Category Archives: Judge

How Effective is a Hit from a Raging Judge?

As a follow-up to my recent article, I decided to find out how effective a .454 Casull hit would be from a Raging Judge Magnum.  Now, I’m not advocating that you use a .454 Casull as a personal defense weapon; the sheer power of the cartridge introduces complications that may not be worth the benefit — the massive recoil would make getting a second shot off rather tricky, the overpenetration would be extreme, and if you happened to miss, the destructive power of that wild round and the liability concerns (if it misses your target, it’s still going to hit something) all lead me to think that it’s probably not the best idea to use a .454 Casull as a personal defense round.

But — it should make for some pretty spectacular footage, right?

So I took the Raging Judge to the range, loaded it up with a Speer Handgun Hunting Deep Curl .454 Casull rounds, and fired one into a block of ClearBallistics synthetic ballistic gelatin.  And the results were… noteworthy.  But before I show you what the Raging Judge .454 did to the gel block, let’s first put it into context — I’m going to show you what a full-power full-size service pistol with premium defensive ammo does.  So in the video below you’ll find two shots: first is a Glock 21 .45 ACP, firing the excellent Federal Premium HST +P hollowpoint rounds.  This is about as good as it gets for a conventional handgun, and you can see the shock of impact and the penetration and damage that a premium big-bore hollowpoint can do.  Then, it’s followed up by the Raging Judge Magnum shooting the Speer DCHP .454 Casull into another ClearBallistics gelatin block.  Enjoy.

The .45 ACP hits hard, sure, but nothing at all like the .454 Casull.  It picks up the entire 18-lb block of gel, entirely off the table, and shoves another 18-lb block clean off the screen!  It destroyed the table, and the temporary stretch cavity is so huge that it’d likely rip and shred flesh just like a high-powered rifle would.  Nor surprisingly, considering the .454 Casull round is delivering rifle-caliber energy and while the velocity isn’t quite up to high-power rifle levels, the bullet is nearly twice the weight of a standard .308 rifle’s projectile, so there’s still a tremendous amount of damage being done.

.45 ACP is one of my favorite calibers, and it’s a potent and proven manstopper, but this sure does put it in perspective!

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How Effective Is A Hit From A Judge?

As anyone who’s googled “Taurus Judge” knows, there’s been an ongoing (and frequently vitriolic) debate over how effective a Judge is, as a defensive weapon.  Most will acknowledge that the .45 Colt is an effective round, but there’s tremendous controversy over the effectiveness of buckshot from a Judge.

I attempted to address this in my video review of the Judge Public Defender Part 2: As A Shotgun, below:

However, I’m still exploring ways to quantify just how effective a hit from the handgun shotgun revolver would be.  We know that the Judge (with the proper ammo) can penetrate very deeply; in my own ballistics gelatin tests and in tests from others, we’ve seen well in excess of 16″ of penetration, even up to 20″.  But how do four .36-caliber buckshot balls compare, in terms of incapacitating effectiveness, against an expanding hollowpoint from something like a .45 ACP?  Is there even any way to compare them?

Comparing the effectiveness of different cartridges, and finding a way to quantify their relative effectiveness, has been a popular topic since at least 1904, when the Thompson-LaGarde tests were conducted to find out how many shots from various calibers it took to incapacitate a steer.  Since then we’ve seen a variety of “factors” or “formulas”, such as the TKO (“Taylor Knock Out Factor”) or the Marshall-Sanow “One Shot Stop” percentage, all attempting to classify or compare relative cartridge power, and all substantially flawed in one way or another.  The Thompson-LaGarde steer tests are in fact very valid for hunters of large animals over 1,000 pounds, but for the purpose of defending against an attacking human they’re much less relevant because they’re based on dropping massive animals.  The TKO factor is highly unscientific and was never meant to be applied to handgun rounds anyway, and the Marshall-Sanow database has been seriously discredited by several leading members of the IWBA.

So where can we turn to get an impartial, scientific, quantifiable assessment of the damaging factor and the incapacitating capability of a particular handgun round?  As in — how can we reliably speculate on how effective a bullet will be in stopping an attacker?

The FBI, the International Wound Ballistics Association, and leading trauma surgeons, combat medics, emergency-room physicians and others came together in multiple summits and determined, by consensus, that a bullet needs to be able to penetrate at least 12″, and ideally no more than 18″, in order to be able to inflict an incapacitating wound.  You can read the FBI report here.

