REVIEW: Why I bought A S&W Governor

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With the huge popularity of the Taurus Judge, Smith & Wesson has its own take on the “multi-cartridge” revolver. Find out how well it works HERE

S&W Governor

Major Pandemic

The S&W Governor was a gun a publicly said I would never buy. I thought it was a pointless gun that can shoot a mixed 6-round cylinder of 2-3/4 .410 shotgun shells, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt rounds with dubious utility. In essence a Swiss Army knife, not particularly good at anything but marginally handy at everything when otherwise empty-handed. I thought why would anyone want a gun that shoots .410, 45 ACP, and 45 Colt and none of them extremely well as a dedicated gun? Owners report typical 3-inch 10-yard groups — not great. My accuracy results were about the same, but notably the Governor does deliver acceptable combat accuracy with .45 Colt rounds and some slug shells. With shotshells of shot a pattern or hole of some sort is delivered downrange with the accuracy limits of a 5-inch sawed-off shotgun. Of course the droves of Governor owners did not agree with my initial assessment.

S&W Governor
An effective and versatile personal arsenal, or a tourist trap? You decide, but I came to see its merit!

Indeed the Governor is not a 25-yard gun and instead is a highly effective 7-yard gun. You would not want to be downrange when it goes off, but do not be fooled that you are going to drill 25-yard A-Zone groups like with a Glock or shoot clays with any regularity beyond 15 yards like with any typical shotgun.

WHY WOULD I WANT THIS?
Maybe I needed something to shoot down misguided drones, use up the surplus ammo from a retired cowboy, or prove to my 1911 friends that the .45 ACP cartridge is not an inherently accurate round.

Maybe I just wanted the thumb-breaking and nail-ripping experience of removing spent .45 ACP rounds from full moon clips when I forgot the moon clip loader.

Maybe I wanted to wreak destruction. If you are on the wrong end of the S&W Governor, the gun can be a nightmare. All of the projectiles exiting theGovernor are devastating. The gun may not be accurate, but it makes a big hole in anything in front of it.

S&W Governor ammo supply
The .45 ACP can be shot with full 6-round or partial 2-round moon clips.

DUMB TV SHOWS & MY ADDICTION TO THEM
Actually it was the character Daryl Dixon in the AMC Walking Dead television show that made me buy it… That and my dealer had a screaming deal on this used night-sight’ed S&W Governor. On the AMC Walking Dead show, Daryl pulls the gun off a dead bad guy and realizes it is apparently loaded with explosive incendiary rounds and blows stuff up with it. Though my FFL did not have any of the explosive rounds used on the show, we did pop off a few buckshot rounds on his range and the raw insanity of the gun sold me. Like many people, I saw a potential survival appeal of having a gun that can shoot three different rounds including shotshells and with caliber conversion inserts can even shoot everything from .22LR to .38 Special. Anyway I have named this gun “Daryl.”

DARYL — JACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF NONE
The Governor is not a “master of all” as many would hope. Despite all that, shooting the Governor is a blast.

Shotshells are the best to have fun with if you can manage the sharp recoil of this lightweight 29-oz. revolver. To me the .410 shotshell recoil seems similar to a 44 Mag round. Watching fruit, coke cans, water bottles and clay pigeons explode with the shotshell rounds is a laughter producer. The Governor can realistically teach how to point shoot when loaded with bird shot. Place a few clays on a backstop and hammer through point shooting them and you will become a better point shooter with a pistol.

Governor ammo
A mixed cylinder of .45 Colt, .45 ACP, Buckshot, #4, and slugs.

AMMO & WHERE IT WORKS
The original marketing from S&W noted: “Highly accurate with .45 Colt and .45 ACP,” but the MajorPandemic.com marketing would have read “Shoots most ammo pretty well.”

The .45 ACPs were some of the least accurate, good plinking rounds, offer really fast reloads with full moon clips, and deliver minimal recoil. If you want to shoot the Governor a lot, you will likely be shooting .45 ACP. Through all my testing, the .45 Colt rounds were by far the most accurate through the S&W Governor, producing 3-4-inch 7-yard groups, reliable center of mass hits at 15-yards, and accurate enough to hit a full sized silhouette out to 50 yards. .45 ACP groups were roughly double that size. Surprisingly some .410 slugs were also pretty accurate. If I ever chose the Governor for defense use, my choice would be the devastating Hornady Critical Defense Triple Threat slug/buckshot or those in a mixed cylinder with .45 Colt.

