The Judge is Red-Dot Ready

The optics-ready Taurus Judge T.O.R.O. is an accurate, capable home- and self-defense option.

The Judge is Red-Dot Ready

The first four shots were all touching, a nice, accurate cluster that I fired from 10 yards and a rest. So, I didn’t really mind that I pulled my fifth shot to the right and a bit high. This group and the many others I fired proved to me that the new Judge T.O.R.O. from Taurus is considerably more than the “snake gun” label so often applied to the Judge.

Not that the snake gun label is incorrect. My shooting suggested that the revolver is a great tool for taking on the slithery things of the world, too.  

But the above-cited groups were fired with the centerfire handgun ammunition used in the Judge T.O.R.O., the 45 Colt. In this case, specifically, Remington Performance WheelGun launching a 250-grain round-nose lead bullet. Those large, heavy bullets don’t move very fast, around 800 feet per second, but the round is a thumper with over 300 foot pounds of threat-stopping energy. Making the Judge T.O.R.O. both a snake killer and a viable home- and self-defense option.

The Backstory

Taurus introduced the Judge revolver to the shooting world in 2006. The feature that got everyone’s attention was the Judge’s ability to use .410 shotshells. In a five-shot revolver with a 3-inch barrel? Very curious, indeed!

A number of people figured the Judge was a gimmick, a novelty. One of those “Wonder Guns” that might spark some curiosity but quickly exits to the Endangered Species List. 

Oh, so very wrong. The Judge quickly became one of the most popular firearms Taurus Armas, S.A., of Brazil, has ever offered. Today, the Judge is available in 19 different versions through Taurus Holdings, Inc., of Bainbridge, Georgia.  

As the Judge continued to cement its footing in the American firearms market, the handgun shooting world kept cycling through its own various changes and trends. Adding red-dot-style optics to handguns was and is one of those more recent shifts in the market, and in 2021 Taurus released the 9mm G3 T.O.R.O., with the latter moniker standing for “Taurus Optic Ready Option.” 

The G3 was already a popular concealed carry option. What the T.O.R.O. designation signaled was that the rear of the slide was now milled, drilled and tapped to accommodate any of four optics mounting plates included with the pistol. Other T.O.R.O model pistols were eventually launched, too.

Introduced at SHOT Show 2023, Taurus’ first optics-ready revolvers were the smaller-framed 605 T.O.R.O. chambered in .357 Mag., and the 856 T.O.R.O. in .38 Spl.+P.  The Judge T.O.R.O., which I evaluated and punched tight .45 Colt groups with, followed near the end of 2023.

The Variations

The Judge T.O.R.O. is available in two variations: the standard Judge with a cylinder able to use 2.5-inch .410 shotshells, and the MAG version which can accept .410 shells up to 3 inches long. Both variations, of course, can also use the very same .45 Colt rounds.

Plus, each of the standard and MAG variations can be had in either a black matte finish, the nice and shiny stainless steel SS finish.  

There is a $64 difference in suggested retail pricing between the more expensive SS models at $679.99 compared to the Black models at $615.99. 

The SS models, it should be noted, have frames, cylinders and barrels made of stainless steel, while those same three components are manufactured from alloy steel in the Black models.

Another difference between models: the Judge T.O.R.O. MAG Revolvers, both the SS and the black versions, weigh in at 37 ounces unloaded, while the standard models are 29 ounces unloaded. For the extra ounces, credit the slightly longer and stouter cylinders on the MAG Models, which are needed to accommodate the 3-inch .410 shells.

Evaluation Model 

My evaluation revolver was the Judge T.O.R.O. SS, designed to use 2.5-inch .410 shotshells. It featured a stainless-steel barrel, cylinder, and frame. The finish was also stainless.

The Judge is a single- and double-action revolver. In a single action, my trigger averaged 2 pounds, 2 ounces of pull and broke very crisply. In double action, the pull was, obviously, more pronounced, coming in at 5 pounds and 7 ounces, on average. The trigger came back steadily and very smoothly in double action, with no grit or hesitation.  

That trigger, by the way, was nicely wide — wide enough to fully engage the pad of my trigger finger, but not so wide as to present a problem centering the pad. 

The Judge T.O.R.O.’s hammer spur was deeply knurled for a very tactile interface between spur and thumb. Likewise, the revolver’s cylinder release sported nice checkering. The cylinder swung out easily and featured an ejector rod fully shrouded by a nearly full-length underlug. 

The rubberized, wrap-around grips provided a solid purchase when firing the Judge. But make no mistake — even though it was built with over 2 pounds of material, unloaded, my Judge T.O.R.O SS had noticeable recoil especially with the .410 shells. It might be a good idea to let customers know this, too, so they are not surprised and then put off by the recoil.

Recoil from the .45 Colt rounds was equal to a sharp push back into the hand, while the shotshells I fired off created a significant jerk back with the muzzle snapping up briefly.

Seeing Red … Dots 

Optics-ready though the new Judges are, they are not sold with optics. And to really test this model, an optic was needed.

