April 18, 2016
By James Tarr
The Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 was introduced a few years ago in tandem with the Bodyguard .38 revolver. The demand for concealable “pocket” pistols has never been greater, and S&W set these models apart from the crowd by equipping them with integrated lasers. But not everybody who wants a pocket gun necessarily wants one with a laser, so Smith & Wesson introduced another version: a straight-up, iron-sighted M&P Bodyguard 380.
Paul Pluff, Smith & Wesson’s director of Marketing Communications, told me he thought bringing the Bodyguard 380 into the M&P fold was a no-brainer because it is a natural extension of the line, and that makes sense.
It also makes sense to give consumers more choices. Lasers cost money, and the new model gives consumers an option that’s about $70 less than the laser-equipped version. I also think it’s a better-looking gun without the laser because it results in a pistol with cleaner lines.
For those of you unfamiliar with S&W Bodyguard 380, let’s go over the specs. First, it is a 6+1 capacity, double-action-only semiauto. While the trigger pull is long—about twice as long as I would like even on a pocket gun—it is smooth, and on my sample gun, the trigger pull was 9.5 pounds. The trigger itself is smooth, flat plastic.
Even though it is as small as .380s can get, the M&P Bodyguard 380 has all the controls you’d expect on a full-size gun, including a manual safety and slide stop, plus real sights made out of steel.
It is a hammer-fired gun, and the bobbed hammer protrudes very slightly from the rear of the slide just before the trigger breaks. I found I could stage the trigger right at the end of the pull and shoot it almost single action. It has a double-strike capability.
Barrel length is 2.75 inches, and the rear of the hood has a cutout that acts as a loaded-chamber indicator. At 12 ounces unloaded, less than an inch thick and with an overall length of only 5.25 inches, this gun is plenty small and light enough to hide in a pocket. I’ve got medium-size hands, and when I’ve got a good grip on the gun and place my index finger along the frame, the end of my finger is only about a half-inch from the end of the slide.
Sights are black and no-snag, both front and rear dovetailed into the slide. The front is a serrated ramp. Both slide and barrel are stainless steel that has been treated to a uniform matte black finish. Now that the Bodyguard 380 has M&P status, the rear slide serrations are the M&P-style fish-scale type, and “M&P” is etched into the front of the slide on the left side.
The manual safety is in a familiar place for anyone who has ever fired a 1911: top rear of the frame on the left side. With the safety engaged the trigger won’t pull, and you can’t work the slide.
Pocket guns tend to get thrown into drawers, purses and, yes, pockets, and some people might have a concern that the manual safety might get accidentally engaged or disengaged. The serrated metal safety is nearly flat and hardly protrudes, plus it takes some force to move in either direction—and then it makes a very audible click. I don’t see it getting moved in either direction accidentally.
The M&P Bodyguard 380 comes with two magazines and four base pads—two extended and two flat. I don’t have thick fingers, and even with the extended base pad in place I could only get two fingers on the grip. The extended base pad provides an extra half-inch of real estate to grab onto, for a total height of 4.25 inches versus 3.75 inches with a flat base-pad magazine inserted. The gun will fire with the magazine removed.
Small guns are easy to conceal but recoil harder and are more difficult to aim. This is just a fact of life. During testing, the end of my index finger tended to wrap around and hit the far side of the frame before the trigger broke, but that’s par for the course with tiny autos unless you have tiny hands.
For a gun that is not too much bigger than a deck of cards, I found the M&P Bodyguard 380 to be controllable, accurate and completely reliable, and for a last-ditch defensive weapon used at conversational distances, that’s exactly what you need.