Last year I enjoyed wringing out what may be the smallest American-made handgun currently in production chambered for a standard rimfire caliber. North American Arms’ (NAA) diminutive single-action .22 Short Mini revolver is just 3.63" long, 0.88 wide and weighs in at 4.1 oz., unloaded. With the range test of the smallest North American Arms model completed, I couldn't help but wonder if there was a "largest" Mini model tucked away somewhere in NAA's catalog.
As it turns out, the biggest, or perhaps I should say the longest, of these Lilliputian single-actions is a member of the company's Magnum Mini 1860 Series, which has been nicknamed "The Hogleg." Developed by NAA assembly technician Earl Hubbard and his son Dustin, the 1860s look an awful lot like reduced scale, 5-shot versions of the percussion cap ignited 1858 Remington black powder revolver. In fact, NAA’s 4" barrel 1860’s Companion actually is a cap-and-ball wheelgun that fires proprietary .22 caliber lead bullets provided by NAA.
For those who prefer cartridges to black powder, the Magnum frame of the 1860 Series rimfire models was designed around the punchy .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire cartridge, more commonly known as the .22 Mag. Models include 3" and 4" barrel versions of "The Earl" (a nod to Mr. Hubbard's important contribution), a slightly modified 2.5" barrel “Sheriff” model and the subject of this review, the longest Mini of them all, the 6" barrel “Hogleg.” The 1860s models share the same frame, .22 Mag. cylinder, hatchet-blade hammer and grooved trigger stud as the standard Magnum Mini. However, the frame's top strap has been machined with a longer, taller rear sight groove and paired with a front sight post which narrows at the top. The round barrel has been replaced with a period appropriate hexagonal barrel with brushed sides that blend seamlessly into the satin flats of the frame.
The cylinder is un-fluted and features NAA's safety notches. These notches allow the hammer blade to be lowered between the clamberers so that the revolver can be safely carried with all chambers loaded. Every member of the 1860 Series can be purchased with a .22 Long Rifle conversion cylinder (stamped with an 'L' on the cylinder face) for more affordable practice and plinking sessions.
The majority of Minis are fitted with a removable cylinder pin topped with a knurled head and a push-button release. But the 1860s have a faux loading lever pinned to the frame which provides the appearance of a cap-and-ball revolver, if not the same function. Pressing the release located at the end of the lever allows it to swing down and out of the way of the cylinder pin. The pin can then be pulled out of the frame so that the cylinder can be removed for loading or cleaning.
The final 1860s touch is one of my favorites, the smooth side, flat-bottom laminated rosewood boot grip. The standard, short-barrel Magnum Minis have rounded birdshead grip panels ideally suited for their low profile, easy draw pocket-carry profile. The boot grips provide a traditional single-action revolver look while extending the back strap by about 1", the front strap by 0.25" while adding a 1.25" flat base. The result is a more stable grip without much added bulk or weight. NAA offers boot grips with decorative engraving or, if you want an even more hand-filling grip, the curved Oversized grips are available in hardwood (shown) and rubber.
NAA provides a variety of accessories and support gear for their revolvers. The company’s guns are shipped in a locking steel strong box for safe storage. Most Magnum Mini holsters are designed with the snub nose models in mind but the leather Magnum Cross Draw belt holster works nicely with the Hogleg. The belt loop is canted for an across the body draw which has the added benefit of keeping the longer barrel up and out of the way when walking or siting down. Two products not in the NAA catalog that I like for carrying spare .22 Mag or .22 LR ammunition include the Tuff Products Quick Strips and the Marble Arms Catch .22 storage dispenser.
Some may wonder if the 6" barrel makes the Hogleg feel muzzle heavy when compared to the snub-nose Magnum Minis. The revolver weighs just 9.7 oz. unloaded, with five rounds of .22 Mag. ammunition bumping that weight up by just three quarters of an ounce or so (depending on the bullet weight). So the answer is no, there's nothing heavy about this model at all.
However, the longer barrel and grip noticeably change the felt recoil by eliminating the moderate but somewhat jumpy feel of short-barrel Magnum Minis (which is easily managed with a bit of practice). The Hogleg's percussion cap revolver inspired sight system is useful and easier to see than one might expect of sights so small. The revolver operated smoothly and reliably throughout the informal and formal testing process without any mechanical or ammunition related issues.
Formal bench-rested 5-shot group accuracy testing was conducted using three loads of .22 Mag. ammunition. When fired at 15 yards, groups tended to open up to around 4" in size, which is larger than the 3.5" rule-of-thumb handgun standard I like to work to. So, formal accuracy was conducted at 7 yards, where the groups were around 2" in size. Bullet velocity was measured for 10 consecutive rounds using a Lab Radar chronograph with a 12" offset from the muzzle.
CCI's TNT Green 30-gr. lead free hollow point produced a muzzle velocity average of 1376 f.p.s., a best 5-shot group of 2.21" with a five-group average of 2.46". The Winchester PDX1 Defender 45-gr. jacketed hollow point launched at 1215 f.p.s. with a best group of 1.61" and an average of 1.73". CCI A22 35-gr. Game Point jacketed soft points flew at 1317 f.p.s. with a best group of 1.26" and an average group size of 1.50".
In some ways, the North American Arms 1860 Series Hogleg is as much a novelty gun as the .22 Short. And by novel I mean unique, original and unusual. However, it's certainly easier to shoot and a much more practical configuration for those in the market for a Mini that can be used in the field as well as the range. Stretching the barrel out to 6" definitely takes this model out of the running for use as a pocket pistol and some kit gun applications. However, the Hogleg is no pig when it comes to handling characteristics.
The sight system is among the most useful that NAA offers. The added barrel length, paired with the flat-bottom boot grip, smoothes out the already moderate recoil common to the snub nose .22 Mag Minis. When fitted with the .22 Long Rifle cylinder, this revolver is downright domesticated in the recoil department and very affordable to plink and practice with. The 6" barrel does squeeze a bit more performance out of .22 Mag. cartridges and it provides a longer sight radius to work with. The Hogleg's hexagonal barrel, un-fluted cylinder and faux loading lever give it a handsome profile to go along with its easy shooting nature. Whichever end of the NAA Mini spectrum you choose to travel to, smallest, longest or somewhere in between, you’ll find high quality products which are unlike anything else on the market.
Manufacturer: North American Arms (NAA)
Model: 1860 Series "Hogleg" Caliber Convertible (NAA-1860-6C)
Action: Single-Action Revolver
Caliber: .22 Mag with .22 LR Conversion Cylinder
Finish: Satin Stainless Steel
Grip Frame: Birdshead
Grip Panels: Laminated Rosewood Boot Grips
Barrel: Hexagonal with Faux Loading Lever
Front Sight: Post
Rear Sight: Fixed Notch
Trigger Pull: 4 lbs. 9 oz. (As Tested)
Barrel Length: 6.00"
Overall Length: 9.75"
Cylinder Width: 0.76"
Weight: 9.7 oz.
Capacity: 5 Rounds
Accessories: Locking Strong Box, Second Cylinder, Owner's Manual
MSRP: $344 with .22 LR Conversion Cylinder, $308 .22 Mag. Only
NAA Magnum Cross Draw Holster, Brown Basket Weave (HBW-M) $65
NAA Magnum Engraved Boot Grip (GBG-M-ENG) $40
NAA Magnum Oversized Rosewood Grip (GRW-M) $35
Marble Arms Catch .22 Storage Dispensers $9.99
Tuff Products Quick Strip 2-Packs $9.45