Smith and Wesson has a long history of making small pistols for personal defense. The very first commercially available pistol using metallic cartridges instead of cap-and-ball was the rimfire S&W Model 1, a small pocket revolver firing .22 short ammo. While S&W went on to make some of the biggest and most powerful handguns in the world (as Dirty Harry would say), they never left the small pistol market. So it’s a natural fit that the largest handgun manufacturer in the United States would throw its hat in the .380acp ring. It is well known by now that the success of the Kel-Tec P3AT spawned a flood of .380 pocket pistols which continue to take the personal protection world by storm. I had to see what the fuss was about, so when I got a hankering to try one of the little .380s my attention was immediately drawn to the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard.
The Bodyguard features a polymer frame topped by a stainless steel slide coated in Melonite, the same coating used in the M&P series of pistols. The action is a Browning tilting barrel design that unlocks the barrel just like bigger guns, as opposed to a straight blowback like a PPK or Makarov. Sights are small, but they are there, unlike some competitors who don’t even attempt to put more than a useless little bump on the front of their slides. There is a safety on the left side of the frame as well as a slide stop that holds the slide open after the last round is fired, just like a full sized gun. The magazine holds 6 rounds of tiny .380acp ammo and comes with two floorplates, one that fits flush and one that is extended. The Bodyguard also features a gray button on each side of the frame that activates a built-in red laser mounted underneath the barrel. Pressing either gray button once activates the laser’s constant-on mode. Pressing again makes the laser pulse, and a third press will turn it off.
The Bodyguard .380 is tiny by my standards. I have an older model 5906 9mm and a new M&P45, so when I think Smith and Wesson those are the pistols that come to mind. Comparatively, the Bodyguard seems like a tiny scale model of a pistol that just happens to fire live ammo. Seriously, if you have kids you better be darn sure to keep it locked away from them– the chances of a child mistaking the Bodyguard for a toy are high, because it would fit a child’s hands perfectly. In a grown-up’s hand, the index finger goes on the trigger, the middle finger fits in the first finger groove, the ring finger fits in the second groove, and the pinky finger curls underneath the grip, even if you use the included magazine extension. I was concerned that the light weight and tiny dimensions of the gun would make it a real “stinger” to fire when I took it to the range.
Using the included hex wrench, I had previously adjusted the laser to coincide with the iron sights at around ten yards. I loaded up my first magazine of Blazer FMJ ammo, released the slide to chamber a round, activated the laser, put the gun on target, and pulled the trigger. And pulled the trigger, and pulled the trigger, and pulled the—BANG! Wow, that’s one of the longest, heaviest trigger pulls I have ever experienced. The tip of the trigger travels exactly a full inch inside the trigger guard, finally breaking the shot just as the trigger is about to hit the frame at the very end of the pull. To reset the trigger for another pull it must be completely returned all the way forward. There is no magazine safety, so the Bodyguard will fire with the magazine removed. An electronic trigger pull gauge says the trigger pulls at exactly 9lbs, 10 ounces every time. This is a true double action only trigger with a tiny little hammer shrouded inside the slide, and the first company to make an aftermarket spring kit for this trigger will see me tripping over myself in the rush to pull my credit card out for them.
Putting the Bodyguard .380 through its paces at a distance of seven yards resulted in surprisingly good accuracy, really only limited by the frustrating trigger pull. Supported, slow fire resulted in 2-inch groupings about an inch lower than the point of aim. For such a short barreled, tiny gun I was quite impressed. Felt recoil wasn’t bad at all, not bad enough to slow down my rate of fire in defensive drills. My hand did not sting or hurt as the gun flawlessly digested the fifty round box of ammo. The sights were useable and I did the bulk of my shooting using them, but while using both hands I found it easy to mash the grey button the left side of the frame with my support hand’s thumb, activating the laser. It takes a lot of pressure to activate the button, which is a good thing since S&W designed these guns for daily carry, and a button design that could be accidentally pushed while the gun rides around in my pocket holster would mean a dead laser battery in short order. The Insight laser is one of the major advantages of the Bodyguard—adding an aftermarket laser to your Kel-Tec or Ruger LCP will cost you an extra $180, but S&W just built Insight’s unit right into the frame of every Bodyguard.
Speaking for myself, the Bodyguard .380 is going to fill the role of “gun to carry when I can’t be bothered to carry a gun” and my trusty Glock 19 is left at home for one reason or the other. Using an inexpensive but effective pocket holster, I can keep the Bodyguard hidden on me at all times, and should I need it, I trust that it will function reliably with the Speer Gold Dot ammo I’ve chosen to carry. I also believe that I will be able to hit my target with an acceptable degree of accuracy at typical self-defense engagement distances. In short, the Bodyguard is earning my respect and trust. Now if I could just do something about that trigger pull…