Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380: How to legally obtain one in California

Much of my blog traffic is the result of this post. The crux of the issue that that you can own one of these in California, you can even buy one from a private party sale legally, but common wisdom around here is that you cannot buy one from an FFL as this gun is not on the California Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale (commonly referred to as the Safe Handgun Roster). This is not exactly true.

Before I get into this any further, please understand that I am not a lawyer, and this should not be construed as legal advice. You should consult a licensed attorney to answer any questions you have about this topic.

In 2005 California Senate Bill 269 was passed into law effective January 1, 2006. SB 269 amended the California Penal Code Section 12133 to read as follows:

(a) The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to a
single-action revolver that has at least a 5-cartridge capacity with
a barrel length of not less than three inches, and meets any of the
following specifications:
   (1) Was originally manufactured prior to 1900 and is a curio or
relic, as defined in Section 478.11 of Title 27 of the Code of
Federal Regulations.
   (2) Has an overall length measured parallel to the barrel of at
least 7 1/2 inches when the handle, frame or receiver, and barrel are
assembled.
   (3) Has an overall length measured parallel to the barrel of at
least 7 1/2 inches when the handle, frame or receiver, and barrel are
assembled and that is currently approved for importation into the
United States pursuant to the provisions of paragraph (3) of
subsection (d) of Section 925 of Title 18 of the United States Code.
   (b) The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to a
single-shot pistol with a barrel length of not less than six inches
and that has an overall length of at least 10 1/2 inches when the
handle, frame or receiver, and barrel are assembled.

Here is a link to the Information Bulletin (PDF warning) on this from the California DoJ.

So what this means is that you can legally have an FFL alter any pistol not on the California Roster to be a “single shot” pistol before you initiate the transfer. It is also perfectly legal for you (or a gunsmith) to convert the firearm back to its factory configuration once you have taken possession of it. Not all FFL’s will do these kinds of transfers.

This leads to a kind of WTF? moment when you realize that the California Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale is a complete sham, and does nothing but overcomplicate the process of purchasing your desired handgun. In my opinion, firearms manufacturers should file a class action lawsuit against California over this. Seems like racketeering to me.

So how does this actually work? Let’s say you want to buy a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 in California. The process will go something like this:

  • You locate a dealer willing to do an SSE (Single Shot Exemption) Transfer.
  • The dealer will alter the firearm to be single shot compliant under California PC 12133 (they install a 9-10″ barrel and a “zero shot magazine”, which is basically a magazine altered to prevent any ammunition from being loaded into it).
  • You purchase the Single Shot Compliant pistol, as you would purchase any other firearm in California.
  • Once you take possession of the Single Shot Compliant pistol, you can legally reinstall the factory barrel and use a standard magazine.

Most dealers that will do SSE Transfers have trade in packages where you can trade them the parts of the gun that you purchased in the Single Shot Compliant pistol for the OEM equipment, but not all do. You should discuss the specifics of how this works with your FFL before initiating the purchase.

In practice this means that you can buy pretty much any pistol that you could buy anywhere else in the country (with rare exception), you’ll just probably have to pay a little bit more for it than someone who lives in a State without retarded gun laws.

Thus the answer to the question “Is the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 California legal?” is most assuredly yes.

As is pretty much any other pistol.

One often wonders if the people that pass these laws have any idea of what they actually do.

Magazine Capacity: Reducing it is only an inconvenience to the good guys

It’s like clockwork really, some whackjob goes on a shooting spree, and virtually the next day we have a new proposal to enact yet another law that is supposed to prevent that type of crime.

I’m just gonna throw this out there: we do not have a single law that prevents crime. Not one. What we have are a bunch of laws that punish crime. After the fact.

Rape is illegal, I’m not thinking that there is a single state in the US where rape is legal, so that’s at least 51 laws against rape (if there is only one per state, and just one at the federal level. I’m aware that in reality, there are far more than 51 laws against rape), yet consider the statistics offered by Rape Trauma Services (rapetraumaservices.org):

1.3 women (ages 18 and over) in the United States are forcibly raped each minute. That translates to 78 per hour, 1871 per day, or 683,000 per year.

Now that is a horrible statistic. But it pretty well illustrates that laws do not prevent crime.

But that’s not my point (that’s just part of my point). My point is that firearm magazine capacity is not the problem to begin with.

Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign (or whatever they are calling themselves these days in an attempt to hide the fact that their organization is failing miserably at their stated goals), recently decried that:

In Tuscon, the shooter fired 32 bullets in only 16 seconds.

As if that is the problem. But it doesn’t stop there. The Brady Campaign attempts to state that the only reason that this whackjob was able to do this was because he had a high capacity magazine. Of course, this is in the interest of banning high capacity magazines by extolling that we must pass HR 308, recently introduced by Carolyn McCarthy D(ranged)-NY, which would ban any firearm magazine holding more than 10 rounds.

