Gun Review: NAA Guardian .380

photo courtesy of Chris Heuss for thetruthaboutguns.com

My father once refused to listen to a pop song. “I stopped listening to new pop and rock in the 60’s,” he declared. “I just listen to country music now.” Whenever I’m in a situation that calls for an open mind, that childhood memory pops into my head. So when Jeremy handed me the NAA Guardian — an all metal, hammer-fired, direct blowback pocket rocket —  I had to remind myself to “keep an open mind.”

If first impressions last, the Guardian sets a high standard right from the git-go. NAA ships the Guardian in a simple, attractive, foam-lined locking metal case. It’s a far cry from industry standard plastic or cardboard clamshells; a testimony to the company’s attention to detail.

No surprise, then, that the Guardian’s fit and finish are fantastic. Machine marks are minimal and all edges are smooth. After handling another modern plastic fantastic pocket pistol (which may or may not be a Ruger LCP), the old-fashioned metal semi just feels better: stout, solid and substantial.

photo courtesy of Chris Heuss for thetruthaboutguns.com

Many small gun grips don’t offer enough gripitude, even in ideal conditions. Add a dash of heat and a splash of humidity and sweaty hands quickly reveal their shortcomings. Testing the Guardian in the hothouse known as the Lone Star State, the gun’s rubber grip panels provided just the right amount of griposity; they’re textured perfectly and not too soft. The Guardian settles comfortably into the hand and stays there. And even with a high grip I never experienced slide bite.

photo courtesy of Chris Heuss for thetruthaboutguns.com

The Guardian 380 ships with two, six-round magazines — one with a pinky rest and one with a flush-mount base. On these tiny pistols, though, the finger extension serves the ring finger instead, making the Guardian a three-finger gun.

Both mags are easy to load. Additional mags can be found online for $18.50, and there’s a 10-round version available.

photo courtesy of Chris Heuss for thetruthaboutguns.com

The Guardian’s sights are fixed and practically invisible. We don’t need no stinkin’ sights! This is a contact distance gun; the pistol’s tiny sights are designed to prevent snagging on clothes when drawing the weapon.

I naturally assumed those tiny sights would lead to big groups. But I quickly got used to them and grew to really appreciate the precise sight picture they allow.

photo courtesy of Chris Heuss for thetruthaboutguns.com

Like many — but not all — pocket pistols, the Guardian doesn’t have a dinky manual safety to futz with. Like the Kahr equivalents or any revolver you can name, the Guardian’s long, heavy, smooth trigger pull is its safety. Right answer.

That said, I’m no fan of double action triggers. I find them an inherent limit on my accuracy. The Guardian’s trigger is the exception that proves the rule.

Even with that mile long pull and near-14-lb pull weight and those tiny sights and short barrel, the Guardian’s accuracy was excellent. I shot the target above at 25 yards with about 3/4 second between each shot.

Jeremy and I kept pushing the pistol’s limits, and very soon were reliably hitting steel targets at 100 yards. I regularly shoot pistols at 100 yards and typically find that the front sight completely blocks the target.The NAA’s tiny front sight actually helped create a better sight picture at extended ranges. This gun is obviously not intended for that kind of distance, but it’s good to know it’s capable.

While recoil is snappy, the Guardian is easy to control and follow-up shots are surprisingly quick. Jeremy and I both noticed that the trigger slaps the shooter’s finger under recoil. It isn’t bad, but worth noting.

As the Guardian is a defensive, concealed carry pistol, reliability is paramount. I shot six different types of ammo, including factory Hornady and Fiocchi and Gorilla Ammo Silverback 95 grain hollow points. All functioned perfectly, with one exception. The pistol repeatedly choked on Creedmoor Ammunition 90 grain XTP hollow points, which measured slightly longer than its competitors.

photo courtesy of Chris Heuss for thetruthaboutguns.com

Disassembly is a bit fiddly — until you find the sweet spot for removing the slide. Then it’s a snap.

