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When the shotshell-firing Taurus Judge first made the scene, the big ass handgun was an immediate sensation. Initial sales were stratospheric. By the time Winchester made new, more effective ammo for the gun—the PDX1 flying disks and BBs round—it was clear that the Judge was here to stay. As you’d expect, Taurus’ marketing mavens have been milking the Judge for all it was worth. They’ve added no less than 17 variants to their shotshell-firing line. Yes, well, when gun enthusiasts surveyed the Judge, they wondered what the hell is that thing for?

Loaded with .410 shotshell, the Judge is [potentially] lethal at short distances and completely ineffective beyond. Loaded with a .45 Long Colt cartridge—which is not the gun’s main selling point—penetration’s good but expansion’s an issue. In both cases, the recoil is stout, making the Judge and its bench-mates a questionable choice for smaller or inexperienced self-defense shooters.

The general consensus amongst the firearms fraternity: the Taurus Judge is an excellent snake gun or range toy—but a less than ideal choice for self-defense (i.e. there’s one born every minute). The Judge lacks the stopping-power versatility of a “normal” gun and the bang-you’re-dead lethality of a “real” shotgun. Not a single soul said “this is the gun Smith & Wesson should have made.”

And yet they did. Click here to scan the brochure for the new Smith & Wesson Governor. If you’re looking for a clue as to why Smith decided it needed to make a clone of the Taurus Judge, a handgun of questionable effectiveness, check the advertising strap line. “Six Rounds. Three Calibers. 159 Years of Protection.” In other words, “This is a good idea because we’re Smith & Wesson.”

In other other words, Smith is relying on brand cachet to sell the Governor to customers amenable to the illusory advantages of a self-defense shotshell pistol. No surprise there. It’s been the gunmaker’s key strategy over the last few decades. How else can you explain the success of Smith & Wesson weapons whose quality was notable by its absence? A Smith engineer recently told me stories about the company’s early ARs that would make your hair stand on end. And yet they sold on the strength of the Smith brand.

Stripped to its essentials, Smith & Wesson created the Governor because they can. And make no mistake about it: the Governor will make money for the company. So why should Smith’s suits be concerned about gun enthusiasts sniggering on the Internet? What’s an arcane debate about self-defense strategies got to do with putting food on the shareholders’ table? The bottom line is measured in terms of profit and loss.

Only it is and it isn’t. As Smith itself understands, their brand is their most valuable asset. The line about “159 years of protection” indicates that the Springfield gun slingers understand that the Smith name is a promise that their weapons will save your life (and the life of your loved ones) by working the first time, every time. In other words, reliability.

Uh-oh. Do you consider Smith & Wesson products the world’s most reliable firearms? M&P vs. Glock? If reliability was the sole determining factor, would you buy a Smith AR ahead of a SIG, ArmaLite or Rock River Arms rifle? And what of the recent internal lock failure on my Smith & Wesson 686? Or stories of guns falling apart from material fatigue? If a Smith revolver isn’t reliable, what does that say about the brand?

Nothing good. Perhaps the most important question about the new Governor is this: is it well made? The Governor prototypes at the Las Vegas range certainly seemed sound; I could barely open the cylinder (thousands of rounds without cleaning will do that) but she fired straight and true. The Governor is a derivative piece of dubious inherent value. But if it can defend and extend the traditional Smith & Wesson values of quality and reliability, then it’s a welcome addition to the family.

Then again, maybe not.

Like most modern gunmakers, Smith & Wesson has bet the farm on chasing firearms niches, doing so with all the misguided zeal of a pre-bankruptcy GM. Readers who know me from my General Motors Death Watch days may see an immediate and deeply disturbing parallel, but I couldn’t possibly comment. Oh what the Hell . . .

Just as GM had too many overlapping models and brands, Smith makes too many guns. Too many models. Too many variants of models. Too many types of guns. With so many guns flying out the door, Smith & Wesson can’t possibly uphold their brand’s reputation for quality and reliability. They haven’t been doing it for years and they’re not doing it now.

Even if the Governor was a Performance Center quality handgun for a non-Performance Center price, it’s hard to see it as anything more than a distraction. The truth is that an endless parade of line extensions like the Governor create short term gain and long term pain. Smith should spin-off M&P into a separate brand, cut the number of revolvers in their catalogue to a relative handful, concentrate on quality, raise their margins and sell high-dollar revolvers to non-gun owners.

Just last year, Ruger passed Smith as America’s most prolific gunmaker. Smith & Wesson should let that go and do what they did best: producing the world’s best revolvers. The Governor might be part of that effort or it might not. But right now, I don’t think it is.

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  1. Great Points. Smith makes way too many different revolvers and few of them are very well thought out. Like the uber-cool Scandium 44 Magnum which doesnt even come ported from the factory, for instance. Or the 8-shot Nite Guard that is super light even though it is way too fat for most people to carry. The 44 mag version has like a 2.5 inch barrel. Pointless. They are producing things that the general public thinks it wants, instead of good, solid-performing, useful tools.

