Pat Cascio’s Product Review: North American Arms .32 Auto– A Closer Look

Over the years, I’ve gotten quite a few requests for a followup article on a gun I tested either on or when I was writing for the printed gun magazines. I usually decline to do these articles for several reasons. First of all, it’s next to impossible to get one of the firearms printed magazines to accept a followup article. Secondly, I can’t duplicate the torture tests that most gun makers put their guns through. However, I have received quite a few requests for a followup article and report on several firearms I’ve tested for, and I thought I’d do a couple articles for our readers.

Some time ago, I did an article on the North American Arms .32 ACP Guardian, which you can find in the blog archives. I was favorably impressed with this little gun, in more ways than one. We are talking about a .32 ACP round, fired in a little back-up gun, the size of a .25 ACP pistol. Yes! I don’t want to rehash what I wrote in the first article, but I wanted to give an updated report on this little gun, with long-term testing and with some different ammo.


Tim Sundles, who owns Buffalo Bore Ammunition, is one of the few premium ammo makers who produces some +P .32 ACPammo. Now, the NAA owner’s guide says that their guns can shoot just about any kind of ammo, but I’m thinking that any longer-term shooting with a +P load in any of their guns isn’t the way to go. There is a lot of pressure behind any +P round, especially in a little hide out handgun. Still, I ran a lot of Buffalo Bore +P rounds through the little NAA Guardian .32 ACP. The round I first tested was the Buffalo Bore 75-gr Hard Cast FN round – a +P round, and it is one that Sundles recommends, if you’re going to carry a “mouse round” like the .32 ACP. I concur with Sundles; penetration is more important than expansion in these calibers.


Now, since my first testing with the NAA .32 Guardian in .32 ACP, Buffalo Bore added a 60-gr Barnes TAC XP +P all-copper, hollow point loading to their line-up, and I requested some for testing in this article. I also ran some Remington .32 ACP FMJ and Fiocchio .32 ACP FMJ through the little Guardian.

To be sure, the Guardian isn’t a gun you want to go out and fire a couple hundred rounds through, in one shooting session. The Guardian is a very small pistol. It’s hard to hold on to, and it only weighs 14 oz. While the trigger pull is double action only and extremely smooth, it feels heavier than the advertised 10-lb trigger pull. I believe this is because the gun is so small and a little hard to hold onto, plus the trigger pull is long (I believe one of those lawyer liability things, so there won’t be an accidental discharge). There is no manual safety on the Guardian. Still, the trigger pull is smooth, just long. I just didn’t care to fire more than a box or a box and a half of ammo through the Guardian in one shooting session. Usually, 50-60 rounds was it and I’d call it a day.


The Guardian perked along just fine, even with the Buffalo Bore two +P loads, especially the 75-gr Hard Cast FN round. There were zero problems with the Fiocchio and Remington FMJ loads. The Buffalo Bore 60-gr Barnes TAC XP load fed and fired just fine, for a while. Then, for some reason, I started having some feeding and extraction problems with this load. I kept the Guardian clean and well-lubed, so that wasn’t the problem. The chamber was also smooth, so I don’t know why the Guardian just stopped liking this load. About all I can think of is that this load, with that light bullet that is +P, was just causing the slice to move a bit too fast and it wasn’t picking-up rounds from the magazine and the slide was closing too fast, for the spent casing to fully eject. On average, I’d get one or two feeding or extraction problems per magazine. Still, when I first started shooting this ammo, the gun worked fine. It wasn’t until I went through several boxes of this ammo that the malfunctions started to appear!


I don’t care how reliable any firearm is, you will find certain brands or types of ammo that it just won’t reliably work with; this is true with any gun!! It’s just strange that the Buffalo Bore TAC XP load worked perfectly for awhile and then started having problems. Plus, I had several spare magazines on-hand, and it was the same with all the mags. So, it wasn’t a magazine problem.

As I pointed out in my first article on the Guardian, I wouldn’t carry a gun chambered in .32 ACP as my one and only gun. However, it makes a dandy back-up gun, carried in a Black Hawk Products ankle holster or any ankle holster, or even in a pocket holster. North American Arms carries a pretty good selection of holsters and spare magazines plus different types of grips for all their guns. Way to go! So, finding a holster to work with any NAA handgun won’t be a problem. My wife “confiscated” the clip-on pouch that doesn’t look like a holster, and she often carries the Guardian in it on her walks down our road with a German Shepherd at her side.


Now, to drive home the point that Tim Sundles made about penetration vs expansion in mouse calibers, during my testing with the Buffalo Bore 60-gr Barnes TAC XP +P load, it expanded nicely and went through two gallon jugs of water, just barely exiting the back of the second jug, and it expanded nicely. (See the pictures.) However, one of these rounds happened to just nick the plastic patio chair, an old one I had the water jugs on, and it caught just enough of the plastic that the hollow point didn’t open up. The Buffalo Bore 75-gr Hard Cast FN loads really penetrated. I never recovered one, and I fired them into four water jugs. That’s what we’re talking about. You must have enough penetration in order for any round to do their job.


While the other FMJ loads are fine for target practice, I wouldn’t want to carry one for self defense. You see, while they do penetrate, if they hard bone they will deflect, unlike the Buffalo Bore Hard Cast FN bullet that will crush and punch right through bone doing a lot more damage than the FMJ bullets do.

In all my testing, I have probably run about 1,000 rounds through the little Guardian. Once again, this isn’t a gun you want to fire a lot of rounds through in one shooting session. Then again, it wasn’t designed for that. It is designed for up-close and personal self-defense work with the right loads. My choice would be the Buffalo Bore 75-gr Hard Cast FN load – a +P load that will surely give you all the penetration you need.


I did find that, if I shot the Guardian for an extended period of time, I was experiencing trigger slap or something akin to it and my trigger finger started getting sore. Once again, it’s not the fault of the gun. This gun wasn’t designed as a target pistol or one you take out to the range and shoot for a couple hours. It’s intended purpose is that of a hide-out, self-defense handgun that you can have on your person all of the time. It beats throwing stones or carrying a stick; that’s for sure.

I found that, with the little pinky catcher floor plate on the magazines, I could get some better groups. All accuracy testing was done at five yards. The groups were a bit tighter, and I believe that’s because I could get a better grip on the gun. It didn’t flip as much in my hand.

Now, to be sure, the NAA Guardian .32 ACP isn’t a cheap (as in cheaply made) little hide-out handgun. It is made out of stainless steel, and the quality is there. The gun is very well made and worth the price. It’s not going to shoot loose, like many other little guns do. Some gun makers only claim that their guns are warranted for “X” number of rounds. Really? If you shoot more than that, the gun falls apart? Strange. There are no worries with the Guardian. It is little but build extremely strong. Compare a Guardian to any similar hide out pistol and you will readily see the quality is there in the Guardian.


I hope this long-term testing update answers some of the questions I’ve gotten on the NAA Guardian .32 ACP. Oh, and one other reason for not doing many follow-up articles is the cost of ammo. Yes, I do get some of my ammo for free, like from Buffalo Bore. However, I spend a lot on ammo out of my own pocket, and .32 ACP ammo isn’t inexpensive these days. I plan on doing one or two more long-term testing articles/follow-up pieces this year on a few other popular handguns I tested.

The little NAA Guardian .32 ACP is well worth the money, if you ask me, and it will give you a lifetime of service. Just make sure that, you run at least a hundred rounds of ammo through it and use the ammo you want to carry in the gun for self-defense purposes to make sure there aren’t any problems.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio