Smith & Wesson is in a strange position in the market. The company was built on the success of its revolvers. That said, everyone who hasn’t been living in a monastery for the last 40 years knows that revolvers seem a bit anachronistic in light of the advances made in polymer pistol design (and S&W is making advances there, too). That isn’t to say that the revolver is outdated, necessarily, or obsolete. But it isn’t the height of tactical fashion. So what does an industry behemoth do to make sure the revolver remains relevant? The answer is easy enough to guess. First you perfect the platform, then you trick it out. The M&P Bodyguard is exactly that.
I’ll come clean here at the start of the review. I don’t carry a revolver for concealed carry. I do carry a 686 + when I’m hunting, or wandering around in the woods. The .357, with its long barrel, is an ideal compliment for situations that don’t require rapid fire, large capacity, etc. It is a tack driver, and has a tremendous range. And if all else fails, it can be used as a truncheon. But the diminutive .38 caliber 5 shot feather weight doesn’t share any of the qualities of the 686, except the manufacturer’s name and the fact that the cylinder rotates. So what’s the appeal?
Well, the cylinder rotates. That is enough for some people. I’ve never had a modern revolver fail. Yes, I’ve managed to break a Uberti Navy (by dropping it–not Uberti’s fault), and I’m having some issues with a Walker, but I’ve shot lots of modern revolvers, and even my Pop’s Iver Johnson (chambered in .38 short) still goes bang when you pull the trigger. I can’t say the same for all of the micro .380s I’ve carried. I’ve experienced all manner of malfunctions, from extractors that break off to double feeds and stovepipes. It has gotten to the point that I won’t carry some concealed carry guns off the range. You have to be picky when you’re protecting your life and the lives of those you love. So the revolver appeals to those who want unfailing reliability.
Smith & Wesson, though, has made hundreds of revolver models. What makes this one different? To their credit, S&W isn’t sitting back on its hands, regurgitating classics and hoping that the revolver somehow becomes retro-chic. Instead they’re innovating. The M&P Bodyguard is a composite gun. Look at the frame and you can see where advances in material science have allowed them to lighten the load. As the gun is a .38, and not a .357, there are more possibilities. The barrel is stainless, but much of the rest of the gun isn’t. The rest of the frame is an aluminum alloy. So the compact 5 shot is both small and light.
And they’ve continued to work with the hammer-less design. The M&P BG has a double action only pull that isn’t exactly light. In fact, it is heavy–close to 9 pounds. And it is long. The grip is set back on these revolvers–this is hard to explain, but easy to feel. As the trigger finger reaches forward, you have more leverage to make the trigger pull. Some autos, with boxy grips especially, leave the trigger close to the grip, so as you pull you run out of room to finish the stroke. But not on this one. And the DAO pull is easily staged. You can feel the mechanics in action, and after a cylinder or two, I found that I could rock the trigger back and hold it at the breaking point for extended periods of time. It is a nine pound pull, but the break is clean, and there is no grit, no creep, and no slack. The trigger requires an intentional pull, but it is precise enough for surgical work.
Or as much surgical work as a snub-nosed .38 can accomplish. Accept these limitations. The .38 round is a solid performer, but there are countless variations. I guess someone could count them, if you could account for the countless variations in use by hand-loaders. Sounds like a project for a graduate student. Anyhow. The .38 is what it is. It can be highly effective for personal defense. It still has to leave the cylinder, cross the gap, negotiate the forcing cone’s violent reentry point, and then stabilize in a (very short) barrel. Despite the miraculous sequence of these events, the system works. The M&P’s gap would have to be measured in 1/100ths of an inch. And the accuracy is much better than I’d expected.
Here are some of the shooting results. We worked with the gun at ranges from contact to 25 yards. At 7 yards, which I consider the proving distance for a concealed carry gun’s accuracy, the M&P is a rock star. One hole. From a DAO snub-nosed revolver?
So we moved back a bit. Similar results. I fired from concealment, and point shot from low-ready. I pushed the gun through timed sequences that didn’t allow for full extension, and I ran double taps. I put it through multiple target drills. In short, I didn’t find a single point at which the M&P didn’t meet or exceed my expectations. This is a solid wheel-gun, and one that I wouldn’t hesitate to carry.
Or, as is more likely, trust with a loved one. There’s an added benefit on this gun that makes it even more versatile. The Crimson Trace laser is mounted high on the frame, and not under the barrel or in the grip. This means it won’t be as effected by recoil, and won’t be easy to block with your grip. The switch is easy to find, easy to actuate. And point of aim? At 7 yards, I found POA to be just over an inch right. That margin of error may be because of my pull, or may be because it sits on the right side of the gun. Regardless. I could hand this gun to my wife, or my mother, no problem. Put the red dot on the threat, pull the trigger. In an emergency situation, it doesn’t get any easier than that.
The M&P Bodyguard is exactly that. Simple. It works every time. It is easy to conceal. Its ergonomics and design are mirrored by its intended purpose. It is a backup gun. It is a get-off-me gun. It is a bodyguard. And to the extent that it is meant for concealed carry, it is ideal. The only hesitation I have is with the limited round count in the 5 round cylinder. Is that enough? There is no answer to this question.
Model: BG38 – Crimson Trace®
Frame Size: Small
Caliber: .38 S&W Special +P
Action: Double Action Only
Capacity: 5 Rounds
Barrel Length: 1.9” (4.8 cm)
Front Sight: Black Ramp
Rear Sight: Integral
Overall Length: 6.6” (16.8 cm)
Weight: 14.36 oz. (407.2 g)
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel with PVD Coating
Frame Material: Aluminum Alloy
Finish: Matte Black