Letter from Dawn : S&W Bodyguard 380

I just found your blog today while I was looking for reviews for the S&W Bodyguard 380. I read your entire review along with all of the comments. I was disappointed when I reached the bottom and found that you were no longer accepting comments about this gun. I noticed that a lot of men were inquiring information because they are considering purchasing this gun for their wives and thought maybe my experience may be helpful. I am a 46 year old wife and mother and this is my first gun.

I just purchased the S&W Bodyguard on Dec. 2, 2013. I waited almost a year until I found it for a good price at a reputable dealer. I chose the Bodyguard because it is small and will fit nicely in my purse or on my hip. I especially liked the laser feature, it definitely sends the message that I am not going to miss. The first 6 rounds, I used the laser (indoors) and found it to be accurate. The rest of the time I fired without the laser to test my own accuracy. It has been 20 plus years since I have fired anything and I needed to test myself. I am happy to say that I don’t need the laser. I think this is something important considering that the laser cannot be seen outdoors in the daylight.

The Bodyguard also has a long hard trigger pull, if the gun is going to be in a purse or a mans back pocket, there should be no accidental firings. But, I found that after firing about 12 rounds my hand was shaking from fatigue. I have since corrected this by practicing at the range every weekend and strengthening my hand. For a woman this gun is also very jumpy in your hand when fired, the hand grip is very short and needs to be held tightly when fired. I think this is an important note especially for women. You cannot throw this gun in your purse without knowing how it operates, it takes practice.

I have been enjoying myself at the range so much that I purchased a 15 round magazine from Pro Mag made specifically for my gun. I wanted to be able to practice rapid fire without having to reload my clip after 6 rounds. I purchased this only for practice and have no plans on carrying my gun with this magazine in it. But, I am very disappointed in it. My gun constantly jammed with this clip. We tried not putting all 15 rounds in it thinking that the spring was too tight and it still jammed. We tried different brands of bullets, same thing, it jammed. So I purchased another 6 round clip by Pro Mag made specifically for my gun. It works fine without jamming, but, it does not keep the slide in the open position when the clip is empty and it doesn’t want to fall out when you push the release button. Finding extra magazines for the Bodyguard made by S&W in a retail store has proven to be difficult.

This past weekend, Dec. 28, 2013, we went to visit with my parents. I was very excited to show Dad my new gun. But, when I tried to show him the Laser it didn’t work. We took the gun apart and found the battery compartment but I did not have the tool for it so we left it alone. Everything else was fine and we would deal with the battery when we got home. We went to the range and overall had a good time. But, my gun did continue to jam. For a woman this can be very frustrating. It’s not easy to pull the slide back and lock it in place. The first thing we do (without fail) when we get back home from the range is disassemble and clean our guns. By the way the I find the S&W is very easy to clean and reassemble. When we took my gun apart I was shocked to find that the battery cover for the laser was completely gone. So of course I’m asking myself How does that happen. But then maybe that explains some of the jams that I experienced. Since Dec. 2, 2013 we have been to the range four times, my last trip there was on Dec. 28, 2013. I have fired approximately 200-300 rounds with this gun. I will be contacting Smith & Wesson and when I get my gun back I will continue to use it.

I purchased this gun for personal defense and I am still confident that it will perform for that purpose. Maybe this gun isn’t meant for target practice. But, for a woman without experience target practice is a necessity. Before all of this I was already looking for my next purchase, something for target practice. I like the way the Ruger SR22 felt in my hand. Dad says I need something bigger. Any suggestions.

I noticed that most of the comments on your blog came from men. But I believe there are women out there, like myself, who are looking for information on this handgun also. Feel free to pass this woman’s point of view along.

Sincerely, Dawn

M.D. Creekmore’s reply : Dawn, the one that I owned and reviewed was purchased when that model first came out and I think that Smith & Wesson may have fixed some of the problems with the newer production runs. If it works for you and you’ve found it reliable that is what counts. My personal “deep concealment” carry gun is the Kahr CM 9.

