Sign Up | Reset your password
← Back to Real Guns

Smith & Wesson’s Governor Part II Yet more ways to burn ammo....


Rarely does a picture with a backdrop make it to the pages of Real Guns. Photographically, the tendency is to focus on the subject, the firearm, and to remove distractions. However, it seemed right to place a little artful photography to aid in telling the story…. the many stories. (opening kettledrum – 2001: A Space Odyssey).

What does the picture say? Real Guns uses an eclectic mix of quality and cheapo precision tools? Tools on a computer table create technical ambiance? Or maybe… maybe, a photo of gadgets and all of the ammunition used to illustrate the story. I think, perhaps, someone was too lazy to hoof it over to the shop… in the middle of the night, and setup studio lights and a proper white backdrop. Total mystery.

Live fire

The Smith & Wesson Governor was shot with 410 shot, 45 Colt and 45 Auto ammunition. Then it was shot some more, until the routine of firearms subsided and it was obvious that the Governor was too much fun to put down. Really. All of the performance speculation put forth in Part I was, of course, incorrect, which paved the way to some level of shotgun revolver enlightenment.

Four types of ammo

Type Ammo
Count – Size
Rem .410 UD 2 1/2  4 – 000BK 262 1225 720
Rem .410 STS 2 1/2
292 – #9

Rem 45 Colt UD BJHP 230 850 712
Rem 45 Auto UHD BJHP 230 875 572

The Remington .410 Ultimate Defense 2 1/2″ and 45 Colt Ultimate Defense were components of a combination pack intended for shotshell/cartridge shooting revolvers. Yes, I might be concerned that Remington’s wisdom was reflected in their demise, but that appears to be solid as Vista Outdoor, the current Remington ammunition producer, has marched on with less than minor interruption with essentially the same Remington lineup.

The Remington .410 Premium Target #9 was selected because I have not been able to get decent shot density from a rifled barrel and because…. looking at social media posts, approximately three quarters of the U.S. population are under persistent attack from vipers, in the woods and on the way to work/school, and shot shooting pistols/revolvers appear to be the only defense.

The 45 Colt ammunition is what the SAAMI industry participants have to offer as standard pressure ammo. They will continue to do so for as long as there is the risk of people loading stout loads into 19th century single action Colt revolvers and other manufacturers’ medium frame revolvers intended for standard pressure CAS applications.

The Ultimate Home Defense ammunition was selected because that is my personal choice for a defensive round in my 45 Auto chambered 1911 and revolver type firearms. While not the fastest bullet in that cartridge, it is easy to control, penetrates 12″ – 15″ in ballistic gel and bullets expand like crazy without breaking apart.

Exhibits, attachments and appendices

Shot at 12 yards… 36 feet, 10.9728 meters from a casual off hand position, three 0.36″ caliber pellets hit the paper and one hit just off the paper top left. The group size was just over 7″ for the .410 bore 000 buck load.

Seeing that the S&W Governor could potentially put all shots on target, a switch was made to a 12″x18″ Silhouette target and it was shot twice, also at 12 yards…. because it had it coming. One shotshell with 4 000Bk projectiles was fired above the dashed line and one was fired below.

The top group measured 6″ x 3″, the bottom 8″ x 4″. The S&W Governor and 000 Buck ammo did what they were intended to do, consistently put four lead balls across a torso size target.

I kind of like this…

To reiterate, I do not know why so many owners and wood-be owners of shotshell firing revolvers are so frequently challenged by snakes and, therefore, need to have snake loads at the ready. But mine is not to reason why…  Of the 297 #9 pellets in the load 272 made it onto the target at 15 feet. Why 15 feet?

I do not know why snakes would be shot at a distance, as it would seem a walk around would avoid a fanged confrontation. If a snake popped up next to my feet, I would not shoot, even if just for a life long attachment to my toes. So I arbitrarily placed the snake shooting line minimum at 15 feet, a distance at which the #9 load would shred a snake. Of course, the snake’s demise would result in an overabundance of rodents, which the Governor loaded with #9 shot would also dispatch.

I have no doubt the #9 shot load would be a shocking greeting for an intruder at close range. Such brainwave disruption, while perhaps not as lethal as the other .410 bore, 45 Colt or 45 Auto loads, might snap an attacker back to a situational reality more effectively. OK, maybe #6 or #7 shot would be better, but then what about the snakes? With fewer shot, I could see a shifty snake duck, bob and weave its way through a less dense shot load. So maybe two different loads.

