Handguns > Revolver

Smith & Wesson Governor

Smith & Wesson takes on the Judge with its new Governor—a six-shot large-framed revolver capable of chambering not only .410 shotshells and .45 Colt, but .45 ACP.


For seven years in the 1970s, Smith & Wesson and Taurus were owned by the same parent company—Bangor Punta—so some crossover between models is understandable. In fact, it is easy to see the S&W influence in certain Taurus designs.

A few years ago, Taurus introduced a revolver with a stretched cylinder window capable of chambering the .410 shotshell, as well as .45 Colt pistol cartridges. The unconventional look of this revolver did nothing to dampen its popularity. Major ammunition companies like Winchester and ATK-Federal quickly developed .410 personal-defense loads. The concept of a multi-chambered, shotshell-compliant self-defense revolver has blossomed big time.

So the folks in Springfield decided they’d make a little run at their Brazilian counterparts for a change. At the 2011 SHOT Show, Smith & Wesson introduced the Governor, a six-shot, large-framed revolver capable of chambering not only .410 shotshells and .45 Colt, but .45 ACP as well, by utilizing the same full-moon clips from its .45 ACP revolvers.

Like the rest of the media, I got in a little trigger time with the Governor at the SHOT Show, and I asked for one to review. After spending a few days with it at my range, I am still impressed.

Two things have set Smith & Wesson apart during its 159-year existence—quality and innovation. A few years ago, I was blessed with an invitation to tour the Smith & Wesson facility in Springfield, Mass. The biggest takeaway for me was the successful way the company melds 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century technology into a seamless manufacturing process. None of that has been lost in the development of the Governor.

Though it has undergone several refinements, the basic design of any Smith & Wesson double-action revolver—except the Bodyguard—dates from the last decade of the 19th century. In the case of the Governor, the basic frame size is its N-frame, and in this revolver the cylinder window is enlarged to accommodate not only a longer cylinder, but one of a slightly larger diameter as well. To save weight and make it easier to carry, the frame and barrel shroud are made from the company’s proprietary material, Scandium. The barrel liner and cylinder are made from stainless steel, and the cylinder is blackened via the phase vapor deposit (PVD) process.

As is typical for modern Smith & Wesson revolvers, the sideplate is held to the frame with three screws. A fourth screw on the right side of the frame just forward of the sideplate secures the yoke in the frame. The grip frame has the popular K-frame, round-butt profile that allows a large variety of grips to accommodate most any hand size. Standard grip is a molded rubber with a filler under the trigger guard and three finger grooves. For an additional $220, you can get the Governor equipped with Crimson Trace Lasergrips—arguably money well spent. Standard sights consist of a large tritium dot front sight dovetailed into the barrel shroud and a fixed groove milled into the topstrap for a rear sight. Given the tri-caliber chambering of this revolver, I’d feel more comfortable with the adjustable Crimson Trace sight system.

The lightweight Scandium frame combined with the powerful chamberings necessitated Smith & Wesson to include a ball detent in the front of the yoke to provide more support during firing—a third locking point distantly reminiscent of the Triple Lock. Metal finish is matte black, and the fit and finish is quintessential Smith & Wesson—which is to say, superb.

At the range I was pleasantly surprised. I figured the pistol calibers would not group very well because of the long, unsupported jump the bullet has to make within the cylinder. However, all my 20-yard groups with .45 ACP and .45 Colt ammo were less than 2 inches. Best groups in .45 ACP were with Double Tap 230-grain brass JHPs. Average group size was 1 1/2 inches, and though it is touted at 1,000 fps in a 5-inch barrel, the abbreviated 2 3/4-inch barrel of the Governor yielded an average of 710 fps. In .45 Colt, Winchester Cowboy Loads won the accuracy race at 1 1/2 inches, as well, leaving the muzzle at 630 fps.

For testing .410 performance, I chose Winchester Supreme Elite PDX1 ammo, featuring three plated discs in front of a dozen plated BB shot in a 2 1/2-inch hull. This stuff spreads quickly out of the short-barreled revolver so I did not risk the Skyscreens of my chronograph to test velocity. This ammo is effective only at close range. How close? I’d say no more than 5 yards. Beyond that, hit probability is problematical. Inside 5 yards, patterns look impressive, but I wonder if velocity and, therefore, terminal energy may be a problem. Still, a potential carjacker that receives a face full of this stuff might very well consider a career change. Too, I wonder whether at this lower velocity the disks and BB shot would penetrate car glass. I did not have an opportunity to garner some test glass—though I tried—and, quite selfishly, I chose not to press my own truck into service as a test medium. It is something that needs to be tested before pressing this load into service.

The handling qualities of the Governor are different than with most Smith & Wesson revolvers. It’s nearly a half-pound lighter than a 4-inch Model 19, though its overall dimensions are similar to that of the .357 Mag. However, the weight is concentrated in the long cylinder and, thusly, the center of gravity is well forward of the grip. That’s a good thing since it helps attenuate muzzle flip, but it does take some getting used to.

