NAA Ranger 2 — Break Action Micro Magnums for EDC?

I’ve long been a fan of North American Arms. The company is audacious. Their micro-revolvers are tiny fun-guns—especially the ones in 22 short. But my fixation on the pocket pistols has way more to do with their build quality and genuine novelty than it does their potential for self-defense. But they have a new gun that is solving some of my old complaints: The NAA Ranger 2.

Much of the NAA Ranger2 is blasted to a matte finish. The contrast it produces is amazing.
Much of the NAA Ranger 2 is blasted to a matte finish. The contrast it produces is amazing.

Most of the older NAA revolver designs have pinned cylinders. If you want to reload, you need to drop the cylinder free of the gun and reload. That’s hardly a hassle if you’re on the range, but it is less-than-ideal for any defensive scenario.

The new NAA Ranger 2 changes that. This is a break action. There’s a clasp on top of the gun that locks the barrel and cylinder to the rest of the frame. It is a tested design. Smith used to use it. Iver Johnson made some great break actions. While they’re out of fashion with most modern revolver makers, the design works well for the Ranger.

NAA Ranger 2 empty cylinder
Reloads with the Ranger are much easier than with some of the other NAA revolvers. They hearken back to early 20th century revolver designs.

The NAA Ranger 2

The Ranger’s break action is also its rear sight. There are serrations in the latch to help you overcome the tension of the catch. The gun should be in the half-cock position to open—so it does require some basic thought function to make it operate correctly.

Extracting shells is easier, too, thanks to the plunger in the middle of the NAA Ranger 2 cylinder.
Extracting shells is easier, too, thanks to the plunger in the middle of the Ranger’s cylinder.

The hammer on the Ranger is also serrated. From the back of the gun, the hammer blocks the sights until it is cocked. Again, this is common in single-action designs, and since the hammer has to be cocked for the gun to fire, this feature is hardly a hindrance.

The rear sight on the NAA Ranger 2 is also the break latch that opens the barrel.
The rear sight on the Ranger is also the break latch that opens the barrel.

As you break open the gun, the spent brass (or live rounds, if you are unloading without shooting) sits flush in the cylinder. As you bend the barrel over, the plunger extends, pushing the brass out—some.

Like most guns, the NAA Ranger 2 will need a good cleaning after a trip to the range.
Like most guns, the Ranger will need a good cleaning after a trip to the range.

Rimfire brass expands and can catch in the chamber. Some of these rounds are so dirty that the gun gets sticky, quickly. The plunger has enough force to overcome this grab and I’ve yet to have any brass hang up excessively in the chambers.

22 Mag

The grips on the Ranger are wooden—Rosewood. I think it is a plywood. Regardless, the wood itself is hard. The steel of the frame is also hard. And the .22 Magnum, in such a small package, kicks hard. This is hardly a wrist-breaker. And I don’t get the brutal slap in the web of my hand that I do from other small steel-framed pocket guns. But you’ll know you’ve shot it. And if you run any volume through it, which you should if you are going to carry it for self-defense, you’ll feel it.

The NAA Ranger 2 hammer spur is a fat blade. It is ideal for cracking rimfire rims.
The Ranger’s hammer spur is a fat blade. It is ideal for cracking rimfire rims.

The .22 Magnum’s velocity is tamed, slightly, by the short barrel. The round still has the potential for one-shot lethality—but (as is always the case) shot placement is everything. In the role of the get-off-me-gun, the Ranger has genuine potential. As far as accuracy goes, keep your expectations modest.

NAA Ranger 2 flat topped barrel and front sight post.
The flat top of the barrel is great for assisting with aim. The sight itself is a simple post.

Accuracy

Before I dive in, I want to say that I really do see the potential here. I’ve not been shy in the past about praising the unique and quirky designs that have made North American Arms so popular. I’ve also not pulled any punches about the genuine potential for self-defense. I wouldn’t carry this gun as my only means of defense, as so many do—unless I couldn’t conceal anything bigger.

NAA Ranger 2, Five shots in four holes—all from about 15 feet. I can't thread needles with the Ranger, but it would make an impression.
Five shots in four holes–all from about 15 feet. I can’t thread needles with the Ranger, but it would make an impression.

