I’m an unabashed fan of North American Arms’ Mini Revolvers. Heck, I had a custom cowboy hat holster made for one of mine. So you can imagine how excited I’ve been to get my hands on their Ranger II since they announced its impending arrival over two years ago. Well, I finally got one! And I cannot recommend it . . .
Actually, that’s not entirely true. If you want an extremely well-made and exceedingly fun little gun to break out on the shooting range — something sure to turn heads and generate smiles — the Ranger II is right up your alley. If you’re looking to use it for self-defense against charging snakes or two-legged snakes in the grass, maybe not so much.
First, the good stuff. It’s sexy in nothing but brushed stainless steel and rosewood.
As with all of NAA’s Minis, like The Earl (above, top) that Chris reviewed and the original I’ve owned forever and the Sidewinder I reviewed, it’s impeccably well-made. It’s like a little clock. It’s precise and smooth and reliable and solid.
It’s even accurate if you can align that nub of a front sight post in the little rear notch.
And pull the stiff little nub of a trigger without moving the gun.
The Ranger II is also far faster to reload than your typical NAA Mini. Just quarter-cock the hammer and pull back on the frame latch to release the top-break frame, allowing it to pivot open. It pops up just slightly under spring tension, then the rest is on you.
Thanks to a little lever system within the hinge mechanism . . .
It even has a star extractor that lifts the cases up out of the cylinder as the top-break is opened all the way. Give it a little upside-down shimmy and cases will often fall right out.
Reload, snap the action shut, and you’re back in business in a scant fraction of the time it takes to reload the traditional Minis.
It’s also far easier to align the cylinder such that the hammer blade indexes into one of the safety notches located between each chamber. Simply align a safety notch at 12:00, shut the action, and lower the hammer into the notch.
Once in the safety notch, the cylinder is locked in place and the hammer is resting between rounds instead of over a round. This makes NAA’s Minis safe to carry fully-loaded; an impact to the rear of the hammer cannot cause a round to fire.
Unfortunately, this top-break design — the reason I wanted the Ranger II! — is also the source of my frustration with the Ranger II. When cocking the hammer on this single action Mini Revolver, Chris and I both . . .
Simultaneously broke open the action. While shooting. Entirely on accident. And far too often.
My YouTube video comments (and the NAA owners forum) are starting to go sideways on me, but I’m honestly not an idiot. Well, at least not because of this.
The Ranger II is a dang Mini Revolver. Ergo[nomically] it’s really small. When I reach my thumb up to cock the hammer — whether it’s my left thumb or my right — it encompasses the hammer. The spur ends up right in the middle of my thumb pad.
If I’m just going to town and enjoying shooting the Ranger II, and especially if I’m trying to shoot it rapidly and I’m giving it the ol’ fast and hard cock, I’ll cause a full release every few cylinders. Under actual stress? Forget it.
It doesn’t help that the frame latch takes a fraction of the energy to move than does the hammer. If I’m 90 percent on the hammer and 10 percent on the latch, that action is opening.
Seen above, NAA’s original Ranger’s frame latch was on the top strap and had to be lifted upwards. As in, in the opposite direction of the hammer instead of in exactly the same direction. This was not as cool, was more expensive to manufacture, and was not as convenient. But maybe the new design is a skosh too convenient?
So far the folks on the NAA forum don’t agree. Though production Ranger IIs have only been shipping for a couple weeks, there are guys on there who say they haven’t had this issue at all. But somehow Chris and I both suffered the problem immediately and independently.
Apparently we’re expected to contort our thumbs better and use just the tip to cock the hammer rather than get a more comfortable, more solid, better purchase on it (and sometimes incidentally on the latch). Maybe we’re six-feet tall and wear men’s size large gloves and that’s just not simpatico with the Ranger II when it comes to Wild West mini shootouts.
Unfortunately, this open fan of North American Arms stands by this issue being an issue. At least for me (and for Chris).
But not for having fun on the range. For that, this issue’s a non-issue. For a good time, the Ranger II’s your huckleberry.
If you’re thinking of using the Ranger II for self-defense or in stressful sorts of situations, though, you’d better practice and get that muscle memory down. Remember, just the tip. Definitely don’t securely grip the hammer in a firm and/or forcible fashion. But who’d do that?
Specifications: North American Arms Ranger II
Caliber: .22 Magnum (also available with a .22 LR conversion cylinder)
Capacity: five rounds
Overall Length: 5.16 inches
Barrel Length: 1.63 inches
Height: 2.81 inches
Width: 1.06 inches
Weight: 6.9 ounces
Action: single action, break-open cylinder, star extractor
Materials: stainless steel and rosewood
MSRP: $479 as tested, $574 with .22 LR conversion cylinder
Ratings (out of five stars):
Quality * * * * *
Excellent, as usual from NAA. Fit, finish, and machining are spot-on.
Fun Factor * * * * *
It’s so cute! More than that, if you think shooting rimfire ammo is boring, wait until you shoot it out of a teeny tiny little revolver that barks, kicks, and spits fire. Plus, the mechanical satisfaction of a nice single action revolver with all of that clicking and indexing and clock-like feedback is, well, satisfying.
Reliability * * * * * or *
Five stars for range use, one star for self-defense use. It’s reliable right until it’s accidently broken open.
Concealability * * * * *
You could stash it anywhere. Anywhere. Be safe.
Overall * * * * * or * *
Five stars or two stars. Depends what you’re using it for. And if you have carny fingers or man hands. I still like it, I still want it, it’s still a hoot to shoot.
Anyone else miss Breaking Bad when they see this photo?