Which brings me to a guy named Joe Huffman. Joe is a gun blogger (http://blog.joehuffman.org), and his response to this claim by the Brady Campaign was to make a short video of his own, where he shoots approximately 35 rounds in approximately 16 seconds. While hitting a target at 15 yards. At age 55. Being sleep deprived. Having donated a pint of blood an hour prior. And having to clear a malfunction while shooting.

If we give him just a hair under 17 seconds the round count goes up to 40, all on target.

Oh, and he is using only 10 round reduced capacity magazines.

Here is the video.

And he’s not the only one. There are several youtube videos of other shooters who can accurately dispense shots from 10 round magazines just as quickly as they can from 33 round magazines. I can do it.

Which begs the question; if that’s the case, why do we need high capacity magazines anyway?

And I have an answer; convenience as a law abiding citizen.

Look, let’s not mince words here: criminals don’t need full capacity magazines, or even high capacity magazines. I wouldn’t either, if I were planning on going on a shooting spree.

Full capacity magazines (or even high capacity magazines – there is a difference) are really only useful for home defense or concealed carry (for self defense). I look at it like this:

I carry a 9mm pistol with a standard magazine capacity of either 17 or 15 rounds (depending on which pistol I’m carrying that day). I’ve already got to conceal a steel and plastic brick on my person, and it’s not as easy as some people seem to think, when you have to do it all day, every day.

I also carry either one or two spare magazines on my person, depending on what I’m wearing. Why? Because an empty gun is a club, and not really even a terribly effective club. In recent years the instances of multiple attacker assaults have risen. I also know that sometimes shit happens. If you’re in a fight for your life, in a place and time not of your choosing, it is entirely conceivable that you might do something dumb. Like accidentally depress the magazine release on your pistol while wrestling with an attacker.

But that’s irrelevant. The fact is that I carry somewhere between 30-50 rounds of ammunition for my CCW gun in either two or three magazines. If I’m limited to 10 round magazines, that means I need to carry between 3 and 5 magazines. One in the gun, and between 2 and 4 more concealed somewhere on my person.

Could you carry a full size pistol and four spare magazines fully concealed all day every day for a week in 105 degree weather? Would you want to?

It would be like ridiculously hard to do that in the summer time here (where it regularly gets over 105 degrees for weeks at a time). But I can carry 30-35 rounds while wearing shorts and a tee shirt; one magazine in the gun, and one in a hip pocket.

But that is all dictated by mission. My mission is simple; carry what I think I might reasonably need to go out into the world, do what I need to do, and get me and my family home alive should something really terrible happen, while keeping all firearms related items fully concealed from public view.

If on the other hand, my mission were to go out and kill a bunch of people, I know I only need to keep concealment until I am ready to start shooting. Which is also true for Lawful CCW folk, however the difference is that someone bent on a shooting spree knows for a fact that they only need to basically get where they are going to start the shooting. The lawful CCW people assume that (with any luck) they will not be shooting at all that day.

If I’m not worried about keeping concealed all day, I’ll just wear a jacket with enough bulk to give superficial concealment to whatever I feel I need to carry. If I get caught, so what, I’ll just start shooting.

But this is the reality of the issue. The gun control supporters don’t want the average person to think about this issue in these terms, because when they do it becomes readily obvious that banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds doesn’t to a damn thing to prevent crime. All it does is make it really inconvenient for the good guys to carry a decent load of ammunition.

Fortunately for me, when California passed a law restricting magazine capacity to 10 rounds in 1999, I had the foresight to purchase full capacity magazines for all the guns I might want to own in the future. I spent ~$2500 on them, and have spent a couple hundred dollars cleaning and maintaining them since then. So unlike someone who is just growing up, or just getting into shooting, I have the option of choosing to use full capacity magazines. This is a horrible state of affairs. But it does illustrate a secondary part of why reducing magazine capacity is useless: there are already too many out there.

If criminals want them, they’ll get them.

Unfortunately I did not buy any M14 magazines back in 1999. But today, I would really like to buy an M14. So if I do, I will not be able to own magazines for it that hold more than 10 rounds (unless I move out of commiefornia).

But that is only because I am a law abiding citizen. If I were a criminal, well I’d just drive to another state and buy some at a gun show (or from a gun shop, or another criminal who I knew that lived in another state), and then drive back. And since I’m at it, I’ll get a bunch of full capacity mags for guns that my criminal friends might have, and charge them enough for them to pay for my whole trip, my mags, and turn a tidy profit while I’m at it (if you think this doesn’t happen, you’re lying to yourself).

Again, this is the reality of the situation. But the pro gun control people in this state don’t want you thinking about the issue in terms of reality, because then… well you see where this is going.