April 2006

A Trio of Pocket .380 ACPs: Steer Clear of NAA’s Guardian

Instead, depending on your needs, pick the slightly larger but fully functional Beretta Cheetah. Also, we loved aspects of S&Wís PPK, but it didnít work during some parts of our test.

Whether or not the .380 ACP cartridge is your cup of tea, it exists in large numbers of available handguns today. Some of today’s most modern ammunition make this cartridge a better one than it was, say, 30 years ago, but we would still not consider it for a main defensive weapon because we feel there are better caliber choices. Even the .45 ACP can be had in small packages.

We decided to look at a few of the .380 pocket pistols available, never mind the relative worth of the cartridge. After all, in a life-threatening situation any firearm is better than none, and a small, pocket-size gun is often more likely to be carried than anything bigger. We got a PPK Walther ($543), now being made in this smaller configuration by Smith & Wesson. The tiny North American Arms Guardian ($449) was the choice of one of our testers, despite the gun’s being DAO. And the somewhat larger Beretta 85 FS Cheetah ($575) was also put up for consideration. Do these little .380s kick? How accurate are they? How easy are they to shoot fast? In this evaluation we looked hard at each gun’s ability to make fast and reasonably accurate hits, but as always, we shot ‘em for group.

We tested with two types of hardball, CCI’s Blazer and Brazilian Magtech, both with reloadable brass cases. We also used Cor-Bon’s 90-grain JHP loads. We also tried a few groups with Federal’s Personal Defense Hydra-Shok 90-grain JHP and Miwall’s 88-grain JHP but didn’t include these in the official results.

For the rapid-fire evaluations, we began with the gun in hand, and from a range of seven yards, brought the gun up and placed a shot onto a sheet of paper 8.5 by 11 inches in size. This was repeated until we got a good feel for each pistol, shooting each gun in the double-action mode. Then we tried each gun with two fast shots, which meant the Walther and Beretta were fired DA/SA, but of course the NAA Guardian was DA for both shots. We used these tests as a simple but practical evaluation of each gun’s “combat” potential. We recommend the reader do similar testing if he buys such a gun with self defense in mind. Here’s what we found.

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