Last year at the Shot Show in Las Vegas, I visited the Taurus/Rossi firearms display to see what they were introducing for 2010, but even before I got a chance to look, I spotted a strange looking revolver
“rifle” hanging on their “What’s New” display wall.
A closer look, and the description beneath it said, “Circuit Judge.” Having tested and successfully taken a gobbler and a number of other small-game animals with their regular Judge .410/45 Colt revolver, this little rifle/shotgun really got my interest.
It had an 18.5-inch rifled barrel, fiber-optic adjustable sights, handsome hardwood Monte Carlo stock, single/double-action trigger, five-shot cylinder, transfer bar, Taurus Security System and it weighs just 4.75 pounds. Also included were two choke tubes, one for the shot shells and one for the .45 Colt bullets.
My mistake that day was picking it up because just five minutes after doing that, I was sitting down with Kristin Hunt, a member of their media group, filling out my order. She told me that the Circuit Judge was not yet available, but would be ready for the hunting season.
My Circuit Judge arrived Oct. 5 at my Federal Firearms licensed dealer in Saratoga Springs, and 15 minutes after he called me saying it was there, I was at his shop filling out the federal paper work needed and receiving the telephone approval from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
I immediately headed for the Kayaderosseras Fish & Game Club shooting range. I had to see what this little wheel-shotgun/rifle gun could do. My ammo choices for the test were all Federal Cartridge. They included .410-gauge Game Shok HiBrass (No. 6),
Premium Personal Defense four-pellet, No. 000 buck loads, and .225-grain American Eagle .45 Colt jacketed hollow points (JHP).
Using the shotgun choke tube, I shot three different turkey targets at 15 yards, and the results were impressive — an average of 16 pellets in the turkey’s kill zone. The
No. 000 buck results were also awesome. At the same distance, aiming at the base of the neck on a coyote target, all four of the pellets were in the kill zone. Changing chokes, I loaded up the .45 Colt and moved a regular bull’s-eye target out to 25 yards. Using the open fiber-optic sights on the gun and firing from a Caldwell Lead Sled, I shot several 1.5-2 inch, three-shot groups.
The Circuit Judge comes with a factory-mounted Weaver-style base, and I know that when I scope this little gun, I should be able to tighten up this group. I know I’ll spend some time in the deer woods shortly with the Judge, trying to get close to a whitetail.
Since then, I’ve managed to get near a number of game animals that the Circuit Judge put away. I began with an afternoon hunt in a northern Saratoga County woodlot full of oak trees — definitely squirrel country and should also attract turkeys. The turkeys never arrived, but the squirrels and, surprisingly, grouse did. Returning to where I’d taken my first and only black squirrel last fall, I found the grays quite active. Only 15 minutes after I set up my chair blind, a squirrel wandered in within 15 yards — no problem for the No. 6’s and the first game animal I “judged.”
About an hour later, a squirrel came down from a tree about 50 yards from me and immediately began feeding my way. I was ready, but just beyond the squirrel, I saw something bigger moving. At first,
I thought it was a racoon, but as it got closer, I saw it was a woodchuck, and a big one. Quickly, I opened the cylinder, replaced the shotgun choke tube with the .45 Colt tube, and put three .45 Colt rounds in. By then, it was about 25 yards away and moving slowly toward me. A soft whistle stopped him and he sat up looking right at me. A woodchuck was then added to the Judge’s hit list.
Nothing happened for a couple of hours, but around 5 p.m., several squirrels appeared well out of range, and all my squirrel calls got was their attention. They wouldn’t come closer. As I watched them out of the window, two grouse flew out of the nearby swamp, landing about 10 feet from my blind. I could hear them land, but not see them. I patiently watched the squirrels that were moving slowly toward me and assumed the grouse had walked off feeding. It was just about 6 p.m. when the squirrels were almost in range, and I shouldered the Judge. To my surprise, out from behind my blind came a grouse. It was moving quite quickly and must have seen the barrel of the gun come out the window, because it went airborne, but fortunately, I was already on him and connected when he was about four feet off the ground. This was definitely a great ending for my first day hunting with the Judge.
Rabbits were the next challenge I had for the Circuit Judge, and I knew this one would be a bit tougher, especially since I’d be hunting without a dog. The area I hunted is located in Albany County, where there are plenty of brushy fields and heavy cover. Most of the crop fields there had been harvested, but there was still some food left for them. My first day out, I tried sitting for the rabbits, but although I saw two feeding in the field, they were too far off for a shot.
The next day, I headed into the heavy brush to see if I could kick one out, which I did almost immediately. Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet loaded my gun. Twenty minutes later, another jumped up in front of me and I missed. And shortly after that, I missed a second one. My excuse was that the shooting windows in this heavy cover were very small, and I had about two seconds to shoulder the gun, aim and shoot before it disappeared. I saw two others that I could not get a shot at before I finally got a good one. Crossing a small 10-yard opening in the brush, one broke cover and headed across the open area. The Judge got that one. I know this type hunting will work a lot better with the aid of a keen-nosed beagle that will find the rabbit and alert the hunter to be ready.
That same afternoon, I sat on the edge of a field and set out two hen decoys in hopes of attracting a turkey, but all that showed up were about 200 geese. It just about quitting time when all the geese were alerted by something and noisily took to the air. Something scared them, and off to my right just inside the hedgerow, I could see a coyote, low to the ground and sneaking in for a turkey dinner. A quick switch from the Federal No. 6s to the
No. 000 Buck load and, boy, did Mr. Coyote get a surprise. This was one of my most successful and enjoyable small-game hunting days.
My most recent hunt with this gun was, in all honesty, one that I didn’t think would be successful — a hunt for pheasants. It was over three weeks since the New York state pheasant season opened when Clarence Chamberlain of Gloversville and I headed for a public pheasant release area in Fulton County. We both knew these Department of Environmental Conservation-stocked areas are heavily hunted for the first few weeks of the season, but we decided to try it, anyway. Clarence thought that perhaps they might have had a second release of birds, which would definitely increase our chances.
When we pulled in, there was one car parked next to the dirt road, and as we were parking, we heard two shots. Exiting the truck, I heard the collar bell of a working dog in the brush about 100 yards to our left. Now, the adrenaline was flowing, and we quickly loaded our shotguns and moved down the road several hundred yards from where we had heard the shots. Splitting up, we both moved slowly into the waist-high grass, and I don’t think I had taken a half dozen steps before two pheasants broke from cover, one on my left and one on my right. There wasn’t a lot of time, and I sighted in on the left and squeezed the trigger. No one was more surprised than I when the pheasant fell to the ground. I then knew I was hooked on this little gun. If you’d like to see my Circuit Judge pheasant, go to my blog, www.noonanpics.blogspot.com/
Since then, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get close to a turkey before the season closes Nov. 19. While you’e reading this, I’m sitting in a blind in Pennsylvania with the Judge, hoping Jerry Wilson of Bangor, Pa., of Wilson Game Calls, will coax a wild turkey into the Circuit Judge’s courtroom. Once our Southern Zone big-game season opens, I’ll be taking the Judge along with me to Allegany County, where I plan on sitting in a tree stand in hopes of getting a whitetail within my comfort range, 25 yards. And no, I will not be using a .410 slug. That’s illegal in New York. But that .225-grain, American Eagle .45 Colt jacketed hollow point is, and it’ll do the job just fine.
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