Smith & Wesson’s New Lightweight, Compact Bodyguard 380 Semi-Auto Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

September 7th, 2010


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Bodyguard 380 (right) compared to Ruger LCP (left).





Left to right: disassembly pin, slide lock, and manual safety.



Magazine release.



Six-shot magazine comes with a flat base-plate and an extended base-plate.



Seven shots of 380 hollowpoint, in a package small enough to always be within reach.



Slide locks open on an empty magazine.





Disassembly is quick, easy, and requires no tools.





Recommended ammo (left to right): Cor-Bon DPX and Glaser Safety Slug for social work, and Stryker 380 for practice.







For the past few years now, one of the hottest sections of the firearms market has been small, lightweight self-defense pistols, particularly those that are chambered for the 380 ACP cartridge. Everyday, more and more people in the US are choosing to go armed. It is a shame that folks cannot go about their daily lives without concern of self-preservation, but such is our society today. There are those who dwell among us that are predators, always looking for a victim. Depending upon whom you ask, statistics show that at least half of us will experience a violent crime at some time in our lives. Statistics also overwhelmingly prove that an armed victim has a whole lot better chance of coming out of such a situation unscathed than does someone who is defenseless against his or her attacker. For this reason, folks are choosing to improve their chances when they must venture into the night, and most are choosing to stick a small, lightweight pistol in their pocket or purse. The new generation of polymer-framed lightweight 380 autos is a very popular choice, and for good reason. The pistols have adequate power without too much recoil, and they are small enough and light enough to ALWAYS be within reach. Remember, the first rule of a gun fight is to have a gun. A 44 Magnum in the glove box of the pickup does you no good if you can’t reach it when needed. If you ever need to defend yourself with a gun, you will need it immediately. The predator has had plenty of time to plan his course of action. He has time to be selective in choosing his victim. He can approach from the rear, under cover of darkness. He has chosen the ground, and has the advantage. You might have two seconds to get your weapon into action, if you’re lucky. Your move will be reactive. You might even be taken by complete surprise. You have to be able to put your weapon into the fight immediately. The attack will be fast and furious. Your reaction must be equally so. If you can’t reach your gun, the police will show up later and, if again you are lucky, take your report, but chances are pretty good that they will be drawing a chalk line around your lifeless body.

If the thought of having to shoot another human being is repulsive to you, that is good. It means you are one of the good guys. Shooting someone should be really close to the last thing that any of us want to do. However, shooting some street thug is still higher on my list than having a cold steel shank plunged into my ribcage, so therefore, I carry a gun everywhere that I can. The only place that I go unarmed is into an airport, because there I know that I will be searched. Everywhere else, I am armed. These small, lightweight 380 pistols are so handy, that I always have one on me, even when also carrying a larger gun.

The lightweight 380 pistol market has several good choices these days, and at the 2010 SHOT Show in January, Smith & Wesson introduced theirs, called the 380 Bodyguard. I had the opportunity to fire a few shots through a prototype the day before the show, and really liked the feel of the weapon, but had some doubts on other features. I found that the laser on the prototype that I fired back then was hard to activate. The Bodyguard is now in full production, and I finally got one in here for review. I can tell you right off that I was not really overly impressed with the prototype, and that is why I am late in getting one in for review. I could probably have had one in here sooner, if I had just asked. However, I have been asked by readers repeatedly to review the new Bodyguard, and am now glad that I ordered one. I like this production pistol much better than the prototype that I fired back in January. It feels really comfortable in my hand, points naturally, and the laser is easy to activate.

The 380 Bodyguard has an Insight laser sight built into the frame of the pistol. It is removable for service if necessary, but is otherwise unobtrusive. The laser projects a red dot that is very easy to see, even in daylight, depending upon the brightness of the target. Where the laser really comes into its realm is at night. The 380 Bodyguard has an excellent set of sights for such a small pistol, much better and easier to see than the sights on most of its competition. However, in the dark, or even on a dimly-lit street or parking garage, sights are very hard to see, especially when your full attention is focused upon the two thugs approaching from the shadows. This is why I like a reliable laser sight on every one of my fighting handguns.

The built-in laser is made for S&W by Insight Technologies, and is well-protected from damage inside the frame. The activation buttons are located on each side of the weapon, where they fall naturally under the tip of the trigger finger as the pistol is drawn. Pressing with the trigger finger once activates the laser in the “constant” mode. Pressing again changes to a “pulsating” mode, and pressing a third time shuts off the laser. If the laser is left on inadvertently, it will shut off in around five minutes, to prevent battery drain. Before it shuts down, the laser pulses to let the user know that it is about to shut off, so that it can be reactivated if desired. The laser is easily adjusted with the small Allen wrench provided.

