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”

I just picked up my new Bodyguard .38 on 07/21 and I must say I’m very pleased with it so far. It feels so light, compared to my old Taurus Ultra-Lite .38 anyway and shoots very nicely. I dont know how much lighter or even if it’s an illusion but it certainly feels great in my hand. I had my concerns when ordering it because of the new style grip as I have an unusually large hand but they were unwarranted.
My only 2 concerns are the already mentioned placement of the button to activate the laser, I didn’t buy it for the laser but it would be much better if it were activated like the crimson trace. The second is the cylinder release button, knob, lever whatever is made of plastic. Yes I’m sure it’s a very strong & durable type of plastic however it is the only part on the gun that does not look… top shelf. I would not mind the few extra grams of weight for a metal release.

Overall I’m very impressed with my Bodyguard .38, especially being a completely new design. I’m disabled, a double amputee on the left side so I’m limited to revolvers and while I can shoot the big guns this is a perfect CCW tool for me and compliments my back-up Judge revolver nicely. I really want a M&P340 with the Crimson Trace grips but the price is out of reach for me. I paid $550 for the .38 which was a great deal I thought.

Has anyone found a holster that works well with this gun? Its seems some of the one’s I have looked at dont fit or the laser gets in the way.

just got a e-mail from S&W.
You can order them by calling the number below. They run $64.95 each.


Regards, Paul

1-800-331-0852 Ext. 2905

leather or what ?just spent $500, would like tacticle/smooth option for wife…65 bucks ….really ????more options plz

Uncle Mike’s size 36 for inside the pants (open style, not sure about the one with the clasp). I also have the cc belt holster offered by S&W, it is made by De Santis.

Don Hume makes a holster to fit the BG 38 with laser, Its the JIT Belt slide, costs under $30, you can order from their web site, I have 3 of these for asst. handguns and love them for concealed carry

I found a holster I love for the Bodyguard S&W 38 spl. It is a Soft Armor # 15 and has 4 bullet loops on the front of the holster with a snap to hold the gun in the holster. Fits perfect and is adjustable was about $17. I carry it on my motorcycle or anywhere I go. It does not affect the laser on the side. YMMV.

I held this tonight. My first inpression was VERY, VERY! light. My second impression was it needs hogue grips. My third was for a “J” frame it’s small for a medium size hand. My pinky will not fit.

As far as laser instructions tap once and it’s a solid laser, tap again and it blinks, tap again and you turn it off. As a righty you will use your right thumb to activate the laser. Just pretend your cocking the hammer back.

Overall, this would make a great gift for a woman that needs that protection when your not around.

Sold a Bodyguard 38 to a customer. Brought it back following week. Every second cylinder the gun will not advance the next round. Has anyone else had this trouble? Waiting to hear from S&W about repair.

It’s because when he pushes the cylinder closed he doesnt lock it in by turning the cylinder left

Yes. same situation. It works fine dry function but apparently recoil disarticulates the oddball ratchet mechanism. I found this failure to rotate on one sample but two others did not have the problem.

Comments are closed.