U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- North American Arms out of Provo, Utah has been producing their flagship series of rimfire mini-revolvers for years. These diminutive five-shooters have proven themselves to be lifesavers in real-world encounters despite not packing much of a wallop. Somewhat less well known is NAA’s Guardian, a series of small steel-framed semi-automatic pistols designed for personal defense and pocket carry. Available in 32 ACP and 380 ACP as well as NAA’s proprietary bottlenecked cartridges, the 25 NAA and 32 NAA, these pistols are faster to fire and pack more of a punch but they always seem to play second fiddle to the Minis. I have a collection of Minis so I owed it to myself to try a Guardian.
I handled a few Guardian pistols before mine came in and when I picked up my pistol I was surprised at how heavy it was. Fully loaded, my pistol chambered for 32 NAA weighed in at 20.2 ounces. After a bit of surfing, I found that the 25 NAA and 32 ACP Guardians are smaller and lighter than the 32 NAA and 380 versions. No doubt the weight is due to the gun’s all stainless steel construction, some parts left with a bead blasted matte finish while others are brightly polished. This is offset by a pair of plain black plastic grips that come stock on the pistol.
Operationally, the NAA Guardian is a hammer fired double-action pistol. The trigger is pulled fully to the rear which retracts the bobbed hammer from the frame and drops it at the end of its travel, firing the gun. The hammer cannot be pre-cocked or grasped as it sits flush on the slide. Further, the gun is classified as a blowback pistol. The weight of the recoil spring and the slide keep the gun shut. The barrel does not lock or unlock. In fact, the two and a half inch barrel is fixed in place and the slide simply runs over it. The sights are almost non-existent and consist of a small milled notch in the slide that is lined up a front blade milled into the barrel. The magazine release is the American push-button style on the left side of the pistol. Unlike some other pocket pistols, there isn’t a pin to push out for disassembly. Rather, this is accomplished by pressing on a knurled button on the right side of the slide.
The total package comes with a small lockbox and two six-shot magazines.
With ammunition in tow, I set out to do some range testing and boy was it a mixed bag.
The NAA Guardian’s hammer is flush with the frame. It cannot be cocked by hand or by the slide and it can only move when the trigger is pulled. Note the sights, if you can see them.
On The Range
I had relatively high hopes for the Guardian. Though on the heavy side for a pocket pistol, I hoped it would pay off in shoot-ability. The inclusion of sights should put it above the Seecamp–and I liked that pistol. In any case, it is certainly the best NAA has. It is in a bigger caliber and it fires much faster than those NAA Minis I like so much.
The Guardian is a blowback operated pistol, relying on a heavy spring and slide to lock the gun shut until it is ready to cycle. This makes for a simple pistol but not the easiest to manipulate. The recoil spring was a little tough when I started shooting the pistol when it came to racking the slide to chamber a round but after the first hundred rounds the gun became easier to rack. It was in that first one hundred to one hundred-fifty rounds that I came across a worrying malfunction–the last round would fail to fully eject and the empty case would be stuck vertically between the slide and barrel, a classic stovepipe. The pistol failed in this manner a half-dozen times before it cleared itself up with continued shooting. This seems like a classic “break in” issue but it was enough to make me angry. Beyond this point, the Guardian cycled perfectly and fired with every pull of the trigger–except the very last pull because there is no slide lock. Like a revolver, that click will remind you that you are out of ammo and it is time to reload.
In terms of reloading, the Guardian is surprisingly fast. This is surprising because with larger hands, there is a lot of meat between the underside of the magazine and the ground. The magazines are easy to load and there isn’t an unfeasible amount of spring pressure to overcome to thumb in your rounds by hand. But when you press the magazine release to boot out that magazine, I never found it caught in my hand. It flew clear of the gun with ease and I was ready to slap a loaded magazine home. Other than this bright point, the Guardian is a challenge to shoot–or at least shoot well.