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Comments

  1. Dawn: My DH asked me to read your post and respond to it. I resisted owning any sort of gun for the first 10 years we have been married. The Toledo Police chasing a man into my mother’s back door rather changed my point of view. An officer reached over the deck rail and grabbed the young man by the neck just as he reached the door but enough story telling.

    My DH is a Glock glock glock fan. He bought me a model 19, which fit me ok but I could not rack the slide like he showed me nor could I pull it back with my left hand. He had it customized and gave it to our DD when she moved south after graduation. Hubby had a Walther 22 he let me practice with and it was so easy to rack the slide and pull it with either hand. He took me to Gander Mountain and had me handle a Walther in 380. Between it and the 22 it was like two cookies on a plate so ‘I’ bought it. Two years ago our family, or at least 9 of us, took a trip to his favorite playground and what I call gun camp. He is flicking my ear at the moment for that comment. Truly Dawn this was such an eye opener for me and my sisters in law. My Walther worked flawlessly. What I learned there I cannot seem to get out of my head so I must agree with DH that the training was a success. All the same, I just cannot get comfortable with this pistol and so I have taken to a 5 shot revolver, my DH’s retired ruger 38 LCR. We practice with it. It is light and fits my little hands nicely. I have my Ohio CCW but I do not carry it and it lives in my go to place. DHubby has what he calls ” tricked out my rod ” with some molded rubber grips that fit my hand very well. The trigger is very smooth. He has also had what he calls a basket ball sight put on the muzzle and it makes it so easy to see and put on the target with both eyes open.

    Dawn, I guess what I am saying is that I own two fine pistols but that I only trust the one that has earned it. My habit is to name things I don’t care to talk about in public and so I named my revolver after Hubby and Ruger… ‘Rubby’. My Walther, Walter, is now my very first ‘Safe King’ as DH calls all his retired guns ‘Safe Queens’. Take care Dawn. Keep your pistol or sell it or trade it but make sure you trust it to fill the reasons you own it.

    I suppose my point is that

  2. Thomas The Tinker says:

    Ok… I did not cut my Wifey off. I swear. I never never never do more than pinch when she mocks my ‘playground’ at TDI. I do what ever I damn well please as long as I run it through her first or she lets me know what that is… in advance. My DW knows what see can handle and made a good choice in the end. The PK380 is a solid lil piece. The amidex safeties make pulling the slide a breeze for her. Mommasan just doesn’t care for the “buttons and levers” that slow her down. I’m the same way and that is why I love my Glocks. Mommasan has taken to my old …. Her new… Ruger. She can run both of her pistols just fineandnowsheisflickingbothmyears and I think that is all this male ego hastosayaboutthis………… Ack…………..

    • TTT,
      I have to agree with you, I have a Glock22 and love it most of the time. I don’t have small feminine hands so the grips fit my hand just fine. It breaks down into about 5parts, so is simple to clean and I can put it back it back together in the dark. The magazine holds 10 +1 I’ve run over 500 rounds through it w/o a jam.
      Now I did say I love it most of the time,,,, I have a CWP and have not found the ideal way to carry it concealed! I’ve tried a number of different holsters and haven’t found just the right one
      yet.

  3. Thomas The Tinker says:

    The grips are stock Ruger and the sights I already had installed before I went to my SP101 and shez out on the back deck dropping corn for the tree rats so don’t rat me out………………..

  4. Both my DW and I have Ruger LCP 380’s. I found them to be a little smaller than the S&W and a lilttle cheaper. Mine has an add on CTC laser that is made to fit around the trigger guard and activate with you 2nd (middle) finger. My DW’s has the factory laser. If I was to do it again, I’d stay with the CTC as the cross press pin on the factory is easy to get pushed in your pocket or purse and you end up with a dead battery.

    But I have heard nothing but positive from those who have gone with the S&W. Now, out to find more 380 ammo. We use the Cor-Bon 80 gr DPX, a solid copper hollow point that we like the test results from.

