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North American Arms Guardian .380 ACP

NAAGuardian380Said to be Inspired by the Seecamp LWS .32, the Guardian first appeared in 1997 with a chamber for .32 ACP. And then came NAA's proprietary cartridge, the .32 NAA, which was a .380 bottlenecked cartridge loaded by Cor-Bon that pushed a 60-grain jacketed-hollowpoint (JHP) bullet to 1,200 fps. These pistols are still small enough for pocket-holster NAAGuardianSpecscarry by today's standards and are inherently safe enough for the task. They lack an exposed hammer and feature a 12-plus-pound, heavy, long-stroke double-action (DA) trigger. If the trigger is pulled on a Guardian, it's because the person pulling the trigger wants the pistol to go bang.

Even before concealed carry became as popular as it is today, the Guardian earned a loyal following for its reputation of being well-made and reliable. However, the limited availability of .32 ACP and NAA's own .32 left a demand for a new model. In 2001, before it was easy to search for hard-to-find ammunition on the internet, NAA launched its newest — and slightly larger — Guardian in .380 ACP. During the last 16 years, NAA has made subtle improvements to these pistols, which is likely the reason it remains in production and has stood the test of time in spite of the fact that there are so many pistol companies offering compact .380s — including L.W. Seecamp Co.

The Guardian is blowback operated and utilizes a fixed-barrel design. The stainless steel parts are given an excellent fit and clean finish. Though the frame is investment cast, the slide is machined from a solid stainless steel billet and given a not-too-reflective brushed appearance. The other small parts, including the hammer and trigger, are produced by metal-injection molding (MIM). In contrast to most .380s, the only nonmetal you'll find on the Guardian is with its grip panels and magazine baseplates, which gives this pistol its recoil-absorbing 20-ounce heft. (A Seecamp LWS-380 weighs 6.35 ounces less.)

NAAGuardianClipThe sights are machined into the slide, which means that they're fixed, like 'em or not. However, all of G&A's staff was impressed to see that they were zeroed for 15 yards. That said, our biggest complaint with the Guardian is that the sights were hard to see when shooting under stress. (They were obviously designed by someone who believes point shooting for self-defense is acceptable.)

Besides the trigger, the only other controls on this pistol are the magazine release that favors right-handed shooters and a disassembly button located underneath the right rear of the slide. Note that I didn't mention the presence of a slide lock lever. Not having this function made it a bit frustrating when clearing each of the three malfunctions we experienced at the range. In all, 300 rounds of .380 ACP from popular brands were fired with only two failures to feed (FTF) and one failure to eject (FTE). Removing the magazine, the malfunctions were a bit tedious to clear given that we couldn't lock back the slide or guard our fingertips from getting smashed by the slide during the exercise.

The magazine capacity of six rounds is on par with most .380s, and the magazines are noticeably well-built. Notice I said "magazines." There are two of them here, one with a flush-fit basepad and another with a finger extension. The flush basepad reduces the risk of printing during concealment, yet the extra purchase from having the basedpad with finger lip installed helps to maintain control while making quick follow-up shots.

In its class, the Guardian .380 doesn't best its competitors in weight or size. That's only important if you think the best .380 has to weigh the least and be the smallest. Apparently, not everyone has that mindset, which is why the Guardian is still ready to protect us, 16 years later.

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