The Guardian’s sights aren’t useless. But they are small and hard to pick up in a hurry–something that doesn’t matter given the intended mission of the pistol. However when the time came to shoot for groups, I was consistently inconsistent.
The sights are fine to look at if you can see them at all but that heavy trigger pull is quick to throw me off. How heavy is the Guardian’s trigger? An average of 12.2 pounds on my trigger scale. This makes for an incredibly safe gun and renders accidental discharge darn near impossible, but it also makes accurate shooting darn near impossible too. I am used to long, heavy trigger pulls, but the pull on the Guardian is overly long and a bit gritty toward the end of its travel when the hammer is drawn fully to the rear before the shot fires. This did not improve with shooting and by the end of every fifty shot string, I was getting pretty red on my index finger. The web of my hand was getting it too. Despite the weight, which should in theory mitigate recoil, the Guardian is a jumpy little gun and the 32 NAA round is quite zippy–running out of this pistol at nearly 1000 feet per second. Still, I can’t help but think the 380 version would be worse with the 32 ACP version being better.
The NAA Guardian is touted by some as being easier to disassemble than the Seecamp. Bring the slide of the unloaded pistol back slight and stick an empty case vertically between slide and barrel. This helps as you press the knurled button on the right side of the slide. There is no need to insert a pin punch. Simply hold the button down, pull back on the slide, and lift. The slide will ride off the barrel followed by the recoil spring. It is a simple and ingenious design. The button style of release is an improvement as there are no tools needed for disassembly but on a pocket pistol I find the improvement dubious at best.
The Bottom Line
As a defensive oriented pocket pistol, the NAA Guardian should make sense. It borrows much from another legendary pistol and improved upon it. The addition of sights, a press-button style magazine release, and disassembly button are duly noted. They are all abbreviated, which makes sense given the intended mission of the gun is close-range personal defense.The gun is physically small and the only real control on the gun–the magazine release– is positive. I like the fact that I can strike an errant round again by simply pulling the trigger.
That is where the sense ends. I put more than three hundred rounds downrange from this little tike–more than most people would bother–and I came away fairly empty. The action might be a little touch for a beginner and that trigger pull is tough, even for a guy who shoots mostly pocket pistols. It might be impossible for someone getting a Guardian as their first–or only–pistol. Not to mention few people have the aptitude to practice with these little guns. I say this not to cause comment bound arguments. I say it because I see it around me more than I would like. This is why I found those early malfunctions especially alarming. You would be surprised how many people never “break in” a pistol and I went so far as to query other Guardian owners. Stovepiping isn’t a stranger, apparently. But things did improve to flawless function.
As a pocket pistol aficionado, I could accept all of this and give the Guardian a solid B if it wasn’t for the weight. The NAA Guardian is an all stainless steel gun and it is heavy. Looking up close, it has the ugly appearance of a chunky cast gun and it pays for it in the weight. The weight would be great if it tamed recoil, but it doesn’t and I could carry two Ruger LCPs fully loaded for the same amount of weight. The weight is trimmed on the smaller 32 ACP model, however in the larger framed 380 and 32 NAA model I find myself considering other, better options in that weight range.
After all that bashing, do I think the NAA Guardian is a useless gun? No. In terms of features, I would go with the Guardian–however, the weight is the ultimate killer for me. It makes me wonder about its viability if paired with a lightweight aluminum alloy frame or even polymer. Until then, the standard Guardian will have to do and for now, it just won’t.
About Terril Hebert:
Terril Hebert is a firearm writer native to south Louisiana. Under his motto-Guns, Never Politics-he tackles firearm and reloading topics both in print and on his Mark3smle YouTube channel, where he got his start. Terril has a soft spot for ballistics testing, pocket pistols, and French rifles. When he is not burning ammo, he is indulging his unhealthy wildlife photography obsession or working on his latest novel. Scourge of God, published in 2017. See more from Terril on youtube under Mark3smle