Bodyguard 380 Review

Bodyguard 380 Review

By Mark “Six” James

The Bodyguard 380 Review: A friend called me the other day and asked if I wouldn’t mind taking a moment to write a review of the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380,.   As a protection specialist and firearms instructor, I chuckled and said, “Harlan you know I don’t shoot starter pistols.” He then replied, “You have never seen a handgun you didn’t like to shoot.”  I said, “You are right, give me a week and I will get back with you.”

My everyday carry weapon is typically a compact or full size .45 ACP or 9 mm subcompact when I want to travel light.  I am not one to be sucked into the caliber wars as accuracy should always trump caliber size and in close quarter engagements it is often your tactics more so than the caliber size or marksmanship which will keep you alive.

However I am a proponent of a person carrying the largest caliber that they can shoot accurately.  A well trained operator will handle their business with any caliber you put in their hand, unfortunately most people are not well trained and handgun encounters are rarely one shot stops.

I had seen the “Bodyguard 380” advertised but had not taken the time to really look into it, as I had not historically been a big fan of pocket guns.

Although, I am a firm believer the situation should always dictate the tactics and the tools.  With that said there is a definite place for pocket guns.

Personally I think pocket guns function best as secondary and tertiary tools.  Most have poor sighting systems, undersized grips and are often underpowered.  Probably the biggest challenge I see with them is how they are often sold.

I see many people attempting to buy them as primary weapons for new shooters.  Many people are of the misconception that because they are small in both stature and caliber they will be easier to shoot and have less felt recoil.

Effective recoil management starts first with a good grip.  Since most people buy firearms and never get proper professional training they often suffer from poor fundamentals be it improper grip or poor sight alignment.  Thus rarely learning how to master the tool.

When I went to my local gun shop and range today to take a closer look at the Bodyguard 380, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of big gun features built into this small package.

The Bodyguard 380 has a polymer frame with a stainless steel barrel and slide.  It is also equipped with a manual thumb safety, slide stop, external takedown lever and loaded chamber indicator.

It has useable raised stainless steel adjustable sights (dovetail cuts) and an integrated Insight laser sight on the vertical axis with ambidextrous laser controls (constant on, pulsating, off).   The laser features a battery saver cut off, which automatically shuts off after 5 minutes.

It is a double action only, hammer fired semi-automatic handgun. While the double action may help reduce accidental discharges, from the new shooters I polled some were uncomfortable with the long trigger pull.

The trigger pull appears to be around 8 – 9 pounds.  However effectively managing a long double action trigger is something that a few more lessons can easily address.  It also features a steel guide rod.

The magazine for the bodyguard 380 has an extended finger tab on the bottom to make the grip more ergonomically pleasing.

The bodyguard 380 performed well on the range. The sighting system was effective and the recoil was what I expected out of a sub 3 inch barrel on a polymer frame. The weapon will also fire with the magazine removed.  The slide also locks back on an empty magazine.

While I am not ready to make the bodyguard 380 my everyday carry weapon, I would move it to the front of the line for pocket pistols.  The $399 suggested retail is a good value for the features built into the handgun and explains why dealers are having a hard time keeping them on the shelf.

The bodyguard 380 is more than fit for duty as an ultra concealment or secondary tool. In my opinion it is not a starter handgun and functions best in the hands of an experienced shooter.

The light weight, small frame, and short sight radius are not features that lend themselves to new or untrained shooters.  With the right operator or training the Bodyguard 380 can compliment your defensive capabilities.

In the hands of the untrained operator it has the potential for a bad experience.

Bodyguard 380 Review

Model:         BODYGUARD® 380
Caliber:         .380 Auto
Capacity:         6+1 Rounds
Barrel Length:     2.75″ / 7.0 cm
Frame Size:         Compact
Action:         Double Action Only (Hammer Fired)
Front Sight:         Stainless Steel
Rear Sight:         Drift Adjustable
Grip:             Polymer
Overall Length:     5.25″ / 13.3 cm
Weight:         11.85 oz / 335.9 g
Frame Material:     Polymer
Material:         Stainless Steel w/Melonite® Finish
Finish: Matte     Black

Purpose: Personal Protection, Professional / Duty
Mark “Six” James is the Executive Director of Panther Protection Services a full service protection agency.

