Gun Review: S&W Governor (Take Three)

When Smith & Wesson introduced their ‘Governor’ .410/.45 Colt/.45 ACP revolver at the 2011 SHOT show, many gun guys assumed Hell had frozen over. Smith & Wesson imitating Taurus? More specifically, the Taurus Judge, a shotshell revolver widely panned for its dismal accuracy and poor DA trigger pull. And? As Elvis said, Smith & Wesson was takin’ care of business baby. The gunmaker saw a huge new market opening up. Not being idiots, they wanted a piece of it. So, has Smith evolved and improved the shotgun-revolver concept, or have they merely hitched their caboose to the Taurus gravy train?

TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia will know this isn’t our first take on the Governor, or even the second. Farago & Friends blasted paper targets at his indoor range. Roy Hill used it to make fruit salad at his private shooting spot. I was eager to do some accuracy testing and shotshell patterning on my own, and I’ve also been dying to learn just how much velocity and energy the Governor sacrifices with its short barrel and elongated cylinder. After long hours baking in a hot shooting quarry, here’s what I learned . . .

Overview:

Smith & Wesson Governor: They almost ran out of space for all those calibers. (courtesy Chris Dumm for The Truth About Guns)The Governor is an alloy-framed revolver chambered in the 2.5″ .410, .45 Long Colt, and .45 ACP. Though it shares the same basic concept as the Taurus shotshell revolver, the Governor is not (quite) a Judge by another name. For one thing, the Judge gives you five shots. The Governor is a true six-shooter, yielding an impressive-sounding 20 percent firepower advantage over the Brazilian Jurist.

The Governor’s Aluminum/Scandium alloy frame packs this added firepower into the same 29.5 oz. weight as the original all-steel (and five-shot) Judge. The Governor is 8.5″ long, with a 1.75″ diameter cylinder. Discreet carry is impossible, even if it weren’t inadvisable.

The Governor’s cylinder locks into the frame with the traditional cylinder-release latch at the rear, and with a spring-loaded ball bearing at the front of the cylinder crane (above).  The ball bearing locks into a detent at the bottom of the ejector shroud. Most other Smith & Wesson revolvers use a spring-loaded plunger that engages the hollow tip of the ejector rod to lock the front of the cylinder.

I don’t know if the Governor’s design is more positive than the usual method, but the broad, flat end of the ejector rod is more comfortable to use; it doesn’t try to take a core sample from your palm when you rap it to punch out the empties.

The Governor also adds versatility by chambering the .45 ACP in addition to the now-standard .410 and .45 Colt. Using full-moon clips as speedloaders, the .45 ACP gives the Governor the fastest reloads of this entire class of revolvers. It also makes the Governor a big-bore Swiss Army Gun, hurling everything from .410 snake shot to budget-priced .45 ACP hardball to thundering 255-grain, 950 fps .45 Long Colts. [Note: only use standard pressure loads. We'll get back to that later.]

For comparison, Taurus sells a six-shot ‘Raging Judge’ which fires the .454 Casull/.410/.45 Colt. The Brazilian all-steel behemoth tips the scales at nearly four pounds—- double the Governor’s heft.

To move the ‘shotgun revolver’ concept forward with .45 ACP functionality, Smith & Wesson reached back in time to the .45 ACP Model 1917 revolver. The Model 1917 [above] was produced in large numbers for World War I by both Colt and Smith & Wesson. It fired the same .45 ACP ammo as the (then) new and scarce 1911, using half-moon clips to headspace and eject the cartridges.

The half-moon clips never caught on, but the Model 1917 proved so popular with civilians that the oddball .45 Auto Rim cartridge was introduced in 1920 specifically for it. If you have a supply of .45 Auto Rim ammunition, you should probably keep it for its collector value. I have no idea if it will function properly in the Governor.

Aesthetics:

In profile the Governor reminds me slightly of Harrison Ford’s pistol from Blade Runner, but without the Steyr butter-knife bolt handle on the side. The big Smith’s distorted dimensions make it ugly and cool at the same time, kind of like the Chiappa Rhino. IMHO, the Governor’s best viewing angle is from the front. The stretched cylinder is foreshortened and the cavernous bore takes front-and-center, giving it the frontal appearance of a Brobdingnagian snubnose. And no, I didn’t point a gun at a photographer. I used a mirror: you can tell by the reversed left-side shirt pocket.

In high contrast to the matte-black finish of the rest of the gun, the Governor’s stainless-steel barrel and gaping muzzle together present an extremely intimidating image to anyone on its business end. This “Welcome To Hell” statement might or might not induce spontaneous defecation in your potential target, but I wouldn’t count on it. By the time you’ve leveled this cannon at a threat and put your finger in the trigger guard, you won’t be thinking about jokes like these anyway.

Ergonomics:

The Governor is a big revolver, and its trigger has a big job: cocking the hammer and rotating a cylinder that’s nearly the size of a can of Red Bull. I exaggerate (slightly). But the question remains: is the trigger up to the task? Yes, and then some.  It’s simply the best trigger I’ve ever felt on a factory-stock revolver, buttery smooth and consistent in its takeup and utterly crisp in its release.

