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North American Arms Guardian: Heavy Weight Pocket Rocket

North American Arms Guardian: Heavy Weight Pocket Rocket

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.

North American Arms Guardian Features

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.

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.

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.

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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

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I like this concept, and more companies need to produce dedicated pistol-caliber AR lowers and uppers.

However, PSA can take their pricing right to hell.

You might be the worst poster on this site. Your comments barely make sense, and your thinly-veiled racist username only serves to prove your irrelevance.

May Trump have mercy on your soul.

Woohoo doesn’t understand that Joe Biden is demented and Kamala is gonna take the reigns. When you’re as dumb as that motherfucker joe biden seems plenty competent, so yes the stupid is strong in that one

I have an M17 legion, same as this but with a safety and magwell funnel. It’s a great handgun and the nicest one I own. Soft shooting and customizable. One of the most interesting features is that you can replace the fire control unit and barrel with one of a different caliber (40,.357 sig, .45)

It looks like it was all for nothing. If all semi-automatic weapons are banned tomorrow, you will not need any of this ammo.

It looks like it was all for nothing. If all semi-automatic weapons are banned tomorrow, you will not need any of this ammo.

Why does this deal keep changing? It was $214 earlier today(it’s changed overs the last few weeks) The 33rd mags were 33.99 now 39.99

WOW. Been out of the ammo buying hobby for 10 months and come back to this? Glad I overbought last year and filled my cabinets!

Not sure why ANYONE who is a gun enthusiast would ever vote BLUE. You would have to be one GRADE A DUMB SUN BITCH.

Learn to shoot strait and you wouldn’t need a pussy bumpstock. And did he really ‘take it’? Didn’t think so. Anything else you need lie about?

Testing 3 NAA Guardian Pistols to See Which One Shoots Best

For those who carry a single handgun or two or three pistols, the NAA Guardian pistols are excellent choices.

D.K. Pridgen

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Given the dramatic increase in attacks on law enforcement officers in the past few years, with most, if not all, being uniformed officers with a firearm at hand, why would any sane, responsible person go unarmed? The first rule in any gunfight is to have a gun. I’m not sure who coined this oft-repeated phrase, or any of the others bouncing around the Internet. Jeff Cooper, Mark Moritz and Clint Smith are among those accused of standing before a class and uttering it for the first time.

Even those who believe only a full-sized or compact version is the only handgun capable of effective self-defense will admit that an ultra-compact pocket gun is better than nothing at all. I believe that we shouldn’t denigrate handguns for self-defense just because they’re small enough to fit in a pocket or less traditional locations.

American Minis

Rocky Mountain Arms was founded in 1972 to produce exquisitely made Lilliputian .22-caliber revolvers. These diminutive rimfire revolvers were, and still are, phenomenally popular. The company is now known as North American Arms (NAA), and in 1997, it added a semi-automatic pistol chambered in .32 ACP to its lineup. The gun followed in the steps of NAA’s mini-revolvers with stainless steel construction and extreme attention to detail.

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Smith & Wesson

An updated version of the highly rated and popular Seecamp LWS in .32 ACP, the stainless steel NAA Guardian has all of the positive aspects one could want. A few years later, NAA began offering a slightly larger Guardian in .380 ACP, and more chamberings followed. All NAA Guardian pistols, including two versions handling the bottlenecked .25 and .32 NAA—cartridges based off the .32 and .380 ACP, respectively—are constructed of 17-4 stainless steel.

The investment-cast Guardian frames, built by a Ruger subsidiary, include the integral barrels. This allows Guardians to use a simple, straight-blowback operating system. And just like the frames, the slides are machined from a single stainless steel block with integral sights. Small parts like the magazine release, hammer and trigger are produced using the metal-injection molding (MIM) process.

Demand for these pistols is pretty high, so they’re fairly difficult to come by these days. Luckily, however, I was able to obtain three NAA Guardian pistols to compare in testing. My test samples were chambered in .32 ACP, .380 ACP and .32 NAA.

All three guns were put together very well and exhibited excellent finishes. And though they’re small, NAA Guardian pistols feel good in the hand. Their lines are clean and straight, and there were no sharp edges to dig into my hands or snag on the draw. Their grips are made of hard rubber with pebble-grain texturing, and they do a good job of helping to control recoil.