    • They are producing things that the general public thinks it wants, instead of good, solid-performing, useful tools.

      The Governer is a very useful tool. I just bought one, and it is great. If you do not think it is a useful tool, strap it on, tuck it in, or throw it in the vehicle and exercise the castle doctrine , and move to Texas . You will find it very useful here in many ways. Have you ever fired on an intruder ? Have you ever fired at a robber or carjacker ? I didn’t think so…. I could go on and on with useful scenarios that the Governer could overtake , but opinions vary.

  2. Wait, so TTAG gives the KelTec 9mm a pass. This is a firearm that explores new ways for semi-automatic weapons to fail. This is a brand who’s own devout owners at the KTOG have 3 page tutorials dedicated to performing the “Fluff -n- Buff” procedure that KelTec couldn’t be bothered to perform at the factory. Such a weapon is deemed, 3 times (apparently) as a worthy self defense tool.

    S&W, on the other hand, is just about the only company in the last decade to create a pistol that approaches something damn near Glock like in reliability with the M&P. A few teething issues here and there, but by now, the M&P is firmly ensconced as a serious competitor to Austrian tupperware. Lots of LE departments, top flight instructors and competitive shooters are moving to the M&P. The only thing holding me back from them is the Glock 19; the M&P needs something in that size catagory and I would move in a heartbeat (though I do have an M&P 45 Compact that is fantastic; an HK45C at 2/3 the price).

    Their ARs also had teething problems, but now are only one step below the quality offered by the boutique AR makers (Colt, Knights, Noveske, BMC and the like) for a lot more money. Though I’m a buy local kinda guy (Noveske), I would take the M&P well before I took a Bushmaster, RRA, SIG or Armalite (those brands being third tier, at best, given their adherence to best AR build practices).

    Is the revolver division over-extending themselves? Perhaps. But revolvers as a category are a niche product these days. Producing a new one isn’t like a major global auto manufacturer developing a new platform or something; cooking up the Governor was likely a fairly simple task for S&W’s engineers. This are revolvers, not rocket science. I still have a lot of faith in my M&P 340 and it goes bang every time.

    Better yet, why are you getting on S&W’s case? If you are gonna pick on a brand that has gone downhill, look north to Exeter, NH. After having been taken over by the boffins who ruined Kimber, SIG has utterly lost the plot. And their main line classic weapons (the P226 & P229) are demonstrably suffering in the quality department.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      First, please note that TTAG does not have a house line on any given gun or issue. We encourage advice and dissent—to the point where we’re happy to publish diametrically opposed reviews or editorials. Although all PF9 reviews came to roughly the same conclusions, publishing three should be a pretty good indication of our editorial humility.

      Smith & Wesson is not the only competitor when it comes to Glock-like reliability. Springfield Armory is in the same league. The thing is, IF Smith was going to compete on semis as Smith & Wesson (a mistake IMHO), it should have been in the game earlier and out-Glocked Glock. It wasn’t and it didn’t.

      I agree that the ARs are miles better than before. That might have a little something to do with the fact that they’re now building them in house. But you only get one chance to make a first impression. That train also left the station before Smith could jump on.

      I reckon the revolver market is shrinking because Smith & Wesson has failed to market them properly. Too busy selling M&Ps and ARs and security services I guess. I had a lot of faith in my 686 and it failed to go bang.

      As for SIG, I can only assure you that we’re equal opportunity investigators/analysts. In fact, if you’d like to write something up, send it to [email protected]. Meanwhile, thanks again for you POV.

      • Hasn’t S&W essentially turned their more tactical offerings into the M&P sub brand? It is under that brand that they sell the M&P pistols, the ARs and a few high-end variants of their revolvers with BUG use in mind (the M&P 340PD).

        At the same time, they seem to be building a line of civilian self defense aimed firearms, but without the M&P branding. The SD40/SD9 are basically major product improvements of the Sigma (by melding in a lot of M&P tech) at very reasonable prices (I picked up an SD40, with the front night sight, for a grand total of $380, and it is fantastic).

        I think the better question may be; why make revolvers at all? With the exception of a few interesting niche models (the 500, the small J frames), how big is the market for wheel guns anyhow? And if the revolver market is really just a collection of bizarre niche products, why not make the Governor?

        • There is still a market for K- and N-frame revolvers. I’d rather shell out the green for a wheelie over a Desert Eagle in a magnum caliber. The S&W Mountain gun would be the best contender against the Ruger Alaskan and Redhawk/Super Redhawk and GP lines which might still beat out the S&W. I love my 620, but I’d almost rather have the GP-100 as I have never had a problem with my Ruger firearms and the lock issue gives me concern until they do away with the silly politically motivated locks that compromise an otherwise fantastic firearm. Ruger pulled out of the political ring with the change in ownership and realization that the government is not what the people want in their firearm. Now we have “hi capacity” autos and AR’s from Ruger, S&W needs to step up as I believe they have the ability and the record of producing a better firearm than Ruger ever has.

