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Trend setter: G&A's editor reflects on a decade of Taurus' most successful revolving combo gun: the judge.

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THE LORE BEHIND THE NAME of Taurus' Judge was based on the number of Florida judges that were early adopters and carried the handgun into the courtroom for protection. Sharing breathing space with violent suspects, their act of carrying a fire-arm inside the halls of justice was a choice where tough decisions can initiate rage.

I handled the Judge for the first time in late 2005 while working at the NRA. Taurus' Bob Morrison brought a functional prototype and derivative of the Tracker known as the Model 4510 to NRA headquarters. At that time, Morrison was executive vice president of Taurus, and American Rifleman magazine was offered the first opportunity to review this exciting revolver.

Members of the court That first Model 4510 was highly anticipated. It was a matte stainless revolver with a 3-inch barrel, and it weighed 2 pounds, 5 ounces. The original Judge wasn't the most concealable Taurus revolver, but given the weight and shock-absorbing Ribber grip, the handgun was easy for most to shoot. The Judge was initially developed as a revolver with a 2y2-inch chamber accepting .410 shells or .45 Colt cartridges interchangeably. At the time of its introduction, boxes of .410 shells were somewhat hard to find. When found, it became obvious that the old boxes of .410 shot and slug loads were originally developed for classic long-barrel shotguns and not a handgun. During the NRAs initial evaluation, accuracy and pattern testing proved difficult, but the concept had excellent market potential for close-range defense.

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A few production samples were shipped for evaluation around the time of the 2006 SHOT Show. Shortly thereafter, Federal Premium Ammunition launched a handgun-specific load for the Judge. Taurus had tuned the rifling in the barrel to spread .410 shot patterns within a torso-size target at close quarters and to steer .45-caliber projectiles accurately at farther distances. Federal's effort helped legitimize the defensive nature of the Judge, with the 2y2-inch shell containing 7/16 ounce of #4 shot fired at 950 feet per second (fps) muzzle velocity. Almost immediately afterward, Federal introduced a 21A-inch buckshot load containing four pellets of 000 buck with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps for shooters wanting more penetration with the .410.

In 2010, Winchester added specially developed .410 ammunition to its PDX1 Defender line. Winchester found particular success in its 2y2-inch .410 load containing three plated-disc projectiles accompanied by 12-plated BBs at a velocity of 750 fps. In addition to these offerings, Winchester promoted its 225-grain bonded jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) in nickel-plated brass for the .45 Colt. Overnight, it seemed as though followers of the Judge had to have both .410 and .45 Colt loads, and they would often carry a nix of the two in the Judge's cylinder. (Today, Winchester offers its .410 and .45 Colt loads in a 20-round combo pack.)

It wasn't long before other manufacturers responded to the Judge's presence, including Smith & Wesson, who introduced its Governor in 2011. The Governor added the unique feature of accepting .45 ACP loads in addition to .410 and .45 Colt with supplied moon clips. (G&A's former managing editor Payton Miller proved that the Governor would also shoot our forgotten inventory of .45 GAP)

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Federal, Smith & Wesson and Winchester were not the only manufacturers in the industry to recognize the consumer demand for Taurus' Judge. By 2010, almost every ammunition manufacturer was cooking up a .410 or .45 Colt load, and holster makers were in a hurry to develop carry rigs. Guns & Ammo TV produced several famous videos with slow-motion footage that featured a driver shooting .410s through a Judge to pepper the face of Shoot-N-C targets from inside a car (as if being carjacked) and later split open watermelons and cantaloupes using ,410s with explosive effects. Such demonstrations have become trendy within YouTube entertainment culture. Almost overnight, anyone who considered using a gun for self-defense, or was tough enough to handle the weight penalty of carrying a Judge, had to have one. This idea was pop-culturally reinforced after Mark Wahlberg used a Judge in the 2008 blockbuster "Max Payne." Unfortunately, Hollywood grossly misunderstood the .410's ballistic effectiveness and presented the Judge to audiences as a 12-gauge a shotgun-like revolver. (In the movie, Payne also managed to fire six shots from the Judge's five-shot cylinder.)

In 2009, I began working as the editor of Guns & Ammo's Special Interest Publications division. One of my first opportunities for Personal Defense magazine was an assignment to review Taurus addition to its family of Judges. One was a 3-inch-barreled variant forged from a lightweight titanium alloy, while a stainless steel Judge capable of firing 3-inch Magnums added to the power factor. Most exciting was a shorter 21/2-inch-barreled Judge with a stubbier grip that featured the name Public Defender laser-engraved along the top of its frame. Interestingly, even back then, Taurus was receiving daily suggestions for names of future Judge-line extensions from its social media following and online forums. The suggestions included "Circuit Court," "Prosecutor," "Jury," "Gavel" and so on. Though the theme was popular with customers, rumor has it that Taurus decided to withhold further court-related names for public relations concerns, should one of these revolvers be subject to trial in a real courtroom.

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Introduced in 2009--and bringing excitement to the Rossi brand--was the Circuit Judge, a cooperative and successful effort between Taurus and Rossi that first produced a blued-action revolving long gun with an 18 Vi-inch barrel and wood furniture. And, late in 2010, Taurus continued to build on the brand's success with its introduction of the Raging Judge offered in 31/2- or 61/2-inch barrel lengths. Based on the popular Raging Bull family, the Raging Judge was designed on a Raging Bull frame, including its double-locking cylinder and enlarged cylinder port to accommodate the long .410 shells. In addition to firing either .410 or .45 Colt, engineers knew the Raging Judge could easily handle the extremely powerful .454 Casull, a cartridge that helped make the Raging Bull popular since the late 1990s. Like the Raging Bull models, the Raging Judge featured the Bull's proven recoil-taming backstrap grip with signature red stripe. The addition of the .454 Casull and six-shot cylinder in either barreled model also helped make the Raging Judge Taurus' most versatile platform, with applications as both a hunting revolver and protection in the field.

