In the world of production firearms, there aren’t many smaller than the offerings from North American Arms. Its Guardian series is about as petite as semi-automatic pistols come, and I believe its Mini-Revolvers may be the smallest production revolvers in the world. There really aren’t many clothing choices — at least ones you can legally get away with in public — that would prevent carrying a gun this small. As I’ve owned an NAA Mini in .22 LR for about 5 years now, I think it’s high time I officially reviewed it . . .
NAA’s Mini-Revolvers are available in eight or nine basic variations with multiple styles and finishes and sometimes various caliber choices for each. There are too many barrel length, barrel style, cylinder style, frame style, sight, grip, and finish choices to list them here, so you’ll have to spend some time browsing NAA’s website to learn about all of them. Calibers on the menu are .22 Short (a small cylinder w/ matching frame that accepts only Shorts), .22 LR (you can also shoot .22 Shorts), .22 WMR aka .22 Magnum (can be had with a second cylinder for .22 LR/Short), and .22 cap and ball. Even the biggest of the Minis is still pretty darn mini, though.
In addition to their lilliputian dimensions, there are other commonalities across the line. Most notably, the Mini-Revolvers are all single action only — you must manually cock the hammer all the way back for each and every shot. They also all have a 5-shot capacity and are made entirely of stainless steel (excepting grip panels and, in some cases, sights).
I own one in the .22 LR flavor with a 1-1/8″ barrel (part number NAA-22LR), so we’re just going to concentrate on that. Here are its specs:
- Length: 4″
- Height: 2-3/8″
- Width: 13/16″ (at the widest part of the cylinder diameter)
- Weight: 4.5 Ounces
In The Wild:
It goes without saying that this thing is easy to carry and conceal. Heck, NAA makes (or made) a neck chain holster, key chain holster, and even a belt buckle holster. I have a little belt clip holster for it, but rarely use it. For a long time I’ve been a big fan of “5th pocket knives,” and the Mini-Revolver makes a great 5th pocket gun.
Actually, it may be the only 5th pocket gun. Ordinarily I’m a huge stickler for holsters that completely cover the trigger guard. However, the Mini gets a pass when carried in an appropriately-holster-sized pocket primarily because it’s single action only and the act of cocking the hammer to ready it for firing takes concerted effort — the mainspring is quite heavy to reliably ignite rimfire primers. Plus, it obviously still requires a subsequent trigger pull to fire. So a standard jeans 5th pocket makes for a good holster where the revolver is reliably retained by the hammer, trigger spur and edge of the cylinder while remaining easy to draw.
I’ve had it in the pocket of my board shorts while swimming during camping trips and such. It has probably spent 12 or more hours actually under water in various lakes and rivers with zero signs of rust whatsoever anywhere, including under the grip panels on the trigger spring or mainspring.
If you’re going to swim with yours, make sure you’re using quality .22 ammo with cases that are crimped onto the bullets. Some of the cheap bulk stuff is so loose that you can easily spin the bullet around in the case. Obviously if water gets to the powder you’re out of business. I’ve had no issues with some of the nicer CCI stuff, like Stingers.
North American Arms uses a unique method to render the revolver safe while still loading the cylinder to full capacity. In single action revolvers of old, our heroes of the West would almost always leave one cylinder empty and would rest the hammer there. You see, if the hammer was resting on a live round and then was bumped, the gun could fire. Many modern versions of single action revolvers use a moving piece of metal to either block the hammer or firing pin or to act as a contact surface that must be in place for the hammer to contact the firing pin.
NAA went a simpler but just as effective route by machining a safety notch into the cylinder between each chamber. The hammer locks into these notches, preventing the cylinder from moving and keeping the hammer away from the live rounds. While NAA suggests lowering the hammer (which requires pulling the trigger) into a notch, I do not. You can easily and reliably insert the cylinder into the frame and line it up properly right off the bat:
While I doubt anybody would recommend a .22 for defensive use if one has the option of larger, centerfire calibers, there are scenarios in which a larger firearm simply cannot be concealed or carried. The NAA Mini probably can be. Obviously it can also act as a backup gun, or as a BUG to your BUG.
Velocity takes a hit from that really short barrel, and you can expect to average 750 to 790 fps from CCI Stingers through the shortest .22 LR barrel size. In .22 Magnum, Hornady’s Critical Defense will do ~945 fps through the same 1.125″ barrel. Before we get too derisive in the comments, let’s go completely out of the theoretical and point to multiple instances in which a .22 LR NAA Mini Revolver has ended an attack and resulted in attackers assuming ambient temperature.
I’ve seen multiple instances of Minis used in home defense come through “The Armed Citizen,” and NAA used to list DGUs on the website but no longer does or I can’t find it. There is a “stories” section on their forum, though, with plenty of anecdotes like this one.
The Minis are also ridiculously loud. Even if you miss, in .22 Mag it’ll deafen anyone on the business end and, for good measure, blind them with muzzle flash. My LR is crazy loud as well. Even primer-only rounds that aren’t much louder than dry firing in a rifle are loud enough to hurt your ears out of the NAA. It may not have a ton of bite — assuming we discount those stories above — but it sure has the bark to deter if bark is going to deter.