Even with the hefty cylinder and forward balance point, recoil can be a little stiff with .410 shotshell loads. That’s not a big thing for a seasoned shooter, but this revolver is being marketed as a home-defense firearm. I asked three female shooters if they wanted to give the Governor a whirl and only one accepted. She’s a somewhat-experienced informal target shooter, but she shoots only very light target loads and found the recoil with .410 ammo objectionable. Point is: Like any self-defense firearm, this one will require some trigger time in order to develop a comfortable level of proficiency.

The popularity of these multi-chambered, shotshell-compliant revolvers ensures success for the Governor. Its plusses—three chamberings vs. two and six shots instead of five—are real improvements for which some will be willing to pay the difference in order to have. As for me, I doubt that it would replace one of my 1911s as a day-to-day carry gun, but if I spent much time in an environment favoring car jackers, this might be the gun to have within reach.

(800) 331-0852;
Type: Double-action revolver
Caliber or Gauge: .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .410-bore 2 1/2-inch shotshell
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
Cylinder capacity: 6 rounds
Rifling: 1:16 RH
Tritium dot front sight; fixed-groove rear; C/T Lasergrips available
Safety: Hammer block

Grips: Rubber
OAL: 8.5 inches
Weight: 29.6 oz.
Metal Finish: Matte black
Accessories: Locking key; grip installation tool
MSRP: $679; $899 with C/T Lasergrips

Shooting Results (20 yds.)

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11 Responses to Smith & Wesson Governor

Big Jake wrote:
January 19, 2013

Both the Taurus and SWGuv hve same flaw . . . a cloth-Catching hammer. Why not hammerless for easy carry in pocket or purse?

LewB wrote:
April 19, 2012

I bought one and it's on the way back to S&W for the third time it's mis-fires every other shot and when I try to eject the shells the whole cylinder comes off!!!

Kristina wrote:
August 12, 2011

My husband and I bought "The Governor" about 2 weeks ago, and finally had a chance to shoot it, last weekend. I am going to be 62 on the 23rd of this month, and I LOVED shooting our new "baby!" The "kick" was MUCH less than I expected, and at 5 yards, my .45s were grouped at about 3" and the .410s with the disc/bb combination were all well inside the outer ring of the target (standard 8" "shoot n see"), with the majority of "damage" confined to about a 4" area. My husband did even better, but he's been shooting all his life, I just began about 16 years ago, and am only a "casual shooter." Tell all your female friends if they are moderately comfortable with a .45, they will enjoy shooting this one, even if just for the novelty of alternating .45s and .410s. They just need to be sure of a snug grip ("cup and saucer" works really well)! Personally, I think this will most definitely stop the "bad guy" in his tracks, especially with alternating rounds.

Stan Weinstein wrote:
July 19, 2011

I own a .357 Mag. Colt. I use for the first 2 chambers "snake shot". The other chambers I use .357 ammo. For protection. The 1st two should scare the intruder away but if not the .357 will take care of the job.

Dawg wrote:
July 10, 2011

The Judge has always fired .45ACP. The "Moon Clips" are available direct from Taurus or Cheaper Than Dirt.

Jim wrote:
July 09, 2011

I think the barrel is to short. Velocity is hurt to the point where I am unsure of it ability to be a good man stopper.

Paul wrote:
July 08, 2011

If it will shoot .45 ACP it should also shoot .45 GAP. A friend has one and he said the cylinder will not close with the.45 Auto Rim. That rim is a lot thicker than the .45 Colt rim.

Grant wrote:
July 07, 2011

Load 2 45 slugs ahead of the .410 shells, this will, break glass from inside your car, and have some shot shells left in case you missed on the first try.

Peter wrote:
July 07, 2011

A couple years ago, I sent S&W an email suggesting they come up with a 6 shot .410 and .45 Colt revolver with scandium frame to one up the Taurus Judge competition. S&W did one better by making it shoot .45 ACP too. While I would like to take credit for the idea, (I'm sure that I wasn't the only one who thought what if?) It is nice to know that S&W listens to the input of their customers. Good job S&W.

Bill Kline wrote:
July 07, 2011

I have a 3inch barrel 3inch chamber Judge. I would like to know how I could fire 45 ACP in it! 45 Long Colt is sometimes hard to come by! I like my Judge, but if S&W had a 3" Mag cylinder, I' d be real tempted to sell my Judge and get a Governor

David wrote:
July 07, 2011

I called S&W and asked how it works with 45 Auto Rim. I was told it would be just fine. I called because some other models had problems with the AR cartridge. Now, they have a revolver that will with with five cartridges: 45 ACP, AR, Colt, Schofield, and .410! What a company.