NAA Guardian .32 ACP – first shots

It was a lucky find.

I’ve been intrigued by things like the Seecamp LWS32 and North American Arms Guardian for some time. Why? Just because. They’re so tiny, about the smallest “practical” semi-auto pistols you can buy and use for personal defense. But it’s not been a serious obsession or anything, just a passing interest.

But when I was out in Kerrville, TX last weekend with some extended family, one of them took me to a pawn shop. I don’t frequent pawn shops (just not my habit), but on this day I’m glad I did because right there in the case was a NAA Guardian .32 ACP.

I bought it on the spot.

Why?

My interest in guns started with personal defense, and that remains my primary motivator. Sure, my first purchase was a small gun, a Springfield XD-9 Subcompact. Well, it was a mistake purchase because small guns are hard to shoot and shoot well, which really works against someone learning how to shoot, build competence, and gain confidence. Shortly after I started, I ended up buying another gun, an XD-9 with the 5″ barrel, and things went much smoother. :-)

While I prefer full-sized guns for a host of reasons, there’s no question small guns have their role. They are NOT a first choice, and probably not even a second or third choice, but sometimes they are the right tool for the job. I mean, I have a screwdriver that has a 24″ shaft, which I bought and used once because it was the needed tool for the job. You tend to be more successful when you use the right tool for the job, and being as a gun is merely a tool, you should use the right one for the job at hand. Sometimes, small is what you need.

For a while my small gun was a S&W 442 J-frame “snub-nose” revolver. There’s a lot of positive to such a choice, but after a few years of trying to make it work for me I came to accept that it just wasn’t the best choice for my needs. The S&W M&P Shield 9mm has worked out pretty well, but the Shield’s size is in an odd slot where it’s a little big for small jobs and a little small for big jobs. It does work and fills a fair role, but it’s still not always what’s needed.

I’ve considered Kahr’s for a long time, like a PM9/MK9 or maybe a CM9, and frankly during my shopping in Kerrville I did look for one of these Kahrs and may well have bought it if one was available. Alas, the only Kahrs they had at the couple places we went to were other calibers or larger sizes.

But then, the NAA Guardian came up, and I figured what the hey, why not?

It’s a (very) small gun for when you need that. I’ve had a few times in life where I’ve had to go somewhere and wanted the smallest possible gun I could legally carry. I made do with what I had, but still wished for something smaller. And now, perhaps I have it.

Plus why this particular gun? As an instructor, we get people asking all sorts of questions, and it’s often useful to give tangible answers. Being able to have such a gun on hand to let people handle, shoot, and see first-hand why we might answer as we do – it enables people to convince themselves, which is far more educational and persuasive than saying “just trust us”.

As well, it’s simple novelty, and “just because”. It’s the first time I’ve seen one for sale (tho maybe if I got out more I might have seen one sooner), so I figured I better buy while I can. :-)

The Gun

The NAA Guardian was introduced in 1997. If you search around for those “mouse gun comparison charts” is one of the smallest around. This version, in .32 ACP (not .32 NAA), is all steel, DAO, holds 6+1, barrel 2.49″, OAL 4.4″, 3.3″ tall, 0.85″ wide, 13.6 oz empty and 16 oz full.

That’s small.

NAA Guardian .32 ACP vs. S&W M&P9

So small that most people can only get 1 finger on the grip, with your ring and pinky fingers dangling off. Yeah, that’s a bit of a problem. Good luck getting that 2-handed grip on it. :-)

This particular gun seems to be on the older side. I’ve emailed NAA asking questions, but as of this writing I’ve yet to hear back. I’m curious about the gun because it does seem older. For example, the 2 magazines are all metal, whereas the new production magazines have plastic baseplates. Some other details make me wonder about the history here, but I’ll save that for another time.

Overall it seemed to be in good shape. Obviously fired, but reasonably maintained.

