Here’s an update.
I got in touch with North American Arms. They couldn’t tell me much. The gun was manufactured in June 1998. According to their website, this model was introduced in 1997, so this – along with the “AA-prefix” serial number, and this is early production. They did say I could send it in to them to have them give it a look over, and I’m strongly considering doing that (read on).
Based on the performance from the first range trip, we figured the plethora of malfunctions was due to weak springs. Based on what I see, I bet these are original springs – all 17 years old, and well worn. On the NAA website you can order various parts, so I ordered a new set of recoil springs, as well as 4 new magazines. Interesting thing on the magazines is they now have an option for a grip extender, but for an early model like mine you have to replace the magazine release (apparently the downward pressure on the extender is too much for the original mag release button). My plan was to start with springs, then see how it goes.
The recoil spring is simple to replace. The new magazine release button is easy to replace as well, once you figure out the locking mechanism (just look at the new one, fiddle with it a couple times, and you’ll figure it out). I put two of the new magazines in storage, and put one extender on one new magazine, thus I could try one new mag with the extender and one new mag with a flat baseplate.
Got the gun cleaned up and oiled up again, and yesterday I got to shoot it again.
The plan was to run another 200 rounds through the gun, again of various ammo types/brands. NAA said “Any ammo should function just fine in our Guardians.”, and based on my prior experience I figured from here out just get what’s cheapest. That turned out to be a bunch of Fiocchi 73 grain FMJ from MidwayUSA. But I also ran a box of American Eagle 71 grain, 25 of those Hornady Custom XTP, and… 25 Buffalo Bore (Buffalo Barnes, actually).
Since one goal is to find self-defense ammo that will perform well in this caliber, all things I could find pointed to the Hornady XTP bullet being the best. There was a load from Fiocchi with the XTP that performed well in tests, but that doesn’t seem to be available any more. The only loads I could find in .32 ACP with the Hornady XTP were Horandy’s own, and then a Buffalo Bore. Now, Buffalo Bore is notorious for being hot loads, so I double checked with NAA Customer support: “Yes that includes Buffalo Bore.”. OK then. 🙂
I ordered 50 rounds of the Buffalo Bore, with the intention of shooting 25 to see how they did. Because the way I see it, they list this load as getting 943 fps out of a 2″ Seecamp and 1080 out of a Beretta Mod 70 with a 3″ barrel. Most .32 ACP loads, like say Hornady’s XTP load, all list performance out of a 4″ barrel (as is standard) and 1000 fps at that. So for sure, the Buffalo Bore is a hotter load. But what surprised me was that the BB wasn’t an XTP as I had found online, but I guess they (recently?) changed the load to now use a Barnes TAC-XP bullet! I am a HUGE fan of Barnes Bullets and I know they perform well, better than traditional bullets. So with their bullet performance, a little bit more velocity out of such a small barrel, I’m hopeful this could pan out to be the right load.
And the process? First just run through some ammo to see if things run or malfunction. But then, let’s do some tests, like Gila Hayes’ 5×5 drill, the TX CHL test, 3 Seconds or Less.
She ran quite well.
For sure, the problem was springs. Out of 200 rounds I had 3 malfunctions, and 2 I’m going to chalk up to me. For sure I had 1 failure to feed malfunction that was exactly like the others. The other 2 were me shooting weak-hand and I am not 100% sure what I did but it was me because things felt odd. The gun is so small and feels so strange to begin with. Then you add in the grip extender and that feels even stranger because usually extenders let you get your pinky on the gun, but this lets you get your ring finger on the gun, and the extender lip is so long and how it comes out between your fingers just feels funny because it’s a new sensation. So when I put the gun in my weak hand and started shooting, it felt so awkward that I think I probably limp-wristed it and the gun failed. Once I got used to the sensation, weak-hand ran no problems.
The tests I chose I chose because I knew they would be easy enough to run without drawing (I forgot the pocket holster at home). All tests ran no problem. Accuracy went quite well too. For sure tho, you will want to compensate. I found a lot of shots going right, and the explanation is simple: 1 lb gun, 10 lb trigger pull, awkward gun fit (too small for larger hands) and so I’m certainly pulling the gun to the right — I could see it as I focused on the front sight that I was certainly pulling the gun right. But once you know it, you can work with it.
Shot the 5×5 multiple times just fine (with time to spare). Ran the TX CHL on an IPSC target (and only counting the top-half of the A-Zone box), with no problems and time to spare. 3 Seconds or Less ran from quasi holster (I would hold the gun in my hand in position), and most of the drill ran fine – weak hand was a mess, as noted above.
The ammo? Again, the European ammo (the Fiocchi, just like the Herters) has noticeably more felt recoil (snappier). But what surprised me was the Buffalo Bore didn’t kick as much as I expected it too — the Fiocchi hurt more. But apart from felt recoil, all ammo seemed to run just fine. I will say tho… the Buffalo Bore has awesome muzzle flash:
For sure, this sort of gun demonstrates that small guns are “advanced” guns, certainly not beginner choices in any way. And if you are going to carry such a gun, you better practice with it as it has a whole set of issues unique to itself. You could probably switch from a M&P9 full-size to a Glock 17 without missing a beat, but going from one of those to this Guardian? It’s different enough you’ll want some specific practice.
At this point, I feel good about this gun. It needs some love and care, because I reckon it didn’t have much over the past 17 years. I am pretty sure I’ll send it to NAA to have them give it some love. I’d love to have every spring in the gun replaced, and have them address anything they can see.
One thing that I noticed while I was cleaning it was the screwed in the grips had backed out. I had put some blue Loctite on them, but apparently that wasn’t enough. The grips aren’t just cosmetic – they do help in holding mechanisms together. And the right-side screw feels maybe stripped? Not sure, as I didn’t have time to pull everything apart to see. So I want to have them address what they can here. My “here’s what to look at” letter that will go in the return box will be lengthy. 🙂
Once that all goes through? I would want to keep practicing with it. It’s certainly not a gun I’d always carry, but it handles and performs much better than I would have expected. It’s certainly the skill of the shooter too, but the gun itself works pretty well.
As for ammo, I would love to collect a wider sampling of ammo. Run all sorts over a chronograph to see what “real” velocities are. And then for any potential self-defense candidates, run them through some ballistics gel. But there’s time, money, etc. But maybe I’ll see about hitting up MouseGunAddict. 🙂
Am I willing to carry this gun? Yes, but not yet. I think she still needs some love from a gunsmith. And I’d like to get a little more data on ammo.
But so far, it’s alright.