Newfound consumer interest in the subcompact handgun has led many gun manufacturers to introduce smaller––but still potent––pistols that can be carried discretely as a backup gun or concealed carry piece.
But which ones are worth your time and money? One such example is the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380. One of the best of the new generation of subcompact handguns, it also has the most favorable dimensions and weight for those requiring packable firepower.
The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380 is a second generation subcompact pistol that takes over from––and is functionally identical to––the first generation Bodyguard. The pistol is a small frame, double action semi-automatic designed for concealed carry. Unlike the larger M&P handguns it is not a striker fired weapon, instead using a more traditional hammer and firing pin operating system. The gun lacks an external hammer, making it incapable of single action fire and the lighter trigger pull that entails. The double action hammer pull is rated by reviewers at 9.5 pounds and is described as “smooth” and “easy to use.”
The Bodyguard’s profile is of a stubby, subcompact pistol with the style and lines of Smith & Wesson’s M&P semi-automatic pistol series. The pistol lacks sharp edges and corners that could snag on clothing during a quick draw, and has low profile sights. The pistol utilizes a polymer frame, greatly reducing weight, while still using steel for the barrel, frame, and other strength-intensive parts. The result is a handgun that weighs just 12 ounces, likely the lightest subcompact semi-automatic on the market.
Not only is it the lightest, the current generation Bodyguard is possibly the smallest subcompact on the market. Overall length is 5.3 inches with a barrel length of 2.75 inches. Overall width is where the pistol shines: the Bodyguard is an amazing .75 inches wide. By comparison, the Glock 26, also in .380 ACP caliber, is .98 inches wide and the Ruger LCP has a width of .82 inches. The pistol is approximately 4.3 inches high.
The Bodyguard 380 is chambered in .380 ACP, or Automatic Colt Pistol. Developed by John Moses Browning, .380 was originally designed for the Colt 1908 pocket pistol. The use of .380 results in a narrower pistol than many but the cartridge itself is less powerful than other common small caliber handgun rounds. The Federal .380 ACP round in 95 grain full metal jacket packs approximately 200 foot-pounds in muzzle energy, compared to 364-foot-pounds for a similar Federal nine millimeter round. The Bodyguard is not rated for high-pressure +P rounds.
The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard comes in three color schemes: two-tone silver and black, flat dark earth and black, and all black. In each case the slide is treated with Armornite finish to resist rust and corrosion. The pistol also comes with several safety features, including a manual safety that prevents the trigger from being pulled and a loaded trigger indicator, which pops up when a round is in the chamber and ready to fire. Each single column magazine holds six rounds, plus an additional round in the gun’s action. The pistol grip is very short, and the Bodyguard ships with two magazines, one of which is slightly longer to accommodate larger hands.
Compact pistols are often difficult to quickly aim in stressful conditions. As a solution, Smith & Wesson has built a Crimson Trace aiming laser into certain Bodyguard models. This allows the user to quickly determine his aiming point without even drawing the pistol up to eye level. The laser is seamlessly integrated into the frame with an on/off button on the left-hand side.
The Bodyguard 380 is a simple weapon to disassemble. Unlike some other subcompact pistols, the 380 does not require the trigger to be pulled to field strip the weapon. The pistol is disassembled by locking back the slide and then pivoting the takedown lever ninety degrees with a tool. This allows the stainless steel slide to pull right off the frame for inspection or cleaning.
The Bodyguard is the smallest firearm in Smith & Wesson’s Military & Police lineup––and likely in anyone else’s lineup for that matter. The Bodyguard’s unobtrusive size and svelte weight make for a weapon that is easy to ignore over the course of a day but which can be brought quickly into action when necessary. For those looking for a small, lightweight pistol, the Bodyguard 380 is the handgun to beat.
Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.