Smith & Wesson Governor 45 Colt/45 ACP/410 Shotshell Six-Shot Revolver


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 7th, 2011


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S&W Governor 45 Colt / 45 ACP / 410 Shotshell six-shot revolver, shown with Simply Rugged Sourdough Pancake holster.





The Governor uses 45 ACP ammo in full-moon and third-moon clips.



Tritium front and notch rear sight.



The Governor uses 45 ACP, 45 Colt, and 410 Shotshell ammunition.





Internal key lock prevents unauthorized use.



Synthetic rubber grip is very comfortable. 





Some of the best-selling revolvers on the market now are those that are chambered for the 45 Colt/410 Shotshell combination. These revolvers offer a lot of versatility as a defensive weapon, and also serve well as a versatile trail gun, taking small animals and birds for the pot, and as a handy tool for easily disposing of venomous snakes and other vermin.

Handguns which shoot shotshells have been around for several decades, starting with single-shot and two-pipe break-open handguns from over a century ago; essentially shortened versions of sporting shotguns. These were pretty popular until legislated out of production decades ago. Later, there were some cheap one and two-shot pistols made of low-quality materials with pretty sloppy workmanship, but they never gained much popularity. In addition, there are some very high quality derringers on the market that shoot the 45 Colt/410 shotshell combination, such as the Bond Arms derringers.

It wasn’t until the Taurus Judge handguns hit the market about five years ago did the popularity of the versatile 45 Colt/410 shotshell revolver idea start to take off. The Judge series has been very successful for Taurus. They are five-shot revolvers that are available in a variety of configurations, and they are selling really well, with many who choose to go armed realizing the advantages of such a versatile handgun.

Back in January of this year, Smith & Wesson introduced their new Governor revolver the day before the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, and I had the opportunity to fire a few rounds through one, briefly getting to look over the new sixgun. “Sixgun” is the appropriate term for the Governor, as its cylinder has six chambers that accept 45 Colt, 410 shotshell, or 45 ACP ammunition interchangeably, any one cartridge in all six chambers, or mixed up as the owner desires.

Naturally, the new Smith is going to be compared to the Taurus Judge by those considering such a weapon, and the Governor has enough features to hold its own. Offering one more cartridge in the cylinder is a twenty percent advantage for the Governor, and the ability of the new S&W to fire 45 ACP ammo is also a real plus. 45 ACP high performance ammunition is much cheaper to purchase than is good quality 45 Colt ammunition, and there is also a much greater selection available on the market. The Governor comes with full moon clips to allow six of the 45 ACP cartridges to be loaded and ejected at once, greatly speeding up the loading process. In addition, the Gov also comes with two-shot clips, to allow loading the 45 ACP cartridges in pairs, for those who want to mix up shotshells with 45 ACP ammunition. Very versatile. This ability of the Smith to fire 45 ACP is a real advantage, and will be a great help to shooters who balk at the relatively high price of good 45 Colt ammunition. Looking at prices of both 45 Colt and 45 ACP ammo online at, I find that 45 ACP ammo can be purchased for around 30 cents per round for cheap practice ammo, and good defensive ammo can be had for 55 cents per round. In 45 Colt, the prices are over twice as much for the cheap plinking ammo, and also over twice as much for good defensive and hunting ammunition. Also, the ammo selection is much greater in 45 ACP, and if your range requires the use of lead-free ammunition, you are out of luck on 45 Colt, but good quality lead-free 45 ACP ammunition is readily available. Smith & Wesson made a wise decision making the Governor to fire 45 ACP ammo. Another small advantage of the Gov is that it can use 45 GAP ammo in the clips as well, as sometimes this ammo can be found at good prices these days. No big deal, but it is good to know, just in case you run across a supply of GAP somewhere. Both 45 ACP and 45 Colt are good defensive and hunting rounds, but I think that most who buy the Governor instead of a Model 25 or 625 will do so for its ability to fire the 410 shotshells.

The 410 offers a lot of versatility in a revolver. As mentioned above, close-range hunting of birds and small animals for camp meat is a plus, but most will keep the Governor close at hand for defensive purposes, and in that role, the Governor’s ability to quick-load the ACP cartridges and its ability to fire good defensive ammunition such as the Winchester PDX1, along with its six-shot capacity make the Governor an excellent choice for such a revolver.

The Governor is built with a Scandium alloy aluminum frame. Scandium is a Smith & Wesson proprietary alloy for lightweight frames, and has proven itself well in other S&W fighting handguns. Scandium-framed handguns offer a real weight savings over steel, while still being strong, tough, and durable. The Governor has a stainless steel cylinder, and the revolver is finished in a business-like matte black. The barrel is also stainless, and is finished in its natural color. Critical specifications are listed in the chart below. Linear measurements are listed in inches. Weight is listed in ounces. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of force. DA is the double-action trigger pull, and SA is the single-action trigger pull.

