Our readers know we are big fans of Smith & Wesson handguns here and for good reason. Pound for pound they make some of the very best semi-autos and revolvers that money can buy.
No matter your preferences and objectives you can rest assured that Smith & Wesson has a pistol for you. You are especially in luck if you need a tiny, lightweight gun for deep carry since S&W unveiled the M&P Bodyguard a few years back.
While it greeted the market at the time with a resounding “bleh” it has since steadily grown its following into one of the nicest of the latter-day polymer .380s for deep concealment, especially if one wants a laser, and is well deserving of the M&P livery that it has been bestowed.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a close look at this slick, light pocket pistol so you can decide if it is a worthy addition to your personal armory.
Table of Contents
The M&P Bodyguard .380, and henceforth just the Bodyguard for brevity, is a double-action only, hammer-fired, polymer framed pistol chambering the venerable .380 ACP. Its slender frame contains a six round magazine plus one in the chamber.
Compared to many competitors’ pocket pistols, the Bodyguard is full featured with ample sights, a slide release and magazine release in the traditional locations and an optional thumb safety. A disassembly lever is located just ahead of the slide release directly over the trigger guard.
The style of the Bodyguard obviously hearkens to its larger M&P cousins, with the S&W logo and their now-distinctive “fish scale” serrations present at the rear of the slide. Weighing a scant 12 ounces unloaded and measuring just 5 ¼” from stem to stern and ¾” in width, this pistol is easily carried or hidden just about anywhere.
The tough Zytel frame is impervious to most mechanical wear while the stainless steel slide and barrel are finished in S&W’s Armornite to prevent corrosion while ensuring a hard-wearing gun.
Smith & Wesson are definitely building a Bodyguard for every taste, with a cursory look at their catalog showing ten variations of the base gun, with finish, control layout and lasers of various makes all being options.
The two most important options for these guns are the presence and style of a laser sight and the inclusion of a manual safety. Other options are a bare stainless steel slide and a coyote tan frame for you low-profile types.
The lasers are available in two styles, but both are made excellently by Crimson Trace Corporation. The first and most famous is the original offering, a red laser integrated into a special frame made deeper at the dustcover to accommodate it.
With the laser aperture just beneath the guide rod and muzzle, and two activation switches on either side of the frame, this is as low profile and snag-proof as a laser aiming system can get.
Nothing to detach, come loose or lose. The laser cycles from off, to steady on, to pulsing on, then back to off. This is a bit of a disappointment as pulsing lasers suck.
The second style of laser, again made by Crimson Trace Corp., is a clamp on Laserguard style that attaches to the conventional frame Bodyguard by clamping seamlessly around the trigger guard.
While a slightly bulkier option than the integrated laser version, in trade you get a high-vis green laser and an excellent “DG” style activation switch placed beneath the trigger guard at the top of the frontstrap, which will activate the laser with nothing more than a good firing grip.
The other major option for shooters is the inclusion or deletion of a manual safety, this being located at the rear of the frame within a prominent fence for the purpose. This fence and recess are visible on all Bodyguard models whether the safety is included or not.
The safety is moved up for safe, and down for fire, congruent with larger M&P models. This keeps the manual of arms broadly consistent, so if you want to keep it in the family, so to speak, you’ll be in good shape when upsizing from this pistol or downsizing to it from a fullsize or compact M&P.
The Bodyguard in the hand feels typical of most pistols in its class: abbreviated. But this is by design to enhance concealment and as far as such guns go the Bodyguard stands out with good ergonomics and a thoughtful control layout that mimics larger service handguns. A nice touch.
The frame of the gun is slippery in anything but ideal conditions with dry hands, something that is spoiled even by a little perspiration. To be fair, this is an accusation one can level at most polymer guns that go without a stipple job or the addition of grip tape. The gun does include though a pair of magazines, one that fits flush and flat for maximum concealment, the other with an extended baseplate that provides a little extra real estate for the firing hand pinky.
The Bodyguard’s long DAO trigger is decent, with a fairly clean break though it is a little uncertain and spongy just past the halfway mark of its travel. Unlike many other pocket pistols, though, there are several quality aftermarket trigger packages for this gun that can dramatically clean up the otherwise okay trigger.
And that may be the key absolute for extracting one of this gun’s best qualities: the Bodyguard is accurate! Firing the gun off the bench I was able to routinely obtain 2 ½” groups at 25 yards using Speer Gold Dot ammo.
This level of accuracy may not be required by those who see the Bodyguard as nothing but an across-the-table gun, but I will always take more capability, not less, whenever I can get it.
Getting this accuracy is made easier by the substantial combat sights atop the Bodyguard’s slide. You aren’t burdened by the tiny afterthought sights that usually adorn pistols in this class. If you have ever been at home on classic 3-dot sights, you’ll be glad of them and right at home taking the Bodyguard out for the first time.
