Gun Review: North American Arms “The Earl” Mini Revolver

North American Arms of Utah makes great little guns. “Little” being the operative word. One of their newer models — “The Earl“– is about as big as their little guns get. It’s a .22 Magnum (or .22 WMR/.22 LR convertible) oxymoron looking for a use case . . .

With its 4″ octagonal barrel — though NAA also makes it in 3″ and even 6″ “Hogleg” flavors — the Earl’s too big to be a pocket gun. Bereft of a trigger guard, complete with a hammer that’s just begging to snag, The Earl’s not ideal for concealed carry in a holster, either. Purse gun? There are better options.

If I had to find a real world use for this diminutive revolver I reckon it would make a good snake gun. I can see myself putting the Earl in a cross draw holster, loading it up with rat shot and sending a serpent straight back to hell.

Setting aside the issue of “what’s this thing for, exactly,” The Earl’s a beautifully made object d’art. The gun’s fit and finish are as good as you’d expect for ballistic bauble that cost just under three bills. Its minimal tooling marks are only visible when the cylinder’s removed.

Checkering? We don’t need no stinkin’ checkering! The Earl’s rosewood grips are as smooth as Sade.

Even so, the handle affords a comfortable, secure grip — a surprising but welcome ergonomic delight.

Disassembly is easy. Pull the locking tab (not tabby) to the rear.

Swing the contrasting colored arm, designed to look like a cap and ball loading lever, down.

Pull the pin out, half-cock the hammer, and slide out the five-round cylinder. And that’s how you load the Earl.

It’s a little fiddly and takes time, making The Earl just about the last firearm you want to bring to an extended gunfight. Still, the process eats up time range time, making your ammo last longer. So there is that.

The Earl’s front sight is a simple fixed post.

The rear sight is a notch machined into the receiver.

Taken together, the Earl’s sight picture is more than merely adequate for plinking and snake duty. The skinny front blade is easier to align in the rear notch than the standard Mini Revolver‘s thicker front ramp sight.

The Earl’s single action only trigger features a short pull with no take up, and breaks fairly cleanly at about six pounds.

Due to the revolver’s sight radius, quality construction and excellent trigger, The Earl is an accurate gun. I shot the target above at 10 yards, standing, in boots, indoors.

While The Earl flunked the make-a-smiley-face accuracy test — the left eye is a little low and the nose is a little high — this firearm is close-quarters combat can-do.

I swear I could have shot out the smile, but I ran out of ammo. Before I did, I put several hundred rounds of mixed brand .22 WMR through The Earl without any reliability issues.

The North American Arms Earl reminds me of a painting I bought at an estate sale. It didn’t cost much, it looks great, and I like to show it off. And unlike the painting, no one had to die for me to get it.

The North American Arms Earl has soul. Sure it’s too big to be a “ha-ha! you thought I was unarmed!” derringer, but that’s OK. It just wants to make noise and shoot stuff and make you think wow! I can make noise and hit stuff with this little gun. For under three bills, shooting relatively inexpensive .22 ammo, The Earl’s a firearms oddity you can afford — if you like to smile.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Caliber: .22 Magnum
Capacity: 5 rounds
Length: 7.75″
Height: 3.13″
Width: 0.94″
Weight: 8.9 oz.
Barrel Length: 4″
Sights: Stainless Post Sight
Action: Single Action
Grips: Rosewood Boot Grip
MSRP: $298 as tested (.22 WMR only), $332 with .22 LR conversion cylinder

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Finish * * * * 1/2
The Earl looks great and its finish is flawless. I took a half star off because of very small tooling marks inside the frame that are only visible when the cylinder is removed.

Customization * *
The North American Arms Custom Shop has custom finishes. As far as off-the-shelf customization, you’re basically limited to changing the grips.

Reliability * * * * *
It functions perfectly.

Accuracy * * * * 
The Earl is more than accurate enough for a .22 magnum revolver plinker.

