The Governor vs. the Judge

photo credits: adapted from Ben Branam on Flickr.com

Which came first, the Governor or the Judge? Well, in regards to those two particular guns, the Taurus Judge actually came out before the higher priced, big brand name Smith and Wesson jumped on the bandwagon with their version known as the Governor.

Most people are oblivious to that fact and incorrectly believe that the Governor came out first since it’s a Smith and Wesson and that the Judge, being merely a Taurus, was copied from it. Well, they have been misled (or just didn’t bother to research it), but here’s another bit of information that people are likely unaware of. Taurus wasn’t the first to come out with this style of handgun either.

thunder 5 .410 revolver
License: Joe Loong via Flickr

First! MIL inc. Thunder five

That distinction goes to MIL Inc.’s Thunder five, the first .410 shot shell revolver. But due to poor marketing strategies and the unwillingness of the American public to accept a heavy, clumsy, pocket shotgun, sales were low and the gun was discontinued after only six short years of manufacturing.

That’s not even mentioning that it really wasn’t a very attractive piece in the first place. One of the lures to draw people in to buy a handgun is the sleek lines and graceful curves that just say hold me. Well, the thunder five didn’t really have any of those attributes.

It was mostly just a big ugly chunk of metal that held five .410 shot shells as an oddity or five .45 long colt cartridges if you wanted to lay a whump on someone. The problem is that if you want to fire a .45 Long Colt at someone, this wasn’t the best tool for doing so as it has about two full inches of jump before the bullet even hits the barrel.

worm farming

A long bullet jump like that is generally not conducive to accuracy, in other words it’s a big belly gun (a belly gun is what you call a gun that is useless for anything more than jabbing it in some ones belly and pulling the trigger due to poor accuracy). The gun was manufactured from 1992 until 1998 but just never seemed to catch on.

In 1994 they came out with a version chambered in .45/70 government for a California legal version as the .410 shot shell version was illegal in California. I’d wager it was exactly the same gun and they just marked it “.45/70 Government”. I would like to have a handgun that fired .45/70 Government if it was a fully rifled and accurate weapon with a five or six inch barrel. That would be neat.

Like this one here:

Here comes the Judge

Eight years after the MIL Inc. Thunder five stopped production, in 2006 Taurus comes onto the scene with their Judge and suddenly all eyes were on the “new” .410 revolver on the market.

taurus judge .410
photo credits: Ben Branam on Flickr.com

Granted, it is a much better looking piece of hardware than the Thunder five, and because it’s a Taurus you know you will get a lot of gun for your money. You might say you get a lot of bang for your buck (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Available in a lustrous blue finished steel or full stainless steel construction, The Judge, I suppose, makes a handy defense weapon for the blind, the incredibly shaky (remember Don Knots in the shakiest gun in the west?), or those that encounter a lot of snakes. No, seriously, it does make for one hell of a snake gun.

Besides those three reasons I think there are countless numbers of much better pieces to choose from for a self defense weapon. However I think the novelty of being a shot gun pistol alone combined with a very accessible price, is reason enough to add two to the Zombie arsenal. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if the gun is practical when it just neat.

Jerry Miculek shooting the Judge and Governor:

Copy gat

Then along came Smith and Wesson in 2011 with their double priced version of the pocket shotgun. No advances on the design except for the addition of one more chamber in the cylinder and maybe some fancier sights. Then there is the space age model with a nifty little red laser beam projecting from the grip (to show the bad guys where you are), which I suspect is for the blind person that can’t aim, and a seemingly “exotic” metal construction, Scandium Alloy, which isn’t really all that exotic actually.

As it turns out, Scandium Alloy is just a fancy word for this lesser known yet very abundant metal, alloyed most commonly with aluminum. In other words it’s an aluminum alloy frame. So for the die-hard Smith and Wesson fan (which I am not), you can purchase their version of the .410 pocket shotgun for merely about the cost of two of the Taurus’ offerings of stainless steel, which is a much more durable and reliable material in my opinion.

Of course now they both offer their own versions of a pocket shotgun in my least favorite firearm frame construction material, polymer. Although my EDC gun is a polymer frame and it’s only accurate to about fifty feet, but that’s good enough for a personal defense weapon when you expect that you might need it no farther than ten feet or so.