Then there’s .32 ACP. Yeah… it’s not the best cartridge. If you’re curious about .32 ACP, search around as there’s lots of information out there. But long-short made relevant here? It seems the best choice is loads with Hornady XTP bullets, as they will have reasonable penetration AND will expand. Is it still great performance? Nope; I still consider it sub-optimal. But it’s not the worst thing in the world, and it’s better than nothing.

You just have to remember that it’s all about trade-offs. This is not a gun of first choice, or even second or fifth choice – this is a gun of “no other choice”.

First Shots

Before I took it to the range I took it apart to clean and oil it. Yeah, it was dirty, and I could also tell… old. The recoil springs were old. Still, I cleaned what I could, oiled it up well, and put it back together. The fact it lacks any way to lock the slide back is a little annoying, but it’s what it is.

I purchased single boxes of a variety of ammo:

  • Federal American Eagle 71 grain FMJ
  • Herter’s 73 grain FMJ
  • Winchester “white box” 71 grain
  • PMC 71 grain FMJ
  • Hornady’s “Custom” 60 grain with the XTP bulet (2 boxes)

Ran through all 250 rounds between myself, a friend, and Oldest. Here’s how it went.

There were numerous malfunctions, mostly failures to feed. Sometimes the last round would stovepipe in the magazine, sometimes it might start feeding then the slide closed and things munged up. Considering how and when it would happen (many times the last round in the magazine), that it happened with all ammo types, under various shooting circumstances, best we can figure is old springs. The magazines are likely original springs, and given the gun uses the upward pressure of the magazine as the ejection mechanism, it’s likely that. So I’m going to purchase some new magazines (and new recoil springs) and try again. If it continues to malfunction after that, then it’s off to the gunsmith. If it continues to malfunction after that, then it becomes a conversation piece. Certainly at this point I do not trust the gun for personal protection.

The inability to lock the slide back? That’s a major hamper when it comes to clearing the malfunctions. I reckon any malfunctions or reload needs here will be better served by dropping this gun and drawing a second gun, which you’re unlikely to have if you’ve been pressed into having to carry this gun in the first place. :-\

Overall tho, all ammo performed fairly well. The Herter’s had noticeably more felt recoil than the others. But regardless of bullet shape – and they were all different – all either fed or malfunctioned the same. I could detect no pattern of success or failure, so likely in the future practice ammo purchases will be “whatever is cheapest”.

Felt recoil wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I expected some bite, but didn’t get it. Would I want to do a 1000 round weekend class with it? Probably not (and not just because felt recoil). But something like KR Training’s Defensive Pistol Skills – Back Up Gun (4 hours, 150-200 rounds) oh sure. I will say tho, a couple times we gripped the gun up higher than it should be gripped and the felt recoil was greater and hurt a little bit. Will have to see how that pans out in reality in terms of quick drawing.

We did no draw work, tho I did get lucky and found a DeSantis Nemesis at Cabela’s (hrm.. I wonder if I can get a Safariland ALS for it so I can open carry it come January 2016… that’s a joke, folks). Everything was from the ready position. At this point it was just trying to determine if the gun was reliable enough, if and what any issues were, what ammo would it consume, and just how it ran and felt.

Some stuff was slow fire. I was surprised at the accuracy. We were shooting a 8″ steel plate at probably 15 yards and had no problems when using the “sights”. Yes, “sights” in quotes because it does have some bumpy things up there, but I doubt you’ll ever use them in a fight because they are hard to find and use (tiny tiny, hard to find, hard to determine “equal height, equal light”). Shots did land slightly right, and it was easy to see why. The barrel and frame are 1 piece, with the front sight is on the barrel; the rear sight is on the slide. The slide locks up fine, but looking at the rib that runs the length of the top of the gun, you can see the slide isn’t perfectly square on lockup. Bug or feature? I don’t know, and maybe new recoil springs will help. But because of that the sights don’t line up mechanically, so when you visually line them up the muzzle points a little to the right. Still, the groupings were tight and consistent, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Still, what made it a bitch to shoot right and well was the fact it was a 1 lb. gun with long heavy trigger press. The manufacturer states it has a 10 lb. trigger press! I went looking for Karl’s digital gauge but couldn’t find it, just an old spring one. The spring one’s scale topped at 8 lb. but it looked like the gauge could go to 10 lb. before it bottomed out. Well, it’s at least that then, because it wasn’t until it bottomed out that I could get the trigger to break. Could be the gauge had weak/old springs, so I don’t know how accurate it all was, but it’s reasonable to say it’s got a damn heavy trigger.