The conclusions from the FBI report are pretty simple to grasp — a bullet needs to penetrate deep enough to hit the vital organs, and the larger the bullet, the more tissue will be damaged, so bigger = better, so long as adequate penetration is achieved first.

However, that doesn’t help us determine how to rank bullets against each other in terms of comparative effectiveness.  The FBI report gives us a metric to measure “pass/fail” of any particular bullet, but in reality that’s a pretty strict measuring stick — a bullet that penetrates 11.5″ would be classified as a “fail” even though it should seem pretty obvious that an 11.5″ penetrating bullet is by no means guaranteed to fail.  It won’t be as effective as a 14″-penetrating bullet, sure, but that doesn’t mean it would be totally ineffective either!

So how can we address the popular need of wanting to be able to determine, classify, and compare bullet effectiveness?  Duncan MacPherson, NASA rocket scientist and founding member of the International Wound Ballistics Association, publishes his attempt at a Wound Trama Incapacitation (WTI) factor in his excellent book Bullet Penetration: Modeling the Dynamics and the Incapacitation Resulting from Wound Trauma“.  Unfortunately the book is out of print, and the only way to get a copy is to scour ebay or used bookstores or buy a used copy off Amazon, but if you’re interested in the subject, it’s a fascinating examination of what really, really happens when a bullet impacts flesh.

In the last chapter of the book, MacPherson presents a mathematical model for determining the incapacitation likelihood of any particular cartridge.  Now, by “incapacitation”, he means damaging the attacker so much that the attacker is forced to stop attacking.  MacPherson approaches it from the medically-validated aspect of how much tissue is damaged, and how deeply the bullet penetrates.  He doesn’t rely on mysticism like “energy dumps” or “hydrostatic shock” or other non-quantifiable and highly disputed concepts; instead he relies on the science of wound ballistics, the examination of trauma victims, the realities of bullet hits, and the use of science to determine how much damage a particular bullet will do, and how much damage a typical human attacker could withstand before their body forces them to shut down.

Taking 300 pages of utterly brilliant mathematical modeling and physical science and boiling it all together and distilling it down to a simple number is a bold task, but once all is said and done, the conclusion reached is that a bullet that penetrates deeply enough and destroys 40 grams of tissue is a pretty good candidate for incapacitating a target.  There’s much more to it than that, of course, and if you want to truly understand it you’ll have to get the book, but the model MacPherson uses assigns different values and weighting to different penetration depths, it takes into account velocities, it assigns different factors to hollowpoints, or wadcutters, or roundnose projectiles, etc.  It’s quite detailed and excellently done, but once it’s all boiled down and accurately accounted for, the net result is: how much tissue is disrupted?  If it’s a big-enough hit, and deep enough, it stands a good chance of incapacitating the attacker.

Based on his model, I’ve calculated the mass of tissue destroyed for my favorite rounds from two Judges, the Public Defender (the smallest of Judges and the “weakest”) and the Raging Judge Magnum (the largest of Judges and the “most powerful” Judge pistol).

The two rounds I’m using are the Federal 410 Handgun 000 buckshot, and the NobelSport .40-caliber buckshot.


In the Federal .410 000 round, there are four pellets of .36″ diameter and 63.5 grains apiece in the 2.5″ shell, for a total payload of 254 grains of lead.  In the 3″ shell, there’s an additional pellet, bringing the lead payload up to almost 318 grains.

In the NobelSport cartridge, there are three pellets of .40″ diameter and 90 grains apiece in the 2.5″ shell, for a total payload of 270 grains of lead.  In the 3″ shell there’s an additional pellet, bringing the  total lead payload up to 360 grains(!)

Using the proper mathematical formula, the proper weighting for penetration, and the diameter of the bullets themselves, yields the following tissue damage results:

2.5″ Nobel:  66 grams

2.5″ Federal: 65.6 grams

3″ Nobel: 84 grams

3″ Federal: 82 grams

Each of these is well in excess of MacPherson’s desired threshold of 40 grams; the 3″ shells are actually over double the level necessary!  Now, does this mean that each shot from a Judge will result in immediate incapacitation of an attacker? Of course not, there are never any “guarantees”, but in dealing with averages, it does mean that the shots from a Judge will likely be quite effective indeed.  It should at least address the silly and baseless internet argument of “buckshot will just bounce off an attacker”.