I chose the Thrive HD 1x21 Micro Reflex Sight red-dot made by ZeroTech Optics. The Thrive featured a very sharp and precise 3 MOA red dot, 10 brightness settings, and was powered by a single CR 2032 battery. It was also built on the RMSc optic footprint, the same footprint the Judge T.O.R.O. is designed to accommodate. 

With most optics-ready pistols, the rear of the slide features a removable plate. Unscrew the plate and the slide below is drilled and tapped to either accept a red-dot directly or an adapter plate. 

The optics-ready setup for the Judge T.O.R.O. is of a different variety, though. At the rear of the top strap and just ahead of the rear sights, this Judge has two holes drilled and tapped on which to mount the included optics plate.

First, I cleaned the screw holes with rubbing alcohol to remove any oil or grime, and then did the same with the Torx screws included for attaching the optics plate. Once they were dry, I applied blue thread locker to the screws, and then mounted the optics plate onto the revolver.

Next, I cleaned off the Thrive HD screws, applied a tiny amount of the thread locker and mounted the Thrive optic (with battery already installed) onto the plate. 

A day later, I hit the range with the red-dot installed on my Judge T.O.R.O.    


A Self-Defense Option

I began my shooting using the .45 Colt rounds, both the afore-mentioned Remington WheelGun and American Eagle from Federal Ammunition loaded with a 225-grain jacketed soft-point bullet. I figured bullets were a better, faster way to zero the Thrive HD than shot.

That four-shot cluster with all WheelGun rounds touching measured just .60-inches. My fifth shot went to the right and higher but the group still measured only 1.2-inches, more than adequate for self-defense accuracy at 10 yards.

Actually, that group foreshadowed most of my future groups in .45 Colt. Again and again, my first four rounds punched in at 1 inch or under and then, inevitably, I pulled the last shot for a group total of approximately 1.5 inches.

With the American Eagle .45 Colt, my best group started with four shots at .80 inches, with my last shot expanding the total size to 1.6 inches, which frustrated the heck out of me. 

Yet, such groupings would make very little difference to the home invader bent on violence. I found the Judge T.O.R.O. to be a more than adequate self and home defense option.

Snake Season

To test out its scattergun abilities and applications, I ran the Judge T.O.R.O. with four different .410 shells, all of them, of course, of the 2.5-inch variety: Browning’s BPT Sporting Clays loaded with .50 ounces of No. 8 shot; Fiocchi’s Exacta Target Load and its .50 ounces of No. 9 shot; and two Top Target loads from Rio Ammunition, one with a .50-ounce payload of No. 7.5 shot, the other carrying the same weight of No. 6.

Initially, I shot from 5 yards offhand to see if the patterns were centering. They were off, and patterned to the left. A few quick adjustments on the Thrive HD’s windage control got me on target.

As far as the patterns from my 5-yard shots? Well, they were not exactly tight. Which was no surprise given the rather diminutive shot load propelled out of a 3-inch barrel. 

Which got me thinking about the many, many times I’d read and heard the Judge referred to as a snake gun.

To test my Judge’s snake readiness, I took a rectangle of cardboard and drew a triangular shape with a heavy black marker, the base approximately 2.5 inches long. I placed my homemade “snake head” target at 3 yards from the end of the revolver’s barrel and fired a single shell from three .410 offerings, offhand, with the Thrive’s red-dot centered on the “snake head.”

My two best patterns were from the Browning and Fiocchi shells. The Browning load placed an impressive 30 of its No. 8 pellets inside the black outline, the Fiocchi 14 pellets of No. 9 size.

In either case, dead snake.


To set apart the Judge T.O.R.O. for your customer base, Caleb Giddings, general manager of marketing for Taurus Holdings, suggested that the FFL retailer first mount a red-dot onto the handgun. Of course, the price tag will need to reflect that the red-dot is optional and not standard with the revolver. But that red-dot on the Judge is sure to catch the attention of many customers who will then ask to see and hold the Judge T.O.R.O.

“We think you will discover there are a lot of shooters who already love the Judge and will be excited to find out there is now a red-dot-ready option,” said Giddings.

He noted, too, that those establishments carrying the Judge T.O.R.O. will likely benefit from the add-on sale of red-dots. So, make sure you have a selection of red-dots on hand and nearby to make such sales.

Another idea: Offer customers a “free” mounting of the optic when the Judge and red-dot are purchased as a package. 

At this time, Giddings noted, the in-store marketing that Taurus provides is admittedly limited. And co-op advertising is not available.

That said, Taurus does have national sales representatives who can and will do sales staff training for your employees, and they will do so at your establishment. 

In the larger marketing sense, the Judge T.O.R.O. has been featured on several YouTube channels, as well as multiple online reviews. For customers as well as for sales staff education, do a quick Internet search for “Judge T.O.R.O.” and you will quickly discover many review videos and write-ups. 

Taurus sells its firearms through two-step distribution and currently uses all the major U.S. wholesale distributors, including Crow Shooting Supply, Davidson’s, Lipsey’s, RSR Group, Inc, and Sports South, LLC.

Giddings promised more new products from Taurus for 2024 and beyond, as well as additional offerings from sister brands Heritage and Rossi.


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