The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38 is a new “hammerless” revolver like those found in the Centennial line. Unlike those guns, the new Bodyguard 38 has a polymer frame and integral laser. It is one of two new compact handguns called Bodyguard introduced by S&W at the 2010 SHOT Show.
First, the basics, it is a five-shot, 38 Special revolver that is rated for +P ammunition. The hammer is fully concealed, and the gun is double action only. The gun is black with a grip. At first glance, it looks a lot like a model 442. But, this revolver is actually very different.
The Bodyguard 38 is a polymer-framed revolver, the first-ever by Smith & Wesson. This means that Smith had to go back to the drawing board to design this firearm. The lower frame (roughly from the rear of the cylinder back), is polymer, while the upper frame (surrounding the cylinder and housing the barrel) is aluminum. As you might expect, the revolver is very light, weighing only 14.3 ounces.
A significant change on the Bodyguard 38 is the relocation of the cylinder release. Instead of being mounted on the side of the frame, the release has been moved to the top of the frame, where an exposed hammer would normally be. Since the cylinder release is along the midline of the revolver, it is now ambidextrous.
Speaking of the cylinder, one of the problems sometimes cited by owners of Smith & Wesson J-frames is the extractor rod is too short to reliably eject fired brass. This is an annoyance at the range, but a possible deadly problem in a self-defense shooting. While not full length, the rod on the Bodyguard 38 is noticeably longer to provide a more sure ejection of spent cartridges.
Smith and Wesson lists the barrel length as 1.9″. Traditionally, S&W has listed the barrel length of their “snubbies” at either 1 7/8″ (1.875″) or 2″. I assumed that Smith was rounding up the 1.875″, but the company rep insisted the barrel length was exactly 1.9″.
Sights are fixed and black. The rear notch seems wider than the notch on the 442/642, but that is my impression only. I didn’t measure them, and the Smith rep was not sure.
Significantly, the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38 ships with an integrated laser from Insight Technology. The red laser mounts high and back on the right side of the frame. The laser is adjustable for drift and elevation. Two laser modes are offered: steady and pulse. To activate the laser, the shooter may turn the unit on by pressing a button on the unit.
What I am curious about is the collaboration with Insight on the development of this revolver. Smith & Wesson has offered Crimson Trace Lasergrips on many of their models, and I would have assumed they would bring CT in on this type of project. However, according to an Insight rep I spoke with, Insight worked hand-in-hand with Smith to develop this gun.
While I think lasers can be useful in certain circumstances, I do not know how useful this laser unit will be, as an extra step is required to activate it. Most self-defense shootings happen very quickly, and I am not sure that someone would have the time to click it on in its current configuration.
I’m certainly not a Crimson trace fanboy, but the activation of the Lasergrip is very intuitive and easily managed under stress. For that reason alone, I would have liked to see a CT laser used, or a different activation method of the Insight unit.
Dry firing the trigger was a pleasant experience. The Bodyguard 38 trigger was typical of S&W factory triggers, which is to say it was a smooth, and very manageable double-action pull. It was slightly smoother than that of my own 642, but not quite as smooth as the Ruger LCR revolvers I have shot.
Looking at the revolver, I immediately noticed the rubber grips come up higher on the frame, covering the portion of the frame where the web of my shooting hand normally rests. While this is undoubtedly good for shooting the Bodyguard 38, the grips are not available for other J-frames. So, don’t get excited when you look at the picture and see the grips.
I look forward to shooting the new Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38, and when I do, you can expect a full review here. MSRP is $509 and there is a Massachusetts compliant version.