Micro Magnums: The NAA-22MS

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Wheelgun Wednesday NAA-22MS

In my never-ending quest to make range time relevant, I’m looking for the oddball calibers. My .22 Mag supply is stable, so I’m shooting something a bit different this week. This little gem is a North American Arms NAA-22MS. Even though it is small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, it is a potentially lethal 5-shot revolver meant for self-defense. So how does it stack up?

Did I mention it fits in the palm of my hand? It is tiny. This isn’t the first NAA I’ve owned. I’ve carried one from time-to-time for a number of years–and for a variety of reasons. I think these guns are a lot of fun. Carrying an NAA makes sense to me as a backup, or even as a backup to a backup. The .22 magnum can poke holes, even if it is on the diminutive side.

North American Arms NAA-22MS cocked.

The NAA’s hammer in its cocked position.

The Specs:

The NAA-22MS is a bit under five inches long. At that length, it will fit in a pocket. The height is just shy of three inches. Both of these dimensions are well within expectations. What might surprise you is the width. The swell of the rosewood grips is a bit more than an inch. It won’t fill the hand, but it does give you something to hold on to.

They’re incredibly light. At 6.5 ounces, they’re hardly a burden. This is great for carrying, but not an asset when you’re shooting—but we’ll get to that in time.

North American Arms NAA-22MS half-cocked.

This is what half-cock looks like on the North American Arms guns.

These are single-action guns. The NAA is easy to cock. The hammer has a decent spur. Despite its size, it can be cocked one-handed or two-handed. While there’s no transfer bar or any other mechanism to prevent an accidental hammer strike, the NAA does have a half-cock with a positive and audible click that locks the hammer off of a live shell.

The half-cock is the extent of the safeties. The rest is up to you. This bears saying, I feel, maybe because these guns are—if I can use the word to describe a gun—cute. They’re not toys, even if they inspire that kind of feeling in many who see them. They require the same care and caution that any gun requires, and maybe more. Their size can make them awkward.

Reloads aren’t fast

That’s as good a transition as any for describing how loading works. In order to put the fuel in the proverbial tank, you first have to pull the cylinder from the gun. The cylinder pin has a detent that holds it in place. Remove that, cock the hammer back to half-cock, and the cylinder rocks out.

North American Arms NAA-22MS revolver cylinder and frame.

The NAA’s frame and cylinder. The cocobolo grip is fat.

There’s no worry when all of the brass is empty. There’s no real worry when the brass isn’t empty, but that care and caution I was talking about above comes back into play. Make sure it is at half-cock. As the gun is small, you’ll be near the trigger while changing out the cylinder.

The cylinder pin can be used to punch out the spent brass.

North American Arms NAA-2MS .22 Magnum wheelgun wednesday

Takedown is easy. And you have 5 shots of .22 Magnum to work with.

Re-inserting the loaded cylinder is easy enough but be patient. Rock the cylinder back into place and move it as needed to get the pin back into place below the barrel. The process is reliably easy, once you get the hang of it. It will be difficult to do, at first, without putting your hands in front of the muzzle.

North American Arms NAA-22MS front sight and detent on cylinder pin.

This image makes the front sight look wide. Note the detent on the cylinder pin.

The difficulty you may experience in the beginning is due to the NAA-22M’s tight tolerances. The cylinder lines up exactly. If anything is out of alignment, it will catch or hang up.

Shooting the NAA-22MS

The NAA is a fun little gun. I’ve got a variety of .22 Magnum kicking about. Out of a rifle, .22 Mag puts up respectable speeds.

I’m not about to make promises of MOA accuracy. As a miniature get-off-me-gun, you won’t need much in the way of accuracy. At longer distances—like 10 feet—the NAA-22M is capable. The farther back you go–well. It is true for every gun, honestly.

Shooting the North American Arms NAA-22MS - accuracy

That’s five shots in four holes. It looks like the rounds are keyholing.

The gun has a half-moon front sight made of steel. The rear sight is milled into the frame. The combination is more effective on larger revolvers, but it is—and always has been—lacking.

