Taurus Public Defender 45 Colt/410 Snubnose Revolver, with 45 ACP Modification and Specialty Load Development
Last week, I shot my first Taurus Judge. I had some preconceived notions, most of which were incorrect. It scattered birdshot all over a B27 at 15 yards, but patterned the same load plenty good enough for snakes at 10 feet. It patterned 000 buck or PDX close enough to keep ’em on the head at 10 yards. From 18-20 yards, I could shoot 6-7” groups using my standard W231/250 RNFP 45 Colt load. I didn’t get a chance to do any rested shooting with that particular gun. Everybody loved the grip except me and I thought it needed to be firmer. I could feel the gun squirm around in the grips when I fired it. Recoil with the souped-up 410 loads was noticeable but not disconcerting. It spit a little and I didn’t like that.
Surprisingly, the trigger wasn’t half bad. The fiber optic sight was easy to pick up for quick shots but disconcerting for precise shooting… the fiber optic rod is half obscured when using a normal sight picture. Otherwise it shot a tad high. The sight is dovetailed in so theoretically at least, there’s room to experiment.
Now, I’ve never been a big Taurus guy… but I’m on a “What the hell, try it!” kick & I swapped into a stainless Public Defender a few days ago. It had been fired exactly once by the original owner and it has an even better trigger than the blue one I test-drove.
The first thing I did was check the grip screw, which took a turn and a half to snug up. That alleviated the ‘squishy grip’ issue. Thankfully, this revolver does not ‘spit’. I shot this Public Defender with my standard 255 RNFP load (7.1 grains W231) my 255 SWC load (7.5 grains) and some 2 ½” Winchester #6 cheapie field loads. The WW #6 yielded snake shredding patterns at 12 feet. It shot any of these loads well enough for its intended purpose, as evidenced by Peggi’s target fired at about 10 yards. There’s also one round of Winchester’s 2 ½ three-pellet OOO buck in there. It clocks 864 fps from this gun’s two-inch barrel- certainly fast enough for lethality.
Any handgun I’m going to carry will pull double-duty as a woods gun, which means it has to possess useful 25 yard accuracy. This Public Defender did not like my 255 SWC load and it planted them perfectly sideways at 25 yards, (THAT would leave a mark) about 6″ above the front sight. It leaded up with only two cylinders of them and this probably affected accuracy with the RNFP load. About the best it would do is 6-7″ at 25 yards, again 5″ high. It did keep them all on a B27 at that… even the sideways ones. I burned a couple of cylinders in DA shooting on 6″ falling plates at 15 yards and I couldn’t seem to miss one. It was definitely adequate for close encounters.
But by conventional standards, the gun don’t shoot for sour apples with two, proven-accurate 45 Colt loads. A trip around the gun with the micrometers told why. In addition to a long jump to the rifling, the cylinder throats measure 0.462”. I guess I should be thankful Taurus didn’t just bore it straight through!
Anybody with walking-around sense knows that if you want a revolver to shoot well, especially with lead, the bullet has to fit the cylinder throats. Now I’m not a bullet caster and I have no interest in ordering a special mould for a .462 bullet. A .459 would be OK but those are big-bore rifle slugs and they’re way heavy for this application. What I did have was a partial box of Hornady’s swaged lead .454/255 grain ‘Cowboy’ bullet, catalog # 12458.
To cut down the distance the bullet had to jump, I loaded these out to 1.720”. You have to admit that loaded at this length, the 45 Colt has a certain 19th century Adriatic charm about it.
Loaded to this length, my Ruger Vaquero won’t chamber them. But they dropped right into the Public Defender and that what I was after.
When you load a cartridge WAY out like that you increase the working space and chamber pressure drops. Velocity goes right along with it and there’s none to spare with the Judge. My standard-pressure 45 Colt loads clocked 600-650 fps from this gun, which was no shocker considering its short barrel and cavernous chambers. Right here is where I have to give a warning- *The following loads are OVER PUBLISHED DATA if loaded to SAAMI overall length. So I DO NOT RECOMMEND you use them in any standard 45 Colt and if you do use them, YOU ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES. That’s as idiot-proof as I can make it.
