Pat Cascio’s Product Review: S&W Bodyguard .38 Special

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As I mentioned in a previous article, some SurvivalBlog readers have asked me to do some articles on good ol’ fashioned revolvers, so here’s another to consider. Many people mistakenly believe that a revolver is outdated or not of any use in survival. However, it depends on what you consider outdated and what type of survival we are talking about. Many people believe that “survival” means living off the land in the mountains or woods. Well, I guess that’s one type of survival. However, they are many other situations that can be considered survival. To many, it just means getting through the day without anything serious happening to them. Survival can take on many different characters, if you ask me.

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, where I lived for 27 years before I moved away. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was forced to move back there for another two years. Now, for anyone who lives in a big and dangerous city, survival takes on a whole different aspect in their lives. I had more than my fair share of run-ins, dangerous run-ins, when I lived in Chicago, and I survived! So, to a city dweller, survival might mean not getting killed on any given day.

There has been a “thing” in Chicago with many who owns guns for self defense, and I don’t know where it started. Many gun owners there own either a little .25 ACP pistol or a .38 Special snubby for self defense. Believe me, I know a lot of people who fall into owning one or both of these types of guns. To my way of thinking, a .25 ACP handgun isn’t a good choice, ever! I knew a fellow, who worked at a gas station and was robbed. The perp shot him in the mouth with a .25 ACP handgun, and it only chipped my friend’s tooth! Take it for what it’s worth. However, I will admit, in my much younger days, I did on occasion carry a little .25 ACP of some type.100_6494

Now, with the above said, the little .38 Special snubby revolver is still a good choice for a self-defense handgun. I can hear the cries now with folks saying, “It doesn’t carry enough ammo.” Well, what are your goals when carrying a handgun for self defense on a daily basis? My first goal is to avoid trouble, if at all possible. Secondly, if forced, I will use deadly force to defend myself and those in my care. If I know I’m going to face a terrorist attack, I would most certainly strap on something more than a 5-shot revolver. Still, if I were only carrying a 5-shot .38 Spl revolver, I’d have at least two speed reloaders on-hand. And, if 15-rounds of ammo doesn’t get me out of trouble, then I don’t know what will. I’m no longer a police officer, so I don’t feel the need to carry four or more spare magazines with me on a daily basis.

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There is still a thriving market for .38 Special snubby revolvers, and the gun under review today is the S&W .38 Spl. Bodyguard. This is a neat little 5-shot revolver with a 1.9” Bbl, and the gun is super light weight at just a mere 14.36 ounces. The gun has a fixed rear sight and a fixed blade front sight. The barrel is stainless steel enclosed in an aluminum shroud. The frame is mostly aluminum with some polymer material as well, which is a rather unusual combination, but it works. The gun is also rated to handle +P ammo, but you won’t want to take a box of +P out and shoot it during one range session. There is also a rubber grip, to help absorb recoil.

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The unique aspect of the S&W Bodyguard snubby is the attached laser on the rear of the frame. (See the pics!) Mine has a laser manufactured by Insights, and some of the guns have a laser from Crimson Trace. I don’t know why the difference or the change, but both are effective lasers. The laser is switched on by pressing a little button on the top of it. It isn’t “instinctive” where you grab the gun and the laser turns on, like many of the Crimson Trace lasers do. They have pressure points or small on/off buttons that you don’t hardly notice. Just grip the gun and the laser comes on. Still, this is a nice laser setup, and it allows you to carry the gun in just about any style of holster. (Some laser setups don’t allow this.)

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The Bodyguard has a nice, black subdued finish on it that seems to help repel the elements, too. As mentioned, there is a stainless steel barrel, but it is inside of a shroud made out of aluminum. This keeps the weight of the gun down a bit. Many S&W snubby revolvers have a barrel that is 1.8” long. This one is 1.9” long. The rubber grips on the gun are nice for absorbing recoil, but they’re not nearly as soft as those made by Hogue or other aftermarket grip makers. Still, it is better than hard wooden grips.

I’ll admit that for a lot of years I was a huge S&W fan but not any more for a lot of reasons. However, this little Bodyguard is one dandy concealed carry handgun. I don’t carry it a lot, and it is not my main carry gun. I carry it in an ankle holster from Blackhawk Products, and the gun rides nicely on the inside of my left ankle/leg. I don’t even know it’s there, mainly because I’ve carried a backup this way for many years. I don’t carry a reload for the Bodyguard, because it is my backup. However, I do carry a spare mag for my main carry gun.

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I had a good selection of .38 Spl ammo to run through the little Bodyguard. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 125-gr JHP +P load, their 148-gr Match HBWC, and their 158-gr CNL Cowboy load. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 110-gr Barnes TAC-XP all-copper hollow point and the same load in +P that was designed for short-barreled revolvers, 158-gr Hard Cast Outdoorsman load, and their 125-gr Low Velocity JHP +P –, designed to expand at lower speeds. From Double Tap Ammunition, I had their 148-gr Match Wad Cutter. So, I had a good sampling of ammo to run those this little snubby.

There is some contention, and I’m not going to settle the dispute here, as to how effective any +P ammo is in a little snubby revolver. However, I will say this; when I carry a snubby of any sort, I stoke it with +P ammo, period! I believe the little bit added velocity will help those bullets expand better and penetrate a bit deeper to get the job done.

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There were no malfunctions with the Bodyguard, other than the laser batteries went dead on me and, of course, in bright sunlight a red dot laser is hard to see at best. Still, I like the intimidation factor of a laser, and it is great for low-light shooting. In all, I fired 300 rounds during my shooting sessions. Firing for accuracy was done at seven yards, which is a fair enough test for this little short barreled revolver. I didn’t use any sort of rest but just fired two-handed. I was able to keep all my shots around the 3-inch mark, and that’s good enough for the intended purpose of this little gun, which is self defense.

I can’t say any of the ammo I tested was really more accurate than any of the other brands or types I tested, not at that short range. I will say though that the Black Hills 158-gr CNL Cowboy load printed a tad bit tighter groups. It was not a big difference, but it was measurable. The Bodyguard was really a lot of fun to shoot, although the +P loads do get your attention after firing several cylinders full. However, in real life, you won’t even notice the recoil because your adrenaline will be pumping.

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So, if you think that the revolver is dead, think again. It isn’t! There are a lot of different makes and models of revolvers out there that are still good sellers, and they will get the job done. Many women prefer a revolver over a semiauto handgun, for the simplicity of aim and pull the trigger with no safeties to fumble with, no slide to pull back; you just aim and fire, and that is not a bad thing. So, next time you’re in the market for a new handgun, take a close look at some of the revolvers at your local gun shop.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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