Gun Review: S&W Bodyguard .380

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    In the last year and a half .380 pocket pistols have become very popular after years of a drop in interest. The increase in interest I credit to the number of states allowing concealed carry as well as the number of gun makers marketing them. Of course we have the older designs such as the Walther PPK and the Sig P232. The new designs are a good deal smaller and lighter. S&W has joined the ranks of companies making a very small well designed “pocket” pistol.

    S&W is always on the leading edge in new firearm design. The “Bodyguard” series is no exception. These are new designs not updated versions of older designs. The S&W .380 semi auto is one in a series of these new designs made for concealed carry for civilian and law enforcement use.

    To really appreciate how small and convenient this pistol is look at the size compared to my average size hand in the picture below.

    The pistol is double action only. It’s a traditional hammer fired pistol rather than a striker type. The hammer is recessed in the frame even with the back of the slide. When you first take it out of the box the trigger is pretty heavy but lightens up after firing a 100 rounds or so. I now have 200 rounds fired through it and the trigger is satisfactory for it’s intended use. A loaded chamber indicator is milled as a crescent cut in the top of the slide.

    This firing mechanism makes it safe to carry in a pants pocket without the worry of an accidental discharge. If this is still a concern there is also a manual safety placed in approximately the same location as a 1911. The safety is also very easy to manipulate. It’s very positive when clicked into the safe or fire position. I’ve carried it in a front and back jeans pocket with no printing through your clothing. I’m sure this is partly due to the width of just ¾ of an inch. Not only is the “Bodyguard” small it’s very light at just 11.85 ounces!

    The picture below shows the controls. From left to right is the takedown lever, slide release and finally the manual safety.

    The magazine release is in the usual position. Sights are black and well made with no sharp edges. They provide a sharp sight picture. The magazine holds six rounds with a seventh in the chamber. The magazine comes from the factory with a finger rest installed. Another magazine base is included which is flat making the pistol grip even smaller. No matter which base you choose chances are your little finger will sit under the base of the grip. This extended grip provides a better grip. One magazine is included with the pistol. Additional magazines are $22.00 each. The front of the grip has two finger grooves. As is usual with S&W the slide is stainless steel with a Melonite finish. The frame is Zytel polymer.

    One nice feature on the “Bodyguard” series is a built in red laser. These lasers are becoming more common on many new models from other manufacturers as well. Insight Company makes the laser for S&W. This laser is located inline with the barrel and placed just under the barrel. A conveniently placed gray button is on both sides of the of the frame near the front. The laser can be activated from either side with the trigger finger. The first push of the button and the laser is a solid beam. A second push of the button and the laser pulses. A third push turns the laser off. Included are two hex wrenches to adjust windage and elevation coordinating the laser with the sights. Once adjusted the bullet hits where the laser points on your target. This laser works fine at night or in low light but is not visible on a sunny day. The picture below shows the laser activated


    Model: BODYGUARD® 380
    Caliber: .380 Auto
    Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
    Barrel Length: 2.75″ / 7.0 cm
    Frame Size: Compact
    Action: Double Action Only (Hammer Fired)
    Front Sight: Stainless Steel
    Rear Sight: Drift Adjustable
    Grip: Polymer
    Overall Length: 5.25″ / 13.3 cm
    Weight: 11.85 oz / 335.9 g
    Frame Material: Polymer
    Material: Stainless Steel w/Melonite® Finish
    Finish: Matte Black
    Purpose: Personal Protection
Law Enforcement

    The grip angle is good making the pistol a natural pointer. Other ergonomic features include a stippled grip surface which provides a good grip even when your hands are damp. The aforementioned finger grooves on the front of the grip strap help a good deal even with the flat magazine base used.

    Also included is a nondescript carrying case with looks like an organizer that so many people have these days. Inside the zipper case is a built in holster with a magazine pouch built in on the other side of the case. The only thing that might give it away is a small S&W logo on the outside of the pouch. I guess they couldn’t resist putting the logo on. At least the carry case and logo are black so it doesn’t show very well.

    On The Range

    Let me preface this range report with a bit of information on the purpose of the pocket pistol. Normally I would shoot from seven and ten yards. This type of pistol is made for distances as close as touching distance to seven yards or so. It’s possible too have an encounter at a greater distance but the caliber and sight radius of this pistol and others of the type are not made for this kind of confrontation.

