“Circuit Judge” 410/45Colt Revolving Shotgun/Rifle from Taurus/Rossi


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

October 4th, 2010


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Circuit Judge comes with (top to bottom): cleaning brush; smooth tube for use with 45 Colt ammunition; straight-rifled tube for use with .410 Shotshell ammunition; tube wrench.







Winchester PDX1 is a very good choice for a self-defense load.



Bird shot at 25 yards shows a pretty decent pattern.



Winchester's three-inch 000 buck load.



The Circuit Judge proved very accurate with 45 Colt ammunition.



000 buckshot at 25 yards shows a wide spread, but all five pellets were still on target.













Taurus has had amazing success with their Judge series of revolvers. Ridiculed by some “experts” when first introduced, folks have really taken to the concept of a 410 shotshell revolver that can also shoot 45 Colt ammunition. I think that most buyers of the Judge like the idea of a close range self defense weapon that fires shotshells. It has now been over three and one-half years since I first fired a Judge, and I loved the revolver right from the start. When first introduced, gun store owners told me that folks were coming in asking for the “carjacker gun”, because the weapon is ideally suited to such close range defensive work as carjacker repellant. I received quite a bit of hate-mail for my comments in that first review about shooting a carjacker in the face with a load of birdshot. I love getting hate mail. It keeps thing interesting. Anyway, the Judge revolvers are offered in a wide variety to suit just about any need that one might have for a shotshell-firing revolver, and we have also reviewed the UltraLite Judge and Public Defender models here. I impatiently await the arrival of the polymer Public Defender, due to start shipping at any time, but right now, we are looking at the latest rendering of the Judge design; the Circuit Judge carbine/shotgun.

The Circuit Judge is pretty much a Judge handgun with a buttstock and longer barrel. However, the Circuit Judge is not designed purely for self defense, but also as a hunting weapon. Revolving carbines are nothing new. Since the introduction of the revolver over 160 years ago, people have been putting buttstocks on revolvers. What has kept the concept from being more popular is that, if not held properly, the powder gasses and residue escaping from the barrel/cylinder gap can injure the shooter. Conventional revolving carbines should be gripped like a handgun, with both hands on the pistol grip, to prevent serious burns to the shooter’s forearm. Taurus has solved this problem by placing gas deflector shields on the Circuit Judge. The ones on the production guns are different from those shown on the prototype a few months ago, but they work, and work well. There is a gas deflector on each side of the Circuit Judge to protect the shooter’s forearms. I purposely fired the weapon without sleeves, and felt nothing on my bare forearms while shooting 410 shotshells or 45 Colt ammunition. I also fired the weapon alongside a large sheet of clean white paper to detect any residue, and none was found. Taurus has solved the problem that has forever plagued the idea of producing a popular revolving carbine. The barrel/cylinder gap on the Circuit Judge is also held to a tight tolerance, which contributes to the lack of flash at the barrel/cylinder gap.

As when any new firearm in introduced that differs greatly from what is already available, shooters tend to ask “why”, and “why’ is a fair question, when there are already several good 410 bore shotguns on the market. What the Circuit Judge offers foremost is versatility. A pump or semi-automatic 410 shotgun cannot cycle and fire 45 Colt ammunition. The Circuit Judge can. I will admit that when I started testing the Circuit Judge, I had my doubts about the accuracy that could be achieved using 45 Colt ammunition, and regarded the revolver as more of a shotgun, with the novelty of being able to fire the handgun ammunition for purely close range plinking. I was wrong. I was expecting no better than four inch groups at twenty-five yards, due to the long cylinder for the short cartridge, but was very pleasantly surprised with the excellent accuracy displayed by the Circuit Judge. The little carbine would cluster five shots of 45 Colt ammo into a one inch group at twenty-five yards, and do it all day. It would have probably grouped even tighter with a better shooter pulling the trigger. For patterning the shotshells, I also set up at twenty-five yards for testing birdshot patterns, and at that distance, the patterns were good enough for small game and bird hunting. Out farther, the patterns spread quickly, but the Circuit Judge is certainly capable of small game and bird hunting within its range. For hunting of migratory birds such as dove, the weapon comes with a double plug, limiting the capacity of the cylinder to the statutory three shells. I also tested the Circuit Judge with a variety of defensive type shotshell loads. More on that later, but first a description of the physical traits of the revolving carbine/shotgun.