The DA pull is in the neighborhood of 10-11 lbs. This is an estimate, as my trigger gauge only goes to eight. But the Smith & Wesson Governor’s long pull is deceptively smooth and steady and it doesn’t stack at all. The target-worthy SA pull breaks like Swarovski crystal at a hair over four pounds, with barely a millimeter of overtravel. Many Smith & Wessons need a trigger job before they feel this good.

The sights are almost excellent, with a large Tritium front post dovetailed into the barrel. The rear fixed notch is all black. I would have appreciated at least some high-contrast white dots on either side. Compared to most fixed-sight snubbies, the Governor’s sights are fabulous: quick to acquire in daylight or darkness, and reasonably precise to boot.

The Governor’s grip features a slim rounded grip that seems borrowed from a round-butt K-frame. It’s much more comfortable than the manly-looking square butt frame with which most large Smith & Wesson revolvers are cursed. Harry Callahan’s square-butt Model 29 may be perfect for pistol-whipping recalcitrant San Francisco serial killers, but it forces shooters to choose between two grip sizes: Too Big and *Much* Too Big.

Not so the Governor.  Its rounded butt and soft grips fit my hands perfectly, like I’d squished a handful of Silly Putty and mounted the resulting Henry Moore sculpture on a pistol grip frame. The bottom finger-groove also slightly overhangs the end of the grip frame, giving you a full-fisted grip you’ll definitely appreciate when riding the recoil of  those Buffalo Bore .45 Long Colts.

Recoil is mild with all .45 ACP loads and all ‘Cowboy’ .45 Colt offerings. The .410 loads we tested produced only moderate perceived recoil; they gave the gun a decent shove, but it wasn’t violent or snappy. Anyone who can tolerate the recoil of a subcompact 9mm (even if they don’t like it) will think the Governor’s a real pussycat with .45 ACP, .410s, or ‘Cowboy’ .45 Long Colts.

Full-power .45 Colts (e.g. our 230-grain JHP) produce vigorous recoil and there’s no way around it. Any time you generate nearly 500 lb-ft. of energy from a snubnose 30-ounce revolver, Sir Isaac Newton tells you that you’re definitely going to feel it.

Carry Options:

I really can’t imagine any reason (or means) to CCW with a gun this size. Any sensible carry gun will weigh half of the Governor’s loaded weight and carry much more firepower. Tiny subcompact 9mm are exactly half the length, half the width and half the weight of the mighty Governor.

Most .410 shotgun-revolvers are purchased to be ‘nightstand’ guns and never carried outside the home. I suppose the Governor could be pressed into that role, but I think it’s true niche is as a backwoods tool for survival hunting and defense against predators. Since I don’t usually take my nightstand with me when I go camping or hunting, I’d need a good holster.

Anything IWB is a complete non-starter; I don’t want my trousers four inches too large just to fit this Yosemite Sam revolver. Good luck yanking that soda-can cylinder clear of your reinforced carry belt. At 30+ ounces loaded, you WILL need a reinforced carry belt. The Governor would work best as a wilderness gun in a pancake holster or even a cross-draw. The venerable Bianchi X-15 vertical shoulder holster can sheathe this beast comfortably (at the price of looking fairly ridiculous) but the snub-nosed Governor leaves a lot of empty space at the bottom of the holster.

Multi-Caliber Design:

To accommodate the moon clips needed for the .45 ACP, Smith & Wesson had to machine a .025″ recess into the rear of the cylinder.  The moon clips themselves are .035″ thick. They headspace the rimless .45 ACP cases and grip them for ejection. If you try to load .45 ACPs without the clips, they just slide forward into the chamber and will not fire. You have to [carefully] eject them with a pencil, dowel or cleaning rod.

.45 Long Colt and .410 shells headspace and eject from the Governor’s case rim; you load them normally into the cylinder. The big Smith’s ejector rod is much too short to completely eject spent shotshells, which are about 2.75″ long. Reload of .410 shells under stress/fire would be something of an issue; most of the the empties must be manually cleared from the cylinder before fresh shells can be singly loaded. .410s don’t fit in .45 Colt speedloaders.

Crescent or Whole?

The .45 ACP moon clips present an unfamiliar complication for revolver shooters: spare magazines. A Glock without a magazine is a single-shot. A .45 ACP Governor without a moon clip is a Scandium-Aluminum cudgel. Despite its size, you’ll wish it were a steel cudgel.

Luckily, the Governor’s moon clips are widely available and as cheap as canned soda. By luck or by design, all contemporary .45 ACP revolvers use the same full-moon clips and cost less than $1 each in small batches. In bulk, they’re less than $.45 each.

The Governor’s full-moon clips provide the quickest reloads of any Judge-type revolver, but they’re a minor hassle to load with fresh rounds. When it’s time to remove the empties using only your fingers they can be a real bee-hotch. Cheaper Than Dirt! sells a $4 tool to speed up the process,. If you’re cheap like me you can make like a mathematician and work it out with a pencil.

The third-moon clips don’t provide quite as rapid reloading, but they load easily with fresh .45 ACP rounds and they carry flat in your pocket or pouch. Unlike the full-moon clips, they’re a snap to empty and reload with fresh rounds. They’re cheaper than the full-moon clips, but you’ll need three times as many of them.

