Taurus Judge, .410 shotshell, .45 Colt Cartridge

Inside the Judge’s Chamber

Here are some of the best self-defense loads to run through a Taurus Judge.

By Richard Mann (RSS)
April 22, 2011

The Taurus Judge has seen phenomenal sales success, for a number of reasons. Taurus executed an excellent marketing campaign—the commercial with the attractive, professional-looking woman whacking melon-headed bad guys is cool. And there’s no doubt the Judge meets the perceived personal-protection needs of a large portion of the population. Plus, a shotgun/revolver just sounds wicked.

I’m not going to delve into the pros and cons of the Judge. Instead, lets look at the ammunition folks are loading in a Judge for protection. The gun can shoot .410-bore shotshells or .45 Colt cartridges.


There’s not an overly wide selection of defensive ammunition for the .45 Colt. Because of the excessively long chamber the bullet must traverse before it jumps the gap between the cylinder and barrel, and because Judge barrels are short, expect velocities to be lower than advertised. Those handloading .45 Colt ammunition will find faster-burning powders work best because of the long cylinder. Also, use only standard-velocity factory or handloads in a Judge. Standard-pressure .45 Colt loads and .410 shotshells generate less than 14,000 psi, while some .45 Colt +P loads generate more than 20,000 psi.

Winchester PDX1, shotshell, ballistic gelatin, ordnance gelatin, .410 Shotshell

Winchester’s PDX1 .410 shotshell is a specialty load, specifically designed for use in the Taurus Judge line of handguns. It offers unique terminal performance because of the mixed bag of projectiles it contains.

To get an idea how several loads perform in the Judge, I worked with Michael Cyrus of Cross Outdoors to test them in 10-percent ordnance gelatin. Cyrus is in the process of finalizing his own Judge ammo. Using a Judge with a 2 1⁄2-inch cylinder and a 3-inch barrel, we tested the Cross Outdoors prototype Cross Force Judge load, a Speer Gold Dot .45 Colt load, a conventional .410 shotshell and Winchester’s new PDX1 load.

Speer Gold Dot ammunition generally performs very well in every caliber, and there were no surprises here. Its 250-grain, .45 Colt load produced a muzzle velocity of 705 fps. In the ordnance gelatin, the bullet penetrated 12.5 inches and expanded to .78 inch. Accuracy at 15 yards was good.

The prototype Cross Force load is loaded in a .45 Colt case, but will not chamber in .45 Colt revolvers because of its length. It is specifically designed for the Judge’s longer cylinder—the bullet is almost as long as the case and the hollow point is an incredible .92 inch deep. In gelatin, this four-petal bullet penetrated 10 inches and expanded to a shocking 1.2 inches.

Because they limit penetration concerns in a home-defense setting, shotshell loads with small-sized shot are worth considering. Multi-projectile loads rely on multiple bullet paths, as opposed to expansion, for wounding. Remington’s 2 1⁄2-inch, 1⁄2-ounce, No. 8 shot .410-bore game load produced a muzzle velocity of 1,180 fps. Penetration ranged from 3 to 5 inches. At near-contact distance the gelatin showed massive cavitation.

Several companies now offer specialized Judge shotshell loads. Remington’s version is loaded with four, tungsten-bronze 00 pellets and Federal Premium’s Personal Defense .410 load is filled with No. 4 shot. Winchester took a different approach. In its PDX1 shotshell load, the company uses 12 copper-plated BBs behind three copper-plated, .43-caliber discs that weigh about 68 grains each. The PDX1 load offers two levels of penetration. When fired from a distance of 6 feet, the three discs penetrated to 13 inches and the BBs to around 6, producing a wound pattern about 4 inches in diameter.

What’s the best Judge load? It depends. Conventional, single-bullet .45 Colt loads offer more precise shot placement. The Cross Outdoors specialty load is just one bullet, but it makes a hole the size of two. Standard .410 shotshells are devastating at near-contact distance and offer a 12-inch or smaller pattern inside 6 feet. Penetration, however, is shallow.

With Winchester’s PDX1 load, I kept at least two of the large discs on a silhouette target, even out to 20 yards. At 7 yards and closer, all three discs impacted the target within 1 inch or so of each other.

From the standpoint of follow-up shots, recoil is important and the multi-projectile loads were a handful. Another problem with any shotshell is, much past a few yards, some of the shot will miss the bad guy and who knows where it might end up.

Maybe the best approach is to load a mix of ammunition. Dangerous-game hunters often take a similar approach by loading a soft-point bullet in the chamber and solids in the magazine. After all, if you’re attacked by some junked-up freak, it will be a dangerous situation.

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22 Responses to Inside the Judge’s Chamber

  1. Clyde Raabe says:

    I purchased a 2 1/2 inch Judge about 2 yrs ago. Can ALL judges shoot .45 shells ? I thought Mine ONLY shot .410

  2. Chris says:

    Yes they can shoot .45 LC (Long Cult) and .410 ga.