The Circuit Judge wears an eighteen and one-half inch barrel, keeping it both legal and handy for use in the United States. The muzzle is fitted with tubes for use depending upon the load being fired. They appear to be just like any shotgun choke, but are not really chokes, as they have no constriction for patterning of shot. First, please note that these tubes have left-hand threads, so removing and inserting them into the barrel is directly opposite the procedure for installing chokes in any other shotgun. Turn backwards (left) to install, and right to remove. Taurus supplies a wrench with the weapon for the installation and removal of the tubes. The smoothbore tube is a thread protector for use with solid-bullet 45 Colt ammunition. The other tube has straight rifling, to stop the shot load from spinning when using 410 shotshells. This makes the shot pattern tighter, as a spinning shot load will spread quickly, making a “donut” pattern. I tried shot loads alternating between the straight-rifled tube and the smooth tube, and shot definitely patterns tighter with the straight-rifled tube in place. The buttstock on the Circuit Judge has a high comb, for better use with the fiber-optic sights or an optical sight. Atop the frame is a scope mount that will accept any Weaver-type scope ring, but is not 1913 Picatinny compatible. The buttstock is of a plain straight-grain hardwood, and finished off with a recoil pad. The pistol grip is very comfortable. The forend is of a semi-beavertail style, and is easy to grip and comfortable to use. Sling loops are provided to accommodate a one-inch sling. The frame, barrel, and cylinder are nicely polished and blued. The Circuit Judge has a three inch cylinder, and can shoot any 410 bore shotshell, whether loaded with shot or solid slug. Use only standard pressure 45 Colt ammunition in the Circuit Judge. Do not use any of the 45 Colt Magnum type ammo on the market. If you need a good heavy 45 Colt load, Buffalo Bore makes a very good standard pressure heavy bullet load. If in doubt, always ask the ammunition maker. The overall length of the weapon measures 37.625 inches, and my sample gun weighs in at four pounds, fifteen ounces. Rossi lists the weight at four and one-half pounds, but the weight can vary a bit with the density of the wood. Speaking of Rossi, the Circuit Judge is branded “Taurus”, and does not have “Rossi” anywhere on the gun, but the box is labeled “Rossi”, as is the owner’s manual, and the Circuit Judge is on Rossi’s website. ‘Braztech” is on the side plate of the weapon, under the Taurus bull logo. Anyway, they are all the same corporation, but for details on the Circuit Judge, go to the Rossi USA website.

The trigger pull on the Circuit Judge is very smooth, and the weapon is capable of both single-action (manually thumb-cock the weapon) and double-action (just pull the trigger) modes of fire. The double-action pull measured slightly over ten pounds on the test gun, and the single action a crisp five pounds, seven ounces. For accurate rifle fire, the single-action pull capability is helpful, but for defensive work, being able to rapidly fire the weapon in double-action mode is of benefit. The Circuit Judge proved to be one-hundred percent reliable with every type of ammunition tried. Ejection was smooth and positive.

While on the subject of defensive use of this weapon, we come to what I believe is the best use of the Circuit Judge. Loaded with a three inch 000 buck load, this weapon can deliver a lot of damage quickly to the target. The Winchester five-pellet loads puts five of these 000 buckshot on the target with every pull of the trigger, allowing the shooter to put twenty-five 36 caliber holes into the target in about three seconds. Another fine load for defense is the Winchester PDX1. This two and one-half inch 410 load was developed especially for use in the Taurus Judge and other 410 bore handguns, but it is now offered in 12 gauge as well. In 410 bore, it has three flattened full-caliber disks, with twelve BB-sized pellets, making for a very versatile defensive round. I have talked with a couple of smaller ammo makers about making a similar round since the Judge was first introduced, and am glad to see a large ammunition manufacturer like Winchester stepping up and producing such a load. At twenty-five yards, the Circuit Judge can keep all five of the 000 buckshot from the three-inch Winchester load on a human-sized silhouette, and at seven yards keep them all on the head area. Same with the PDX1 load. Across a typical household room, either load is devastating. This Circuit Judge would be a fine weapon for home defense. Many people have a hard time controlling a powerful handgun, but shooting the Circuit Judge effectively is very easy to do. The weapon points well, and having a non-magnifying optical sight atop the weapon, such as the superb Leupold Deltapoint makes hitting the target in any lighting condition much easier to do. The Deltapoint is easy to see, and allows the user to leave both eyes wide open and focused upon the target. There is no switch to manipulate. The slightest movement activates the sight, and it shuts off on its own.

As with its little brother, the Judge handgun, Taurus has produced a very unique and useful firearm in the Circuit Judge. It would make for a very effective weapon for home defense, and would also serve as a dandy camp gun, able to harvest birds and small game for the pot with shotshells, effectively take a deer or wild boar with 45 Colt ammunition, and protect the campsite from predators at night with buckshot or the Winchester PDX1 load, all in one light and handy weapon.

Check out the Circuit Judge online at www.rossiusa.com.

For the location of a Taurus/Rossi dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.

To order the Circuit Judge online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

To look at the extensive line of Winchester ammunition, including the new PDX1 410 shotgun defensive load, go to www.winchester.com.

Jeff Quinn


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to:

To buy this gun online, go to:


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Taurus / Rossi "Circuit Judge" .410 Shotshell / 45 Colt revolving shotgun / rifle.



Fiber optic sights.



Blast shields protect the shooter's arms from powder gases and residue.







Hammer extension for scope use.



Taurus Security System key lock.





Leupold Deltapoint sight is ideal for a weapon like the Circuit Judge.



Circuit Judge comes with plugs for two chambers, for use where shotgun capacity is regulated to three rounds.