Smith & Wesson Bodyguard
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S&W Bodyguard 380 Auto Pistol and 38 Revolver
Smith and Wesson decided to put their entries into the subcompact concealed weapons market when they released their Bodyguard 380 pistol and 38 revolver. Companies like Kel-Tec were among the first to blaze the trail of these small pocket pistols and companies like Ruger followed suit with their popular Ruger LCP .380 pistol. Smith & Wesson entered the market with these small pocket pistols quite a bit later, but they are bringing some new innovations to the pocket pistol market that are worthy of serious consideration. We'll first take a look at the Smith Wesson Bodyguard 380 semi-automatic pistol. This Double Action Only (DAO) pistol comes with some very nice features like an integral laser sight. Like most of the other pocket pistols out there, the Bodyguard 380 comes with a polymer (plastic) frame to keep weight down, while a steel insert in the frame provides strength and also provides the steel rails on which the slide mates. The slide is made of stainless steel that is coated with a heavy duty black finish that is designed to be very durable and well suited to long term pocket duty. The S&W Bodyguard 380 was first widely seen at the 2010 SHOT show in Las Vegas, Nevada. As touched upon earlier, one of the first things you'll notice about this pistol that sets it apart from any other pocket pistol is the fact that it comes with a built in laser. The Insight laser is activated by a small button on either side of the frame and can provide up to 3 hours continuous operation on the button cell batteries.
Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380 Specifications
Caliber: .380 AUTO
Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
Overall Length: 5.25 inches
Height: 3.80 inches
Width: 0.75" (slide) & 0.85" (max)
Weight: 12 oz (empty)
Originally, when the Bodyguard 380 was first released, it had a suggested retail price of $575. Later, Smith and Wesson dropped the MSRP down to $399. It is possible to find these guns for sale for under $350 street price! That is a very good price considering that this gun comes equipped with the Insight laser. Other 380 pocket pistols like the Ruger LCP or Kel-tec P-3AT require the purchase of a laser separately if that is what you want. Figure on spending an additional $160+ on a Crimson Trace laser for a gun like the LCP. Some people might not care for a laser; however, for those that do want a laser, then you can save yourself a chunk of change by purchasing a Bodyguard 380 with integral Insight laser system.
If you are reading this, then you are probably wondering if the S&W Bodyguard 380 is a good gun. The quick answer to that question is that it should be a good gun now that S&W has worked through some issues. That's not to say that it's not possible to have an issue arise with one of these pistols. The fact is that this can happen on any firearm from any manufacturer. Case in point was the recall on the popular Ruger LCP after it first came out. There will often be issues that arise during early production that were not known when the gun was being evaluated in smaller numbers during prototype testing. There's nothing like mass producing a product and getting it into the hands of a lot of people to help find any bugs or issues. This is not only true with guns but also with just about any other product. This article is being written in the Winter of 2011, and Smith and Wesson has made some different revisions to this gun to address issues that arose during early production. What were some of the issues? Early on, some people were having problems with trigger failures. The trigger would be pulled back during a shot, and then the trigger would not return forward. In addition to this trigger mechanism failure, some people really did not like the long, hard trigger pull on the Bodyguard 380. In reality, most of these pocket pistols have the same type of long trigger pull as a built in safety. Some other issues that surfaced early on were related to the Insight laser. Some people found that the activation buttons were difficult to operate to turn the laser ON. With the difficult activation of the laser, it was thought that powder residue was building up in the laser and fouling the switches making them more difficult to operate. In addition, some people experienced a problem with the retaining screw for the laser backing out and being damaged by the slide and resulting in damage to the plastic frame. Some early product guns also had the take down pin work its way out while firing. In addition, there were some people that experienced jamming with their Bodyguard 380 pistols. Thankfully, these issues appear to have been addressed in newer production guns. There are many happy owners of these handguns.
Now that we've looked at some of the issues with the early Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 pistols, let's take a look at some of the great features that help set this gun apart from its competitors. Unlike the other popular 380 pocket pistols, the Bodyguard 380 locks the slide back on an empty chamber after the last round is fired. In addition, the firing mechanism of the Bodyguard 380 does not require the slide to pre-cock the hammer. What this means is that in the event the round does not go off with the first primer strike, then it's possible to pull the trigger again to hit the primer a second time. This could be a handy feature in the event of a round with a hard primer. On other pistols like this, you have to manually rack the slide to clear the FTF round out of the chamber with no easy way to try to quickly fire the round again. Another nice feature on this gun are the sights that are better than most pocket pistols. The sights are more pronounced and easier to see. The rear sight is mounted in a dovetail so that it can be moved with a drift to make windage adjustments. Many people have commented on the good sights on this gun. So there you have it, the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380 offers a lot of gun for the money, and it is a formidable contender in the pocket pistol market.
If you prefer a revolver, Smith and Wesson also offers the Bodyguard 38 revolver. This double action only (DAO) revolver is capable of shooting 5 shots of .38 Special +P. The Bodyguard 38 also comes with an integral Insight laser. As with the 380 model, some people have had difficulties in activating the laser button. In addition, some people have had problems with the cylinder latch and the cylinder timing mechanism. One thing that you will find pretty consistent when problems arise is that people say that Smith and Wesson customer service has been excellent. In other words, S&W takes the lifetime warranty on their guns seriously and works hard to resolve any problems that might arise. As with the Bodyguard 380, recent production Bodyguard revolvers have undergone revisions to help address some of the earlier issues. Below you will find some of the specs on this subcompact revolver.
Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38 Specifications
Caliber: .38 Special (+P capable)
Capacity: 5 rounds
Barrel Length: 1.9 inches
Overall Length: 6.6 inches
Height: 4.4 inches
Width: 1.36 inches
Weight: 14.3 oz (empty)
The S&W Bodyguard 38 revolver looks similar to the S&W J frame revolver, but there are no interchangeable internal parts. The Bodyguard has an aluminum alloy upper frame and a steel reinforced polymer lower frame. The barrel and cylinder are made from stainless steel and finished with a durable black coating. The enclosed hammer help prevent snags when withdrawing from a pocket or holster, and the ambidextrous cylinder release is located on top of the frame. The cylinder spins in a clockwise direction which is the opposite of most other revolvers. Some people do not like the plastic parts on modern guns like this, but thankfully there are small alloy frame revolvers available if you prefer metal and don't mind the added weight. The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380 and 38 are two more weapons that are shooting for your attention in the growing concealed carry handgun market.