      • I would say that the revolver market is shrinking for a much simpler reason: fewer people want revolvers. Semi-automatics are what most shooters prefer these days.

  3. The recoil will be rough on new and even most experienced shooters, but size don’t matter cuz I’m small and I shoot 3 different 500’s on a regular basis (300-700 grain). I find it’s the guys with big hands that have the most pain from the 500’s.

    • I’m a newbie…and def. a relatively inexperienced shooter. I have a Glock 26, a Sig 22, and now The Govenor. Maybe I fell for the hype, but I love it. For me to protect my family with the power it offers, the laser site and the shotgun spread….sounded good to me. I have more experience with my Glock and am comfortable with it. Still trying to decide which one I would use in a pinch. In terms of kick…I notice little difference when firing the Glock vs the Govenor..both are very manageable. What do others who have fired them think? Do they really realize much difference in the recoil. In my humble opinion, both are very manageable and nothing to worry about. I love them both. Can’t wait to buy more:)

  4. S&W revolvers were wonderful, and the auto’s ok. it is sad to see remington ammo and s&w Having quality issues. I have used both for decades. nothing good will come from cerberus involvement in the industry. A 4 in barrel 38 spcl revolver is loads of fun with target loads, and seriously effective with +p loads. especialy with a heavy barrel.
    The model 10 is truly a classic.

  5. A few interesting facts Robby the majority of shootouts are in less than ten feet .22 long rifle kills more people every year than any other hand gun round. And there have been more documented one shot stops (defined by instant death & or the person moving less than ten before they die) from .357 magnum than in 9mm .40 and .45 acp combined. Though I’d add some FACTS to the opinions you have.

  6. I recently bought a Judge (as a hobby gun to add to a large collection), and after taking it to the range and debating the abilities of the weapon, this is my conclusion.

    These new .410 wheel guns are a good thing for inexperienced shooters, particularly in a home defense situation. You’ve relatively little penetration from the new PDX ammo, which makes the gun safer to shoot inside your home with loved ones in nearby rooms.

    And if you are inexperienced (and probably scared out of your wits) with someone breaking down your front door, you are less likely to miss anyway within the small confines of your home when you do fire the thing.

    Outside the home, however, its just a snake gun–a good thing to carry when fishing at the lake.

  7. The Judge line of handguns has been snickered at by folks who simply haven’t condescended to find the time to shoot them. When the gun first came out, dedicated ammo in the .410 variety was not available, as it is now. The Box O’ Truth test which pointed up the shortcomings of the Judge handgun with standard .410 ammo was accurate, at the time. But the new loadings from Federal and Winchester perform much better out of these guns than the standard .410 loadings which were developed for shotguns.

    The Governor simply takes what was already a good idea two steps further. Making the gun usable in .45ACP (with moonclips like the 625) was a great idea. A six shot, concealable revolver in .45LC isn’t a shabby idea, and while I’m not impressed with .410 birdshot for self defense, six rounds of the new buckshot ammo is nothing to be sneezed at.

    For anyone who can’t figure the Judge/Governor thing out; don’t take the internet view as gospel. Figure out if you need a gun which can shoot three of the oldest, most common cartridges ever, two of which have long been vaunted as good self defense rounds.

    For myself, my Taurus Public Defender (most compact of the Judge line) makes a fine ranch gun, as well as a capable concealed carry handgun, especially when backed up by my Kel-Tec P32.

    I will definitely be picking up a Governor in the future. I certainly hope that the new Smith will be capable of shooting some of the hotter .45LC loadings, which would add even more to its already impressive versatility.

  8. Who cares what internet gun dweebs snigger at. To the last man-wannabe they are ignorant idiots. Mall Ninjas and Chairborn Rangers with their tactical tupperware.

    ANY revolver chambered in .45 Colt is gonna be an EXCELLENT SELF DEFENSE GUN. But don’t take my word for it. Ask Col. Cooper, Elmer Keith, etc…..

    I am laughing at the idea that .45 LC needs ‘expansion.’
    Somebody go back in time and tell Hickock, Hardin and crew….

    • As my grand father used to say “if the 45 dosen’t knock ’em down he’ll be doing some funny standing up”

      • I agree with Big Jim and Dave. What I have a Taurus Judge for is to stop someone from coming into the room I am in. It is approx. 11 feet from my gun hand to the door. Even under stressful circumstance, I am going to hit a human sized target 99% of the time. I can do it with a 1 1/2″ barrel .38 snubnose as well. With the option of the .410 buckshot, the odds are even better. The recoil doesn’t bother me at all. Anyway, I think some gun buffs need to think about what the Judge (and subsequently the Governor) is for: not paper targets 50 yards away, not deer hunting, bear hunting, or defense against bears, but to use within about 15 feet against an intruder.