I tried several holds with the sights. My groups were sporadic at best. For defensive purposes, they’re functional. Keep your expectations in check, though. This is not a target gun. It isn’t much of a plinker. Certainly not a hunting gun.

View down the sights of NAA-22MS revolver.

Looking down the sights of the NAA-22MS. Like an old Colt, they can only be seen with the hammer cocked.

If you want something that is more for plinking, North American Arms makes a similar gun in .22 short, and another chambered for .22 long. Both would produce far less recoil than the .22 Mag, obviously.

The .22 Mags kick a bit. They’re snappy little rounds, and the lighter weight and lack of control surfaces result in a gun that moves around a bit. It is less of an obstacle to repeat accuracy than you might think, as you have to cock again, and that motion allows you to reposition your grip if you need to.

Where does the NAA 22M really shine?

Few would contest the assertion that there are more effective revolvers for concealed carry. There’s a time and a place for everything. All of the NAA revolvers that I’ve ever seen have the same curiosity appeal. They’re very well built. I like to carry one just to (safely) show off to my gun friends.

But that’s not it. These are tiny defensive guns. For deep concealment—when there’s no way you could conceal even a mouse gun—this may be it.

North American Arms NAA-22MS cylinder and cylinder pin

The cylinder pin can be used to punch brass.

I read something once—and I can’t find it now—about an undercover sting that took place on a beach. One of the officers involved was having trouble concealing his gun, as he was wearing nothing but a Speedo. But he had to get close to his target and didn’t want to go unarmed. His solution was to drop a mouse-gun in a soda cup.

I’m incredibly thankful that wearing a Speedo isn’t one of my occupational hazards. And if you have to conceal a gun in a cup of soda, shake it dry.

DeSantis cross-draw holster, NAA-22MS revolver.

A DeSantis cross-draw. The NAA fits snug and has a trigger spur catch.

Holsters

If I had to bet, I’d guess most NAA owners are practicing pocket carry. Some NAA guns even have a fold-out grip that swings up to cover the trigger, making them safe to stick straight into a pocket. There are some really robust holster options out there—huge holsters, comparatively—even some for OWB carry (like the DeSantis above).

Much more effective (IMHO), and more subtle, are the in-the-pocket versions. This one was made by Beard and Owl.

Beard and Owl pocket holster with NAA-22MS

The Beard and Owl pocket holster is a great way to carry an NAA.

Beard and Owl is a small Missouri shop that makes really nice EDC accouterments. These are all handmade, and not shy about that fact. These pocket holsters won’t hold the hammer in place, but they’re robust enough to protect the gun and to protect the trigger. That said… don’t carry this gun cocked.

Beard and Owl handmade leather EDC holster with North American Arms NAA-22MS revolver.

Beard and Owl. If you’re into handmade and EDC, check them out.

Normally, I’d talk about carrying the gun in a ready condition. I don’t know that that’s advisable. There’s no lock on one of these for carrying it cocked-and-locked. And there’s no trigger guard. No matter how form-fitting your holster is, you’re likely to fire the gun if you try to put a cocked NAA into a holster. This is that use-your-head type of safety that is so hard to teach.

Conclusions

I’m sold on North American Arms guns. I’m not going to make this my primary carry gun. It isn’t going to replace my GLOCK 19. Nor is it supposed to. But it is fun.

And this is the NAA-22MS. They make versions that have conversion cylinders, too. You can shoot .22 LR at the range, and keep the Magnums loaded for pocket carry.

North American Arms NAA-22MS lockable case

North American Arms guns come in a lockable case. This one sits on my desk most of the time. It is a fun gun to fiddle with—safely.

For me, this gun is a solution to a very specific problem. It is also a lot of fun. All of the NAA line are clean and well built. They’re machined exceptionally well, and that adds to their appeal. I like messing with them as much as I do shooting them. And if I’m ever heading into trouble wearing nothing but a Speedo, I know exactly what I’m going to carry.

Read more from the Wheelgun Wednesday archives.

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.