Saturday, February 4, 2012

Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 - Old Review and Range Report

I was contacted earlier today by a blog reader that wanted to know if I was going to review the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380.  As it turns out, I bought a Bodyguard in July 2010 and did a mini review and range report on it, but that was before I started this blog so I've gone back and reconstructed the review and range reports from my original pictures and reports.

One of the first things I wanted to check was how the Bodyguard with it's integral laser would weigh in against a Kahr P380 with an add on Crimson Trace laser.  As you can see from the two photos, the Bodyguard was about half an ounce heavier than the Kahr.  That was very acceptable considering the Bodyguard had a barrel a half inch longer than the Kahr P380.

Initial impressions from cleaning are good and bad.  Take down and reassembly was easy, but there was an odd bit that required you to pull the barrel forward to reinsert the take down pin.

I like the full length rails.  I also like the stainless frame insert to keep the slide from battering the polymer frame when the slide cycles.  I like how they have modularized the laser so it can be fussed with or not at the user's discretion.  I really like the laser lens protective bezel as a quick wipe will remove any accumulated powder soot.  Analog sights are good and highly visible.  Melonite coated Stainless slide was nice to learn about reading through the pistol documentation.  I also like that it's black.  All black. 

Hate the plastic trigger and it's mold line running down the center of the trigger.  That's gotta go if this gun is a keeper.  I like the steel guide rod, but noticed scoring from the twin recoil springs has already started.  We'll see if this gets worse after some range time.  External safety isn't well received by me, but I understand why it's there.

I could spend a bunch of time discussing machining marks and other visible signs of build quality, but I won't.  I will say the gun passed the shake test with flying colors.  When the gun is in battery (no ammo) and the mag fully inserted, there is zero rattling heard when you briskly shake the gun.  Fitting is not sloppy.

Trigger is pure 3rd generation Smith and Wesson auto.  It takes a firm press to get the hammer started and that's followed by a medium to long/smooth stacking and a clean break.  I noticed a small bit of grittiness, but hope that will smooth out with rounds down range.  In all fairness, I'm sure it's going to be fine for CQ self defense, but horrible for bullseye target shooting.  Good thing this isn't a gun for bullseye target shooting.

My thoughts after my initial range test:
Finally, a .380 done right and ready to roll right out of the box.  LCP, and Colt Mustang Pocketlite, you've met your match.

I don't want to jinx myself, because a good report today could be followed by a recall tomorrow, but I'll take my chances since a few of you want a second opinion on the ugly little kid called the Bodyguard.

I ran through half a Win White box Value Pack, a box of Golden Saber, a box + of Critical Defense, and finished up with about 35 Gold Dots.  Happy to report my results were nothing short of perfection.  It was a very Glock-like experience.  One handed, two handed didn't make a difference with function.

Iron sights and laser were close enough to point of aim at 7 and 10 yards that I didn't make any adjustments.  Trigger is still stiff, but it's workable for what this gun was designed for and the distances involved.  Accuracy with the laser was very good with the white box Winchesters.  First 7 shots had 4 touching shots clustered in a nice little clover leaf pattern.

Gold Dots were the last rounds shot since I wanted to make sure they would work even in a "dirty" gun.  I was also pretty fatigued at this point as I was working with another gun in between strings with the Bodyguard to give it time to cool.  My trigger finger was also pretty sore at this point from that confounded ridge on the plastic trigger.  This target was the last 7 shots at 10 yards.

Brought it home and cleaned it up with specific attention to my areas of concern.  As expected the stainless frame buffer showed signs of impact with the slide.  It was only powder soot and was easily removed with Eezox.  Full length rails showed signs of light burnishing on the 4 corners so they must be the high spots.  Scoring of the guide rod ended up as nothing more than some superficial scratching from the springs and not the deep gouges you get with the LCP guide rod.

I see no reason not to put this one into the carry rotation immediately aside from my personal requirement of having a couple spare mags on hand.  It's a keeper.

Follow-up Range Reports:

I increased my rounds downrange to 300'ish this afternoon.  I have done a good job keeping up with the full boxes, but I've also been running all odds and ends from partial boxes through the gun as well since it seems to eat anything you put in it.  So my count isn't exact.

Today was 50 rounds of Rem 95 grain FMJ and 50 rounds of Win White Box FMJTC.  I set up 2 targets at 10 yards.  As I was wrapping up for the day, I shot one without the laser and one with the laser.  12 rounds per target.  Used the Win White box for these since they make such a neat hole in the targets.
10 Yard Iron Sights

  10 Yard Laser Sight

I've made zero adjustments to the sights or laser since taking the pistol out of the box when new.  Based on the lack of any shifting of the laser over time, I have no intention of adjusting anything with the sights or laser.  This is plenty good enough performance from both sighting systems.  If anything needs adjusting, it's my shooting skills with this gun.  I did learn today that my best groups came when I just stepped up and shot each round as soon as the sights or laser were back on target.  Trying to pull up the trigger slack and then guessing when it would break was just futility with a trigger this heavy.

I did have to keep cleaning the laser's protective lens today.  If I didn't keep up with it, the laser dot got large and dim as the grime built up on the lens.  Must have been the Rem ammo because it wasn't building up so fast last time.  The good news is that the actual laser lens sits behind a protective cover that was easily cleaned with some spit and my pinkie.  No need for a swab and alcohol.

I'm pleased with the laser ad iron sight systems.  I have had zero issues with failures of any kind.  I'm adding this to the carry rotation with high confidence.

