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Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 38 | Common Issues [Solved]

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Smith & Wesson is one of the most renowned and beloved gun makers in the world. For over a century, they have been producing high-quality firearms including handguns, rifles, and a variety of revolvers and other firearms. However, even the prestigious Smith & Wesson isn’t immune to the occasional problem with their guns. An example of this is the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .38 revolver.

While it’s a phenomenal handgun and loved by many of its owners, it’s also prone to a few problems. Let’s explore whether these problems have an easy fix or what your course of action should be when you encounter them. 

If you’re looking for the semi-auto pistol version, that is the Bodyguard 380.

S&W Bodyguard 38 Problems 

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 38

Trigger and Cylinder Lockout 

A problem that isn’t unique to Smith & Wesson, but is typical of revolvers, in general, is when the trigger and cylinder lock-up. Trigger and cylinder lockout is when you pull the trigger halfway back, then stop for cautionary reasons. You might see someone run into your path of fire out of the corner of your eye, or you may have simply changed your mind about shooting. 

Either way, it’s possible that when you release the trigger after pulling it halfway back, that the cylinder locks up. If this happens, you’ll have to manually move the cylinder either forward or backward into the proper firing position to resume shooting. This is extremely impractical if you rely on the Bodyguard .38 for self-defense. 


You’ll have to manually move the cylinder into a firing position to shoot your gun again. However, if the problem persists every time you pull the trigger halfway back then release it, your gun is defective. The most likely problem is a mechanical or manufacturing error and in the words of Smith & Wesson, “that’s the way it is.” 

If this is a problem you’ve encountered with your revolver and have a reliable solution, please leave it in the Comments section below! We always welcome outside solutions for common gun problems. 

Misfire After Reloading 

Another common problem with the S&W Bodyguard .38 is to have a misfire after reloading the weapon. The strange thing is that the gun typically fires on the very first round after reloading, but the cylinder fails to rotate. This means that your second trigger pull will be a misfire, but that the cylinder rotates and resumes normal operation. Let’s go over the chain of events that’s happening here. 

  1. You reload your revolver with fresh rounds and close the cylinder. 
  2. The first round fires perfectly, but the cylinder fails to rotate to the next bullet. 
  3. Your second trigger pull results in a misfire, but the cylinder rotates on the trigger pull. 
  4. Shots 3 through 5 go off without a hitch and you’d never know there was a problem with the weapon. 
  5. The only issue is with the first shot after the initial round is fired. 


An easy solution to this problem is that the cylinder didn’t latch completely after you reloaded and closed it. Try closing the cylinder softly, but make sure that it latches completely. If this resolves the issue, then great. However, there’s also a chance that an unlatching cylinder wasn’t the issue and your problem will persist. If this happens, the best thing you can do is have your gun serviced or send it back to S&W for a replacement. 

S&W Bodyguard 38 Side View 

Light Striker Resulting in a Misfire 

There are times when you pull the trigger, the hammer falls, but nothing happens. During normal operation, your weapon is supposed to fire anytime the hammer falls, but this problem is known as a “light strike.” The most likely problem is that the striker spring is loose, or that dirt is getting in the way of your hammer making solid contact. 


Misfires are never a good thing and it’s important to get to the bottom of the issue. On your own, you can disassemble your Bodyguard .38 and make sure that everything is cleaned, oiled, and good to go. You can also tighten the striker spring if the gun appears clean and dirt likely isn’t the issue. If the problem persists or you’re uncomfortable tightening the striker spring, you should have your gun professionally serviced and tested. 

Cylinder Doesn’t Close Completely Because of Extractor Star 

If you don’t properly clean and maintain your Bodyguard .38 revolver, there’s a good chance that you’ll have problems with the extractor star. The extractor star is on the cylinder of your gun and helps with the removal of used cartridges. However, if enough dirt, oil, or gunk accumulates on the star, you won’t be able to completely latch the cylinder when reloading. 


The best way to keep this from happening is to clean your gun regularly. If you keep your extractor star and cylinder clean, you won’t have this issue with your Bodyguard .38. To clean your extractor star, use an old toothbrush and a Q-tip and lightly sweep and brush away the debris on and under the star. 

Top view of the S&W Bodyguard 38

Loose Extractor Rod 

Another possible problem with the Bodyguard .38 and all revolvers for that matter is a loose extractor rod. Check the extractor rod to ensure that it’s tight using your fingers. If the extractor rod feels loose or you’re suspicious that this is the issue, let’s look at how to tighten it.  


When tightening the extractor rod on an S&W, always place EMPTY casings in the chambers to support the extractor before tightening or loosening it. There are proper tools to loosen/install the extractor but if you lack those tools there are other acceptable tools, as long as you don’t use pliers. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as far as how tight the rod should be. If you don’t trust yourself, you can take your gun to a gunsmith and they will tighten the rod appropriately. 

Our Analysis 

As you can see, the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard isn’t immune to its fair share of issues. The good news is that most of these issues aren’t unique to S&W revolvers, but are common in revolvers in general. Most of these problems outside of the chamber locking up due to mechanical issues also have easy fixes. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with revolvers and how to maintain them before purchasing the S&W Bodyguard .38. 

Wrap Up 

Despite the problems that are common with the S&W Bodyguard .38, a majority of gun-owners love this little weapon. It’s small, reliable, and doesn’t have many unique problems that other revolvers don’t also have. If you’re in the market for a small and reliable revolver, the S&W Bodyguard .38 is one of the top options on the market. 

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Robert J Letzgus
Robert J Letzgus
2 years ago

The cylinder release seems to be the most common “deadly” problem on the this revolver. What I mean by deadly is that it can make the gun inoperable, making a life or death situation more deadly for the victim. It has a tendency to jam and not engage forward all the way, making the trigger lock up. The gun overall seems pretty good quality except for this ambidextrous cylinder release. It is a plastic piece that is flimsy and seems loose all the time. It’s in a position that if you drop the gun in a tussle it could make it inoperable or at least only worth the 5 shots in the gun, making it unable to reload the gun. I’ve had my brand new Bodyguard about a month and already had to send it back twice for this repair. The customer service is pretty good as far as being prompt and nice but hopefully they fixe the problem permanently.

Bill Robinson
Bill Robinson
1 year ago

I had no idea of all the possible problems with a revolver.

Jim Miller
Jim Miller
1 year ago

I’ve had my Bodyguard for just a short time and am wondering if there’s a decent machined aluminum cylinder release available to replace that awful plastic one that comes from the factory?

1 year ago


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