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By Kurt Shipman

Shopping for ammo isn’t like anything else, as in you don’t get to try it on or try it out to see if you like it. So testing and evaluation is critical before committing to spending lots of coin on your shell-stash. To help address some unanswered questions that we had regarding the .410 shot-shell choices for the Taurus Judge, today we conducted a comparison of the four most readily available .410 shotgun shells . . .

It’s important to note that all of these were specifically designed for handguns, primarily the Taurus Judge. The purpose of this testing was to determine the projectile spread pattern at a close realistic self defense shooting range of 25 feet.

During our testing, we used the Taurus Judge Poly-Protector, with a 2 ½” chamber, and a 2” barrel, equipped with a larger sized Hogue Grip for comfort. We tested 5 shells of each of the following (in this order): Winchester PDX1 Personal Defense shells, Winchester SXZ Personal Protection shells, Federal Premium Personal Defense 410 Handgun shells, and Hornady’s Critical Defense (410 Triple Defense) shells. All of these shells average between $9 and $15 per box and can be found at most ammunition outfitters.

The following results of our testing where conducted while aiming at center mass:

PDX1 First Shot (Left) and 5th Shot (Right)

Winchester PDX1 rounds shot well with no malfunctions of any sort. These rounds consist of four copper plated discs (slugs) followed by 16 copper plated BB’s at roughly 750fps. At 25 feet the discs/slugs consistently grouped relatively close together with a 3-4inch spread. The copper plated BB’s that followed those discs/slugs however, flew all over the 23” x 35” silhouette target. As you can see from the photos, this round would be best used at a VERY close range (7-15 feet).

[Rating: 1 through 5 Stars] = Overall Rating: ★★


SXZ First Shot (Left) and 5th Shot (Right)

Winchester SXZ Personal Protection Rounds also shot well with no malfunctions. These rounds consist of 3 000 Buck pellets at roughly 1300fps. At 25 feet these 000 Buck pellets consistently grouped together within the silhouette of the target. They spread out anywhere between 1-12inches. I would feel comfortable using these rounds for self defense within 25 feet or less as I could guarantee a devastating hit on target with a minimal chance of any stray projectiles.

[Rating: 1 through 5 Stars] = Overall Rating: ★★★


Federal First Shot (Left) and 5th Shot (Right)

Federal Premium Personal Defense 410 Handgun Rounds shot well with no malfunctions. These rounds consist of 7/16oz #4 shot at roughly 950fps. I’m really not sure why Federal is calling this round a personal defense round. Federal has a .410 personal defense round, Federal Premium Personal Defense Buckshot, this round is not in the same class in any way shape or form. At 25 feet the 7/16oz shot peppered the entire target with a wide pattern over 17 inches wide. I doubt it would incapacitate any motivated assailant. Personally, I would not use this round unless you were directly on top of your target (less than 10 feet). At extremely close range (say in your vehicle) this could do major damage other than that use it on quail or snakes. At range, you might shoot someone’s eye out.

[Rating: 1 through 5 Stars] = Overall Rating: 


Hornady First Shot (Left) and 5th Shot (Right)

Hornady’s Critical Defense (410 Triple Defense) rounds shot very well with no malfunctions of any sort. They also fit into and ejected from the 2 ½” chamber of the Judge the best out of all the ammunition tested. These rounds consist of a single 41 cal FTX slug, followed by two 35 cal round balls. This round fires out at roughly 750fps and 394ft lbs of force. By far the most consistent personal defense round we tested. At 25 feet the slug and two “followers” maintained relatively tight groupings (most inside the “8” ring). It is interesting to note that on every single shot the 41 cal slug appeared to hit high on the target with the two “followers” hitting approximately 6 to 7 inches lower and VERY tight together. At close to mid-range this would be my personal defense round of choice hands down. Everything seems to stay tightly grouped on target with minimal chance of a flyer hitting an innocent bystander. I also like having the slug/follower combination. I doubt anyone getting hit by one of these rounds would continue doing whatever caused you to shoot them in the first place.

