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TTAG writers are, in the main, skeptical about the Taurus Judge and Smith & Wesson Governor. John Boch says “No gracias.” Our Illinois correspondent reckons they’re ridiculously unconcealable, and there’s nothing these things do that something else doesn’t do better. On the other hand . . .

ShootingtheBull410 has done a couple of tests on the oversized wheelgun. The Houstonian thinks that, with the right ammo, the Judge isn’t so bad — especially as a home defense weapon. RF thinks the Judge is all about cool factor rather than function. And sees nothing wrong with that.

A lot of our commentators have pointed out that the Judge (and its Smith & Wesson competitor) are ideal snake guns. As it happens, I was witness to a buckshot-loaded Judge fired in anger at a legless reptile during my recent sojourn in South Carolina.

After spending a week on the sandy beaches of Hilton Head, my family and I skedaddled up the coast to Charleston to visit some friends and put ourselves in direct line with the path of eclipse totality.

We were staying at my friend’s new home, built less than a year before. Although it was in a rather tony subdivision north of Charleston, his was the only house on the stub street. Our host had quickly learned that some of the local reptilian wildlife frequented his property. He decided to take steps to protect his large family from the venomous serpents that tend to come out when it’s damp.

Francis Marion, the famous Revolutionary War hero from the Palmetto State, wasn’t called the “Swamp Fox” for nothing. The coastal areas of the state yearn to be a wetland. After a huge downpour, water collected in various puddles in my pal’s yard. One of my host’s little girls came storming into the living room from her backyard. “Snake! Dad! Get the snake gun!”

The ‘snake gun’ was a Taurus Judge loaded with .410 buckshot, carried in a hip holster. My host donned his Judge, along with a large pair of snake resistant boots, and headed outside to take care of business.

The serpent turned out to be a member of species agkistrodon piscivorus, or as we called them on the Ft. Brown Resaca (back when it was the happening place in Brownsville) a water moccasin.

A blast or two from the Judge neutralized the threat — the snake was either down for the count or suddenly remembered an urgent appointment in Spartanburg. (No body was recovered, so I suspect the latter.) During the after-action review, I took the opportunity to talk about guns with my host, who, up until that point, I hadn’t known was a firearms owner.

“Why the Judge?” I asked.

“It’s the biggest thing I can carry comfortably when I’m out working in the yard, he shrugged, “and be able to draw it and fire fast enough to do any good.” A long gun was too unwieldy and slow to draw. Trying to take down a fast-moving reptile with his 9mm GLOCK was an exercise in futility.

The Judge could comfortably ride on his hip, under a covering T-shirt — complying with South Carolina’s open carry ban — while he was working outside. The Judge provided the buckshot needed to take down one of Lucifer’s little pets. Those aqua-serpents can sure move fast.

So it turns out there are at least a few people for whom the Taurus Judge is more than just an outrageous conversation piece at an open carry barbecue. Is it your snake gun too?

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  1. My personal opinion is that demonstration was a perfect example of that revolvers inadequacies in the role of snake killer. Buckshot has too few large pellets and can completely miss a reptile at a few yards. I would prefer that it be loaded with more smaller shot, maybe #4 buckshot for that role.

    • The perfect scenario, if there is one for this gun, and the gun/ammo failed to deliver.
      A good slingshot may have done better.

    • The failure was using buckshot: you only get, what, three #00 pellets in a .410 shotshell? He should have had a shell with BB size or #2 shot if such a loading is available in .410 shotshells. At close range (say 10 feet maximum) I would think at least a few BBs or #2 shot would have hit the snake and provided a fatal wound. Whether or not BBs or #2 shot at 10 feet would instantly incapacitate a big water moccasin most of the time, I have no idea.

    • CCI makes snake shot for .45 acp and .45 colt, and I think most other common revolver calibers. I personally use a peacemaker clone with .45 colt snake shot as my snake gun. Works fairly effectively on any snake I’ve had to shoot. Usually one shot stops it and two puts it down for good.

      • They also make 9mm shotshells (#11 shot, 230 pellets). I have some but never tried them, CCI claims they will cycle most pistols. At 6 to 8 feet even small pellets will kill a snake especially if a dozen or more hit. That guy would be better served with .410 #8 birdshot in his Judge.

