The New generation fo S&W Bodyguard

The S&W Bodyguard series are classics in the revolver world. They date back to the 1950s and the advent of concealed carry in the modern world. Smith and Wesson brought back the Bodyguard in 2014 and modernized the revolver design to bring it into the modern century. The Bodyguard .38 represents the classic American snub nose. It’s a .38 Special revolver with a 2-inch barrel and a five-shot capacity. This classic layout has long paved the way for the defensive revolver, but the modern Bodyguard incorporates a number of features that were never a part of the classic design.

Old Bodyguard’s

The Old Bodyguard revolvers weren’t too different when we just read the specs. The original Model 38 Bodyguard was the first. It was one of the earliest production snub nose revolvers and utilized a novel shrouded hammer design. This would make it a snag-free design that would be easy to draw from a pocket.

Model 649
The Model 649 was the stainless .357 Magnum version of the Bodyguard.

That hammer shroud didn’t fully conceal the hammer. It left a small tab that allowed the user to manually cock the hammer of the gun. This feature would become one of the more renowned features of the S&W Bodyguard series. It’s a feature that’s rarely replicated and often unappreciated. Over time, the Bodyguard series would continue to evolve and incorporate calibers like .357 Magnum, stainless finishes, and similar features.

The 2014 Bodyguard would blow those old guns out of the water.

The New Bodyguard

The Bodyguard by S&W was part of this odd little effort in the early 2010s to bring polymer to the revolver market. Ruger has been the most successful with the LCR series, but S&W and Taurus have dived into polymer frames. Polymer has tons of benefits. It’s lighter but not expensive, like scandium or titanium. Polymer is cheaper, and revolvers are fairly expensive compared to automatics.

The S&W Bodyguard 38 and a new semi-auto .380 were released side by side to the concealed carry market. The S&W Bodyguard .38 series revolver was a significant departure from the classic Bodyguard line and could be considered a budget revolver. It often retails for less than 400 dollars. Initially, these were released with laser aiming systems, but non-lasered models were eventually released.

Bodyguard in hand
The Bodyguard isn’t a new idea but has modern appeal.

The gun followed the snub nose blueprint well but changed a major feature of the Bodyguard series. Gone was the tab to cock the weapon into single action. Instead, we got a top-mounted cylinder release. This provides an ambidextrous means to open the cylinder for reloads. It’s interesting, and time will tell if I miss the tab.

Bodyguard release tab
The release tab for the Bodyguard is different, but it’s fantastic.

The Bodyguard .38 has a 1.87-inch barrel and an overall length of 6.6 inches. It weighs 14.2 ounces and holds five rounds of .38 Special. It’s not the lightest .38 Special, but it’s fairly light for the price.

Bodyguard profile
The S&W Bodyguard uses polymer, which is odd for a revolver.

At the Range

I’m still learning how to shoot a revolver and shoot one well. In my ‘action’ shooting testing, I had a problem with hitting to the right a little more than I liked. It’s most certainly me jerking the shots. I kept hitting to the right as I practiced drawing and shooting, shooting double taps, and failure drills. In my slow-fire testing, I discovered I could produce very nice little groups with the gun at ten yards.

Bodyguard group
My slow-fire group wasn’t too bad, right?

Admittedly, even when my rounds were hitting to the right, they were consistently hitting to the right, so at least I’m consistently bad at shooting a revolver quickly. With a little practice and a slightly hesitant sight picture, I got better without getting much slower. The accuracy of my three-round group at ten yards convinced me the gun shoots better than I can.

Bodyguard sights
The rear sight is just a trench but a very useable one.

While the gun uses simple trench sights, I will applaud the rear trench for being a bit higher than most. Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seemed much easier to get a good sight picture with this revolver than many others in the same size configuration. While the sights are okay, I think a visit from the paint pen for added visibility would help. The trigger is certainly nothing to write home about.


It’s one of S&W’s least impressive designs, and maybe it’s because of the polymer. It’s got these jumps in weight as you pull, and at the end, it stacks. It’s a small revolver, so accuracy isn’t its main goal, but I would appreciate a better trigger.

Ride the Lightning

I shot some 125-grain rounds that moved pretty fast, and the end result was a nice slap to the hand. The recoil was most certainly there, and the 14.2-ounce weight of Bodyguard doesn’t absorb much of it. However, it’s manageable. Shooting a couple hundred rounds might have left my hand a little tired and sore, but I could do it again the next day without a problem.

MAn shooting revolver
The Bodyguard has the snap you expect from a small revolver.

The grip is surprisingly long, and I never suffer from hanging pinky. That most certainly helps in the control department. I never felt the gun lift too far off the target inside of 10 yards. I could pump five rounds of .38 Special faster than you can tell me, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” and not drift off target.

That unique ambidextrous cylinder release is actually very nice. It helped me rapidly reload the revolver. Since I’m new to the revolver in general, I didn’t have to get over the normal cylinder release placement. The big top-mounted design made reloading this J-frame surprisingly easy. I used the Zeta6 J-Pack and could get the gun back in action quite quickly.

Reloading revolver
The revolver reloads quickly with the release tab.

Drawing from the pocket proved easy. The famed ‘hammerless’ design ensures nothing snags, and it floats out of my Desantis pocket holster with ease. This makes it quick to draw and get that first round on target in a flash. I’m working on a subsecond headshot from the pocket draw. I’m not quite there with the Bodyguard, but I’m close.

A New Bodyguard

The S&W Bodyguard is a fun revolver without a hefty price tag attached to it. In practice, it’s plenty reliable but lacks some luster from the S&W revolver offerings. It’s not just the polymer but the unimpressive trigger. I do like the cylinder release, but would I prefer a tab to cock the hammer to single action like a classic Bodyguard? I think so.

Does it beat the Ruger LCR? I don’t think so. The LCR’s trigger licks the Bodyguard. Still, the Bodyguard can be had for less than 400 bucks. That’s tough to beat for a ‘name’ brand revolver, for lack of a better term.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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