Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38

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.

Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38

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.

S&W Bodyguard 38

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.

S&W Bodyguard 38 for sale

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.

Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38 for sale

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.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

87 replies on “Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 38”

EXCELLENT observation, Alan! I failed to ask that question at the Show. As a right-hander, I wasn’t terribly impressed by the placement of the button as compared to the Crimson Trace LaserGrips.

I am lefty, and I bought the BG 38 because of the thumb cylinder release. Also, the laser button is in a good spot for your right thumb if your using a tactical style grip. Or, if your hands are on the larger side, you should be able to reach the button with your left thumb also.

The laser button on the BG 38 is in a perfect position for a lefty – right by your thumb. However the laser is pretty much useless. 1) it is a “push” button, so you’re never quite sure it’s actually ON until you see it – should be a switch that you can turn on while drawing and KNOW it’s on, and 2) the laser is sorely underpowered – hard to see in a moderately lighted room.

My suggestions to S&W (you listening?) – can you put bigger/more powerful batteries in the grip so that the laser can actually be seen?

I could see the laser across the majority of the Bass Pro Shop on the opposite wall. Very clear in a well lighted room. .

I really like the size and weight Smith & Wesson went for. I thing it’s a fantastic conceal and carry 38. The laser isn’t ideal but, you can train urself to turn it on quickly if you were to need to use the 38 in an emergency. If not it’s still a revolver that will always fire and no one will know u have, including the bad guys. My only knock is that it isn’t 6 capacity. 5 is all well and good but I’m a much bigger fan of a 6cylinder revolver. Impressive revolver though, especially when you compare it’s coat to others in its range. Like Rugers LCR.

I was in the same boat. Lazer was highly visible for me. The other lazer could be low battery

The laser can be moved to the other side of the weapon. At least that is what I was told and I think that is also stated in the manual.

I just bought a 638-3 and plan on putting a Lasermax-J on it until I saw the news release on this one. They need to make an all alum. alloy one with a Crimson Trace grip-switch and no-snag laser frame. Any idea on the list price or price range for this model?

Smith and Wesson has gone from a maker of the world’s finest handguns,, to a maker of beans

On the topic of ambidexterity, which side does the cylinder open to? I was sort of hoping that it would open to the right for us lefties, as currently the only left-handed DA revolver I know of is the South Paw, by Charter Arms. I would love to see S&W make a lefty line and I know I am not alone.

Comments are closed.