For an outdoor trail gun there really is nothing better for quickly handling everything from snakes to wolves to general personal defense. There is also utility in being able to easily swap ammo based on the need out on the trail or load a mixed cylinder of shotshell, bucksho,t and .45 Colt round. This is where the Governor is like the proverbial Swiss Army knife. Where I really see the lightweight Scandium alloy Governor as a relevant firearm is in the hiking, trail, packing, or trunk gun category that can be slipped into the pack.

Despite being considered “old fashioned” the new breed of defensive .45 Colt rounds are similar is power to the .40 S&W. Notably the Governor is not suitable for the insane 1200 ft/lb Buffalo Bore .45 Colt +P rounds or any other .45 Colt +P rounds, but there are plenty of standard .45 Colt defensive, bonded hunting, and hollow-point rounds with energy in the 550 ft/lb+ range.

The Governor can be a small game getter with #4 shot if you are decent at close-range stalking. The flexibility of shooting .410 shotshells opens up the Governor to a enormous range of ammo types including birdshot, BBs, slugs, combo defense rounds, survival flares, rubber/plastic less-lethal ball shot, mace/pepper rounds, rock salt, and yes even Dragon’s Breath incendiary rounds. In reality, though, being not the ideal tool, the Governor can be extremely useful in a lot of potential situations when you have nothing else.

allen rifle ammo pouch
The Allen Rifle Ammo Pouch perfectly holds a ton of ammo.

To carry a variety of ammo simply, an Allen 14-round ammo pouch for rifles makes for a convenience belt or MOLLE-compatible ammo carrier in a backpack. I found that each pouch could carry a variety of 14-shotshells, 2 full speedy-loading 6-round .45ACP moon clips, and 2 2-round partial moon clips straddling the bottom flap to hold in the .45 moon clips. This overstuffed pouch setup didn’t add any more bulk and provides a mixed variety.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a blast to shoot and I can see it can deliver good enough utility that it is a worthwhile gun. Would this be my “one and only gun”? Emphatically NO! I would rather have a high-capacity striker-fired pistol, AR15, or shotgun first if I could, but the S&W Governor fits into the category of a Swiss Army Tinker knife. A real set of screw drivers, a full sized knife, an actual working can opener, and hole punch would be superior in every way to the Swiss Army Tinker except one — the Tinker allows you to carry the base utility of all those tools in your pocket without a tool belt. The S&W Governor is a lot like that. Toss the Governor into a pack as a survival option with a variety of shotshell, and .45 ammo backing up a hunting firearm or bow or as a camp or trunk defense tool and it is plenty good enough when you have nothing else.

SEE COMPLETE SPECS HERE

CHECK OUT AMMO HERE

OTHER SOURCES
Allen Cases –www.byallen.com
Hornady –www.hornady.com

Major Pandemic

[Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. Click HERE to learn more.]

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5 thoughts on “REVIEW: Why I bought A S&W Governor”

  1. Interesting gun and I have thought about this type ever since the judge came out. However the article could be edited to about 1/2 the words and not miss any relevant info. Far too much ego in this. Just simply boring to read.

  2. Enjoyed this review. It seems like I recall the price of the Governor being substantially higher than the Judge. That makes sense if it’s scandium, but a bit rich for my blood. I won’t buy anything with the Taurus name on it, so I suppose I can always keep an eye out for a “screaming deal” on a used Governor. The other thing I absolutely despise about most current production S&W revolvers is the Hillary Hole. It just rubs me wrong to pay any amount of money for a feature that I don’t want and will never use, and could conceivably cause some kind of malfunction. I wish every review of a S&W revolver would include a comment about the Hillary Hole. Perhaps as a community we can heap enough shame on S&W to get them to reconsider the error of their ways. Eliminating it would probably even help reduce their production cost.

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