        • Exactly Nathan…The new shotgun type wheel gun is designed for close up self defense situations…Never seen them advertised as hunting or sporting guns…They are also easy to use for newcomers to the pistol shooting world as well as someone who doesnt shoot alot..Simply point and pull the trigger,especially under super stressed times as in self defense times….It is easier to teach your family or spouse to shoot a revolver than some of these more complicated autos…The more you practice the better you are but some people dont have the time,or the place to do so alot…It is somewhat hard to get the same practice as a self defense act would put you in cause you know your not actually having to mortally shoot someone nor can you put yourself under the same stress or situation you might encounter…These new revolvers are just another tool to try and give you an advantage on defending yourself against a threat on your life from another “Person”..not bears or sporting clays or even crazed moose..There’s never ONE tool for all jobs..Think about the job you are needing to do and pick Your Right Tool !!!!!!!!

  9. Actually, this gun does have a market. I would have never thought about such a revolver for myself in the past, but now that I have been getting into field dog training, this seems a great way to introduce the pups to gunshots without lugging around a shotgun. On the same token, I have wanted a smallish .44 or .45 colt revolver for carry in the woods when hiking/hunting/fishing/canoeing/etc. This guns seems like it fits both bills.

    I had looked at the Taurus offerings, but given negative experience in the past with a couple of their big bore guns, I didn’t take them too seriously. Now that Smith is making one, it deserves a look. I think this goofy looking thing could serve my needs well.

    So, before declaring everyone at Smith as idiots, there is a market for such a gun beyond internet geeks and range commandos. This is one of those guns that will be carried a lot and shot a little. The ability to practice with .45 ACP is nice as well, since the only other gun I have is a Sig P220.

    Also, since when does .45 colt need to expand? Penetration is it’s strength. Hard cast bullets make bear die! The barrel length doesn’t matter, this is something you pull when you’re 20 yards from becoming a meal. Any barrel length is accurate enough for that.

  10. If you want expansion CCI Speer makes a loading with the Gold Dot slug that travels at a little over 740 FPS and expands in gel tests while penetrating 14 inches at 10 feet.

  11. Hollywood spews a lot of mythology about shotguns – that they are the end-all man-blasting weapon that super-heroes use. And there is a lot of mythology about self-defense needs – and I see some on this blog. Seems like folks project the lethality of an 18″ barrel 12ga onto a 2″ barrel .410 and they also buy into the silliness that a 2″ barrel .410 doesn’t require much shooting proficiency to hit the attacker. So we have a perfect storm here of misinformation, of which Taurus and S&W are taking advantage.

    This is similar to the rise in interest in old cartridges generated by the movie “Quigley down under”. Suddenly everybody wanted a Sharps. Now there are lots of Sharps replicas sitting in gun safes – unfired, unloved, their owners now understanding why modern firearms have moved forward.

    So I don’t fault S&W for riding this wave. They are, after all, a for-profit business.

  12. It is hilarious that people say Smith is ripping off Taurus! Taurus has been ripping off Smith and Beretta for decades. My grandfather had a cheap Taurus copy of a Smith model 10, made in the 1950’s. As for the Judge /Governor’s, love them in peace and have fun. I see it as not being a viable trade off in a weight vs. size vs. performance issue. If the claim is ultra performance in a hot .45 long colt round, other revolvers with shorter cylinders exist. If the claim is for the 410 performance-you really have limited range and lose so much with the short barrel vs. a shotguns.

    • Great point, Tuarus has built it’s name ripping off everyone one else since it started, now people are crying because S&W improved on Tuarus’ poorly executed idea.

  13. This entertaining article misses the entire point! Any gun chambered in 45 colt/45 ACP is going to be a great self-defense gun! LOL I prefer .357 magnum in hot loads (double tap or buffalo bore) 700 t 850 ft-lbs (4 to 6 inch barrels) which I have verified with a chronograph and mathematics to feed my several .357 mangum wheel guns in barrels from 2.5 to 7 inches. That said, I just bought a Governor and I think it is badass. With very mild shooting cartridge 45 ACP/45 Colt are” to me” and the advantage of .410 to the face if necessary. The people writing this article are bordering on lunacy to equate 45 ACP or 45 colt as not being good defense loads EVEN out of a 2.75 inch revolver. At even just 800 fps and 225 grains a .45 caliber load with a modern bullet or just lead is going to stop 90-95% of people in their tracks. lol Not too bad when the .357 magnum in a 125 JHP is the best “historical objective data supported” one-stop round in History at 97%. I can give references for this last statement. Evidence Based. Bravo Smith Smith and Wesson for copying the Judge (a mediocre quality gun) and improving it tremendously.

    • The individual that wrote the artical just hates S&W, there for any caliber shot from an S&W is going to be inferior, LOL.

  14. “Loaded with a .45 Long Colt cartridge—which is not the gun’s main selling point—penetration’s good but expansion’s an issue.”

    Are you serious? It’s a .45.

