North American Arms Guardian Pistols (NAA Cal.)

Review by Phil Elmore

North American Arms' "Guardian" pistols are available in several calibers.  The concept is familiar enough; each one is a small pocket-sized automatic intended for use as a backup gun (or as a light-duty carry pistol).  Each pistol is double-action only, of stainless steel, with fixed sights.  This, to me, screams "pocket gun," because it is the optimum combination of features for a pistol that will spend a lot of time in a pocket, against your body, often collecting lint while being exposed to perspiration.

The two pistols I received from NAA for evalution came in their NAA calibers.  These are proprietary calibers described on the company's website as "a new cartridge/firearm 'system' designed and developed by the partnership of North American Arms and Cor-Bon Ammunition." I will say from the outset that I am not normally a fan of cult guns or new cartridges, meaning that I rarely buy anything that is not firmly established in the market.  I was encouraged, however, to give the NAA calibers a try, and I'm actually quite pleased that I did.

Each NAA cartridge is necked down from a more familiar round, producing a bottle-nosed cartridge that is "hotter" than the original.  The .25 NAA is a necked-down .32 round, while the .32 NAA is a necked-down .380.  Jamming a smaller bullet on top of a larger cartridge means the bullet has greater velocity, by comparison, and more oomph when it gets to the target.  (That's a technical term.)  I'm no ballistics expert, but I fired the .32 and .25 NAA cartridges in comparison with a .380 Colt Mustang and a .25 ACP "Raven" pistol, respectively, to compare the felt recoil.  The NAA cartridges definitely kicked with more authority.  The rounds I fired through the NAA-caliber guns were, obviously, all Cor-Bon ammunition, provided by NAA for the tests.

Each Guardian pistol holds a six-round magazine and can, of course, carry an extra round in the chamber.  These are double-action-only guns with strong ten-pound trigger pulls; they are meant to be carried with a round chambered.  There is therefore no safety with which to concern yourself.

The Guardians exhibited impressive fit and finish right out of their boxes, consistent with every other NAA pistol I've handled.  While they might feel a little chunky to those with small hands, they were extremely comfortable in my big mitts.  The textured handles are very ergonomic and there were no sharp edges or other protrusions that bothered me.

Disassembly for cleaning is very easy; there are very few parts to deal with.  The slide lifts off the gun, and the barrel is fixed as part of the frame.  I did not attempt a detail strip of the weapon; most owners of these little guns will never do so.  This is the sort of gun one fires a few times to verify that it works reliably, then carries much more often than one actually fires it.  For that reason, the typical Guardian owner will spend more time cleaning lint out of the gun than he or she will actually spend cleaning powder residue from it.

The magazines pop free readily enough, but don't kid yourself into thinking you'll be doing any competition-style fast reloads.  The magazines are small, the guns are small, and it takes some fine motor skills (at least I found it did) to change magazines in these pistols.  The magazines can be had with or without finger extensions.  Obviously, if you have large hands, you will find the extensions make the gun more comfortable to shoot, but less concealable.

I found the guns easy enough to shoot at close range.  For longer ranges, the small, fixed sights proved to be a challenge.  This is a function of the guns' intended purpose; they are close-range self-defense weapons, not target pieces.  The heavy ten-pound pull means it is a challenge not to jerk the weapon when shooting it.  Even with a laser unit provided by the factory, I watched the red dot jerk around like mad on the target when I pulled through each shot.

Both guns proved quite reliable.  I did learn one interesting thing about the .25, specifically.  It must be kept very clean, lubricated thoroughly, or it will start to experience stovepipe jams and other failures as residue from the hot little .25 NAA builds up in the gun.  This did not occur with the larger .32 NAA, and this could mean the smaller diameter of the .25 makes the difference.  I don't see this as an issue at all -- it is simply an important note, such as understanding that an AR15 must be kept clean.  The .25 worked every time I shot it for the first several magazines (far more than the average user will ever go through, particularly in a self-defense scenario, before the opportunity to maintain the gun arises).  Each time I cleaned and lubricated it, it started working properly again, and no amount of pocket lint seemed to be a factor.

I carried the .25 in my pocket in a provided pocket holster, while the larger .32 tended to spend its time in a leather clip-on holster inside my waistband.  I tried the very comfortable ankle holster sample provided by NAA, and it worked reasonably well, but I've never been a huge fan of ankle rigs because of the constriction.  This holster, at least, was lined with very soft acrylic and was extremely easy on me.

This was a long-term test.  I carried these pistols regularly for over a year, give or take, in making my evaluation of them.  I can say without reservation that I was extremely pleased.  The guns are small, handy, easy to carry, easy to conceal, and comfortable to operate.  While they have limitations in long-distance shooting, they are not intended for that.  The punch of the proprietary NAA calibers inspires confidence; I hope the cartridge becomes as popular as the NAA Guardians' more "mainstream" caliber offerings.  The Guardians, in both calibers, are well-thought-out, well-executed pocket guns that would serve anyone well as backups or (in the case of the .32 NAA) light-duty primary carry pieces.

I am pleased to endorse these and, more broadly, the firm of North American Arms, which consistently produces fine, American-made self-derfense tools. >>

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