North American Arms (NAA) has made a name for itself producing powerful and extremely compact defensive revolvers and autos. While the majority of the company’s revolvers feature cylinders that must be removed to be reloaded, the .22 Magnum NAA Sidewinder features a cylinder that swings out for faster reloading.
Interestingly, the five-shot cylinder of the Sidewinder swings to the right instead of the left. Cylinder release is accomplished by cocking the hammer to the first click and then pulling forward on the cylinder pin/ejector rod, which has a knurled end, and then pushing the cylinder out and to the right. A housing below the
barrel retains and protects the rod.
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NAA mini-revolvers are single action (SA), meaning you have to manually cock the hammer, which rotates and locks the cylinder into place for firing. The trigger is of the “spur” variety and doesn’t have a guard; a downward projection of the frame offers minimal protection. The rounded backstrap of the grip frame is called a “birdshead” for obvious reasons. The 1-inch barrel has a built-in rib and a post front sight.
Quality of manufacture, fit and finish are top notch. The little five-shooter is made of stainless steel throughout; the flat sides of the frame and the cylinder are polished smooth, while the cylinder flutes, barrel and grip frame have a matte finish. Markings and stampings are kept to a minimum. The tips of the hammer and trigger are serrated for good purchase with finger and thumb, plus the grip frame is long enough to curl two fingers around for good control while firing. The laminated wood grips are smooth and taper upward. The handgun has an empty weight of 6.7 ounces and an overall length of just 5 inches. An easy-to-install cylinder in .22 LR is optional, making for economical practice shooting.
For the shooting evaluation I selected .22 Magnum cartridges from three different sources. These included the CCI Maxi Mag +V round with its 30-grain JHP bullet and the Hornady Critical Defense .22 Magnum, a load that features a 45-grain FTX bullet with a serrated hollow nose and a red rubber insert to assist in providing controlled expansion at lower velocities from short barrels. The originator of the .22 Magnum round is Winchester, and its defense-oriented cartridge is the Elite PDX1 .22 Defender. It has a 40-grain JHP bullet that looks like a miniature version of the famous SXT bullet, and it has been formulated for threat-stopping performance with a balance of maximum expansion and penetration.
My shooting was from a rest in the SA mode; point of aim was the center of the inner scoring ring. I cocked the hammer and centered the tiny post front sight in the rear sight notch, aligned them with the target and pressed on the little spur trigger. Most of my five-shot groups were slightly left of center and a bit low. I fired three groups with each of the .22 Magnum test loads, and my best five-shot cluster measured 0.69 inches with the CCI cartridges.
Besides the Sidewinder, NAA makes a dozen other versions of its mini-revolver, plus variations of these differing models. Some 40 years ago, the smallest and lightest “mini” was introduced as the NAA .22 Short. This is a “traditional” model in .22 Short, and its smaller cylinder, frame and 1.6-inch barrel give it an empty weight of a scant 4 ounces. Upping to .22 LR, the weight goes up to 4.5 ounces, and the same type gun in .22 Magnum tips the scales at 5.9 ounces.
The Mini-Master series offers what I’d call a pull-down, slide-out mechanism for extracting the cylinder base pin, making cylinder removal easier. Versions include the Mini-Master with fixed or adjustable sights, over-sized rubber grips and longer vent-rib barrels. There’s the Black Widow with distinctive “hourglass” grips and sight options, plus the Pug with a 1-inch heavy, solid-rib barrel, rubber grips and big-dot or tritium front sights. All of these models have the convertible .22 LR/.22 Magnum option.
Another series is the 1860 Magnums. These have a cylinder removal system that resembles the loading lever on a percussion revolver, or the cylinder pin of a late 1800s “house pistol,” giving these mini-revolvers an Old West flavor. The Earl has a “loading lever” cylinder lock that gives it a Remington 1858 Army cap-and-ball revolver appearance. It comes with a 3-inch or 4-inch barrel and .22 LR/.22 Mag. conversion option. The Hogleg is basically the same revolver with a 6-inch barrel. Having a larger but more traditional cylinder pin locking system, the Sheriff has a 2.5-inch barrel and offers the .22 LR conversion cylinder. Some of these revolvers can also be had with a unique folding grip/holster unit that looks like a clip-on pocketknife when worn.
In 1997 NAA complemented its line of highly concealable mini-revolvers with the Guardian. The first of these little pistols was chambered in .32 ACP (6+1 capacity) and featured a blowback action, combined with a double-action-only (DAO) trigger, plus an optional Integral Locking System (ILS) safety. It’s a portable, safe and effective little pistol. It has a 2.49-inch barrel, overall length of 4.75 inches, height of 3.53 inches and is less than an inch in width. Empty weight is just 13.5 ounces. A variation is chambered for the proprietary .25 NAA cartridge that has a .32 ACP case necked down to .25 caliber projectile, with a 35-grain JHP bullet traveling at around 1,200 fps.
Slightly heavier, the 380 Guardian is chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge (6+1 capacity), which many prefer for law enforcement or self-defense use. It has the same basic features and options as the .32 Guardian on which it is based. It weighs 18.72 ounces with a 2.49-inch barrel and the same dimensions as given above for the .32 ACP model. It too can be had in a proprietary chambering; this one is the .32 NAA, a bottle-necked .380 case necked down to .32 caliber, and its 60-grain JHP clocks in at 1,222 FPS.
North American Arms offers the very best in concealable handguns for whatever the purpose, and many are small and light enough to fit almost anywhere, offering numerous possibilities especially if it’s meant for last-ditch defense or deep-cover backup. Quality of materials and production is an NAA hallmark and is backed up by a lifetime warranty on all its handguns.
For more information, visit http://www.northamericanarms.com or call 800-821-5783.