Educational Zone #122 – Product Evaluation – The North American Arms Mini Revolvers

I recently got a note from my friend Doug asking me about the NAA revolvers. He said that he and a bunch of other guys had them and liked them and they were having a discussion on the NAA Forum about how well these little pistols worked. He also said, “If these minis are gaining popularity as an “alternative” carry (when something is better than nothing), then it would be nice to check out their penetration and punch.”

Long story short, I contacted the General Manager of NAA, a nice fellow named Ken, and asked him if he would be willing to loan me a couple of their firearms to test. He not only agreed, but seemed very favorable to the idea. I told him that I would be honest, but would be fair in my evaluation. He assured me that was all he expected and said if I had any problems with their product, they would use the information to make them better.

I arranged for my FFL to receive the pistols for me and Ken and I thought it would be an interesting idea to compare a .22 LR versions and a .22 WMR version, and see how they compared.

First, let’s get one thing cleared up… I am not suggesting that a .22 LR or ever a .22 Mag can compete with a heavy center fire handgun. But these little pistols are the smallest BUGs (Back-Up Guns) that are available. They are meant to be easily carried in a pocket when a larger gun cannot be easily concealed, or as an emergency back-up if the primary weapon is lost. They are sometimes called “Deep Back-Up Guns”.

My old buddy Tman used to carry one in .22 LR in his pocket when he and his wife walked around their neighborhood. He was not really concerned about bad guys in this neighborhood, but carried it in case a dog attacked. If I remember correctly, he told me that he once pulled it when a big dog threatened them, but the dog backed off, maybe because dogs can often tell the difference between a person that is frightened, and one that is fixing to kill them.

A good buddy that is a police officer and I went to a gun show in Houston recently and I noticed a bunch of dealers with NAA revolvers on their table. They must be popular with a lot of folks. My buddy was looking at them for a Deep BUG, in case he ever lost his duty piece.

I plan on looking at three main areas:

  1. Quality – Are these little guns junk, or are they well-built pieces of equipment?
  2. Does the .22 WMR penetrate much better than the .22 LR? Or will the very short barrel make it impossible for the .22 WMR to generate much more velocity and penetration?
  3. Will any round reach the FBI 12 inch minimum penetration standard from such a short barrel?

Let’s look at the pistols first.

These little pistols are extremely well made, and as tight as a bank vault.

Here’s a comparison of the .22 Magnum to the .22 Long Rifle versions.

Here’s a comparison of the .22 Magnum to the .22 Long Rifle versions.

As you would expect, the .22 WMR is slightly larger.

The barrels on both pistols are 1 1/8 inch long.

To disassemble for loading or unloading, you just push in the button on the end of the cylinder pin…


Then pull it out…


And the pistol comes apart for loading or cleaning.

You can use the cylinder pin to punch out the empty shells.


One “problem” with any single action design is that it is unsafe to lower the hammer down on a live round.

NAA has fixed this problem by designing a recess for the hammer between the cartridge heads.

This allows you to place the hammer down between cartridges and in a Safe position for carry.


You simply draw back the hammer slightly, which allows the cylinder to be rotated…


Then pull the trigger and slowly lower the hammer into the recess between rounds.


Here's what it looks like with the hammer on Safe, between chambers.

Here’s what it looks like with the hammer on Safe, between chambers.

When you need to go to work, you just pull the hammer to full cock, and the next round will line-up with the barrel.

The pistols are very small, and easy to conceal.

My lovely wife has small hands, yet this pistol fits in her hand easily.


The .22 Magnum is slightly larger than the .22 Long Rifle Model, as you would expect.

But both of these have the same length barrel.


Another look.


I wish we could test all the dozens of different ammunition types that are available, but we simply cannot. So, we will compare a couple of types of ammo that are commonly available and use them in the same barrel lengths, see what we can see.

First, let’s look at barrel length and velocity for these two rounds. Looking at some tests done by NNA I extrapolated some velocities.