These smaller clips really shine for ‘mix-and-match’ cylinder loadings with, say, two .410 birdshot loads for snakes or pests, followed by four .45 ACP rounds for two-legged predators. With .45 ACP ammo, only the third-moon clips give this versatility.

Smith & Wesson does not recommend using any type of half-moon clips in the Governor, because they’ll ride up on the raised rim around the cylinder and jam the works up tight.

Fit And Finish:

The Smith & Wesson Governor boasts an exceptionally refined level of workmanship, even by the high standards of Smith & Wesson revolvers. The machining and finish is damn-near flawless, although the magnified photo of the cylinder crane does show some of the very few (and microscopically tiny) toolmarks just above the ejector rod.

The Governor’s fit and finish is slightly better than the .357 Magnum Model 60 I’m currently testing, and possibly superior to the finest revolver I’ve ever owned, a 1980′s Model 686. The Governor’s exterior is finished in a matte-black PVD (physical vapor deposition) coating which has weathered press use and abuse with hardly a scratch or dull spot. This coating is tough, attractive, and OCD-friendly: it cleans easily and hides fingerprints well.

In these days of polymer frames and investment-cast slides, we rarely see frame components fit together with the extreme precision shown in this picture. Yes, that tiny hairline is where the sideplate fits into the frame. The whole gun fits together like that.

Functioning:

I tested the Governor with a variety of jacketed and lead .45 Colt and .45 ACP, along with .410 #6 Birdshot, 1/5-oz. slugs, Federal “Handgun” 000 Buckshot and Winchester PDX loads. I put about 250 rounds through the gun in total. All spent cases showed solid, centered primer hits.

Extraction and ejection was also completely reliable with both types of .45, but a bit “challenging” with .410 shells.  The Governor is no John Holmes in the ejector-rod department, but it’s more than long enough to toss .45 ACP cases completely out of the cylinder. With the clips tightly gripping the cases, .45 ACP ejection was a dead cert whether the muzzle was up, down or sideways. The oversized rubber grips sometimes prevent the empties from literally flying out, but they don’t get hung up on the grips or cylinder release. They just fall to the ground when you release the ejector.

I was pleasantly surprised when .45 Long Colt cases ejected properly from the Governor. Shotshell ejection . . . doesn’t always happen, although PDX shells come pretty close. Remington slugs locked up the cylinder and had to be punched out with a cleaning rod (see below). Fired Winchester birdshot hulls swelled out to fit the chambers very tightly, and they were a major PITA to empty with your fingers.

The Federal 000 Buck ‘Revolver’ loads were easy to get started with the ejector, and fairly easy to pull the rest of the way out with your fingers. But you still have to pull them out with your fingers, which makes emptying and reloading the Governor about as slow as emptying and reloading a single-action revolver with a loading gate and ejector rod.

Winchester’s PDX rounds gave the best ejection of any .410 shotshells. Their plastic hulls are smoother than those of other brands; they seem to be manufactured with particular care for smooth ejection and feeding. Using good revolver ejection technique (muzzle up, with two quick raps on the ejector rod), three or four fired PDX hulls drop completely free of the cylinder. The other two typically shake free when you shake the gun or try to grab them. Not perfect, but surprisingly good.

We experienced our only malfunction when some fired Remington slug shells ‘set back’ in the cylinders after firing. After three shots, they’d jammed against the frame and seized up the cylinder, the trigger and the hammer. A few solid blows from my palm allowed the cylinder to swing free, but the ejector rod was powerless to push the solidly-wedged shells clear. I rammed the spent shells out with a pistol cleaning rod and checked for damage (none).

I consider this to be an ammo malfunction; it only happened with one type of shell (and all from the same box) out of the many flavors of .410 we fired. Nonetheless, it reminded me how incredibly important it is to function-test your defensive ammunition. If this kind of failure occurred during a gunfight, your only choices would be to transition to another weapon or to throw the gun at the threat and run like hell. You might even escape while he bends over to pick up his fancy new gun.

Accuracy:

I’ve learned not to expect much accuracy from any snubnose revolver, but the Governor proved to be a welcome surprise.  I don’t have a Ransom Rest, although I probably ought to get one (hint hint). I achieved acceptable accuracy firing the Governor from a padded rest atop my folding picnic table.

Including the occasional fudged shot on my part (which I will not call a ‘flyer’ this time), the Governor consistently shot these low-cost (and low-quality) .45 ACP lead roundnose bullets into sub-3 inch groups at 15 yards. It shot about four inches high and just slightly to the left of the point of aim, which is about perfect for a ‘Six O’Clock Hold.’

With two different brands of 255-grain lead roundnose ‘Cowboy’ .45 Long Colt, the Governor was equally happy drilling out the center of the target. The point of impact was precisely the same with .45 ACP and .45 Long Colts, so I used the same hold. I’m not sure why the .45 Long Colt bullets make neater round holes, though.  (Ask Leghorn?)