For comparison, I ran a calculation on a .45 ACP +P round, Hornady Critical Duty 220 grain, at 951 fps, and 15″ of penetration.  According to the Schwartz Quantitative Ammunition Selection formula for calculating the mass of the permanent wound cavity, and then applying the MacPherson WTI calculations, we get 69.82 grams of tissue disrupted.  That’s right on par with the 2.5″ buckshot shells, and not quite as much as the 3″ shells.  A good round of .45 ACP has long been known as an effective manstopper; the Judge 2.5″ rounds don’t destroy any more tissue despite having multiple projectiles, but on the other hand — they have multiple projectiles, which gives them multiple wound paths, which raises the prospect of turning a near-miss into a hit on a vital structure in the attacker’s body.  The 3″ shells do provide more tissue disruption than the single .45 ACP hollowpoint, but not significantly more; their main advantage is not so much in the 19% additional tissue they disrupt, but in that they create four or five wound paths instead of one.  Again, that gives more opportunity for a near-miss to become a hit.

So how effective is a Judge in stopping an attacker? Each blast from the 2.5″ shotgun shells (presuming you’re using the right ammo!) will disrupt as much tissue as a premium .45 ACP hollowpoint, but will give you three or four separate wound tracks, thus giving you three or four chances at hitting a critical or vital structure (such as the heart, major artery, or central nervous system).  And if you’re using 3″ shells, you’ll get around 20% more tissue disruption than the 2.5″ shells, and another projectile for yet another opportunity at hitting something vital.

Judge Shotgun Effectiveness chart

While we can’t predict the actual results in any actual individual shooting scenario, we can reasonably draw a broad conclusion: would a Judge with Federal .410 Handgun 000 buckshot or NobelSport buckshot be an effective manstopper? The test results say “hell yes.”

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Why the Judge is more powerful than you think…

In my recent review of the Taurus Judge Public Defender, I demonstrated its performance relative to another popular pistol.  Now, before rehashing that, let’s just ask a simple question:

Which would you expect to be more powerful?

  • A .45 ACP pistol with a 3.3″ barrel
  • A .45 Colt pistol with a 2″ barrel

Seems like an easy question, doesn’t it? I mean, seems like a complete no-brainer: obviously, to any reasonable person, the 3.3″ barrel is going to produce higher velocities than the 2″ barrel, right?

Well, yes.

And no.  Not when the 2″ barrel is on a Judge.

And that’s where it gets fun, when theory meets testing (and testing always wins!)

Now, in reality it is a well-established axiom of ballistics that longer barrels = higher velocity, up to a point.  The longer the barrel is, the more distance the bullet will travel while still being contained in the sealed environment of the barrel, and that means the expanding gases from the burning gunpowder can push on the bullet longer, thus increasing its velocity.  This is all obvious and well-understood.  And the knock against a short barrel has always been that it’s possible for the bullet to exit the barrel before the expanding gases have fully expanded, so any further expansion they do will be out into the atmosphere and not pressing against the bullet.  Accordingly, really short barrels have usually been pretty bad at generating decent velocities.  And an inch or two can make either a significant difference, or a miniscule difference; it really depends on where the barrel length difference comes in.  The difference between a 6″ barrel and an 8″ barrel might be minor, but the difference between a 1″ barrel and a 3″ barrel will be huge!  In the longer 6″ barrel the expanding gases may have done most of their job pushing the bullet by the time that bullet exits the barrel; there may not be much more that will be gained from the 8″ barrel.  However, on a 1″ barrel, the gases very likely will have just barely have started expanding by the time the bullet pops out of that tiny barrel!  Any further expansion is just wasted.

And yet — I’ve just completed testing on the Judge Public Defender (2″ barrel) against the Springfield XDS (3.3″ barrel) and found them to deliver almost identical velocities when shooting identical-weight bullets loaded to the same ballistic performance.  How is this possible?

Barrel Lengths Are Measured Differently

The first key to understanding this mystery is to recognize that not all barrels are measured the same.  The official barrel-measuring technique for rifles, shotguns, and semi-automatic pistols is to run a dowel down the barrel until it reaches the breech face (or where the back of the loaded cartridge would be); mark the dowel at that point, and then pull it out and measure it.


