Smith & Wesson’s Governor Part II


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.

 Real Guns – A Firearm and related publication

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