Guns & Patriots

Review of the North American Arms Guardian .380

A stock factory and a factory customized NAA Guardian .380 semi-automatic pistol. The factory gun is seen in an Alessi sharkskin leather pocket holster.

Guns & Patriots Photo by Bruce N. Eimer

Small handguns work for me. I shoot them well and enjoy shooting them. They pack comfortably practically anywhere I want to stow them. I am confident that at least one of my pocket pistols will be where it needs to be–in a holster in my pocket with my hand on the grip–if I need a gun right then and there. Can you honestly say that with complete confidence about your big heavy blaster?

I am in no way disparaging larger compact, full size or duty size handguns. They are great. If the proverbial balloon goes up, yes, I would prefer to have a big gun on me. That’s why I often carry a big gun and a mouse gun as a back up gun or BUG. However, the word is often and not always, and that is exactly where the little mouse gun shines—it’s an always or everyday carry gun.

Guns are emergency rescue tools. They are utilities like fire extinguishers. You should always have at least one with you. However, with so many excellent choices these days, how do you choose? There is no one or “right” answer. It really depends on your circumstances which include how you are dressed, what you are wearing, where you are going, etc. With that said, when I want to carry a substantial little pocket pistol; that is, an all stainless steel pistol with heft, I choose one of my North American Arms Guardian .380 semi-automatic pistols.

The fact is that pocket pistols are hot tickets nowadays. Thus, manufacturers of pocket .32’s, .380’s and pocket 9mm’s, are huffing and puffing to keep up with the demand for handguns that you can carry comfortably concealed almost anywhere. One of the pioneers in this trend has been a Utah-based company named North American Arms, aka NAA.

North American Arms

Since their inception, North American Arms (www.NorthAmercianArms.com) has been an innovator in the design and production of small semi-automatic pocket pistols and mini-revolvers. For folks with the right mindset, NAA’s deep concealment guns leave no excuse for ever going unarmed. One of NAA’s greatest gifts to the armed community has been their Guardian line of semi-automatic pistols which come in both .32 ACP and .380 ACP calibers. These pretty little Guardians pack a strong punch.

I had the opportunity to evaluate over a long period of time two .380 ACP NAA Guardians. One is a stock out of the box unit and the other is a factory customized unit with Novak three dot night sights and scalloped slide serrations. Both are pictured above.

The NAA Guardian is double action only (DAO). This means that one full pull of the trigger both cocks and drops the hammer. Thus, the gun has second strike capability. The trigger comes in at around 10-pounds. It feels heavy, but it is smooth, and it does lighten up and get even smoother after you put rounds through it or just dry fire the gun a lot.

As with a revolver, it requires intent to press the trigger through its full range of motion to discharge the gun. This is a safety feature. Also, the trigger must be allowed to travel all the way forward to reset for the next shot. Anything less will short stroke the action. Given the weight of the trigger pull, if you practice firing multiple shot strings over a good practice session, your trigger finger will get a good work out. 

Given the actual weight (18.72 ounces empty) of this gun, its perceived recoil is on the stout side, but it is manageable. Equipped with factory minimalist, fixed non-adjustable iron sights, the gun is well suited for close-in work, not for extended range shooting. This is a proverbial “belly gun”. Like the fine Seecamp .25, .32 and .380 pistols that have no sights, the NAA Guardians are point and shoot guns. On the other hand, equipped with the option of NAA factory installed Novak three dot combat night sights, as one of my test guns pictured here is, the gun’s range of combat accuracy is extended out to seven to ten yards.

Both of the NAA Guardian .380’s I tested were well constructed—like a BMW or Mercedes SUV—pick your favorite. They are built like trucks, but they look like fine jewels and function like fine Swiss watches. I had the opportunity to visit the NAA factory in Provo, Utah, where these guns are made, several years back, courtesy of NAA President, Sandy Chisholm and NAA General Manager Ken Friel. The NAA factory has state of the art machinery and many components of these guns are hand fitted. It is safe to say that they are made with love. NAA also offers a lifetime warranty.

I put over 500 rounds of a variety of full metal jacket and jacketed hollow point ammunition through each of these guns over a period of a year and a half. The factory stock gun was field stripped (easy and simple to do without tools) and cleaned at 250 rounds. The factory custom gun was cleaned at 400 rounds. 

I had a total seven malfunctions, or stoppages; one failure to chamber from a full magazine, five failures to eject (stove pipes), and one failure to extract (double feed) in the factory stock gun during the first 250 rounds, and none further during the following 250 rounds after the gun had been field stripped, cleaned and lubricated. The factory customized gun evidenced a total of nine malfunctions or stoppages. Eight of these occurred during the first 200 rounds. Only one (a failure to chamber) was evidenced during the second 300 rounds fired out of it over three range sessions. Two hundred rounds appear to be a good break in period for these guns.

Neither NAA Guardian had a preference for ball or jacketed hollow point ammunition. The guns performed equally well stoked with Fiocchi and Federal American Eagle ball ammunition, as well as with jacketed hollow points; Federal JHPs, Winchester Silvertip JHPs, Speer Gold Dot JHPs, and Cor-bon JHPs. Both guns shot to point of aim. Group sizes at 5 to 7 yards with rapid fire averaged around 8 inches. With slower sighted shooting, group sizes were reduced by about 2 ½ inches. However, these Guardians need to be shot like your life depends on them (rapidly with a crush grip), and they will perform for you. That is what these guns are made for.