So consider that: a very tiny gun which is hard enough to get a good grip on, to have good “gun fit” and a proper trigger press. Then you have a pull weight that’s 10x the weight of the gun. Yeah, it’s going to be DAMN hard to shoot well.

Of course we tried some fast stuff, because this isn’t a bullseye gun. This is a personal defense gun that’s likely going to be shot from 0-5 yards, quickly, multiple rounds. On the one hand, the lack of proper sights can be ok there because at that distance and speed an index off the slide is reasonable. Dumping magazines as quick as we could landed just fine on a 18″x24″ steel plate at 10 yards. But that’s still not awesome. Certainly we had times when we’d shoot and not hear the DING of the steel — it’s very easy to get unacceptable hits with this gun. I didn’t take any cardboard out to see how it’d perform, but that wasn’t the point of the day. Still, once I get the new magazines and springs, I’ll give it a full run through (like doing the DPS-BUG class drills, maybe just running “3 Seconds or Less“). Again, this day was about seeing if the gun would just run.

All in all tho, I was pleasantly surprised with the gun. It performed better than I thought it would, and was much more enjoyable to shoot than I expected it to be. The fact ammo is rather expensive (it’s more than 9mm) hurts, so I don’t think I’ll be shooting it all that often. But still, I think it’s going to find a place.

What’s Next?

Next up is buying magazines and springs, then another round of testing. That testing will be just to see if the gun runs and how it runs with new springs, and I plan to do more structured shooting. Some simple “just does it work?” shooting. Some slow accuracy, and certainly some proper and appropriate drills on paper (e.g. “3 Seconds or Less” drill).

Buying magazines and parts, seems I have to go to the manufacturer, which is fine. I just hope they’re more responsive with the sales than they seem to be so far with customer service questions.

When it comes to ammo, the only loads I can find with the XTP bullet are Hornady’s own load and the Buffalo Bore. I expect the BB would hurt like hell. ;-)  But it does document 943 fps out of a 2″ Seecamp barrel and 1080 out of a 3″, so maye 1000 out of the 2.5″ Guardian, which would be quite good. Other .32 ACP loads where I can find info on tend to be 1000-ish out of a 4″ barrel so…. I’m going to pick up at least 1 box of the BB to see how it goes. Otherwise for practice ammo, whatever is cheapest. I see MidwayUSA has Fiocchi 73 grain FMJ for $15.49, cheapest stuff available so…

Anyways, time to do a little shopping. :-)

KR Training August 2015 newsletter

The KR Training August 2015 newsletter is up.

To me, the high points are some upcoming classes, such as Tom Givens doing his Combative Pistol 2 — excellent class. But also? There’s a lot of stuff for 2016 already taking shape. You should check it out and get in on things before they sell out (because they do).

See you at the range!

2015-08-28 training log

A few things from today.

First, I had a passing thought that maybe next week (being the last week of the cycle) I’d actually work up to my proposed max. But quickly put the kibosh on that because again, what purpose? Just ego. Just do the work, call it good.

Then shrugs I tried being stricter about. I did some “air shrugs” to get the proper feel of just contracting my traps to lift the bar. Gotta do that more so it translates into moving the bar. Just that, y’know?