    I kept this session close with distances of three yards and seven yards. For this session I used ammunition from Federal, Cor-Bon DPX and Winchester Silvertips. The targets used are five inch Birchwood Casey adhesives. My goal was to keep all rounds fired within the five inch circle rapid fire.

    First up was the Federal 95 grn. FMJ. Drawing from a universal size nylon holster I fired 30 rounds from three yards with all rounds inside the 5 inch target grouped within 2 ½ inches on average. Next was the Cor-Bon DPX. This is a hot round with a fair amount of recoil for a .380. Again, I fired 30 rounds total. All rounds stayed within the 5 inch circle rapid fire. With the additional recoil the average was right at four inches.

    I backed up to seven yards and repeated the previous string with all three types of ammunition. Firing 30 rounds of each brand of ammunition bringing the pistol up to eye level and using a flash sight picture in rapid fire. Three rounds went outside the five inch target. These were the Cor-Bon DPX rounds with more recoil. After that many rounds fired my hands were getting a bit tired. I was satisfied with the results for such a small lightweight pistol.


    The “Bodyguard” is handy and light to carry as well as fast getting the first shot off. It would be hard to beat as a backup pistol or one you grab to make a quick trip to the convenience store. I know carry your full size pistol but to be honest many people do grab a backup pistol for this type of neighborhood chore.

    The .380 should be the smallest caliber considered for defensive use. With the newer ammunition designs it’s a fairly good round if you do your part. Cor-Bon’s 80 grn DPX is an example of an effective loading. The muzzle velocity is 1050 fps. Pushing a solid copper Barnes bullet. Using this Cor-Bon load I would feel pretty well protected with this S&W.

    There were no malfunctions of any kind during testing. Having said this we have too consider a new pistol on the market which is also very small and that’s the S&W “Shield”. Price wise the S&W is a better buy but the Shield holds seven or eight rounds and it’s a 9MM or 40 S&W which I prefer over a .380 any day of the week. I’m also a fan of the M&P series of pistols so I may be a bit biased.

    In any case the “Bodyguard” fills a niche for those needing a true pocket pistol.




    I came across some new information on the S&W 380 Bodyguard. This information in reference the “Bodyguard” and the LAPD comes to us from Richard at Blue Sheepdog. Note the changes LAPD required in order to make this one of two authorized backup/ off duty pistols.

    In order to encourage officers to carry back-up and off-duty firearms, as well as to take advantage of the technological advances in firearm and ammunition construction, the Department has authorized the following .380 caliber pistols and ammunition:

    Approved Pistols
    Ruger LCP, caliber .380
    Smith and Wesson Bodyguard, caliber .380 (LAPD SKU ONLY, no manual safety)

    Approved Ammunition
    Hornady Critical Defense, .380 caliber, 90 grain load

    In order to deploy either of these firearms, officers must first successfully shoot the Department’s “Back-Up Qualification Course”, at either the Davis Training Facility or the Elysian Park Police Academy. The “Back-Up Qualification Course” must be shot with Department approved .380 ammunition only. Officers must supply their own duty ammunition for the qualification course and for deployment in the pistol. Upon completion of the “Back-Up Qualification Course” of fire, officers shall take their qualification receipt to the Department Armory and have the pistol entered on to the Department’s Firearms Inventory and Tracking System (FITS).

    The Smith and Wesson pistols are equipped at the factory with a laser aiming module. This laser module must be disabled by the Department Armorer, prior to the pistol’s deployment. The Armorer will disable the laser module by removing the batteries; there will be no permanent modification to the pistol. Once these procedures are met, officers will be certified to carry the .380 pistol for back-up and off-duty use. These .380 pistols are an optional individual officer purchase. Therefore, the pistols will not be maintained by the Department armory. If a pistol becomes unserviceable, the officer must return the pistol to the manufacturer for repair. Once these repairs are completed by the factory they must be verified by the Department Armory, prior to the pistol being redeployed.

    Additionally, the Department will not supply any .380 caliber ammunition.

    Phil White

    Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m retired as associate editor since December 14th 2017. My replacement is my friend Pete M email: [email protected] you can reach Pete for product reviews etc.