I was pretty stoked by accuracy like this, and I even dared some offhand 100-yard shots at Joe’s spinning groundhog target.  After I got the Kentucky windage, I dropped several rounds right on top of the thing, but I doubt I actually hit it. Then we switched to the full-power 230-grain .45 Long Colt JHPs. What a difference a load makes:

Recoil was snappier than a Schnauzer. This disappointing group was my best effort with the more powerful .45 Long Colt load.  The point of impact also moved down about three inches, and left about an inch.

The JHP’s jacket material is a lot harder than lead. It may not be engaging the Governor’s somewhat shallow, slow-twist rifling. Or it could just be that this particular pistol doesn’t like this particular load. Whatever the reason, the Governor patterned the PDX “Defense Discs” from a single shot almost as tightly as it ‘grouped’ a cylinder full of .45 Long Colt JHPs. Given the choice, I’d use the PDX—unless my target was a bear, cougar or moose.

Shotshell Patterning: Birdshot

Many people talk about .410 pistols as ‘Snake Guns.” We wanted to see just how well the Governor could ventilate a simulated, PETA-approved, paper serpent. This non-solid snake (artwork courtesy Joe Grine) is about three feet long and fairly plump for his species.  I aimed at its head and gave it a round of #6 birdshot from about ten feet.

As you can see, birdshot does not pattern too well from a 2.5-inch snubnose barrel. At ten feet, this snake would be badly wounded—and could still bite you. You could tighten up the pattern by moving in for a closer shot, but how stupid is that? If you’re close enough to kill a snake with a dose of the Governor’ birdshot, make some noise and let him slither away instead. If you’ve got an aggressive water moccasin coming at you, fire repeatedly while you retreat.

A birdshot equipped Governor would work reasonably well for small pest control, but .410 birdshot loads are useless for defense or hunting. The pellets are small in size and few in number, and they spread so rapidly that they can’t reliably kill a snake or a rabbit at ten yards. On the other hand, the ammo’s pretty cheap and the gun doesn’t recoil much. More to the point, the set-up lets you practice your pistol skeet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNsUWusbXlw

I apologize for the ridiculous-looking Dirty Harry shoulder holster; in my entire ‘holster box’ it was the only thing large enough to fit the Governor’s huge cylinder. My deep shame at making such a dreadful fashion statement did not prevent me from busting about 60 percent of the clays, however. It was very important to shoot the clay pigeons quickly, before they got more than 10 yards away. Beyond that, the #6 birdshot pattern isn’t dense enough to guarantee that even a single pellet will strike them.

Shotshell Patterning: Buckshot and PDX

At $10 per box of 20, Federal’s “Revolver” 000 Buckshot loads are both effective and cost-efficient. With a center hold, groups like this single headshot can be yours at dining-room distances. The four 73-grain .36 caliber pellets consistently hit within four inches of each other. Traveling at 850 fps from a 2.5-inch barrel, they collectively deliver about 468 lb-feet of energy with multiple wound channels.

This single round would produce nearly the same trauma and incapacitation as a half-magazine full of .380 ACP hardball. No wonder some people look to the Smith & Wesson Governor (or Taurus Judge) as a bedside home-defense gun. But why stop with a single shot when your cylinder holds six?  If your target holds still long enough, you can multiply the mayhem with additional shots.

That kind of trauma is what terminal ballistics experts call a “Disgusting Mess.” These 7-yard groups are nice, but how quickly does the pattern open up at longer ranges? Here’s the same ammo at 15 yards:

Within fifty feet, one center-mass shot with Federal “Revolver” 000 Buckshot will put all four projectiles into their vitals. Basically, your Tango is going Down. Unless they’re wearing body armor, of course, but who’s that paranoid? With the right ammo at relatively short range, the .410 revolver is a devastating defensive weapon.

We also tested Winchester’s innovative PDX .410 self-defense ammunition. Instead of traditional birdshot, buckshot or slugs, 2.5-inch PDX shells are loaded with three copper “Defense Discs” and twelve plated BB shot traveling at 750 fps.

The three copper discs seem to engage the Governor’s rifling, at least a little bit. They consistently grouped much more tightly than the Federal 000 Buckshot. Unfortunately, the 12 BBs go all over the place. From seven yards away this paper perp took a BB on the forehead, one in the neck, and another in the ear. And had most of his brains blown out by the three “Defense Discs”, of course. That leaves nine BBs unaccounted for.

This target shows the impact of four rounds of PDX, fired quickly from seven yards. Once again, the “Defense Discs” pattern perfectly. Once again the BBs spray all over the place.  This picture doesn’t show the full width of the silhouette target, but the BBs spread about 18 inches across at this range. At 15 yards (not pictured) a good percentage of the BBs didn’t hit the target at all.

I’m excited by the performance of the PDX “Defense Discs”, but I found myself wishing they’d skipped the BBs and added one more disc to each cartridge, or skipped the BBs and increased the discs’ velocity a bit. A few stray BBs at 850 fps won’t penetrate more than a single layer of drywall if you’re shooting them inside your home, but you wouldn’t want to fire them on the street. No matter the velocity or the size, you’re still responsible for every bullet and every pellet you fire.