Solid projectile, granular propellant…

The 45 Colt shows the Governor’s practical versatility. Yes, of course you are free to think differently. This three shot 3 1/2″ group was shot offhand, rather quickly, at 15 yards. How quickly? Hmmm… about the same kick drum tempo that opens the Rolling Stones’ version of Honky Tonk Woman. Yes, not an ideal indicator of the Governor’s capability, but more of an indication of my… shootability. If you own the keyboard, you can make up the words.

A two hand hold, braced atop a couple of shot filled bags, brought the three shot group down to 2″. Both the offhand group or the rested group provide more than adequate accuracy at 15 yards, 45 feet, for defensive purposes and probable target sizes.

And, finally, the S&W Governor and John Browning’s 45 Automatic cartridge…

The 45 Auto performance, which in part 1 was anticipated as being the least accurate, of course proved to be the most accurate. Off hand, a quick three shots, put up 3″ groups at 15 yards, again with the potential of my shooting skills and circumstances limiting performance.

Slowing things down and shooting from a bag rested two hand hold, the Governor turned in a 45 Auto, 15 yard, 3/4″ group. More indicative of the S&W Governor’s mechanical accuracy and potential.


The Governor is not at all what I thought it would be. It is well mannered, not at all a difficult revolver to control. It is not really all that large and it clearly is not a heavy carry. It would make for a good Maine trail gun. The range of cartridges serve numerous applications and Maine has no big and dangerous bear population.

Within the three cartridge capability, the Governor would definitely work for self defense where human attackers are the threat. The Governor would also take care of varmints that plague country dwellers. The Governor is a fun gun to shoot and it is good looking. Is it a gun for me? A life time of carrying a 45 Auto or a 357 Magnum has me conditioned to their use, so where ever I wander, I eventually always return to what has worked for me.

For others? I don’t actually recommend firearms. Too many variables in people and applications. I try to present firearms, how they look and perform, and let people decide if they suit their purposes.


Smith & Wesson’s Governor Part I Ten years down the road

09/26/2021 – I am well aware of when the S&W Governor was introduced. Yes, I did pass on examining shotshell accommodating revolvers because I could not see a practical application. The Governor is ten years old, I am ten years older. Perhaps, now that we have both had our space, we can be civil and see if there is something to talk about.

Thinking aloud while playing Governor catch up

Contrary to’s Rain Man like utterances, the 2007 Taurus Judge was not the Big Bang of the shotshell firing revolver universe. That honor probably goes to the MIL Thunder 5, the product of a company that seemed to specialize in designs for niche firearms. No that is not the guy who said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, it is a term that means something that appeals to a small, specialized section within a market.

No, please sit down and stop waving your hand while yelling “LeMat”. I am well aware of that revolver’s existence and it’s ability to fire multiple solid projectile calibers and shot. However, that is a cap and ball/shot revolver with two superimposed barrels, one rifled and one smooth bore and dedicated to a 20 gauge shot charge.And if accept the LeMat, why not the revolving pepper box and we can all have fun speaking pirate?

We are therefore arbitrarily, unilaterally, but not capriciously, drawing the line at the Mil Thunder 5 as the wellspring of stubby single barrel revolvers with both shot and solid projectile capability.

Why would any company bother with a niche product? There were approximately 40 million firearms sold into the United States in 2020, with a forecast suggesting a 24% increase in 2021. If an innovative company could round up even 1/10th of 1 % of that demand, that would be 40,000 units out the door. With an average selling price of even $900, you’ve got some entrepreneurial spirit living in hog heaven as commander and chief of a $36,000,000 company or a successful product manager presiding over a product line within a larger firearm company.

OK, I will take one more question. Yes, Scooter. Yes, I am aware that there are shotshells available for conventional 44 Mag and 45 Colt revolvers. However, those are not REAL shotshells, they are encapsulated shot. I have shot them and have found they are no better than a long stick or a walk around when dealing with snakes and mostly irritating to a attacker when used for self defense.

The Smith and Wesson Governor… or Gov, when said with a British accent


Smith & Wesson Model Governor
Manufactured Springfield, MA
SKU Number 162410
Type Action Double / Single
Caliber .410 2 1/2, 45 Colt, 45 Auto
Capacity 6
Frame Z Type – Scandium
Stainless Steel
Grips Synthetic Combat
Trigger Pull DA / SA  10 Lbs 11 Oz / 4 Lbs 5 Oz
Barrel Length 2.75″
Rifling  1:15″
Rear Sight Grooved Frame Top
Front Sight Tritium Night Sight
Type Safety Hammer Lock
Overall Length 8.50″
Overall Height 5.65″
Width – Cylinder 1.725″
Cylinder Length
Ext. Chamber Wall
Weight 29.6 Oz.
Approvals MA, MD
MSRP $905

The Smith and Wesson Governor is a large frame revolver that accommodates .410 2 1/2″ shots shells, 45 Colt and 45 Auto ammunition, discretely or in combination.