        • CCI 357 Shot Shells in a variety of Ruger SP101s, although mostly the 2.25″, have taken a good number of snakes for me, some quite large. Also a Ruger Single Ten 5.5″ with very old Remington 22LR shot shells were quite effective on Moc; one shot and done. (Also use CCI & Federal 22LR shot shells). I used to be intrigued by the Judge, but the more I found out about them & actually shot one, not so much. For me, the versatility of 22LR & 357 Mag get the job done, especially with handguns & rifles for both.

  2. I understand the gist of using the Judge as a “snake gun”. No problems with that here, as I live in a wooded area frequented by copperheads. In saying that, tho, I’m curious as to why the user would use buckshot instead of plain old birdshot. I’ve killed several copperheads over the years here in my yard with a 12ga using birdshot out of an open choke from 5-10 yards away…they NEVER crawl away like this cottonmouth apparently did with the Judge, primarily because they’re blown in half. Looks like this Judge owner needs some more time practicing. A wounded venomous snake is even MORE dangerous.

  3. I have never had a problem with a snake that would have induced me to shoot one. The closest I ever came to a problem with one was when I was snorkeling in off Baja. On land have always been able to simply walk around them. I even changed my Snake Slayer over to .45ACP. I am not arguing against a Judge/Governor, but rather just saying I haven’t personally had the need. I rarely kill spiders either. ‘Live and let live’ is my motto in these affairs.

      • A raging judge weighs in around the same place as a light weight carbine (in the 6″ version) the only gun of comparable weight I own is a .50AE Desert Eagle. For full sized pythons, you need a pump gun with actual buckshot. (it will probably weigh less as well)

        But seriously, SC bans open carry on private property? Damn, even Illinoisistan is not that bad. I open carry around my property all day every day. Just throw on a long shelve shirt over my tshirt if I need to go grab something.

        • No, SC does not ban open carry on your own property. The writer of this article did a poor job of research. Also, the property owner’s marksmanship skills are suspect as there are 4 more chambers he didn’t fire and if he was shooting 000 buckshot, there are 8 pellets in each shell. I use my Judge as a snake gun in upstate SC and I have never missed a snake in close quarters fire. I’m assuming the property owner didn’t get close enough to do any real damage to the snake (5-7 feet).

    • If you can put at least a few pellets into his tiny little brain pan, a .22LR rat-shot load will kill him. Maybe follow-up the rat shot with a CCI .22 stinger. That’d kill a 400 pound hog at short range.

  4. My brother in law lives out west in rattlesnake country. I sent him some 9mm CCI shot shells as a gift a few years ago. A week later he killed a 5 foot rattler in his back yard with one shot. Even a full size pistol is easier to carry than a Judge, and is just as deadly.

    • My best friend lives in rattler country as well and is terrified of all snakes. To remedy this I loaded up some 10mm shot shell hand loads with no. 7.5 shot. With fast burning powder it will do the trick.

  5. Venomous snakes in proximity with children is cause for action.

    Non Venomous snakes I will relocate to preserve the peace with other family members.

    • And the non-venemous variety eat their weight in rodents each month or so…..only problem is, how close do you need to get to identify the snake?

      • Not very. Once you’ve seen ’em, you can tell. The 3 most common American vipers – rattlers,copperheads, and water moccasins/cotton mouths (two names for the same type of snake) – have distinctive head shapes.

      • If it’s head looks like an arrow, it’s venemous. If the width of its head is the same as the width of its body, it’s harmless.

        • Quote: “If it’s head looks like an arrow, it’s venemous. If the width of its head is the same as the width of its body, it’s harmless.”

          Unless it is a coral snake, or a mamba, or a sea snake, or a cobra . . .

          Snakes are like mushrooms – unless you know exactly what they are (not what they are not) they can kill you.

        • “Totemic Monkey’s description is accurate for the mainland United States.”

          UNLESS you live in Florida or south Georgia…….. My dog killed an 18″ coral snake in my back yard in east central Florida a few years ago, and the very next day she killed a 24″ coral snake in the same place. You need to go back to your “Peterson’s Guide to Reptiles” book and look at the common range map again.

