Yesterday’s Judge

by
posted on January 9, 2012
wiley-clapp.jpg

Taurus hit a real home run with the Judge revolver. Inside a few years, Taurus has sold tens of thousands of the guns which had all three of our major ammunition manufacturers creating special Judge loads. The idea of a special cartridge-firing revolver in .45 Colt with an extended cylinder that can take .410 shotgun shells apparently touched something very deep in the American shooter. Mostly, I think folks are seeing the Judge revolver as a multiple-projectile shooter, although I have no hard data to support this belief. Americans have always liked multi-function guns going back as far as the Revolutionary War, when George Washington 's soldiers sometimes used buck-and-ball loads in their muskets.

The whole concept of a handgun with shotgun versatility is appealing to the combat shooter. It is not, however, particularly new. During the American Civil War, the first metallic cartridge firearms came into wide use. Still, most combatants in that bloody conflict were armed with cap lock (cap and ball) firearms. One of these was set up as a handgun for both a single projectile and shot. Sometimes called the Grapeshot Revolver, the gun was invented by Dr. Jean LeMat of New Orleans. Just under 3,000 were made during the Civil War period and all of them went to the Confederate Army. They were used by many famous soldiers including J.E.B. Stuart.

The LeMat revolver was unique. It was a nine-shot revolver of either .36 or .44 caliber, depending on the model. It also had a large diameter axle for that cylinder. The axle was a 16-bore shotgun barrel, closed at the rear end and fitted with a nipple. A two-position nose on the hammer allowed the shooter to choose firing the center shotgun barrel or one of the nine chambers in the cylinder. In its short lifetime, the LeMat went through several makers and caliber variations. Since there were only a few of them in existence, they were not widely used. But they wound up in some famous hands and achieved a deadly reputation well beyond their actual impact on the war. The Judge is too new to have created a documented history, but I am guessing it will be a trendsetters.

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