Then… chin-ups. I’ve been feeling a bunch of elbow pain lately, and while I don’t know if chin-ups caused it, I know they are aggravating it. I used to not go to full dead-hang, stopping just above it — for the sake of my shoulders. But now that I’m going all the way down, it puts a torque on my arms and my left elbow is really feeling it. So… I’m gonna stop. For sure other grips are less stress on the elbow, like neutral-grip. So, Paul Carter often talks about v-bar pull-ups, so why not. It’s basically a very narrow-grip, neutral-grip. Might as well give them a try. It was a little fumbling today tho as I work to figure out a good placement of the bar so my head doesn’t bang into things. I’ll get it figured… but might as well see what these do for me. :-)

Otherwise… I’m just looking forward to next week!

Strong-15 Short Cycle, from LRB365

  • Deadlift (goal: 405)
    • 160 x 5
    • 200 x 4
    • 245 x 3
    • 285 x 2
    • 345 x 1
    • 355 x 1
    • 265 x 1
    • 325 x 3 (backoff)
    • 325 x 3 (backoff)
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlift
    • 255 x 9
  • BB Shrugs
    • 255 x 5
    • 185 x 20
  • Chin-ups
    • BW x 5
  • V-bar pullups
    • BW x 3
    • BW x 4
  • BB Curls
    • 60 x 10
    • 60 x 8

2015-08-26 training log

Good day… but I’m rethinking.

As week 4 of this Strong-15 Short Cycle progresses, I’m starting to wonder….

Should I keep going?

I knew it’d be an experiment to try a peaking cycle with the start of my weight-cut. I figured it could work OK since I was at the start of the cut and food would be essentially the same as it had been during my prior bulk/mid. But I think cutting out all those cheats and the fact I am losing weight is making a difference. Not so much the weight-loss itself, but the lack of volumous food. I have started to get the occasional dizzy-spell, which is a tell-tale sign of the carb depletion. I’m still doing well in my sessions, but it’s enough to make me wonder if I really will get to the end OK.

Also, the amount of work I’m doing per session just isn’t what I need to support the fat loss. This I expected, but I have to remember that my goal is fat loss and I need to be supporting THAT goal right now.

So why did I do this short-cycle? Because I wanted to. Because I miss lifting this way. Because I miss the heavier weights. Because I miss trying to build strength; because I miss being strong(er) than I was before. So yeah, it was all emotional and ego, but lord I needed it after a year of other stuff. So I don’t regret it, I do think the mental break was good.

But what I’m starting to think is that I’m going to skip the testing. So finish this week, finish next week (which technically marks the end of the cycle — after that you’d deload for a week, then test). And then switch gears. Why? Because what will testing accomplish for me other than the ego satisfaction? Granted, I want the ego satisfaction, but that’s not a Good Enough™ reason to do it. I have to also consider that my fat loss hasn’t been at the rate I’ve wanted, and if I want to hit my goal (weight loss in time-period) then I gotta get focused on it — so that means changing my gym work to up the volume and workload to support that goal-work. Besides, after next week I will have put in all the work, so really… is there anything truly lost here? No, I don’t think so.

So, it’s an ego-check, really. I think that’s a good thing. I think that I’ll benefit more in the long-run by doing this. I’m good with it.

Strong-15 Short Cycle, from LRB365

  • Bench (goal: 265)
    • bar x 5 x 2
    • 135 x 5
    • 155 x 4
    • 180 x 3
    • 200 x 2
    • 225 x 1
    • 235 x 1
    • 240 x 1
    • 200 x 7 (AMRAP)
  • Incline Press
    • 105 x 15
    • 105 x 15
  • Dips
    • BW x 10
    • BW x 6
    • BW x 5
    • BW x 5
    • BW x 5

2015-08-24 training log

4th week, and feeling good.

Really, getting tight beyond tight is what it’s about. Crush that bar so hard the steel oozes from between your fingers. It makes a huge whole-body difference.

The other big help is having a clear head. I’ve been so busy, my brain buzzing with work and life issues, that my gym sessions are more thinking about that than the weights. It’s not about being focused — if anything it’s about having a clear mind, no mind. All I’m thinking about is what’s immediately in front of me. That’s been huge too.

