Isn't it interesting how a little more can make all the difference sometimes? A three-day weekend, a few extra rounds in a bulk box of .22 ammo, or the range master letting you shoot past the one-hour limit at the range. For some reason, that just-a-bit-more takes something from being really good to exactly what you wanted. Such is the case with North American Arms’ (NAA) latest version of the Ranger II break-top mini revolver.
When NAA, of Provo, Utah, opened its doors is the mid 1970s, the company's Mini series of five-shot rimfire revolvers were built using a removable cylinder design—as are most of the Minis today. In 2011 the company decided to take the Minis in a new direction by offering the first break-top model called the Ranger. It was quickly followed by the Sidewinder swing-out cylinder design in 2012.
Unfortunately, the first Ranger, which was clearly intended to resemble the Navy Schofield Founder’s Model 45 Colt, proved to be too expensive to produce profitably. It was canceled with fewer than 500 units completed. However, customer enthusiasm for this diminutive break-top inspired the company to go back to the drawing board and redesign the platform. Fans had to wait until 2018 for the Ranger II to start shipping, but it was worth it!
The first version of the Ranger II sports a 1.63" barrel with rounded grip panels shaped to match the magnum-size grip frame. In other words, a happy hybrid of NAA's typical Minis and the Navy Schofield break-top influence.
Earlier this year, as I walked past the NAA booth at SHOT Show, the 2019 version of the Ranger II caught my eye. It had a bit extra in just the right places. The barrel had been stretched out to 2.5" and the birdshead grip panels replaced with a NAA flat-based boot grip. These two relatively simple modifications significantly shift the revolver’s appearance. Instead of looking like a Schofield-influenced Mini it looks like a miniaturized Schofield which is, in my opinion, one of the most elegant revolvers ever made. That may sound like a fine distinction but fans will know what I mean. Here is a closer look at this gun's features.
The Ranger II is a single-action, 5-shot revolver chambered for the .22 Mag. rimfire cartridge. It features a durable satin stainless steel construction throughout. Because it is a break-top design, it has a release lever positioned between the frame and hammer with a hinge located in front of the cylinder. Placing the hammer in the half-cocked position and thumbing back the release allows the action to open.
Instead of swinging out sideways, like a modern double-action revolver, the cylinder swings up and away from the frame with the barrel's muzzle moving down and back, towards the trigger. This motion causes the cylinder's extractor star to push spent cartridges part way out of the cylinder's chambers. The cases can then be manually plucked out and fresh rounds loaded before pressing the action closed once more.
The operator has two choices at this point. One is to manually move the hammer to the fully cocked position and fire the revolver. The other is to take advantage of NAA's unique safety system. Between each chamber of the cylinder there's a safety notch. Rotating the cylinder so that the hammer's blade can be placed, fully forward, into one of these notches allows the revolver to be safely carried with all five chambers loaded.
As much as I like the break-action configuration of this Mini, its clean vintage lines that really make it stand out from the crowd. The barrel rib, which supports the polished bead front sight, dovetails neatly into the hinged top strap (this hinged section allows the cylinder to be removed for cleaning). The rear sight is a notch cut into the release lever. The stainless steel frames of other Minis usually have satin flats with bead blasted matte rounds. The Ranger II has a satin finish throughout which frees the eyes to roam and enjoy the revolver's form.
Like other Minis, the Schofield style trigger guard and bow shaped trigger have been traded out for the company's signature trigger stud. Some folks get itchy when there's no trigger guard but with this model there's no need to worry. Because it is a single-action, the gun cannot be fired unless the hammer is fully cocked over a loaded chamber. With the hammer set into a safety notch, you can bump the trigger and hammer until the cows come home and the revolver will not go off. For this gun, the exceptionally short trigger pull was 4 lbs. 13 oz. according to a Lyman's digital trigger gauge.
The Schofield-like footprint of this Mini is completed with a smooth, laminated rosewood boot grip. Along with a more traditional single-action revolver look, this grip adds about an inch to the backstrap, 0.25" to the front strap while providing a 1.25" flat base when compared to the birdshead grip panels. This extra bit of grip increases stability without bulking up the revolver. This revolver's grip frame is the same standardized frame found on the company's other magnum-frame minis. This means the Ranger II can be outfitted with a variety of grips from the NAA catalog including engraved wood, Perlite, rubber and laser sight options. This revolver is shipped in a steel lock box with two keys instead of the more common polymer hard cases.
At the shooting range, the 2.5” barrel version of the Ranger II demonstrated the same high levels of craftsmanship and reliable operation that many loyal fans of NAA products have come to expect. The overall fit and finish was top notch and the revolver successfully chambered, fired and extracted the various loads of .22 Mag. test ammunition. Most folks won't sit and pound hundreds of rounds through a gun like this in a single sitting. But be aware that if you do shoot a few cylinders worth of ammunition quickly, then the barrel is going to heat up enough that you'll need gloves or a bandanna to handle it during reloads until it cools off.
This Mini is intended for use as a pocketable backup revolver or as a kit gun that can be comfortably kept at hand in the field. The .22 Mag. rounds topped with lightweight bullets for high-speed varmint rifles do not perform as well from short-barreled handguns. Instead, I've gotten the best results with these snubby rimfires using .22 Mag. ammunition designed specifically for defensive handguns. Three such loads were fired for five, 5-shot group accuracy testing at 7 yards from a benchrest. Group sizes were on par with other NAA magnum models I've tested.
Speer Gold Dot 49-gr. jacketed hollow points produced a best single group of 1.98" with a five-group average of 2.18". Winchester's PDX1 Defender 40-gr. jacketed hollow points turned in a best group of 1.86" with an average of 1.99". The Hornady Critical Defense 45-gr. FTX polymer-tipped jacketed hollow point posted a best group of 1.82" with an average of 1.93".
The latest addition to the North American Arms' Ranger II line-up is a handsome, well-made miniature that cleanly captures one of my favorite revolver designs. I wouldn't mind seeing rimfire break-tops make a comeback in other sizes as well. In the case of the Minis, this design has the advantage of being easier to reload in the field than the removable cylinder models. By stretching the Ranger II's barrel and extending the grip, just a bit, its Navy Schofield heritage stands out, making this model as enjoyable to look at as it is to shoot.