Back in January of this year, Smith & Wesson hosted a Media Day event in Las Vegas on the day before the 2010 SHOT Show opened. The purpose, of course, was to show off their newest offerings, which included two completely new guns that they have labeled the Bodyguard series. One is a compact .380ACP pistol and the other is a small double-action only revolver. Either may be of interest to law enforcement officers as backup guns or for off duty carry.
Both guns, along with S&W's other offerings, were available for limited shooting at the event. However, the Bodyguards were still pre-production prototypes and the exact release date for the production models was not available. Among my colleagues, initial impressions of the BG 380 were positive, while the BG 38 seemed to meet with less enthusiasm. Naturally, I've been anxious to get my hands on the production models of each gun, and that finally happened within the past month. The BG 380s are beginning to arrive through the supply chain and the three we have received so far sold quickly at our Pro Arms gun shop. Counting the prototypes, I have had the chance to shoot three of the BG 380s, as of this writing, and two of the BG 38s. In this column I'll report on the Bodyguard 380.
First, What's In A Name?
Smith & Wesson has produced some firearms icons over their history and they are recycling some of those venerable names in their modern production guns. The Military & Police, or just M&P, for example, is one of the most popular service revolvers in the history of law enforcement. With revolvers no longer the mainstay of police firearms, Smith has re-used the name for one of their new semi-auto pistols series, as well as some of their tactical rifles. The Bodyguard designation was originally given to a variation of their popular J-frame revolvers, which was basically a shrouded hammer version of the Chief's Special. First introduced in 1955, it improved the pocket revolver by reducing the likelihood of the hammer snagging on clothing when attempting to draw it from said pocket. So, if you are Smith & Wesson and want to give immediate credibility to your latest pocket guns, what would call them? The risk here is that the new offerings might not live up to their well-regarded namesake. From what I've seen so far, I don't think that will be any worry with the Bodyguard 380. Honestly, however, I think the jury is still out on the new revolver.
.380ACP: Who'd Have Thunk It?
The .380ACP had been languishing for decades, with mainly Walther's "James Bond" PPK (although 007's "like-a-brick-through-a-plate-glass-window" Walther was actually a 7.65mm/.32ACP) and Kel-Tec's P-3AT keeping that caliber alive. There were others, of course, from SIG Sauer and Beretta, and some other lesser known brands, but most folks had nearly forgotten about the 9mm Short until Ruger announced their new LCP at the 2008 SHOT Show. Ruger's excellent reputation for quality and renewed interest in concealable pocket guns collided at just the right moment in time causing the .380ACP to burst forth from relative obscurity and grab the gun world by the, um, throat.
Naturally, everyone wanted in on this new bonanza, so we can now add Smith & Wesson to the growing list of pocket 380s available from Ruger, Taurus, Kahr, Desert Eagle, SIG Sauer, et al. I think we need to keep in mind that the .380 is still a fairly weak cartridge by today's standards. Much of its resurgence is due to the convenient size of the guns available, as opposed to the effectiveness of the cartridge. Still, as a backup gun or as a gun you carry when you won't carry anything else, it can be of credible service. So, let's see what Smith & Wesson brings to the game.
A Venerable Name and Some New Features