thing. Following are three targets we shot – one with shotshells and two with .45 Colt cartridges.

Shooting the Taurus Judge

Shotshell Target (5 yards)

Cardboard target shot with shotshells and Winchester PDX1 Defender rounds with lead discs

Notice the wad in the center of the cardboard and the bullet-sized holes to its left – we shot not only plain shotshells but also Winchester PDX1 Defender rounds with lead discs. These would do some damage. We did not try to pattern the shot – that’s not what this is about. We shot probably five shells total, 3 shot shells and two Defender loads. The range was about 5 yards – the furthest away I’d care to be if I had to shoot anything from a rattler to a varmint (two-legged or otherwise) with shotshells. The .45 Colt was good to about 15 yards, then the short barrel’s lack of sight radius limited accuracy. 

.45 Colt Targets (15 yards)

Target shot at 15 yards with .45 Colt factory load
Target shot with Winchester PDX1 Defender rounds

Not bad, for 15 yards. These would definitely work. Some shooters are not too convinced that single bullet loads in a Judge will be that accurate, since the chamber is cut for either 2.5- or 3-inch .410 shotshells and the “jump” from the cartridge case mouth to where the rifling starts doesn’t help accuracy. Well, these targets are not bad at all so I think I’ll put that one to rest as far as I’m concerned.

It would take experimentation, for sure, but I could almost see hunting deer-sized game with the 6.5-inch Judge, depending upon the individual guns’ accuracy. If this Judge is any indication, the 6.5-inch-barreled model, with the right loads, might make a decent 50-75 yard deer gun.

I’ve shot deer with other .45 Colt guns and the cartridge does a number on them. Plus, stick some .410 loads in your pocket for the walk back home or to the truck and you’d be ready for that bunny that pops up from the tree row or that squirrel that just would not shut up while you were trying to be stealthy – sounds like fun!

Shooting the Taurus Judge 2

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Taurus Judge specs

I will show specs from the Taurus website for a three-inch Judge. All Judges are 5-shot, except for the Raging Judge which is 6. The 2.5-inch and the 6.5-inch models will have different weights and overall lengths.

Barrel Length:3.00 in.
Overall Length:9.50 in.
Overall Height:5.10 in.
Overall Width:1.50 in.
Weight:29.00 oz
Action Type:Double Action / Single Action
Firing System:Hammer
Front Sight:Fiber Optic
Rear Sight:Fixed
Grip:Ribber Grip®

The trigger was very decent in both Single Action and Double Action modes – not much creep or take-up. We didn’t measure it but it was sufficient for the purpose. The gun was well-balanced, which helped. All in all, it was fun to shoot.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a trail gun that would be as effective on snakes as it would be on predators or varmints with legs, you might want to give the Judge a look. The only competition for this gun as I see it would be the Smith & Wesson Governor – a very nice stainless .410 that has a 2.5-inch barrel and holds six shots. It includes moon clips for .45 ACP, so you have that available to you, as well.

The price of the Governor with a regular, ramped front sight is $825, and you can add $60 more for a night sight. I have a friend who has one and he likes it. 

But, if you are on a budget and still want a gun like this, the Taurus is available in several versions as explained above. Having owned one, I can vouch for it. Plus, now that Ed’s gun has a new front sight, he’ll be shooting his a lot, or so I would imagine. For a trail gun or something to hang on your belt as you go check your fence line, it can’t be beat. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!

If Taurus revolvers are your thing, you may also enjoy my full review of the Taurus 692, which is one excellent gun.

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8 comments
  1. Always wanted a judge price scared me off when they 1st came out. Now I have enough guns BUT ya never know.
    Good and meaningful article.
    Thank you

    1. Jack, can we really ever have enough guns? 🙂 This is a different gun, to be sure – the “cool” level is worth the price of admission. Thanks for writing!

  2. Thanks for the review, Mike. Although the Taurus Judge is one of the most reviewed modern revolvers, I always enjoy comparing notes on firearms I own with what reviewers record.