  5. I test fired all of the .380 pistols and .38 snubby revolvers mentioned above found the the Sig P238 to be the most accurate since the trigger is excellent and recoil is minimal, the slide is easy to manage, and of course it costs a whole lot more ($600), but when it comes to my life I will spend whatever it takes to get the best. You pay once for quality.

  6. Any surgical assistant stationed in Vietnam will tell you that many, if not all, of the Grunts brought in for “Repair Work”, carried a S&W “J” frame in the pocket of their boomie suits. They worked then, they still work now.
    I know that the .380 is in fashion, and “results” are all about shot placement, but give me my “Belly Gun” when I’m in harm’s way.

    • Ghost,
      I agree that the J Frame is a good solid firearm, one of my carry pieces here is a 640 in stainless, with the added crimson trace.
      Dawn,
      Keep in mind that relying on anything that is battery powered is not a good idea. Use the laser to practice until you can shoot the gun at 25 feet without the sights involved. It’s called natural point of aim, and is where anyone who carries should be workrng toward as a skill.

  7. MY wife carries a S&W 442CT .38SP. The 442 is a 5 shot revolver, very old school(one of the things my wife likes about it), no safety, no slide to pull back, and virtually no jam issues. I thas a crimson trace(CT) laser, which she likes very much. Initially she had a little trouble with the recoil, but has gone to Hornaday’s Critical Defense Lite ammo, lower recoil, and very accurate.

  8. When The Boss and I got together she took one look at my Walther PPK/s .380 and decided it was her gun. Sadly she loves it and I’ve given up on ever getting it back. What really worries me is that she’s been eyeing my beloved 1911, never should have let her shoot it…lol.

  9. Anna Lapping says:

    Dawn, as a gun store owner, I would suggest that you ask a store owner to special order a magazine specifically made for your gun. You may have better luck with this with a smaller store rather than one of the “big box” type sporting goods stores. You may also be able to order direct from the S & W website. I know that ProMag has been having some problems with their polymer mags, but I’m not sure about the metal ones.

  10. Dawn,
    I have seen many S&W Bodyguard .380’s come through my courses since their introduction. Your assessment of that particular gun is right on. The trigger is atrocious, and the laser provided is iffy at best. All in all, not a very good choice, when there are so many better choices available. If you wish to stay with the .380, I suggest you look at the Taurus TCP738. The trigger is exponentially better than the S&W. Two magazines are included, as is a lifetime warranty. Add the Crimson Trace laser to it, and no other. Are they more money? Yes. Are they worth the additional cost? Yes.

    The Ruger SR22 is a wonderful choice and will allow far more practice due to the lower cost of bulk ammunition. Load it for self defense only with CCI Velocitors. The .22 has been used in this country as a very effective self defense round for more than 158 years. With it, like any firearm, shot placement, not bullet size will get the job done every time.
    Practice until you can put all 10 rounds onto a file card at 7 yards in a few seconds, and you will be well armed, indeed. Those 10 rounds in anyone’s face, will bring an immediate and permanent conclusion to any altercation you may find yourself in. Crimson Trace makes a small universal laser (Rail Master) that will fit the rail on the SR22 perfectly.

    I own, shoot, and carry both of these guns configured as noted, and can attest to their effectiveness and dependability.

    You may find these articles helpful in making these decisions…

    http://www.dynamicforceinstitute.com/DFI_Dynamic_Force_Institute/-_DFI_Student_Learning_Center_-_files/%E2%80%A2%20An%20Alternate%20Look%20at%20Handgun%20Stopping%20Power%20.pdf

    http://www.dynamicforceinstitute.com/DFI_Dynamic_Force_Institute/-_The_.22_Handgun_For_Self_Defense.html

    http://www.dynamicforceinstitute.com/DFI_Dynamic_Force_Institute/Restricted_Learning_Center_Files_files/Choosing%20an%20EDC%20Handgun.pdf

    Rapid, well placed hits are what stop attacks. Nothing more, nothing less. Shoot the largest caliber you are comfortable with, shoot well, and can afford to practice with. In the hands of a skilled Operator, any gun, in any caliber, is going to put your attacker on the ground. It will always be shot placement, and not caliber that allows you to prevail.