One thing I am not happy with regarding the pistol’s design is the safety, if equipped. A long, heavy DA pull is safety enough for hammer fired guns, so I generally do not prefer them, but some folks do and S&W has seen fit to accommodate them. That’s laudable, but the operation of the safety lever is difficult, uncertain and fiddly all the way around.
They clearly drew their inspiration from the classic Glock slide release, and so made their safety lever the same way: flush, flat, barely-there and maddening.
While this ostensibly makes the gun easier to conceal and carry comfortably, since the lever should never dig into the flank of someone carrying it, it is counterproductive. A safety must be pronounced, positive in operation and certain, lest someone botch releasing it when they need to get the pistol running post-haste.
This is more of an academic concern, for this author at any rate, since I can just order the gun without it. And have!
One thing I experiences with my Bodyguard .380 that pestered me and, initially, hurt my impression of the gun, were periodic failures to feed, whereby the gun would begin to load the next live cartridge into the chamber but would give up halfway.
Normally, this type of behavior is a DNQ for me since reliability is paramount for any defensive pistol and at the least gets the gun dumped unceremoniously for a replacement, assuming the bad behavior is not characteristic of the breed.
A quick consultation with an associate and some searching on the internet revealed to me that this was an altogether too common occurrence with these guns.
Oh, no. My hopes were dashed; another toaster, another also-ran, shovel-ready pistol bound for ignominy. But, investigating further, I discovered that the vast majority of users saw their issues disappear after an honest break in period.
I’ll level with you reader: “break the gun in” is almost always code for “gun is not made well” or “bad design.” But in this instance, I am happy to report it is true.
After about 80 rounds of fire, suffering a misfeed every two to three mags, the problems disappeared and did not resurface for the rest of my usual one thousand round test.
There is always an exception to the rule, even if that exception merely proves the rule! If you have a Bodyguard that starts misbehaving right out of the box, give it a little patience and plenty of lube and see if the issues don’t disappear within a hundred rounds or so.
You’ll stay with a pistol that is one of the best equipped and best shooting in its category. You don’t want to miss out on that!
The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard is an excellent entry into their M&P stable and a fine deep carry or backup gun on its own merits.
Big gun controls and appointments on a tiny subcompact frame make this an obvious choice if you are already shooting a larger M&P or a just looking for a something slim that is a cinch to carry in any situation.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.
13 thoughts on “Review of the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380”
I have had 3 (one got stolen) Ruger LCP’s; I prefer the LCP-C (it has a red aluminum trigger). For what they are and designed for, I think they are the best value for the money. The Bodyguard and I did not agree when I had a chance to shoot on.
I do put Pearce magazine extension on the mags, as I have to have my little finger in play or I just can’t hit anything.
I have had one with the built-in laser and 2 with the CTC laser. The CTC is more, but I really like it’s operation. Also the built-in, like many of these lasers, has a activation switch that is pushed to the side to activate. It WILL get pushed on when carried in a bag w/o a holster (like my DW’s purse) and so you will soon have a gun with a laser with a dead battery – not good.
I have about a dozen handguns counting my TC Contender and based in part on another article on this forum back on October 1st along with nagging from some friends was considering my first Glock.
I have both 9 mm & 380 ACP and now have another to consider.
This is me nagging you again. Get a Glock 9mm. Maybe the 19. Then get a carbine that uses the same magazines. You’ll feel better. Your friends will stop nagging you too.
Regarding the BG 380, this was a good article. I carry a snubby .38 when I “can’t carry” but this little gun is something to consider as no solution works for everyone.
It ain’t nagging if it’s constructive. LOL
I was actually looking at the 19, since I can purchase it OTC at the local Rural King. Planning on getting it mid next month.
As for the carbine, I wanted the Sub2000; but, none were available, so I now have a CZ Scorpion EVO 3 and a handful of magazines, meeting my primary goal of fewer common calibers to stock.
I’m sure I’ll catch grief for this comment; but, I regularly carry something similar to the BG. My Bersa Thunder 380 has worked flawlessly for nearly 20 years, and back when I bought it, the only bad reviews were the fact that dealers couldn’t get enough of them to meet the demand.
I also sometimes carry a 640 stainless J Frame, since often a backup handgun is quicker than a mag change and my CHL has no limit on how many handguns one can carry at a time.
There’s nothing wrong with the Bersa. Anyone who says otherwise is a gaping anus. If it works for you, use it. I almost bought a pair of them in .32 ACP (his and hers). If a weapon is reliable and accurate then it’s ok. If you have confidence in your ability to defend yourself with it, that makes all the difference in the world. Modern bullet construction and target practice negate all the horseshit about a lack of stopping power.
Two handguns is my standard method of carry. In most cases, a Glock 23 and a Smith 640. A back up piece in .38 was advocated for years by Massad Ayoob. They stand up to abuse and they always work.
