Okay, so it's a small, pocket-sized, double-action only semi-auto pistol. I think we've all got that. It is basically the same size as the competition, so what will set it apart is whether it lives up to its namesake in quality and brings on some new features that the others do not have. I think the BG 380 scores some big points in both areas. First of all, this little polymer and blackened stainless steel gun simply feels good in your hand. The grip is small, but well shaped and fills your hand about as well as the size permits. Also, Smith includes a finger extension on the 6 round magazine. (There is an optional flat base plate included in the box, if you really want an even smaller feel.) Although recoil is noticeable in such a small gun, I did feel like I had good control of the pistol, even in rapid firing.
Other features also make this pistol stand out from its peers. I'll talk about the built-in laser in a minute, but the "iron" sights on this little gun are actually big enough to be useful. The rear sight is also drift-adjustable for windage. Check out the accompanying photos for a comparison of the sights versus laser accuracy. This pistol also has a slide lock lever that you can easily manipulate, and it is equipped with a manual safety. The safety is something that some can take or leave, but it is there if you want it and that is something that most of the other double-action pistols do not offer. All three of the levers on the left side of the gun are very low profile, trading quick activation for low drag, but you can still release the safety smoothly, if you do use it, so it seems a fair bargain. The magazine release is also smallish, but works positively and isn't likely to be accidentally bumped in deep carry mode. Not that you are likely to be doing speed reloads with a gun such as this, but the finger extension on the bottom of the magazine does help with positive lockup when the mag is inserted. This hammer fired gun also has one other nice feature that the others do not: repeat hammer strike capability. Each time you pull the trigger, the hammer falls. In the unlikely event of a misfire, you can try again. All in all, the folks at Smith are offering some good stuff on this gun.
And Now For Something Completely Different
As mentioned earlier, the BG 380 comes with a built-in laser sight. (So does the Bodyguard revolver, but I'll leave that for another time.) Built-in here meaning: whether you want it or not. The laser module, produced by Insight Technology, is an integral part of the dust cover, with the laser projecting from directly, under the muzzle. The ambidextrous activation switches are two gray buttons, one on each side of the laser, located just in front of the trigger guard. Pushing either button once produces a solid laser beam, pushing it a second time delivers a pulsing laser beam. Pushing it a third time turns the red beam of doom off. The laser does add a bit of bulk to the front of the gun, and, more importantly, cost to the price tag, but it is there. In response to the obvious question posed at the Media Briefing when these guns were unveiled, S&W has no plans to offer either of the new Bodyguards without the laser.
So, how does it work? On all three of the guns I have tested (once the laser was adjusted, of course), it worked great. In fact, accuracy was better on the prototype I shot in Las Vegas with the laser than with the open sights. On the other two, results were about the same, with the laser producing only slightly better groups at the 5 yard distance I was shooting. There is a down side to the laser, however. The little gray buttons require a determined effort to activate. Simply reaching forward with either index finger to press the button will not allow enough inward force to turn the thing on. You'll need to shift the gun in your hand to get enough leverage, resulting in essentially using two hands to engage the switch. When using this gun as a last-ditch get-off-me gun, you probably won't have time to do that. You'll need to be shooting, not groping around for buttons. I personally prefer Crimson Trace lasers for just that reason, instinctive activation, but they are not a player here. The Bodyguard is what it is, and that is why I think that the decent open sights on this pistol are a big plus and the laser is just icing on the cake. Currently, list price for the Bodyguard 380 is $575. It will undoubtedly sell for less than that, but probably not much less, at least until the "new" wears off.