S&W Model 649 Bodyguard

Gun Reviews Handguns Rob Garrett
S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The current production Model 649 Bodyguard features a stainless frame, barrel, and cylinder. Chambered in .357 Magnum, it also has a 2.125” barrel with a full underlug. Smith & Wesson Model 649


In 1959, Smith & Wesson introduced the Model 49 Bodyguard.  The Bodyguard featured a distinctive humpback shape that shrouded the hammer spur. The design allowed the Bodyguard to be cocked for single-action fire while still being suitable for pocket carry. To some, it was the best of both worlds.

To many, the Bodyguard was never as sexy as the Centennial or as classic as the Chief’s Special. However, it had a loyal following, especially for those who pocket carried. The Bodyguard has survived throughout the years and is currently produced in two models. The Model 638 Airweight, is chambered in .38 Special, and the Model 649 stainless steel, is chambered in .357 Magnum. Earlier this year, I reviewed the Model 638 and it was only reasonable that I follow-up with a review of the Model 649.  

The Model 649

I recently requested a new production Model 649 for evaluation. While I have several older Bodyguards in my collection, this was my first opportunity to evaluate a new production Bodyguard that is chambered in .357 Magnum.

Our test pistol was a Model 649-5 that features a stainless steel frame, barrel, and cylinder. It weighs 22.2 ounces and, is considerably heftier than the 14.6 ounces of the Model 638. The overall fit and finish on our pistol were clean and void of blemishes, machine marks, or sharp edges. The actual finish is a soft polish that is both durable and attractive. The internal parts are a combination of steel and MIM parts. Like other J-frames, that are chambered in .357 Magnum, and features a 2.125” with a full underlug. This extended length allowed Smith to use a longer ejection rod on the 649 for more positive ejection of the longer magnum cases.

S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The current production Model 649 is shown with the author’s mid-sixties Model 49 chambered in .38 Special.
S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The internal design of the Model 649 has changed very little since it was introduced in 1955. The new pistol does take advantage of a MIM hammer and trigger.

The front sight on the Model 649 is a ramp shape that is pinned, making replacement or upgrade relatively easy. The rear sight aperture is a shallow square notch. The double-action exceeded the 12 lb. limit on our electronic trigger pull gauge. The single-action broke cleanly at 3 lbs. 8 oz. I found the double-action to be smooth with no grit or creep. The Model 649 comes standard with a set of extended synthetic “boot” style stocks that fill the gap behind the trigger guard and cushion the backstrap. These are extremely comfortable and are efficient in absorbing recoil.

I will point out that the sights on the Bodyguard are probably the most difficult to use of any of the J-frames. The contour of the “hump” flows to the top strap with no delineation behind the rear sight. In addition, the aperture and recess tend to blend in with the frame and the exposed hammer spur. There are a few tricks to improve the sights. In the past, I have used a sharpie to blacken the rear sight recess and blade and painted the front sight yellow or orange. One upgrade that is very popular is replacing the factory sight blade with either a standard dot or a big dot from XS Sights. This does require drilling the new sight blade for the retaining pin.

S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The 1/8” front, pinned, sight blade is a ramped design to prevent snagging.
S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The hump design of the frame, along with the hammer spur, can make finding the rear sight more challenging than with other J-frames.
S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
Several years ago, Smith & Wesson redesigned the thumb latch to help prevent “thumb bite.”

Range Time

The .38 Special cartridge continues to enjoy widespread popularity. This is reflected by the excellent choices in personal defense loads that are available from most major manufacturers. We hit the range with three of the most popular +P loads. Federal’s +P 130 gr. Micro HST is specifically designed for short barrel revolvers and features a uniquely designed, wadcutter like, jacketed projectile. The Micro HST averaged 834 fps and was very consistent with an extreme spread of 33 fps. I also tested Speer’s time-proven +P 135 gr. Gold Dot Short barrel load. The Speer load averaged 894 fps with an extreme spread of 23 fps. The final.38 +P load was Hornady’s +P 110 gr. Critical Defense. This load features the FTX projectile with a polymer tip that prevents the hollow point from being clogged by clothing and other barriers. The Critical Defense averaged 884 fps with an extreme spread of 23 fps.