An old friend, who’d served in the NYPD’s stakeout squad back in “the day” always carried a back up piece. Quick reloads too.
It does and I do. Part of my reasoning is my small frame (5’ 6” & 145 lbs) and unlike some of my taller, bulkier friends, doesn’t give me as much space or many places to hide a firearm.
I can and do also carry my Ruger P89 or P95 in a paddle holster or fanny pack; but, they are rather heavy and bulky on me.
The Bersa is small and lightweight, carrying 6+1 and two additional magazines in my 5.11 tactical vest pocket. I used the vest for concealment of the paddle holster on my hip; but, its many pockets also carry my EDC, including flashlight, a Camillus heat rescue knife, first aid kit, and a radio or two. It’s actually hide in plain sight, since people will ask if I’m a photographer or have been fishing. I usually tell them it’s my version of a man purse, and in our rural community, most people don’t give it a second thought after that
There are 2 external mag pouches, usually carrying radios and a deep inside pocket where I tuck that 640.
Yep, and the target practice with a short barrel is not that critical, since legal civilian self defense nearly always occurs in the 1-7 yard range.
As for stopping power, when I shot IPSC in the 1980’s, there was that constant 45 vs. 9 mm argument that I found a way to stop in its tracks with a simple rhetorical challenge.
From a distance of 15 feet, we each get to fire 3 rounds, center mass at each other with the firearm and cartridge of our choice; however, I go first.
Never had any takers, even when I offered to use a .22. LOL.
I carry the 640 in stainless usually loaded with Hornady critical defense.
The Bersa is carried with a mix of critical defense and Lawman frangible.
I’ve never had to even brandish in a real situation and hope it stays that way; but, that’s perhaps because of a maxim I learned years ago and follow:
“Don’t go to stupid places, with stupid people, and do stupid things”
I always carried at least two handguns when I was on-duty.
The Michigan State Police issue their troopers a .38 snubbie, hammerless. It’s an S&W something, I just can’t remember the model number. Their uniform trousers are made with a leather reinforced front pocket for the snubbie. In the old days, they used to carry a revolver in a flapped cross-draw holster. When they switched to Sig P-226 strong side carry, they kept up with the backup weapon. Before I got on the job, I used to see troopers on traffic stops with their right hand in their pocket and I always wondered why. Now we all know why.
Hammerless? If so, how does it fire? Sorry; but. that’s just me be nitpicky, with those shrouded hammer models. These are all part of the S&W Centennial line that include the J-Frame 640 that Overwatch & I carry for backup.
Mine has an interesting story. When I purchased it, it had that little ”Uncle Mikes” boot grip that was hard to hold. I also have a Charter Arms “Off Duty”, that is their version of the J-Frame with a really comfortable grip. I purchased a similar Pachmayr grip that worked well; but, the following Christmas, my oldest boy got me a Crimson Trace grip for the 640, so now I’m back to that smaller, harder to hold grip; but, now with the laser.
I have a Pachmayr and an Uncle Mike’s in a box somewhere should anyone be interested.
Yeah, I messed it up. Shrouded hammer is correct. I was looking at that before I posted and thought something wasn’t quite right. Now I know what it was.
You’re not the first to call them hammerless nor will you be the last, and we all understand; but, my nitpicky question came from a student in a pistol class years ago.
We went over each component of both autoloaders and single & double action revolvers, including my TC contender, that we can tear apart and pass around the class. Then one of the other instructor’s mention a gun being hammerless, and a hand went up with a puzzled look. You can guess the question.
As a training counselor, I train / counsel instructor candidates and one of the things we stress is to always define terms before using them. A 20 Round magazine is another that can confuse, unless you explain about muzzleloaders, and round balls, and rounds as slang for cartridge ammunition.
It’s not what you said; but, what your students heard and thought they understood, so clarification is important, especially with newbie’s.
I think its important for a firearms instructor to have some knowledge of the history of firearms and ammunition. Being able to explain why “rounds” of ammo are called rounds is actually pretty important for the newbie.
Rounds are the easy one as are magazines when you pass around a PEZ dispenser; but, the one people often get wrong, especially on the TV cop shows is that 38 caliber revolver that is really .38 special and caliber .357. It seems that even back in the 1920’s the marketing people got involved and added to the confusion.
Hint: the 38 special case is approximately 38 caliber and it replaced the 38 long colt, an externally lubricated, rim fire cartridge, similar to the .22 LR
Because of the way I carry and not wanting to show the weapon print, the Bodyguard is my CCW firearm. I own an LCP, but prefer the S&W because of the safety. For my smaller hands, it is easily moved. If I had giant man-hands, it might be a problem. When I practice drawing/ dry fire, the thumbing of the safety is part of the withdrawal movement. The Bodyguard is easily concealed in a jeans pocket, so we cute old ladies can also be packing and no one is the wiser.