Overall * * * * 1/2
So much fun!

comments

  1. avatar A Brit in TX says:

    I do have a strange yearning for one of these, would complement nicely my Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum, also stainless steel with Rosewood grips!

  2. avatar Tom of Toms says:

    I’ll take six.

  3. avatar James Ivy says:

    I enjoy NAA products, I carry there mini 22lr in my fifth pocket as a bug/pest control with the first three rounds regular and the other three ratshot and after owning 3 of these I can confidently say there machining is great and they feel like Swiss stopwatches……cleeek .

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Agreed! Tons of fun, all stainless steel (my Mini has spent hours *in* lakes and rivers), very well made, and affordable. Good stuff! I love the looks of this Earl, too.

    2. avatar dph says:

      3 ratshot and the other 3 regular equals 1 more than any NAA holds.

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        thought so.
        what i wanna know is: if magnum/ special is a go (and it is with .44, .38 and .32) why doesn’t rimfire? magnum, long rifle, long and short won’t all fire in this because why? it’s not just this gem- some single six had two cylinders as well.
        oh, and i would like one regardless. not irregardless.

        1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          If it takes .22 LR you can run long and short also. .22 Magnum is separate because it’s a larger diameter case. The bullet is actually inside of the case, resulting in the larger case outer diameter, whereas with the LR, Long, and Short the case is the same diameter as the bullet, which is sort of just plugged into the case mouth thanks to a section of slightly narrower diameter on the projectile.

        2. avatar Tim says:

          Trivia: The .22LR is referred to as a “heeled bullet”:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heeled_bullet

          Which is why the .38 Special actually uses .357/.358 diameter bullets, since it was derived from an older cartridge of the “heeled bullet” design.

        3. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          jeremy, tim, i never knew any of that. i mighta woulda, but haven’t .22mag splurged yet. (i so m bare assed…). i keep thinking .22mag tbolt or biathlon…
          thanks. now i have to decide what bit of info i will push out so i can retain that.
          i would go as far as to say that .22 long rifle is a “well heeled” cartridge.
          maybe why .44 is .427″.

        4. avatar Tim says:

          tsbhoa.p.jr, glad we can waste some of your brain space! And, you’re correct, that’s exactly why the .44 is .429/.430 as well.

          I know lots of people would disagree, but I (personally) don’t have a whole lot of use for a .22 Mag in a rifle. I’m not saying not to buy one if you have a reason and I frequently see them listed in local gun raffles, so they’re still reasonably popular.

          My father has a .22 WMR cylinder for his Ruger Single Six, which seems like a good use case. But, in a rifle, if you’re trying to fill the gap between a .22 LR, and a .223, there may be other options to look at (.17 HMR being one, .22 Hornet being a little more of a niche cartridge.)

          But, I handload, so I’m a little biased in that regard. My personal solution is to load a .223 or .22-250 down to around 2500fps with a Hornady V-Max/Sierra Blitzking 55gr, which happily and quietly takes care of our friendly neighborhood groundhogs out to 160 yards.

        5. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          i am impressed with my bro’s a17; 22mag seems good tho. maybe a lever (we stopped by the rice lake henry factory but they’re closed on saturdays). i would very much like a .204, .22-250 or such but .22mag is comparatively cheaper. both would be good.
          the only use i would have for .223 is to feed an ar i haven’t built yet.
          and with .22mag i could share ammo with some pistols. this earl comes to mind.

      2. avatar No one of consequence says:

        Ummm … It hold five, not six.

      3. avatar James Ivy says:

        Your right I was wrong, what’s your address I’ll send a cookie ; )

      4. avatar James "Jim" Sullivan says:

        Noticed that too. You beat me to the comment.