Using that technique with the Springfield XDS, we find that the marked dowel matches 3.3″, exactly what it should.


But with a revolver, that’s not how a barrel is measured!  With a revolver, you only measure from the front of the revolver to the back of the barrel’s forcing cone.  You don’t include any part of the cylinder.  Measuring the Public Defender’s barrel in this way, we get exactly what we’d expect: 2″, just like the printed specifications say it should be.


And yet — when we stack the two pistols back to back, we see that they’re pretty much the same size, right?


And when we compare the ballistics, we find that they perform almost identically: Critical Defense 185 grain produces 870 feet per second from the 2″ Public Defender, and 901 feet per second from the 3.3″ XDS.  And with “hot” loads shooting 200 grains at the highest pressure and fastest speeds I could find, the 2″ Public Defender shot at 940 feet per second, and the XDS shot at 970 feet per second.  That’s a difference of about 3%, while the XDS’s barrel length is 65% longer than the Public Defender.  How is this possible?  How is the Public Defender delivering comparable performance, from a barrel that’s barely over half as long?

It’s The Cylinder, Silly!

Look at this picture of the Public Defender, and what stands out about it?

PD with laser on in smoke

That giant cylinder, right?  When you hear criticisms of the Judge, frequently the cylinder will be mentioned as a drawback because it’s what makes the gun so big.  Interestingly enough, it’s also what makes the gun so much more powerful than you would otherwise expect!

Understand that with any revolver, the fact that they measure the barrel without including the chamber means that you’ll always have more performance from a revolver than you would from a semiautomatic of the exact same barrel length (because some of the semiauto’s barrel length is occupied by the bullet.)  But in the Judge, it’s even more of a difference.  Here’s a picture that shows the Public Defender with a .45 Colt bullet overlaid.


You can see that there’s about an inch of “free bore” from the end of the bullet to the start of the forcing cone.  My actual measurement was 1 1/8″.  How does that “free bore” affect the ballistic performance? Basically it adds another inch of “barrel length.”  So, yes, in effect, any 2.5″-cylinder Judge actually has the ballistic performance of a gun with an inch longer barrel than it says it is, and any 3″-cylinder judge performs like a gun with a 1.5″ longer barrel than it’s rated as!

Verifying The Hypothesis

My hypothesis is that ballistically, the “free bore” area is basically extra unrifled barrel.  The bullet doesn’t “know” whether it’s technically in the “barrel” or not; it just knows that it’s trapped in a sealed environment and that there are gases pushing against the back of it  (and, okay, it doesn’t “know” that either, but I think you get what I’m saying).  So whether the bullet is in the rifled “barrel” part or still in the freebore of the cylinder, it’s still in a sealed environment, being pushed forward by expanding gases, rifling or not.  That additional time spent with the gases expanding results in additional velocity, exactly like a longer barrel would have.  Whether it’s labeled “barrel” or “cylinder”, the result is the same.

This idea seems reasonable, but I wanted to take it a step further and actually test a 2″-barrel .45 Colt pistol against a 2″-barrel Judge, to see if there was a real-world, measurable difference in performance.  While 2″-barrel .45 Colt pistols do exist, they’re not easy to find, and I was unable to source one; however, I was able to do the next best thing: I went to and looked up their performance results for .45 Colt rounds, and found that in the “real world weapons” section, they had indeed tested a 2″ .45 Colt (the Taurus 450 Ultralight).  Using Federal 225-grain Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point rounds, they got an average velocity of 681 feet per second from the 2″-barrel Taurus 450.  So I went and chronographed that exact same round out of the 2″-barrel Public Defender and got … drum roll… 844 feet per second!  A huge performance increase; the velocity was almost 25% faster out of the Judge Public Defender’s 2″ barrel, than it was from the Taurus 450’s 2″ barrel.  Since the barrel length was identical (and probably was the same barrel, seeing as they’re from the same manufacturer), then what could account for the difference? Only the longer cylinder.

The net result is: for a Judge with a 2.5″ cylinder, you’re getting about an inch extra performance than you might otherwise have thought.  And for a Judge with a 3″ cylinder, you’re getting about 1.5″ extra performance. A 3″-barrel, 2.5″-cylinder Judge will perform about as well as a 4″-barrel .45 Colt revolver.  And a 3″-barrel, 3″-cylinder Magnum Judge will perform about as well as 4.5″-barrel .45 Colt revolver.

