North American Arms PUG: 6.4 Ounces of Instant Flames from your Fist

By Randy Wakeman

North American Arms PUG
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

Smaller than a pair of shooting glasses, thinner than a twelve gauge shotshell, not much larger than a Bic lighter, NAA's PUG despite its handy size and offers instant protection for the responsible citizen. The PUG is one of the most diminutive of the North American Arms mini-revolvers. It features a one inch barrel and an overall length of only four and one-half inches. The tested model is the NAA-PUG-T, factory equipped with an XS Sights Tritium front sight, making it easy to point in marginal light conditions or with no light at all. Until you hold one in your hand, it is hard to believe how compact this .22 Win .Mag. revolver is. It is thin as well, thinner than a 12 gauge shotshell.


The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge was designed in 1959. Long considered the only successful rimfire since the .22 Long Rifle of 1887, that changed in 2002 with the introduction of the .17 Hornady .Magnum Rimfire. While gaining great success as a light varmint round, there is only so much a seventeen grain bullet can do, so for self defense its use is limited, to put it mildly. The .22 WMR remains a better choice for revolver use.


The widespread popularity, convenience and effectiveness of NAA Mini-Revolvers has not gone unnoticed by the more innovative manufacturers in the industry. What has been lacking for years is not the NAA platform itself; it is hard to get simpler or more reliable than an NAA mini. However, ammunition to get the most out of short vented barrels suitable for self-defense hasn't been generally available. That's changing in a huge way, with two industry-leading loads that look to extend the .22 WMR self-defense platform like never before. The Speer Gold Dot load #954 gets a 40 grain bullet out of the muzzle of a 1.9 inch vented test barrel at 1150 fps.


Hornady's Critical Defense load #83200 gets a heavier 45 grain FTX bullet out of a 1-7/8 in. vented barrel at 1000 fps or so, with positive expansion and penetration approaching the best .380 loads. Now, more than ever, the size and accessibility of the .22 WMR platform is becoming more appealing with loads optimized for short barrel use and with projectiles designed to stop the attack of two-legged varmints. Hornady testing shows about 9-1/2 inches of penetration with expansion every time.


The PUG is extremely easy to use, it is very easy to put multiple hits in the K5 zone very quickly. Most of my shooting was with Winchester Supreme 30 grain JHP rounds, the ammo I had readily available. As soon as I obtain some of the new Hornady and Speer ammunition, I will do some chronograph and accuracy testing with the NAA PUG-T and other NAA mini revolvers. All of these models are thin, svelte revolvers, fitting where not much else will. The primary distinction is barrel length and overall length. It is one inch for the PUG-T, two inches for the Black Widow and NAA Breaktop (a.k.a. The Ranger) and four inches for the NAA Mini-Master.


Fans of this genre of revolver will be interested in the Remington-Smoot No. 1 Revolver from 1873, introduced in 1876. The Remington-Smoot spur trigger revolver had a two and seven eighths length octagonal barrel and was chambered for the .30 rimfire. It weighed about ten ounces. We've come a long way since the early days of the pocket pistol and William Sydney Smoot. The Smoot revolvers were crude, corrosion-prone, unsafe and underpowered black powder rimfires. Though five shot revolvers, they were four shot units in practice, as there was no safety notch for the hammer between chambers. Safe carry mandated the lowering of the hammer onto an empty chamber. NAA's notched cylinder solves that issue, giving you five shots when used as described in the NAA owner's manual: "When the PUG and other NAA revolvers are used properly, you can see the rims of two cartridges, one on each side of the hammer that is lowered into the cylinder's safety notch."


I'll repeat the comments from Dr. Martin Fackler from USA Today: "I must confess to being a member of a very dangerous group. I am a physician: We cause more than 100,000 deaths per year in the USA by mistakes and various degrees of carelessness in treating our patients. Why does society tolerate us? Because we save far more patients than we kill. Firearms are entirely analogous. Although used in far fewer deaths, they are used to prevent about 75 crimes for each death. Firearms, like physicians, prevent far more deaths than they cause. This inverse relationship between the number of firearms in the hands of the public and the amount of violent crime has, in fact, been proven beyond any reasonable doubt."

