There are several models of the Judge revolver in production, including stainless and blue-steel versions, and lightweights with either aluminum or polymer frames. While their appearance is decidedly unorthodox, they sell briskly and they have become deservedly popular as defensive sidearms.
A personal-defense situation typically occurs at very close range, so the need for normal handgun accuracy is moot. The advantage of a shotgun shell at close range is the dispersion of pellets over a greater portion of an attacker’s body, greater than what a single handgun projectile can offer. This tends to render a different kind of fight-stopping trauma because the kinetic energy developed by several pellets is transmitted to the target—broadly and instantaneously.
For a variety of uses that I have already mentioned, the ammunition makers have been loading .410 shells for many years. In doing so, they typically have used most of the common shot sizes, ranging from No. 9 to No. 4. In recent years they have also made a few loadings with larger pellets of buckshot. But when the Judge came along, there was a quick demand for as much payload as possible, and Federal, Remington and Winchester went to work on what could be described as “Judge loads.” That is what we are talking about here—newly developed shotshell loads for .45 Colt/.410-bore handguns.
Understand that this new .410 ammunition will work in any shotgun chambered for it—from the farmboy’s little break-open single barrel to a Model 42 Winchester—but it has been optimized for use in short-barreled revolvers. There are two distinctly different kinds of such loads, those for 2½-inch chambers and those intended for the full 3-inch-chambered guns. The former will work in the latter, but not vice versa. All of the new loads feature multiple projectiles. There is such a thing as a .410 slug, but it is a .40-cal. Foster-type with a deep hollow base, and it weighs less than 100 grains. If the shooter was looking for a single projectile, he would be far better off using the .45 Colt option, with a 250-grain lead semi-wadcutter.
Federal Cartridge Co. came out with the first .45/.410 handgun load a couple of years ago, and that line has expanded to four options. The first is a 2½-inch load with four 000 pellets. Buckshot shooters know that a 000 pellet measures approximately 0.357 inches and weighs 72 or 73 grains. Federal’s are copper-plated and leave the muzzle of a short revolver in a long plastic shot cup at a published velocity of 1,200 fps. That is also the velocity of a similar Federal 2½-inch load, this one loaded with 7/16 ounces of No. 4 shot. Understand that this is No. 4 shot (diameter: 0.129 inches) and not No. 4 buckshot (diameter: 0.240 inches). My meticulous wife counted 63 of these little copper-plated pellets in one shell. The third Federal load is somewhat slower (775 fps) but carries five of the 000 pellets. It is a 3-inch load for the long-cylinder version of the Taurus revolver. There is also a 3-inch load featuring nine No. 4 buckshot at 1,100 fps.
Remington recently added the .410 bore to its list of HD Ultimate Home Defense ammunition. One load uses four 000 pellets atop a short plastic wad. The other has four 00 pellets. Both are 2 1/2 inches. The maker claims muzzle velocities of 1,225 fps (000) and 1,300 fps. (00), both of which are zippy for a .410. Opening a sample shell showed lead pellets that seemed to be formed of a very hard alloy.
The designers at Winchester approached the problem of an effective load for the .410 handgun with a blank sheet of paper. Their non-traditional projectile fills the space in the shell more efficiently with cylindrical, rather than spherical, projectiles. Each is 0.400 inches in diameter and 0.240-inches thick and leaves the muzzle at 750 fps. Called “Defense Discs” by their maker, they are not true wadcutter bullets because their edges have a rather pronounced bevel. There are two varieties in the line. The 2½-inch length carries three of the Discs; the 3-inch version has four.