Our readers know we are big fans of Smith & Wesson handguns here and for good reason. Pound for pound they make some of the very best semi-autos and revolvers that money can buy.
No matter your preferences and objectives you can rest assured that Smith & Wesson has a pistol for you. You are especially in luck if you need a tiny, lightweight gun for deep carry since S&W unveiled the M&P Bodyguard a few years back.
While it greeted the market at the time with a resounding “bleh” it has since steadily grown its following into one of the nicest of the latter-day polymer .380s for deep concealment, especially if one wants a laser, and is well deserving of the M&P livery that it has been bestowed.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a close look at this slick, light pocket pistol so you can decide if it is a worthy addition to your personal armory.
The M&P Bodyguard .380, and henceforth just the Bodyguard for brevity, is a double-action only, hammer-fired, polymer framed pistol chambering the venerable .380 ACP. Its slender frame contains a six round magazine plus one in the chamber.
Compared to many competitors’ pocket pistols, the Bodyguard is full featured with ample sights, a slide release and magazine release in the traditional locations and an optional thumb safety. A disassembly lever is located just ahead of the slide release directly over the trigger guard.
The style of the Bodyguard obviously hearkens to its larger M&P cousins, with the S&W logo and their now-distinctive “fish scale” serrations present at the rear of the slide. Weighing a scant 12 ounces unloaded and measuring just 5 ¼” from stem to stern and ¾” in width, this pistol is easily carried or hidden just about anywhere.
The tough Zytel frame is impervious to most mechanical wear while the stainless steel slide and barrel are finished in S&W’s Armornite to prevent corrosion while ensuring a hard-wearing gun.
Smith & Wesson are definitely building a Bodyguard for every taste, with a cursory look at their catalog showing ten variations of the base gun, with finish, control layout and lasers of various makes all being options.
The two most important options for these guns are the presence and style of a laser sight and the inclusion of a manual safety. Other options are a bare stainless steel slide and a coyote tan frame for you low-profile types.
The lasers are available in two styles, but both are made excellently by Crimson Trace Corporation. The first and most famous is the original offering, a red laser integrated into a special frame made deeper at the dustcover to accommodate it.
With the laser aperture just beneath the guide rod and muzzle, and two activation switches on either side of the frame, this is as low profile and snag-proof as a laser aiming system can get.
Nothing to detach, come loose or lose. The laser cycles from off, to steady on, to pulsing on, then back to off. This is a bit of a disappointment as pulsing lasers suck.
The second style of laser, again made by Crimson Trace Corp., is a clamp on Laserguard style that attaches to the conventional frame Bodyguard by clamping seamlessly around the trigger guard.
While a slightly bulkier option than the integrated laser version, in trade you get a high-vis green laser and an excellent “DG” style activation switch placed beneath the trigger guard at the top of the frontstrap, which will activate the laser with nothing more than a good firing grip.
The other major option for shooters is the inclusion or deletion of a manual safety, this being located at the rear of the frame within a prominent fence for the purpose. This fence and recess are visible on all Bodyguard models whether the safety is included or not.
The safety is moved up for safe, and down for fire, congruent with larger M&P models. This keeps the manual of arms broadly consistent, so if you want to keep it in the family, so to speak, you’ll be in good shape when upsizing from this pistol or downsizing to it from a fullsize or compact M&P.
The Bodyguard in the hand feels typical of most pistols in its class: abbreviated. But this is by design to enhance concealment and as far as such guns go the Bodyguard stands out with good ergonomics and a thoughtful control layout that mimics larger service handguns. A nice touch.
The frame of the gun is slippery in anything but ideal conditions with dry hands, something that is spoiled even by a little perspiration. To be fair, this is an accusation one can level at most polymer guns that go without a stipple job or the addition of grip tape. The gun does include though a pair of magazines, one that fits flush and flat for maximum concealment, the other with an extended baseplate that provides a little extra real estate for the firing hand pinky.
The Bodyguard’s long DAO trigger is decent, with a fairly clean break though it is a little uncertain and spongy just past the halfway mark of its travel. Unlike many other pocket pistols, though, there are several quality aftermarket trigger packages for this gun that can dramatically clean up the otherwise okay trigger.
And that may be the key absolute for extracting one of this gun’s best qualities: the Bodyguard is accurate! Firing the gun off the bench I was able to routinely obtain 2 ½” groups at 25 yards using Speer Gold Dot ammo.
This level of accuracy may not be required by those who see the Bodyguard as nothing but an across-the-table gun, but I will always take more capability, not less, whenever I can get it.
Getting this accuracy is made easier by the substantial combat sights atop the Bodyguard’s slide. You aren’t burdened by the tiny afterthought sights that usually adorn pistols in this class. If you have ever been at home on classic 3-dot sights, you’ll be glad of them and right at home taking the Bodyguard out for the first time.
One thing I am not happy with regarding the pistol’s design is the safety, if equipped. A long, heavy DA pull is safety enough for hammer fired guns, so I generally do not prefer them, but some folks do and S&W has seen fit to accommodate them. That’s laudable, but the operation of the safety lever is difficult, uncertain and fiddly all the way around.
They clearly drew their inspiration from the classic Glock slide release, and so made their safety lever the same way: flush, flat, barely-there and maddening.
While this ostensibly makes the gun easier to conceal and carry comfortably, since the lever should never dig into the flank of someone carrying it, it is counterproductive. A safety must be pronounced, positive in operation and certain, lest someone botch releasing it when they need to get the pistol running post-haste.
This is more of an academic concern, for this author at any rate, since I can just order the gun without it. And have!
One thing I experiences with my Bodyguard .380 that pestered me and, initially, hurt my impression of the gun, were periodic failures to feed, whereby the gun would begin to load the next live cartridge into the chamber but would give up halfway.
Normally, this type of behavior is a DNQ for me since reliability is paramount for any defensive pistol and at the least gets the gun dumped unceremoniously for a replacement, assuming the bad behavior is not characteristic of the breed.
A quick consultation with an associate and some searching on the internet revealed to me that this was an altogether too common occurrence with these guns.
Oh, no. My hopes were dashed; another toaster, another also-ran, shovel-ready pistol bound for ignominy. But, investigating further, I discovered that the vast majority of users saw their issues disappear after an honest break in period.
I’ll level with you reader: “break the gun in” is almost always code for “gun is not made well” or “bad design.” But in this instance, I am happy to report it is true.
After about 80 rounds of fire, suffering a misfeed every two to three mags, the problems disappeared and did not resurface for the rest of my usual one thousand round test.
There is always an exception to the rule, even if that exception merely proves the rule! If you have a Bodyguard that starts misbehaving right out of the box, give it a little patience and plenty of lube and see if the issues don’t disappear within a hundred rounds or so.
You’ll stay with a pistol that is one of the best equipped and best shooting in its category. You don’t want to miss out on that!
The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard is an excellent entry into their M&P stable and a fine deep carry or backup gun on its own merits.
Big gun controls and appointments on a tiny subcompact frame make this an obvious choice if you are already shooting a larger M&P or a just looking for a something slim that is a cinch to carry in any situation.