Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Why I bought A S&W Governor and Review

Why I bought A SW Governor and Review

The S&W Governor was a gun a publically said I would never buy. I thought it was a pointless gun that can shoot a mixed six round cylinder of 2-¾” .410, 45 ACP, and .45 Colt rounds with dubious utility. In essence a Swiss Army knife, not particularly good at anything but marginally handy at everything when otherwise empty handed. 

I thought why would anyone want a gun that shoots .410, 45 ACP, and 45 Colt and none of them extremely well as a dedicated gun? Owners report typical 3” ten-yard groups - not particularly great at all. My accuracy results were about the same, but notably the Governor does deliver acceptable combat accuracy with .45 Colt rounds and some slug shells. With shotshells of shot, buckshot a pattern or hole of some sort is delivered downrange with the accuracy limits of a 5” sawed off shotgun. Of course the droves of Governor owners did not agree with my initial assessment.

Indeed the Governor is not a 25-yard gun and instead a highly effective seven yard gun. You would not want to be downrange when it goes off, but do not be fooled that you are going to drill 25-yard A-Zone groups like with a Glock or shoot clays with any regularity beyond fifteen yards like with any typical shotgun. 

Maybe I needed something to shoot down misguided drones, use up the surplus ammo from a retired cowboy, or prove to my 1911 friends that the .45 ACP cartridge is not an inherently accurate round. 

Maybe I just wanted the thumb breaking and nail ripping experience of removing spent .45 ACP rounds from full moon clips when I forgot the moon clip loader.

Maybe I wanted to wreak destruction. If you are on the wrong end of the S&WGovernor, the gun can be a nightmare. All of the rounds existing the less than precision Governor are devastating. The gun may not be accurate, but it makes a big hole in anything in front of it.

Actually it was the character Daryl Dixon in the stupid AMC Walking Dead television show that made my buy it… that and my dealer had a screaming deal on this used night-sight’ed S&W Governor. On the AMC Walking Dead show, Daryl pulls the gun off a dead bad guy and realizes it is apparently loaded with explosive incendiary rounds and blows stuff up with it. 

The .45 ACP can be shot with full 6-round
or partial 2-round moon clips
Though my FFL did not have any of the explosive rounds used on the show, we did pop off a few buckshot rounds on his range and the raw insanity of the gun sold me. Like many people, I saw a potential survival appeal of having a gun that can shoot three different rounds including shotshells and with caliber conversion inserts can even shoot everything from .22LR to .38 Special. Anyway I have named this ridiculous gun “Daryl” as a celebration of everything that appeals to the redneck in me.

The Governor is not a “master of all” as many would hope. Despite all that lack of perfection, shooting the Governor is a freaking blast. It is a gun which seems to find its way to every less than serious range day. If the 50 AE Desert Eagle had an alcoholic redneck brother it would be the Governor - both are a lot of fun for a few grin filled rounds of jovial shooting but not particularly practical.

Shotshells are the best to have fun with if you can figure out how to manage the sharp recoil of this lightweight 29-oz revolver. To me the .410 shotshell recoil seems similar to a 44 Mag round. Watching fruit, coke cans, water bottles and clay pigeons explode with the shotshell rounds is a laughter producer. The Governor can realistically teach how to point shoot when loaded with some bird shot. Place a few clays on a backstop and hammer through point shooting them and you will become a better point shooter with a pistol.
A mixed cylinder of .45 Colt,
.45 ACP, Buckshot, #4, and slugs

By contrast I own a Thompson Center Contender with a 14-inch .410 barrel and a Bond Arms .410 pistol. The Thompson Center Contender is arguably as serviceable as an actual full sized .410 shotgun. With that long pistol barrel, I can hit most thrown clays, can connect and drop junk birds in flight out to about 20-yards. The TC Contender is useful in real life as a fairly practical hunting shotgun pistol that still fits inside a backpack. 

The Bond Arms .410/.45 barrels delivers the same realm of accuracy as the Governor with about the same level of utility, but the Bond has the advantage that it can also shoot shoot full power hand bruising 3-inch .410 shotshell versus being limited to just 2.5-inch .410 shells like the Governor. This means that the your are limited to the smaller lead shot payload of the 2.5-inch shells on the Governor.

The advantages the Governor has over the Bond Arms derringers are that it has a longer barrel comparatively to the Bond, has less felt recoil (all be not much less), six round capacity, and offer improved control with a full sized grip. #8 birdshot out of either the Governor or Bond spreads out super fast; the Bond maybe has about a 5-yard max effective range and the Governor stretches the effective range to 10-yards with birdshot. Pellets are still going downrange for both those guns, but the pattern opens up so much it becomes more statically luck than skill on actual critters. At 15-yards with either of these guns there are fist and arm sized holes in the pattern with birdshot, so a miss is likely, but it is still fun to practice at longer distances.

