Smith & Wesson have applied the Bodyguard name to a variety of lightweight wheel guns over the past 50 or 60  years. The latest iteration of the Bodyguard brand again includes a light weight revolver but also, cleverly, a light  weight pistol (offering something for everyone).

The Bodyguard 380 pistol and Bodyguard 38 Revolver were both designed with similar objectives in mind. Both are  lightweight compacts, both are chambered in low-powered .38 caliber cartridges, both have a similar black finish  and, notably, both come standard with a built-in laser sight.

The laser sight is a feature S&W will be marketing heavily. The INSIGHT manufactured lasers feature ambi control, constant and pulse modes, windage and elevation adjustment and three hour continuous operation.

This pistol is a brand new design. It is lightweight at 11.85 ounces, although not quite as light as the Kel-Tec P-3AT which weights in at just 8.3 oz. Its polymer frame with integral laser has a cool futurist look to it.

It is double action, has an external safety and can hold 6+1 rounds of .380 ACP ammunition.

The Bodyguard 38 is a lightweight J-Frame with aluminum/polymer frame and steel cylinder. While less exciting than the above autoloader, it is a decent compact revolver. It features an ambidextrous cylinder release on top and fully enclosed hammer for snag-free drawing. The laser is mounted on the left side (laser switch is mounted on top for ambidextrous use).

First, the basics, it is a five-shot, 38 Special revolver that is rated for +P ammunition.  The hammer is full 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.

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 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 my 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.

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.

Heading to the range to try both of these now.  A range review will be added shortly.