We only tested a handful of slugs in the Governor, and for good reason: they’re less effective and less accurate than good standard-pressure .45 Colt loads, and they’re difficult to empty after firing. They’re also more expensive, so what’s the point?

Attention: Handloaders

The Governor shoots three different cartridges with an amazing variety of loads, making it more versatile and much more economical than the .410/.45 Colt Judges. Handloaders can stretch this economy and versatility even further, but not too far.

.410 shotshells are at least $10 for 25 rounds; twice the cost of larger shotgun shells. .410 buckshot runs about a buck a shot. Handloaders with dedicated .410 reloading presses can reduce their unit cost by maybe two-thirds. If they experiment with shot sizes and cup designs, they can find loads that pattern more densely than the limited variety of commercial hunting loads. Handloaders are still constrained by the 2.5 inch .410′s limited payload and low SAAMI pressure limit of 12,700 PSI. And they’re never going to beat the impressive performance of the custom PDX or Federal “Revolver” .410 loads.

The .45 ACP and .45 Colt can be extremely cheap to reload using lead or plated lead bullets. Governor handloaders shouldn’t try to push these loads to “+P” performance levels. Only daredevils try to push the performance of the .45 ACP. The .45 Long Colt has a lot of untapped ballistic potential—if your gun can handle the high pressures that these hotrod handloads produce.

Ruger Blackhawks and Redhawks, T/C single-shots, and Marlin lever-actions can handle high pressures. The Governor–until somebody proves otherwise– cannot. [I contacted Smith & Wesson to find out what the Governor's case pressure limit is. I never got an answer.]

The SAAMI-standard .45 Long Colt is limited to 14,000 PSI, and the SAAMI-standard .45 ACP pressure is 21,000 PSI.  I *suspect* that one could safely handload the .45 Long Colt up to the same pressure as the .45 ACP, but since I don’t know I’m not going to try it. Maybe somebody with a pressure testing rig will carefully work up some 21,000 PSI .45 Long Colt loads and carefully test them in several Governors to prove they’re safe. But that person won’t be me and it better not be you, either.

Until Smith & Wesson or the major handloading manuals tell you otherwise, stick to SAAMI-standard .45 Long Colt loads. If you really need them, Buffalo Bore sells three different flavors of standard-pressure .45 Long Colt that will put a world of hurt on anything that walks, crawls or stomps the Lower 48. Their 225-grain wadcutter ‘anti-personnel’ .45 Long Colt is advertised at 1050 fps, and the guys at www.gunblast.com have chronographed it at an honest 930 fps.  At $2.25 a shot (delivered) they’ll also put a world of hurt on your wallet but who’s counting?

Conclusion

The Governor isn’t outstanding in any single role. If you like big-bore revolvers, or if you’re looking for a versatile backwoods survival pistol, the Governor might be for you. It’s slow to reload, but with the right ammunition it will also deliver decisive on-target performance as a home defense weapon. With a street price of about $550, the big Smith costs about $100 more than a similar Judge. By shooting cheap .45 ACPs, you can make up that difference in less than 500 rounds.

The Governor is much more refined and accurate than the Judges I’ve handled and shot. The Smith’s got a feel of quality and durability that many Tauruses are lacking. It’s a truly fun gun to shoot, no matter what you load it with.

RATINGS (out of five)

Accuracy * * *
Amazingly good for a snubnose, but fixed sights not well regulated for the soft-shooting loads it seems to prefer.

Reliability ****
One ammunition malfunction in the course of three different evaluations is pretty good but not perfect.  Subtract one star for the infernal ‘safety lock.’

Ergonomics * * * *
Excellent trigger and comfortable grips.

Customize This *
You can change the grips but you probably won’t want to.  Very limited holster options.

Overall Rating * * * 1/2
A Jack-of-all-trades, even when very well executed, is the master of none.  It’s still great fun to shoot.  If Smith & Wesson builds a dedicated .45 Long Colt /.45 ACP  that’s as well-made as the Governor (and with a shorter cylinder, longer barrel and adjustable sights) I’d give it four and a half stars.

 

50 Responses to Gun Review: S&W Governor (Take Three)

  1. avatarOle says:

    You might want to review your last paragraph.

    I really want one of these, but I wonder if a one inch longer barrel would improve the grouping of buckshot for a few more yards.

    Ole

  2. avatarChris Dumm says:

    Fixed!

  3. avatarkiller99 says:

    You can buy new .45 Auto Rim brass.

  4. avatarecurb says:

    Your review almost made me want one of these, but then I remembered what a light-weight .22 is for… It’s certainly a lot more convenient to haul around in back-country.

  5. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    Good article! I wonder about the longer barrel model that Taurus offers? I still find it hilarious that S&W followed Taurus on this-how many decades has Taurus been copying them? And Beretta?

  6. Jeesh, are the TTAGers allergic to chronographs?

    The elephant in the room when it comes to the Judge and the Governor is that they produce mediocre velocities and muzzle energies.

