North American Arms (NAA) has been the undisputed champion of tiny handguns for 40 years. Their Mini revolvers, chambered in .22 Short, .22 LR and .22 Mag, are carried daily as back-up and primary defensive handguns by folks who need something truly discrete for personal protection. In 1997, the company chose to add a new line of pocket autos to complement their signature Minis.

The Guardian .32 NAA pistol is a fixed barrel, direct-blowback-operated semi-automatic pistol based on the Seecamp .32 design. The first Guardian pistols, released in 1997, were chambered for the .32 ACP. With the success of this Guardian model, North American Arms developed the next version of the pistol by increasing the dimensions to accommodate the larger .380 ACP cartridge. The result of this work is a pistol fitted with a 2.49-inch barrel, an overall length of 4.75 inches, and an unloaded weight of 18.72 ounces. It’s this larger Guardian that would eventually be chambered in .32 NAA.

.32 NAA Cartridge

Manufacturers responsible for developing pocket pistol ammunition have a tough row to hoe. They’re asked to build cartridges that yield ideal terminal ballistics, but without the stopping-power advantages derived from large bullets, capacious cartridge cases, or long barrels for the bullets to travel down. Instead, in the process of compressing the features of the cartridge to fit into pocketable handguns, stopping power and reliability are often reduced. Working in tandem with Ed Sanow, co-author of the Street Stoppers series of books describing real world ballistics, and CorBon Ammunition, North American Arms developed a round that increases pocket pistol stopping power and reliability without having to build a larger pistol to fire it.

The .32 NAA is based on the .380 ACP cartridge case with the case mouth necked down to accept .32 caliber bullets. This cartridge’s design handily addresses the two problems that plague pocket autos in general—a tendency to jam and a low level of stopping power.

Bottleneck cartridges have historically proven to be dependable in semi-autos. This is because their shape feeds smoothly from the magazine into the chamber. The rounds headspace from the shoulder instead of the case neck and a solid bullet crimp can be used to reduce the possibility of the bullet becoming dislodged as the round is chambered. Other successful bottleneck handgun cartridges include the 7.62×25 Tokarev and .357 SIG.

The bottleneck cartridge case is also useful for increasing bullet velocity. CorBon’s .32 NAA 60-grain jacketed hollow point load launches the bullet at more than 1,200 feet per second (fps) out of the Guardian’s 2.5-inch barrel, producing an estimated 192 foot-pounds of energy. Although the .32 NAA is not as powerful as larger handgun calibers, it does outperform the .32 ACP and .380 ACP.

Gun Details

Guardian pistols feature stainless steel construction assembled with excellent fit and finish. Although the parts are built using different methods, they’re all made of 17-4 pH stainless steel. The slide is machined from a 17-4 pH billet, the frame is investment cast, and all of the small parts (hammer, trigger, magazine release) are produced using Metal-Injected Molding (MIM). The only polymer attached to the Guardian is in the grip panels and the magazine baseplates. The choice to use steel does make this pistol a little heavier than some of the other pistols on the market, but the Guardian is exceptionally reliable, sturdy, and resistant to the corrosive conditions commonly found with on-the-body carry.

Standard Guardians arrive from the factory with fixed sights and black-pebbled polymer grip panels. You’ll also find within the lockable Guardian pistol case two six-round stainless steel magazines, one with a flat baseplate and the other with a finger extension. The safety system of the Guardian is the same as that found on a double-action revolver. In other words, there are no levers, switches or buttons to fuss with, just the long and heavy 10-pound stroke of the double-action only trigger.

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