Critical dimensions are listed in the chart below. The weights are listed in ounces, and linear measurements in inches. The grip and frame widths were measured at their widest points, which includes the control levers. Height includes the sights and magazine base. The Bodyguard comes with both a flat magazine base and one with a finger extension. The height was measured with the flat base installed. The trigger pull on the Bodyguard pistol is very good, with a smooth release, and it does not have to be pre-cocked by the slide. The trigger pull is listed as pounds of pressure. Weight is with an empty magazine in place.

Weight 12.3 oz.
Height 3.78"
Length 5.23"
Slide Width 0.75"
Maximum Grip Width 0.77"
Maximum Frame Width 0.795"
Maximum Width 0.842"
Barrel Length 2.75"
Trigger Pull 6.5 lbs.
Magazine Capacity 6

The Bodyguard is just as thin and light weight as its competition in the marketplace, as can be seen in the picture comparing it with Ruger’s excellent little LCP. Keep in mind that the LCP and the Kel-Tec P3-AT are a bit lighter, but the S&W includes the weight of the laser. The frame of the Bodyguard is made of reinforced polymer, as is the magazine base plate and follower, magazine catch, and the trigger. The slide, sights, and guide rod are made of stainless steel, with the slide and sights having a Melonite hard coating. This is very desirable for a gun that will live its life in a pocket or a concealed holster.

I fired the Bodyguard with every brand and type of 380 auto ammunition available to me to check for reliable function. I fired a variety of ammunition over the chronograph to check velocities, with the results listed in the chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Bullet weights are listed in grains. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint bullet. DPX is a hollow nose homogenous copper bullet. FMJ is a full metal jacket roundnose bullet. FP is a full metal jacket flat-nose bullet. PB is Cor-Bon Pow’RBall. HC is a hard-cast flat-nose lead bullet. Velocities were taken at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, ten feet from the muzzle, with an air temperature around the eighty-six degree Fahrenheit mark, with twenty percent humidity.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Cor-Bon JHP 90 939
Cor-Bon PB 70 1211
Cor-Bon DPX 80 1042
Handload JHP 88 788.5
Buffalo Bore JHP 90 1011
Buffalo Bore FMJ 95 932
Buffalo Bore HC 100 1040
Remington JHP 88 815.1
Stryker FP 95 874.5

The Stryker 380 from The American Marksman is a new brand of ammo to me. 380 ACP ammo is still hard to find in places, and the Stryker is a very good practice round, featuring a quality FMJ flat-point bullet. It has proven to be one hundred percent reliable in every pistol in which I have tried it. It is also sold at a very good price, in bulk, so shooting is not nearly as expensive as with the premium hollowpoint ammo, and the Stryker is a lot more reliable than the junk imported stuff on the market. I usually carry my 380 auto pistols loaded with Cor-Bon DPX for serious purposes, but the Stryker is a very good practice round.

The S&W Bodyguard proved to be one hundred percent reliable with every brand and type of ammo fed to it. It was also very comfortable to shoot. I love the feel of the grip. The Bodyguard has features that are not available on many of the small 380 pistols on the market. The S&W is priced above a few of the other 380s, but the Bodyguard includes a better set of sights, stainless steel and polymer construction, a slide lock, and a manual safety. The manual safety is easy to reach for a right-handed shooter, but the pistol also has a firing pin block, so being a left-hander, I just ignore the safety and carry with it in the “fire” position. The price of the Bodyguard also includes the Insight laser sight. These features make it a good value in a reliable pocket gun. The laser in not an “instant on” when the gun is drawn, which may be a plus or may be a minus, depending upon the situation, but it is very quick to activate with the trigger finger. The S&W comes with one magazine, a soft carry case, instructions, laser adjustment wrench, and a padlock.

Check out the Bodyguard and other S&W products online at

For the location of a Smith & Wesson dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the Bodyguard online, go to

To order the Cor-Bon and Stryker ammunition online, go to and

Jeff Quinn


For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to:

To buy this gun online, go to:


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S&W Bodyguard 380.



Built-in Insight laser.



Laser is easily adjusted for windage and elevation correction.



The Bodyguard is also equipped with an excellent set of windage-adjustable sights.





Recessed, snag-proof hammer.



Witness hole to verify the presence of a cartridge in the chamber.



Bodyguard comes with a a soft protective zippered case.