The double-action-only (DAO) triggers have long, heavy trigger pulls, but this is to provide a measure of safety, as there are no external safeties. The trigger pulls for the three test guns weighed between 10 and 10.8 pounds. Fortunately, the Guardian triggers are pretty smooth, making it easier to chase that last bit of accuracy.

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Of course, the Guardians are really intended for reactive draws. The downsized defenders are designed to be pointed at the threat and fired. Taking time to search for those tiny sights during an emergency is a setup for failure.

Guardians also have their magazine releases in the standard location behind the triggerguard. This required me to slightly rotate the pistol in my short-fingered hand, just as I must with pistols from many manufacturers. Each pistol came with two 6-round magazines with highly polished exteriors and metal followers. The baseplates are made of black polymer, and they’re either flat or come with finger hooks.

Carrying the Guardians is simplified by the number of holsters NAA has on hand. The company’s rigs range from pocket to belt models as well as a carrying case known as the Universal Gun Rug that is equipped to carry a Guardian. A creature of habit, I chose a pocket holster to ride on my support side.

Range Time

I only had one sample of ammunition available per pistol for testing. Fortunately, it was all from Hornady, which is currently the sole supplier of .32 NAA ammunition with its 80-grain Critical Defense FTX line. Another member of Hornady’s Critical Defense group is its 90-grain .380 ACP FTX loading. The .32 ACP ammo carries one of Hornady’s excellent hollow-point XTP bullets weighing 35 grains. In short, the Critical Defense and FTX loads are known for being excellent performers.

Drawing a Guardian from any holster is made easier by its snag-proof design. There are no sharp edges or external widgets to catch on a pocket or clothing, a product of the minimal sights. Working with targets placed at reasonable distances, I quickly acclimated to the Guardians’ DAO triggers and polished, exposed hammers riding flush with their slides.

The sights were another subject when firing groups. Rapid draws and firing were not hindered by the sights, even when raised to the eyes. At that point, I just looked over them. Swapping magazines was easiest done using the support hand to pull the magazine from the well and then go for the spare. The depleted magazines tend to wedge against the heel of my shooting hand, however.

Gun Review: North American Arms’ .380 Guardian Pistol with Crimson Trace Lasergrips

These pistols are designed for up close and personal use—generally within 7 yards. I set my chronograph up and went to work running rounds through the Guardians. Even though I had planned on just a 7-yard distance for the accuracy examination, I just had to see for myself what would happen at longer distances. While many of the hits from the Guardians were found on the targets, some weren’t. This means innocent bystanders could be in danger beyond 7 yards. So, keeping my shooting distance to 7 yards and under, every group averaged around 2.5 inches. This is more than accurate enough for belly-to-belly confrontations and out to 7 yards.

I prefer pistols like the NAA Guardian with flat-baseplate magazines, as there’s just one less chance of snagging during the draw. All three Guardians were controllable with the flat-baseplate magazines, even using Hornady’s modern high-performance ammunition. Compared to polymer-framed pistols, the weight of the Guardians is also helpful with recoil. However, I can see how the polymer finger hooks on the magazines could come in handy for many folks.

I was surprised to discover that the .380 ACP Guardian stoked with Hornady’s 90-grain Critical Defense FTX rounds displayed about the same recoil as the .32 NAA Guardian. Of course, I should have recognized that both cartridges have similar velocities, but the .380 ACP uses a bullet that is 10 grains heavier. The recoil was most noticeable when shooting from the bench, but who practices defensive shooting from the bench? When shots were fired off-hand, the three pistols seemed to have the same recoil.

Parting Shots

Constructed of stainless steel, the NAA Guardian should be just right for pocket and IWB carry. It would likely be just as at home tucked in a pocket of an officer’s armor carrier during a sweltering summer. But I’ve got two pieces of advice. When you carry your Guardian (or any other handgun) in a pants pocket, use a holster. Also, always keep your keys and such out of that designated carry pocket. And a word to the wise: Stainless steel still rusts, just slower. I have seen the results of sweat accumulating without regular maintenance.

For those who carry a single handgun or two or three pistols, the NAA Guardian pistols are excellent choices. They are designed well with true DAO capabilities and simple operating procedures. And you get all of this with MSRPs in the $409 to $456 range.

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