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The Smith & Wesson Bodyguards: your choice of pocketsize semi-auto or revolver comes complete with an integral insight laser sight.

About a half-century ago, Smith & Wesson began numerical designation of the growing range of handgun models largely abandoning the familiar cognomens of the early 20th century. Handgun enthusiasts took this in stride and soon became walking encyclopedias of model numbers and the dash-numbers appended to designate variations.

As of late though, purpose-oriented model names have reappeared in the line. The demographic of gun users has undergone a profound shift. Practicality rather than enthusiasm is the motivating factor for many gun purchasers today. The name "Bodyguard" may speak to such buyers much more clearly than a mere number.

Responding to the demand for lightweight concealment arms of the smallest practical size, Smith & Wesson fields the J-frame 5-shot .38 Special and a pocketable .380 semi-auto with a maximum capacity of 7 rounds. Both are products of 21st century design making use of plastic, aluminum alloy and stainless steel. Both models were co-designed with the Insight Laser Company and are equipped with dedicated, fully adjustable laser sights. The provided Laser Adjustment Table is superior to most laser sight instructions.


The semi-auto Bodyguard is a double-action-only, concealed hammer, locked-breech design with features common to full-sized pistols. These include positive slide lock, a left-side safety as well as a passive firing pin block internal safety and the favored grip-mounted magazine release. Held up next to similar-sized Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec, it appears to be the same size, though measurement shows it is about a 1/4" longer and a 1/2" taller than the LCE The difference is insignificant in terms of concealability though the taller grip proved advantageous in terms of shooter comfort. The sights, compared to other pistols of this size, are highly visible; both front and rear are dovetail mounted and driftable for windage adjustment.


I had a comprehensive supply of Buffalo Bore .380 ACP loads on hand, including standard- and high-velocity loads. Tim Sundles, the CEO of Buffalo Bore, anticipated the recent ammunition shortage and by laying in components well in advance, managed to keep .380 ammo in stock throughout the crisis. The Bodyguard was 100-percent functional with all of these rounds and perhaps, incidentally, they all struck usefully close to the same point of aim.

I shot the pistol through the Texas Concealed Handgun Proficiency Demo which includes timed fire at 3, 7 and 15 yards using a mix of the Buffalo Bore loading. Forty-five of the 50 rounds landed in the 10-and X-ring with the outliers being very tight 9-ring hits. While some shooters complain about the long and heavy trigger pull, I considered it just about right for a pistol possibly carried with the mechanical safety disengaged. I handed the pistol off to friend Teresa Gold, who found the trigger quite manageable. Her hits on the B-27 target were well centered and free of the vertical stringing normally signaling difficulty with trigger control. Pocket .380s have a reputation for being uncomfortable to shoot. Neither Teresa, nor the other shooters who fired this pistol experienced discomfort from recoil.


The laser sight activation is via an ambidextrous switch on the front of the unit. Activation is best accomplished with the thumb of the support hand and requires significant pressure. Pressing the button twice puts the laser in strobe mode with a third press shutting it down. The unit automatically switches off after 5 minutes and is rated for 3 hours maximum use from a pair of fresh No. 357 silver oxide batteries. Sighting in is via a supplied Allen wrench and adequately covered in the owner's manual. We found the laser to be completely invisible in bright or overcast midday conditions regardless of distance to the target. It is very bright indoors and could be very useful in low light given the time to activate it.

Some of the first Bodyguard 380s were prone to spontaneous partial disassembly due to unseating of the disassembly lever. The problem has been corrected though it now requires considerable pressure to rotate the lever to 6 o'clock for removal. The plastic toe of the magazine extension is useful for this. To reassemble the pistol with the barrel and takedown pin in correct register, it is very advantageous to align the slide/barrel assembly onto the frame as it would appear in final assembly and partially insert the takedown lever before drawing the slide to full lockback and fully snapping the lever into place.