To disassemble the Guardian, clear the gun, depress the small button on the passenger side of the grip and slide the slide to the rear a tiny bit, then lift and separate. To reassemble the pistol, ensure that the small guide rod contacts the front of the slide, hook the front of the slide into the frame, pull the slide to the rear, and push the slide down onto the frame. You will either need to push the hammer back with the slide or squeeze the trigger a little bit to allow the slide to click onto the frame.

Those of you who consider .380 too small for self-defense will be pleased to learn that The Guardian comes in two frame sizes and four calibers: a teeny-framed version chambered in .25 NAA and .32 ACP, and a small frame for .32 NAA and .380 ACP. The two North American Arms-created cartridges, the .32 NAA and the .25 NAA, are exclusive to these pistols.

photo courtesy of Chris Heuss for thetruthaboutguns.com

At around $400, the NAA Guardian ain’t cheap. Not in terms of money or in terms of construction. NAA’s pocket pistol shoots accurately and reliably — as do many of its similarly sized, lighter, less expensive polymer-framed competitors. What you’re paying for here is the feel of real steel and longevity. Durability. Solidity. Is it worth it? You tell me.

Specifications: NAA Guardian .380

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1
Length: 4.81″
Barrel Length: 2.5″
Height: 3.69″
Width: 0.94″
Weight: 20.4 oz.
Build: stainless steel frame and slide
Sights: Fixed Blade Sights
Action: Double Action Only
Grips: Hard Rubber Grips
MSRP: $456 ( street price is closer to $400)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * *
Jeremy and I fired several hundred rounds through three guardians, two in .380 and one in .32 NAA. All functioned flawlessly except with the aforementioned Creedmoor Ammunition 90 grain XTP.

Accuracy * * * * *
Surprisingly good for a gun this size. The tiny sights are precise and carry-friendly. Reliably hitting bad guy-sized targets at 100 yards was no problem if you can pull that long, heavy trigger smoothly.

Ergonomics * * * *
The grip angle is ideal for a carry gun and the Guardian’s rubber grip panels are comfortable. I really liked the slide serrations’ size and depth. The Guardian’s on the heavy side but not uncomfortable. Star deducted for annoying trigger slap.

Customize This * * * * *
NAA’s custom shop can trick out a Guardian with custom sights, frame stippling, slide serrations, and even custom serial numbers and engraving if that strikes your fancy. They also offer replacement grip panels, pinky rest extensions for magazines, and a variety of holsters. Really, more options than most would ever need on a carry weapon.

Overall * * * *
The Guardian .380 is a small, simple, well-constructed pocket pistol. If you can live with the trigger slap and want a slightly heavier gun (for better recoil control) that isn’t made of plastic, a properly maintained Guardian will help keep you safe for life.

comments

  1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    that is perfect for someone.
    now to read about these new cartridges…

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      just new to me it seems.

    2. avatar BLoving says:

      Yup.
      .25 and .32 NAA are hardly new, just totally overlooked. On paper, they sure seem impressive in terms of pocket pistol performance and are my two favorite underdog cartridges to root for. I figure the lack of interest is the lack of genuine interest in pocket pistols to begin with: no one I know carries one because they really love it, they carry it because they can’t get away with something bigger at that moment and they tell themselves “meh, good enough” and have little motivation to seek a better solution.
      Oh, well. That’s why I don’t have one myself. 🤠

      1. avatar Robert says:

        I have to disagree. I have three .380 ACP handguns (Glock, Colt, and Walther) and they are the only ones I carry. That being said, I have a lot of interest in the 32NAA and 25NAA and would love to see some replacement barrels made in those calibers.

        The only problems I see are the rarity of ammunition and that it is a bit (ok, a lot) harder to reload bottleneck cartridges instead of straight wall cases. As an advantage, light bullets pushed fast tend to loose energy quickly and on hitting anything. This makes them less of an over penetration, or wall penetration risk (not safe, just less bad).