I began with *7.5 grains of HP38*, with the 1.720” OAL. I know that load is safe in SAA’s with a 255 grain SWC, so I figured its’ a good starting point. Velocity was in the low fives, standard deviation was all over the place and it didn’t shoot any better than my cast loads. It WAS fun to shoot, though. The last three rounds of that load were fired fast DA, at the head of a B27, after walking away from it 7 paces and turning around. The holes overlapped where the nose would have been, if B27’s had noses.
The next attempt was *8.0 grains of HP38* and things began to ‘gel’. Average velocity was 682.9 fps with an Extreme Spread of 54.2 fps and a Standard Deviation of 20.6 fps. Since my other 45 Colt loads are running about 200 fps slower in this gun, the 680+ reading tells me we’re not significantly over-pressure. This is reflected in easy extraction and the normal appearance of fired cases and primers.
If you’ve read much of my stuff, you know I generally ignore the ES and SD so long as a particular load shoots well. But here we are dealing with a pistol load, essentially fired in a shotgun chamber. These numbers indicate that were getting into normal handgun load performance, despite the shotgun chamber. As a bonus, leading all but disappeared.
My first attempt at groups with this load didn’t do it justice. We’d just had a downpour and it was still sprinkling. I sat on a rain slicker thrown over a soaked canvas hunting chair, with my legs crossed and shooting over one knee. The damned, rain-crazed flies were biting like they were auditioning for the lead part in Twilight. Then there are those sights, which are great for quick DA work up close; but they suck for precise shooting at distance. Short version is that I’m eating the shot to the right and assuming the load is well represented by the four shots above the aiming point. This will no doubt get better on a dry day, shooting from a proper rest.
I can live with this, considering that the Public Defender is a two-inch, fixed-sight 410 revolver that just happens to shoot 45 Colts. Mine will see almost exclusive use with that grand old cartridge. This load has adequate velocity for vermin regardless of their leg count. It wouldn’t embarrass you if you needed to take a 25 yard shot. Next step is getting those sights zeroed… but I’m itching to shred a Copperhead with it.
*45 ACP Modification*
I’d read that some of these revolvers will accept 45 ACP in Taurus’s little 5-shot ‘Stellar’ clip intended for their Model 455 snubnose. Some won’t; the difference being about 0.008″ as near as I could tell. Anyhow I ordered a 5 pack of moon clips and determined to make them work. One of the glorious things about an off-brand revolver is that you’re not afraid to go hammer & tongs on it.
I removed about 0.007″ from the recoil plate before the clips would drop in and turn freely with ACP cartridges in place. The firing pin still sits below flush and headspace has not changed significantly, so there should be no negatives with this modification for standard-pressure 45 Colt or 410 shot-shells. It did require a complete tear-down and I slicked things up a little, while I was in there.
I’ve got half a three-pound coffee can of lead-bullet 45 ACP loads left, so we’ll soon know how well the gun shoots with them. I don’t expect it’ll be a tack driver but I’m tickled to have added a layer of versatility to an already versatile fivegun.
First Shots With The 45 ACP
I ran a few ‘clips’ through the gun this morning and there were no problems to report. The target represents 20 rounds fired double-action at 15 yards and I flubbed a few out of the bull until I figured out I needed to hold just under the red dot on the target. There was some key-holing but I didn’t bother cleaning the bore and it was already leaded up. The same hold yielded consistent hits on 6” falling plates.
Final 25 Yard Zero Accomplished-
Satisfied that the 45 Colt ‘Long Load’ was going to shoot about as well as anything from this gun, I set about zeroing the fixed sights for 25 yards. It was shooting a good six inches high and there are essentially no aftermarket front sights available for this revolver. So the answer was to remove metal from the top of the frame at the rear sight notch. I just needed to determine ‘how much’. I turned to Brownells Sight Correction Calculator for the answer. With the PD’s 4.25” sight radius, the Math Wizard said 0.019” would get me there. I covered the topstrap with electrical tape and grabbed my freshest Nicholson 06601N and set to work- very slowly and taking measurements every third stroke. I stopped at 0.017” and eyeballed the sight notch, which was now a little shallow. I was able to deepen the notch an equal amount using a Brownell’s Pillar File, which has two safe edges and is perfect for these jobs.
When the rain stopped, I hung a target and fired five rounds standing unsupported at 25 yards. The Long Load group was 3” including the high shot (which I think I pulled) and 2” excluding it. Aside from a possible slight windage correction, I am satisfied. This ridiculous little 45 ACP/LC/410 combo revolver is now shooting better than the PT145 it replaced.