I will cut right to the chase: The Smith & Wesson Governor revolver is probably the finest and most versatile handgun on the market. It does a bit of everything — and does it well. Let me explain.

Details on ‘The Ultimate Survival Revolver’

I tested the 2.75-inch-barreled Governor model, weighing in at 29.6 ounces. The S&W Governor is a genuine “six-shooter” that chambers three different calibers without adjustment: .45 Colt, .45 ACP and 2.5-inch .410 shotshells. This flexibility makes it ideal for foraging on the trail, for packing in an emergency relocation situation, as a shopkeeper’s handgun, or for use in personal and home defense. Let’s start with the Governor’s ability to handle three different cartridges interchangeably.

  1. For legal purposes, a handgun firing a .410 shotgun shell is not considered a “shotgun” if the barrel of the pistol is rifled.* If it were smoothbore, it would be a shotgun. Rifled barrels are the reason guns like the Governor and Bond Arms derringers are entirely lawful to own and shoot. (*May not apply to all states — sorry California. Always be sure to check your state gun laws before buying a firearm.)
  2. The .410 shotgun shell has nearly the same exterior dimensions as a .45 Colt, even though the slug is .410 caliber. A .410 will chamber in a .45 Colt cylinder if the chamber is long enough. The Governor’s cylinder will accommodate all .410 2.5-inch shells.
  3. While the .45 Colt is a rimmed cartridge, the Governor can fire the rimless .45 ACP cartridge by using the included full or 1/3 moon clips. The clips allow for proper seating and ejection of the auto-pistol rounds. The ability to fire .45 ACP ammo is an important feature if you employ the Governor as a survival handgun. Popular .45 ACP rounds are more widely available and less expensive than .45 Colt. Power levels are very similar, so either would serve as good defense loads against man and all but the most massive beasts.

While the Governor has an ungainly look to it, it handles quite nicely! The cylinder is stainless PVD, and the barrel is stainless. The finish of the cylinder and barrel mates nicely with the finish on the Scandium-alloy frame.

A white-outlined tritium front sight complements the traditional rear-sight trough cut into the frame’s topstrap. The trigger face is smooth, while the hammer spur — slightly wider than the hammer — is checkered for easy single-action use. A synthetic finger groove grip helps control recoil. The Governor is also available with factory-installed Crimson Trace Lasergrips.

Testing the S&W Governor Revolver at the Shooting Range

I went to the range with three different loads to get a feel for the Governor’s versatility. I tested load-outs as a self-defense gun, snake gun and less-lethal launcher. Yeah, it really can do all that! For self-defense, I brought SIG Sauer’s Elite V-Crown .45 Colt with 230-grain bullet. Muzzle velocity is rated at 850 feet per second and energy at 369 foot-pounds. Ballistically it matches the standard-pressure .45 ACP. For snake defense (or home defense when overpenetration is a concern), I used a box of Estate brand Super Sport Competition 2.5-inch #8 Shot Target Loads. For less-lethal protection, I used Lightfield Home Defense 2.5-inch four-pellet Rubber Buckshot loads. It propelled those pellets downrange at 1,400 stinging feet per second.

The trigger pull of the Governor is smooth and manageable. It makes the Governor a literal blast to shoot! The prominent front sight, combined with the relative mildness of the test rounds, aided in accurate shot placement.

The SIG .45 Colt loads were easy to keep in the 3-inch range at 30 feet when fired double-action. The Estate Target loads were very mild but spread rapidly. The maximum range you would want to use those on human or smaller targets is 15 feet.

The Lightfield loads were the most interesting. Recoil was non-existent. I shot them at the standard silhouette mounted on cardboard. The pellets penetrated the cardboard and impacted into the telephone pole backstop. It is obvious these would sting if they struck the lower legs — the preferred target. Loading the Governor with these for use against dangerous interlopers might turn the tide without causing severe injury. If you load the Governor with rubber buckshot, have a backup firearm loaded with lethal ammo.

The Smith & Wesson Governor performs tasks that would typically need two or more handguns. Viewing the fully loaded revolver from the “felon end” is quite intimidating. Adding Crimson Trace Lasergrips amplifies the “think again” factor. MSRP is $869. The Lasergrips-equipped model is $1,119.

Smith & Wesson Governor Revolver Specs:

Barrel Length Overall Length Weight Cylinder Material Barrel Material Frame Material Action Capacity
2.75 inches 8.5 inches 29.6 ounces Stainless PVD Stainless Steel Scandium Alloy Single/Double 6


Smith & Wesson: Smith-Wesson.com
Crimson Trace: CrimsonTrace.com

About Scott W. Wagner

After working undercover in narcotics and liquor investigations, Scott W. Wagner settled down to be a criminal justice professor and police academy commander. He also served as a SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader before his current position as patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio. Scott is a police firearms instructor certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.