    Gun Tests magazine has reviewed the Judge twice and the Governor once. Let’s look at how the Governor did with various ammunition:

    .45acp 230gr FMJ…..650fps for 216ft/lb energy
    .45acp 185gr Win BEB…..590fps for 143 ft/lb energy
    .45acp 200gr cast SWC…..625fps for 173ft/lb energy
    .45LC 250gr lead RNFP…..685fps for 260ft/lb energy
    .45LC 225gr Win Silvertip…..700fps for 245ft/lb energy

    The Judge wasn’t much better, at 725fps and 770fps for the same two .45LC rounds.

    Folks, that’s just not adequate for home defense. It isn’t the ammo, which will perform much much better in a gun designed to shoot it. It’s the design. Jack of all trades, master of none.

    I don’t hate these guns; I think they would be fun toys to play with, and that’s more than enough justification to buy one.

    But anyone who uses one of these to protect someone is handicapping themselves unnecessarily.

    • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      But hey! You never know if you’re mice running around in the basement are packing!

    • avatarSam Freedom says:

      Isn’t one concern of home defense that you  Be able to kill your attacker without accidentally killing your neighbor or someone in the street? Fire one of the bullets above into your leg and see how well that goes.

  7. avatarMurdoc says:

    Irresponsible gun owner of the day: TTAG for poor trigger discipline with the gun pointed right at the camera.

  8. avatarChris Dumm says:

    @Gunnutmegger:
    We’ve got a chronograph, but it chose the most inconvenient moment (two testers, 200 lbs of gear, two weks of preparation, 25 miles out in the Boonies, on a Sunday) to start telling us that our .45 Long Colt cowboy loads were cracking 3000 fps. If it gave any readings at all.

    I’m planning a ballistic followup, when the chrono is up and running.

  9. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    I’ll still stick with my pistol grip Ithaca Stakeout entry gun-many more pellets.

  10. avatarScott says:

    I’ve fired the PDX ammo out of a judge. I agree that the bb’s are unnecessary, but even without that- that ammo alone is enough to justify this gun as a defense gun inside the house. If I had this as a self defense weapon, that’d be all that I’d load it with and it wouldn’t leave the nightstand except for practice days.

  11. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    Gun Tests magazine just arrived here at the House of Cujo. The Governor scored A- and the Judge a B+. I am still waiting for the Supreme Court Justice or the President in 20 gauge…

  12. avatarRalph says:

    Chris, this was a fantastic review in every way. Thanks a whole bunch for setting the bar so high for the rest of the reviewers, especially me. :-(

  13. avatarFederale says:

    I must disagree with your revolver reloading technique that you describe. The proper combat reload of a revolver is disengage the cylinder latch with the strong side thumb while placing middle and ring finger of the support side hand on the cylinder and pushing the cylinder out as you turn the revolver barrel up at the same time tranfering the revolver to your support hand. As the revolver barrel becomes perpendictular to the ground the support thumb pushes sharply and quickly down on the ejector rod once, the revolver is then turned downward in an arch, then reloaded either with speed loaders, speed strips or in pairs from a loop or dump pouch.

    Striking the ejector rod, either once or twice, is not the way to do it. It is slower that the above method, and with little practice there are no hangups with this method.

    Striking the ejector rod twice is an ancient technique from the same days as one handed shooting.

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      Many revolvers don’t have full-length ejector rods, and a gentle push with the weak-hand thumb won’t be sufficient to clear the empties. Especially if the gun is dirty.

      Clint Smith still teaches raising the muzzle and striking the ejector with the strong hand. If his techniques are ancient, I guess I’ll stick with ancient.
      I hit the ejector twice because it helps the cases get clear of the oversized grips many revolvers (like the Governor and my 686) currently wear.

  14. avatarChris Dumm says:

    We didn’t bring a spare chronograph. :-(

  15. avatarRyan Finn says:

    Chris,

    G&A just tested it and found they could shoot .45 GAP out of it. Want to give that a try and let us know how it goes?

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      If you’ve got a Glock in .45 GAP, this could be useful. Oddly enough, I saw a pile of unwanted .45 GAP at a big sporting goods chain about a year ago. Regular .45 ACP was $30 for 50 rounds, and the .45 GAP was $20. I haven’t seen it anywhere since then.

      • avatarCarl H. says:

        I have a Glock 39, and I find that I have to ask about ammo – most local gun stores keep it behind the counter to prevent 45ACP/45GAP mixups. It took 100 years or so to get over the 45 colt/45acp mixups, let’s give ‘em a few decades to get used to this newfangled bullet.

  16. avatarLee says:

    I bought the 1st S&W in Eastern WA a few months ago. I concure with the test results. anyone who thinks this gun is not a good weapon for home or field knows little about the subject

  17. avatarDeb Hall says:

