Smith & Wesson Governor | Big Gun, Bigger Personality

Smith & Wesson Governor

Is that a shotgun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

BLUF: The Smith & Wesson Governor is a ton of fun and can be somewhat effective as a defensive firearm. If you want something for personal protection, look elsewhere. If you want something that’s eye-catching and exciting, this could be the gun for you.

Big Iron

Since I first saw the Smith & Wesson Governor (and its cousin, the Taurus Judge), I have always thought that .410 revolvers were some of the biggest gimmicks in the firearms community.  There are far more effective revolvers in every caliber under the sun for protection from man and beast. Companies are now making rounds designed to be fired from pistols, though their performance on FBI style penetration tests still leaves a lot to be desired. As a fun gun, sure; but as a serious defensive tool, they did not appear to be the best choice

Smith & Wesson Governor

We got slugs, we got buck, we got hollow points. There’s something for everyone!

Despite all this, I asked to borrow my buddy’s Governor and give it a fair trial. I’ve been wrong before, so maybe I’d have a change of heart again. Since many people claim that this gun is the ultimate in personal protection, I grabbed defensive rounds in .45 Colt and .410, as well as the .45ACP I had on hand. Across two range trips I fired 200+ rounds with no serious malfunctions. I had one failure to eject and one light primer strike with Federal Premium 000 buck, as well as one light primer strike with Hornady .410 Critical Defense. Both of these fired after pulling the trigger a second time.

Strength in Diversity

While .410 and .45Colt drop right into the chambers, you’ll need moon clips if you want to shoot .45ACP. Moon clips are a slight challenge to load with no tool, and are even more difficult to remove cases from. This is especially noticeable when you are trying not to bend the thin pieces of steel that your friend loaned you for testing…

Smith & Wesson Governor

My kind of Full Moon

After firing several cylinders worth of ACP, the Colt and .410 stopped dropping completely into the chambers due to fouling, needing a slight press to fully seat.

The Governor comes with a short ejector rod, roughly the same size as .45ACP, to match the short barrel. Be sure to hit the rod with a bit of “oomph” to reliably eject the longer cases of the Colt and shotshells; this is especially important once the charge holes become fouled.

More than Meets the Eye

Accuracy with the two .45 rounds are similar to what I see with other revolvers, and I’m sure the Governor can produce tighter groups than what I was able to achieve. Despite having a barrel length similar to most J-Frames, the sight radius comes in at a solid 5.5 inches due to the elongated cylinder, putting it on par with the Ruger Security 9.

Smith & Wesson Governor

Seven shell group at seven yards using Federal Premium 4 pellet 000 Buck

It was surprising to see how tight the pattern was at seven yards with the .410 loads I was using–though to be fair they are designed for defensive use. Aside from one fly-away pellet with the Hornady, the spread stayed near six inches out to seven yards. Figuring an inch of spread per yard, you have some wiggle room if choosing a multi-pellet load for protection. The Federal Premium 000 buck produced the most consistent results, keeping all seven pellets within a head sized target at seven yards.

Recoil is firm but not abusive. .410 is comparable to .45 Colt across all rounds, with .45ACP being the softer shooting of the three. With some practice, rapid follow-up shots shouldn’t be an issue. Changing of the grips to something larger with more padding would help during extended range sessions. After a 100 round day at the range my hands were a bit shaky, but in no pain or discomfort.

A Governor for the People

The Smith & Wesson Governor was not a gun I looked forward to spending time with. After our brief flirtation, I must admit, I can see this turning into a full blown love affair. I’d never rely on this piece to defend my life–at least not when I have other conventional choices–but I had a hell of a good time shooting the thing. I don’t know if I’ll ever buy one for myself, but I know I’ll be the first one in line next time the Governor is in town.

Daniel R.

Daniel is a Range Master and NRA certified handgun and rifle instructor and range safety officer, as well as a USPSA pistol and Multi-Gun competitor. He has received training from Craig Douglas, Mike Pannone, and Scott Jedlinski among others.

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3 Responses

  1. I bought Smith and wesson governor revolver

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