History supports the inverse firearm-crime relationship. In Firearms Control - A Study of Armed Crime and Firearms Control in England and Wales (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972, p. 243), Chief Inspector Colin Greenwood found that: "No matter how one approaches the figures, one is forced to the rather startling conclusion that the use of firearms in crime was very much less when there were no controls of any sort. Half a century of strict controls on pistols has ended, perversely, with a far greater use of this class of weapons in crime than ever before.�


The presence of a firearm in the hands of the American citizen is tremendous deterrent. If the typical father and mother were trying to be pretend gunfighters or quasi-military soldiers, handguns as a class would be last on the list. It is far simpler than that. Defensive firearms are used in very close quarters when there is no other choice. They are used reluctantly to protect families from attack. If indicated, the handgun is used until the attacker stops attacking. Do we wonder why there aren't many robberies at the shooting range?


The magic of the NAA PUG-T is accessibility and reliability. It can be the solution when no other is available or can be easily be made available. The PUG-T is more accurate than we expected and far more comfortable to shoot than flyweight .38 Specials, much less lightweight .357 Magnums. With an extra .22 LR cylinder, you can inexpensively practice all afternoon with your PUG. Practicing with Hornady Critical Defense is not cost-prohibitive, running about one third the cost of most center-fire handgun defense rounds.


Here are the specifications for the NAA PUG:

            Item Number: NAA-PUG_T

            Type: Revolver

            Action: Single

            Caliber: 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire

            Barrel Length: 1"

            Capacity: 5 rounds

            Safety: Cylinder Notch

            Grips: Rubber, pebble texture

            Sights: Tritium Night Sights

            Weight: 6.4 oz

            Finish: Stainless steel 17-4 PH

If you set aside Hollywood and video games, I'll give you an example of how a self-defense firearm is commonly used, based on personal experience. It was one or two in the morning, several tears back, when my wife frantically woke me up. "Someone is breaking in at the front door" was the problem. I'm not sure exactly what I mumbled, but it was something to the effect that it might be a better time to take a look at our noisy refrigerator in the morning. She was right, there was someone or a group of someones banging away at the front door.


Okay, so I slid out of the water bed, put some pants on and grabbed my pistol. I told my wife not to go near the front door or the living room, but to go straight to the kitchen and call the cops. The guy at the front door was agitated, to say the least. Though I couldn't get a good look at the bushes, he appeared alone. He was out of control, though, and felt he needed to come into our house. He was told, "No." Nevertheless, I opened the main door to discuss the matter with him through the screen door. He could see I had a pistol pointed at his chest with my finger on the trigger and he changed his attitude quickly. Regardless of his problems, he was told that if he came through the screen door the first two bullets were going through his chest and if he had friends, there was plenty of lead to accomodate them, as well. The reason I told him he could expect bullets through his chest was simple: that is exactly what I was going to give him if he decided to force his way into my home. That is the only time I have pointed a gun at another human being and was close to using it. Very close.


It ended as most of these things do: a couple of squads rolled up about twenty minutes later, the unexpected problem visitor was cuffed and escorted away. We had a friendly chat with the officers and thanked them for coming out. My wife never like handguns, particularly, though she didn't mind dove hunting, at least when we were dating. Anyway, her appreciation of the handgun changed dramatically from that night forward. There is no glory in becoming a victim.


At a street price of under three hundred 2011 dollars or so, this Tritium model PUG is affordable enough to have one for Dad, one for Mom and one for Grandma. With the very low comparative ammunition cost, the overall cost of ownership for an NAA PUG is less than most intimate self-defense handguns available today. As a nation, we spend many fortunes every year on all kinds of insurance: life, health, home, auto and so forth. Few of these monies are invested in assurance or prevention, yet we pay them every year. A PUG in the hand is worth more than anything else left in the bush. The most common comment from those that shot this NAA PUG was, "I have to have one." You'll likely feel the same way.

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Copyright 2011, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.