After an Ohio spring and early summer consisting of record, crop-drowning rainfall and high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 60s, summer finally hit with a vengeance. Temperatures here have soared into the 90s (with loads of humidity). Gross. I am counting the minutes to our August family vacation in the land of no humidity: northwest Michigan.
Because of our tropical-paradise-like conditions, I decided to seek out the lightest yet still effective concealed carry handgun and cartridge. I wanted a combo I could conceal all day without notice but that would deliver good accuracy at any reasonable distance and be comfortable in the heat.
Sometimes You Get a Second Chance to Buy a Gun
While my Smith & Wesson M&P .38 Special Bodyguard revolver is great — 14.4 ounces and equipped with an integral Crimson Trace laser — I wanted something even lighter with a flatter profile. I was looking for a gun that would put minimal pressure against my skin no matter how I carried it. This meant looking for a micro-semi-automatic pistol. Thankfully, previous experience led me to a solution.
In January of 2017, I tested the S&W M&P Bodyguard .380 with a frame-mounted Crimson Trace integral laser. I found it to be extremely accurate and easily controlled (in addition to weighing 2.2 ounces less than its revolver sibling). In January, I wasn’t considering how advantageous this would be in the summer and, unfortunately, passed on purchasing it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was picking up some test guns at Vance Outdoors in Columbus, Ohio. I walked by the S&W case and noticed the M&P .380 Bodyguard with red integral Crimson Trace laser on sale for $279! This time, I wasn’t about to let the opportunity to own one pass me by.
I purchased the all-black version and began to make it ready for carry.
With Age Comes … Firearm Modifications
While the Bodyguard .380 is certainly ready to go right out of the box, I needed to make a couple of “age-related” modifications that would fine-tune it specifically for me. Both modifications could be easily undone if needed in the future.
The first was improving the sight picture. The Bodyguard .380 comes with a pair of probably the best sights available on a micro .380. They are drift-adjustable, Novak-style, serrated sights that are prominent for a pistol of this size. However, they are plain black. It was important to me to brighten up the front sight to make it more visible since one should never rely on a laser sight alone.
I turned to the Birchwood Casey Super Bright Touch Up Marker Set. I selected the neon green color to differentiate the front sight from the laser dot. In less than five minutes, I had the front sight painted and more easily visible. The rear remained untouched. I was able to easily make the minor sighting adjustments on the Crimson Trace laser to mate up with my eyes.
Next, I added an ArachniGRIP Slide Spider, which compensates for the lessening of thumb/index finger pinch strength. The Slide Spider is almost miraculous in its design, simplicity and effectiveness. I have installed Slide Spiders on nearly every semi-automatic pistol that I own. The small size of the .380 Bodyguard’s slide makes grasping it for charging or making safe more difficult for me these days. The addition of the $20 Slide Spider totally compensates for the strength deficit.
Testing the S&W M&P Bodyguard .380 at the Gun Range
Now for ammo. I had two .380 load options on hand: Liberty Ammunition’s 50-grain HP with 1,500 feet per second (FPS) — 1,353 in actual tests — and SIG Sauer’s 90-grain JHP at 980 feet per second. When I tested them at the gun range, I noted that the SIG ammo shot directly to the point of aim at 20 feet on a B27 bullseye (with one on the 9-ring, six at the 10 and three bull’s-eyes). The Liberty ammunition, which delivered 250 foot-pounds of energy compared to SIG’s 192, shot a bit low (in the lower end of the 9- and 8-rings). There was also more blast, delivering a somewhat larger group (this could have been because of operator error). While the Liberty is a rocking load, I decided to stick with the SIG Sauer ammo because it shot exactly to the point of aim with less blast.
I already have a number of holsters that work well with the M&P Bodyguard .380, but I am looking at some additional types. From what I have found so far, this little S&W is the most comfortable pistol I have in the stable to carry, plus it shoots with extreme accuracy. I have hardly noticed it, even on the hottest of days.
About Scott W. Wagner
Scott W. Wagner has been a law enforcement officer since 1980, working undercover in liquor and narcotics investigations and as a member, sniper and assistant team leader of a SWAT team. He currently works as a patrol sergeant. He is a police firearms instructor, certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun. Scott also works as a criminal justice professor and police academy commander.