Given that the Model 649 is chambered for .357 Magnum, I ran a few rounds of Speers 135 grain Gold Dot Magnum Short Barrel out of the little blaster. The Magnum load averaged a hot 1,104 fps with an extreme spread of 20 fps. However, this load is brutal to shoot and very hard on the pistol. Timely follow-up shots were very difficult! In my opinion, Magnum loads in any J-frame are not practical. At least for my needs, I will stick with +P .38 Special loads. 

S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The smooth and contoured trigger improved the shooting experience.
S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The author’s target after firing his 5X5X5X2 drill.

Most of my shooting was done from seven to ten yards. It is important, especially with fixed sight revolvers, to ensure that your chosen load hits to point of aim. Since the Model 649 is chambered in magnum, I was curious to see where the point of impact was with the selected .39 +P loads. At seven yards, I found that the Federal HST hit the point of aim. However, the Speer 135. Grain Gold Dot hit approximately 1” low and the 110 grain Hornady load hit approximately 2” below the point of aim. I was shooting at an indoor range and battled both lighting and the extremely small rear sight.

One of my favorite drills is a modification of Ken Hackathorn’s 10-10-10 drill. Designed for semiautos, the drill consists of 10 rounds, shot from 10 yards, in 10 seconds. I modified the drill for J-frames where I shoot 5 rounds, from 5 yards, in 5 seconds. This is repeated twice for a total of 10 rounds. All rounds are fired double action. The target used for this drill is the NRA bullseye. Scoring is done by the values on the target. I managed a score of 98 after losing two rounds to the 9 ring. I was pleased that I had four hits in the X ring. I did find that I had trouble tracking the black front sight on the black bullseye. Both runs were well under the 5 second par time.

Most of the testing was done using premium personal defense loads from Federal, Speer, and Hornady. Federal 130 gr. HST , Hornady 110 gr. Critical Defense , Speer 135 gr. Gold Dot Short Barrel

LoadAverage VelocityAccuracy
Federal 130 gr. HST +P834 fps1.75”
Hornady 110 gr. FTX Critical Defense +P884 fps2.5”
Speer 135 gr. Gold Dot Short Barrel905 fps2.25”
Velocity 10 ft/Accuracy 7 yards

Daily Carry

For several weeks, the Model 649 became part of my daily carry. I replaced the factory grips with a set of the new VZ 320 G-10 stocks that are now offered without a finger groove. The 320 is very similar to Spegel Boot Grips and fills the gap behind the trigger guard and has a slight palm swell. The 320s are ideal for pocket carry where rubber type stocks can cause issues. They also work well with either speed strips or speed loaders. In addition, the 320s are available in 10 colors.

S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
The newest version of the VZ 320 stocks do not have a finger groove. Their shape is comfortable and functional. VZ 320 Grips

There has never been a greater selection of holsters for the J-frame series.  For IWB I tested the Philster City Special and the Galco Triton 2.0. Both holsters are made from molded Kydex and proved to be very comfortable, especially when carried in the appendix location.

For inside the waistband, I tested the Blue Force Gear ULTRAcomp and the Galco Stukon-U. The BFG is a minimalist design that is made from thin, high-performance laminate that is extremely durable. The Galco Stukon-U is made from a layered, closed-cell foam and packcloth. It provides some cushion and the exterior is tacky to retain it in the pocket.

S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
Both the Galco Triton 2.0 (L) and the Philster City Special (R) proved comfortable and versatile for IWB carry.
S&W Model 649 Bodyguard
For pocket carry, the author tested the Blue Force Gear ULTRAcomp (L) and the Galco Stukon-U (R). Both are well designed pocket holsters that worked well.


It has been 61 years since the Bodyguard was introduced. The fact that it is still in production is a credit to a design that has proven timeless. The Model 649 has an MSRP of $735.00, and a street price that is significantly less.


SKU: 163210

Model: Model 649

Caliber: .357 Magnum

Capacity: 5

Barrel Length: 2.125”

Overall Length: 6.6″

Front Sight: Pinned Blade

Rear Sight: Fixed

Action: Single/Double Action

Grip: Synthetic

Weight: 22.2 oz.

