Building off the success of Taurus’ Judge line of revolvers, Smith & Wesson decided to join the party. Home defense sales have steadily risen over the last few years, and I think most weapon manufacturers are looking at new and innovative ways to enter and capture their share of the market. S&W took a good thing and in my opinion made it better. While the Judge models fire 45LC/410 GA, the Governor fires 45ACP/45LC/410GA and holds six rounds.
Smith & Wesson markets this revolver in two configurations, with or without laser grips. We’re going to review the model without them. According to S&W’s website specs for this gun, it weighs in at 29.6 ounces. My scale showed it weighed 30 ounces (+/- .5 ounces). It has a 2.75” steel barrel, an overall length of 8.5” and a maximum width of 1.75” measured at the cylinder. The frame is made of alloy, while the cylinder is hewn from stainless steel using a PVD coating. PVD coatings provide color and some scratch resistance. This is a nice touch since the cylinder is usually what ends up getting touched or roughed up the most. As mentioned above, the cylinder holds six rounds. The sights are fixed, with the front post having a tritium dot for night or low light use. The rear sight is a notch without any sight indicators on them. So, it’s a little difficult to locate them in the dark, but if you rely on the front sight post, that seems to work pretty well. I’d rather see a double dot system on the rear sights, but they are a little small. Not so small they cannot be located, but probably too small to effectively place tritium dots on them. It can be used single or double action. Double action use showed an excess of 12 pounds for trigger pull. Single action was a nice and easy 4 pounds. The trigger pull is smooth all the way to the break point. In my opinion, it’s one of the best feeling trigger actions I’ve experienced in recent memory. The trigger guard is large enough to wear gloves with, and doesn’t interfere with your second finger on the grip.
One of the nice things about this gun is its Hogue grips that come standard. They feel good in the hand, they’re well-made and reliable, and they provide a nice separation for your fingers under the trigger guard. They also do a pretty fair job at soaking up some of the felt recoil, which for this platform, is a pretty important job. There is enough room on the grip to get a nice hand hold to include your little finger. There is ample room on the gun itself to get a nice, firm, two-handed grip. Picking up the weapon, it feels balanced and well built. It feels well engineered. Nothing on this gun feels cheap, or looks like it was an afterthought. Everything is well placed, and purpose-built. This is one tough and mean looking gun.
The cylinder is something to take note of, here. Although it is large, it feels balanced, even when opened up. The ejector rod has a nice blunt end and follows through very smoothly when depressed. I did find that it would catch every once in a while when using moon clips, but overall, I found that it made good use of space available on the frame of the gun and it was smooth and fast to use. Reloading was easy and when it didn’t catch, using the moon clips made for very nice rapid reloads. When it did catch, (which was maybe 15% of the time) usually double-punching the rod freed it up and out came the spent cartridges. I never experienced a complete jam.
One mention I’d like to make here is a product that makes using moon clips much easier. If you’ve never used a moon clip, they’re tough to deal with. With this gun, you need them to fire 45ACP rounds. That’s a great round to practice with. 45LC rounds are selling for around .75 to $1.00 each. I find 45ACP reloads can be had for far less. So, that makes using a moon clip important for this purpose. You can also keep one loaded with hollow points, or whatever your pleasure. The bottom line is, getting the rounds into the clip, and then the spent casings out sucks. On that note, let me introduce you to the moonclip tool. They don’t even know I’m writing this, I paid for my tool. You can find them at www.mooncliptool.com. This little gem makes the whole process much more bearable. I hope you find it as useful as I do.
On To The Range
I packed up the S&W and a variety of ammo for this test run. Since this thing can utilize so many different rounds, it is impossible to cover everything, but I like to think I have at least the basics covered. In my range bag for this test I brought Remington’s Ultimate Defense Combo Pack. It contains ten rounds of 45 Colt 230 grain JHP and ten 410 shot shells filled with four 000 Buck pellets. Clearly, by the math, these were designed with the Judge in mind (10 rounds vs. 12), nevertheless, they are meant for handguns. Next I packed a box of Federal Premium 410 2-1/2“shot shells packed with four 000 Buck pellets. For the 45 ACP, I brought a box of Herter’s 230 grain FMJ rounds. Last, I packed up some Hornady Critical Defense ammo.
First up were the Herter’s 45 ACP rounds.
After loading them into the moonclip with the aforementioned tool, I dropped them in and took aim. I used the 7 yard distance mark for all of these shot tests. Because the Governor has such a large cylinder, it helps keep recoil down. With the ACP rounds, there was very little felt recoil. It was very easy to keep the muzzle pointed at the target. My shot groups were a bit spread out, but I suspect that was more due to my shooting capabilities than the gun. I used the ICE-QT targets. In my personal opinion, these are pretty good for targeting a realistic silhouette. Aiming at the nose of the image on the target, I shot a pretty fair pattern. Like I’ve said before, I’m no competition shooter, but I’d like to think I’d get the job done. All of my shots landed in the ‘5’ area. I’ll take that. I like the ability to fire 45 ACP’s from this gun if for no other reason than practice. Don’t get me wrong, any 45 ACP will ruin your day if you’re on the receiving end, but with this gun, I think the 45LC and 410 shells are what I will keep in it for home defense. Having to deal with the moonclips in a hurry would be problematic. On the flip side, if you just kept a few loaded, then they’d be a bit like a speed loader. So, the jury is out. My personal preference is the 45LC and 410 combination. I’d be interested to hear what others think.