  15. I have the Judge in 2 1/2 in. version. I keep a #7 in the first chamber for my no shouldered friends then mix slugs and buck shot in the rest. The slugs are more acurate than the 45 LC out to 30 yards. Had to put down a deer last season. It dispatched her rather effectivly. Add 45 ACP to the mix and an extra round to boot. I say Bravo S&W.

  16. How did they achieve the correct headspace for .45ACP in moon clips? This does not seem possible.

    The freebore in the cylinder chambers between .410 and .45 Colt and .45ACP will make the .45 Colt and .45 ACP less accurate as distances increase and pressure will escape around the freebore and decrease energy, also. It would be interesting to see a field test comparing ft-lbs of energy for .410 slug, .45 Colt and .45ACP fired from the Governor.

    Why not just have some shotshells loaded in your favorite revolver or semi auto?

    • Because they wont have the same impact as four 00, or 000 buckshot flying at 1000fps+ out of this governor. which is devastating in comparison to most shot shells in a standard revolver, IMO. No comparison.

  17. We always hear from the arm chair experts that .410 bird shot cant be an effective round for self defense because it only penetrates about 6” and the F.B.I. says you have to have 12-14 in” of penetration. An ice pick will only penetrate about 6”, I want to see one of these mall ninjas get stabbed with one about 40 times in a fraction of a second and then be in any condition to use their .45.

  18. I own a holistic and herbotanic healing business. Almost every morning I need to penetrate a deep forest to get my herbs. My best new friend and bodyguard is the S&W Governer, which is lightweight, but powerful and reliable with a better craftmanship and one more shot than the Judge . I am glad to have it with me in the wood daily.

  19. Follow-up to 23 Aug post about my new Governor.

    I called S&W, the cust service rep initially said that he understood that S&W had or was going to come out and say that the Governor could only fire birdshot rounds. I told him that they had a problem then, because that’s not the gun they sold me. He looked it up and it’s not in the owner’s manual, at least not yet. He said he thought it was the ammunition.
    The next weekend, I fired the remaining 13 from the 1st box of Federal, 5 more jammed. No failures of the Winchester as I finished the 1st box of Winchester.
    Last weekend (30 July), I shot 20 more Federal – 6 jams, one which cleared by a harder trigger pull, 3 that wouldn’t drop into the cylinder without pushing them in, so I didn’t fire them. Looking at the primers with bare eye and a machinist’s rule, the Federal primers are all definitely backing out a little. 12 more Winchester, no jams. Some of the Winchester primers backed out a little also, but no jams.
    Totals jams so far: 0 of 32 Winchester, approx 13 of 40 for Federal (11 of 33 for last two weekends).
    Am. Rifleman just ran an article and it indicates that the Winchester is the lowest energy of the three they tested (Winchester, Remington, Federal).
    Federal requested I send the rounds to them, I’ll be mailing them out Monday.
    I’ll post results when they come in.

    • I emailed S&W and got about the most crappy one line answer of all times, literally pissed me off. He said any box of ammo with SAMMI specs is supported and he didn’t even spell SAMII right. So I called and got a slightly more knowledgeable person who was not that much more helpful but said all the NON custom, new, factory made ammo is supported including +P rounds which he recommended not using for general range practice to preserve the strain on the gun. I asked why the barrel didn’t say +P on it. He said manufacturers stopped doing that in the 1990s since they all handle +P. Obviously my wife’s brand new 442 38 special has +P printed on the barrel plain as day. Crappy and sketchy, almost cavalier customer support is still alive and well in modern globalized America. I was very polite and S&W people are about as friendly and exciting to talk to as the average traffic Cop. Still love the guns though.

      • Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with the answer you got.

  20. I have a Judge Ultra-Lite for home defense. All the ballistics, name comparisons, etc come down to this… besides the Judge and now the Governor, what handgun (lame ass Thompson Contender and Cobray POS excluded) fires .000 buckshot through both sides of an oil drum with a pattern that can’t miss at close range in the dark while half asleep with adrenalin shaking both hands?

  21. I just purchased the Governor and plan on shooting it for the first time this Sunday. I noticed some varied comments about which .410 rounds to use, from only use .41o rds. made for revolvers, some mfgs. rounds are tough to extract from the cylinder.Only use the Win. PDXI,,,etc.I specifically bought a bunch of different Mfgs. Win.000,Rem.000.
    S&B.00. Rem. slug. and Win. slug. I hope to be able to satisfy my own questions and find that I have a very varied group of highly functional defense rounds. One other question does anyone know what the ” five (5) white spots are all about” four very visible on the left side and the one tiny one on the right just forward of the logo. I am sure S&W will have a valid reason I e-mailed their office and called after no response only to find they are shut down till next week,,thanks to all, great comments,,poppie927

  22. Follow up to to Aug 12th posting, went to the range today and had zero problems with the .45 Acp, same with .45 LC. Very manageable recoil, different matter with the .410 shells. First in were Win.1/5 oz. slugs, no problem. Next were Sellier & Bellot three shot OOO Buck, no problem firing, but one round had a tough time coming out of the cylinder. Next up were Centurion three pellet OO buck. Fired one could not advance to the next round, spent about thirty minutes with a lot of oil and gentle persuasion with a small rubber mallett. Once the cylinder was free the extraction of the offending shell was accomplishedwith the mallett and a fiberglass rod. The odd thing about this event was the shooter on the lane beside me was shooting a Governor and spoke of a similiar situation, the rubber mallett that saved my day was his. Maybe I will have to carry one of my own in my tool kit. So except for that hang up it was a good outing and maybe next time I will try for shot patterns to expand my knowledge of the Governor, poppie927.