To all appearances, the Bodyguard 380 is a very sturdy example of newtech craftsmanship. It is built for the long haul with recoil bearing surfaces of stainless steel securely bolted to the polymer elements of the frame. The entire package is configured to deliver significantly better accuracy, range and shooter comfort than the general run of pocket pistols.


While superficially resembling traditional J-frame revolvers, the current Bodyguard 38 is a complete departure from earlier models. The barrel and cylinder are of stainless steel--both encased in an alloy frame, which is rigidly bolted to the polymer grip frame. The cylinder rotates clockwise in the Colt revolver pattern. The cylinder locks up on two points: the cylinder bolt and an odd circular breech-mounted ratchet that engages with the cylinder "star."

This element replaces the hand and rotates with trigger pull to advance the cylinder. The cylinder latch is on the top of the grip frame accessible to both thumbs, though the shooter would have to be a juggler to enjoy the benefits of any ambidexterity this might afford. The firing pin is of the inertia-type, reminiscent of the very early S&W Safety Hammerless Revolver. The Bodyguard does not have the once-ubiquitous key actuated lock. The Insight laser is mounted on the right rear of the frame and has the same features as the one on the .380. The activating button is easily accessible to either the shooting or support hand.

Our sample revolver worked perfectly when dry cycled. In live fire however, after the initial shot, it required two pulls of the trigger to rotate the cylinder and discharge subsequent rounds. Apparently the ratchet elements were being knocked out of sync by recoil. Two identical revolvers available locally functioned perfectly and we acquired one of them to complete our evaluation. Bench rest accuracy was in the vicinity of 3" at 25 yards, but the groups were centered 5" left of point of aim and as much as 7" high, depending upon the load in use.

The trigger pull was smooth and produced good on-target results as long as we put the correct bias on the sight picture. With both standard-and high-velocity loads from Buffalo Bore, the Smith's grip arrangement moderated recoil noticeably more effectively than other snub revolvers of similar weight. Unlike many short-barrel revolvers, the Bodyguard has sufficient ejector length to positively clear fired cases from the cylinder.


The .38 Special revolvers with nominal 2" barrels are quite popular and Buffalo Bore ballistics are based on performance from the snubs. Notably, those loads designated "standard pressure," record velocity and energy stats normal from revolvers with 4" to 6" barrels. Both the standard and high velocity loadings of the Rim Rock 158-grain gas-check hollowpoint have gathered a significant following and have proven effective "on the street." The standard pressure loading of the 125-grain Gold Dot produces very mild recoil and the full expansion expected of that bullet. All of the rounds display a very prominent roll crimp and none were prone to recoil/inertia bullet pull from the lightweight Bodyguard.

The Bodyguard 38 has good potential as a comfortable and unobtrusive concealment arm. HKS J-Frame Speedloaders are just right for the Bodyguard revolver. Owners are reporting that some J-Frame Holsters will accommodate the laser sight but others will not. I found my Fobus Kydex Paddle Holster for my Ruger SP-101 is a perfect fit.


Bodyguard 380 MODEL: Bodyguard 38
.380 ACP CALIBER: .38 Special
2.75" BARREL LENGTH: 1.9"
DAO semi-auto ACTION: DAO revolver
11 pounds TRIGGER PULL: 10.5pounds
Ramp front, notch rear SIGHTS: Fixed ramp front
11.25 ounces WEIGHT: 14.3 ounces
Polymer & stainless steel MATERIAL: Stainless steel, aluminum
 alloy, polymer
Matte black FINISH: Matte black
$399 RETAIL: $509

Notes: Both Bodyguards have an integral Insight laser factory



90 JHP 979 192
95 FMJ 810 138
95 JHP+P 1,039 278
100 cast FP 915 186
100 cast FP+P 1,046 243



125 Low Flash Powder 942 246
125+P 1,036 298
150 Wadcutter 923 284
158 SWC HP 852 255
158 SWHP+P 1,020 365
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Title Annotation:OUT[TM] of the BOX
Author:Cumpston, Mike
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Oct 4, 2011
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