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.
Caliber: .22 Magnum
Capacity: 5 rounds
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!