This is all just to say that while of course I wouldn’t recommend a .22 as a first choice for personal defense, I also don’t discount it as only a novelty. This is a real firearm. It’s deadly. It’s a legit deterrent. I’ve seen NAA Minis referred to as “nasal spray from hell.” This is both for caliber and accuracy reasons, though…
On The Range:
These things are actually a lot of fun to shoot. They may only be .22s, but due to the tiny size and light weight they’re pretty lively. Mine kicks and snaps a little and often rotates slightly in my grip. There’s noise, blast, and usually some fireball from the muzzle. Various grip options can make your Mini much easier to plink with, but I have fun shooting with the little wood grips and certainly appreciate their concealment factor.
Now, a few versions of the Mini-Revolvers have legitimate front and rear sights. Mine, though, does not. Although there’s a notch at the rear that’s apparently supposed to be the rear sight, the hammer blocks your view of it even when cocked. Basically you’re left with only a top strap and a front sight, just like a [key chain-sized] shotgun. That, then, is how I shoot it — sight right down the top strap (if you see the top strap your eye is too high and if the back of the frame starts blocking the front sight then your eye is too low), put the front sight on the target, and pull the trigger.
While the gun (based on other tests I’ve seen) is actually mechanically accurate to a higher degree than you’d likely expect, in practice it’s really hard to line it up consistently for each shot. Obviously the lack of a rear sight is a contributing factor, but so are the extremely short sight radius and the teeny grip. Again, other models address all of these things if you want to do some target shooting, and NAA even sells a clamp-on laser. As I don’t have the laser I didn’t do official accuracy testing. I simply have no good way to consistently line up the gun for every shot. Sorry. [EDIT: NAA came to the rescue and mailed me a laser sight! Results of the testing are here.]
If the comments section proves a legit desire to see accuracy groups from various brands of .22 LR, I’ll buy the $99 laser and get that done. But you better click the ads on the ensuing YouTube video haha. In the video at top, you can see I have no problems whatsoever reliably hitting a smaller-than-real torso target at 5 to 7 yards in what counts as rapid fire. I actually shot 3, 5-shot strings from there and only missed once.
The trigger pull feels heavy, but I think that’s due to its size and rounded (convex, rather than your typical concave) shape. Mine measures very consistently right at 3 lbs. There is zero pretravel/slack and no creep. A clean break with no real overtravel to speak of. The serrations on the trigger face actually make it part of your grip for controlling recoil.
As for the rest of your grip…well…don’t expect to hold it the same way you hold any other gun. If you haven’t noticed, it’s really freaking tiny. I basically wrap my middle finger around the lower part of the grip and then squeeze it on the side with my thumb. That and your index finger on the trigger are about the extent of it. It’s possible to do a 2-handed grip, but don’t expect to make any contact with your second hand anywhere on the gun. However, you could accidently stick a finger out in front of the muzzle so just be aware of how short it actually is and don’t shoot your dang self.
Even if you have no intentions of carrying a Mini-Revolver, they’re fun to own and shoot and the build is solid for a long life of plinking. The materials quality, machining, and fit and finish are all quite good. Again, not just a novelty. NAA doesn’t restrict the power level of the ammo you feed these things, specifically stating that “hyper velocity” ammo is okay as well as shot shell loads. The only ammo warning is to not use any PMC brand whatsoever.
The actual practice of shooting isn’t entirely speedy. In order to reload, you must push the detent on the front of the cylinder retaining pin and then pull the pin out the front. This allows the cylinder to drop out of the frame. At this point you will likely need to use the same retaining pin to push the empty brass out of the cylinder, as the expansion from firing typically sticks them in there just hard enough that they won’t all fall out with only a shake. Then you insert 5 new rounds, put the cylinder back in the frame as per the above video, and shoot some more. On the plus side, it makes your stash of .22 LR last a lot longer! On the minus side, there will not be any reloading during a DGU.
I’ve had plenty of pistols go in and out of my collection over the past decade. Only a few have remained in the stable long-term, and my NAA Mini is one of them. I will not be selling it (although I considered doing so in order to upgrade to the color case hardened version). It’s well-made and a lot of fun to shoot, and it’s always a hit at the range. I haven’t carried it as much with the Nano and the TCP being so concealable themselves, but it still has its place and finds its way into my “wardrobe” occasionally.
Specifications: (For my specific model. Again, check out the NAA website for other versions and relevant stats)
Caliber: .22 LR
Action: Single action revolver
Barrel: 1.125 inches
Weight: 4.5 ounces unloaded
Length: 4 inches
Height: 2.375 inches
Capacity: 5 rounds
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * *
Again, this is for my specific version. Whether or not it’s mechanically accurate, it doesn’t provide the shooter with the means to really line it up the same every time and it takes practice to shoot it accurately with any consistency.
Ergonomics: * *
It’s really small. Gripping it means basically pinching it between two fingers. A lot of folks who shoot it for the first time end up pressing a finger against the back of the cylinder, and that smarts a bit when you fire.
Reliability: * * * * *
It’s reliable. Strong primer strikes, good mechanicals. Rust-resistant stainless steel construction.
Customize This: * * * *
Lots of grip options, tons of holster options, lasers and other accessories, different cylinders and custom shop finishes, etc.
Concealed Carry: * * * * *
Tiny and light.
Overall: * * * *
It’s fun, it’s reliable, it’s built well, it can be concealed in a dang belt buckle. I could see swapping for a Pug and giving it a full five stars thanks to usable sights. But the Pug isn’t quite as small and light. Don’t even give me crap about a four star review in the comments because it isn’t a .45. Within the limitations of what you can accomplish from the tiniest .22 LR possible, the NAA Mini-Revolver pretty much nails it. This is a rating of the gun itself, not of the caliber’s suitability for self defense.