It’s been some time since my last article for Concealed Carry Magazine.
I’d been meaning to write one sooner, but to be perfectly honest, most of the new concealable handguns that have been coming out have just not sparked much interest in me. I’ve been bored with most of the options out there and no one wanted another compact 1911 article. During most of this time off, I’ve been packing SIG C3s and 229s, and all year I’ve been packing a G23-RTF2. That has all been from Mark Walter’s bad influence on me.
At SHOT 2010 I trudged through the show looking for something that piqued my interest enough to review. As I looked at all the new guns on the market, I really struggled with the malaise that’s been plaguing me when it comes to small handguns. That was until I walked into the Smith & Wesson booth. They showed me their new Bodyguard BG380. Instantly my Spock Eyebrow went up. What’s this? A little semi-auto pistol that I want to shoot? Since Kahr hasn’t come out with a 10mm MK10 pistol, this would do.
While the BG380 is the same size as the other pocket .380s that have dominated CCW handgun sales for the last two years, the new Smith is different. The difference comes from the whole feel of the gun. It’s as if S&W took an M&P pistol over to Walt Disney and put it in their “Honey, I shrunk the thing” machine. Normally when you shrink something, you lose a lot of qualities other than just size and weight (much like the Doberman Pinscher shrunk to Toy Pinscher size gives you a twitchy, fickle, and delicate thing). These Micro M&Ps are just as serviceable and snarly as the original, just in pocket size.
As neat as the little Bodyguard is, the real cool part happens when you are just packing it. I used a Galco Pocket Protector made for another pistol and it seemed to work just fine, but it’s hard to tell. You see, I’d put the gun in the holster and the thing would just evaporate. Gone. I’d have to reach back into the pocket to find it to make sure it was still there. I could carry it through 18 hour days and never know it was there until I was taking off my pants at night to go to bed; “Oh, what’s this?” It’s like finding that 20 dollar bill in your suit coat on Sunday, but better.
No printing, no giveaway bulge like on a snubby revolver when you are wearing your Levis or Wranglers. It carries and hides extremely well. Just like all the other polymer framed pocket guns that have become the bee’s knees for CCW permit holders. However this one, should you have to pull it, is actually an effective weapon because you shoot this one and hit your target. An advantage in my book.
The most unique feature of the BG380 is the in-frame laser module. Insight Technologies makes it for S&W and we’ve not seen anything similar out there. The module, should it fail, is replaceable. It’s fairly bright, but not as cohesive as other laser aiming devices from other companies. This isn’t a problem as this pistol isn’t meant for any longer range shooting, but I would have liked a more powerful laser. If I were Crimson Trace or Viridian, I’d be working on my own module to drop into the Bodyguard. The limitation on power comes of course from the batteries, and having the batteries within the frame as they did it makes me scratch my head. You can only shove so much battery in there. I’d rather they had engineered the weapon to carry the batteries in the floor plate of the magazine and had power contacts on the sides of the magazine body. Dewalt knows how to do this. It wouldn’t be hard, and it would be possible to use more battery. More battery is a good thing.
Some shooters argue against lasers as unnecessary gadgets. It’s true that a laser isn’t a necessary thing, but any device that gives you any sort of an advantage in target engagement or intimidation is a huge benefit, especially with pocket sized guns. Another thing some guys claim is that sights are unnecessary to such small guns. However, I checked the law books and I didn’t find any exceptions to gun laws or liability of gun use for small guns. You launch a bullet out of a small gun, you are just as liable for where it goes. And for a pocket gun with the purpose of defensive use, that bullet needs to go exactly where it will do the most work. Shot placement is even more critical in small defensive guns.
With the BG380, I found the accuracy to be exceptional thanks to the good sights and the laser. Making hits where I wanted the hits to go was not as difficult as other small pistols with their vestigial sights. Small guns don’t have the power and shock effect of bigger weapons, so placement must be precise.
The only downside to the BG380 is the trigger. It is heavy, with stacking, but it’s smooth. The more I shot it, the better it became. In spite of that, the pull is easy to predict. One section of the pull is long and it gets back to the point where you can feel that it stages for the break. I was able to shoot very consistently with this trigger, but I must admit, the Ruger LCP’s trigger is better. However, unlike other small .380 pistols that I’ve fired, I did not experience a single malfunction. I only had access to two different loads for this test: CCI Blazer Brass 95 gr. JHP rounds and Winchester 95 gr. Silvertips. Both rounds shot to the same point of impact without any problems.
The pistol itself is just the platform from which the projectile is launched and the BG380 gives you a small, concealable platform that you can have on you at all times, or just when greater discretion is required. The only thing one is giving up with the BG380 is power. I can’t let this review go by without mentioning that I consider the .380 Auto round to be the minimum cartridge which I deem as acceptable for defense. It falls someplace in the Force Continuum between harsh language and 9mm. I would only use it when guns of greater caliber are not an option. While I am not a huge fan of the .380 auto, I must admit to being a fan of the S&W Bodyguard. It’s cool, it’s reliable, and it works. It’s an absolute buy for those looking for a pocket pistol.
All prices as of November, 2010.
[ George Hill is an NRA Certified Pistol and Personal Protection instructor and the writer and publisher of MadOgre.com. Visit his website at www.madogre.com. ]