Weight 29.6 oz.
Overall Length 8.6"
Overall Height 5.5"
Cylinder Length 2.55"
Cylinder Diameter 1.71"
Barrel Length 2.73"
Trigger Pull DA 10.25 lbs.
Trigger Pull SA 4.4 lbs.
Barrel / Cylinder Gap 0.005"
Chamber Throats 0.461"

Compared to the five-shot Ultra-Lite Judge, the Governor weighs about four ounces more, with a cylinder diameter that is about two-tenths (.02) inch larger. The grip on the Governor feels perfect in my hand. The finger grooves are properly placed, and the synthetic rubber is well-textured, but not abrasive. It is as if I grabbed a ball of modeling clay and squeezed it into the perfect grip. The grip is not overly large, and conceals well, but gives purchase for all fingers. Any grip that is compatible with a S&W K/L frame will work on the Governor. The Governor is also available with the excellent Crimson Trace Lasergrip, which is a good asset to have in low light. On that topic, the Governor has a tritium insert in the front sight to assist with accurate shot placement in low light conditions, which every defensive firearm should have.

I tried the Governor on various targets using several brands and types of 45 ACP, 45 Colt, and 410 shotshell ammunition. I was particularly interested in its practical accuracy using defensive 410 ammo, such as 000 buckshot and Winchester PDX1. The Governor can use any 2.5 inch 410 shells, and I also tried some number four birdshot loads, to check for patterning for use against venomous snakes and such. The PDX1 is a very good defensive load, having three flattened lead disks and twelve BB-sized plated lead shot. At across-the-room distances, the three disks would impact in one tight, centered cluster, with the BB shot patterned in a circle around them, covering roughly the whole chest area on an adult human-sized silhouette at sixteen feet. Perfect. At the same distance, the four-shot 000 buck Federal load would tightly cluster, and point of aim was dead on at that range. The double-action pull measured heavier than it felt at just over ten pounds, but felt more like a smooth eight pounds. The single-action pull was Smith & Wesson crisp. The trigger pulls aided in accurate shot placement, and I fired all defensive loads in the double-action mode, as would most likely be used in an unsavory social situation.

Accuracy with the 45 ACP and 45 Colt ammunition was better than I expected after measuring the chamber throats. Being .01 over bullet diameter, I was concerned, and with some ammunition that concern was justified. My favorite handload with a 200 grain cast lead bullet, which performs very well out of most 45 auto pistols, grouped no better than six inches at twenty-five yards, from a Ransom Machine rest. However, some other ammo did pretty well. Buffalo Bore Plus P 230 grain jacketed hollowpoint grouped five shot clusters into two and one-half inches at twenty-five yards, and the same brand 230 grain FMJ loads did almost as well, as did the Cor-Bon 200 grain hollowpoint ammo. My favorite 45 Colt load for the Governor is the Buffalo Bore standard pressure, low flash 225 grain full wadcutter load. This bullet has a full-caliber flat nose, hits hard, and leaves the muzzle of the Governor at just over 930 feet per second. This is not a Plus P rated load, and the ammo can be used in any 45 Colt revolver that is in good condition. Accuracy was also pretty good, grouping five shots into two and three-quarters inches at twenty-five yards. Other ammo tested grouped between three and seven inches. With this revolver, a little experimentation with different ammo pays off. With all 410 shotshell loads tested, the Governor performed very well, impacting at point of aim at all practical ranges for such ammunition.

Reliability was excellent, with no failures to fire, and no extraction problems, even with the hot Plus P ammo.

The Governor is a very good, very versatile weapon, effectively filling the roll of trail and camp gun, home defense, and defense while out and about. It is light enough to carry concealed in a good holster such as the Simply Rugged Sourdough Pancake pictured here. That holster is also very versatile, with the ability to carry strong side, cross draw, inside the waistband, or suspended from a Chesty Puller shoulder rig. For a handgun to keep in the vehicle, it would be hard to beat the Governor loaded with PDX1 or just number four birdshot. Even while fighting from a seated position, it would be easy to give a car-jacker a face-full of trouble.

The tritium night sight makes the Governor easier to use in low light, but for maximum usefulness from a variety of awkward positions, I love a Crimson Trace Lasergrip, so I placed one on the Governor. The Governor is also available from the factory with the CT Lasergrip, and it is a worthwhile option. All of my defensive carry guns wear Crimson Trace lasers. In dim light to total blackness, CT lasers own the night, and give an advantage to their user. In a fight, I want every advantage that I get, and a good laser helps me to put more bullets into the target, faster, with greater accuracy in a low-light situation.

The Governor is Smith & Wesson’s answer to the need for a versatile, reliable, powerful, well-built revolver that can handle a variety of needs, and handle them well. The S&W Governor is built right, and built in the USA.

Check out the Governor online at

For the location of a Smith & Wesson dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the Governor online, go to

To order good 45 Colt, 45 ACP, or 410 shotshell ammunition, go to,, and

To order the Crimson trace Lasergrip, go to

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.




Crimson Trace Lasergrip.





Simply Rugged "Sourdough Pancake" holster.





Pattern of Number 4 plated shot at six feet.



Pattern of Winchester PDX1 at sixteen feet.