Firearm: Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 38 (MSRP: $539)
In today’s age of super-tiny double-stack 9 mm semi-autos, many are tempted to view the five-shot revolver as a relic, as out of place as a flip phone for daily communications. While it’s true that modern semi-automatics are smaller, lighter and more capacious than revolvers, there’s one area where the 5-shot, snubnose revolver works well, and that’s as a backup gun. In this case, though, it’s not a backup like you normally think about it, though; it’s actually more accurately thought of as a “front up”.
In the colder months, we relish the idea of cover garments, as it allows more latitude in what pistols we can carry concealed. The smaller 9 mm gets traded for the full-size variant, perhaps with a light; the Officer-size 1911 turns into a Government model, etc. However, once it starts really getting cold, you might have two or even three layers between the outside world and your concealed firearm. Our Handguns editor carries a Smith & Wesson J-frame in a pocket holster in the outer pocket of her winter coat as an immediately accessible option.
Smith & Wesson’s M&P Bodyguard 38 is an excellent choice for just such duty, coming with a polymer grip, enclosed hammer and ambidextrous cylinder release. It’s rated for +P ammunition, giving it plenty of power, all in a package weighing in at a mere 14.4 ounces. The slim grip and top-mounted cylinder release make reloading the Bodyguard 38 easier, with less to get in the way while reloading with a speedloader.
Robust construction, proven action and decent power are all great features in a defensive firearm. The two areas in which the revolver might be viewed as deficient – low capacity and slow reloading – are greatly mitigated when it is used as a backup option. Or, if you will, “front-up”.
Holster: Blue Force Gear UltraComp Pocket Holster (MSRP: $24.99)
We’ve covered the UltraComp Pocket Holster from Blue Force Gear before, and found it to be a sturdy, lightweight option that handily fulfills the twin duties of a pocket holster. Ultracomp construction keeps the holster light, of course, but more importantly it covers the trigger guard completely to prevent anything from getting between your trigger and the holster. Naturally, should you choose to pocket carry, it is imperative to keep everything that’s not your firearm and holster out of that pocket, but covering the trigger guard even further promotes safety.
The second thing a good pocket holster should do is stay in the pocket on the draw. The Ultracomp has two things going for it in this regard. First, the material itself is somewhat grippy, akin to a rubberized surface. Second, there’s a “wing” or “hook” section under the barrel area that’s designed to catch the bottom of the pocket to keep the holster anchored. It takes a little practice, but it works well once you’ve got the hang of it.
Accessory: Zeta6 J-Clip, SYM-Strip and J-PAK speedloaders (MSRP: $9.95/package 2 each for J-Clip or SYM-Strip; $11.95/package 2 J-PAK)
Reloading a revolver is the biggest drawback when compared to semi-automatics. Loading single rounds takes both time and fine motor skills that simply won’t be in abundance in a defensive scenario, so any advantage you can take will help. Zeta6 offers three different speedloaders for the five-shot revolver to help get you back in the fight.
The J-Clip holds five rounds in proper orientation for the cylinder. Insert all five rounds, then “peel” the speedloader back to complete the reload. It’s the fastest of the three, but is the least “carry friendly” offering.
The SYM-strip holds all five rounds parallel, for a reload that stays flat in the pocket. Rounds are arranged with space, so there’s 2, space, 1, space 2. Other strip-style speedloaders are often loaded with an empty space between 2 rounds, adding unnecessary length to the reload.
Lastly, and newest, is the J-PAK, which is a hybrid of the two above methods. The J-PAK holds rounds in a semi-circle (3 and 2, or 2 and 3 depending how you look at it). This results in a thinner profile than the J-Clip, with easier reloading than the SYM-Strip. Three rounds are inserted as one motion, then the J-PAK is flipped over to load the last two. It’s a compromise between ease of carry and ease of loading.
In any case, practice extensively with whichever reload you choose.