Between 1913 and 1936, Smith & Wesson produced a pair of centerfire, pocket-type pistols, the S&W .35 Caliber Pistol (a.k.a. Model 1913) and S&W .32 Caliber Pistol. Both were notable for the almost complete lack of interest shown toward them by the shooting public. In fact, their commercial failure put such a bad taste in S&W's corporate mouth that it would be more than seven decades before the Springfield firm marketed another pistol of this class.
The .380 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge was a product of the fertile mind of John Moses Browning and first saw the light of day in Colt's Model 1908 pistol. Over the years the round has been known by various aliases: 9mm Browning Short, 9mm Kurz, 9mm Corto, and 9x17. European police agencies and armies embraced it and it was used as a service cartridge well into the 1960s.
As originally loaded, the .380 consisted of a straight walled, rimless case 17 millimeters in length topped with an FMJ bullet weighing 85 to 95 grains with a muzzle velocity of approximately 900 to 1,000 feet per second. While our European brethren considered such a round suitable for military and police service, in the United States it never achieved much popularity.
A Growing Market
But in the last few years, we have seen an explosion of interest in all .380 pistols. The reasons for this renewed interest are fourfold:
- Quality .380 pistols (e.g. Colt M1908, Walther PP/PPK) used to be made of 100 percent steel and were quite heavy. The use of alloy and polymer frames has allowed the manufacture of significantly lighter pistols that are much easier to carry all day.
- The use of improved propellants and high-tech JHP bullets has improved the effectiveness of the .380 cartridge, making it a much more practical choice for defensive purposes without any real increase in recoil.
- As more and more states have adopted "Shall Issue" CCW laws, the demand for small, lightweight handguns has really skyrocketed.
- Increasing numbers of law enforcement officers now carry a backup gun while detectives often need a "deep cover" handgun and .380 pistols' flat profiles and light weights make them naturals for these tasks.
As its name indicates, the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 was designed from the ground up for use by police officers and licensed civilians who needed a small, lightweight, concealable, and easy to use pistol. I believe it would be safe to say that S&W's engineers have delivered just that.
The Bodyguard 380 is based upon a polymer frame. The frame is reinforced with a steel insert that contains the trigger mechanism and the rails, which the slide reciprocates on.
The most important aspect of this construction is that it allows the 0.87-inch-wide Bodyguard 380 to tip the scales at a mere 11.85 ounces. That means unless you're wearing only a thong, you should have no trouble carrying this pistol concealed. Its smooth, snag-free exterior and bobbed hammer make it easy to draw from concealment.
There are, of course, a number of lightweight .380s pistols on the market today. But what makes the Bodyguard 380 really stand out from the crowd is that the polymer frame has an integral InSight Technologies laser sight. This unit can be activated by pushing buttons on either the right or left side of the frame. One push and you get a continuous light; two pushes give you a pulsating light; and three pushes shut it off.