    3. avatar BLoving says:

      And there it is: if you’re struggling to come up with a valid reason to own SEVERAL NAA revolvers then you totally missed their point. They are the perfect embodiment of “because I can”. Indeed, the only reason I DON’T own several is because I keep finding other, more practical uses of my money.
      It’s a collectable. Don’t try to over-analyze it and just enjoy them for what they are… and carry something more practical to bet your life on.
      🤠

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        big time.
        we went up to rice lake last weekend and shot the smallest version that naa makes at the brill outdoorsmans club’s range with temps in the single digits. i wanted one for decades, finally figured out a reason to buy one: ‘cuz. they are way cool.
        and fiddly. i kept envisioning trying to find that pin in the foot deep snow. somehow we didn’t drop the box of loose ammo either.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          You got the smallest one, the one in .22 short only?

          https://northamericanarms.com/shop/firearms/naa-22s/

          And Chris, that’s fine-looking cat you have there…

        2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          ok, no. i stand corrected. the other smallest one, in long rifle.
          now i want one in short.

        3. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          Ditto. The legitimately keychain-sized .22 Short version is ridiculous in a cool way. One day I gotta pick one up! I have held one before (photo), but never shot one.

        4. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          there should be one of those on every table in every home and every restaurant right next to the salz und pfeffer. (something about culture eating strategy for lunch).

        5. avatar Em says:

          Check out the Berloque pistol. It’s a 2mm pinfire noise maker that includes a screw in attachment to turn it into a flare gun. My wife bought me one and I don’t do a damn thing with it, but it’s soooo cool.

        6. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          http://pinfireguns.com/pinfire-guns-c-76_84.html
          they even have pinfire ak’s. and a broomhandle mauser.

  4. avatar jwm says:

    The NAA mini’s always remind me of the S&W number 1. Good enough reason to own one.

    And they ain’t banned in CA.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      I thought they were, because of a spur trigger.

      That isn’t the case?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I see them in gun shops here. Single action revolvers are exempt from our silly list.

        1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          Only single action revolvers with at least a 5-shot capacity, a barrel 3″ or longer, and an overall length of 7.5″ or longer. CA penal code 32100. Enjoy your utopia 😉

          Because they have to be on the Roster, BTW, is why you’ll find two NAAs on the Roster from back when they were still able to get them on: https://www.oag.ca.gov/firearms/certguns?make=North+American+Arms

  5. avatar ironicatbest says:

    It looks like Rugers Bearcat had a baby

  6. avatar MyName says:

    Love the 1858 remington lines

  7. avatar Matt says:

    I have wanted this gun since it came out, but with the 3 inch barrel. It will give me a little more accuracy against snakes compared to my NAA magnum with 1 1/8” barrel. The only thing I don’t like about the Earl is the “backstrap” doesn’t sit flush with the grip since the frame is shaped for birdshead grip.

  8. avatar John Clark says:

    Love my 22lr/22mag with it’s 1 1/8 barrel with it I can hit a barn if I’m inside a barn! Now if I actually want to hit what I am aiming at my Minimaster with it’s adjustable sights and 4 inch barrel will make smiley faces all day long!

  9. I have some of their guns. they are nice and I may get the ranger. but I would also like to see bigger frame sizes. like a 7 sot 22lr/mag and maybe something like a 32hr 5 shooter. that would make a nice backup and also would be good for the cowboy action crowd .

  10. avatar Robert says:

    I wonder if their holster grips would fit this model? Would ruin the looks but make it much more practical.

  11. avatar Gunr says:

    I’ve had three of the mini’s, including the Earl. I carry a regular sized mini in 22 mag, 24/7. Carry larger stuff when I go to town, but the little magnum is always there for a backup.
    I got to tell you, if the bullet doesn’t do you in, the loud report will scare the hell out of you, and the fire flash will burn all the hair off your head! Potent little buggers!

  12. avatar Eng says:

    Perfect for exterminating the contents of traps.

    Good for snakes.

    Carries better IWB than the shorter models.

    1. avatar tiger says:

      Why does everybody want to shoot a snake? He is not bothering me & I will not bother him.

  13. avatar R says:

    Would love a centerfire version of this…

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