Today we’ll be taking a look at the Taurus Public Defender Polymer .45LC/410 GA. This little hand-cannon holds five shots and Taurus claims it weighs in at 27 ounces unloaded. My scale showed it weighed in at 23.5 ounces (+/- .5 ounces). Coming from the sales success of the Judge revolver, Taurus released the Public Defender Polymer to be considered as a concealed carry weapon. The relatively small size, having an overall length of 7.65” is very good for possible concealment. The barrel is a mere 2” long and the gun at its widest point is only 1.5”. Taurus also includes the Taurus safety lock, which is in the form of a small key that gets inserted just below the hammer and turned. Once the gun is locked, it cannot be fired.
The front sight is a red hi-vis with a fixed rear sight. The red front sight allows for obtaining a quick sight picture and helps keep track of where the barrel is pointing. Overall, the sights are good right out of the box. However, the rear sights have a bit of an edge on their forward face. Since I don’t use this gun as a concealed carry, it’s of no real issue to me. However, if you intend to carry this gun inside a purse or other concealed case, I recommend that you take the gun with you to see if the sights snag on anything on the way in or out of whatever you intend to use.
The grips are rubber, Taurus calling them their “Ribber” grips for the numerous ribs running horizontally along the handle. The handle of the gun is a bit small, which may be a bit problematic for larger hands. I can shoot this with a two-handed grip, but it is compact to say the least.
The gun can be fired single or double action. The trigger pull is over 12 pounds in double-action. It is smooth, but it takes some effort to pull in double action. In single action, the trigger pull is much less coming in at slightly over 5 pounds. The trigger itself has groves the entire length of it to provide for a better grip and feel to it. The trigger guard is a little on the small side in front of the trigger. Not so small that you can’t comfortably use it, but gloves might be an issue. I’ve not tried to fire it with gloves on. Since I don’t really intend to use it outside of my house, except at the indoor range, this is of little concern for me. However, I mention it in case you might have other plans for it.
The frame is made of polymer over a steel frame. The top strap is nice and flat with faux vented ribs at the barrel. The hammer is bobbed to keep it from catching on things like clothing, or the inside of a purse. Even though it is small, it is easy to find and operate. The top surface is knurled so as to provide a surface that is easy to grip. Small touches like that and the trigger grooves are a welcome feature.
The profile of the gun is dominated by the large cylinder. The cylinder release is on the left side, behind and in line with the lower edge of the cylinder. Once the cylinder is deployed, the standard rod type unloading feature is present. Because the gun is small, the casing closest to the frame can sometimes be a bit tricky to remove, especially if you’re in a hurry. One thing I noted on my gun, the cylinder will touch the frame at the back end if it is man-handled. The spindle the cylinder is mounted to has a little trouble with the enormity and the weight of it. This isn’t unexpected, but, this isn’t the case on similar revolvers.
The Public Defender is as easy to load and shoot as any other revolver. However, I have one minor issue with it. Because the handle is so small, if you have larger hands, your middle finger will contact the bottom of the trigger guard. Mine rests right on the knuckle. The recoil, no matter what you are shooting from it, drives the trigger guard with into that knuckle. Ouch! After about 20 rounds, that knuckle hurts and, if any .410 shells were shot, my hand becomes somewhat numb. The rubber grips do a fair job of absorbing the shock, but because of what this thing shoots, a fair amount of energy is still transferred to your hand. I can only get two fingers under the trigger guard. I know that the purpose of this gun is to be small, but I’d really like some more real estate under there to hang on to when firing the relatively large loads this thing spits out.
Because of the various calibers/loads that can be shot with this gun, I thought it best to use a variety to provide a little perspective. I had some 250 grain 45 Long Colt re-loads that I use to practice with. Considering the price of ammo these days, this saves some cash while still providing a good, reliable cartridge to shoot. The recoil with these re-loads is very manageable. I was able to hit center mass at 7.5 yards consistently with the Public Defender with these rounds utilizing the ICE-QT target. Now, make no mistake, this is no competition gun. You aren’t going to be able to place 1” shot groups with this thing, but that’s not the point of the gun, anyway. This rig is meant to perform a home defense role, slamming out large caliber bullets and various shot. You only need to be able to hit what you’re aiming at, not put an eye out. The Public Defender excels at putting lead downrange. To that end, since this is meant to be a home defense gun, I did not test for accuracy beyond the 7.5 yard point. Most experts agree that most home defense situations will happen within that space. So, I used that as my yardstick.