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In 2011, Taurus rounded out the Judge series with yet another innovation: the Public Defender Poly, also sometimes referred to as the Poly judge. Based on the dimensions of the Public Defender, the Poly judge was designed on a reinforced polymer frame with a 2-inch barrel and 21/2-inch steel cylinder, making it the most concealable Judge yet. It, too, featured a short and stubby version of Taurus' Ribber grip and either a stainless- or blued-steel cylinder. Unloaded, it only weighed 27 ounces.

Practical Applications Numerous videos can be found on the internet (particularly YouTube) that demonstrate the effectiveness of the .410 and .45 Colt. No, the Judge won't blow the doors off bathroom stalls (as depicted in the Judge's Hollywood debut), but it will devastate an attacker at danger-close distances. A gathering of #4s can redirect the malicious intent of almost any threat.

Loads for the .45 Colt have come a long way since flying across the wild plains and dusty floors of the Old West. Today, we have noncorrosive loads that deliver more than enough penetration and expansion, whether for hunting or personal defense. However, most Judge fans will argue that the .410 options on the market today are what brought the revolver back into modern times for self-defense. One-bedroom shacks have been replaced by insulated townhouses, apartment dwellings and single-family homes. People living near urban areas are now much closer together. In these settings, penetration isn't always ideal.

Having lived in apartments and townhouses for half of my adult life, I was frequently reminded of how close my neighbors were by sounds that resonated through the walls or the ceiling. I experienced a break-in during that time, so 1 also understand the importance of armed self-defense inside the home.

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I participated in an elaborate penetration test in 2005 that illustrated how many walls of Sheetrock a particular caliber would pass through. The test was designed to teach a class of instructors how important it is to be aware of what lay beyond a target. The damage to the life and family after losing a loved one can't be calculated. The results showed a 55-grain 5.56 NATO surplus round typically passed through at least four walls before fragmenting into little shards of metal and losing its energy. A 9mm flew through six or more. Interestingly, as much as people love to have a pistol for home defense, it can pose a risk for unintended consequences if living in a tight dwelling. As the 9mm passed through walls, it deformed and deflected quicker than the 5.56 but often retained its mass and its structural integrity. The first Judge I tested in this manner with .410 ammunition (not to include slugs) typically only passed through one wall, sometimes two, made of %-inch Sheetrock framed around 2x4s with a randomly placed stud within. I filled the wall with insulation and situated the test range with walls spaced 12 feet apart and placed furniture in random locations as well as up against the walls. After firing through one set of walls, I rotated them for a second use to illustrate the chance of a repeat shot over a similar target area. The first test was fired from 5 feet to simulate shooting from the middle of the room, and the second test was fired at 15 feet to simulate an extreme range within a dwelling.

Federal's .410 Handgun ammo with #4 shot complemented the Taurus Judge in my testing for these considerations. A 13.55inch (extreme spread) pattern was placed onto the Sheetrock wall from 5 feet. Moving back to 15 feet and turning the target wall around, the pattern grew to just 18.74-inches. The centralized portion of shot hit point of aim/point of impact. Looking beyond the first wall, some shot lodged shallowly into furniture, but those that didn't strike anything between walls simply left dimples on the surface of the second wall. After firing this test five times with the Judge at each measured distance, only four pellets shallowly stuck into the second wall. All the others bounced off. There was devastation at close range and a reduced collateral risk beyond the first wall with this load. Considering these circumstances, this combo proved very capable for home defense.

When more penetration or accuracy at distance is required, I turn to the .45 Colt. I've even hunted whitetails with a pair of Judges, taking a 10-point bruiser with a Raging Judge in .454 Casull and another with a 6V2-inch-barrel Judge in .45 Colt using 225-grain Winchester bonded JHP bullets. My five-shot groups averaged 2.16 inches at 25 yards using the Winchester PDX1 Defender load for the .45 Colt.

Lasting Impressions For 2016, Taurus has unveiled a commemorative variant honoring the Judge's 10th year in production and its sustained popularity. Even now, trying to find one in a firearms store proves that they can be elusive.

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Based on the original stainless Model 4510, Taurus' 10th Anniversary Judge wears tasteful laser engraving in classic scroll patterns on its frame, barrel and cylinder. Ribbon banners further highlight the years 2006 to 2016 and the fact that this revolver is special. Rosewood-colored laminate grips with nice texturing and Taurus' bull logo are a fine addition to the revolver, while providing an excellent grip with the finger grooves. If your intent is to carry this fanciful Judge, original-style Ribber grips are provided as an option. Either way, the latest addition is an honorable tribute in recognizing the lasting impact Taurus' Judge has made on the history of handguns.

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ANSCHUETZ
Taurus Judge 10th Anniversary

Type:              Double action/
                   single action, revolver

Cartridge:         .410/.45 Colt

Capacity:          5 rds.

Barrel:            3 in.

Overall Length:    7.3 in.

Weight:            1 lb., 8 oz.

Grip:              Laminate wood,
                   rosewood finish

Finish:            Matte stainless steel,
                   laser engraved

Trigger:           11 lbs.. 5 oz. (double action);
                   5 lbs.. 14 oz. (single action)

Sights:            Fiberoptic, red (Iront);
                   groove (rear)

MSRP:              S730

Manufacturer:      Taurus Holdings
                   800-327-3776
                   taurususa.com
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Author:Poole, Eric R.
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 24, 2016
Words:2071
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