The Other New S&W Bodyguard

Overall, I think the Bodyguard 38 has a great deal of potential, but it needs more work. For now, I'll stick with my trusty J-frames for backup carry.

One thing that I did notice about the lasers on both of the Bodyguard guns is that they are not quite as bright as my Crimson Trace lasers. In low light this is not a big deal, but the laser is useless in bright sunlight, even at close ranges. This is not a good thing, as you will see, as this gun is way more accurate with the laser than with its open sights. The laser module is screwed to the side of the frame and must be removed to change the batteries. I suppose that also means that you could just leave it off of the gun, if you didn't want it, but I think that would be a mistake based on my shooting experience.

So, How Does It Shoot?

Well, the truth is, I'm not nearly as impressed with this gun as I am the BG 380. However, for a lightweight revolver, rated for .38 Special +P ammunition, it is not as punishing to shoot as some of the other revolvers in the same weight class. At first, the grip felt a bit awkward, with the middle knuckle of the middle finger of my grip hand pressing right up against the back of the trigger guard. Shooting it, however, did not cause any sore spots on my average sized, aging and somewhat arthritic paws. Recoil is stout, but manageable and running 50 rounds through the gun is not a masochistic exercise. The trigger, however, is a disappointment. Pull weight is not bad, probably in the 12 to 14 pound range, and trigger reach is no problem. What bothers me is that the relatively long travel of the trigger has a couple of spots where it feels stagey and you can literally stop and hold the trigger as if they are rest areas. If you pull the trigger relatively quickly and smoothly, it is not as noticeable, but if you are trying for a slow, smooth stroke for maximum accuracy it is a bit of a nuisance. I can stage the trigger every time, predictably and in exactly the same spot on each pull.

Unfortunately, staging the trigger is not a good technique for combat shooting, despite what you may have been told by some instructors. It encourages unintended discharges and can lead to yanking shots low when you reflexively anticipate the recoil. A nice smooth roll of the trigger, in one continuous movement from start to trigger break, will give the best results. That isn't easy with this gun. All of my colleagues who have tried the gun have said the same thing: The trigger needs work... or worse.

Nonetheless, I felt I had the hang of the trigger enough to try some accuracy tests. As you can see from the photos, this revolver is capable of decent accuracy at typical gunfight distances. At seven yards I could manage five shot groups that measured 2.5 inches or less, using the Speer 135 grain Gold Dot +P ammo that I consider that to be the current carry standard for short-barreled revolvers. I had the best results with Federal 125 grain Nyclad hollow point ammo, which ATK recently returned to their Federal catalog. It is a good choice for recoil-sensitive shooters as it expands fairly well for a standard pressure load. My best group with the open sights was with the Nyclad. It measured 2 inches for five shots, with the best three measuring 1.25 inches.

The problem is, all of the groups that I fired using the fixed, open sights were high and left. How high and left depended on how hot the ammo was. One group of the Gold Dots was centered 3 inches high and 2.5 inches left of the point of aim. Remember, this was at 7 yards! The Nyclad centered about 1.5 inches high and 1 inch left. Unfortunately, this was the same experience as several of my colleagues who have also tested these revolvers. The prototype that I shot in Las Vegas was also shooting high. Unfortunately, the sights are not adjustable for windage. The front sight is pinned on, so changing to a higher front sight would be a fix for the elevation problem, but I have not heard that S&W is planning on doing this asyet.

That is why I say that having and using the laser sight on the BG 38 is a really good idea. The laser, of course, can be adjusted for windage and elevation. In fact, the group shown in the accompanying photo was shot with the laser sight, without the sight being really fine tuned. That group measures 1.15 inches, with the best 3 shots being right at .5 of an inch. That group was shot at 5 yards instead of 7, because I could not see the laser any farther away in the sunlight. The bottom line here is that the open sights are too inaccurate to use at more than about 5 yards. Using the laser does allow you to take advantage of the guns inherent accuracy, but you might not be able to see the laser much farther away.

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