    I have owned the Judge since 2009. Mine is black with the 3” barrel and ”Ribber” grip. At the time I bought my Judge, Taurus was having QC issues regarding the cylinder crane screw. On my Judge, the cylinder would fall off the frame if it was opened and the barrel tilted downward. I tried to torque down the screw myself with no success. I had to send the Judge back to Taurus for warranty work. This turned out to be a known issue with this revolver. The problem was repaired, but it took about 6 weeks from the time it was returned to the manufacturer to when I received it back. Far from inspiring. But a dozen years ago, Taurus’ quality control issues were legion. Over the last few years, they have definitely upped their game. I must hasten to add that once the cylinder retention screw issue was repaired, I never experienced another problem.

    As far as the utility of the revolver, I agree with your assessment. It can be used as a trail gun especially in snake country when .410 shotgun shells are chambered. My iteration is not rated for .45 Colt +P rounds, so I would not want to encounter a black bear with standard Colt cartridges. I would not conceal carry this firearm for self-defense. It is large, fairly heavy, and there are myriad better options than the Judge for that use. Some consider this a good ”truck gun” as it could dissuade various cretins from inflicting violence upon vehicle occupants, especially loading the first chamber with .410, followed by .45. Colts. I think it is a bit large for that purpose, but it is a possibility.

    In terms of accuracy, my experience is that 15 yards is about as far as I can keep .45 cartridges in the black. Cut that in half for .410 shot shells. All in all, this revolver is somewhat of a novelty. As you note, it has been a huge seller for Taurus. So much so, that Smith & Wesson patterned their Governor on it, though that revolver carriers 6 rounds rather than 5, and the barrel is typically 2.75” instead of 3”.

    Taurus prices are reasonable, so one can acquire this revolver much more inexpensively than the S&W Governor. But unless you are a fan of hiking in snake country where the .410 shot shells shine, I’d opt for another model.

    1. John, you and I came to several of the same conclusions. It is really big to try to conceal, but would work well on the trail or in the truck. Sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience with yours – glad they finally got your problem taken care of. Thanks for writing!

  3. Nice article. Personally I prefer the S&W version of these type of firearm. I agree with you that for self defense carry this would not be my first choice, but it is also not the last thing I could imagine in that role. Frankly I would like to see either S&W or Taurus modify these in terms of cartridge. Taurus is on the right path with the addition of the ability to shoot the .454 Casull cartridge. Now if they simply add the ability to shoot the .45Acp with moon clips in 2, 3, or 6 rounds all in one package that would be ground breaking. I could imagine such a firearm as a kit gun or an aircraft emergency pack with a few rounds of each of the handgun rounds and a few different kinds of shot shell.

    1. Phil, that sounds like a great use for the Judge. I mentioned that S&W does include moon clips with their Governor for the .45 ACP and my friend who owns one verified that…he got clips with his. I agree that if you had one gun that shot four cartridges, that would be a game-changer, especially with an adjustable rear sight to accommodate the different P,O,I.s. Thanks for writing!

  4. I have the “plain judge” in satin stainless, I have owned it for several years – paid $425 on sale at Academy Sports for my birthday present. I enjoy shooting the various .410 defense rounds – such as the Winchester PDX (BB’s and defense disks) and the Hornady defense rounds (3 buckshot and a .41 caliber slug). It doesn’t serve a real purpose for me, it was just a ” I gotta have it” and I enjoy shooting it. No regrets buying it. It mainly resides by the nightstand, loaded with 2 rounds of .410 PDX, one of the Hornady .410 rounds, and two rounds of Hornady .45 Colt. Love that versatility. And every few trips to the range, it has to come along for the ride – even if just to shoot some .410 birdshot. Concealed carry? No – I also don’t carry a boat anchor or a car battery concealed either! His little brother, the Taurus 856, I carry instead..

    1. LCDR, good points. The Judge can be a bit big to carry, but for nightstand or trail use, it’s great. You have good ammo choices as well, it appears. I appreciate you writing!

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