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Taurus Judge Ammunition: Feeding the Judge

Federal, Remington and Winchester have all developed self-defense loads for .45 Colt/.410-bore revolvers.


Light and easy to manipulate, the .410-bore shotgun was—and still is—a gun most often associated with beginning shotgunners. Sometimes a tool for advanced competitive shooters, the skinny .410 shell drops a fair amount of light game every year and powders its share of clay birds. In the scheme of things, this is where the .410 shotgun comfortably and traditionally fits.

But the traditional role of the .410 was rather abruptly reconceived several years ago when the Judge revolver appeared on the market. Developed by Taurus Int’l of Miami, Fla., and Porto Allegre, Brazil, the new gun was a close-range defensive handgun chambered for the Frontier-era .45 Colt cartridge. It has exploded in popularity because Taurus designers extended the frame and cylinder far beyond what is required for a big-bore revolver cartridge, thus creating a sound platform that will fire both.45 Colt and .410-bore ammunition. Since the barrel is rifled, the gun does not fall into the heavily restricted short-barreled shotgun classification.

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.

However, there’s a little something extra in both. On the apparent theory that more is better, Winchester added 12 BBs under the three Discs in the 2½-inch load, and in the 3-inch version there are 16 of them. A single BB shot weighs 8.8 grains and measures 0.18 inches in diameter. That means another 106 grains of payload for the 2½-inch shell, 141 grains for the 3 inch.

The basic idea seems to be the same for all three makers. Since a shotgun shell is tubular in shape, using the interior space as efficiently as possible makes great sense. Defensive encounters are invariably at close range. I patterned the loads at 5 yards, slightly short of the FBI-researched standard distance of 7 yards. In a confrontation, the pattern spread from any of the six loads should stay on an NRA-standard Bianchi Cup target. Terminal effect would have to be pronounced, given a centered hit.

There is also the over-penetration factor to be considered; it’s a problem with much of today’s defensive guns and loads. Since this new .410 ammunition is designed to work by means of cumulative effect, there are multiple projectiles, none of which are particularly heavy. Penetration would, therefore, be limited, but the wound would be quite wide. In urban situations, this factor alone supports the .410 handgun concept.

To evaluate each load’s utility, I fired each in the same exercise. I used the familiar Bianchi Cup target, which has scoring rings impressed into a cardboard backer silhouette measuring 18 inches by 30 inches. The inner scoring area is a 4-inch circle, surrounded by scoring rings 8 inches and 12 inches in width. I fired five rounds of each load from a typical Judge revolver. In my tabulation, I recorded the number of hits in each scoring ring. At 5 yards there were many hits on the cardboard from the plastic shot cups and/or wads. These projectiles have little mass and don’t count. There were some surprises in the course of the shoot, as well as some satisfactory results.

Let’s look at the various loads in the same order I have previously described them. First up was the Federal 2½-inch load with four 000 buckshot. Five rounds onto the R2D2 target produced exactly 20 hits with 15 of those in the center 4-inch circle. The Judge I used patterns this load tightly, essentially in an 8-inch circle at 5 yards and close to the point of aim. The second load had the same velocity, but used 7/16 ounces of No. 4 shot. Here I got a completely different result. There was little centering, but rather a remarkably even dispersion of the 0.129-inch pellets over the entire 18x30-inch target. Remember that there are other uses for the Judge than personal defense. If you are going after pests, this even-patterning load may be just the ticket.

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15 Responses to Taurus Judge Ammunition: Feeding the Judge

Roy C . Peterson wrote:
April 26, 2014

Commen#9 shot is not reliable,bounces back at you off 1/2 O.S.B..

JD wrote:
June 13, 2013

I have the public defender ( 3in? stainless ) that I gave to the wife. In every 3in shell the end crimp expanded and blocked the cyl from rotating. Went with the 2.5 in and all loads function perfect, from super X to remington #8 The wife loves the weapon!

David wrote:
January 23, 2013

I just purchased a Judge with a 6 in barrell. Will it shoot 3 inch 410 shells? And what 45's will it shoot?

Vince wrote:
May 30, 2012

Why keep a shotgun in the closet? The judge is a great weapon use it!!

eg73 wrote:
March 21, 2012

what about nobel 2.5 in 3-ball .40 buckshot no one can tell me why its not recomended for the judge. $65 for 250 rounds?

reader wrote:
March 01, 2012

No. You can't use .45 ACP in the judge.

docwhite wrote:
March 01, 2012

I am unclear as to what .45 ammo is appropriate for my Judge (3"). Will my supply of Winchester PDX1 Defender 45 auto 230 gr. do the job?

Kid2Nite wrote:
February 01, 2012

I considered the mossberg 500 for home defense but even with its 18.5" barrel, swinging it around on a staircase or around a corner gave me pause. I picked up the "judge" so instead of being woken up and fumbling around in the closet at 2am; I just reach into the nightstand. Also at 2am I wouldn't need to aim in the dark.....with the gun loaded alternately, just point then get personal with the .45 if needed

RS Lewis wrote:
December 20, 2011

Test fired Federal Premium 3" 410 000BK from Taurus Judge 3" Barrel w/ 3" cylinder. Out of 40 rnds, 5 jammed but when freed all ejected and had not siezed in the cylinder. This is a serious issue that Federal must resolve before advertising this as defensive ammo for the Taurus Judge.

Fred Cole wrote:
November 28, 2011

The federal ammo in 410 3 in. cases swell at the butt and jam up the gun. I tried some #4's and some buckshot.. same result Federal needs to address this problem for the Judge

frankie wrote:
October 12, 2011

Well fella's...I understand the 410 is great for home defense because it won't enter your neighbors apt. leaving you with an unexpected tragedy.

Chris Barker wrote:
September 20, 2011

Why in the world would you use a .410 for home defense? Pick up a 12 gauge and be done with it. Now for carry, especially in a vehicle, the .410 Judge or Governor are very tough to beat.

donnie wrote:
September 01, 2011


Erick wrote:
July 28, 2011

All of the testing you did failed to address the major concern with the Judge: penetration. Pattern size doesn't mean much when all an attacker gets is a mean skin rash from the shot.

Todd Andersen wrote:
July 28, 2011

I wonder how well these loads would work in a home defense .410 shotgun, like the Mossberg 500 Cruiser with an 18.5” cylinder bore barrel and pistol grip?