I have been carrying one or the other of these Guardians in a sharkskin pocket holster kindly provided by Alessi Holsters (www.AlessiGunHolsters.com). It is pictured above holding the factory stock Guardian. A beautiful gun like the NAA Guardian demands a beautiful hand crafted holster like this Alessi. This Alessi pocket holster keeps this gun right side up in my pocket and the holster stays in place when I draw the gun.

It is easy to get used to carrying the NAA Guardian. Within a short time, you forget that the gun weighs a pound and four ounces loaded. It is imperative to carry this gun in a holster because otherwise, the gun does somersaults in your pocket, plus you want the trigger guard to be covered. When you carry the all steel Guardian .380, you feel that you have a substantial gun in your pocket because you do. Yet, the gun is well concealed. This is both comforting and comfortable.

Guardian2

I highly recommend these double action only NAA Guardians for portable covert protection. They are good looking, strong, durable, and reliable. However, recognize that no one gun is for everyone. This is why there are so many fine defensive handguns on the market. People who are recoil shy, or who have hand strength issues, would be better served with a softer shooting gun that has a lighter and shorter length of trigger pull and less felt recoil—perhaps a traditional double action pocket pistol (double action first shot and single action on subsequent shots, such as the Beretta .32 Tomcat), a single action pocket pistol (such as the Sig P-238), or perhaps a double action .22 LR or .22 Magnum snubnose revolver.

The NAA Guardians are built to last several lifetimes. Carry one or two of them all the time as your every day carry (EDC), and your lifetime should be a long one.

Sources
Alessi Holsters.  www.AlessiGunHolsters.com
North American Arms.  www.NorthAmericanArms.com

 

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  • 8Pillars

    The best thing about .380′s these days is the advent of truly lethal ammo.  I carry the new Luger LCP and can carry 3-4 extra magazines as well.  Shooting the Self-Defense loads illustrates that this thing has power enough (shot placement being a given).  It is surprisingly powerful and fits just about anywhere (I wear it on my ankle).

    The ‘clip’ system eliminates need for concealed holster for larger guns so even skinny guys can arm themselves adequately.

  • Joel Springman

    Ruger.

  • 8Pillars

    Right, thanks.  

    Must have been day-draming because I don’t own a Luger, but I have 3 Rugers – LCP .380, LCR .38 Snub and the GP100 .357 Mag.  

    My usual carry ‘profile’ is the Walther PPS in S&W .40 cal inside waistband on hip (using only a clip, no holster – that gun is so incredibly slim that with no holster it’s hardly noticeable even with T shirt half tucked) and the LCP on my ankle with Cor Bon 90 grain (high velocity load that have been rated with more muzzle energy than a 125 grain .38 +P; though I’ve not verified that claim and it could be simple company spin).

  • ladysuzette

    The KEL-TEC .32 I had was a piece of junk. I thought I was going to have to use it. The situation was diffused and I went on my way. Good thing I didn’t need the KEL-TEC. When I picked it up the magazine spring fell out and the gun was usless. Besides that I couldn’t hit a barn door if I was standing in fron of it. The KEL got traded of for a Walther.
    I have two of the NAA .22′s that I often carry. They are realiable and never fail. I am ordering a buckle for the .22LR and a new set of grips. Richard

  • Sandy Chisholm

    I agree with those who remark about the seeming high rate of “failures”.

    It has always been our contention that a “last-round stovepipe” is simply not a failure. The Guardian has no ejector, but instead relies solely on the following round to move out the previous case. LRSs are neither unusual nor interruptive.

    As a DAO pistol, the slide must be re-wracked at the insertion of a fresh magazine, in which case the brass simply falls free.

    The other two mentions are, indeed, failures. I’ll admit that ANY is too many.

    - Sandy Chisholm, North American Arms

  • JSF

    My brand new Guardian 380 did the same thing the first time I shot it. After putting 60 initial rounds though it I had 2 failure to feeds. I took it home and thoroughly cleaned it, then took it back to the range the next week. After putting 75 more rounds through it I experienced zero failure to feeds but did have one failure to extract (stovepipe). I will be going back to the range here in a few days to put some additional rounds through my Guardian to see how it does. I did shoot several different types of ammo, to include 50 rounds of Sellier and Bellot FMJ, 50 rounds of Remington golden saber (which performed flawlessly), and 35 rounds of PMC starfire. The Sellier and Bellot and PMC each caused 1 failure to feed, and the PMC caused the one stovepipe. I’m told you have to put at least 200 rounds or so through these Guardians to break them in and work out all the bugs. They seem to be very well made, and are nice looking guns. They are a little heavy and the trigger pull is kind of hard, but I really think I am going to like this gun. It’s easily concealable and seems to be pretty rugged. I went out and bought a small Bulldog (the one recommended for .22 and .25 autos) pocket holster and the Guardian fit in there perfectly. Stripping the gun down and cleaning it is also very easy!