For the 1 1/8 barrels, the .22 LR (CCI MiniMags) gets about 700 fps and the .22 WMR gets 790 fps.

With the longer 1 5/8 barrel, the .22 LR gets around 740 fps, and the .22 WMR gets about 875 fps.

It seems (as we might expect) that the .22 WMR gets a lot of help with a longer barrel. Of course, the trade-off is that the shorter barrel, the easier it is to conceal the firearm. If the barrel gets very long, and the pistol becomes harder to conceal, we might as well go to a larger caliber.

We drug out the Waterbox O’ Truth to test penetration.

We will put a couple of layers of denim in front of the water jugs to simulate clothing.


First, let’s try a round of Federal Lightening .22 LR Solid.

It penetrated 3 jugs, for 18 inches of water, or 9 inches of ballistic gelatin.


Next we’ll try a round of CCI Minimag Hollow Point in the .22 LR.

It also penetrated 3 jugs, or 9 inches of BG, and did not expand at all.


Lastly, let’s try a round of CCI Stinger .22 LR.

It also penetrated 3 jugs, or 9 inches of BG, with no expansion of the Hollow Point.


Now we’ll try the .22 WMR pistol.

First we will try a round of Hornady 30 grain V-Max ammo.

It penetrated 3 jugs and stopped. It did not expand at all.


Let’s try a round of CCI .22 WMR Maxi-Mag, JHP.

It penetrated 4 jugs, or 12 inches of ballistic gelatin, but did not expand at all.



Let’s answer our original questions.

1. Quality – Are these little guns junk, or are they well-built pieces of equipment?

These are finely made and high quality pistols. They are not “cheaply” built and are very solid. I see them reasonably priced at just over $200, so they are not budget busters.

NAA gives a Lifetime Warranty on the pistols, and you can’t do much better than that.

The pistols ran 100% for me, with no problems at all.

2. Does the .22 WMR penetrate much better than the .22 LR? Or will the very short barrel make it impossible for the .22 WMR to generate much more velocity and penetration?

It seems that none of the .22 Long Rifle rounds tested penetrated over 9 inches of BG, and none of the hollow points expanded. I suppose the velocities from these short barrels are not enough to cause the hollow points to expand.

The .22 WMR penetrated slightly better with one type of ammo. It also made a lot more noise and had more (if still very slight) recoil.

3. Will any round reach the FBI 12 inch minimum penetration standard from such a short barrel?

None of the .22 Long Rifle rounds tested made the 12 inch minimum penetration. This was no surprise, as we did not expect the .22 LR out of such a short barrel to make the minimum.

One round of .22 WMR, the CCI Maxi-Mag JHP, made the minimum penetration standard of 12 inches, but did not expand at all.

These fine little pistols are carried as Deep Back-Up Guns. They would be used when it was not possible to conceal a larger pistol. They fulfill this function very well, but do so at the expense of penetration and wounding potential. If you want a major pistol caliber, you will need to carry a larger and heavier pistol.

Thanks to the fine folks at North American Arms for the loan of these pistols for the tests. They are high quality products and very well made.

10 Comments on Educational Zone #122 – Product Evaluation – The North American Arms Mini Revolvers

  1. watch shooting the bull on youtube and you’ll see which ammo to use. The FBI minimums were in fact reached with certain ammo.

  2. joseph t. palickar // May 23, 2016 at 11:32 am // Reply

    please send me the price of the 22 mag. small pocket pistol. I have the 22 long cal. postil and I would like to own the 22 mag.