    Be well and stay safe.

  11. My revolver has never jammed. I know their not as high tech and sexy as a 9mm or a 380 but, it’s the one thing I know I can count on to work when I absolutely need it to.

    • Novice,
      We recommend revolvers for a lot of our students, especially those who don’t get to practice a lot. When you pull the trigger on a revolver and it goes click, assuming it isn’t empty, you simply pull the trigger again. On a semi-auto, you need to clear the firearm and ensure that a new cartridge chambered. This can only be done when under stress, by making sure you can do it nearly blindfolded when practicing. Causing jams and using techniques like ball and dummy are important in any training; but, in semi-auto practice it is essential.
      A good rule to understand is that when confronted with a stressful situation, one does not rise to the occasion, but drops to their highest level of proficiency. Proficiency only comes from repetitive, perfect, skill based training.

  12. I liked reading your article. I don’t own a S&W .380, but I have shot one a few times and I’ve really liked it. Pretty smooth trigger, nice size and the recoil isn’t too bad. It’s a smaller gun, which is nice, because it doesn’t look like you have a freaking compound fracture sticking out of your clothes. Its on my “I wanna get one!” list.

    I’m of the opinion that the size of your handgun or ammo caliber isn’t as important as finding a gun you like. If you don’t like it, get rid of it and find one you do like. Make sure its a gun you want and not one some wants you to have. (I think this is one area where guys screw up a lot when it comes to the women in their lives.) Get one that feels comfortable in your hand when you are holding it and then learn the gun. I think becoming as comfortable & familiar with it in your hand as you are wearing your favorite pair of jeans is really important. Learn its capabilities, what type of ammo it likes, how it shoots in weather, what distance it has, how it handles when you’re trying to catch your breath ‘cuz you’re exhausted and your adrenaline is up, etc. If you use your weapon over and over again, you’ll know your gun without having to think about it. And because that weapon is yours and you know the weapon, you’ll be extremely effective with it. It sounds like you’ve already started doing this, and you’re in the process of learning your gun. With respect to your father, I would ignore his comment about you needing a bigger one.

    From your article it also sounds like you are okay with your .380 over all, and just have frustration with the magazines & the jamming issue. A lot of people I work with really like the .380 as a back up gun. Its second only in popularity to the .357. I am a woman and I think I have a bit of a unique perspective because I have to carry a gun at work and I usually carry one when I’m off duty. If you haven’t guessed already, I’m a cop. Lol. Some women put on make-up or jewelry as a natural part of getting ready for their day, I just put on a gun. When I first started at the police academy, I didn’t have a lot of experience shooting handguns and I’d never shot a semi automatic pistol. I totally get your comments about muscle fatigue in your hands and grip strength, and how racking the slide and racking and locking it back isn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for me when I first started. My hands were how you described your hands. They got torn up. I was shooting a .40 cal S&W at the time. The M&P wasn’t out yet. One of the things I did to increase the strength in my hands and forearms was to get a tennis ball and squeeze it 25x, like a stress ball, multiple times a day. I did a lot (and still do a lot,) of dry fire exercises. It really helps with my mechanics and lets me focus on how I am shooting/handling the gun without the step of the recoil and the bullet. Repetition after repetition of everything I would do when I shoot my weapon builds muscle memory so I don’t have to think so hard about what to do when I get tired (& when I was first learning, when my hands got fatigued & shaky).