Now, what about when used as a shotgun?  Here, the additional barrel length advantage is even more significant.  Because a shotgun is typically measured back to the breech face, in order to get comparable measurements with the Judge we’d have to measure back to the breech face.



That’s almost 4 and three quarters inches; and that means that on the Judge Public Defender, it performs about comparably to a .410 shotgun with a 4.75″ barrel.  That’s still tiny, but it’s a darn sight better than a 2″ barrel!  And when you get into the longer-barreled Judges, the shotgun performance starts to get downright respectable: a 6.5″ barrel Raging Judge Magnum, with a 3″ chamber, is about effectively equivalent of a 9.5″ shotgun barrel.  That’s not huge, but it’s pretty darn substantial.

So, take heart, Judge users: the cylinder giveth (performance), and it taketh away (compactness).  But that big old cylinder isn’t “wasted space”, it’s actually working to make your pistol more powerful than you thought it was.

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Judging The Judge: The Taurus Judge Public Defender

Is there any product in the firearms community that’s caused as much controversy as the Taurus Judge?  If there is, I’m not aware of it.  I’ve read more reviews, comments, articles, posts, proclamations, missives, manifestos, and mumbo-jumbo about the Judge than anything else.

It’s kind of surreal to see so much vitriol being spouted from both sides, the fanatics and the haters, about one little product.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe a lot of it is driven by misunderstandings, or preconceived notions, or by resentment about something entirely unrelated (i.e., maybe people are lashing out against the Judge’s marketing campaign, or the perception that innocent/unknowing customers are being taken advantage of by being marketed such a product).

Now, while I can acknowledge that the fundamental purpose of the internet is to spawn arguments, I also have an abiding interest in simply answering questions.  I believe that there are, indeed, answers, and when so many people have such opposing viewpoints, well — why not just get to the bottom of it?  Why not test the product in a comprehensive manner, and see what it really, actually does?

After all, if it really is “ineffective” or “dangerous”, wouldn’t you want to know that?  And if instead it really is “powerful” and “effective”, wouldn’t you want to know that?  I know I would.  But then again, maybe that’s just me, because … if the arguments were actually settled, what would the internet fight over?

Ah, actually, we never have to worry about that, because as long as there’s politics, there will be something for the internet to argue over.  So, with that said, let’s get on with dispelling some misconceptions, burying some bulloney, and shedding some light on this whole Judge situation so that we, the community of those interested in self-defense, can evaluate the Judge based on knowing what its actual capabilities are.

The video is long… so long, I had to break it up in two parts.  Hope you enjoy it, or at least find it useful!

Here’s Part 1, where I compare the Judge Public Defender as a compact .45-caliber pistol against a common, well-reviewed, well-performing concealed-carry .45-caliber pistol, the Springfield XDS:

And in Part 2, I examine the Public Defender as a shotgun, comparing it to a 12-gauge, demonstrating its use with buckshot and birdshot, and evaluating its performance when using Judge-specific ammo (i.e., ammo that was designed specifically for the Judge).  There are ballistic gel tests, patterning charts, and some revealing conclusions that should forever answer the question as to whether the Public Defender is a powerful and/or effective defensive weapon.

Share your comments, and hey, if you feel like it, share the videos too.  When you come across someone making uninformed or just plain incorrect statements about the Judge, well, now you can share the answers.

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LaserLyte CK-SWAT for Taurus Judge Public Defender

PD with laser on in smoke


A laser.  On a Judge.  Really?

Okay, let me explain…

Um… yeah, I don’t really have a good explanation.  All right, here’s the deal – I do agree that a laser on a defensive weapon may not be the best idea, because you never want to depend on something that may have a dead battery when you need it most.  I understand that, and I agree with it.  But with that said, let me also add — not all of us are blessed with perfect vision, and sometimes we could use a little help.  I had Lasik eye surgery, for example, and now I can see crystal-clear to infinity, but — up close, my closest focus position is about a foot past how far I can hold my arm out.

In other words, in low light conditions, unless I’ve got reading glasses on, I can’t focus on the front sight.  And as any shooter with experience will tell you, for best results, you want to focus on the front sight.