The Smith and Wesson Governor is based on a stretched version of the company’s N Frame, where the frame’s cylinder window accommodates the Governor’s 2.550″ long cylinder, as opposed to a more typical 1.710″ long cylinder associated with the N Frame.

The Governor is a relative lightweight. At this point I am not sure if that is a positive or negative trait. At 29.6 oz, it is 18.1 oz lighter than a 6.5″ barrel alloy steel Model 29 44 Magnum N Frame revolver.

Contributing to its light weight, the Governor’s cylinder is made of stainless steel, while the less stressed frame is made of Scandium; aluminum alloy with approximately 2% scandium for increased strength.

While the cylinder makes a big impression of…. bigness, the Governor is a full 2.75″ shorter than a 6.5″ barrel Model 29. The combination of long cylinder, short barrel and alloy frame make for a very balanced revolver.

The subject Governor features an illuminating Tritium night sight, as opposed to the SKU: 160410 version which features a black ramped front sight and overall matte silver finish. Both use a grooved frame top as a fixed rear sight.

Snub nose as proportion rather than size

The parallel with a Model 60 snub nose in 357 Magnum is probably a good illustration of form versus size. Both the S&W Model 60 and the Governor are snub nose in their own right; the Governor barrel is only 0.125″ longer. However, the Governor is a full 2″ longer in overall length. Part of the difference is in cylinder length, + 0.955″, with the rest coming from the size difference between J and N frame models. Compared to a Smith & Wesson Model 25 45 Colt N frame, the Governor’s cylinder is 0.880″ longer and only 0.010″ larger in diameter.

The Governor appears to be almost all cylinder, this one 1.725″ wide and 2.550″ long. While there are lots and lots of opinions as to how to carry a Governor, at this point, I am not certain what I would prefer. Not a heavyweight, holsters are available for wearing on the belt, cross chest and shoulder harness. At this point, I would guess cross chest as having the most support and pulling the bulk of Governor in close to the body. Yes, in the case of many mature enthusiasts, it can legitimately be referred to as a cross belly holster.

While the frame is N size, the round butt grip is K size, which brings down the overall size of the Governor. Why is ammunition in the picture? I was going

Shots fired! Hmmm…

 The S&W Governor can be loaded up with all 410 bore ammo as pictured above, or all 45 Colt or 45 Auto, or with a mixed ammo cylinder full as shown below.

Beginning with the broad strokes, the S&W Governor was shot with full and mixed cylinders of .410 bore 2 1/2′, standard pressure 45 Colt and 45 Automatic. After all of the firearms that have passed through Real Guns, I may just be building an immunity to recoil, but none of the calibers shot could be considered hard recoiling. I have to say, I got suckered into all of the social media embellishments and was expecting to be spun around, either arm rearward 360° rotation or full body corkscrew, but…

Type Ammo
Projectile Weight
Rem .410 UD 2 1/2  4 000BK 262 1225 720
Rem 45 Colt UD BJHP 230 850 712
Rem 45 Auto UHD BJHP 230 875 572

Keeping in mind that the Governor is a lightweight revolver, despite its N frame size, both 45 Auto and 45 Colt factory ammo recoiled lightly and would cause no issue with anyone with centerfire revolver experience.

The .410 shotshell loads noted felt like 158 grain 357 Magnum shot from a medium L frame revolver. I did not notice any appreciable muzzle blast or muzzle rise. Certainly no flame throwing muzzle flash, but then I don’t discharge firearms at night to see how much muzzle flash they generate. Chamber pressure for all cartridges are modest: 45 Auto 21000 psi 45 Colt 14000 psi .410 12500 psi.

Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shinning… sorry. I like to sing while I work

Use of 45 Auto ammo in the Governor is facilitated with moon clips, either pairs of 2 or a full six, but not half moon clips. In the case of the governor, the purpose of moon clips is two fold. Drop a 45 Auto round into the Governor’s chamber without a moon clip and the little rimless cartridge won’t stop until the case mouth hits the end of the cut chamber and its primer is 0.333″ down in the hole and far, far away from any firing pin.

