Smith & Wesson’s Governor Part I

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.

 Real Guns – A Firearm and related publication

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