        If there were barrels available in these calibers I would, almost certainly, give them a try.

  2. avatar The Rookie says:

    Nice review. It would be interesting to do a comparison between the Guardian and a Seecamp.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      That’s what this gun always struck me as being, a Seecamp clone that can be had for those that don’t want to wait for a new Seecamp.

      And on a humorus note – “Testing the Guardian in the hothouse known as the Lone Star State, the gun’s rubber grip panels provided just the right amount of griposity;…”

      Reminded me of something another great Texan once said – “They misunderestimated me.”

  3. avatar OKNewshawk says:

    Am I correct in understanding that the front sight is on the fixed barrel assembly and the rear sight is on the moving slide?

    1. avatar Chris Heuss says:

      That’s correct.

    2. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      looks it does not affect it any, least not out to 100 yards at least.

  4. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

    That read well. I did’t know about those NAA cartridges either.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Understand with un-common ammo, it gets pricey. Add at least 100 bucks for a small supply. Like the NAA mini-revolvers, the small size means a shorter distance for sweat to contaminate ammo. Rotate carry ammo accordingly…

      1. avatar Robert says:

        Good advice, but I recently took an unplanned swim with a one of their mini revolvers, in saltwater. A week later, all five cci 22 lr went bang.😀

  5. avatar ACP_arms says:

    If it wasn’t for the one photo, you forgot to mention that the gun has a fixed barrel.

    1. avatar Chris Heuss says:

      Direct blowback guns have fixed barrels.

      1. avatar ACP_arms says:

        I don’t know a lot about very many guns, so, why does the NAA Guardian a direct blowback gun have a fixed barrel and a Ruger LCP has a barrel that can be removed? Isn’t the LCP a direct blowback gun as well?
        They both shoot the same cartridge.

        1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          No, the LCP and the other modern, polymer-framed mouse guns in .380 are recoil operated, locking actions with Browning-style tilting barrels. I don’t believe there’s a straight-blowback firearm that doesn’t have a fixed barrel. Regardless, I agree, the fact that the Guardian here has a fixed barrel is still worthy of specific mention.

        2. avatar ACP_arms says:

          Thanks, Jeremy.

  6. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    I am sure it is well made, but at more than 20 ounces it is just too porky to reside in my pocket like my LCP2, my 9mm Shield is less than half an ounce heavier. I am sure it is a nice little gun, I just don’t see how it fits with my needs.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      It does look like a nice gun, but that weight -WOW!

      My LCP is half the weight. My 642 is also substantially lighter. Even my P11, double stack, 12+1, 9mm, weighs less.

      Beautiful pistol though

  7. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Neat gun. Great review. Thanks

  8. avatar Tater says:

    Boat anchor.
    Being well made doesn’t change the fact that the Guardian is way to heavy for pocket carry. Might as well get a compact 9mm.
    Being direct blowback means the felt recoil will punish the palm of your hand…..more so than a locked breech 9mm.
    I’ve owned one and ran nearly 500 rounds through it before getting an LCP.

    And why a review on a gun that’s been out for almost twenty years?

    1. avatar Chris Heuss says:

      Why not review it? Some companies let quality slide over the years.

    2. avatar Art out West says:

      I’ve been thinking that TTAG needs a review on the Ruger Six series revolvers. They haven’t been made for thirty years. They are still great guns, and you occasionally see used ones in shops.

      I bought my 4″ SS Security Six just two years ago, and love it.

    3. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      I pocket carry a 4.25″ Snake Slayer (.45acp). It is larger and one ounce heavier an it seems fine to me. It would be too brutal if it was much lighter. I have an odd friend who front pants pocket carried a 92f and I nor anyone else that I know of noticed it for six years of one night a week get togethers. The guy is a genius pretty much, so mind powers may be involved.

