As concealed carry permits continue to gain in popularity across the United States, the ownership of small frame handguns is reaching previously-unseen heights. This is quite understandable by anyone who has carried a concealed handgun before: handguns are never completely comfortable to carry, and the larger the handgun, typically the harder it is to carry.
For this reason, we see the resurgence of 32ACP and 380ACP handguns as they are typically the most powerful cartridges available in a small-frame mousegun. A new and innovative cartridge making its way into the mainstream of concealed carry is the 32 North American Arms, or the 32NAA. The 32NAA is a 380ACP cartridge necked down to fire 32 caliber bullets. Due to the 380ACP propellant charge, regular 32ACP JHP bullets should not be used because they usually cannot hold up to the increased velocity from such a cartridge.
The terminal performance of the 32NAA is equal to that of the 32H&R Magnum snubnose and this means that tougher, deeper penetrating bullets are required. Two problems plague 380ACP mouseguns: reduced feed reliability due to the higher slide velocity/spring rates and the lower muzzle velocity generated from such short barrel lengths. When someone asks me “which handgun is the best?”, I answer ‘the one that you are willing to fight with.’ After their shock wears off, I follow with ‘the hardest-recoiling pistol you can accurately fire, that is small enough to carry at all times.’
380ACP mouseguns fit this role, but they can be improved. Smaller guns are less reliable than guns with larger slides using the same cartridge because of the difficulty in matching the strength of the recoil spring to the smaller mass of the slide and accompanying higher slide velocity. This creates feeding issues, which are almost eliminated by the use of a bottleneck cartridge like the 32NAA. The other issue is the reduced muzzle velocity from the shorter barrel lengths.
Firearm propellant requires time to burn, so the reduced barrel length provides less time for the bullet to be driven down the barrel by the gases which results in a lower terminal performance when the bullet hits the target. We have conducted extensive 380ACP gelatin testing for customers, usually involving guns with 2.8” barrels.
You can choose either great expansion and shallow penetration or good penetration and little-to-no expansion with these guns and ammunition. The smaller diameter bullet and larger propellant charge is another advantage of the 32NAA. Pushing 1040 ft/sec with a 76gr JHP, you get full expansion and FBI-compliant penetration depth with the same 2.8” barrel length. Shooting this cartridge is no different than shooting the 380ACP in terms of recoil but there are no free lunches, as they say. The noise produced by this cartridge and the muzzle flash are more pronounced, due to the higher pressures present at all times within the barrel. This is not a serious drawback but it should be noted. In any case, modern propellants are able to maintain high performance and minimal muzzle flash so it is a non-issue with proper ammunition selection. Currently, North American Arms makes a Guardian handgun in this caliber but almost all 380ACP guns can be converted to 32NAA. Machine Engineers, Inc of Jacksonville, Florida is a custom gunsmithing machineshop that offers 32NAA conversions for most handguns. I had them convert my SIG P238 by a special barrel lining process and I have since fired 600 rounds of 32NAA without a single malfunction. Brass is easy to find for handloaders since you can simply resize 380ACP cases using 32NAA reloading dies. High performance defensive ammunition is currently being manufactured by Cor-Bon with their DPX and standard JHP lines, in addition to Hornady who has recently introduced a 32NAA Critical Defense loading. In all affairs, it is our duty to prepare as well as we can with the time that we have. I feel the 32NAA will enhance your defensive preparations and hope you will take a look at this innovative and effective cartridge.
What your next Mousegun cartridge should be able to do.