    This pistol was recommended to me by a friend with a knowledgable background in firearms. I am looking for a pistol with the purpose of injuring large breed dogs (over 100lbs), not killing them unless totally necessary. I never thought I would get to this point but out of my 3 small jack russell terriers they have been attacked a total of 5 times in the last 2 years. Each time they were on their own property and a Great Preimese and a Pit Bull took turns attacking them. We own 5 acres as each person on our street (total of 6) so they is plently of roaming area but still they have crossed onto our property and even entered our garage to attach our dogs. The last attach ended in the death of my 9 year old jack when the pit bull entered our garage and within minutes ripped his organs from his body. We have paid over $4000.00 in vet bills not including the last as we were in sight of that attack. Our dogs now never leave the house unless we are with them and have gps units incase they cross the safe zone located on our property. After the death this week and many, many months of trying to reason with the owners of the other dogs I can no longer put my dogs in danger. I need a pistol and even though did shoot years ago am not a proficient shot at this time. I plan to take classes but I must choose a pistol to be accustom too and be responsible in owning it. I would like one with a laser site and a scatter shot so if needed I can cause less injury. I realize this is a broad spectrum question but I have to start someone and soon as I am scared everyday and as of now the police only have be monitoring the trespassing dogs. Thanks for your time, D. Hall

    • avatarChris Dumm says:

      The answer to your problems with your neighbor and his dogs is probably outside the scope of a firearm-related website. You should exercise extreme caution around your neighbor and his dogs, but should probably talk to a local lawyer about your legal options before you do anything else.

      • avatarBryan says:

        In Georgia, we try to leave an exit wound of no less than 4 inches in full size dogs that threaten pets and children. I love the Governor, because a 250 grain Speer DeepCurl 45 Colt slug will drop a pit bull in its tracks with a 3-4 inch wound yet not travel across the neighborhood. It usually stops in the dirt on the opposite side of the dog. Yes, I know this for a fact! Any dog that attacks my pets or children will be shot dead. End of story.

    • avatarShane says:

      You should probably have called the police and animal control a looooong time ago. The first time a dog came on your property and attacked your pet you should have been on the phone. Also calling and attourney and sueing the owner of that dog for your bills!

      BTW, I’d shoot that dog too!!! .22′s work real well for a** hole dogs also!

  18. avatarBryan says:

    Great review. I understand that the Governor is a six-shot. However, other reviewers have commented that because the Governor has no safety, it is more like the Judge given that no one should carry a round in the 6th chamber under the hammer as a safety precaution. Does the Governor have a manageable and useful safety? Thoughts?

    • avatarCS says:

      Bryan, modern revolvers are safe to carry fully loaded. The firing pin won’t touch the primer unless the trigger is pulled fully rearward when the hammer strikes.

  19. avatarKevin says:

    Great gun for the Zombie Apocalypse. I bought one with the laser sight and it is a great gun.

  20. avatarMichael Iliescu says:

    I got hooked after reading this review. Thank you for testing almost all the ammo available. I checked on the holsters available and there are at least 4 options for Governor. It is very difficult to find out what the best holster would be. Any follow up from you on the holster issue? Of course I am not referrring to the holster you used sic…

  21. avatarTony Barbato says:

    Thank you for one of the best written firearms reviews I have read in a Very Long Time!

  22. avatarTim Beard says:

    I emailed Smith & Wesson on recommended ammo and got this reply:
    “Hello, we recommend using ammo made to SAAMI specifications.

    Regards, Paul ”

    As I understand it, there are SAAMI standards for .45ACP +P, but *NOT* for .45 Colt +P.

    YMMV

    Thanks for your hard work on these reviews. Very helpful.

  23. Ola! Chris Dumm,
    Speaking of which, What happens when the gun, gang or drug crimes are committed by illegals? Am I the only one confused? Do they not arrest them or arrest them, try them ,convict, have them serve the sentence then deport them?

    Governor Deval Patrick said the shift would free troopers to focus on gun, gang and drug crimes.
    He is rescinding a month-old policy imposed by his predecessor that allowed state troopers to arrest illegal immigrants.

    “I think that strikes the right balance between our responsibility to assure public safety and our responsibility to respond to the concerns about illegal immigration,” he said.

    Under the new initiative, a dozen Correction Department employees will review the status of convicts and consider them for deportation.

    Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke estimated there are 700 illegal immigrants in state custody.
    Great Job!
    To win 200% bet game

  24. avatarRick K says:

    I noticed in your buckshot targets that sometimes your buckshot patterns were low and sometimes they were roughly centered. Were you always aiming at the center of the target or did you try to compensate after you noticed that the point of impact was lower than you expected?

    I just started playing with my Governor a couple days ago. I was using handloads for all three cartridges. My 410 loads were both 2 x 000 and 3 x 000 buck. The 45 ACP and Colt rounds hit pretty much where I aimed, but both flavors of 000 buck hit maybe 4 inches low at 21 feet.

    Rick

  25. avatardkroen says:

    What a great gun.. I bought one a few months back,,I’l glad I did, But remember it is a defence gun The 45 acp and 410, 000 would be devastating if you were on the recieving end,At 15 yrds I tested mine all rounds in 4″ grouping..Regular buck shot is only good at very close range,, But will sherd the target at 7 yrds.The 45 acp in full moon clips are a super fast reload,and with light recoil..
    again great gun,,I would be a buyer if they made a 6″ gun..Its well made and works great.

  26. avatarBob P. says:

    Great review, sold me on the gun. Got it last week. Wonderful side-arm for back-packing and camping which is what I got it for mainly. Doing some boar hunting too down here in NC Mountains, Georgia and will feel much safer with it at my side in the advent of a pissed-off errant hog.