In daylight I can see it fine.  In daylight the eye’s iris closes down and (if you know photography you’ll know this) the smaller the iris, the deeper the depth of field, meaning that you can focus closer and further than at night.  And in daylight, the Judge’s excellent fiber-optic sight glows and is in sharp focus.  But on a darker indoor shooting range, where the fiber-optic isn’t glowing, well… yeah, I struggled with seeing the front sight.

And besides, lasers are cool and I wanted one.  Okay, yeah, I said it — it’s a LASER.  That’s pretty cool.  Of course, you could tape a $10 laser pointer on top of your Public Defender and that’s also a laser, but — yeah, that’s not cool.  At all.

And finally — no, you don’t want to rely on a laser when the chips are down and the bullets start flying, but — it certainly can’t hurt to have it, right?  To be sure, you MUST train without the laser, you must be able to shoot straight and hit what you’re aiming at without the use of an additional, battery-dependent, potentially-failing electronic device.  So as long as you’ve trained that way, what would it hurt to have a laser too?  In addition?  The way I see it, more options just makes you better off.

Finally, some people might say “but a Judge is the LAST gun that needs a laser! It’s a shotgun, just point it in the general direction and pull the trigger!”  But those people would be wrong.  Shotguns need to be aimed too!  And if you’re using a good powerful defensive round in your Judge, it’s not going to spread out very far, so you want good aim.  Birdshot may spray everywhere in a big pattern, but birdshot won’t stop an attacker.  Buckshot will, and .45 Colt loads will, and buckshot doesn’t spread more than a few inches at personal-defense distances (typically 7 yards or less).  So yes, you do have to aim, just like with any other pistol (or rifle or shotgun).

So seeing as I was having difficulty seeing the sights in darker conditions, I thought — wonder if a laser would be any real help? And googling around, I found LaserLyte was basically the only manufacturer who makes a laser that will fit the Judge Public Defender.  I have the steel model, and the LaserLyte CK-SWAT fits it (and other pistols, like the Smith & Wesson J-frames and other Taurus revolvers, although it will NOT fit on the polymer Public Defender).

I found it for a decent price on Amazon, bought it, and installed it.  Installation was actually really simple.  First step, remove the grip off your Public Defender — that’s one allen screw and then it slips right off.


Unpacking the LaserLyte packaging you’ll find the laser itself mounted to a mounting plate, and a couple of additional mounting plates.  I had to remove the laser from the included S&W plate and install it on the appropriate Taurus plate, which was a matter of two little allen-head screws.  After that, remove a couple of screws from the frame, and attach the mounting plate into the screw-holes, and you’re up and running.

Here’s the laser ready to be installed:



The picture above is with the laser installed on the Public Defender.  It’s really quite tiny and totally unobtrusive.  It doesn’t interfere with the grip in any way, and you basically don’t even know it’s there unless you turn it on.

Once you have the laser installed and reattached your pistol’s grip, it’s time to aim it.  Aiming the laser is pretty straightforward, there are two included tiny allen wrenches, one for the windage (left-right) and one for elevation (up/down).  Yes, the windage and elevation screws are different sizes and require different wrenches; that’s silly, but it’s the way it is.  Anyway, secure your Judge somehow (I have a CTK Precision Ultimate Gun Vise for these types of jobs) and put up a target or crosshairs at 21 feet from the muzzle (the CK-SWAT is designed to be “zero’d” at 21 feet).  Then just adjust the allen screws to move the laser’s dot to coincide with your gun’s sights and you’re ready to go to the range and zero it in.  Just make sure that your last adjustment is clockwise, as that’s what tells the screws to lock in and hold position.

Zeroing in was quite necessary because, as I found, I’m actually a better shot with the Judge than I’d previously thought — it turns out that my front sight is just a little bit off to the right, so those missed bullseyes weren’t entirely my fault!  I’ve since had the gun’s front sight adjusted, so now with the sights or with the laser I can hit point of aim and deliver nicely tight groups at defensive distances.  I’ve put a few hundred rounds through the Judge with the laser installed and haven’t noticed it losing “zero” at all.

The laser’s great to have at night or in darker conditions, because in those scenarios it’s really very obvious what you’re aiming at.  And you don’t have to have a perfect stance with the gun drawn level to your eye; pretty much if you put the red dot on the target and pull the trigger, there’ll be a hole there.  It works well for that purpose.