Hitting 285 today isn’t much in the grand scheme, but coming back from all my losses it’s one of the bigger weights I’ve moved in ages. Next week’s 295 will be telling, but I feel no qualms about that going down and then coming back up. 315 is going to happen! I’m very happy about that, because I’m getting closer to regaining where I used to be.

Anyways, all in all today went well. Not much else to say.

Strong-15 Short Cycle, from LRB365

  • Squat (goal: 315)
    • bar x 5 x 2
    • 155 x 5
    • 185 x 4
    • 215 x 3
    • 235 x 2
    • 270 x 1
    • 275 x 1
    • 285 x 1
  • Pause Squat
    • 235 x 3
    • 235 x 3
  • Leg Press
    • 315 x 20
    • 315 x 15
  • Leg Curls
    • 40 x 15
    • 40 x 12
    • 40 x 9
  • Calf Raises
    • 105 x 10
    • 105 x 10
    • 105 x 10

Sunday Metal – Metallica @ Rock in Rio 2015

Metallica’s Rock in Rio 2015 performance

 

2015-08-21 training log

Things are getting heavy.

So brings an end to week 3 of the cycle. This is where things aren’t quite heavy, but they are starting to.

I’m going mixed grip on the singles from here out.

Really tho, I was surprised today went so well. I was out of town for the past 2.5 days on business, with bad travel, time-zone changes, and not a lot of sleep. My body did NOT want to get out of bed this morning — “MOAR SLEEP!” it cried. But once I got in there and got going, everything went pretty well.

Looking forward to how the last few weeks of this cycle go.

And yes, I’m leaning towards going Base Building after the cycle is done. I hope that will help me cement the work done in this Strong-15 Short Cycle, and start the transition back to rep-work and “bodybuilding” as I finish out this cut/diet cycle. Alas, the business trip may have set me back a little bit — I’ll know better come my weigh-in on Sunday, I’m hoping to at least have maintained weight. But when you have to eat a little and drink a little to be socially polite to your hosts and business partners, well… calories-in don’t care much about your business deals. Ah well, should just be a small bump in the road. For the record, Arcadia Ales is pretty damn awesome (had the Brown Cow… man, that was good).

Strong-15 Short Cycle, from LRB365

  • Deadlift (goal: 405)
    • 160 x 5
    • 200 x 4
    • 245 x 3
    • 285 x 2
    • 335 x 1
    • 345 x 1
    • 355 x 1
    • 305 x 3 (backoff)
    • 305 x 3 (backoff)
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlift
    • 255 x 9
  • BB Shrugs
    • 255 x 10
    • 185 x 23
  • Chin-ups
    • BW x 5
    • BW x 4
    • BW x 3
  • BB Curls
    • 60 x 10
    • 60 x 7

On witnesses

Recently a knife-wielding person was shot by a police officer. I’m not here to comment on the incident itself or other things people tend to comment on regarding such incidents these days.

I want to focus on what was reported from the witnesses.

Here’s the story. From that article:

In interviews with the Washington Post, two witnesses said that when encountered by police, the woman had a knife, which they described as relatively small.

The knife was “relatively small”. When you hear that, what comes to mind? Probably not some sort of Crocodile Dundee type knife, right?

One man, Gerald McBrayer, said the woman was holding “a little steak knife,” and received no warning.

Another saying it was “little”

Another man, Nathan Strickland, said she had a steak knife with what he described as a skinny” 6 to 8 inch blade.

6-8″ is pretty specific, and that’s not all that little. Or if you want to put it in context, get a ruler, measure out 6-8″, now hold that “through” your body and see just how deep 6-8″ goes — or rather, see how shallow your body is, relative to a “small knife”.

The witnesses see the same basic thing – a woman with a knife – but they assess the knife differently. Why would they assess the knife differently? Proximity? Perception? Level of life experiences? Ulterior motive? Ignorance? Misspeaking?

Note as well Mr. McBrayer said the woman received no warning.

When officers responded they found a woman who was holding at least one knife, he said. Officers told her to drop the weapon but she did not respond to their command and as the woman continued to advance, she was shot once in the upper body Taylor said.

