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Smith & Wesson Governor

July 11, 2012
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

If you think the '.410/.45 handgun' is just a passing fad, you might want to reconsider. With the introduction of Smith & Wesson's Governor, at least nine manufacturers are producing handguns in this chambering.

There are various opinions as to the intended use and effectiveness of a .410/.45 handgun. I see the Governor as an appropriate handgun for personal protection and outdoors activities such as camping, hiking, trapping, fishing, etc. While this handgun would not be good for typical hunting, it would be very suitable for survival situations. For personal protection, many factors need considered...who will be using the Governor; what circumstances; where (home, auto, etc.); how it will be carried; which ammunition.

Deciding that a .410/.45 handgun fits your needs, then the real questions become, "what sets Smith & Wesson's Governor apart from the rest?"

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--- Physical Description

The Governor is built on Smith & Wesson's 'Z' frame. It has a stretched 'N' frame cylinder opening (like the Model 629) slightly over 2.5" long and a 'K' frame tang area (like the Model 686). The frame is made from an alloy of scandium, aluminum and other metals that is exceptionally strong yet light weight.

The 6-round, 1.75" wide cylinder is stainless steel with a PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coating which adheres to stainless steel, is very durable and matches the black anodized frame. Smith & Wesson could have used lightweight metals for the cylinder, but that would have increased production cost as these metals are quite expensive.

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Smith & Wesson Governor

The 2.75" barrel is stainless steel with 1 in 15" right hand twist rifling and a slight taper between the crown and the bore. The barrel is enclosed in an aluminum alloy shroud that is contoured and designed to protect the ejection rod. The front sight (mounted into a dovetail slot in the shroud) is enhanced with a tritium dot. The rear sight is a notch/groove in the top of the frame.

The Governor comes with a choice of grips from the factory, a Hogue Bantam synthetic rubber grip (standard) or a Crimson Trace laser grip (optional at an additional cost). The Hogue grip feels good since it is molded with 3 finger indentations and has a textured surface for the palm and fingertips. While the Crimson Trace laser grip does not have the hand-fitting contour of the Hogue grip, it does add laser aiming to this handgun.

The action is a standard N-Frame action made primarily with stainless steel and MIM (Metal Injected Molding) parts, a process similar to plastic injection molding and high-pressure die casting. This process works best with relatively small, highly complex parts that would require extensive finish machining or assembly operations if made by any other metal-forming process. The hammer lock is on the left side of the frame beside the cylinder release. When locked using the special key, a small "locked" indicator appears on the left side of the hammer.

Setting this handgun apart from other .410/.45 Colt revolvers is the ability to shoot .45 Auto cartridges, accomplished by using moon clips. The Governor comes with two (2) black matte finished 6-round moon clips made from carbon steel and three (3) stainless steel 2-round moon clips. The moon clips keep the .45 Auto rounds from dropping into the cylinder and secures them at the proper height allowing the firing pin to strike the primer.

The Governor is single/double action. Single action trigger pull measured 4.5 lbs. when measured in the middle of the trigger, and no creep. In double action, the trigger pull was 10 lbs. and smooth throughout the length of travel. By passing various safety tests and having this double action trigger pull, the Governor meets the requirements as an approved handgun that can be sold in Massachusetts (the Taurus Judge does not meet these standards). For a lighter trigger pull, Smith & Wesson's Performance Center does offer action work on the Governor as they do with all of their revolvers.

Smith & Wesson has a reputation of manufacturing quality firearms; the Governor is no exception. Even when inspected with close-up digital imaging, the precision fit of machined parts making up or attached to the frame is excellent. On moving parts, there is no horizontal play in the hammer or the yoke-to-frame hinge.

--- Shot Patterning with the Governor

If you have read other detailed reviews on .410 handguns, they usually cover a wide variety of shot loads (rifled slugs to #9) from a variety of manufacturers. I chose the "Keep It Simple" approach only using #4, #6 and #7.5 shot; one of these shot sizes should handle most needs. Instead of rifled slugs, .45 Colt or .45 Auto would be better. Winchester PDX1 .410 Defender (3 disks, 12 plated BBs) is a better choice than 000 buckshot.

To test shot patterning from the Governor, I selected Winchester Super-X Game Load HS, a very good shell for use in shotguns. All three shot sizes had 1/2 oz. loads and a rated muzzle velocity of 1245 fps. Patterning was evaluated at 6, 12 and 25 feet.

6 Feet - Both the #4 and #6 shot held a pattern diameter of 16"; #7.5 shot patterned at 18". The patterns were very evenly distributed and well defined. Depending on the situation, one of these shot sizes would be effective at close range.

12 Feet - The #4 and #6 shot patterns were the same diameter with all shot within a 22" circle; #7.5 shot opened up to a 24" circle with a few flyers. The Winchester PDX1 .410 Defender at 12 feet is devastating...all 3 disks were consistently grouping around 1 " with all of the plated BB shot less than 7" from the disks.

25 Feet - Shot patterns opened up at this distance. Using a 36" square target, the #4 shot kept an average of 93% of the shot (60 of 65) on the target. #6 Shot and #7.5 shot fell to 78% average (90 of 116) and 79% average (128 of 161), respectively. Based on this and pattern distribution, 20 to 25 feet is probably the limit for small game in survival situations. The PDX1 .410 Defender disks consistently grouped around 2 7/8" with an average of 11 of 12 plated BB shot hitting within 12" of the disks. For personal defense, this combination of disks and plated shot would very be effective.

Shot shell muzzle velocities were checked with a chronograph and averaged 638 fps. As would be expected, the Winchester Super-X Game Load HS did not approach rated velocity out of the Governor's 2 " barrel; these shells are designed for use in a shotgun.

The PDX1 .410 Defender, rated at 750 fps, produced an average velocity of 697 fps from the Governor's 2 " barrel. The design and engineering that Winchester invested in developing the PDX1 .410 Defender specifically for handguns is obvious. As expected, the muzzle velocities from the Governor came close to those as rated, and they exhibit excellent patterning characteristics.

--- Center fire Accuracy with the Governor

To test accuracy, the Governor was fitted with Crimson Trace Laser Grips and shot at 25 feet. Winchester's PDX1 Defender in .45 Colt and .45 Auto were used. The bonded, jacketed hollow point bullet weights were 225 grains and 230 grains, respectively.

The .45 Colt accuracy of the Governor was impressive. 3-shot groups around an inch were common; the 9/16" group shown was the best. Muzzle velocity averaged 719 fps with 22 fps variance.

The .45 Auto was not quite as accurate with 3-shot groups averaging 1". While zeroing the laser grips, these two groups (3/4" and 1 1/8") were shot. With the .45 Auto, the muzzle velocity averaged 774 fps and only varied by 12 fps.

Since the Governor came from Smith & Wesson with the Hogue grips, I used some inexpensive steel casing ammo to initially check the zero of the Crimson Trace Laser Grips after being installed. Recommendation...don't use inexpensive steel case ammo in the Governor; it swells in the cylinder making it hard to eject and accuracy/consistency was terrible.

For additional information, check out the article "Smith & Wesson's Governor vs. Taurus' Judge...How They Compare". The link is:

First Published May 2012



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