I received an email from a reader of this site, telling me about the Taurus Judge, which is a revolver that can fire either the .45 Long Colt, or a .410 shotgun shell (often loaded with birdshot). By chance I happen to have handled a Taurus Judge right before I read that email. Below is is the email I received, along with my thoughts on the use of birdshot for home and automotive defense.
The Email from “Walt”
“Taurus has a 5 shot revolver called The Judge that also chambers .410 shot shells.
Seems to be perfect for home defense.”
Birdshot for self defense
Insofar as self defense is concerned, I do not consider birdshot to be effective, and this opinion is shared by many other people. The reason is simple: To stop an attacker right away, before they can kill or seriously injure you, you must disrupt their vital organ(s). The small birdshot pellets are unable to penetrate an attacker deeply enough to reach a vital organ. Birdshot will cause a painful and messy looking wound, but it simply won’t reach the vital organs. Some people will argue that at close range, birdshot is “like a solid column of lead”, but this is not the case either. While it is true that the pellets are close together and nearly touching, they will still behave as individual pellets as they penetrate the target, and ballistic gel testing demonstrates this. The birdshot, even at extremely close range, will only penetrate about 6 inches of ballistic gel, while penetration of 12 inches of ballistic gel is generally considered the minimum effective depth to stop an attacker. With birdshot, the attacker may well be fatally wounded, but in the many minutes or hours it takes before the attacker succumbs to their wounds, they still can kill you or a loved one. That is why I generally recommend at least 00 buckshot for self defense, when using a shotgun.
I discuss self defense ammunition for shotguns, as well as rifles and handguns in greater detail here.
The Exceptions to my No-Birdshot Suggestion
Please note that I said that I “generally” recommend buckshot, but I can envision some scenarios in which birdshot may be acceptable or even preferred over buckshot.
One such scenario would be for vehicular defense. Since a citizen faced with a car jacking often has a means of escaping from the car jacker, it might be sufficient to simply incapacitate the car jacker for a few seconds in order to allow for an escape. This differs from the home invasion situation, where the home owner may have a sleeping family to stay with and defend, along with an escape route blocked by the criminal. In the car jacking scenario, the greater likelihood of a hit that birdshot provides may be beneficial, and the limited stopping power of birdshot may be less of a problem. Similarly, the limited penetration of birdshot may help protect innocent bystanders who are in nearby cars. This is the rational for using birdshot advocated by many users of the Taurus Judge.
Another scenario where birdshot may be acceptable is in an apartment building or house with very thin walls and many innocent bystanders on the other side of the walls. In this scenario, the only benefit of birdshot is that it will be less likely to over penetrate and hit an innocent victim, but is is also less likely to stop the attacker. I’m less confident that bird shot is the ideal solution in such a scenario (I would rather rely on buckshot and good aim), but some people in this situation will opt for birdshot.
P.S.: My thanks to “Walt” for the email discussing the Taurus Judge.