My first shots with this and other NAA revolvers almost always hit about 6″ high on the target. With five rounds to work with, I can walk it down to the right area. My windage usually isn’t bad.

NAA Ranger 2 target. From farther out, my groups spread out. I tend to miss high and walk it down.
From farther out, my groups spread out. I tend to miss high and walk it down.

I’ve never shot any of the longer barreled NAAs. part of what I’m seeing on paper with this one is that the rounds are key-holing when shot from any distance. That’s not a problem for defensive shooting unless those shots miss the mark. These don’t. A tumbling .22 Magnum produces fine terminal ballistic performance.

The Craftsmanship

When I got this gun in for review, I actually picked up two. The other, a NAA-22MS, doesn’t have a break-action. But I was just as smitten with the craftsmanship. Both of these are paradoxically robust and delicate at the same time.

The NAA Ranger 2 frame feels monolithic, but it isn't. If you had to, you could take the Ranger down.
The frame feels monolithic, but it isn’t. If you had to, you could take the Ranger down.

How can something feel so small and yet so finely tuned? The feeling is the same sensation I experience with some well-made pocket knives and watches. It is deeply satisfying.

The NAA Ranger 2 has more moving parts than the NAA-22MS. I enjoy its clicks. I have a habit of cocking the hammer, dropping it slowly, popping it back to the half-cock stop and then thumbing open the cylinder. It is an excellent fidget toy, even if the motion does tend to make some folks nervous. Check to make sure it isn’t loaded and then run it through its mechanical paces. Deeply satisfying.

The NAA Ranger 2 hammer's texture has a ridge down the middle that points the way.
The hammer’s texture has a ridge down the middle that points the way.

Long barrels

The Rangers, like some of the other North American Arms designs, is available with longer barrels—up to four inches. There are also versions of the gun with cylinders that can be easily swapped out for different calibers (like .22 LR).

The longer barreled guns have grips that flare out at the end like an old Peacemaker. That extra surface area and extra barrel length for stabilizing bullet flight should work wonders on the accuracy issues I experience, but they come with the typical price. Though thin, the longer guns with bigger grips are that much more difficult to conceal.

Strong-side, or just about anywhere on the belt, really. The DeSantis is easy to cover up with a shirt tail.
Strong-side, or just about anywhere on the belt, really. The DeSantis is easy to cover up with a shirt tail. Retention is provided by the screw.

In the End

And that’s the appeal of this. Concealability. The NAA Ranger 2 in its compact form fits in a pocket. I’m not one for carrying a gun in my pocket without a holster of some sort—but this would be an option here. Not cocked, of course. That’d be a sure-fire way to lose a testicle or two—or whatever it is you have near your pockets.

NAA Ranger 2 in DeSantis holster, which covers the hammer well.
The DeSantis covers the hammer well. That’s important.

Holsters are available. DeSantis makes this dude for OWB carry. Hard to believe I’m writing about a micro-revolver and advocating for a holster that rides outside the waistband, but here we are. This is a beast of a holster, too. Like everything I’ve seen from DeSantis in the last couple of years, this holster is damn-near perfect. I’m unsure about the exact model name, but I think this is a Lil’ Shot from DeSantis. Current models, though, seem to lack the tension adjustment.

This looks like a DeSantis Lil' Shot, but it has a tension screw.
This looks like a DeSantis Lil’ Shot, but it has a tension screw.

For pocket carry, I’ll again plug Beard and Owl. The NAA revolvers feel artisan and I like the compliment that comes from a handmade holster, too. This is how I’ve been carrying the Ranger during this review period. I usually keep an ancient P3AT in my front pocket, but this has a smaller footprint. And the Beard and Owl pocket holster keeps it in place perfectly.

For hand-made leather and pocket carry, I like the Beard and Owl holster.
For hand-made leather and pocket carry, I like Beard and Owl.

So what is it exactly?

Fun gun? Yes. Most definitely. Self-defense? For deep cover, sure. I could go there—easily. Backup gun for summer carry? Third gun? Something akin to a dangerous fidget spinner? Yup, that too.

The Ranger’s sticker price is $479. They usually sell for a bit less, even in this absurd market. Check them out—they’re sure to make you smile.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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