380 ACP and .32NAA Guardian Pistols North American Arms
Pat Cascio 07.14.14
Not everyone needs or wants to carry a full-sized 9mm, .40S&W, or .45ACP handgun with them every single day. Nor do concealed weapons permit holders have a means of concealing some of the full-sized guns in these calibers all the time. I carry concealed every single day, and it’s a chore to properly conceal bigger caliber guns. Even some of the more “compact” handguns in these calibers can be difficult to conceal. It takes just the right holster and clothing to conceal many types of guns.
Because larger caliber guns are so tough to conceal, over the years we’ve seen a lot of small concealable handguns come on the market in smaller calibers like .380 ACP. Many of these guns are poorly made, cheap guns that I wouldn’t want to bet my life on. However, there are some outstanding small handguns being made these days that are suitable for self-defense purposes.
One example is North American Arms and their .380 ACP and .32NAA “Guardian” series of small, concealable handguns. We are not talking about poorly made or designed pocket guns, not in the least. NAA Guardians are top-of-the-line when it comes to small pocket pistols. They are made to exacting tolerances out of stainless steel–no polymer frames. The .380ACP and .32 NAA Guardians have several specs in common, as they are both the same size, both weigh in at 18.72 ounces, both have a barrel length of 2.49-inches, and both hold 6+1 rounds of ammo. Overall length is 4.75-inches, height is 3.53-inches, and width is 0.030-inches. And both are double-action only.
Needless to say, the .380ACP Guardian fires the very popular .380ACP round, a round that used to be a fairly poor stopper. There were very few good JPH rounds around that would expand and do what they were designed to do: stop a threat. However, that has changed as there are now many good JHP rounds on the market should you elect to go that route. If not, you can go with FMJ or FMJ FN rounds in standard velocity or +P velocities. The .32NAA Guardian is chambered in the .32NAA caliber, and this is a .380 ACP case that has been necked-down to hold a .32 caliber bullet. It’s one heck of a round, to be sure.
Quick Look at the .380 ACP Guardian
During my testing, I tried several loads from Black Hills Ammunition in FMJ and JHP, and I had no problems with any of these rounds functioning in the Guardian. I also had some Winchester FMJ and JHP rounds, and once again, no problems were encountered. Last up was Buffalo Bore Ammunition, and I had some of their +P .380 ACP ammo in FMJ, JHP, and Hard Cast, as well as their standard velocity FMJ FN loads. Now, to be sure, their +P loadings really get your attention, and there were no functioning problems with the +P loads, nor did I expect any. For many years, my wife carried a Bersa pistol in .380 ACP, and she always kept JHP rounds in the gun. I did likewise in any .380 ACP I carried.
These days, I carry Buffalo Bore .380 ACP standard velocity FMJ FN rounds in my .380 chambered guns. Tim Sundles, who owns Buffalo Bore, has forgotten more about ballistics than I’ll ever know, and he convinced me that if one is going to carry a .380, one should stoke it with his FMJ FN rounds for the most penetration you can get. So my .380ACP Guardian has Buffalo Bore FMJ FN standard velocity loads in it. Not that I don’t have full confidence in JHP loads, but I want something that will get the job done.
Quick Look at the 32 NAA Guardian
The .32 NAA Guardian is quite a little gun, with the bottle-necked .380 brass necked down to hold .32 caliber bullets. And we aren’t talking plain ol’ standard velocity loadings here. NAA partnered with Cor Bon ammunition to come up with the .32NAA load, and we are looking at a 60-grain JHP bullet that is coming out of the Guardian at about 1,222 FPS. This equates to 199 foot pounds of energy. According the firearms expert Ed Sanow, the .32NAA produces more velocity, more energy, and more stopping power than any conventional JHP in .32 ACP or.380 ACP +P, with 15% less recoil than the +P loads in .380 ACP produce. It penetrates 8.3-inches of gelatin after passing through 4-layers of denim, and it expands to .55″ with a 100% retained weight. The mushroom bullet is awesome, to say the least. I fired quite a few of them, and they all expanded the same.
I once viewed a video on the ‘net, of the .32NAA being used to take down a 400-lb wild pig; it stopped the pig in it’s tracks. Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to that video, but it was quite a sight, a little pocket pistol chambered in what is basically .32 caliber, taking down a monster pig like that. I enjoyed shooting the .32 NAA guardian more than shooting the .380 ACP Guardian. As already mentioned, the recoil was quite a bit less, and I wouldn’t hesitate to carry this little gun in my right front pocket in a pocket holster or on my ankle for self-defense.
Features and Functions
The trigger pull on both guns is approximately 10-lbs, and it’s a long, but smooth pull. It took a little getting used to, but one can master the trigger pull in short order. Now, keep in mind that both Guardians are meant for up-close and personal self-defense; they are not designed for long-range shooting. I kept most of my shooting at 21-feet, which stats have proven most gun fights take place. I could easily keep all my shots inside of 3-4 inches, if I did my part. I didn’t rest these little power house pistols over a rest. I just fired them standing.
The only problem I encountered during testing was a lack of available .32 NAA ammo. You can get ammo directly from North American Arms or Cor Bon, but not many gun shops carry the .32NAA ammo. NAA and Cor Bon have plenty of .32 NAA available, and it really isn’t any more expensive than any other premium JHP ammo is. As to .380 ACP ammo, once again, we are still feeling some of the effects of the great ammo drought of 2013, so .380 is also a bit hard to find. Still, you can find it if you shop around.
One great thing about NAA firearms is the fact that you can get just about any kind of accessories for the Guardians that you can think of, including a wide variety of holsters, from belt holsters to ankle holsters to “holsters” that look like a PDA case, and pocket holsters.
And, if you want grips other than the plain black grips that come standard on the Guardians, NAA has the bases covered once again. You want a laser grip for your Guardian? Super! NAA has teamed with Crimson Trace laser to provide lasers for the Guardians. I’m not aware of any gun company that offers more accessories for their handguns than North American Arms carries. I really like the fancy wood grips on the Guardians. Then again, I like Crimson Trace lasers as I find the tiny sights on my sample Guardians difficult to see with my aging eyesight. Then again, these guns are meant for up-close and personal work, so point shooting works for me.
Either Guardian retails for $449.00 dollars. That’s not cheap, but we are talking almost custom-quality little pocket rockets. These are really sweet shooters, to be sure. If I had my druthers, I’d druther carry a larger caliber handguns as my main gun. However, given the advances in modern ammunition these days and the high-quality of the NAA Guardians, I wouldn’t feel too under armed if I had one of these power houses in my right front pocket.
Now, I’d have a difficult choice to make if I could only own one of the Guardians. I like the availability of the .380ACP round, but I like the reduced recoil and the screaming velocities of the .32NAA round, even if it is a little bit hard to get my hands on at times. Life is full of difficult decisions….