  3. Nathan says:

    Number 8 shot is “birdshot” for a reason. It’s meant for …. BIRDS. Bad recommendation. Stick with the pistol rounds and leave the shotgun rounds for shotguns.

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  9. Bill says:

    With many years of experience and entering old age, middle of the night boogers require #8 birdshot to confuse and 250 gr projectiles to back it up, once I wake up.

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  11. oliveri ron says:

    dear sir
    i’ve been using the .225 gr. h.p flex tip by hornady.i’ve tryed them all,this round is deviation at close range ,around 7′.

    wouldn’t use anything else.
    sencerely ron

    • Joyce says:

      I am needing a reload recipe using IMR 700-x gunpowder with the Hornady Bullet (part NO 45215), 200 grain FTX .432 dia

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  13. Jack Blade says:

    I like some of the new self defense designed .410 loads and they seem to be accurate coming out of the Judge at least that’s been my experience thus far shooting from distances of 5 yards to 50 yards at paper plates, pumpkins, water filled bottles and regular targets. I also own a MilSpec Thunder 5 which chambers the the same caliber rounds as the Judge and in both guns, rifled .410 slugs (Brenneke and Winchester) are pretty accurate as are Winchester Silvertip HP.45 LC rounds. The recoil with both types of rounds is pretty manageable for follow up shots. I am going to obtain some of the Cross Force specialty rounds for evaluation since they seem to expand to an outrageous diameter? I do have some of the new Winchester .410 PDX1 rounds (in both 2 1/2″ and 3″ flavors) and thus far they have been impressive, both in terms of accuracy and terminal potential! They do some nasty things to soft targets like pumpkins, water bottles, watermelons, a large ham and ballistic gelatin and I have no doubt that they would do bad things to any would be assailant in a home invasion scenario, most importantly stopping or effectively discouraging the invader from further activity! The 3″ PDX1 did have a bit more recoil and flash in my experience than the 2 1/2″ PDX1 did. Just something to be aware of, especially when firing inside a house or other enclosed environment. I don’t know how many people have fired a gun, especially a large caliber weapon inside an enclosed area like a building or a car, but it’s unpleasant especially without any ear muffs and ear plugs and could be very disorienting to someone woke up in the middle of the night and having to defend themselves from an intruder using their Judge? I have fired from inside a vehicle and inside a building/room, both handguns and 12 ga shotguns with and without hearing protection and as I said it’s very unpleasant, it hurts and your ears may ring for a few days afterwards? I couldn’t hear very well for hours after doing that! I can’t say that anyone should do that and there was a time when gun owners didn’t regularly use hearing protection because it wasn’t widely known that it permanently damaged hearing? I did it just out of youthful stupidity and at the time wondered what the difference would be firing inside vs outside? Big difference! In closing I will be loading my Judge with the Winchester PDX1 3″ round in the first chamber, but will probably stick with either 225 gr Winchester Silvertips .45 LC or Rottweil Brenneke .410 3″ Magnum rifled slugs for the remainder, at least until the Winchester PDX1 is proven out on the street a bit more! Happy Hunting! ;)

    • Joyce says:

      I have the Judge ultralite and love it. It fits my hand well and the soft rubber grip is awesome! I like the fact I can load .410 in the first chamber and then defender loads and or .45 cal afterwards. From a women’s point of view this gun I believe gives me the best advantage in a defense situation … chamber 1 .410 spreads a pattern of about 3-4 ft at about 15-20 ft …. whatever might be coming at me has about 2 seconds to stop else the next loads will be the defender rounds and .45. I also had a laser site put on it should I choose to use it.

  14. Bart Conchin says:

    The Winchester pkg seems to be best all around.,!!!

  15. william sanders says:

    where can you get the Cross force long 45 round ?

  16. norm jones says:

    is it safe to use 2 and 1/2 inch 410 shot shells in a 3” taraus Judge

  17. Ron says:

    Winchester PDX 3′ loads are fantastic in my Judge – I bet my life on them.

  18. mike says:

    One thing I can say about this gun is its a great idea. Many options on what you can put through it. I have had the best experience with 000 buck and 250 g hollow points. I would not recommend anyone shooting +p rounds. I bought a box of 325 g buffalo bore rounds when I first got the gun. I shot the box through and I’m lucky to have my hand and eyes. The gun has not operated the same sence. It still shoots straight and no cracks any where, buy does not close smooth. I have never shot a pistol that kicked that hard .

  19. Jon Kaufman says:

    Take a box of 410 rounds and cut crimp off with razor. Take out the shot and shot wad trim off shot cup to just be a over powder wad . Theninsert wad and press back into place. Drop in a. 375 lead musket ball. Top with a 45 cal over powder wad to hold ball in place . Warning

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