Over the years, I’ve introduced a number of folks at the local gun range to North American Arms’ single-action Mini Revolvers. I’ve also introduced shooters to the company’s various Guardian pistol designs. Why? Because I have always been impressed by the performance of the Utah-based company’s products.
Since the early 1970s, North American Arms has been well known for its Mini Revolvers and for the quality and precision with which they are built. Using stainless steel, NAA crafts these rimfire revolvers and then gives each one a lifetime warranty. Each Mini is designed for carry with a full cylinder (five shots) with the hammer down in a specially designed notch, which is a well-thought-out design for a firearm with limited capacity.
NAA Mini Revolvers come in a number of sizes, barrel lengths and calibers, including .22 Short, .22 LR or .22 Magnum. And then there are the .22 Magnum Pug/Master/Black Widow lineups with Minis shaped like cap-and-ball revolvers. Things get larger and heavier in these families. Regardless of the name or caliber of the Mini, or even its barrel length, all are products of the same manufacturing process that’s been refined over the past few decades.
In a departure from the Minis, in 1997 NAA began offering a diminutive double-action only (DAO) .32 ACP pistol called the Guardian that was inspired by the hard-to-find Seecamp .32 ACP. At the time, small .32 ACPs were in great demand, and the Guardian caught on instantly. The company’s next design was a slightly larger framed .380 ACP Guardian with a 6+1 capacity, followed eventually by .25 NAA (.32 ACP necked to .25) and .32 NAA (.380 ACP necked to .32) variants. All are still available for those who need a truly pocket-sized autopistol.
RELATED STORY: Gun Review – North American Arms Guardian .380 ACP
Having fired every NAA Guardian caliber, I found myself leaning toward the .380 ACP for a pocket partner. There’s nothing wrong with the .32 version or its brethren, but the .380 seems to just fit me best. The recoil imparted to this 18.4-ounce pistol by a .380 ACP round is easily handled. There are no polymers (excluding its black pebbled grips) or “pot metals” used in the Guardian’s construction—just hard, durable, corrosion-resistant steel that’s been expertly machined to fit together perfectly. The pistol’s weight is a constant reminder of the quality materials used in its construction.
Guardian pistols are testaments to simplicity and can be sub-divided into five main operational parts: frame, slide, recoil spring assembly, magazine and grips. The total number of parts stands at 37 (by comparison, the 1911 has over 50). These pistols work with little fuss and muss, with no magazine safety, external manual or grip safety. There’s just a DAO trigger system requiring about 10 pounds of pressure.
The 2.5-inch barrel is integral to the frame, adding a tad of extra accuracy, something firearms with shorter barrels are always glad to pick up. The pistol’s simple, integral sights will never be bumped out of alignment. Other Guardian sight options include Guttersnipe, Novak and XS Big Dot systems.
The Guardian’s slide features an external, spring-loaded extractor, a loaded chamber viewing port, a slightly raised ridge for the front and rear sights and eight cocking serrations. These effective serrations are helpful when racking blowback-action slides, which typically require more effort than on similarly sized pistols using other action types.
RELATED STORY: North American Arms’ Deep-Cover Defenders
The pistol’s hammer remains flush with the slide until the trigger is pulled. The nicely designed trigger, with all its edges rounded for comfort, rides inside an integral triggerguard that’s roomy enough for the fingers of virtually any hand. Trigger pull measured at 10.3 pounds, which is comparable to DAO snub-nose revolvers I’ve previously tested. A serrated magazine catch is traditionally functioning and located.
I found two fingers fit the Guardian’s frame comfortably, with the third curling beneath the flat magazine’s baseplate. For the magazines with extended finger-rest baseplates, the baseplate sticks between the second and third fingers, offering the shooter even more control.
NAA has an abundance of accessories for its Guardians, including repair parts, bottlenecked ammunition, grips and even belt and pocket holsters. Prior to the range trip, I examined several NAA items: a zippered, black, ballistic nylon Universal Rug, which has pockets for pistols and extra magazines; a black, thumb-break, clip-on holster; and Crimson Trace Lasergrips.
The Universal Rug clips to the belt for ease of carry. The small, trim belt holster, combined with the Guardian’s minute dimensions, offers a very compact package that’s capable of riding beneath untucked shirts. Crimson Trace’s units always seem to please, and it attached easily to my test pistol. To operate, just grasp the pistol and the red dot automatically appears on the target. During testing, I also used a DeSantis Super Fly pocket holster for the Guardian and a Mag-Packer.
RELATED STORY: 5 Mini Revolvers & Pocket Pistols From North American Arms
Firing at 7 yards, NAA’s .380 Guardian produced velocities in the 900 fps range, which are reasonable for a 2.5-inch barrel. From the bench, the Crimson Trace helped produce five-shot groups ranging from 2.8 to 3.3 inches. Though the trigger is heavy compared to pistols in the single-action world, it is fairly smooth and with effort can produce reasonably nice groups. After removing the Lasergrips, the pistol’s integral sights produced five-shot groups in the 4-inch range.
Recoil, as with most firearms, was a little more noticeable from the bench than off it. As I moved around, shooting freestyle, any recoil fell off my radar. I discovered that the NAA was quick and easy from the holster, and capable of keeping shots in a 10-inch circle while moving around the targets. Planting my feet and shooting the Guardian fairly quickly from 7 feet, shots gathered in the target’s 4-inch head zone.
The closer the attacker gets, the more precisely the Guardian will deliver its payload. And close quarters is where the Guardian shines. At bad-breath distances, the .380 NAA Guardian will spit out seven rounds in a flash right where you want them.
How will North American Arms’ fit into your concealed-carry routine? When you really have to dress down, you need to carry something as innocuous as possible but that’s quick into action and reliable, and for that the NAA handguns fit the bill. For a backup gun, I would have no qualms (and have had none) about carrying the .380 Guardian or NAA’s Mini Revolvers.
Dollar for dollar, North American Arms’ handguns are a great balance of quality, durability and reliability.
For more information, visit http://www.northamericanarms.com or call 800-821-5783.