        • “Unless it is a coral snake,…”

          Red on yellow, will kill a fellow. Red on black, good for Jack…

  6. Not sure of the Judge or Governor on snekes, but all guns are good, and beautiful. Some are just more beautiful than others.

    Speaking of snakes and Judges, how does everyone feel about Jerry Brown going to a Russian summit, and the GOP roughly silent on DACA?

  7. My dad bought a Judge. It’s an absolutely worthless field firearm. Inaccurate with bullets, and ineffective with shot shells.

  8. I have found that a Ruger single action revolver in .22LR with rat shot takes big fat snakes out with one shot. Mine have never slithered away….just sayin.

  9. Took the kids up to the hunting lease about a month ago. Had to do some maintenance on the blind, clear shooting lanes, etc. Went out equipped with a 12 gauge 870 as my primary weapon, with 2 birdshot shells loaded first, followed by slugs for the rest of the magazine (loaded opposite, so that’s the order they would come out). Had a Taurus Judge on my hip, also with 2 birdshot shells followed by hard cast 45 LC rounds. The idea being, for either gun, the first two rounds were for snakes, the remainder of the rounds were for ornery hogs, coyotes, or predatory cats that weren’t discouraged by the birdshot.
    Didn’t see anything out at the blind, but once we got back to camp we started performing outshouse maintenance. When we lifted the outhouse up, there was a rattler hanging out underneath. Cleared the kids from the area, pulled out the Judge and let loose. Fired one birdshot round, which kicked up a lot of dust. When that settled, the snake was gone. I thought at first that he had left for more friendly areas, but my buddy found his body about ten feet away in some knee high grass.
    With the light weight body of the snake and the power of the round, physics took over and propelled the dead snake out of the area. Cut off the head with a shovel, and got back to work.
    I had tried the CCI shotshells, but the 9mm version would not cycle my HK VP9. I also read of issues with multiple shotshells loaded in a magazine, where the recoil from one round would cause the plastic cover of rounds in the magazine to come loose, spilling the shot into the magazine. I read much better reviews of the .45 ACP shotshells, but couldn’t find any before we left on the trip.
    The Judge was not mine, it belonged to my neighbor, but it was well suited for the task. It wasn’t concealed, but it stayed on my hip, open carried, for the entire time we were out there and it was not uncomfortable.

    • You make a good point for people to know. The .45 acp shot shells work better than the 9mm ones because with the .45, the metal casing goes all the way to the front of the round. The 9mm ones have a plastic head like the revolver loads. Not sure why, just what I’ve experienced.

  10. I used to live in a wild canyon in So. California. We had hot and cold running rattlesnakes, most of the year. I killed dozens of them with a shovel. I had an old .410 shotgun, but it was a pain to carry it around. When I did use it, I had #7 birdshot in it. Kind of overkill, though. The shovel did a fine job. Of course, it was a pain to carry as well. 🙂 So a shotgun pistol would have been great for that.

    Tried to shoot one of those “Judge” guns once recently. My hand is too small and I can’t reach the trigger.

    Pythons in the Everglades? Yikes. There are lots of reasons I wouldn’t consider living in Florida, and that one just got added. 🙂 But if you live there, it would seem very wise to carry the 12G shotgun … no matter how inconvenient.

  11. The only place I would ever really have seen the need for this would have been the tail end of high school when we moved to NM and had Rattlers.

    Problem is that if you kill them in large numbers you end up with rats in your house that carry plague, hantavirus and other diseases that you really don’t want. So, I left them alone. Where there was worry we dropped some mothballs to keep the snakes away from the house.

    Generally speaking, other than the ones I have as pets, I leave snakes alone to do their natural thing and police the rodent population.

    • Back home we culled the copperheads and rattlers, usually with a hoe and co-existed with the black snakes. They’re non venomous and were great rodent catchers. They lived free in our barns and corn cribs and unless they developed a liking for eggs they were tolerated, if not respected.

      Farms usually have kids. Kids can’t be trusted to encounter a venomous reptile and leave it or it leave them alone. That’s just the breaks.

