Pocket pistols fill an important niche in the defensive firearms market. As a group, these little semi-autos fit comfortably between the more powerful handguns that get left at home because of weight and size, and the fist full of thin air that comes with having no defensive firearm at all. Pocket autos also serve nicely as back-up guns, when having a second, or even a third, gun makes sense for the situation.
Pocket pistols chambered for .32 ACP, also known as the 7.65 mm Browning, have been a popular carry option for quite some time. The .32 offers an improvement in stopping power compared to pistols chambered in .22 LR or .25 ACP. But the cartridge can be chambered in guns that are measurably smaller and lighter than the current run of .380 and 9 mm pocket pistols.
It's important to note here that when shopping for deep concealment pistols it's prudent to compare apples to apples. Whatever caliber they may be chambered in, all pocket guns have been designed from the ground up, or from the chop-shop down, to be as small as possible while still providing at least some gun for the shooter to hold on to. Getting the gun to be small often means giving up the weight, size, sights and controls that make handguns comfortable to shoot and operate. As a result, pocket pistols are not generally considered "fun" to shoot. But ultra compact semi-autos are working guns with the specific purpose of easy concealment in mind. And some designs and ammunition combinations have been more successful than others. Two pocket pistols that have stayed on top of the little gun heap are the North American Arms Guardian and the Kel-Tec P-32.
North American Arms Guardian .32 ACP
Side By Side
The sights of both pistols are minimal, if not almost decorative. The P-32's are slightly better out of the box, but the Guardian can be fitted with larger sights at the factory. The P-32 sits a little lower in the hand to help manage recoil, while the Guardian sits a little higher in the hand with the extra weight in the frame working to reduce the recoil. The Guardian has a smooth 10-pound trigger pull. This may sound heavy to practice with, but the heavier trigger is intended to act as a safety feature for pocket carry and is not hard to learn to work with. The P-32, on the other hand, has a smooth 5-pound trigger. It's easier to practice with, but may seem a bit light to some shooters for safe pocket carry.
At the Range
Both guns performed consistently with all four loads tested, producing no single group larger than 2.50 inches. The Guardian yielded its best results using Winchester Silver Tips, with an average of 1.75 inches, and a best group of 1.5 inches. The Fiocchi XTP was a very close second in the Guardian with an average of 1.83 inches and a best group of 1.5 inches. For all intents and purposes, both loads performed at the same level of accuracy.
The P-32 liked the Fiocchi XTP best of all with an average of 1.75 inches, and a best group of 1.5 inches. The Kel-Tec gun did not get along as well with the Winchester Silver tips. The average group size stretched out a bit to 2.25 inches, with a best group of 2 inches. Both pistols worked reliably with all four loads tested.
The single event that might be called a malfunction was a stovepiped cartridge case. It was the last round of Winchester ball ammunition fired from the Guardian pistol. Just so you know, this occasional piping of a last spent case is a known factor for the Guardian. However, the process of dropping the empty magazine, loading a fresh magazine and racking the slide to reload, causes the spent case to clear the gun without any additional actions than the usual reloading process requires. Technically, it must be noted as a malfunction, but from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t interfere with the normal operation of the Guardian.
Manufacturer: Kel-Tec; keltecweapons.com
Manufacturer: North American Arms; northamericanarms.com