    Critique: 10 pound pull’s a little beefy, may modify that given time, kit and spring only $20. Oh, moon clips, what a curse, garbage. http://www.ezmoonclip.com/ what a blessing, carbon fiber moon clips that can be cut with scissors for third moon clips, etc.. I highly recommend them to anyone who has this gun.

    45 long colt 250 gr., shoots like an absolute dream out of this baby. I was amazed. I think that big chamber is really set up for long-cold and 2.5 inch shotgun shells. The compression is a bit off on the acp rounds but who cares as they are primarily for the range. All in all 4 thumbs up for this beast!

  27. avatarJeff Johnston says:

    I have one for my travels in my motorhome

  28. avatarBlue says:

    Have you tried one of the long barreled Judges?

  29. avatarArdent says:

    Here we have a pistol less effective but with the same capacity as a .357 mag, less effective and with horrific ergonomics compared to a 1911 while also suffering from a capacity issue, effecting a slower reload than either a standard revolver or autoloader, bigger than either, heavier than is justifiable, and performing poorly in BOTH accuracy and power with the loading for which it was intended.

    I’d rate this pistol as something to use only when found and in the absence of a more viable weapon.
    Worse still, I’d rate this as a marketing ploy that puts a questionably reliable and underperforming weapon in the hands of low information shooters under the guise of being highly effective.

    It somehow manages to do a worse job that any of the weapons it imitates. A lever or pump .410 shot gun isn’t a measly weapon with full length barrels, a .45LC is a devastating round in the right loading whether from revolver or lever gun, and the .45ACP was designed for the 1911, without argument one of the most effective combat pistols know.

    Then there is this ridiculous thing. The Judge was at least a one off and a curiosity. For Smith to bring this out suggests there is some legitimacy to the Judge, and frankly there is none.

    Within a limited role, that is being able to dispense birdshot in an anti snake anti varmint role and .45 LC in the event that larger game or nuisances presented, the weapon made sense.

    As a defensive weapon it fails in almost every way. It has low capacity with questionable ballistics, it’s inherently unreliable, and it’s difficult to reload. It’s the sort of pistol that falls under being better than a knife. If the SHTF I’d carry this hunk of crap precisely as long as it took to replace it with something that is an actual weapon (broadly define as any serious duty weapon be it 9mm .40 cal or .45).

    If I spent a lot of time clearing brush and mowing/weed eating like a cousin of mine does I’d have one (he does for that role exclusively). As a defensive weapon this thing has so many drawbacks that really any standard revolver of .38 spl and above are a superior weapon in numerous ways.

    It’s a specialty piece and or a toy, lets not fool ourselves into thinking that it’s a legitimate self defense piece unless its the least of many bad choices presented in a box ‘o guns in some post apocalyptic nightmare.

  30. avatarangie davis says:

    is it possible that i could get the aug 2 2011 issue about the smith and wesson govenor please let me know
    thanks angie

  31. avatarRoy Colquitt says:

    I Have had a ultra lite Judge for three years and love it. I just bought a Governor and like the six rnd and extra ammo that can be fired. The Governor is much tighter built. I have two Simply Rugged holsters for my Judge an Oxblood for daily carry and a Shark skin for dress wear. They are pancake style and conceal a large revolver well. I have one on order for the Gov. Mine didn’t have the CT laser grip but I am trying to get one but can’t find one even at CT. I have them on four other weapons including the Judge.

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  33. avatarLarry Dillon says:

    I personally currently own a hammerless Judge, I personally do not like not having a hammer. A close friend just bought a Governor and showed it to me. I personally think I would like a six shot better than a 5 shot. Having said that I also own a double barrel 410/45 cal. shot gun still pistol that I just happen to have in my truck over Thanksgiving when I rolled up on two people trying to steal my Jeep Wrangler out at the farm. They shot first with a .45 Auto, I had a 7 year old grand kid with me and only two rounds in the gun. He shot once I shot four times, pinning him down after reloading, until the Sheriff arrived and an ex-con with a felony warrant is now in jail on his way to prison. He was a bad shot and the 410 scared him so bad he decided not to stand and exchange shots. I am 66 years old and out of shape but I have never ran from gun fire with 5 years in the Marine Corps and 30 years in Law Enforcement, It could have turned out much worse but I definitely want a 6 shot next time.

  34. avatarJoe from PA says:

    The Governor will NOT fit 45 auto-rim. They were made for the 1917, and lacking the rim recess the auto-rim uses a far thicker rim to compensate for the rim+moonclip of the 45 auto.

    The instructions state this many times. The cylinder for it is based not on the 1917, but the 625.

    It’s an awesome range-day gun though. Gets looks, but the mild recoil and wide range of ammo work well.

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  36. avatarNorm says:

    Got a Taurus poly judge to use as a kayak river snake gun. Timing was off. Off center strikes, cylinder lock ups, lots of issues. Traded up to the governor. Only have a few rounds thru it, but immediate better feel and quality. Most important thing to me is no richochets off water if using shot shells. I plan on carrying it for every day bumming… I have glocks, etc but this thing is a fun country gun. If I go to the city I take the G 21 … Can’t go skipping big bullets off the river now!

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