Smith & Wesson’s other new offering in the Bodyguard line is a throwback to the Bodyguard name’s heritage. The original Bodyguards were small-fame, lightweight revolvers intended for concealed duty use. The first ones had shrouded hammers that prevented snagging on clothing when being drawn but still allowed the hammer to be manually cocked. They were produced with various model numbers beginning in 1955. The newest Bodyguard revolver is a unique, polymer- and aluminum-framed, DAO wheelgun in .38 Special.
What appears to be the new Bodyguard’s barrel is really a frame with an integral barrel shroud. The actual barrel slides in from the front and screws into the frame. The grip and rear of the frame are made of polymer with an alloy sub-frame that contains the moving parts.
One of the most obvious differences between the DAO Bodyguard 38 and other S&W revolvers is its integral laser. A permanent, integral Insight laser is mounted high on the right side of the frame. It is adjustable for windage and elevation and is activated by a button mounted atop the laser. A single push activates the constant-on mode, a second push switches it to pulse mode, and a third push turns it off.
The second significant difference is the top-mounted cylinder release. To open the cylinder, simply push the release forward and open the cylinder. If you’ve shot revolvers much, it will take a bit of practice to get used to it. S&W calls it an ambidextrous release, but I don’t agree because the cylinder still swings out the left side of the gun. You still have to switch hands to reload it, even if you can open the cylinder with your left hand.
I didn’t get to test the Bodyguard 38 as extensively as I did the .380, but the 14.3-ounce belly gun impressed me greatly after a couple of brief range sessions. It has a great trigger, comfortable grip, and more manageable recoil than straight alloy guns of the same size and weight. It is compact, lightweight, and easy to carry. With a retail price of $625, it’s also a heck of a value.