He is a firearms and combatives instructor and internationally published author.  To find out more about Panther Protection Services visit www.pantherprotectionservices.com or www.facebook.com/pantherprotectionservices

  • Terry

    Wish I had read this review sooner, I just bought a Bodyguard.380 for my wife for her birthday. We plan to put a few rounds through it this weekend. Now I’m wondering if I got her the right pistol.

  • Stan. K

    Skip .380 and just go with a 9mm. Diamondback DB9 or the Kimber Solo.

  • Christopher Carley

    Excellent gun, I dont have one but reviews are good from what I hear, I carry a Smith and Wesson M&P 40 full and sub. My target patterns are tight and better then my glock 22..

  • Alonzo Gomez

    No experience with this gun (and no intention to change that), but I enjoyed the review and entirely share Six’s views here.
    Otherwise I think they could add a lever or two because the design isn’t busy enough for a pocket gun (sarcasm). It does look like an attempt to satisfy those who want a BUG to take on primary duty.

  • http://www.pantherprotectionservices.com Six

    @Terry if your wife is a new shooter, I would recommend renting a compact or full size semi-automatic handgun to train on initially. I would teach her on something simple to operate like a Glock 19 or a Springfield XD9 (the grip safety on the Springfield XD forces her to start out with a proper grip on day 1). Both are simple to operate and the larger gun will be easier to hold and the weight will help absorb the recoil.

    The small, lightweight gun in the hands of a new shooter who doesn’t have good fundamentals can lead to the shooter having a bad experience and becoming more recoil sensitive. Remember she is trying to control a mini explosion going off in her hands.

    Keep the gun so once she learns how to shoot, she can them transition into the smaller package. When new shooters have bad experiences most shy away from training as opposed to getting more training to enhance their abilities to protect themselves.

  • Rick C.

    Thanks Six–good review! Terry; I agree with Six’s comment about starting your wife out on something simple, but dependable; until she masters the essential skills of shooting…position-grip-breath control-sight alignment-trigger squeeze-follow though. The pocket cannons are excellent choices for shooters who, because of environmental or political climate, can’t be seen with firearms. However, I don’t think they are good tools to learn the basics. For training; Glock Gen 4, Smith M&P and Beretta Storm are full size guns with variable grip sizes–remember, her hands aren’t as big as yours, so her training will go easier if you can get/rent something that fits her hand. The Ruger LCP is another good choice for pocket carry and is a bit smaller than the BG380. Very tight groups at 25 feet!

  • http://www.icepltd.com Doc Rogers

    Hi Six: very interesting article and review on the BODYGUARD® 380! Its great knowing what’s out there on the market and your professional opinion counts. Thank you. Keep Safe and God speed.

  • http://www.pantherprotectionservices.com Six

    A lot of great commentary. Please keep it coming. Remember the context of the article was a review on the Bodyguard .380. A lot of great guns out there. Personally I don’t like anything below a 9 mm for professional or home protection as a primary weapon. As I communicated in the article pocket guns work best in the hands of an experienced shooter. When you are talking about pocket guns it is no different from anything else. Situation dictates the tactics and tools. The smaller the tool, often the harder for many to manipulate the tool.

    The Sig 238 in .380 is another good pocket gun. It is a little heavier but also comes equipped with night sights and shoots like a Sig. The heavier weight will help absorb recoil better particularly when you load that pocket cannon with Plus P ammo. Before you purchase a pocket gun make sure you truly think through what you want, size or functionality. Also think were do you plan to carry the tool and make an informed choice. Most importantly train with the tool. Your next gun fight should not be your first rodeo with that tool!

  • Ted

    Great little pocket pistol. Mine has never failed and it is accurate especially when using the laser.

