The Taurus Judge Is Just Not Very Good

…and the Smith & Wesson Governor isn’t much better. But I strongly dislike the Taurus Judge. Here’s why.

It is, relative to other firearms of its size, inaccurate with big, useful bullets. To be sure, it is most accurate with .410 slugs and .45 Colt bullets, and may even provide “acceptable” accuracy – but other handguns that weigh less and are smaller will be more accurate, and easier to be accurate with, than the Judge in any of its variations. If one primarily wants to shoot big bullets, there are better choices than the Judge.

It is too weak with small and much less useful birdshot pellets – with which it is, by the way, exceptionally inaccurate at distances beyond spitting range. Birdshot is aptly named, and is unlikely to penetrate the muscle tissue of a human attacker. From the Judge, it spreads much too quickly to be reliably used for self defense, especially when the liability of stray pellets is considered.

It does not offer the required accuracy and/or velocity for buckshot to be effective. The only buckshot loads that will stay on target at reasonable distances are hamstrung by low velocities that result from the short barrel of the Judge (even the 6.5″ version). A single hit that penetrates deep enough to reach the vital organs of an attacker is better than multiple hits that only cause flesh wounds. Even the best buckshot loads for the Judge – the ones that keep all pellets on target out past 15 yards – are not moving fast enough to penetrate deep into the human body, or are at best marginal in this regard. I do not really like “marginal” for self defense purposes, unless that “marginal” gun is something I can conceal in a bathing suit.

It has a capacity too low for its size and weight, and neither .410 nor .45 Colt from a short barrel makes up for this low capacity. Five shots is okay for a tiny gun that I can shove in my pocket, but less acceptable for (yes, I’m harping on the size/weight thing) how big the Judge is. Even the “public defender poly” version, which is smaller and lighter, is big.

It seems to attract the sort of person who believes that shot spread will make up for a lack of skill, and that they can will a self defense encounter to occur within the ranges they specify ahead of time. I don’t know how many times I’ve encountered people who say that they don’t want to/can’t practice with firearms, so they bought a Judge and loaded it with with birdshot. Some of these people are otherwise intelligent and capable, which puzzles me. Depending on equipment to make up for a lack of skill or experience is a road fraught with failure.

Its lengthy cylinder makes drawing from concealment slower than other revolvers, even when extremely short barrels are used, which also have a negative effect on external and terminal ballistics. If the goal is to have a firearm that’s used for concealed carry, a long barrel is somewhat of a disadvantage. If the other attributes of the firearm make up for that long barrel, such as accuracy, “shootability,” or terminal effectiveness, then it may be a good choice – but the Judge is, as stated, less powerful and/or less accurate than other firearms of similar size and weight.

It is manufactured by a company which has spotty quality control and lengthy warranty service wait times (the two are, no doubt, linked). I have owned Taurus firearms, and I have dealt with Taurus customer service. Both were frustrating experiences and have caused me to swear off their firearms for life. The company has a poor reputation for good reason, and their “lifetime warranty” is most useless. I don’t care about whether or not it’ll be fixed four months from now when it shouldn’t have broken in the first place.

It is no more a “shotgun” than I am a National Geographic photographer. The mass and velocity of the shot emanating from the barrel of a Judge do not compare to that of a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun with an 18″ or longer barrel. You are not going to blow sturdy hinges or locks, kill a deer at 200 yards, or win a trap or skeet match with a Judge – but all of those things are possible with a real shotgun. Of course, Judge owners aren’t really looking to do those things – but some are hoodwinked into believing that they have a “powerful” shotgun in their hands, because all shotguns are “powerful.”

It is no more useful as a “snake gun” than any other revolver – and after years of living in the snake-infested desert, I’ve found the concept of a dedicated “snake gun” to be unnecessary. If a snake threatens me, I can move away from the snake faster than I can draw and fire a handgun. If the snake threatens a human or animal companion of mine, I do not want a firearm loaded with shot that is as likely to hit my companion as it is to hit the snake, unless I get close enough to shove the handgun inside the snake’s mouth. I would much rather have a .22 pistol loaded with solid lead bullets than a Judge loaded with “snakeshot” if I had to kill a snake – which I would rather avoid, because they’re very useful creatures.

It is not useful at all against large, heavily constructed animals such as bears, as I have seen some of its proponents suggest. The mere thought horrifies me. A .410 slug from any barrel length is not going to penetrate the muscle or bone of a bear. Nor will a .452″, 200-250gr bullet traveling at 650-850fps. As with the snakes, the only way the Judge would be useful in this situation is if you shoved it inside the attacking bear’s mouth and angled the muzzle upward toward its brain. I would rather not have that as any part of my anti-bear plan.

I do not want to be shot with a pellet rifle, let alone a centerfire handgun. An alarmingly popular response to criticism of the Judge is an offer from the Judge owner to shoot the “criticiser” of the Judge. The points against the Judge are that its size and performance angles do not intersect at an appropriate point – not that it cannot cause damage or might not be ultimately fatal.

The Judge is a big gun that, when compared to other self-defense handguns, is outclassed in almost every practical regard. If the “versatility” of a revolver that can fire shot or big bullets is desired, a .44 Special revolver offers greater terminal effectiveness and the ability to fire .44 Special shotshells, and has been offering this capability for decades. If a concealed carry handgun is desired, practically any centerfire handgun on a gun store wall or shelf will offer greater accuracy, effectiveness, etc.

The only truly useful variation of the Judge is the Raging Judge Magnum, which can also chamber .454 Casull, but it still suffers from the fact that it’s made by Taurus, and it’s far too large and heavy to be practical for normal concealed carry. If I wanted a .454 Casull for defense against predators in the wild – and I really don’t, because a 12 gauge with slugs is much more effective – I would buy a Ruger.

I am sure that a lot of Judge owners have fun with and enjoy their Judges. I do not wish to disparage them, but I do wish to point out that the Judge does not compare well with other options on the market.