Making A Good Gun Great
By Will Dabbs, MD
Sporting 8+1 rounds of .380 ACP onboard, the upgraded Bodyguard is slim, svelte and powerful. Its original trigger,
however, can use a little work — That’s where Galloway comes into the picture.
The Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 ACP pocket pistol is almost — but not quite — awesome. Running on a miniaturized version of John Moses Browning’s inimitable linkless recoil driven action, the Bodyguard packs as much power as possible into a truly tiny package. Unlike many .380 pocket guns, the S&W Bodyguard has the same sorts of features and controls you might find on a proper full-sized combat handgun. This aspect alone sets the little gun apart from its peers.
The Bodyguard is legitimately tiny. Weighing a paltry 12 oz. empty and sporting an overall length of only 5.3″, the Bodyguard will ride comfortably in the palm of your hand or the front pocket of a pair of jeans. Both front and rear sights are drift-adjustable and cut from stainless steel. The 2.75″ barrel is stainless steel and the frame is lightweight polymer. The gun is also available with the niftiest integral laser sight.
What most appeals to me about the Bodyguard are the controls. The gun has a pushbutton magazine catch in the same spot as a 1911, as well as a slide release comparably oriented. There’s also a nice crisp manual safety activated with the thumb of the strong hand when firing right handed. If you want it you can use it. If you don’t, then just leave it switched off. Everything is easy to access and intuitive to use.
The trigger, however, is an altogether different beastie.
The Bodyguard sports a long, thick, heavy DA trigger. This design offers an added measure of safety for a pocket pistol and provides a second strike capability should your day end up extra-sucky. However, it’s really long and heavy. The weight itself is not particularly onerous but the length of pull is, conservatively, about 12 feet. You pull and pull and pull and eventually the trigger breaks, but you have to work for it. Enter Galloway Precision.
The S&W Bodyguard .380 is indeed tiny. By applying some innovative design and materials science the
S&W engineers built a pocket gun actually fitting into a pocket.
Galloway Precision markets themselves as your polymer carry pistol specialists. They upgrade guns from Ruger, Kel-Tec, Smith & Wesson, GLOCK, and SIG offering trigger jobs, magazine extensions, polished feed ramps, and improved guide rods. Galloway takes all these good guns and makes them markedly better. Naturally all of their parts are made in America by Americans.
Galloway offers several different upgrades for the Bodyguard. The first order of business is that atrocious trigger. The Galloway Short Stroke kit replaces the trigger bar with a hardened billet steel component and a new flat-faced Santiago trigger. The Santiago trigger has a pre-travel stop built into the trigger itself as well as an adjustable setscrew determining post travel. The kit also includes an increased rate hammer spring, a decreased rate blocker spring, and a decreased rate firing pin return spring along with a hammer spring spacer. This kit is the end result of years of experience with the Bodyguard platform, and the trigger is available in three colors.
The next step is to replace the original factory guide rod with a new one formed from billet steel, along with a corresponding 13-pound recoil spring. The Galloway artists then polish the pistol’s feed ramp and give the little gun a general once-over, smoothing and deburring the chassis. Lastly, they added a +1 magazine extension to my existing magazine along with a 10 percent increased rate magazine spring. This brings the little gun’s capacity up to 7+1 without any significant geometric penalty.
Here’s all the stuff the artisans at Galloway removed and replaced from my Bodyguard.
The Galloway transformation is intriguing. The overall treatment does not lighten the trigger pull at all. The pull is simply shortened and made much more crisp. Where previously the trigger just kept going and going, now it reaches a distinct breaking point about 35 percent shorter than the original. This abbreviated trigger travel retains the same safety attributes of the original long double-action design while making the gun much more pleasant on the range.
The 13-pound recoil spring mitigates felt recoil and ameliorates muzzle rise. The .050″ hammer spacer increases the hammer spring rate to spunk up the impact of the firing pin. This makes the gun more reliable with stiffer primers.
On the range the overall effect simply makes the tiny little gun more pleasant to run. Where previously the gun’s geometric envelope made it appealing enough to overlook the questionable trigger dynamics, now the gun is actually kind of fun despite its diminutive stature. While a pocket pistol need not be particularly enjoyable to remain effective, a positive shooting impression means better, more frequent training and subsequently more familiarity and positive muscle memory.
The forward latch is for takedown, the middle catch is the slide release and the rear device is the manual safety.
Sights are cut from steel and drift adjustable and the mag release is right where it belongs.
The full treatment from Galloway Precision on your S&W Bodyguard .380 will set you back about $200. So long as you don’t enjoy some draconian local laws you can legally ship your pistol directly to Galloway for the upgrade and receive the gun back without involving an FFL. Considering this is a piece of equipment upon which I will entrust the lives of my family, the upgrade seems a reasonable investment. Parts and workmanship are all top flight throughout, and they even offer applique grip material to enhance your hold on the gun if desired. As I had already applied a set of thermosetting Talon grips to my gun, such stuff was superfluous. The Talon grips are precision cut and stick in place with industrial adhesive. You then set the cement with a hairdryer, and it stays there for the rest of time.
I bought my S&W Bodyguard .380 years ago because I was enamored with the integral laser and combat style controls. The tiny platform and bantam weight made it easy to tote, while S&W quality meant the gun fit me well and ran reliably. However, the long mushy trigger had relegated the gun to the wall of the gunroom rather than my pocket, years ago. The factory trigger was just so long and stiff I didn’t like shooting the gun. If I can’t get behind practicing with a handgun it becomes a showpiece rather than a working tool.
The Galloway Precision treatment dropped my S&W Bodyguard .380 back into my pocket. The gun is still the best combination of portability, modest weight, and superb ergonomics of any defensive .380 pistol in my collection. However, now with the Galloway Short Stroke kit installed, the S&W Bodyguard .380 trigger makes the pistol a working gun once again.
Your standard daily loadout should include a flashlight, a proper blade, a watch and a compact carry gun.
Since Galloway Precision’s resurrection of my Bodyguard, it’s become an EDC gun again.
The 5.5-lb. striker fired trigger on your GLOCK 42 will always be more pleasant on the range than that of any DA-only pistol. However, the S&W guys built the Bodyguard .380 around a double-action trigger for a reason. This gun is not designed to ring steel a football field away. It’s intended to ride inconspicuously and comfortably on your person until being called upon to save your life in the midst of the direst of life’s emergencies. You want the gun to shoot accurately and reliably every time you pull the trigger, but you must also trust it to be safe when you carry it concealed. The combination of S&W design and Galloway optimization does just that.
If you own an S&W Bodyguard .380 and you plan to use it for real as your daily carry gun you might want to let the artisans at Galloway Precision work a little magic on it. They retain all that is wholesome and righteous about the original firearm and polish out the bad stuff that made it a suboptimal defensive tool. The end result is reliable, capable and more human friendly. My Bodyguard .380 now shoots about as well as it carries. I tote mine regularly and feel ready to face anything unpleasant life might throw at me.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index