Things you can’t buy (without undue hassle) in California: S&W Bodyguard 380

I’ll start this out with a disclaimer; I don’t really care for the .380 round. The size difference between a .380 and a 9mm is so small it’s almost negligible (as it relates to grip size required to house one), and the reduction in power is just not worth it in almost every case. But when a pistol has every other feature I want, and is only available in .380 I might make an exception.

This is the case for the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380. Let’s take a look at the stats:

  • Caliber: .380 Auto
  • Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
  • Barrel Length: 2.75″ / 7.0 cm
  • Frame Size: Compact
  • Action: Double Action Only (Hammer Fired)
  • Front Sight: Stainless Steel
  • Rear Sight: Drift Adjustable
  • Grip: Polymer
  • Overall Length: 5.25″ / 13.3 cm
  • Weight: 11.85 oz / 335.9 g
  • Frame Material: Polymer
  • Material: Stainless Steel w/Melonite® Finish
  • Finish: Matte Black

Oh, and it’s got an integral laser sight (about 0.5″ below the bore axis).

I like it. I would sell a kidney for a pocket 9mm with identical features (is anyone in the firearms industry reading this?). Like everyone I know, there are times that I want to carry a mousegun, but the tradeoffs are just not worth it with current offerings (a Glock 26 is about as small as I’ll go currently). But even if I wanted to buy this little guy, I can’t (this isn’t exactly correct, see here for details). Because it’s not on the California Roster of “Safe” handguns, and never will be. Why? Because it doesn’t have a magazine disconnect (or a Loaded Chamber Indicator, but that would be trivial to add).

For those who do not know, in 2006 (I believe it was 2006) our glorious State Assembly amended the law to require that any handguns (that were not previously on the “Safe” list) without a magazine disconnect cannot be sold to civilians in California (as usual, going through a POST academy somehow conveys one with a superhuman level of firearms safety that is not attainable any other way). This is a terrible idea.

A magazine disconnect is a feature that prevents the gun from firing when the magazine is removed. This is a defect, not a feature. When I pull the trigger, I want my gun to go BANG, every time. With a magazine inserted or without. See I understand the thought process here; if you take the magazine out, you obviously don’t want the gun to fire. Except when you do. Like when you’re wrestling with an attacker in a dark and wet parking lot at 3am and in the draw process, the magazine release gets accidentally actuated, and you get a click when you pull the trigger on a chambered round instead of a BANG.

That is not a safety feature. That is a liability that may cost you your life.

Now for the “twilight zone” trip, I actually can legally own one of these in California. I just can’t buy a new one from an FFL.

I could have a parent or child that lives out of state gift one to me. This is perfectly legal, but both of my parents live in California, and my son is only 2 (and also lives in California).

I could buy one from a Law Enforcement officer that decided he wanted to sell it. I have friends that are cops, so I could technically game the system by having one of them buy it, and then sell it to me. Seems like a bit of work. On a related note, I do see these come up for sale legally from time to time (because some cop bought one, and decided that they didn’t like it), but they are ridiculously expensive because not everybody can just go out and buy one in California.

But this is the route that most will probably take: I could find a friend that either lives out of state (with one of their parents or children living in California), or a friend that lives here (with a parent or child living out of state). Then I could have the person living out of state buy it, and legally transfer it to the person living here, and they could then decide that they “didn’t like it”, and sell it to me.

So what is the point of preventing me from buying it directly? Oh yeah, it’s part of a law that looks like it actually does something on paper, but in reality just makes owning a particular gun really really inconvenient.

TL;DR – California gun laws; making you less safe in the real world, and inconveniencing the shit out of you (but they sure look like they do something “good” on paper)!

UPDATE 06OCT11!

I recently made a trip to a new local firearms dealer, and they are stocking the S&W Bodyguard 380! I have not discussed the way in which they are legally able to do this with the owner, but I am assuming that it is through the “single shot pistol” exemption to the California “Safe Handguns Roster”.

Basically how this works is that the firearm is converted to fire only one round (usually with a “zero round” magazine, and a barrel that is longer than six inches. Once this is done, it becomes legal to transfer the firearm from an FFL to a private citizen. The citizen can then either convert the firearm back to it’s original configuration, or can have a gunsmith do the conversion (it’s very easy to do).

As far as I am aware, this is the only firearm dealer in the state stocking this firearm. You can contact PRK Arms in Fresno, California for more information. They maintain a list of FFL dealers that are willing to do DROS transfers from them, so you may have a local dealer that can get this firearm for you from them.

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4 Responses to Things you can’t buy (without undue hassle) in California: S&W Bodyguard 380

  1. This a an Awesome post. I will be sure to keep checking back
    and see what other great info is being posted. Thanks again.

  2. macmic6 says:

    Is this still a way to get it into Ca?

  3. Do not buy a bodyguard after several rounds mag drops out

    • Kia says:

      I have and EDC a Bodyguard 380. I have NEVER had the magazine fall out, for any reason and even have an extended magazine that holds 10 rounds. I have fired all 10 rounds without having the magazine fall out. I really like the gun, it is accurate, it is dependable, I rack a round in and pull the trigger and it never fails to go BANG. Perhaps your gun is defective and in that case the lifetime warranty that S&W has will fix the problem. Like a lot of people I was not a big fan of the .380 round, however, the easy ability to conceal this gun makes it extremely convenient to carry. I carry it in my right front pocket of cargo pants and have never been noticed carrying it. In the holster it does not “print” as a handgun, if anything it looks like I might have a cellphone there. Note, my cellphone fits in a separate pocket of my Wrangler cargo pants, that goes unnoticed by everyone. I live in a very rural area and our hoe is situated in such an off the beaten path area that most residents of our area don’t even know there’s a house where we live, even those who have spent their entire lives here. We have two 1 mile long gravel driveways to reach our property. Both are gated and locked. The local sheriff’s office leaves it to the discretion of the deputy on duty as to whether to answer a 911 call to our house. As a result we are well armed with security systems and firearms placed at hidden, but convenient areas throughout our home. My wife shot on her collegiate skeet team and is a wiz with a scattergun. We have rifles of varying caliber, AR-15, 30-06, etc. We also have a variety of shotguns, 12 gauge tactical pump, 20 gauge tactical pump and some single shot 12 or 20 gauges. And naturally we have handguns of varying caliber as well. I’m a very slim guy, owing to illness, so carrying a larger caliber handgun is not really an option without it being very noticeable, so the M&P Bodyguard 380 is the gun that both fits my body type and I carry a 10 round magazine as backup to the 6 + 1 configuration that allows for a nice discreet carry option. I suppose if I can’t get the job done with 17 rounds of .380 perhaps a gun is not the best option for me, but I am well trained and spend lots of trigger time at my home range, so I think I can get it done with the first 2 or 3 shots placed center mass. I do hope you can get your gun taken care of through Smith and Wesson. Their customer service has been stellar for me in the past on other gun issues. Good luck to you Irv.

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