One of the few firearms that appears to have crossover appeal with non-gun people is the miniature .22lr Mini Revolver by North American Arms. I credit that to its size and appearance. This one doesn't look scary like a Glock. Instead, it has the same appeal as a finely tuned watch movement that draws people into marveling over the engineering. I wanted to take a minute to talk about this one since it has some mainstream appeal.
It is no fun wandering around a gun store in the aftermath of a rush on firearms. You end up staring at mostly empty display cases. When pickings are slim, you find yourself considering weapons you've never given a second glance to before. That's how I ended up the owner of a NAA Mini in .22lr.
There is a definite love it or hate it attitude with the NAA firearms. I'll quickly summarize all reviews I've read before on them here:
These beautiful little guns are finely crafted. They are fun and challenging to shoot and really draw a crowd at the range. You can keep it in the coin pocket of your jeans so it is always with you. This is the kind of gun you can conceal in a Speedo! Like they say "a .22 in your pocket beats a .45 at home."
And then the counter-argument:
If you are considering a .22lr for self-defense, you are a fool. It is too low powered, too unreliable, doesn't penetrate, doesn't expand, and there is no stopping power. Beyond the total inadequacy of the round out of a one inch barrel, you are selecting a single-action revolver with such a total disregard for marksmanship that they didn't even bother to put a rear sight on there. The so-called grip is perfectly sized if you have the hands of an infant or if you are comfortable shooting a weapon using only your thumb and trigger finger. In case you need to reload, plan instead to throw your tiny noisemaker while running backwards screaming for your mommy versus removing a cylinder to individually remove and reload those five inadequate rounds. I would grudgingly say it works as a last-ditch backup to your other backup's backup. You know, in case you drop your pocketknife or can't think of any strongly-worded insults to use instead.
Before shooting one, I had a hard time reconciling the two viewpoints. As you can imagine, the truth lies somewhere in between.
The craftsmanship is great. No issues at all to report in that area. Revolvers require some sophisticated work to rotate the cylinder when cocked, and to line it up with the barrel. I had no issues to report with the action.
You need to hold one and see how you feel about the grip. The salesman warned me that when you fire, the gun would try to flip out of your hand. I pictured a Desert Eagle type situation, but just like shooting a subcompact .40, if you hold the gun correctly, you won't have any issues. You will likely need to readjust a bit to get back on target for a follow-up shot, but it isn’t like the sad videos online of people putting overly powered revolvers in the hands of beginners to watch them almost put a round into the ceiling of the range.
My NAA Mini came with pebbled black rubber grips. Those are typically an add on that you can purchase from their site. Normally the model comes with rosewood grips standard. Supposedly the nice rubber grips are a serious upgrade. Since this is pocket jewelry, however, I ditched utility for a set of brass grips that I found on eBay. They dropped in nicely as grips, but are smoother than the rubber texture of my factory grips.
The other thing you need to keep in mind on a revolver is that you never want part of your hand to stick out past the front of the cylinder. I don't mean the end of the barrel, that's obvious. I mean the front part of the cylinder because that small gap between barrel and cylinder is where some hot gasses escape when that bullet goes off. On a normal revolver, that's usually automatically addressed thanks to the size. On this one, watch your fingers or you're going to bite yourself with the blast.
.22lr or .22Mag?
I won't bother with reviewing the merits of a .22lr for self-defense. You do need to make a call on .22lr vs .22Mag. While you can get a combo for the best of both worlds, you have to accept a larger frame size. Since you have already prioritized size by looking at a NAA, I think .22lr is the right call. While .22Mag is a better defensive round, even the rounds optimized for pistols don't perform dramatically better from CCI Stingers out of that one inch barrel.
My biggest concern was the accuracy potential. As a range toy, I want to be able to get rounds on paper. These types of videos were the concern I had going in:
I saw another video (removed now) where the guy kept missing from feet away. I can now confirm that guy is just a terrible shot and it isn't the gun. I'm no pro, but just like in the video above, I can keep all shots center of the body at a seven yard range. It gets harder past that, but you are also getting away from the sweet spot for this gun.
The lack of a rear sight is puzzling. You have to pay close attention to how you hold the gun. Watch to make sure it is level. I think that contributes to the poor shooting results you see in videos like this one. Like I said, the gun is capable of accuracy, but it forces you to work harder than necessary to get it. The goal of this one isn't target shooting, so the design doesn't focus on that role. This isn't a gun you hand to a beginner to show them what shooting is like. This rewards expertise and practice.
Loading & Unloading
In many revolvers, you push or pull a lever and the cylinder swings out for loading and unloading. In the Mini, you have to pull out the rod holding the cylinder, remove the cylinder entirely, and then use the same rod to poke out the empty brass round by round before loading and reassembling the whole thing. It is a system that works, but is slow even with practice. If you can't do the job with five rounds, you need to have a solid plan B.
The Mini is a single-action gun. That means that to fire, you must pull back the hammer before the trigger can do anything. That's typically pretty darn safe, but back in the day, the uncocked hammer was resting on a bullet. A small jostle could be enough to cause a surprise bang putting a hole in your new boots. As a result, many cowboys, lawmen, and scoundrels would leave that first chamber empty and turn their six shooters into five shooters.
While you can do the same here, NAA added safety notches to the cylinder so the hammer never rests on a live round. Very cool idea. In practice, it is nerve-wracking to do. The process to use them is:
- Put your thumb on the hammer and pull it back slightly.
- Leave your thumb over the hammer.
- Slowly lower the hammer into the notch between two rounds. (note: if you skipped the last step, you might have just shot something. Good thing you always point firearms in a safe direction, right?)
It works. It does the job safely. Every time I do it, I'm nervous I will shoot accidentally. Practice the movements carefully while unloaded, and eventually you will gain confidence. I would compare it to the first time you try appendix carry and stick a loaded gun down the front of your pants pointed at your femoral artery.
These things are fun pocket jewelry. NAA knows their crowd, and you can pick up plenty of accessories to add to the fun. I already mentioned grips, but you can pick up a larger grip that folds over the trigger like a pocketknife. If that carry style doesn't fit, how about a belt buckle holster that brings a new meaning to open carry. You can actually pick up a red laser or the tiny revolver to help with targeting. The most ridiculous add on is an actual bayonet that's shorter then the pen blade on your grandpa's favorite knife. The NAA is a great candidate to send off for engraving. When done, the visual appeal is even higher.
So should you buy one? The Mini is fun. I don't seriously consider it a defensive firearm although many do. For me, it fills a role of matching up finely machined gadgets, firearms, and challenging shooting in a way that even other single-action .22's like the fantastic Ruger Bearcat cannot. I can't recommend this one as a first weapon, but if you enjoy shooting, it is a nice addition to any collection.