In April, I reported that the Los Angeles, CA Police Department had approved the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380 for back-up and off-duty carry. BlueSheepdog.com obtained one for review, so here we go! (Ed. Note: You can purchase the Bodyguard 380 with the upgraded laser here.)
The S&W Bodyguard 380 out on the range during SWAT training.
LAPD’s initial specifications for the gun called for a deactivation of the laser sight, which is an integral part of the receiver’s polymer frame. In addition, their specs requested a removal of the left side safety lever.
The laser and safety lever are present on current guns, but a S&W representative told me that future production guns for the LAPD would eliminate these two features.
Unfortunately, the reworked Bodyguard did not exist at press time, so S&W sent us the current production gun. To be fair, for testing we left the laser and safety alone.
The Bodyguard 380 Pistol
The Bodyguard shipped in the dark blue cardboard box. Inside, the gun was encased in a nice zippered nylon dayplanner-style case. The interior of the case had elastic slip holders for the gun and a spare magazine.
The Bodyguard arrived with one steel-bodied six round magazine that has a slightly flared floor plate for added gripping surface. The magazine has a bright orange follower for visibility. Included in the box were the manual, test fired casing, and a gun padlock.
The Bodyguard 380 is a hammer-fired, double action only, .380 ACP semi-automatic pistol with a polymer lower frame and a stainless steel slide. The slide is coated in black Melonite. The left side of the gun has the takedown lever, slide stop lever, manual safety lever, and button magazine release.
For the record, the Insight Technology laser sits in line with the barrel and is activated by a gray button on either side of the frame. The laser buttons cycle between “on,” “pulsing,” and “off.”
The frame of the gun is a matte polymer with stippled sections on the front, sides and rear of the grip. I found the gun felt solid in the hand, especially with the lower lip jutting down on the magazine. The front of the magazine lip also has the stippling.
The gun’s patridge sights are a serrated front ramp and a serrated square-notched rear sight. Both front and rear sights are drift adjustable for windage. The sights are designed to be smooth and snag-free.
The slide has a loaded chamber indicator that is a small window in the top of the slide/chamber junction. This allows you to visually see the case rim of a chambered round. The bullet casing can also been seen in a relief in the right side of the slide immediately in front of the extractor.
The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard has a 2.75” barrel. The gun is 5.4” in length, 4.1” in height, and a very svelte 0.75” in width. At 11.85 ozs., it is very light, yet retains enough weight and size that it does not handle like a toy.
A word about field stripping. When I first went to break the gun down, I had trouble with the takedown lever. It did not seem to rotate down as instructed in the manual. I soon learned that the lever had a slight redesign not yet found in the manual.
Early production guns had a problem with the takedown lever coming loose during extended firing. Smith & Wesson addressed this by changing the lever. Now, instead of turning the lever 180 degrees counterclockwise, the lever turns 270 degrees in that direction for disassembly.
This also requires a bit of added force, so unless you have longshoreman’s hands, I suggest using a wood or plastic dowel to assist its movement.
I shot the Bodyguard in two range venues: SWAT training and at a local gun range. The .380 ACP ammunition I fired included 90 grain Speer Gold Dot Hollow Point, 95 grain Speer Lawman Total Metal Jacket, and 95 grain Fiocchi Full Metal Jacket.
The first range run was predictable for a new semi-auto. Initial shooting was punctuated with the expected hiccups. The Bodyguard suffered its share of failures to feed and failures to eject.
The gun shot just below point of aim at 7 to 10 yards with all three rounds. The Speer GDHP is my department mandated carry ammo. I did not use the laser, though it could be seen in the bright daylight at 7 yards on the white portions of the targets.
The trigger pull of the Bodyguard is excruciatingly long. The sear breaks at about 3/16th of an inch before the trigger meets the frame. I put the trigger pull between 8 and 10 pounds. The hammer falls with a sharp snap.
Though I had zero ammunition failures, the Bodyguard’s hammer allows for a second strike capability should a primer not fire.
My next range experience with the Bodyguard 380 was much more favorable. Though I had three failures to feed at the very beginning of the range session, the gun has come into reliability the more it has been fired.
Neither Richard, nor I, was in love with the long trigger pull, but I will say that for a close range combat weapon it is manageable. Besides, this gun’s intended playing field is the street, not a sniper competition.
I got used to its heavy revolver-like trigger early into several hundred rounds. By the time we were ready to get some barbeque for lunch, the gun was shooting flawlessly, even with mixed magazines of hollow point and hardball.
I have shot over four hundred rounds through this gun. It has broken in nicely. I like to have five hundred rounds through a gun like this before I will trust my life with it, but I don’t foresee a problem making this happen.
Despite that it was not yet proofed as a carry gun, I did tote the Bodyguard around as a back-up for several months. Though similar to my Kel-Tec P3AT, the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard has an advanced feel, as if it were an evolution of the popular original polymer .380.
I cannot stress enough the proper break-in period of a firearm for self defense carry. Had I not spent the time to shoot this gun into good function, like many other guns I’ve owned, I might have gotten rid of it prematurely.
The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380 offers a list of features not all found on comparable .380 guns; namely, second strike capability, real adjustable sights, a safety lever, a loaded chamber indicator, a slide stop lever, slide lock after the last round, and a built in laser.
S&W achieved a price point of $399.00 MSRP for the Bodyguard 380, which is very reasonable considering how much gun you get for your money.
I like this gun. With a holster, it is ideal for pocket carry or on a vest as a BUG. Check out our list of Bodyguard 380 holsters here. I have shown the Bodyguard 380 to quite a few co-workers. After taking a close look at it, many fellow cops have offered to buy it from me. I think that says it all. If you are interested in this gun, you can purchase the Bodyguard 380 with the upgraded laser here.
April 2013 Update – As with most things, the price on the pistol has gone up. If you are looking for a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380 for sale, the suggested retail price is now $419. All things considered, this is still a pretty reasonable price for this little pistol.
Also, Smith & Wesson has not made any options or models of the Bodyguard without the laser or manual (thumb) safety. There may be various gunsmiths who are offering to disable those functions, but neither is a factory option at this time. Should that change, this page will be updated to reflect that.
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