Obsolete Arms and Ammo
By Bob Shell
Apache Junction, AZ --(Ammoland.com)- At the SHOT show as usual I stopped at the Taurus/Rossi booths to see what they have new.
The Circuit Judge has been around for a couple of years so I was curious as to how well this novel firearm worked. As usual they have a lot of novelty type of guns many that I look forward to working with as time and circumstances permit. A couple of years ago I did an article on the Taurus Judge Revolver which has some interesting features. They have come out with a rifle version of the Judge known as the Rossi Circuit Judge Rifle.
Like the revolver it is a 5 shot that uses 45 Colt and 410 gauge shotshells. I ask for and received a sample rifle for testing which I received sometime later.
There is an insert that reduces the capacity to three rounds. For hunting migritory birds it is a federal law to have only three shots. Since the insert is easily removable it might cause a legal problem in some areas so that is something to be aware of. If you are in doubt about the legality of any firearm it is a lot cheaper to check it out before a game warden gives you a citation. It would make a nice rabbit gun out to 20 or so yards with a load of #6 shot. Its lightweight and quick shoulder acquisition would make snap shots easy. Again, check for legality in your area. I don’t see much use for the 87 grain slugs as they are not particularly accurate and not powerful enough for hunting big game. For small game I would go with the 275 grain hollow base at about 1200 FPS. Hornady makes a 45 bullet that weighs 255 grains and is .454 in diameter which would make it a potentially great bullet to use. For a handloader the Circuit Judge is quite versatile within its limits. As with any gun you will have to determine what works for you.
One thing right off is I like its lightweight. My wheels are not very good so its lightweight is an important feature for me. Even with hunting loads recoil isn’t a problem. I feel that with proper loads in the 45 it can do ok for deer size game at woods ranges. A low power scope should be a good addition to this rifle. The rifle has attractive dark colored wood and the bluing is nice. The sight are high visibility and are adjustable.
The 5 shot rifle has a double action trigger pull which is somewhat heavy for accurate work. The single action is a lot lighter making accurate shooting easier. Several people who tried it generally liked it due to its lightweight and balance. We tried some cowboy loads from Ten X and Winchester. They were both mild and reasonably accurate. Having some experience with a Judge it will probably require an oversize bullet to produce the best accuracy. The Judge is designed for close range self-defense against intruders or rattle snakes on a hiking trail. With the proper ammo, it does its job well. The Circuit Judge should be looked at as a hunting rifle for some large game at woods ranges. It isn’t difficult to work up a safe load but with the long cylinder getting accuracy might be more challenging. Whatever range you can keep 5 shots into a small saucer should be your max range for hunting. Depending on the load range can be from 50 to 100 yards. It is not a long range gun as trajectory would be very steep past 100 yards. The fact that you can easily mount a scope makes it more desirable.
I have tried a verity of loads from cowboy to some serious hunting loads. One thing that we noticed is it does spit some gas back into your face. It’s not a large amount but is noticable but if you wear safety glasess there should be no problem. It is a lot easier shooting it single action as opposed to the double action trigger, which is heavy. I let a couple of women and a young boy shoot it and they all liked it and handled it well. The lightweight really comes in handy for small statured people.
The stock screw has a tendency to come loose, which can be annoying just a minor thing to watch for. It looks too small for its application though some locktite may help.
The shotgun loads tried worked well enough to harvest small game at 15 to 20 yards. The patterns were adequate for such things as rabbits and squirrels. You would do well to try a couple of brands and sizes of shot to determine what works best for your hunting needs. The same would apply to handloads. I do not recommend any type of 44 caliber ammo as accuracy would be poor and some of it may be too hot. I have heard that some shooters try 44’s hence the reason I mention it.
We shot some Barnes Bullets brand VOR TX 200 grain XPB bullets which while mild were very consistent in the Circuit Judge some Barnes 225 grain XPB bullets were quite a bit warmer and are what I am looking for as I am looking for a hunting outfit.. We shot some Ranier bullets and results are listed below. My goal isn’t to get a lot more velocity but to tweak these loads and make sure some of them are accurate enough for hunting at 50 yards or so. I would not recommend making these loads any hotter as I am not sure what this gun is proofed for. I did not shoot any of these heavy loads in my Judge revolver as the recoil would be too vicious and there was no need for those in such a light weight gun. Just as a test we shot a Ranch Hand with a 12’ barrel and it always chronographed higher undoubtly due to the Circuit Judge having a large flash gap. Like any firearm, you need to find out what works best. I read that if you have a 40 caliber weapon that will launch a 200 grain bullet at 1000 FPS or faster, you have a woods deer rifle. That seems to be the least powerful load for deer hunting. The Circuit Judge will far exceed that with ease. They shouldn’t fit but don’t even think about trying 454 Casull or 460 S & W rounds. They are loaded to much higher pressure then would be prudent to shoot in the Circuit Judge.
LOAD BULLET VELOCITY COMMENT
12 grains Herco 200 grain Berry HP 1158 high es
Ten X 200 grain lead 776 light
Ten X 250 grain lead 768 nice
Winchester 250 grain lead 776 cowboy load
10 grains Unique 250 grain Ranier FP 1146 fair
Barnes 200 Gr XPB 1210 mild-consistent
24 grains 2400 Barnes 225 XPB 1683 consistent
12 grains Herco 275 grain HB cast 1126 accurate
18 grains Lil-Gun Ranier 300 grain FP 1218 high es
22 grains 296 Ranier 300 grain FP 1315 high es
10 grains Herco 305 grain cast HB 1042 accurate
Since the cylinder is a lot longer and chambered for 410 shot shells loads that can be heavier and some of the bullets can be seated out further which may enhance accuracy. From an accuracy standpoint, the 458 diameter hollow base bullets seem to be the best. A 305 grain cast bullet should make a good hunting bullet. Such game as deer and pigs should fall to those in a convincing manner. Like the Judge, the Circuit likes oversize bullets. Like any other gun it prefers some loads over others. That is why it is important to see what your particular rifle prefers.
The rifle comes with a base and I am going to mount a Hawke Eclipse 30 on it. This scope is a 1.25 X 4 X 24 with lighted reticle which can be red or green at your choosing. I have used Hawke scopes in the past and I highly reccoimend them for any hunting situation. For more info you can go to www.hawkeoptics.com for a listing of their fine products. During testing the Hawke acquitted itself well as I would expect. The clarity make shooting groups easier. Since this would be essentially a woods gun for deer hunting lighting could be an issue. Usually the best time to hunt deer is around sunrise and sunset which are usually low light situations. This is where the Hawke scope shines.
The question is would I take this gun hunting because that is its main purpose as far as I am concerned. It can be used for self-defense if nothing else is available but I have a Judge that fills that bill nicely. So yes, I would take it on certain hunts where there wasn’t a chance for long shots.
For deer sized game out to about 100 yards it should do well and I will give it a thumbs up for that purpose. Walking through brush for rabbits? I would definitely use it. It is a unique gun and the price is reasonable.