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Smith & Wesson Governor: A Revolver That Is Really a Mini Shotgun

Smith & Wesson governor
Smith & Wesson Governor

Smith & Wesson is one of the oldest, most prolific gun manufacturers in the United States. Since 1852, the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company has been building the best of the best in revolvers — nearly 170 years! And their Governor revolver is no exception to Smith & Wesson quality and reliability.

Smith & Wesson Governor, Explained 

At first glance, the Governor is a rather conventional-looking revolver: short, snub-nosed barrel, satin or matte finish, rubberized grip.

One thing that sticks out — its cylinder. It is much longer than that of a typical revolver. Why? Because it can fire .410 shotshells, that’s why.

Yes, the Governor can fire 2.5-inch .410 bore shotshells, one of the smallest easily available shotshells. Though they’re nowhere near as powerful as larger shotshells like the 20- or 12-gauge shotshells, the smaller .410 would still pack a wallop at close range.

In addition to the .410 shotshell, the revolver can also chamber and fire the .45 Colt or .45 ACP with the use of moon clips. This ammunition combination makes the Governor a very versatile revolver.

Thanks to the Governor’s rifled barrel, it can shoot .410 shotshells in a very wide pattern than a typical smoothbore shotgun would be able to. Though certainly not a valuable characteristic for hunting, and no boon for accuracy, it could be especially destructive in a close, confined shooting situation.

The Governor is based on Smith & Wesson’s Z-Frame, a purpose-built frame that accommodates the revolver’s large cylinder and comes in two variants: a dark, matte black or matte silver finish. Both models come with a 2.75-inch barrel. The Governor can fire in both single- and double-action and therefore features an exposed hammer. Both come with synthetic rubber grips as well.

Despite the Governor’s large size, the revolver is lighter than would be expected and tips the scales at under 30 ounces. This is thanks in part to the frame, which is a type of Scandium alloy, offering significant weight savings at no cost to strength or robustness.

As far as Smith & Wesson revolvers go, the Governor is relatively affordable. The two models are priced by Smith & Wesson at $825 and $885. Despite the reasonable price point however, they’re still backed by the company’s lifetime warranty.

Smith & Wesson’s revolver designs have stood the test of time because they’ve thought through every aspect of their design, making them some of the best in the business. For those looking for a very versatile and unique revolver, the Governor is a solid choice.

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer based in Europe. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.



  1. davo

    May 1, 2021 at 11:13 am

    Gimmick gun and novelty, not what I would have as a nightstand gun or as a cc weapon, so many better choices.

    • Jerome

      May 1, 2021 at 8:46 pm

      Ah, the famous nightstand gun. Early in my gun ownership phase, I encountered a thread on glocktalk in which a man’s wife posted photographs of his mangled hand. Somehow he’d managed to fondle the trigger of his nightstand gun while having much of his hand near the barrel. That woke him from a deep sleep. In our case, just how very well are we at aiming a gun when suddenly awakened? A bedside shotgun, or this Governor, might well be the needed tool if the range is expected to be the length of your bed. Just holster it next to your bed for crying aloud.

  2. James Madison

    May 1, 2021 at 11:45 am

    My neighbor bought one and its rocks.. The shot shell has to be fired no more than about 15 ft to hit a man size target.

  3. John Steele

    May 1, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    The ATF says that if it has rifling, which this does. It’s not a shotgun

  4. Sailorcurt

    May 1, 2021 at 5:33 pm

    Or you could buy two Taurus Judge’s for about the same amount of money.

    The only thing innovative about the Smith And Wesson design is the ability to use .45acp with moon clips. Otherwise, it’s just a copy of the Taurus handgun that’s been around for years.

    Considering that the .45acp was specifically designed by JMB to mimic the ballistics of the .45 colt rimmed cartridge, I don’t really see the additional ability to fire that round to be worth twice the money. Just saying.

    But, hey…whatever floats your boat. If you get a warm fuzzy feeling by spending twice as much as you need to for the same result, knock yourself out.

  5. James T

    May 1, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    People saying it’s a novelty gun, it’s a copy of the Taurus, etc have never spent time with it. A friend from the local gunshot said the same thing until we went to the range then he changed his statement to “Holy S**** that’s the most fun I’ve had with my pants on!” This thing is like a mini shotgun and will hit a larger area than a regular pistol of a similar size. As for it being a copy of Taurus, people should do their research because S&W actually made it better with lighter frame, one more round available to shoot, being able to shoot 45LC, 45ACP and of course 410 where Taurus can only shoot two of the three, and S&W has WAY better head spacing and materials that will last that lifetime warranty just fine. I’ve had both and the Taurus had to go in for repairs. They looked at it and sent it back “npf”. Their customer service was horrible, yet you could see the metal for the extractor was warped. S&W has had much more use and keeps going. So if you don’t do research on this I suppose it’s just a novelty gun. 25 yds and it does just fine btw, it isn’t made to be super accurate but it will hit what you point it at and not just at 10 yards like people say. If you want match grade get something else, if you want versatility for a car or home it rocks. Oh the crimson trace and tritium sights also make it a lot easier to see exactly where your aiming at night. I’ve run all sorts of ammo through it and found the PDX1 kicks a lot harder than anything else of any caliber.

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