The original marketing from S&W noted “highly accurate with .45 Colt and .45 ACP”, but I would never describe the gun that way. The marketing would have read “Shoots most ammo pretty well.”

The .45 ACPs were some of the least accurate, good plinking rounds, offer really fast reloads with full moon clips, and deliver minimal recoil - if you want to shoot the Governor a lot, you will likely be shooting .45 ACP. Through all my testing, the seemingly giant .45 Colt rounds were by far the most accurate round through the S&W Governor with 3-4-inch seven-yard groups, reliable center of mass hits at 15-yards, and accurate enough to hit a full sized silhouette out to 50-yards. The .45 ACP groups were roughly double the size. Surprisingly some .410 slugs were also pretty accurate, however but the accuracy was still better with the .45 Colt rounds at distance. Though I would not swap my 9mm for the Governor for defense, if I did, my choice would be the devastating Hornady Critical Defense Triple Threat slug/buckshot or a mixed cylinder of .45 Colt and .410 Hornady shells.

For an outdoor trail and snake gun there really is not a better gun for quickly handling everything from snakes to wolves to general personal defense. There is also a lot of utility to being able to easily swap ammo based on the need out on the trail or load a mixes cyclinder of shotshell, buckshot and .45 Colt round. This is where the Governor is like the proverbial Swiss Army knife and handy when you do not want to carry four different guns. Where I really see the lightweight 29oz Scandium alloy S&W Governor as a relevant firearm is in the hiking, trail, packing, or trunk gun category that can be slipped into the pack and deliver a wide array of needs.

Despite being considered “old fashioned” the new breed of defensive .45 Colt rounds are similar is power to the .40 S&W. Notably the Governor is not suitable for the insane 1200 ft/lb Buffalo Bore .45 Colt +P rounds or any other .45 Colt +P rounds, but there are plenty of standard .45 Colt defensive, bonded hunting, and hollow point rounds with energy in the 550 ft/lb+ range.

The Governor can be a small game getter with #4 shot if you are decent at close range stalking. The flexibility of shooting .410 shotshells opens up the Governor to a enormous range of ammo types including birdshot, BBs, slugs, combo defense rounds, survival flares, rubber/plastic less-lethal ball shot, mace/pepper rounds, rock salt, and yes even Dragon’s Breath incendiary rounds. 

The ability to shoot signaling flares and pepper mace, plus deliver a super painful less-lethal rubber or rock salt payload to keep small crowds under control has some appeal in a theoretical sense. In reality, I am betting the actual use of all of the above would be pretty sub-optimal compared to the same rounds in a 12-gauge and risky to try it out. The less-lethal deterrent has some merit in a SHTF survival situation where everyone is going nuts and you are faced with a set of awkward decisions that do not necessitate killing someone. Perhaps a blast in the chest with three or four small rubber balls or rock salt would be enough to ward off an unarmed attacker. Though not the ideal tool, the Governor can be extremely useful tool for a lot of potential situations when you have nothing else.

To carry a variety of ammo simply, a set of Allen 14-round Ammo Much for Rifles makes for a convenience belt or MOLLE compatible ammo carrier in a backpack. I found that each pouch could carry a variety of 14-shotshells, two full speedy loading 6-round .45ACP moon clips, and 2-two round partial moon clips straddling the bottom flap to hold in the .45 moon clips. This overstuffed pouch setup did not add any more bulk and provides a mixed variety of 30 extra rounds that can be easy carried. A fully loaded 30-round pouch of mixed Slug, #4 , #9, buckshot shells and 16-.45ACP rounds plus the Governor loaded with Hornady Critical Defense "buckshot" weights in at only 3.55-lbs - Not bad for a gun shooting some heavy bullets and 36-rounds of ammo. I liked the setup so much I bought a second Allen pouch. 

This is a blast to shoot and I can see it can deliver good enough utility that it is a worthwhile gun. Would this be my “one and only gun”? Emphatically no! I would rather have a high capacity striker fired pistol, AR15, or shotgun first if I could, but the S&W Governor fits into the category of a Swiss Army Tinker knife. A real set of screw drivers, a full sized knife, an actual working can opener, and hole punch would be superior in every way to the Swiss Army Tinker except one. The Tinker allows you to carry the base utility of all those tools in your pocket without a tool belt - the Governor is a lot like that. Toss the Governor into a pack as a survival option with a variety of shotshell, and .45 ammo backing up a hunting firearm or bow or as a camp or trunk defense tool and it is good enough when you have nothing else.


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