      • Kids do the darndest things. My parents used to chew me out for catching copperheads in a 5 gallon bucket. But hey, I had lightning fast reflexes back then. And it was fun 🙂

  12. Works for me…I live in Illinois and have no experience with nasty snakes(mostly garter). I do have some experience with critters and 2 legged animals…

  13. I have taken out several Copperheads using CCI .38/.357 shotshells in a snub nosed revolver. I try to avoid killing snakes, but copperheads can strike without warning and tend to den up in places that require their removal.

    A revolver allows you load up shot and solids for excursions in the woods and mushroom hunting.

    Bird shot can discourage aggressive dogs without permanent injury.

  14. Spent nearly my whole life outdoors so I’ve seen plenty of snakes. Never yet encountered one that I felt the need to kill. Snakes are not only not aggressive toward large mammals, but will try to get away from you at any opportunity they can. Moreover, most snakes are not venomous and most people can’t tell the Snake bites are very rare and deaths from snake bites are even rarer.

    Leave that stupid revolver at home and pack a gun that can defend you against more real threats.

    • I would tend to agree with you since I’ve not been bothered much in what most people would see a rattler country. The two examples of pissed off snakes where I almost shot them were both small rattlers that you can barely hear and depending on the terrain not easily see. I was probably around them and pissing them off without even knowing it because the rattle doesn’t make much noise at all. Either way I just make it a good policy to not tell someone how best to protect themselves or their family from threats and hope they respect me enough to do the same.

    • I have also grown up outdoors. The snakes that retreat are rarely seen by man. The snakes that don’t retreat are the ones that eventually bite someone. I kill snakes that are close enough for me to see.

      But a shovel or machete are almost always all I need. No sense making unnecessary noise in the woods or subdivision.

    • In general I agree with what you say with one exception. It’s been my experience that water moccasins will frequently NOT shy away from you. Rattlesnakes and copperheads yes, but not moccasins. I read an article once that indicated that their brain is a little different than most other vipers. It said that if a rattlesnake were to bite you, it would still try to retreat and a repeat bite is extremely rare. If a moccasin bites you, if you don’t move, it WILL bite you again. My experience is that they are much more aggressive than other snakes.
      I won’t lie: I hate them and they scare the bejezus out of me. As a Florida hunter I have to deal with them.

      • Accurate info. Water Moc’s are, impersonal experience, one of the few animals of any kind(short of big time predators, and wolverines/badgers) that will sometimes Actively come looking for a piece of your rear end. I’m an old man and have lived most places in the rural US where one routinely encounters predators of all stripes. Family ranch currently has a population of at least 4, including of the largest Canadian style black bears I’ve ever seen, lots of roaming cougar, lots of eastern diamondbacks, copperheads, and a few moc’s, and the odd rabid raccoon/skunk (which are easily identified in a hurry by behavior).

        During Archery season, the biggest boar bear (I could tell you how big, but you wouldn’t believe me in Florida :), decided to take up deer hunting, quite successfully too judging by the mince meat carcasses we’ve seen around. On one hunt, a friend/guest of mine walked up in the pre-dawn dark, to his stand overlooking a feeder. Shortly thereafter he heard a low growl behind him in the dark. When he figured out what it was , he turned on his flashlight and high tailed it down the hill to his truck, lept inside and headed for the gate, Hasn’t asked to come back since. His tracks, and a camera on the feeder later revealed just how big the old boy is…

        SOOOOO, on the ranch i carry a sidearm to deal with all those issues, as well as the odd traveling pig population.
        Name me the one gun that YOU would carry.

        Well, I have the stainless Judge Magnum, loaded with 3″ 4.10 000 buck, 3″ 1800fps WinX slug, 225 45 LC JSP. The the last round, (or first if I have the need AND the time to spin the cylinder ), is the Corbon 45 plus p 300 grain JSP w about 1000 ftlbs of dissuasion. (and no, it hasn’t blown up the big wheel gun, distorted the cylinder, jammed the cases, etc.
        I’ve had it checked by a gunsmith who fully examined it post target practice with the corbon rounds and though he doesn’t advise me to use it as a routine range round (given the cost, that is NOT an issue:) he has found no evidence of damage.