[Rating: 1 through 5 Stars] = Overall Rating: ★★★★


In summary, out of the four brands we tested, we felt Hornady was the best. Be careful when buying ammo, especially for the Judge or any other handgun that uses the .410 shell. As we have shown you here, just because the package is marked “defense” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good choice. At 25 feet, we were a little surprised by the spread of some of these defensive branded shells.

Everyone seems to have their own favored type of shells to use for home defense. This write-up is of course just our opinion and not an end-all to the best ammo to use, etc. There really is no “perfect” ammo as each type has its benefits and drawbacks. So it’s very important to train with the ammo you are going to be using as your defensive load.

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  1. The baddest of the Oh My Gawd! for these guns is the Lehigh Defense extra long 45LC that only works in over long chambers. See also ShootingTheBull410’s review on YouTube.

    • Did you see how all the energy somehow release at the end of the bullet path causing the gel to literaly do the worm movement after being hit? I don’t know about the lethality of this round due to shorter penetration, but I know that bullets gotten hurt something fierce. Now, the 300 AAC version is no doubt the worse bullet I could ever imagine using on a living thing. Shit is like shooting a bullet that than changes to a broadhead arrow, penetrating over 18″ with a spread of over an inch!

  2. Honestly, I only use my Judge as a bird gun, paired up with a break action .410/.22. It’s fun as hell to blast birdshot through and that’s about the extent of it’s use for me.

    • I’m new to shotshell-firing arms. Would birdshot out of the Taurus be satisfactory for dispatching rattlesnakes, or small animals like raccoons? I don’t kill for killing’s sake, but in a kill-or-be-bit situation, is that set-up sufficient?

      • I believe it would be, yes. The pattern is very wide, but in a ‘kill or be bit’ situation as you referenced, you wouldn’t be at a distance, and it would be effective. A lot of people refer to it as a ‘trail gun’ or ‘snake gun’ for this reason.

      • I can tell you from experience that a .410 shell from a break action shotgun will kill a rattlesnake very dead.

        I can’t own a Judge here in CA (stupid state-level SBS laws), but I have used .38 special revolvers with snakeshot to kill rattlesnakes many times. Often they take 2 or 3 shots to kill though, because the spread is so terrible. I imagine that a .410 handgun would be much more effective.

  3. Interesting, but the bigger problem is one of availability and/or distribution. Internet sales notwithstanding, the only one of the four loads mentioned above that I’ve seen on the shelves at ANY retailer selling ammo, be it big box stores or small gun shops, in both Missouri and Georgia, is the Winchester PDX. Usually at Walmart.

    I think Bass Pro HQ might have had some Federal.

    Never seen the WInchester, nor the Hornady.


    PS: If the image is that of the author, I’m gonna guess he’s from Arizona, judging by the saguaro cacti in the background. What that says about ammo selection there compared to here….I have no comment.

  4. IV8888 recently did a vid on the Taurus Judge and comparing different loads also – as well as the increased spread caused by the rifling. I wonder though which would be better – .45LC or .410 slug (not counting the Lehigh Defense rounds – no question when it comes to those)?

    • Probably a .410 slug. I remember reading that the .45 Colt round lost a lot of energy when shot through a Judge compared to a standard revolver.

      • Slugs are very lightweight (about 97 grains IIRC) and usually exhibit poor accuracy from a Judge; you’re sending a .41″-diameter projectile down a .45″ barrel.

        .45 Colts are vastly preferable. In the big Judges (3″+ barrel, 3″ chamber) the Gold Dots are utterly superb. In the small Judge, the PDX1 works very very well.

        Whoever said that the Judge doesn’t deliver the goods from the .45 Colt was misinformed. In my testing, even the littlest Judge delivered over 900 fps from a 200-grain hollowpoint, and in fact a Judge delivers more velocity than a conventional .45-colt revolver of the same barrel length (i.e., a 2″-barrel Judge delivers more velocity than a 2″-barrel snubby revolver).

