Smith & Wesson Governor (VIDEO)


The Smith & Wesson Governor is an large-framed revolver chambered in .410, .45 ACP, or .45 Colt. S&W recommends the Governor for personal protection and home protection.

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Caliber: .410<br />.45 ACP<br />.45 Colt
Grip: Synthetic
Capacity: 6
Sights: 2-dot rear sight with Tritium dot front sight
Action: Revolver
Size: Large
Trigger: Double-action/single-action
Frame Material: Scandium alloy/matte black
Cylinder Material: Stainless PVD
Website: http://www.smith-wes…
Weight: 1.85 pounds
Barrel Length: 2.75"
Length: 8.5"

Editor Review

It Only Takes One to Ruin the Bunch

I’d like to be upfront about how dubious I am of the Governor, and all of the various mixed cartridge pistols.  I have reviewed several of the Taurus Judge models for  While I really like Taurus, as a company, I didn’t cotton to the Judge. 

But there are so many folks who love these guns.  I don’t know why the world needs a revolver that can shoot .45 ACP, .45 Colt and .410 shells.  It is an interesting idea.  Maybe I’m missing something. 

When I heard that Smith & Wesson was going to launch the Governor, I was eager to get my mitts on one – if only to revisit my earlier opinion about mixed cartridge guns.

I didn’t have to wait long.  The good folks at Smith & Wesson have been generous enough to provide us with a Governor to put through the paces.  I’d like to thank the folks at Rebel Sporting Goods in Keysville, Virginia for handling the transfer. 

The Governor

Mechanically, the Governor is what you would expect from S&W.  It’s incredibly light – especially for something so big.  Under two pounds.  Not bad.  The potential recoil from such a light gun is mitigated by the fat grips.  This gun is easy to hold and easy to hold on to. 

There is very little kick from the .45 ACP.  The Long Colts and the high brass .410 loads kick more, but it is manageable.  I had no problem holding the gun on target through six shot cycles fired double action.

With that said, it took me a while to get used to the Governor’s bulk.  It feels a bit swollen.  Smith must have modeled the gun on one of these nice fat southern Governors.  And it is just as aggressive. 

How does it shoot?

The front sight (which glows nicely, even after several hours in the dark) is easily attainable – even adjustable.  The rear sight is milled into the frame.  That said, I don’t know that I’d classify them as “sights.”  I think “suggestions” would be more apt. 

I shot several varieties of shells through the gun – both long colts and ACPs. 

At 25 feet, I had no problem making realistic shots with the .45 Colts, but the spread was wide.  Or tall, rather.  I can keep the shots in a straight line, but there seems to be no way to know if the shot will end up high or low.  Even from a rest, I can’t really get shots to group.  In fact, target shooting felt really absurd. 

At ten feet, the accuracy is greatly improved.  I could cover the groups with my hand, which isn’t bad.  But we’re talking ten feet.  I should be able to put all six shots through the same hole, every time. 

The real show starts when you pull the trigger on a .410.  The spread from the birdshot is wide and pleasing.  The Federal buckshot loads are interesting, and the groupings are reasonably tight at close range.  This is what you are paying for with the Governor and the gun seems to reach its potential with the Winchester PDX loads.  These fat little rounds have steel BBs and flat disks, which tumble and create some serious chaos. 

After shooting the Winchester and the Federal loads, I could be more generous with my endorsement of this gun for self defense.  It works.  The jury is still out on the ballistics data – I’m waiting to see where this gun would come in on one-shot-kills (a fascinating, though horrifying metric tracked by those who study terminal ballistics).  

The Pocket Shotgun

While I can’t say anything negative about the Governor, I’d like to look more closely at the philosophy behind it.

The Governor and the various models from Taurus (and others before them) are supposed to be the Swiss Army knives of pistols.  But that’s not quite right.  Maybe the .45/.410 is the crescent wrench of guns.  That’s a little better.  An adjustable crescent wrench.  Handy to have lying around.  It will suffice.

But you know there are other tools that do the jobs better – more exactly.  And that’s the major downside to the Governor.  The Peacemakers and Vaqueros eat up the Long Colts.  The eleventy million 1911’s are still hungry for the ACP.  The…. Wait.  There isn’t a pistol built for .410 shells.  That would be illegal. 

That’s the reason for this gun’s existence.  It’s a pocket shotgun.

I’ve talked to so many people who want to tell me otherwise – that this is really a multipurpose gun.  I don’t buy it.  The only thing this gun does better than other (legal) guns is shoot .410 shells. 

Yes, it shoots long colts, but not with any sort of accuracy. 

Yes, the Governor shoots .45 ACP, but you have to load little moon clips (and unload them, which may require the use of pliers).  It isn’t nearly as fun as it seems.  I shot up a box of .45 ACPs and I have no idea where they went.  They were like teenagers given the keys to their parents’ cars.  Gone.  Real gone.

The only rounds I would ever shoot out of this gun would be of the .410 variety.  The others are just too expensive, and too unpredictable.  The .410s are a rip roaring good time, and dirt cheap.  I even took a ricochet in the face (birdshot, luckily) just below my glasses and it stung, but didn’t break the skin.

So what does all of this mean?

The Governor exploits an odd loophole because the barrel is rifled, and because so much attention is paid to the pistol cartridges it shoots, it remains legal.  But the Governor wouldn’t exist without the unusual potential to shoot .410 shells. 

(Actually the Taurus Judge is the reason for this gun’s existence.   Taurus tested the waters, and S&W waded right in after them – just good business.)   

As I had said about the Judge, I think the Governor would make a great snake gun.  While I was testing the gun, I was surprised to see a fat black snake scaling up a beech tree – not 50 yards from where I was shooting.

I’m in the backwaters of Virginia and I’m tolerant of all things herpetological, except our copperheads.  But I grew up tramping through the southern piney woods and have killed more than my share of copper headed water rattlers, as Lewis Grizzard used to say. 

Folks used to be able to buy smoothbore, short barrel, single shot .410s.  But that was then – pre 1934. 

But why limit it to the .410?  Rumor has it Taurus is working on some larger gauges.  Why not make a version of the Governor that shoots 12 gauge?  Would it be as simple as rifling the barrel?  If not, it would be easy enough to produce a big fat slug that would crawl out of the barrel. 

Last week I ran into a friend of mine, Wally, in Wal-Mart.  We were talking guns and I brought up the Governor.  Turns out he’s a devoted Judge owner.  Good truck gun, he said.  Good home defense gun.  Good snake gun. 

I am still on the fence, but Wally likes it and I can’t discount that.  He knows his guns.  There are lots of others who feel exactly the same way – they love these types of guns.  The Governor will give Smith & Wesson a way to meet the demand and the fact that it is a S&W will make lots of brand loyal gun owners very happy as well.