The CCDW test in my state says you need only put 11 out of 21 on a torso sized target at 7 yards, or 21 feet so I don’t expect to be having a shootout too far apart. If so I’ll open my trunk.

Revolver shotgun

Not to be outdone, Taurus follows up with their carbine version of the shotgun revolver with their Circuit Judge Revolver carbine.

This is a nifty little oddity which has about as much use as the revolvers do, but again, if for nothing more than the novelty and price, add it to the collection.

Just make sure you don’t break off the deflector shield or else your forearm will be sprayed with powder burns from the side blast that is well known with revolvers. You also don’t want to shoot it left handed as the deflector shield is set up for right handed shooters. I’m not sure if they offer a left handed version.

The circuit judge looks to me to be nothing more than a Judge hand gun frame with a longer barrel and a butt stock made to fit around the frames grip strap. I can’t confirm this suspicion, but that’s what it looks like to me, and I think anyone that looks at it will see the same thing. The point of this piece of machinery eludes me, as a pump or semi auto shotgun will hold more rounds and likely be more wieldable. Again, it’s just a neat oddity for the collection.

Here’s a video review:

Other contenders

The popularity of these pocket shotguns has spurred yet another creation, this one seemingly even less wieldable and useful, being a single action offering. I am not known for my fondness of single action handguns, in general so I may be somewhat biased in my opinion.

But as I am not being paid to support any particular product, I only offer my most honest and humble opinion. The latest creation in the pocket shotgun world is the USFA shot pistol TM. But this offering seems to have gone defunct before it ever hit the market. Perhaps oversaturation of a slim market put this idea to rest before it ever got a chance to prove its self worth?

But for them to try to compete against the current production of double action, modern appearing, pieces of weaponry was doom from the beginning. Let us also not forget that USFA is also the maker of the most terrible handgun ever created, the USFA Zip .22

Because why the hell not, that’s why

Accuracy, I’m sure, is lacking in any of these when firing a .45 long colt cartridge, if for no other reason, that two inch bullet jump just sticks in my head. I mean, they might be ok but at least in comparison to an actual .45 long colt revolver I’m sure they will be left lacking.

Let’s not forget the shot shell pattern out of that short barrel has to be so wide as to hit an attacker with only a few bits of shot. When I was younger I owned a pair of cheap .45LC/.410 double barrel derringers that I referred to affectionately as my “mule legs” because they opened just like a regular double barrel shotgun. Not much to look at but they were neat and fun to play with.

But these things sprayed a pattern about ten feet wide and two feet high at about twenty feet, so, good for crowd control, but not really very effective beyond point blank range for self-defense. Although, the .45 slug came out amazingly accurate  out to about twenty five or thirty feet (that’s the farthest I tried them) considering it had all of ½ inch of rifling at the end of the barrel. But all in all they were purchased for the novelty.

In closing

Personally, none of these are what I would consider a good EDC weapon. They are too big and too heavy and offer too few shots for the space they take up. Are they fun to shoot? Sure. Are they neat looking in the gun collection? Of course they are. Are they practical? Not really. Does any of that matter? Well, it does if you are looking for a good defense carry weapon, but it doesn’t if you just want a neat gun to add to the collection.

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About Eric W. Eichenberger

Eric W. Eichenberger
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms. A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method. The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.

2 comments

  1. One of the blogs I follow mentions this Judge as a great EDC pistol. His location has both feral hog and rattlesnakes. So indexing the cylinder to switch back and forth between the shot and pistol shell is very quick.

  2. Cool, allow me to reiterate…”PERSONALLY, none of these are what I would consider a good EDC weapon. They are too big and too heavy and offer too few shots for the space they take up. Are they fun to shoot? Sure. Are they neat looking in the gun collection? Of course they are.” (This is directly from the article in case you don’t know what quotation marks are.)
    let me break down the reasons one more time…
    1. Too big AND
    2. Too heavy AND
    3. Too few shots FOR THE SPACE THEY TAKE UP
    I am not concerned about hogs or snakes in my EVERY DAY, I am concerned about HUMANS, and humans might shoot back. They are also most likely carrying a semi-auto pistol with way more than 5 shots, so I am carrying one too. The only reason I carry a handgun is because the rifle is too bulky. But if things get hot enough, then the sidearm is there to get me to my rifle….
    and if I wanted a multi-caliber revolver I would get the Raging Judge that fires .454/.410/.45 LC
    but thanks for reading

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