In 2005, my family was living central Texas when Hurricane Katrina struck the United States. Although my wife and I were geographically far enough away from where the storm landed not to be effected by it directly, we did see the dreadful after effects of the hurricane in an up-close and personal way. Not long after Katrina caused a historic level of damage, another storm came along that was initially predicted to make its way up into our neck of the woods while trouncing everything in its path. Needless to say, we started to evaluate our emergency preparedness.
In looking over the supplies we had on hand, it became clear there was a gap in our preparations. Things at home were all set if we needed to hunker down for a while. But what if we were in the car and away from the house when an emergency occurred? What if I had to leave the car at the office and strike out on foot to travel the 20 miles back to my neighborhood because the roads were closed? What we needed was a light-weight portable kit that could be kept in the car, or under an office desk, filled with a few essential supplies to be used while moving from point A to point B. And so, I pulled one together that I've keep handy ever since.
The sensibility of a ready-to-go set of supplies which includes defensive tools, whether it’s called an emergency kit, bug-out bag, or a "Jack Sack," should be readily apparent to those who have studied up on personal protection and emergency readiness. As it turns out, the folks at Taurus are working to fill this preparation gap with the launch of their First 24 emergency kits. Two versions of the kit were on display at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits earlier this year. These included either a Taurus Judge .45 Colt/.410 (2-441039T-F24) or a 7-shot Model 617 (2-617029-F24) revolver chambered .357 Magnum. Although the view through the plexiglass case at the show was informative, I requested one of the Judge kits for closer inspection.
The First 24 kit is contained in a rugged SKB Sports waterproof survival case. It may seem like the container for the kit is one of the least important details when in truth it can be one of the most important. The gear inside will be of little use if it’s banged up, broken, or soaking wet. The case has an automatic pressure valve for changes in altitude and two padlock positions for securing the contents. The case can also serve as an impromptu protective container for other important materials and documents. For example, after donning the defensive gear the kit contains and moving the smaller items into clothing pockets, the foam liner could be removed and the case filled with back-up hard drives, identity papers, and other small valuables that need to be rescued.
The primary defensive tool in this version of the First 24 kit is a 3-inch barrel, 5-shot Taurus Judge revolver. Storing a revolver for emergency use is a good idea for several reasons. It's simple to operate, reliable, and there are no critical components that can fall out and be lost in the mud (like a semi-auto pistols magazine. This version of the Judge has been customized by the Aim Pro Tactical Performance Shop. Upgrades include a tuned action, a jeweled hammer and trigger, polished chambers, and a durable tan X Coat finish which provides a high level of resistance to corrosion.
The revolver’s sight system consists of a green fiber optic up front and a fixed square notch in the rear and the grip frame is graced with the presence of a black Hogue pebbled rubber grip. The integral Taurus Security System can be found in the hammer and operated with the provided pair of keys. The extra work done to the revolver showed in the smooth trigger pull and easy swing of the cylinder in and out of the frame. No carry system is provided for the Judge, but a flat holster system like the Sticky Holster’s LG-5 in-the-waistband rig could be slipped into the case between the foam liner and the lid.
Chambered to fire both the .45 Colt cartridge and 2½ -inch .410 shotgun shells, the Judge can be used to launch a variety of projectiles, including jacketed hollow points, birdshot, buckshot, and mixed payload shot cartridges. The kit contains a pair of Bianchi speed strips which hold 6-rounds of ammunition in a straight line allowing the user to load two rounds at a time. The foam liner under the strips has been cut so that they can be stored loaded with either .45 Colt or .410 rounds.
Taurus recommends the use of Hornady's Critical Defense .410 Triple Defense load for use with this kit. A cut out in the case is just the right size to hold a 20-round box of this particular load. Last year I had the opportunity to test this new mixed-payload .410 shell in the Judge and other .45 Colt/.410 handguns (you can see the test results here). The round provided tight short-range groups from the Judge and good penetration in bare ballistic gelatin. Two other loads to consider if you want to use .410 shell for self defense are the Winchester PDX1 Defender and Federal Premium's .410 Handgun 4-pellet 000 buckshot load.
The secondary defensive item in the kit is a Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) Sting survival knife. This knife is hot forged from 1050 carbon steel, precision ground to form a sharp spear-point duel edge blade, and then finished with a black non-reflective powder coat finish to resist corrosion. In keeping with the tan color theme of the kit, the knife's contoured integral handle is finished to match the case and the revolver. The large lanyard hole has been fitted with a 2.5-inch braid of 550 paracord.
The rest of the kit contents include small items that can come in handy in a pinch. The Brite Strike EPLI pen light features a 220-lumen bulb that has bright, low, and strobe settings. This slender light can provide up to 8-hours of run time using affordable and easy to replace AAA batteries. Six additional batteries in a polymer caddy are included. Brite Strike also provides three of their APALS emergency light strips. With over 80-hours of run time and visibility of up to 1/2 of a mile, these tiny waterproof lights can be used for marking trails, as a strobe to signal for help, or as a self-adhesive steady beam flashlight. The other items in the kit include a Zippo emergency fire starter, a 20mm spherical survival compass, and an additional bundle of 550 paracord.
Nearly a decade ago, my family was lucky enough to avoid the ravages of an all too memorable storm season. The second hurricane lost energy at the coastline and didn't cause any harm where we were. Does that mean it was a waste of time and money to pull together our emergency supplies and portable kits? Hardly. In the years since, we've enjoyed the sense of security that a little preparedness provides.
Taurus provides a top-notch set of flexible, useful, and reliable tools in their new First 24 kits. However, as a company known for providing their customers with reasonably priced products, the cost of these factory custom kits will give some folks sticker shock. The suggested retail prices are $1,399 for the Model 617 set or $1,499 for the Judge. There are those gun owners who will be happy to pay extra for the cool factor that the First 24 provides. But it seems likely that more Taurus customers would be interested in a kit filled with off-the-rack options that cost less.
But no matter what your budget or preferences may be, it’s important to take the time to plan out your preparations for an emergency. Keep in mind that you might have to change locations quickly in less than ideal circumstances. If you don't want to cobble a kit together from scratch, then the Taurus First 24 kit is shipping now.