North American Arms .32 NAA Guardian Pistol: Micro Powerhouse

The L.W. Seecamp micro .32 ACP hideout pistol has been one of the most sought after pistols for ultra-discreet carry by professionals since it appeared on the scene in 1985 and is often described as being made of “unobtanium” due to the difficulty in actually finding one of these guns to purchase. In fact, by odd chance, I finally got to handle (not shoot) two Seecamp .32s in the last two months for the first time in my life.

The .32 Seecamp was revolutionary when introduced due to the fact that it was originally a .25 ACP pistol that was later adapted to fire the larger .32 ACP cartridge in the same-sized gun. Prior to its introduction, the .32 ACP was generally housed in much larger pistols like the Walther PPK. The Seecamp was also revolutionary in that it was an all-stainless-steel pistol with the then-new double-action-only heavy trigger pull, similar to that of a revolver, and no manual safety.

To ensure reliability of the Seecamp, it was recommended for many years that only Winchester .32 ACP Silvertip ammo be used in it. Even with this restriction, the pistol was widely popular, and supply could not keep up with demand. Enter North American Arms.

With the expiration of the Seecamp patents on their .32 pistol, North American Arms, primarily known for their outstanding line of rimfire single-action mini revolvers, decided to produce their improved version of the Seecamp, the Guardian, in order to satisfy unmet consumer demand.

Manufactured from stainless steel like its predecessor, the Guardian .32 ACP offered two updates of this sleek little design. The first was changing from the European heel-type magazine release to the American push-button release on the side of the frame. The second change was the addition of small fixed front and rear sights. The Seecamp has none.

Over time, North American introduced three additional cartridges and a second frame size to the Guardian lineup: the .25 North American Arms, the .380 ACP and the subject of this review, the .32 North American Arms.

The addition of the .380 ACP required a larger-framed Guardian. This somewhat larger frame allowed the introduction of the .32 NAA cartridge — a .380 cartridge case necked down to a .32-caliber bullet for increased terminal effect and higher velocity than the standard .380.

The .32 NAA Guardian, like the North American line of mini revolvers, is a precision-made firearm, unique among the current crop of polymer-framed pocket autos. It is an elegant self-defense arm, and its cartridge is a devastating close-range powerhouse — unlike any other type on the market.

As previously mentioned, the .32 NAA Guardian is a solid stainless-steel pistol that weighs in at 20.4 ounces. The weight is needed to help control the .32 NAA cartridge’s recoil. This is a palm-sized pistol with a 2.5-inch barrel, a width of .94 inches and a height of 3.69 inches. The frame and all but the flats of the slide are matte-finished, while the slide is polished. There are rear grasping grooves on the slide, and a takedown button resides on the right side of the frame. The front and rear edges of the slide are rounded for smooth holstering and draw. There is no last-shot hold-open feature.

The double-action-only trigger and hammer are also polished bright. The solid trigger is finished smooth, is nicely rounded on the sides and doesn’t pinch the trigger finger during firing. The hammer fits flush at the back of the slide. Grips are pebble-finished hard rubber. The double-action trigger pull is long and smooth. There is no manual safety.

The overall design is interesting. Blowback operation allows fixed-barrel construction (like the Walther PPK series). This increases the accuracy potential over tilting-barrel, locked-breech designs.

North American furnished three different loads for testing. Two loads were from Cor-Bon, which also helped develop this proprietary cartridge — the Cor-Bon 60-grain JHP load, rated at 1200 feet per second and 192 FPE, and the Cor-Bon 71-grain FMJ practice load, rated at 1000 feet per second and 158 FPE. The third load was Hornady’s 80-grain FTX, which is rated at 1000 feet per second and 178 FPE at the muzzle. Two six-round magazines are furnished by North American — one has a finger extension.

The Guardian series of pistols, as described in their literature, is for people serious about personal protection. It is not a beginner’s gun. The small sights and long trigger take a bit of practice to handle, but, with practice, some very good groups are possible.

At 21 feet, groups were centered to the point of aim, in the range of 3-4 inches for six shots. The chronograph registered muzzle velocity for the Cor-Bon 60-grain JHP at an average of 1179 feet per second and 185 FPE. The Hornady 80-grain Critical Defense averaged 986 feet per second and 166 FPE. Recoil of both loads (the Cor-Bon practice load was not measured) was snappy, but not unmanageable.

I tested the 60-grain Cor-Bon load in a 25-pound clay block. The results were rather spectacular. The bullet split into five parts and created five tubular wound channels. Penetration was approximately 7 inches, and the cavity diameter was 6 inches.

There are a couple of issues that I had with .32 NAA. (Remember that the original design for this gun is now 35 years old.) First, the gun likes to run clean due to tight tolerances. Grease-type lubricants work best on the stainless-to-stainless contact surfaces. I recommend Wilson Combat’s Ultima Lube II.

The second thing I realized is that older handgun designs can be more ammo sensitive than newer ones, and that it pays to check out functional reliability before carry. My sample Guardian did not like the brass-case Cor-Bon loads. I had some failures to feed with both Cor-Bon loads — especially as the gun got dirty — and some stovepiped ejected cases, especially on the last round in the magazine.

There was no such problem with the Hornady 80-grain FTX loads; feeding and ejection were flawless. Their ammo is nickel-plated, and the polymer-tipped bullet has a more pointed profile than the Cor-Bon loads, which provides improved feeding.

The .32 NAA is a specialized handgun for the experienced shooter who wants a good amount of power in a palm pistol package. I have been carrying it in a TUFF Products size 11 Pocket Roo Holster, where it hides unobserved in my trouser pocket with a spare magazine.

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary with a touch of elegance for deep concealment and a good amount of power, consider the .32 NAA Guardian. If you want to go smaller, try the .25 NAA or .32 ACP versions, which weigh 5 ounces less. MSRP is $456.00, which is pretty good price for the craftsmanship. A solid-steel locking box is included.


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