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Smith & Wesson M&P® Bodyguard® 380 Self defense... Yes, that is a thing

08/23/2020
These days, more Americans are purchasing firearms and practicing legal concealed carry than ever before. Who would blame them? Politicians are running for leadership positions on a hate America and Americans first platform, state governors and big city mayors are working to crush a robust economy and put people out of work. Violent, rioting mobs occupy large portions of our major cities, terrorizing local residents. At the same time, city governments work to defund and disband their own law enforcement and tie the hands of the remaining by imposing no arrest or no bail release policy on the police. Jails and prisons are emptying violent prisoners into the streets.

Sounds dire? Worrying? It should, because it is. Especially since the national Democrat platform says:

“Democrats will enact universal background checks, end online sales of guns and ammunition, close dangerous loopholes that currently allow stalkers and some individuals convicted of assault or battery to buy and possess firearms, and adequately fund the federal background check system. We will close the “Charleston loophole” and prevent individuals who have been convicted of hate crimes from possessing firearms. Democrats will ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. We will incentivize states to enact licensing requirements for owning firearms and “red flag” laws that allow courts to temporarily remove guns from the possession of those who are a danger to themselves or others. We will pass legislation requiring that guns be safely stored in homes. And Democrats believe that gun companies should be held responsible for their products, just like any other business, and will prioritize repealing the law that shields gun manufacturers from civil liability.”

According to the NRA, additional proposals include so-called “universal” background checks, the elimination of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s three-day safety -valve provision, and gun owner licensing, which would turn the right to keep and bear arms into a privilege dependent on the whim of government bureaucrats. The Democrats would empower government intrusions into the home to dictate how Americans keep and store firearms for self-defense and to confiscate firearms without due process based on the flimsiest of evidentiary standards. Moreover, the draft platform calls for a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and their magazines, something explicitly prohibited under the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller.

So when your democrat buddy says, “Obama never took your guns”, remind him it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Instead, he delegated the honors to anti gun governors, mayors and town council surrogates who passed a record number of gun restriction, elimination, and seizure laws than had passed the thirty years prior. The New York AG is currently suing to dissolve the NRA, the largest pro gun lobby group in the world. New gun buyers aren’t panicking, nor are they paranoid. They just see very real threats coming, on many fronts, and they do not want to be defenseless. These days, I always carry a quality 380 Auto subcompact pistol, a combination that definitely has a role in self-defense.

S&W M&P Bodyguard highlights

I am told, giving people a sense of the size of an unfamiliar object is best accomplished by placing it in the proximity of something very familiar. Well. Everyone knows Albert and he knows more than a little about relative relationships, so, there you go. Initially, the S&W M&P Bodyguard was compared to a mechanical pencil, laying on my drafting board. However, a survey of people under the age of 90 suggests more people know the exact height of this Einstein bobble head, 8″ tall – 2.75″ at the base, than are familiar with the terms “mechanical pencil” and “drafting board”. And, yes, I could have placed a ruler next to the pistol, but what fun would that have been?

There are no surprise control surfaces, just the usual suspects, and where you would expect to find them. Always good in a defensive firearm. Side controls, back to front: thumb safety, slide stop, take down lever and, aft of lower trigger guard, magazine release. The M&P Bodyguard is supplied with two magazines and both flat and finger groove extender floorplates. Extender version shown.

Take-down is straight forward; remove magazine, check for empty, lock slide open, rotate down and remove takedown lever, move slide forward and off.

The M&P Bodyguard is a camming, tilting barrel design that fires from a closed, locked breech. It is double action, not a striker or blow back design, and hammer fired. Combined, the Bodyguard features make for a stronger and more reliable pistol and delayed opening after firing often results in higher velocity and certainly greater reliability. Double action also allows a second strike at a stubborn primer, where training regimen permits. The dual, staged recoil spring eases racking effort, but provides proper energy storage and resistance for a reciprocating slide.

There is a dropped gun safety in the form of a firing pin blocking plunger embedded in the slide, which requires a trigger pull before getting out of the way of firing pin travel.  So no blade safety poking through the trigger. The Bodyguard will fire with or without a magazine inserted.

An open top, low ejection port and oversize extractor contribute to the Bodyguard’s reliability. Dovetail mounted, blackened stainless steel front and rear sights are durable they stay put where adjusted. Alternative sight sets are available from S&W and third party suppliers. The M&P Bodyguard is a sub compact, so it is… brief in the area of the polymer frame.

With trigger finger at trigger level, I can get two fingers on the grip, with my pinky curled under the floor plate. No, not as much control as having all fingers around a grip as might be the case with a full size pistol, but more than enough control to back up a 10.5 lb double action trigger pull.

The M&P Bodyguard is tucked in all over. Some pistols sport diminutive dimensions when they are built around the 380 Auto cartridge, but then they go with thick grips or a thumb safety that expands the envelop. Not the case here and there are no sharp, snagable… it’s a word now, to hang up on clothing. Yes, I am stalling with pictures because I have not yet thought how to address the 380 Auto Loxodonta in the room. So read the spec table for a few minutes while I think.

The 380 Automatic… the cartridge

S&W M&P Bodyguard

Manufacturer

Smith & Wesson
SKU 109381
Origin USA
Type Semi Auto DA Only
Caliber .380 ACP
Capacity 6+1
Metallic Sights Drift Adjustable
Barrel/Slide Stainless/Armornite
Grip Frame Polymer
Finish Matte Black
Overall length 5.3″
Height 4.3“
Grip Width 0.75″
Sight Radius 4.5″
Barrel Length 2.75″
Weight – Empty 12.0 oz. Actual
MSRP $379

Designed by JMB, the 380 Auto  first made an appearance for use in the Colt Pocket Automatic in 1908. It was introduced in Europe by FN of Belgium in 1912 as the Browning Short. It has seen substantial use in both military and law enforcement applications, as well as a civilian defensive weapon.

The 380 Automatic has had been assigned a variety of nomenclatures including, but not limited to: .380 Colt Automatic Pistol, .380 ACP, 9mm Browning Short, 9mm Kurz, and 9x17mm. The official SAAMI name is “380 Automatic”, no decimal point.

I often carry a 380 Automatic. Sometimes as a backup to a primary, but also when working outdoors around the house where there is a good deal of physical activity and both hands are occupied with the task at hand. It is a comfortable and not conspicuous carry and it offers protection where none otherwise exists.

Maine has more than an infrequent number of rabid fox attacks on residents, without provocation. Not a probability, but a very real possibility, and preparedness is always good. Additionally, we now live in a strange world with lots of people drawing satisfaction from harming others and my wife and I choose not to be victims.

Ammunition selection

The S&W M&P Bodyguard is not sensitive to ammunition brands, bullet weights or bullet types. Very important as ammo selection varies greatly from one individual to another and, sometimes, from one application to another.

Two approaches I’ve taken with factory ammunition and component bullets. Far left – Interceptor ARX and ARX injection molded 56 grain ARX copper/nylon compound bullets. Above right, Remington Golden Saber ammunition or 102 grain brass jacketed hollow point component bullets. Over a chronograph, fired from the Bodyguard, ARX MV clocked 1,263 fps and the Golden Saber generated 753 fps.

As published ballistic gel results seem all over the place, when I have the time and inclination, I gather my own data in a setting under my own control. ARX penetrated 14.5″ and the Golden Saber 13.0″. By comparison, a non expanding PMC 90 grain FMJ penetrated 20.5″.

The ARX does not expand, but it does generate a significant lateral fluid pressure load. How do I know? Tie a string with a slip knot around the gel block at 2″ intervals. Mark the string where it passes through the knot, shoot the gel block and measure how far the string has pulled through the knot. It is a good relative indicator.

The Golden Saber or brass jacketed hollow point expands to approx double its original diameter even at 380 Auto velocity levels, but still penetrates 13″ which is good; bare gel, no denim, flannel, or sheet rock barriers in front of it. The PMC FMJ is a good illustration of why the 380 Auto earned a poor reputation in the distant past. Zero expansion, minimal lateral load and over penetration. The ball ammo design, in ancient times, was required to make a 380 auto loader cycle reliably. Not needed now.

Why not use a simple blow back 22 LR rimfire? I won’t put my foot in my “22 LR is not powerful enough” mouth, because #war_harbinger will tell me that he routinely lion hunts with a 22 LR, but I will say that subcompact 22 LR pistols are about as reliable in function as a jamming desk stapler. Is that better? Again, subcompact auto loaders, as quality rimfire pistols with a 3.5″ barrel and longer barrels tend to be reliable… a reliable pistol with an anemic cartridge, with unpredictable terminal ballistics.

Accuracy, shot to shot

Ten yard, five shot groups; Remington Golden Saber left, Interceptor ARX right. Both measure 1.8″ with the biggest challenge coming from the long double action trigger pull. From my perspective, excellent performance from this type of firearm and for its intended purpose.

In sintesi

The Smith and Wesson M&P Bodyguard is an excellent 380 Automatic pistol; materials, quality of design and quality of assembly. Subsequently, it is also highly concealable, reliable and accurate as a subcompact pistol. It may not have the power of a 45 Auto or even a high capacity 9mm Luger chambered pistol, but it is easy to use, easy to control and light and small enough to carry where other pistols might be left at home. Nice gun.

 

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Real Guns is a membership supported publication. Membership offers access to: all current and archived articles, handload data, ballistic calculators, and the Real Guns Image Gallery. Membership is available for $29.95 for twelve months.

Please either Sign inorJoin Real Guns.