  23. Folks: Can anybody comment on the finish the Governor has? I have looked at several so far and all seem to have the black finish chipped off in places showing a shiny silver underlay? I know the material used is some exotic metal, but are we talking durable here or something too soft to hold up?

    • No issues with finish. You must be looking at some of the light colored dots that are part of the construction. No chipping here, same black matte finish as on all their other revolvers. Quality of mine is superior even to my wife’s new airweight 442. There’s really nothing about the finish than CAN flake off.

  24. I share Mr. Farago’s opinion of the Governor, though maybe not of S&W in general. I carry for personal defense, and am armed 24/7. My preferred weapon is a revolver because of its uber reliability, and I prefer my Taurus Model 85 snubby because I can drop it down a trouser pocket and feel confident that I’m adequately armed. My favorite home defense weapon, after my trusty pump shotgun, is my Ruger GP100 because it offers six rounds of adequate (well, in this case devastating) firepower. Not very portable, but it will damn sure end a home invasion.

    I like Taurus revolvers, but when they came out with the Judge I had to scratch my head and wonder what the deal was. .44 Long Colt? It provides nothing that a .44 Special or .357 magnum cannot provide, only they do it better. Ballistically, a non-expanding .44 Long Colt is inferior to a .38spcl in either FBI Load or Chief’s Load and .44 Long Colt costs a butt load more, so there is no advantage their either. 410 shot shell? I thought that dubious at best. Size-wise, it’s a boat anchor. Realistically, it offers no advantage because it can’t be descretelly carried in a pocket like a snubby, and it has to be belt carried. And even then it offers no advantage over a four inch revolver that is chambered for .38special or .357 magnum. No matter how you cut it, the Judge is a honking big gun that is not significantly smaller than a full-sized revolver but it’s chambered for an inferior self-defense round. Then there is the name: “The Judge” – c’mon it’s just plain silly and it seems to me that it was chosen to impress BBQ Gun crowd, not the serious self-defense crowd. In fact, it seems to me that the whole idea was to market it to the BBQ gun crowd, and not the serious self-defense crowd.

    And Now S&W enters the foray with “The Governor.” Unless the .45ACP offers some significant improvement, then I don’t much see the use here either. Silly, juevenile name. .45 Long Colt/.410 Shot shell dubiousness, but also chambered for good old .45ACP. Maybe the ballistics geeks want to argue about this, but if .45 ACP fired from a revolver with a less than three inch barrel was all that effective then why wasn’t this done long before? It’s not like moon clips are anything new here, so if .45ACP in a revolver, especially a snubby, had an real advantage then I’d think that .45ACP revolvers would be just as plentiful as revolvers chambered for .38spcl or .357 Magnum. But they’re not. So, this just leads me to believe that this is just some slick marketting plow designed to lure in the tacticool crowd. It certainly can’t be the serious self-defense crowd because I hang out with them, and we all snicker at “The Judge.” “The Governor” just gives us more to snicker at.

  25. Okay, originally I was in the impulsive gun market after a grip failure on a Sig Equinox. My resale would cover a Governor new and I wanted to see if the cylinder would handle hot .45 LC rounds without making me understand shrapnel from experience. I found nothing but indications that hot loads are a bad idea in this gun and after reading this article and all the comments included I have a couple things to add.

    The first problem is we have four crowds yelling here, not two.

    There’s the “Smith & Season gimmick powered garbage” group who think this revolver is a set up for failure quality-wise from Smith because they have copied Taurus (for once) and Taurus is simply mediocre weaponry.

    Then there are the folks who see the cartridges here as an incorrect assortment and believe this gun and its like are too niche and that since its questionably lethal, as there is lackluster shooting data on .410, guns with cartridges that are proven are better defense guns but exactly which one is NOT agreed upon here as we’ve all got different budgets and tastes as well as vastly different experiences.

    Then there’s the crowd that the Governor/Judge was marketed to. Folks who think the cartridge selection justified the creation of this scatter shot revolver platform and that it being a revolver automatically makes it something that will never fail.

    Then the .45 cult. People who believe that a bullet, any bullet at least 9/20″ wide is God’s gift to ammunition. The people who are quoting history books instead of ballistic charts and scoff at modern numbers because they can.