    A jammed gun/miss-feed isn’t fun. Having a tool you use to protect your life malfunction is,…well,… just insert your favorite profanity of choice. I’ve had my share at the range both intentional & unintentional. Part of my range qualification course for work involves clearing jams while shooting a certain number of rounds. So we deliberately create a jam/miss-feed with spent ammo casings or dummy rounds and practice clearing the weapon (getting rid of the jam) and then shooting it. I’m guessing the jamming issue you wrote about is different from that and the whole action of the gun isn’t cycling thru like it normally would when the trigger is pulled? Hopefully the jamming issue is fixed once you get your .380 back from Smith & Wesson. From my own experience, besides mechanical problems, a miss-feed/jam is sometimes caused by the ammo. Try different types, shoot ALOT and see what happens. Keep track of which ammo your using when your gun jams up. Inspect your ammo too for dings or small dents in the brass. I also know that operator error will sometimes cause the miss-feed/jam. I know through my training but also “Because I’ve Done It.” You probably already know the mechanics of how you shoot are important. Go back to basics. Make sure your arms are straight with your elbows locked out (no bent elbows) when you’re shooting. If your elbows are bent even a little bit, you’re chances of a jam or a miss-feed are high, especially if you are only holding the gun with one hand and shooting it “gangsta style.”

    Good Luck with your .380. Hopefully it works better for you when you get it back.

    • Oh, and we are women right? Totally reserve the right to change your mind. Ditch your .380 if you’re still not happy with it when S&W sends it back. Like I said at the top of my comment above, get the gun you want to have, not the gun someone wants you to have.

  13. Dawn, some wives do want a gun, or to learn to use one, including mine. So I admire for getting a .38 for concealed carry.

    On the magazine, if it was new, in my experience, the spring in the mag may just need to be “worn” or used some, to reduce the pressure on the round being loaded into the chamber. That’s been the case w/ a couple of my mag’s. If this is the problem, u (or ask ur hubby) to load some rounds into the new mag, & just let it sit for 3-4 days, to decrease the spring pressure in the mag.

    I think it’s a good idea to practice with and without the laser, just in case the laser doesn’t work in an emergency situation. & u are wise to practice & become familiar with any gun, b/4 needing it in a crisis. That’s part of most of practice shooting.

  14. Thomas The Tinker says:

    An old chesnut……. “if once the tools you would have to save a life have failed … what trust can you share with hope.”

    sell it, trade it, save it but find something that only takes presentation and trigger management stop the ‘fight’.

  15. the 380 is a relatively small bullet. It doesn’t offer much recoil to operate the slide, and a weak grip that lets the wrist/arm absorb recoil means that the gun has even less energy to operate the slide.

    I have found that virtually ALL failure to feed malfunctions with a 380 can be solved with A) lubrication and B) a firm grip.

  16. Mrs. K in MO says:

    I have had my bodyguard for almost a year and I love it! No problems what so ever. It fits my hand perfectly and easily concealable. All triggers and recoil take some getting used to. Practice makes perfect. I have only used S&W mags. No jamming problems. They are on sale at Cabe!a’s for $19.99 right now.

  17. In my experience, promag magazines = junk.

  18. Thanks for the thorough review. I might look into getting the 380 for my girlfriend since the feedback here is good.

  19. Dawn Mellnick says:

    Dawn, I found your review thorough and enlightening…. I too have the same firearm with after market magazines………. I have found the same issues that you reported. I find it coincidental we have the same name, same gun and same issues…………….. Thank you for your review. I helped me give substance to my complaints to my DH. Can a gunsmith soften the pull?…… My son says I am consistently accurate, but . always LOW….. He says I have a slight down pull at the last moment cuz the trigger pull is too hard for me. I am quite accurate with my DH’s 45 (softer trigger) but the recoil on his gun kills my wrists. If these issues can not be resolved I will be looking at a different gun. I an currently practicing on my own land to obtain my CCW soon.

  20. axelsteve says:

    Dawn sounds like you are mashing the trigger and it goes low from that. Have the trigger fixed. Nothing worse then a gun that you have to fight.A good smith can do wonders for a cruddy trigger.