The moon clip holds the 45 Auto cartridge to proper depth in the chamber and supports the cartridge when struck with the firing pin for reliable ignition. Secondly, the moon clip provide the contact surface for the ejector when removing spent cartridges.

Just an observation with no inference; factory 45 Auto ammunition, across a number of brands, measured 0.469″ at the case mouth. The Governor’s chamber at the 45 Auto case mouth position measured 0.482″. An oversize dimension necessitated by the need to accommodate 45 Colt and 410 shotshell ammo. Pure speculation, but I anticipate that the 45 Colt will perform better than the 45 Auto in Part II.

Defensive shot load anatomy

The 4, 000 buck shot projectiles in the Remington Ultimate Defense 2 1/2″ ammo each weigh 65.5 grains and are 0.360″ in diameter. Rated at 1225 fps MV, they checked 720 fps when fired from the S&W Governor. The idea is to get 4 pellets on a target. If I have time, I will check ballistic gel penetration in Part II, as it would be interesting to see how the low density  65.5 grain 0.36″ pellets perform at 720 fps.

In addition to the 000 Buck load work out, small diameter bird shot is also on the agenda. I have not had good luck with small shot and rifled barrels beyond a few yards, but I have not tried this type of load in the Governor and it deserves the check out.

Accuracy data? Not quite yet…

I did not shoot for accuracy in Part I, because I had not yet worked out a shooting plan as yet. I did, however, poke around at some of the Governor’s barrel and cylinder fit and dimensions.

The Governor’s bore measured 0.443″, the groove diameter measured .450″, rate of twist is 1:15″. For context; the SAAMI 45 Auto spec bore is 0.442″, with groove diameter 0.450″. The SAAMI 45 Colt spec bore is 0.442″ with a 0.450″ groove diameter. A SAAMI .410 smooth bore is 0.410″ -0.000″/+0.020″.

The SAAMI chamber diameter specs at the breech end of the respective cylinders are: 45 Auto 0.481″, 45 Colt 0.487″, .410 Bore 0.478″. The Smith & Wesson Governor chambers at the breech face measured 0.486″. The chamber throats measured 0.462″. The cylinder gap measured 0.009″.

The forcing cone entrance measured 0.456″, before tapering down to bore/groove diameter. What does that all mean? Not as yet. The chamber throat seems oversize, the rest seems right, but it will take a target and live fire to determine how well it all works works.


The S&W Governor is actually a pretty good looking revolver. The anodized black frame and PVD black stainless steel cylinder color and texture are an excellent match. Single and double action trigger pull are smooth, the thumb piece is a short, even stroke, the cylinder unlocks and locks cleanly. The K size grip works well in terms of recoil absorption and control.

In any event, more ammo is being rounded up, targets are being set up and I have an excuse to work with the Governor for another week.


Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15 Sport II OR M-LOK Basic model, not a beginner's model

07/04/2021 We recently published a review of the Smith and Wesson M&P 15T and, now, thought it would be good to briefly cover the lower cost AR 15 in the Smith and Wesson line up. The M&P 15 and M&P 15 II are higher end products, factory supplied with a number of features and accessories…

Real Guns is a membership supported publication. Membership offers access to: all current and archived articles, handload data, ballistic calculators, and the Real Guns Image Gallery. Membership is available for $29.95 for twelve months.

Please either Sign inorJoin Real Guns.

They Don’t Still Make Them, But You Can Still Buy Them An original Colt MK IV / Series' 70 Gold Cup National Match

06/20/2021 – The original Colt 1911 National Match MK I was produced from 1932 through 1942, before production was suspended in the early years of World War II. A 38 Super version was added in 1935, which continued throughout the production run. This version of the National Match was a hand finessed M1911A1, fitted with…

Real Guns is a membership supported publication. Membership offers access to: all current and archived articles, handload data, ballistic calculators, and the Real Guns Image Gallery. Membership is available for $29.95 for twelve months.

Please either Sign inorJoin Real Guns.

Ruger’s LCP Max 380 Automatic Ultra compact small, but with maximum capacity

My wife loves hummingbirds, I love my wife. Subsequently, I put up a double hook shepherd’s pole in the garden outside of her office window and hung blown glass hummingbird feeders. 1:4 refined sugar to tap water filled, the sky and feeders became a hummingbird International airport. I say “International” because some just had that…

Real Guns is a membership supported publication. Membership offers access to: all current and archived articles, handload data, ballistic calculators, and the Real Guns Image Gallery. Membership is available for $29.95 for twelve months.

Please either Sign inorJoin Real Guns.