Reviewed: North American Arms' Guardian .32 ACP

Tiny, stripped-down and all-business, this little CCW pistol deserves a look.

posted on June 20, 2023

Think about that cereal that is sitting on top of the fridge, you know the one. Maybe you bought it because it promised a host of nutritional benefits, but the truth is it isn’t going to do any of these things unless your family eats it. Now, apply that same concept to a carry pistol. We can purchase the highest-capacity pistol chambered in a beast of a cartridge and hang a million aftermarket gizmos off of it, but if it is too cumbersome to strap to your belt, it’ll likely spend its life sitting at home, where it does you absolutely no good at all.

Meet the North American Arms (NAA) Guardian .32 ACP. This all-steel semi-automatic pistol is so tiny that you have virtually no excuse not to have it on you at all times. A box outline of just 4.38” long by 3.38” high makes it smaller than most hands, but a hefty weight of nearly 1 full pound soaks up a great bit of recoil and delivers the feel of a solid high-quality firearm.

The Guardian feeds off of a six-round detachable box magazine that is released via a traditional grip-mounted release button on the left side of the firearm. That’s it. Aside from that and a takedown lever, this pistol is void of any other controls. That’s a feature, not a bug: This makes the gun less likely to snag during presentation, and allows it to be manufactured for an MRSP of just $409.

Because this gun fires one of the smallest centerfire pistol rounds on the market, NAA was able to get away with a simple blowback design. Some might balk at the relatively weak stopping power of .32 ACP, and that is understandable. However, with fast-moving 60-grain loads, the round produces just about 70% of the energy of a typical .380 ACP cartridge. Furthermore, less-common calibers like the .32 can be found more easily during ammo shortages, and firing a sub-caliber is far more enjoyable in pistols of this size than heavier hitting range fodder.

For our range day, I was able to drum up Hornady’s 60-grain Custom load, featuring its hollow-point XTP bullet as well as Remington’s 71-grain full-metal-jacket (FMJ) practice round. A brief aside about Remington’s “practice” round: Many people consider FMJ bullets to be more desirable than hollowpoints for under-powered calibers like the .32. The reason behind this is that bullets don’t expand primarily to create a bigger hole, they expand to stop. Sure, going from .312 to .624 is certainly more damaging than no diameter change at all, but the real problem for an attacker is the fact that a piece of lead came to a crashing halt inside of their body. Therefore bullet profile takes a backseat to overall weight, just as long as it doesn’t over-penetrate.

I started the day off with the Hornady load and fired five five-shot groups from a distance of 7 yards at a standard NRA B-2 target. It was here when I first noticed the sights—or lack thereof. The NAA was built to be carried in a pocket, so it’s as streamlined as streamlined gets. Nonetheless, I was still able to produce groups as small as 2.53” with an average of 3.92”. Truth be told, that is far better than required for this pistol’s intended use. Things only got better with the heavier Remington ammo, as its best group came in at 2.12” and the five-group average came out to 3.18”.

Keep in mind that shooting groups of this size is going to take a little practice. The Guardian only fires in a double-action mode. This means that you have an elongated, heavy trigger pull that requires somewhere around 12 pounds to pull. (I’d give you an exact number but that is where our trigger scale tops out, unfortunately.)

This heavy trigger serves as the gun's only form of mechanical safety, so pocket carry must involve a holster. Otherwise, you run the risk of snagging something against the trigger during your day-to-day activities. Between the two types of ammo, we had zero failures. Although the Remington load was more accurate, the Hornady was a little more enjoyable to shoot simply because it produced less recoil and didn’t induce the trigger slap that the Remington rounds did.

Disassembly is relatively easy for the North American Arms Guardian series of pistols. After ensuring that your gun is unloaded, just press the only other control on the gun and pull the slide back, and then up. Once the rear of the slide is past the frame you can allow it to slip forward off of the front of the pistol. Lastly, just tip the gun forward and the two recoil springs and guide rod will neatly drop out on their own. Reassembly is as easy as reversing those steps while playing with the trigger a bit to get the hammer just right so the slide can be put back into place.

The NAA Guardian is a true-to-life concealed carry pistol. It isn’t built for target-grade accuracy or to be an all-day range plinker;  it is built for business. My favorite aspects of the pistol were its heft and how well I was able to conceal it just about anywhere on my body.

I feel that the Guardian makes a great backup gun if you like to carry “belt and suspenders” and it also is great if you reside in a limited living space as its compact nature leaves plenty of safe storage options. But then again ... it’s so small, why not just take it with you when you leave?


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