  5. If you use a brass shell for the .410, could you theoretically load it close to 45-70 pressures?

    Had a 410 bolt action on my mind, using something like that.

  6. From my limited research, Federal 000 buckshot/handgun may do even better than the ones tested. Your thoughts?

    • Federal 000 .410 Handgun buckshot is hands down, far and away, by a mile, the best buckshot load to use in a Judge. 4 (or 5) 65-grain pellets the diameter of a 9mm FMJ (four in the 2.5″ shell, five in the 3″ shell). Second place is the NobelSport .40-caliber buck (three or four 90-grain balls of lead the same diameter as a .40-caliber FMJ). The three-inch shell throws 360 grains of lead in four wound channels, each capable of penetrating completely through a man. It’s savage.

      Unfortunately, the buckshot IraqVeteran8888 used is the worst buckshot load possible, the Federal #4 buck. It sprays everywhere (as Kurt’s tests showed the PDX1 BBs and the birdshot spray everywhere). But the Federal 000 buck rides in a “FliteControl” wad, it’s immune to the rifling spin that plagues the birdshot and the Winchester SXZ tested in this review, it stays on target, and it hits like a hammer, delivering 14 to 20″ of penetration from each of its pellets.

      Kurt’s testing is spot-on regarding the spray of the PDX1 BBs and the birdshot. I wouldn’t recommend using either for personal defense; but at least the PDX1 does hit with three (or four) 70+ grain discs, which are basically pre-flattened buckshot balls. The discs penetrate well, and group very tightly; they’re a good defensive load, but the BBs are a waste and a potential liability nightmare. And the birdshot is useful pretty much only for defending at point-blank range against carjackers; it spreads so fast it’ll cover a man-sized torso in as little as six feet (from a 6.5″ barrel) or 10 feet (from a 2″ barrel).

      If IV8888 had used the Federal 000 instead of that horrible 9-pellet 4-buck, you’d have seen dramatically different results from his tests. That awful, nasty 9-pellet 4 buck is the same stuff “The Box O’ Truth” used, which is the main reason why his results were so paltry. Well, that plus he tries to convert water jugs into inches of gel penetration which is highly misleading…

      A Judge with the right ammo can make for an excellent defensive weapon. A Judge with the wrong ammo can be more of a joke. Use the right stuff, and you can get great results.

      • Any idea why the NobelSport buck is labeled “For shotgun use only”? Apparently it’s not supposed to be used in revolvers.

        • There were two versions of the Nobel buck. Originally there was a blue box that was labeled “for shotgun use only”. I bought a box, and the end of the shells would blow out so far that they’d interfere with the cylinder turning.

          They introduced the white box in response; it works brilliantly in a Judge (or in a shotgun). I didn’t think they even offered the blue box anymore…

        • Mine is the white box, but it has “For shotgun use only” stickers all over it. Go figure.

  7. That’s odd. I’m looking at a box of 3″ right now, it says “law enforcement” all over it, but it doesn’t say “shotgun” anywhere on it. It’s part #ANS413BK4, rated at 820 fps.

    The 2.5″ box looks basically the same, no mention of shotgun but plenty of references to “law enforcement”. It’s rated at 900 fps, and it’s part #ANS412BK3.

    Either one of those is a superb performer from a Judge, I’ve tested them both for patterning and penetration from 2″ and 6.5″ barrels, and they’re just top notch.

  8. I don’t mean to hijack the thread, but the discrepancy in the NobelSport buck is interesting. Mine is ANS412BK3 as well, but it’s rated at 1200 fps. I tried it in a derringer, and…ouch.

  9. Tonight I shot (at?) a skunk 3 times at about 7′, 12′ and 7′. It waddled under a trailer where I couldn’t get to it. The Federal 410 handgun 2 1/2″ 7/16 oz. #4 shot through a 10″ contender didn’t seem to be phasing him. Don’t think I’ll use that for self defense.


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