The .410-gauge shotshell was developed just after the turn of the last century. The small shotgun round evolved from a military cartridge originally developed to fire birdshot from the .45-70 Government model rifles carried by the U.S. Cavalry. Army foragers were then able to hunt birds and small game in the field without need of a shotgun. Once it became an established cartridge, the .410 found its place among small-game hunters. And since the bore diameter for a .45 cartridge (be it a .45 Colt, .45-70 or .45 ACP) and a .410 are essentially the same, combining both in one gun was the next logical step.

Testing Taurus .410s
The Taurus Judge 3-inch magnum, which can also accurately dispense hard-hitting, .45 Colt, Hornady Critical Defense 185-grain FTX cartridges, is one of the most formidable home-defense handguns currently in production. A pistol that can fire five rounds of .45 Colt or .410 buckshot and maintain a tight pattern at up to 7 yards makes one heck of a deterrent to anyone on the other end.

The advantages to a .410 shotshell pistol are twofold. First is the capability to hit your target with multiple rounds on the first shot, possibly ending the confrontation in only seconds. The other is the slightly wider margin for accuracy compared with firing a single bullet.
The Judge models offered for consideration here are the compact stainless steel Public Defender chambered for 2½-inch shotshells, the 3-inch magnum model (equipped with Crimson Trace Lasergrips) and the two-tone Polymer Public Defender chambered for 2½-inch shells. The advantages to a 2½-inch model over the magnum are the smaller overall size of the gun (the Public Defender is built on a more compact frame than the 3-inch magnum), and the lighter, more manageable recoil. Either gun has a five-round capacity. The Public Defender measure 7.5 inches long, compared to the 3-inch magnum Judge, which is 9.5 inches long. The Public Defender is 8.6 ounces lighter at 28.2 ounces, compared to the 3-inch magnum’s 36.8-ounce heft.

The newer Public Defender Polymer has an altogether different frame configuration than its predecessor’s, and every part of the gun’s exterior, except for the 2.5-inch cylinder, is unique to this model. The Polymer frame contains a steel substructure that goes all the way around, over the top of the cylinder and down the back. The recoil shield is metal, and the crane is seated into the steel subframe that projects forward, giving the Polymer its squared-off edges. When you look at the gun from the left side, you can see where the steel frame rests on top of the polymer triggerguard. The recoil shield is shrouded in polymer, and the cylinder thumb release is recessed into a polymer panel. The topstrap and barrel shroud complete the exterior.

The faux vent rib on top of the barrel shroud was done for aesthetics rather than to reduce felt recoil—always the first question when polymer is being used. Surprisingly, both the steel and Polymer models achieve the same recoil reduction through Taurus’ energy-absorbing Ribber grips and reinforced backstrap. The long 2.5-inch cylinder (the heaviest part of the gun) also helps manage recoil, especially with .45 Colt Hornady Critical Defense FTX. Recoil (muzzle rise) with Federal Premium Personal Defense 000 buckshot was no more severe than with the standard Public Defender, so there is really no tradeoff in going Polymer. The total weight savings with the polymer exterior is 4 ounces. That is enough to almost offset the added weight of five .45 Colt cartridges or .410 shotshells, bringing the loaded weight of the Polymer PD to within an ounce of an empty all-steel Public Defender. More than weight savings, the new frame configuration and triggerguard design make the gun easier to handle. A new casehardened hammer and small hammer spur make the Polymer easier to cock for a single-action shot, whereas the bobbed hammer on the steel PD is much harder to use.

Pages: 1 2 3
Show Comments