Cylinder Material: Stainless Steel

Barrel Material: Stainless Steel

Frame Material: Stainless Steel

Frame Finish: Satin Stainless

MSRP: $735.00

Note: The historical information contained in this article came from History of Smith & Wesson by Roy Jinks and Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson by Jim Supica and Richard Nahas

For more information visit Smith & Wesson website.

Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • FirstStateMark October 9, 2020, 9:48 pm

    I found a model 49 (no dash) five shot in near mint condition in the local gun store about a month ago. I usually carry a 642 but aging hands need a little less recoil that the all steel 49 gives me. Box and papers for $399. Beautiful little gun.

  • Sherri Strain October 9, 2020, 11:00 am

    Why just a few weeks Rob ?

    • Garrett Rob October 18, 2020, 6:00 pm

      I have my daily carry setup that is standard. I put the 649 in the rotation to see how it carried. Obviously it is bigger and heavier than my 642 alloy frame gun. It was ok but didn’t replace the 642.

  • Pete October 9, 2020, 6:18 am

    I have a Model 36, and a few years ago I tried to find a Model 49 to go with it at what was then a reasonable price. It couldn’t be done. I’ve always been amazed at the accuracy of the Model 36 as short as it is. I’m not a fan of brutal recoil, so +P strikes me as a better idea than .357, even in most .357s. The 36, of course, does not want +P, but at bedroom distance I’d still use it.

  • carlos benitez October 5, 2020, 5:54 pm

    My 638 airweight is my constant companion. LOVE this gun. I have several nice auto-loaders, and a NAA .380 Guardian that sees regular deep concealment use, but the 638 with a Desantis grip clip is just too easy not to carry – 5 o’clock position disappears in my waistband and is a great comfort.

  • Rick October 5, 2020, 5:45 pm

    It was nice to see the ol’ steel M-49–like mine. For a while, I was on dialysis and wouldn’t get out until 9:30 or 10:00 at night. I felt better having my hand on that revolver when I went to my car.

  • Joe Bhe October 5, 2020, 4:36 pm

    So, it’s a .357, but was reviewed as a .38?

  • Charlie October 5, 2020, 12:18 pm

    Have a model 66-6 F-comp with the hole in the side. It is the only Smith that I have. Hate the hole. Will sell if I could find a fair price. Just do not like the hole in the side of the Smith.

  • Craig R. H. Laurent October 5, 2020, 11:53 am

    05 Oct 2020
    The 649 is a beautiful revolver – BUT that ugly “Hillary Hole” for the useless internal lock. Is there some reason why S&W has to have that lock. Other companies that produce revolvers don’t have it. Even some of S&W’s current revolvers do not have that internal lock, e.g. the 640.

    • Rick October 5, 2020, 5:43 pm

      It had something to do with the Clinton administration and the AW ban. IIRC, S&W was owned by a British company at the time and they buckled.

      Of course, now that someone else owns it, it’s time to go back to the original tooling!!

  • Mike in a Truck October 5, 2020, 11:48 am

    My 638 is the most accurate of all my J Frames.Double or single action shooting. For many years now it’s been my hiking- biking- canoeing-camping handgun. Really,here in N.C. I’ve found the 38 Special is all that’s needed for the above activities. Brown/ Grizzlie bears dont live here. Black bears are skittish and I’m fortunate to see one and Mastadons and saber tooth cats havnt been spotted in these parts since the last ice age. That leaves snakes- two legged and none. The 638 takes care of those just fine.

  • Awesome Bill from Dawsonville October 5, 2020, 10:38 am

    Now if only S&W could do away with the Hillary Hole….

    • srsquidizen October 5, 2020, 12:49 pm

      They do still make certain J-frames (e.g. 642) in both Hillary Hole and no-Holer versions but I’m afraid the latter would not be easy to find right now.

  • srsquidizen October 5, 2020, 8:32 am

    If you just want to add one to your collection this is not a good time unless you have more money than you know what to do with.

    If you need a CC revolver good choice, but consider one of the DAO J-frames. Their overall shape works better for CC. The “humpbacks” were designed for plain-clothes cops (back when cops carried revolvers) and some of them insisted on having SA. With a little practice you can shoot a DAO J-frame accurately at any range that a civilian is likely to encounter for self-defense.

  • Douglas R Olson October 5, 2020, 4:20 am

    I want to buy the model 649

Send this to a friend