  3. 5 well placed jhp mag in .22 Cal is definitely gonna be a real deterrent to ANY-bodies plan for a criminal act. If this test motivates NAA to add an inch to their barrels on both mini revolvers to reach FBI specs AND provide proper function for the HP, they will have a far better defensive weapon IMHO……

  4. I recently bought the 22 mag (WMR) version for my wife and in an effort to locate .22 mags failed miserably. None of the stores within a forty mile radius has .22 mags. The closest I could find was the CCI .22 Mini Mags (36 gr.). I want the wife to start carrying this as a self defense weapon but want her to practice shooting it until she’s comfortable. She’s not new to handguns by any means but we just want to play it safe. I was wondering why the literature with the gun recommends not using LRs or Mini Mags with it. I realize the magnum round is the “preferred” but is it the “only” round that can be used in the gun? Can the mini-mags be used? I never really noticed much of a difference with the LR and the Mini-Mags in my little back up .22 JC Higgins (J22) but then again, it would probably shoot anything .22 cal has. I’d give that gun to her and keep the little NAA revolver but having carried the J22 for over 30 yrs. as a backup I’m used to pushing the magazine back up into the grip when I draw it from my pocket. Soooo, that given, would the mini-mags shoot in the NAA .22 magnum mini-revolver without fear of any catastrophic failure or out of battery discharges? Why not shoot the LR or the Mini-Mags in them? I’m asking because the availability of .22 mag ammo in this particular area is nill and because I have .22 LR and .22 CCI Mini-Mag ammo already. I understand the problems with PMC and Armscor ammo and the sensitive “primer” resulting in out of battery discharges so most definitely won’t be using those brands but CCI’s been pretty reliable in my old junker JC Higgins J22. Wondering if the CCI mini-mag’s okay to train with in the NAA .22 Magnum Mini-Revolver. Any advice/info would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.


    • Dennis, I realize that you asked your question over 5 months ago, but in case you didn’t get your answer or someone else is wondering the same thing:

      A .22 Long Rifle bullet (which includes the Mini-Mag rounds, despite the name) has a recessed area at the back of the bullet that fits into the case; that means that the bullet and the case have the same outside diameter.

      If you look at a .22 Magnum round, the bullet is still the same diameter (0.22″), but the case has a larger OD so that the round fits over the bullet, instead of the bullet being recessed into the case. That means that if you put a .22LR into a .22Mag chamber, it will fit very loosely, which could cause the case to stretch and possibly burst when fired.

      Fortunately, there’s a very simple solution: NAA offers a .22LR conversion cylinder for the Magnum revolvers. Just swap out the Magnum cylinder for the LR one and you’re good to go!

  5. Jesus rodriguez // February 28, 2017 at 1:58 am // Reply

    What is a battery discharge?

    • Out of battery discharges basically is a discharge (firing) of the round where its not fully supported by the chamber and barrel in a semi auto closed bolt gun its when the slide isn’t fully closed and the barrel isn’t locked int the firing position in one of these revolvers I’m not sure its possible because of the chamber being part of the cylinder. If their susceptible to OOB discharges it could mean a knock on the rim could set it off which for a BUGsquared (back up backupgun) where its intended to be drawn from belt buckle boot or neck chain even tucked behind the armor of a cops rig if your in a ground fight for control of your piece and can’t draw your main bavkup say an ankle gun or pocket pistol and your grappling on the floor or the gun gets dropped it could be bad

  6. We’re can I get one of those small pistols

  7. I have two north american arms black widow 22 mags they both have 2″
    barrels, I’m not a big person and carry most of the time in my back
    pocket every place I go no problem.

  8. Steve in Boise // October 17, 2017 at 7:50 pm // Reply

    1 5/8″ BBL NAA .22magnum. Chrono at 10 ft from muzzle.
    03/21/2017 Boise, ID

    CCI Speer Gold Dot 950 fps
    Federal 40 gr 1025 fps.
    Win. SuperX 40gr 1116 fps
    CCI Maxi 40gr. 1043 fps
    CCI Maxi 30gr. jhp 1263 fps
    CCI Maxi 30gr poly point 1284 fps. DA WINNER
    Hornady 30gr poly point 1218 fps
    Hornady 45gr. Crit Def. 1038 fps.
    YMMV. I’m carrying the CCI 30gr. polypoint, for the deepest hole.

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