        Oh, one last thing, those of you who can’t wait to jump on me bout only naming 4 rounds, well, I gotcha:) the one I intentionally left out was my 145gr 9mm Luger Silver bear HP round. You read that right, I shoot it courtesy of a SHORT LANE cylinder insert, and it’s surprisingly accurate on coyotes out to about 40-50 yards.
        As for the snakes, I’ve always liked snakes, I have no minor children; find them non intrusive (for the most part, er the snakes, not the children), wear boots, and watch where I step, and my rodent population, at least around the house, is accordingly pretty much non-existent. I *may* have just received a “good” example of the Judge Magnum. Seems well made, might be too big for a lot of people (I’m about 270) but its comfortable in my hands.
        Ok, one more thing that comes to mind. To head off any ‘ lack of experience claims’ from the “professional’ ‘Taurus attack crowd’; let me just say, its entirely possible that i was dispatching hardened combat soldiers before some of you were born. Depending on who’s headlines you read, I’ve been in about six “armed conflicts” as they describe them now that formally declaring war has become non-pc; so, lets just say I’ve ‘been a few places, and seen a few things. While not the best gun I’ve owned, the Judge Magnum I have, is an entirely adequate firearm, and to be honest, though I pretty much no longer hunt, unless I have a specific reason, it is actually a lot of fun to shoot.

  15. You have to comply with open carry laws in your own backyard? Man that sucks. My state doesn’t care much about open carry and I have my cc permit anyway, but I don’t think anybody would care if I was in my yard ccing without a permit(not that they should know anyway). State law seems to mention ccing in your home is fine and I just assume a backyard is pretty close. Sounds like the homeowner’s state needs some open carry reform.

    • Open Carry and Constitutional Carry bills are introduced into the SC legislature every single year. If it weren’t for all the damn politicians, one or the other would be law by now…

  16. Seems a Charter Arms .44 Spl. loaded with CCI shotshells would be as effective, and a good bit more compact & concealable.

  17. I’m not going to criticize what other people carry, for me, the Judge/Gov are a gimmick gun, made marginally better by the home defense ammo available now.

    As far as snakes, I’ve killed maybe 20-30 over the years, most times with a stick and a knife, never shot one, seemed like overkill. Most snakes I just grant a pardon.

    Maybe if I was hunting pythons in the Everglades, I’d use a 410 shotgun with buckshot.

  18. A gun dedicated to just shooting snakes? How about just any handgun? Seriously, how many times do gun guys here and elsewhere beat home marksmanship? A snake is one of the easiest critters to hit. If that is too much for you get some rat shot and call it a day.

    You guys who like this gun just want to shoot shotgun shells out of a handgun. Which is fine cuz that is pretty cool. As James says its a “redneck boner machine”:

    • Just so you know, the snakes a mongoose can fight, are entirely different propositions to the american rattlesnake which is plenty fast enough to dispatch even the best MMA mongoose is short order. Pull up a youtube video of a cobra strike and you’ll see what I mean. The Mongoose does, however, live quite well in proximity to humans, often becoming nearly “tame’.

  19. Bond Arms Snake Slayer .410 Derringer with 2.5″ Winchester AA #9 Shot. Makes a mess out of snakes. You can get a driving holster that carries horizontally on your belt.

  20. I have an alloy Public Defender. It is light and concealable in a horizon/ carjacker rig. Do Not buy the poly Judge….it is junk due to frame flex from recoil. The all metal is superb. No. 5 birdshot works great as first shot. I hope to see the python again in a Canal to the lake. It might make a good mount.

  21. I do a fair amount of kayak fishing that puts me in close proximity to water moccasins fairly often, and quickly decided that while awareness and avoidance were all well and good, I didn’t like that my only weapon against those temperamental things was my paddle (they will actually chase you further than you think).

    Next local gun show, I picked up a piece of junk RG 5-shot revolver in .38 Special for $45. Found some CCI shot shells for it, and it’s made a great little snake gun. I keep in a little waterproof box strapped to my seat, and have had to deploy it a couple of times now. Works like a charm.

  22. Personally, I use the Bond Arms Snake Slayer 3.5 inch derringer for my sneaky snake shootin’, loaded with #4 Turkey shot.

  23. Why so much hate for snakes? Unless you have children I don’t see the need to go out of my way killing them. Shovels and tires work just fine out here in the west if you really need to do one in. Snakes kill mice and rats, they want to get away from bigger predators such as ourselves.