The hi-vis red front site post is easy to maintain on target with a good sight picture. The trigger is smooth all the way to the break point. However, like most revolvers, it is a very long pull. If you’re a first time shooter, this may cause a little apprehension at first. You will get used to it and become comfortable with it. I find myself shooting single action just because the trigger pull is so long.
I then decided it was time for some serious rounds to be tested. I loaded the Public Defender up with Hornady Critical Defense 185 grain FTX rounds. These things are nasty. These rounds were made with this type of weapon in mind. In my experience, these things pack a punch. They have a good deal more recoil than the re-load I was using (to be expected). They also cause a good deal of muzzle flash. At night, that might become a problem if you shoot these rounds. The flash is so bright and significant; it could end up temporarily blinding the shooter. Hornady claims the opposite on their website, but again, that has not been my experience. With the obvious flash and recoil, these are a little more difficult to keep on target. These will also cause a fair amount of energy to be transferred through the grips causing a bit of a buzzing sensation in your hands.
Next up I used the Winchester Supreme PDX1 410 Defender shot shell. These were the 2.5” variety with 3 discs and 12 BBs. These also have a fairly heavy recoil, but felt less than what the Critical Defense rounds were putting out. There was very little muzzle flash associated with these. I was surprised at this since the Public Defender’s barrel is very short. Again, using the ICE-QT target, these were devastating. The discs punched large holes in the targets, with the BB’s leaving obvious holes of their own. Again, these rounds aren’t for competition, but I was able to easily hit center mass with these at 7.5 yards. Since these shoot somewhat of a pattern, you don’t have to be needle accurate with these rounds. These will hit what you’re aiming for with enough stopping power to get the job done. Now, once the Taurus is empty, reloading is a bit of a challenge. The rounds hang up in the bore that remains closest to the frame of the gun when the cylinder is deployed. The grip gives enough room to depress the extractor rod, but trying to pull that particular round out proves problematic. You have to rotate the cylinder to get it free. I mention this only as something to think about because if you find yourself in a situation where you need to reload rapidly, this could cause a real problem.
My last set of test rounds were the Winchester SXZ410. These are 000 buck designed for handguns. This stuff is impressive. Each shot shell contains 3 000 buck 3 ounce balls. Felt recoil is very manageable and the Public Defender was easy to maintain a good sight picture after each shot. There was very little energy transfer like there was for the Critical Defense rounds. With the same type target arranged at 7.5 yards downrange, these projectiles had devastating effect. If this lead rain isn’t going to stop an attacker from coming at you, nothing will. I easily kept all the rounds on the target shot after shot. There were a couple of stray buckshot off target, but I can’t say that wasn’t due to my poor shooting skills, rather than a couple of errant shot. The bottom line is that as with the PDX, these will get the job done and as with the PDX rounds, muzzle flash was kept to a minimum.
I like the Taurus Public Defender Polymer very much. Despite the obvious drawbacks, there is very little available with the compact size and versatility of this gun. In my opinion, this is not an ideal EDC gun, but it is a great front line home defense gun. Much shorter and lighter than a shotgun, it takes some of the intimidation factor out of handling a long gun in the house. Often in those situations, a long gun can put you at a disadvantage if you are trying to turn a corner. That is where this weapon system excels. In close quarters, this can put a great deal of firepower downrange in a very compact and easy to use platform. With no external safety to fumble with, it can be rapidly deployed in an emergency situation with devastating effect. It might also be a good consideration for those of you who carry in your car. This will easily fit in a glove box, center console or lock box in your vehicle. I often carry mine in the center console of my Jeep when I go off-roading. It makes a good snake gun, and, well, whatever else might present a threat to you outdoors. All in all, a good design and now that ammunition manufacturers are on board with the concept, it keeps getting better. I know that Remington also makes some very good ammunition for these guns, but at the time of this writing, I could not obtain any for these shot tests.
If you need a self-defense platform that puts out great stopping power, is easy to handle, and can fire a variety of rounds, this may be the answer to your quest.