    4. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      Straight blow backs are usually milder on your hand, part of the reason being the mass of the bolt (and its attachments) the other being the strong spring. I’ve had a Sig 230 which is lighter and .380 and it was easily a woman’s gun. I shot a P7 (a gas delayed blow back) for years and it had about the same power to weight ratio and was just excellent recoilwise. If the NAA Guardian felt harsh it would be the size and shape of the grip and or the shape of your hand.

    5. avatar Doc GHraham says:

      Precisely. What are the advantages except for the weight which, in its genre, decreases its favorability? I suppose the excessive weight-to-size ratio decreases the mighty .380’s wrist-breaking impulse.

  9. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    Back about 20+ years ago you had 2 choices. A Secamp or when it came out The Guardian. Other then the trigger pull from he’ll. I had a tough time pulling back the slide of the Guardian. So I ended up buying a Barretta 21a in 22lr. I still have the 21a. I wonder if I could even budge the Guardians slide today?

  10. avatar TruthTellers says:

    The .380 is too big compared to what else is available, but the .32 ACP is super small and there aren’t many .32’s out there that I can find that are small enough for concealed carry that are well made. The Beretta is too big, the Kel-Tec is very hard to find and imo not high quality, but the NAA hits all the checkboxes and I think is possibly the best .32 CCW gun out there.

  11. avatar Gregolas says:

    Excellent review. Thank you.

  12. avatar RogUinta says:

    Great review.

    I have one of these in .32 NAA. It’s a hoot to bring to the range, as it brings the thunder all out of proportion to its diminutive size.

    I rarely have a need to pocket carry anymore as I’m able to conceal a mid-size 9mm with ease in most situations. But it’s nice to have a solid, dependable mousegun for those rare times when I have to pocket carry or use a belly band.

    1. avatar Chadwick says:

      I have the 32 guardian as well. I find it works great for letting the dogs out while wearing my pjs and any other time that I might be under exta scrutiny. Sometimes that little guy goes in the pocket just because I don’t want to have that conversation with someone about why I wore a gun to their house. Usually my 9mm is easy to comceal, but extra stretching or whatever makes it harder.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        So it was YOU who let the dogs out!

  13. avatar Shannon W. says:

    That NAA makes anything other than those tiny .22 revolvers is a shock. That they came up with not one, but two, pointless proprietary cartridges is not.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I like the .32 NAA. There are good projectiles available in .32 caliber — especially since the advent of .327 Federal Magnum — and bottleneck cartridges tend to feed very reliably. It’s a hot little round.

  14. avatar former water walker says:

    Seriously 20ounces?!? I’ll keep my lowly Taurus 709 which I pocket carry sometimes in a Nemesis(and weighs less). And won the G&A 9mm single stack shootout…and costs half of this.Very good review though!

  15. avatar Snatchums says:

    Mouse gun that’s accurate to 100 yards, I’m impressed. I’ve seen these at my LGS before and thought they’re beautiful little pieces, had absolutely no idea about mechanical reliability or accuracy though. I’m kinda digging those tiny little bottleneck cartridges too.

    1. avatar Snatchums says:

      Oh and since the parent cases of those NAA rounds are used in the same frame gun, I would expect a simple barrel change would allow you to swap calibers. I’m going to assume that no such conversion kit exists or the barrel is pinned in place such that it would require gunsmith attention.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        Barrel and frame are one and the same (he said in sing-song fashion).

  16. avatar Smith Wesson says:

    I’ve been running a .380 Guardian for 3 years now. I had the 3 dot tritium Novak’s installed by the factory. This machine is fantastic quality. For any pocket pistol that is all metal, the weight is with a few ounces of other manufacturers. Of course its twice a polymer pistol. But what other all stainless pistol can you find? Almost all competitors run an aluminum frame.

