North American Arms Mini-Revolvers

By Chuck Hawks

Black Widow
Illustration courtesy of North American Arms

North American Arms produces a whole line of mini-revolvers, and they have been doing so for many years. NAA mini-revolvers are built on three different basic frame sizes, appropriate for the .22 Short, .22 LR, and .22 WMR cartridges.

NAA mini-revolvers are made in the USA of stainless steel with a nicely polished matte finish. All are single action (SA) revolvers with spur triggers. The cylinders hold 5 cartridges, and there are safety notches between the chambers into which the nose of the hammer (which is also the firing pin) can be lowered to allow safe carry with the cylinder fully loaded. The grip frames are of the "bird's head" type and most models come with attractive laminated wood grips. The sights on most models are rudimentary, consisting of a rounded front blade and the raised rear edge of the frame.

The basic .22 short model (NAA22S) comes with a 1 1/8 inch barrel, has an overall length of 3 3/8 inches, a height of 2 3/8 inches, a width of 13/16 inch, and weighs only 4 ounces. This is truly a miniscule gun.

The smallest .22 LR model (NAA22LR) also has a 1 1/8 inch barrel, an overall length of 4 1/4 inches, a height of 2 3/8 inches, a width of 13/16 inch, and weighs 4.5 ounces. Slightly larger is the Model NAA22LLR, identical but with a 1 5/8 inch barrel that increases the overall length to 4 3/4 inches and the weight to 4.6 ounces. There is an optional "holster grip" for these two models that folds over the mini-revolver much like the handle of a big pocket knife.

There are also two standard configuration Magnum models. The Model NAA22MS is supplied with a 1 1/8 inch barrel, is 5 inches in overall length, 2 7/8 inches high, 7/8 inch wide, and weighs 5.9 ounces. The Model NAA22M is supplied with a 1 5/8 inch barrel, is 5 3/8 inches in overall length, and weighs 6.2 ounces. Other dimensions are identical to the MS model. The magnum models are available with an optional .22 LR cylinder to make them "convertible."

The deluxe models are the Mini-Master and the similar Black Widow. These are built on magnum length frames with heavier top straps than the standard models. These models are supplied with heavier barrels incorporating a full length (hollow) underlug. They also come with decent sights and far more ergonomic black rubber grips that completely enclose the bird's head grip frame. Adjustable sights are optional.

The Mini-Master is considered to be the target model. This is the biggest of the NAA mini-revolvers. It is available with either a .22 LR cylinder or a .22 WMR cylinder and has a 4 inch barrel. It's 7 3/4 inches in overall length, 3 7/8 inches high, 7/8 inch wide, and weighs 10.7 ounces. It makes a very neat "kit" gun or trail gun, and is the one NAA mini-revolver on which adjustable sights might be worthwhile.

The Black Widow is a Mini-Master with the barrel shortened to 2 inches. It is available with a .22 LR cylinder, a .22 WMR cylinder, or as a convertible model with both. The Black Widow is 5 7/8 inches long, 3 7/8 inches high, 7/8 inch wide, and weighs 8.8 ounces.

In addition to extra cylinders and adjustable sights, North American Arms offers a number of accessories for their mini-revolvers. These include optional grips, several different types of holsters, fleece lined soft cases, lanyards, and belt buckles that hold the pistols.

NAA mini-revolvers come with a lifetime warranty to the original registered owner against all defects in material, workmanship, and mechanical function. NAA will replace the handgun or part thereof without charge.

Loading an empty NAA mini-revolver is accomplished by first putting the hammer in its 1/4 cock (or "safe") position, which moves the tip of the hammer (the firing pin) clear of the cylinder, and then removing the cylinder pin. (To remove, grasp the knurled portion of the cylinder pin between the thumb and middle finger, press the center release pin with the index finger, and pull.) This allows the cylinder to be removed from the frame and the chambers loaded with 5 cartridges. If necessary, use the cylinder pin to push empty cases from the chambers, one at a time. The cylinder is then slipped back into place, most easily from the right side of the frame, and the cylinder pin replaced. A ball detent locks the cylinder pin in place when it is fully inserted. The hammer may now be cocked and the gun fired.

To render the mini-revolver safe for carry, pull the hammer back with the thumb of the shooting hand until the cylinder bolt retracts and allows the cylinder to turn freely. Hold the hammer in that position and use the fingers of the other hand to rotate the cylinder so that one of the square safety notches between the cylinder chambers is aligned with the hammer. Then use the index finger of the shooting hand to pull the trigger and slowly lower the hammer all the way down. Visually verify that the hammer is indeed all the way forward and between two chambers.

These operations take a lot more time to describe than to accomplish. Anyone reasonably familiar with traditional single action revolvers will have no problem. Since the cylinder must be removed from the gun to reload, the reloading process is very slow.

NAA mini-revolvers are so tiny that they are cute, but they are not toys. They are precisely made and very functional deep concealment pistols. The Black Widow .22 Magnum, for instance, is more accurate, more reliable, more powerful by far, and easier to shoot accurately than any .22 LR or .25 ACP pocket auto I have ever fired. And a mini-revolver can be concealed in the vest pocket of a three piece suit. To me it is the minimum satisfactory concealed carry handgun.

Note: Complete reviews of the NAA Black Widow Convertible, Mini-Master, PUG, Ranger, Earl and .22 Magnum mini-revolvers can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2006, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.