I had the good fortune to attend a writer’s conference at the headquarters and production facility of the Crimson Trace Corporation outside of Portland, Oregon a few weeks ago. The purpose was to see and test some of the latest offerings from Crimson Trace and to learn about CTC’s recent acquisition by Smith & Wesson as a part of its new Electro-Optics division.

I was very pleased to find that CTC would continue to produce its top-of-the-line products with the same people at the helm and in the same Oregon location as in the past. I rely on CTC Laser sights on both my duty and off-duty handguns, and consider them a critical part of my gear.

The Smith & Wesson M&P Firearms Series

I also learned that Smith & Wesson was moving the M&P series of handguns into its own separate lineup. So now under the umbrella of Smith & Wesson is the “standard” sporting and defensive handgun lineup, the Performance Center Lineup, the M&P Series, Thompson Center, and of course Crimson Trace.

The M&P name is a storied one, having been assigned to the very first series of .38 Special revolvers designed for Military and Police duty use. Eventually the early M&P revolver became the Smith & Wesson Model 10, serving a remarkable career not only in the holsters of this and other nations’ police officers, but also as a defensive/sporting revolver for the civilian populace.

While the original M&P’s name changed over the many years of its existence, the M&P moniker was always floating around in the background. Now Smith & Wesson is creating a wider series of handguns and rifles around this storied name, and one of these is the new M&P .38 Special +P Bodyguard revolver.

S&W M&P Bodyguard

The current use of the Bodyguard name is something of a misnomer. The original, pre-M&P Bodyguard, which is now known only as the 638, is a concealed-hammer revolver designed for the lowest-profile carry. Its humpback frame has a slot in it to allow manual cocking of the slightly exposed hammer spur for emergency single-action fire. The new Bodyguard revolver has a totally concealed hammer with the same frame design as the older “Centennial” revolver series, but it is likely that the old Centennial name couldn’t adequately convey the purpose of the new gun. The Bodyguard name is also supplied to the .380 semi-automatic pistol that also resides in the M&P stable. This is not a big deal, as the name confusion likely only comes to the attention of older aficionados like me who have too much time on their hands. But there are more differences between the new model Bodyguard and the Centennial series than just a different name. It is really not the same gun as the Centennial series (which still exists in many other S&W variants).

The most obvious difference one sees in the M&P Bodyguard is the movement of the cylinder latch release from the traditional spot on the left side of the frame to a totally ambidextrous position atop the frame just below the rear sight. Pushing forward (up) on the latch releases the cylinder, which still opens toward the left. This allows a left-handed operator to release the cylinder with his or her left thumb and to push the cylinder through with his or her right hand. I was worried this shifting of cylinder latch release would cause me some confusion during reloading, but the worry was baseless.

The other real attention getter is the frame-mounted integral Crimson Trace laser sight. It is mounted on the right side of the Bodyguard frame, adjacent to the cylinder latch release and against the right-side recoil shield.

Unlike CTC Lasergrips, the switch, which is bright red and located on the upper right portion of the laser unit, is a constant on/off—not a momentary on/off. Pushing it once turns the red laser on. Push again and the dot is switched to a pulsating mode. One last push turns it off. While the Bodyguard’s laser is not as natural to operate as a Lasergrip, it works fine with practice.

Speaking of the grip, it does not appear to be readily removable or interchangeable. Its size is a perfect blend between being the ultimate in compact grips and oversize ones. The Bodyguard’s frame is modular but made from aluminum. The frame change was necessary due to the unique placement of the cylinder latch release. The barrel and cylinder are both made from stainless steel, and the cylinder is PVD-coated black.

Another part of the redesign is the trigger. The new trigger system is the smoothest and lightest I have ever felt on any J-frame Smith & Wesson—and I have owned quite a few. It is obvious there was a massive change in the traditional lockwork to accommodate the trigger weight change. I think the new trigger will be easier for those with hand strength issues to operate.

Testing the M&P Bodyguard Revolver at the Gun Range

I took the M&P Bodyguard revolver to our police range to run it through our annual qualification. I passed the basic 25-round state-mandated segment with a perfect score using SIG Sauer’s 125-grain V-Crown .38 Special +P load (the Bodyguard is +P rated). The new trigger made shooting tight groups a breeze and the grips made the recoil easy to control. I used the laser for just a couple of stages of fire and found it reasonably easy to transition to, despite being used to CTC Lasergrips.

This is an intriguing design change for Smith & Wesson, and I like it. Note that the M&P Bodyguard may not fit in every holster that a standard J-frame fits. For some reason, Smith & Wesson added an extra extension at the front of the frame that the cylinder crane rests in. This new protrusion prevented the M&P Bodyguard revolver from being holstered in the excellent Blackhawk Serpa Concealment Holster. The laser position prevented me from holstering the M&P in a Gould and Goodrich ankle holster. But…the new Bodyguard fit in a CrossBreed ankle holster, as well as their Kydex Super Beltslide holster.

I like this new revolver. If I didn’t already have my Model 642, it would be a keeper. If you are a left-handed shooter, or one who has some hand strength issues, check out the M&P Bodyguard revolver. If you are right-handed and are looking for a unique concealment revolver with a built-in laser sight, this one could also be for you. MSRP is $ 539. Learn more at www.smith-wesson.com.

Related: Gun Review: Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380