You can also watch the video and listen:

Urgent cries are heard, apparently from bystanders. “Put the knife down,” one person shouts. “Put it down.”

A man in a T-shirt stands between the two, a little to the side, waving his arms downward, apparently calling for her to drop what she carried

Some heard no warnings, others heard warnings.

Does any of this mean the witnesses are lying? No. Could they be? Maybe. And again, I’m not commenting directly on this incident or the witnesses — I’m just using this article, as reported, as an illustration. What it does mean is witness testimony is only so valid. As I’ve touched on before, even video can only tell you so much.

You’ve probably seen this video:

Selective Attention is a real thing, and it affects witness testimony.

Again, this isn’t evaluative as a good or bad thing, that people are being bad or wrong or intentionally trying to skew things (always possible, but not always the case). It’s just something worth knowing and understanding, so witness testimony can be taken for what it is.

2015-08-18 training log

Taking a cue from Monday’s squat day — tight tight tight.

I worked on my bench setup today. Really getting my body locked in, from my shoulders being dug into the bench, to my feet being planted and arching hard. I don’t get much arch, but when my feet are in the right spot, if the arch is as high and tight as I can get it (which isn’t much, but still going as far as I can), boy that all really helps. Granted, I found myself losing my leg drive because I was focused on too many things, but I can live with that for now while I work through all of this.

After I get all tight and in there, hold it for a moment, settle, THEN unrack the bar. For whatever reason I get in place then unrack the bar without waiting… probably because I don’t want to tire out, but come on, it’s not that big a deal. I do want to work more on that technique of just pulling the bar out via lats, instead of “lifting” the bar out… all an effort to keep the shoulder blades back and pinned, y’know? Then unracked, let things settle and reacquire shoulders if needed, THEN start benching. Pause a moment at the bottom, then push.

So yeah, working on technique. It’s better, but it’s also a bit of a step back just because I’m thinking so much that it’s almost over-thinking and not just moving the bar, y’know? It’ll get there.

Anyways, things were generally good today.

Strong-15 Short Cycle, from LRB365

  • Bench (goal: 265)
    • bar x 5 x 2
    • 135 x 5
    • 155 x 4
    • 180 x 3
    • 200 x 2
    • 220 x 1
    • 225 x 1
    • 235 x 1
    • 185 x 11 (AMRAP)
  • Incline Press
    • 105 x 15
    • 105 x 12
  • Dips
    • BW x 8
    • BW x 5
    • BW x 5
    • BW x 4
    • BW x 4

Smart vs. Dumb Self-Defense

It’s wonderful to see Adam from LowTechCombat back again. The website’s been revamped, and the articles are once-again being published.

His first post-revamp article is SMART SELF DEFENCE VS DUMB SELF DEFENCE (he’s from Australia, thus “defence”), and it’s a good one.

He’s right:

The sad fact is most in the self defence industry teach dumb self defence and really don’t encourage a lot of thinking from their students.

[…]

The dumb self defence approach is teaching people what to do when there is an attacker right in front of you; Nothing before that time.

[…]

This sort of practise is clearly needed. These are the sorts of skills you need when everything else has failed. As a last resort, you need to know what to do when there is an attacker standing in front of you. We cannot wish this possibility away.

The real problem comes when this approach (an attacker is right in front of you) is your only approach to self defence. This makes it dumb self defence.

Self-defense should not start when it’s too late. What’s the best self-defense? Never having to defend yourself. This usually means awareness, avoidance, deterrence, de-escalation.

And like Adam alludes to, none of this is sexy, none of this is particularly fun to study and train (at least on the surface, to many people). But if there’s anything that’s really going to keep you safe and out of harm’s way, that’s what will do it.

Always remember John Farnam’s famous quip: “Don’t go to stupid places; don’t associate with stupid people; don’t do stupid things. We will add to that, be in bed by 10 o’clock.” That’s pretty much awareness, avoidance, deterrence, de-escalation, and it’s what helps you live a safer, better life.