    The trigger is easy to get used to and I appreciate the pull. When one is excited in a shooting situation he does not need a 3 lb trigger pull. Great gun. S&W has done it again

  • Casey Williams

    I also have a BG380 and I’m very happy with it. Right after I got it I noticed that about 1 out of 3 rounds would not fire. Seemed to be an issue with the firing pin not striking correctly. I sent it in to S&W for repair and got it back in about 2 weeks, working great now with no issues. Not sure if mine was just a lemon or if I befouled something when I cleaned it after the first couple of trips to the range, but either way S&W made it right.

  • http://www.bpisecurity.com Rhino

    I have a bodyguard 380 I use it mainly as a secondary weapon there are times and situations where I have used it as a primary. Only down fall is the trigger pull . I use a hornady hollow point round in the chamber.

  • 00Seis

    First weapon carry? SW revolver. Period. Bodyguard 380 lots to handle… laser, not practical as you would never get it up and running when needed. SW aluminum frame, priceless.

  • Alonzo Gomez

    This is a review of the Bodyguard .380, but since 00Seis brought up the point, I’ll pile on if I may.

    For BUG use I don’t think that the J-frame is beatable either. We’re talking about a weapon liable to be used as a last chance (like in the middle of a ground fight) and that may be fired from under garments or for a contact shot. A bug is a ‘belly gun’ with which clearing malfs, making precision shots, or reloading aren’t options, unlike with the primary. This is a small revo’s job.

    I believe that manufacturers are responding to market pressure, not common sense, with offerings like this Bodyguard. Many CCW’ers get tired of the hassles of daily carry and go smaller and smaller (if they don’t give up packing when ‘inconvenient’). And yet, they want something trendy and refuse to let go of some ‘tacticality’. I’m surprised that this piece doesn’t come with a rail. ;)

    But we bodyguards are professionals and have no excuse for such concerns. Or for misunderstanding the mission. A BUG or pocket gun is not to be used in a primary role, but when the primary has failed or is not accessible.
    I know this sounds excessive to those who’ve had to dress light while on the job, but Six will confirm that there’s always a way to make it work with proper gear, clothing, and training.
    Discussions on the trigger pull weight illustrate the confusion I’m talking about (unless it’s 15 lbs it won’t matter much).

    Also, when you go to the BUG you’re in a desperate situation that needs to be ended at once. .380 is an anemic caliber that hollowpoints can’t help, unlike the 9 mm. A .38 may be no ‘hammer of Thor’, but point blank it will work, especially in 135 or 158 gr loadings. And J-frames offer the snag-free, concealed/shrouded hammer, versions that are a must for those types of weapons.

    Another thing many people overlook when comparing ballistics of autoloaders vs. wheelguns is that revolver ammo doesn’t have to feed so the cavity of the payload can be opened up a lot more. Terminal ballistics can be different from what chronos and energy levels seem to say. And that’s one reason why us, not so young agents (lol), don’t turn our backs on revolvers as easily as some.

    I used to go full-size 1911 for primary and J-frame for BUG (like many), but realized that I was too often tempted to just carry the little gun. So I got a bobtailed Commander instead and make the effort to carry that ALL THE TIME. If I went back to some high-risk assignments, I’d probably back it up with a pocket-carried .38 again.

    Now certain pros (LEOs, armored transport, deep-cover, etc… usually not EP guys) can require a very small gun as a hideaway and do need small and flat pieces, I get that. But it should come on top of the primary, not to replace it, and in a bare-bones, simple format, not with as many buttons and levers as a full-sized SIG.

    I’m a firm believer in the KISS and ‘if it ain’t broke’ principles, but I’ve been wrong before and don’t have to sell guns, unlike S&W.

    My apologies for the topic-jack, Six!

  • http://www.pantherprotectionservices.com Six

    My philosophy remains the same. Situation dictates the tactics and the tools! A lot of great commentary by many At contact range my Cold Steel AK47 or Recon 1 will probably do more damage than any BUG. They never malfunction and they never run out of ammo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Sammarkhandz Monggol Onn

    it`s better to be handled it wisely and protectives….it`s are well better when someone to be on guided by profesionallies to be on safety ways…