Next up were the 45 Long Colts from the Remington combo pack. These things are mean looking hollow points. These gave off a fair amount of muzzle flash. I wouldn’t recommend these at night. They gave off enough flash to temporarily blind the shooter. These had more felt recoil than the ACP rounds, but they were still manageable. The muzzle jumped a bit, but getting it back on target with the help of the front sight was pretty fast and easy. Most of my shots landed in the critical area. Overall I was happy with the performance of the Governor with these rounds.
Next I grabbed the 410 shot shells that came in the combo pack. Loading them, I noticed that the brass ends seem to stick a little getting them into the cylinder. A few needed a little extra push to seat them. I’m not certain if the shells were a little on the large side, or maybe a little carbon leftover from the previous fired rounds caused the friction. Probably a little of both, However, I did not experience this as badly with the Federal shot shells. As expected, I got a fair deal more recoil with these. The muzzle would jump enough for me to have to take an extra second to get back on target. After about 3 rounds, I’d need to re-adjust my grip to keep a good hold on the gun. They don’t hit so hard as to be uncontrollable, but they do demand that you make an effort to control the gun. There was minimal muzzle flash exhibited when firing these shells. The buckshot patterned pretty well overall. Once again, they hit the critical areas on the target with ease. A few strayed, but a majority did their job. If somebody shows up in your house uninvited, these make a great way to show them you’re not happy with their presence. These will most certainly encourage them to leave.
My next set of test rounds were the Federal Premium Buck Shot. These seemed to load a little easier than the Remington’s. In fact, I only experienced one shell that seemed a little tight. All of the others slipped into the cylinder easily. I did not index the cylinder, so I am not sure if it was the same chamber as the one the Remington was tight in also. All of the 45 rounds whether ACP or LC loaded into the cylinder with no difficulties whatsoever. So, I tend to think the ends of the shot shells sometimes get a little oversized on occasion. I’m sure somebody out there will have more information than I on this subject.
The Federal ammo had about the same punch as the Remington. I needed to keep a nice firm grip on the gun, and as with the others, after about 3 shots I needed a little readjustment on my grip. The felt recoil was manageable, but needed to be managed. I think the grips did a very nice job of soaking up a fair amount of the shock with all of the rounds fired during this review. These Federal shells also displayed little to no muzzle flash.
The Federal shells, however, did not provide much in the way of tight patterns. In fact, of all of the rounds fired, these performed the worst with regards to patterning. All of my shots were fired aiming at the ‘nose’ of the target. You’ll notice in the photo, there are significant signs of buck shot off target. Some of that may have been fatigue from firing other rounds before them, but I believe that overall, these just plain didn’t perform as well. From 7 yards out, I would have expected much better patterns overall. Given the disparity from this gun, I can’t recommend the Federal shells over the Remington.
Finally, I sent some Hornady Critical Defense rounds downrange. I can’t say I’m a real fan of these rounds. They tend to be a hot load and have recoil similar to the shot shells. Further, they have a great deal of muzzle flash that would certainly blind someone when firing them in the dark.
On the flip side, these pattern well, and from what I’ve seen, these are fantastic rounds (during daylight) for personal defense. However, most home invasions are likely to occur at night, so you won’t find these loaded in my S&W on my nightstand. In fact, out of all the rounds tested, these patterned the best! So, you’ll have to do some testing of your own to see if you like them or not.
As with the shot shells, the felt recoil was a bit strong. Not overwhelming, but definitely stronger the any other LC round I’ve fired in the Governor. I found that unlike the shot shells, I didn’t have to readjust my grip. The recoil made the muzzle jump and transferred a fair amount of energy into my hand, but I was able to keep my grip on the gun at all times.
Overall, I like the S&W very much. The fit and finish can’t be beat. I like that it has six shots instead of the competition’s five. I also like the quality. It is consistent at the range, and, in an emergency, you can use it to beat someone down if you miss all six shots (which is unlikely). I also like the reliability and the uncomplicated nature of a revolver. Especially if you’re going to have someone at home learn to shoot as a home defense weapon, this is one of the best.
I don’t think that this would lend itself to an EDC gun. Its large cylinder, while not overly wide, would cause a little bulk when trying to carry IWB. Further, this isn’t the smallest thing I’ve seen with only six shots in it. For roughly the same price there are some nice semi-automatics out there with the same of more shots and much easier to conceal. But, I don’t think that’s what Smith & Wesson had on their mind when they designed this gun. I think they had the same thing in mind as I did the first time I saw it: home defense. I keep this in my nightstand at home. With the night sights, reliability and cannon-like performance, there are few guns available that can match what this has to offer. Even fewer can match the build quality and ease of use.
If you are in the market for a reliable, well-made, large caliber home defense gun, I think the Smith & Wesson Governor should be on your short list. Next time you’re at your local range, and they have one for rent, I suggest you give it a try. I think you’ll be happy with it. Add on the laser grips and it gets even better. I’ve always said I was going to get two Dobermans to keep an eye on the house. One named Smith, the other named Wesson. Maybe now I can skip the dog food and backyard cleanup.