    I holster it in a DeSantis Nemesis in my front or back pocket interchangeably, in any style of pants. I’m 5’10” 180 lbs. Its not heavy and its not uncomfortable. It points well, feels good in the hand, the factory Hogue grips are fantastic as noted in the review. I’ve the CTC laser grips and find them too wide and they print in the pocket. It is accurate with any load I’ve used, its also reliable with any load I’ve used excepting a brand that had a longer round length than normal. I am fast with this pistol and it loves it. The trigger is long and heavy. DA revolver shooters will be familiar. The mag release is 1911 style and placed perfectly. Its designed to shoot any commercially available ammo. The company is fantastic with service second to none. I just wanted to give a shout out and a thanks to NAA. This pistol doesn’t get enough attention, appreciation or love from the community at large.

    As an aside, there are a sizable number who re-chamber their Sig, Kimber and Colt .380 1911 style pistols to NAA’s proprietary 32naa.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Of course its twice a polymer pistol. But what other all stainless pistol can you find?”

      The AMT Back Up in .380. Fixed-barrel, direct blowback. A little on the chunky side, but it was dead-nuts reliable for me for over 5 years of owning it. Slide-bite was an issue, but no worse than the others in that class.

      *Plentiful* on the used market for about two to three hundred bucks :

      http://www.gunbroker.com/All/search?Keywords=AMT+380

    2. avatar ActionPhysicalMan says:

      The Sig 230 and 232 were other all stainless .380s. They are out of production but not yet as expensive as something like a P7.

  17. avatar Frank in VA says:

    Because why buy an LCP when you can get twice the weight at twice the price.

  18. avatar Joseph Constable says:

    The trigger weight means it is useful only in very very close encounters. Its accuracy at 100 yards is totally irrelevant. Double action handguns are for serious shooters. For others they are really only belly guns.

    1. avatar Paul on Harsens Island says:

      I totally agree. The heavy trigger weight on such a small gun makes it difficult to aim, and getting a quick second shot on target after the sting you get from the first shot makes it even more difficult. I’ve used this pistol before.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        I found it shockingly easy to put rapid mag dumps on steel at 5 yards. It points very naturally, so even without using the sights or getting the pistol up into firing position I was making solid hits just point shooting from compressed ready. The trigger is long and heavy, but smooth and consistent so as long as you release it all the way forwards before starting the next pull, it runs just fine. The .380 shoots soft enough. The .32 NAA has a bit more snap and is definitely louder.

  19. avatar adverse5 says:

    Well, he did hit the paper.

  20. avatar Stephen Graham says:

    You failed to mention what makes this a better choice then most of the other .380 pistols, like Ruger, Kahr, Smith, , Glock , Etc. With a 14-pound trigger and with an MSRP of 450 bucks, some objective justification is required to compel a person to choose this NAA .380 Over other such pocket pistols.

  21. avatar zebra dun says:

    I looked at one of these and considered it, the price and weight threw me off and I went for a plastic/fantastic instead LCP II

  22. avatar Seaotter says:

    Who would buy a Guardian 380? People like me:
    -people who are used to shooting snubby revolvers. The Guardian weighs about the same as a Taurus 85 or a S&W model 36. It has the same sort of trigger, carries two more rounds, and is quickly reloaded. It is about half the size, and is far easier to conceal.
    -people who are paranoid about carrying a cocked (striker fired) or half cocked (lcp, tcp, keltec, etc) firearm. The true double action is about as safe as it gets
    -people who like metal firearms
    -people who like NA A firearms.
    It is reliable, shoots straight, and will last forever.

    1. avatar Doc GHraham says:

      Ok. So are there any OBJECTIVE advantages except the reduced recoil impulse from the massive .380?

      1. avatar Seaotter says:

        I would think that the true double action is an objective advantage. I would also view the durable and excellent construction as being objective advantages. When it comes to firearms, personal requirements and needs differ. I honestly don’t think that the Guardian is for everyone. Is is not supposed to be. My point was that the Guardian is attractive to people who also use revolvers, as the trigger and weight are similar enough to make using the Guardian much easier than an LCP or similar firearm. I own a TCP, and I find the trigger pull way too light to feel comfortable carrying it with a loaded chamber. Those are all objective reasons, just not objective reasons that everyone would share.

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