Current Update:

Several months later, I decided to trade off the Bodyguard.  The only problem I ever had with it was with the laser activation buttons popping out when drawing the gun from a pocket holster.  I had been accumulating 380 pistols like crazy in 2010 and could no longer justify having so many.  Over many months I learned to love the trigger on the Kahr P380 so the Ruger LCP and Smith and Wesson Bodyguard were both traded off as they both shared similar trigger pulls and weights.  I will say that the LCP and Bodyguard were both highly reliable.


  1. Would like to add my Bodyguard experiences. Like yours it was wonderfully accurate with real sights. It shot everything I had with me on it's first trip to the range, except Winchester white box. They just would not consistently go bang with one pull of the trigger. Sometimes they didn't go bang after 2 - 3 pulls of the trigger. The day was overcast and I could easily spot the red dot from the Crimson Trace laser sights on the revolvers I had also carried out that day. The Bodyguard's laser was a struggle to spot, dim in comparison, then it just quit working. My wife had cherry picked this particular Bodyguard at the gun show, finding the one with the easiest to activate laser, softest required touch, buttons, more on this in a bit.

    S&W's warranty response was painless, free, speedy and faultless. Total turnaround time including prepaid shipping was less than 2-1/2 weeks. S&W replaced the laser module, and the parts associated with the firing pin safety.

    The repaired pistol went bang every time, first time with the remainder of the same Winchester white box that was problematic. The only fly in the ointment was the laser. The activation buttons on the replacement laser module were now so stiff my wife could not activate either one without breaking her grip on the pistol. I could not consistently activate them either. I was in the middle of researching forums for solutions when I just said to heck with it, found a dealer at the next gun show that needed one and sold it, they were still relativly new and hot at the time.

    After working with that laser I completely understood why S&W bought out a version without that laser at this years SHOT Show. It appears they have dropped the laser equipped version all together.

  2. I rented a Bodyguard at the range a month or two ago & thought it was "just okay". I found the laser to be distracting, having never shot a laser-equipped pistol before. Every minor movement of my hand seemed to make a significant movement of the dot on the target. I eventually ignored the laser & simply used the sights.

    I recently bought an M&P Bodyguard (no laser). The price was just too good to pass up for a small, lightweight pistol that I considered to be a valid "pocket carry" weapon. I did paint the sights white after bringing the gun home and cleaning it.

    I took it to the range for the first time today. The gun functioned well overall, and I found it to be accurate at self defense distances (3-5 yards). I fired one magazine of Hornady Critical Defense and several mags of Geco FMJ ammo. There were a few light strikes (or hard primers) on the Geco loads, but the gun does have second strike capability and they went BANG! on the second trigger pull.

    I'm not crazy about the trigger length. My wife absolutely HATES the trigger after firing one mag. Still, I feel confident about stuffing the Bodyguard in a pocket holster for defensive carry.

  3. I've had a BG 380 about 3 years, and I love it. My son hates it. It feeds all ammo I've tried, including hollow points. I bought it new from Cabelas, with Insight laser, and a safety. Contrary to complainers, I find the safety easy to click on and off with my thumb, and I have average size hands. Larger hands might have more trouble. Sometimes I don't use the safety but I figure better to have and not use than the other way around.

    I haven't had the previously reported problems with a loose laser screw, or liquid getting into the laser. The laser buttons aren't that tactile but aren't heavy to use.

    The mags dropped out of the gun inadvertently while shooting, which I cured by filing the plastic mag release button a bit shorter (I was fat fingering it when shooting).

    The mags also wouldn't go in without pressing the mag release first, so I filed a chamfer on the top edge of each mag, which cured it.

    After firing a few hundred rounds from when the gun was new, I began to experience light strikes on the primers. To cure this, I purchased a sight removal tool, VERY CAREFULLY removed the rear sight (which was murder tight), dismantled the entire slide, cleaned out the firing pin chamber, carefully deburred and reassembled everything (didn't really need the deburring), gently radiused the firing pin groove (didn't need it but there are stories of early pins having square corners resulting in stress breakage). I stoned the vee of the rear sight so it could be removed easily next time. I was VERY careful not to remove too much metal fom the sight, went slow and nibbled little bits at a time and kept checking the fit of the sight to the slide. If I had stoned it too much it could have been too loose and moved when shooting or even fallen out! I suspect the reason S&W doesn't recommend this procedure is because they figure not everyone has the sense to do a good job, resulting in returns and/or liability issues. In short, I would not have done this work if I hadn't felt comfortable. I do not recommend you do the work I've described. A gunsmith can do it for you easily. I also installed a stronger slide recoil spring, and stronger hammer spring. I installed small washers to center the hammer, and filed the slide where the hammer was rubbing (on the slide). After this, no more light primer strikes. The problem could have simply been a dirty firing pin chamber or a combination of all the above, (I'll never know) plus some ammo manufacturers' primers are known to be harder than others, so the maximum hammer speed/hammer impact force is desirable.

    I smoothed the trigger pull by removing the steel rails/insert and stoning the side of the insert where the trigger bar rubs. This insert was uneven. The trigger stroke is still just as long as it was when I bought the gun, and as it was designed - which I feel is safest, and it's still a tad heavy. However, I find this preferable to installing an after market trigger kit which lightens the pull and shortens the trigger stroke, (which also could result in a shorter hammer stroke, slower hammer speed with resulting lighter hammer striking force. I believe it's a marginal hammer strike already so why make it even lighter?). Not everyone will have the issues I had, and some purchasers have had problems I didn't have. The disassembly I described requires punching out the roll pins securing the gun frame assembly, and the slide assembly. I recommend you don't do it; just leave it up to a gunsmith.

    S&W won't sell you spare parts for this gun, and they are very hard to find, but then, a new gun is a great price anyway!

    I am not liable for anything you do to your weapon, which is described in this comment. This comment is merely a description of what I have done to my own gun, for your entertainment.