In daylight, it’s nigh unto useless.  I mean, you can actually make out the dot at up to maybe 15 feet away, but it’s not easy.  You really have to be looking for it.  A green laser would be vastly preferable for daylight use; As an example, for rifles I picked up an inexpensive green laser from Primary Arms that is easily and clearly visible to 100 yards even in the daylight, but the CK-SWAT isn’t a green laser, it’s a red laser, and a red laser in daylight is only good for maybe 15 feet or so.  Which isn’t really a problem, because in daylight you can rely on the Judge’s excellent fiber-optic sight; the laser performs best in scenarios where the gun’s own sights fall short, which is convenient.

Operationally, there’s not a lot to it.  Press the button to turn it on, and it glows steady.  Hold the button in, and it’ll strobe on/off.  Press it again to turn it off — or, if you forget to turn it off, it’ll turn itself off after a few minutes.  That’s really a nice feature, because replacing the batteries is NOT very fun at all.  It takes four tiny batteries, and you need an allen wrench to open the battery cover, and then you have to pound the pistol into your hand to shake the batteries loose, and getting that fourth battery out is a bugger.  I’ve done it a couple of times since getting the laser, and each time it’s been the same: the first two will pop right out, the third one’s a fight, and getting that fourth one out is like trying to reason with a teenage daughter.  It can be done but it takes a lot of effort.

The operational drawback to the LaserLyte is that you have to manually turn the laser on.  I mean, duh, right, but stick with me for a second — Crimson Trace rules the laser roost with their instinctive grip system; I have a Crimson Trace on another pistol and the on/off switch is incorporated to the grip — it’s instinctive, and it’s brilliant.  Basically if you pick up the pistol in a shooting grip, the laser will already be on.  That’s fantastic — but that’s Crimson Trace, not LaserLyte (or anyone else).  With LaserLyte you have to manually turn the laser on.  Is that a big deal? Obviously not, if you have the time to do it (say, you hear a bump in the night so you grab your nightstand gun, and turn on the laser).  In that scenario, it’s no problem.  But if you’re out in public and a mugger pulls a gun on you and you have to react instantly, you’re not going to stop and turn on the laser!  So in that scenario, you’re not going to have the benefit of the laser.  But, to be fair again, I’ve heard it said that scenarios like that usually involve “3-3-3: they take place at 3 feet, they last for 3 seconds, and there’s usually 3 rounds fired.”  And in a scenario like that a laser wouldn’t do you any good anyway.

A word about customer service – on my first LaserLyte, I aimed it as best I could, but the point of impact was a quite a bit higher and several inches to the left of where I could get the laser to reach.  No matter how much I adjusted it, I couldn’t get it to close enough to the exact point of impact. I contacted LaserLyte, and they told me about the “reset” procedure (backing out the adjustment screws all the way and leaving it that way for a certain amount of time).  After doing that, I was able to get the windage spot-on, but I couldn’t get the elevation exactly right — it was still an inch or two lower than the actual point of impact.  To tell you the truth,  I actually didn’t care all that much, I figured a couple of inches is no big deal over the course of 21 feet, I can easily compensate for that, but LaserLyte wasn’t happy with that.  They immediately arranged not only a replacement, which they cross-shipped to me (meaning, they sent the new one and let me install it before returning the old one), but they also included a package of replacement batteries as a gift.  Now, that was some first-class service and I was very pleased by their response.  The new laser works very well, and I can say that I get some variation in the point of impact based on which particular ammo I’m using (which is to be expected, of course), but with the right stuff I can make a hole exactly where the laser is pointing, and it’s hard to ask for much more than that.

Summation: the LaserLyte CK-SWAT is a good product that does what it says it will.  Is it worth the money? Well, it’s not a lot of money, it’s about half the cost of a comparable Crimson Trace, and Crimson Trace doesn’t make one that fits the Public Defender anyway, so … it’s not that much money, and you do get a workable, usable laser.  But could that money be spent elsewhere on better upgrades? Maybe.  I’m not so sure I’d do it again if I had it all to do over again; maybe investing in some glow-in-the-dark night sights would be a better way to spend that money.  The laser’s cool and all, but having to take a separate step to turn it on does limit its immediate functionality.  However, I can guarantee you that if there was a bump in the night, I’ll be pretty happy to press that button.

Overall, I say that if you really want a laser for your Judge, the CK-SWAT does work and works well.  I have no complaints about it.  I just wish it was integrated like the Crimson Trace product line is.


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