  24. I guess none of you own any guns just because they are fun to shoot. I bought a slightly used Govenor cheap and it is a lot of fun and pretty accurate with .45 Long Colt and .45 acp. It is fun shooting a hand cannon. My other reason for buying it was skeet shooting Carpenter Bees, great sport off the deck with #9 bird shoot.
    I tend to let snakes be, not kill them just because they are snakes, but I think it would do the job with bird shot if needed.
    Home defense? Way down my list of what to grab first.

  25. Id rather carry a 12Gauge double barrel whippet gun for snakes but that blasted NFA GCA…

    Atm I just use combat boots or a big ass rock. They are readily available.

  26. Unfortunately in Tennessee it is actually illegal to kill native snakes. Of course I have never personally seen it enforced. But it is on the books.

  27. Interesting how folks who convinced themselves their selection of a Judge or Governor was a wise and practical choice for a defensive firearm are obsessed with trying to convince the rest of us their decision to buy the gargantuan revolver/boat anchor wasn’t a boneheaded purchase.

    A .410 single shot Stevens, H&R, or even a Rossi shotgun with #6 birdshot is an effective snake dispatching tool that’s safe and virtually impossible to miss with from 6 to 8 feet. A single shot .410 weighs less and is a fourth or less the cost.

    My 12 &13 yr old grandchildren mastered the snake killing technique after one simple instruction session with a petite old Stevens .410.

    • “Ted Unlis says:
      A .410 single shot Stevens, H&R, or even a Rossi shotgun with #6 birdshot is an effective snake dispatching tool that’s safe and virtually impossible to miss with from 6 to 8 feet. A single shot .410 weighs less and is a fourth or less the cost.”

      None of those or any other .410 single shotgun is even close to as light as a Judge/Governor. Completely impractical EXCEPT as a snake/fishing sidearm.

  28. South Carolina permits carrying guns in the open on their own property. Also legal to carry guns between Home and car (into trunk or glove compartment) without CWP, You need a CWP to carry a gun under your shirt – up town – off your property. Not legal to carry out of store after purchase – only a store employee can do that and he must put it into trunk of car for you. Hope this helps. It’s all just common sense.

  29. So the judge was my first “country gun”. Moved out in south Texas in the middle of nothin and love it but needed kind of a all purpose for snakes and other pests plus minor home defense like 1 or 2 people. Had to get something easy to maneuver and carry with and nice power. While the judge has fixed sights and placement doesnt match, it is accurate (same placement with same hold)with the right hold up to maybe 30yds. I keep those home defense rounds with 3 discs and several bb’s loaded. Used on a couple rattlers and after 1 shot each at about 10yds i was skinnin n grillin. Isnt my best option for an all out battle but it was designed for high power at close range. Btw I’ve got the all steel version, the polymer is maybe for city folks that will only use critical self defense situation, i dont think that frame will handle extended use. All steel big bore, or even the raging judge is 1 intimidating mama

  30. [snip] Red on yellow, will kill a fellow. Red on black, good for Jack… [snip]

    Red, black, & yellow, leave the f*g thing alone!!

  31. having lived in the mountains of Kentucky, with copperheads and rattlesnakes, the 40 is a great snake killer. your friends problem was the buckshot . too few pellets. a good load of # 6’s of #4’s and that snake would have moved no more.
    cci shot from pistols also works . shoot close tom the head. do NOT handle a dead snake , it can still bite by reflex alone.

    I live in Michigan now and luckily all the snakes common here are harmless. We have a rare tiny rattler, but they are
    not known to bite humans . I would not pick it up though .

  32. I think people get too caught up in “what gun, “what ammo” sometimes. All of the rattlers I’ve killed were with the 9mm Glock. I’m sure that if I had been packing a 1911 or a Smith or some other flavor from the gun safe, the results would have been about the same. The only gun I have that I probably wouldn’t pick for dispatching snakes would be my pocket .380 but I could still wouldn’t like the snake’s odds.

  33. Used CCI in 40 S&W for many rattlers. Just got a Judge and will use bird shot. The .40 worked wonders at relatively short distances and they didn’t crawl away. The Judge with more shot should be even better.


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