    I started this idea of getting a Governor in groups 1 and 3. My issue is I can’t equate all the hype into facts and I’ve already got an original Springfield Series 70 1911 that does most of my .45 business and has never failed once. The revolver round is not as common and not what sells this gun, I won’t pretend it is. My only consideration of this was the moon clips in tandem with the .410 but look at a .410 cartridge. If you cut it open you get a lot of lead as projectile at the target. Weigh it. THAT is what turned my head after hearing it took .45ACP as well.

    It’s a lot of lead if you pick either the Winchester Supreme or the Federal 000 Buck. You get four .380ACP weight and diameter projectiles at the same speed as .380 at the same time. That or the disc powered death cloud from Winchester. Both promise a lot but neither is going to be safe outside of 21 feet as you can’t assure it will group tight enough to not hurt others nearby. Nothing but practice with a reliable and accurate gun you’re familiar with is going to give you that confidence. A super short barrel shotshell sold as a spraying cannon of home defense bad guy oblivion isn’t a stable shooting platform for the idea of others in the line of fire. Does that mean blowing an ounce of any kind of shot into a small “from me to you” area is bad? Far from it. Weight speaks for itself but the following kills the gun:

    The shotgun caliber is largely untested because Law Enforcement and professionals have no use for it. Then both Taurus and S&W have questionable reputations as of now. There are better platforms that are more hand friendly, attractive and concealable in the .45 calibers. So not useless, simply an untested niche weapon that may suit you but odds are it doesnt as the capabilities it does have leave it shining at very little that it is not beaten out in.

    Don’t make it what its not and it will do as designed, like it or not.

  26. Update, still loving the Governor. Still think super fun to shoot on range or woods but in consideration of home defense (primary use) I’ve done some homework and tested almost every round you can buy for it at the common home distances. Much to my surprise the PDX1 410 shells against the rifling in the barrel makes the 3 disks consistent tight and predictable but the big issue is the 12 wild ass BBs that get too wild beyond 10-15 feet. Would be a killer inside a room but otherwise, forget it. In contrast I was pleasantly shocked how tight and controllable the red box Federal (4 each) 000 buckshot 410 shells are. Consistently tight baseball sized groups at all distances under 30-35 feet. So I naturally “ass-u-me-d” the new remington HD (4 ea 00 buckshot) rated at 1300fps max, would be even more awesome than the federal but to my sad surprise I was wrong. The HD 410 buckshot from Rem spread way too much at ranges under 20-25 feet. Tested back and forth but the Federals just work better and they have a lot of punch and control. I can’t see anyone surviving one of these shells in a vital zone.

    Likewise I tested a lot of 45acp and several Long Colt 45 rounds and picked the Remington self defense hollow (green box), and for LC 45 I love the Speer gold dot personal protection 250grain GDHP. Still have not installed a laser which I may never since this gun shoots so straight and effective with the night sight.

    I dont think I’ve had any misfires with any brand ammo but also want to mention the TulAmmo 45acps are horrible even for practice and get stuck in the cylinder, the remington HD and PDX1 410 shells both would love to get stuck in the gun. But NONE of the high quality rounds or the red federal 410 shells have any issues. They dont expand and stick and they literally fall out of the gun when unloading.

    My wife continues to want to shoot my Governor all the time. So I got her a laser for her 442 and that has kept her occupied and has made me completely reconsider how effective a laser is. Man she is hitting hole in hole at 25 feet with her 38 special now. Very happy we went with S and W this time around.

  27. I have a few friends that own the Judge and have had several problems with them. I never shot them as the owners were less than satisfied when it came to shotgun shells through it. So I was hoping that S&W would take the lessons learned with the Judge and have all the bugs worked out prior to putting this on the market. From what I have read there are still issues.
    The one thing that turned me on about the S&W was the fact that you could also shoot .45acp through it. So that leads to the question of being able to shoot other 45 auto pistol rounds through it like the .45 Super and the .460 Rowland. Does anyone know if it is safe to shoot these rounds through the S&W or is it a low pressure cartridge only pistol?

  28. I’m turning 65 in a few days. Back in my mis-spent childhood, several chums family’s had orchards. We got leaded up barreled 22’s, and free shot loads to chase off any number of birds who were helping themselves to Apples, cherries, and such. No solid 22’s allowed, ever! Everything shot upwards has to come back down. So knocking something out of any kind of tree’d situation, in rural venues, dictates using bird shot loads if possible. Even the largest BB’s that pack in these 2&1/2″ .410’s seem to me to fit the bill, for shooting off a four wheeler. I’ll be looking for a Governor, later this year. We are about the last market that S&W supplies, in their first year introductions.

  29. I had the govenor given to me last christmas. I do carry a s&w 9mm 24/7 and I might not be one of the die hard self defence group, what did that guy say the barbque group, Not sure what that means but any way I have shoot this gun with all the cals and i think is is a great gun for in house self defence. and that is the soul perpose that i want this gun . So smith & wesson produced what was wanted in my book.

  30. I picked up a taurus judge poly a little while back. It is quite concealable in an Iwb holster. I prefer the 2 1/2 inch federal 000 buck loads to the pdx 1 stuff. All those bb’s only produce a little more trauma and shock value and i am not too thrilled about their tendency to spread so wide. We are all accountable for everything that comes out of the end ofthat barrel. I wish they would lose the bb’s and put a couple more disc in instead. The judge has the same effect on the target as a short burst from a machine pistol. I have seen demonstrations of the federal loads penetrate 16 inches of gellatin. How is this gun a bad idea?

  31. Some more water has flowed under the S&W bridge. The American Rifleman did another Puff article on this number. No where in print will anyone say it’s safe to carry a Governor, with six loaded chambers, in a waist holster, in the field.

    Multiple projectiles, at this kind of power level, mean a lifetime of disability, if not death, if the beast goes off, hitting a rock embedded in the ground. Opening a simple ranch gate made from barbed wire, IMO, is worse than crawling through a wire fence.

    If a Taurus transfer bar Judge is checked out by a competent gunsmith, then those five chambers equal all the hooey written about the S&W’s six, if you have to carry the S&W with an empty chamber, under it’s hammer.

    For what it’s supposed to do, I would have thought that it could have had the Model 40’s hammerless frame. That way, you couldn’t practice single action, and then screw up using DA in a crunch situation. You would know just how far off, the long trigger pull, and the turning cylinder draw the buckshot. Every shot you fired, would always be with the same pull of the trigger, and hit in the same offset place.

    I do have an AMT 45DAO, Backup, and I do know where the long trigger pull draws the barrel. NOT MUCH AT ALL! But there’s no spinning cylinder, full of lead, starting and stopping, for each shot, either.

    So, for differing reasons, both of these snubbie rigs are really close range weapons. My AMT’s slide is loose as a goose, and the side thrust of the Governor’s, spinning cylinder, seems to me, why all the gun writers are having trouble hitting anything very far, using the DA function.

    But I seriously doubt that many of them could hit much with a S&W M-27, using double action trigger pulls, at any range. Kinda like the thief, trying to ‘Boost’ a fancy sports car with a stick shift, when he doesn’t even know how to shift the thing. But in a way, that crook wins. He gets a warm bunk and meals, while losing a fight with a black bear, or a rabid dog, ———.

  32. Is the effectiveness of Winchester PDX1 .410 in question? It shouldn’t be.

    As part of an in depth review of the S&W Governor for Ohio Valley Outdoors Magazine, I ran penetration tests using VYSE professional grade ballistic gelatin from Gelatin Innovations. At a distance of 12 feet, the plated disks penetrated 8.5″-11″ of ballistic gel; the BB shot penetrated 5″-8″. These measurements are based on multiple shots to determine averages.

    At 12 feet, the 3 disks grouped about 1.5″ on average at this distance with the 12 BB shot hitting within a 7″ radius of the disks. At 25 feet, the disk groups opened up to just under 3″ with 11 of 12 BB shot hitting within 12″ of the disks. These measurements are based on the average of multiple shots.

    Effective for personal protection…absolutely.

    One final observation. I did a review on a Taurus Judge two years ago. The S&W Governor is far superior to the Judge in quality and craftsmanship. S&W took the time to do it right; I can only speculate that Taurus was more concerned about sales than quality control.

  33. I’ve owned 2 Judges and they were great. The Raging Judge was NOT a concealed carry type revolver. The original Judge in Stainless was better, but still a little on the bulky side.
    Now S&W comes along with a true six shooter instead of a five shot & it feels and handles like a bantam weight. S&W may not always be the first on the block with new toys, but when the do join in they seem to do it right.
    Oh and by the way, making it 45ACP compatible is just another notch in their great history.

  34. Questions remain about quality control at S&W, both in terms of their retail products and those for the law enforcement community. There has been a surprising lack of information about the Texas DPS’s withdrawal of the S&W M&P9 from service when introduced to training with new recruits.

  35. I didn’t have any interest in the Smith & Wesson Governor until after I saw a special Maximum Expansion bullet made by Lehigh Defense specifically for the Judge or Governor. It’s an all copper bullet in .45 long colt that is almost as long as the 410 shell, but it has a very long hollow point that when shot into ballistic gel (or real human tissue), it has 4 huge pedals that open up and expand out to about a 2 inch diameter. Seeing the damage it does in a gel block is amazing. It does more damage than any other hand gun round I’ve ever seen. It literally devastates a gel block. There is absolutely no doubt once you’ve seen that bullet shot out of a Judge or Governor, about if it will stop an attacker, PERIOD! So basically that bullet cuts a 2″ wound path through about 10 to 12 inches of tissue… that made me decide to buy a Smith & Wesson Governor! There is no other gun except for the Judge that can fire this special round, and no other hand gun round that can beat the damage done by that Lehigh Maximum Expansion bullet… and I mean without question!!!!

    Check out the bullet here:

    Check out the damage in ballistics gel here:


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