The North American Arms (NAA) .22 Mag. Mini revolvers represent some of the more unique offerings in the pocket-pistol market these days. Few handguns are as compact and concealable as these five-shot, single-action revolvers.
Available in exceptionally small .22 Short and .22 LR configurations, the slightly larger .22 Mag. version is a more potent defensive option in a pinch. Although they don't offer the ammunition capacity or stopping power of centerfire handguns, they can be carried in places and ways that bigger handguns cannot.
I've enjoyed learning to operate the magnum-frame Minis, but they do take some getting used to. The standard models draw many of their design cues from the single-action pocket revolvers of the late 19th century. This includes the birdshead grip frame with smooth wood panels, a rudimentary rounded front blade sight and short barrels between 1-1/8" and 1-5/8" in length.
The reduced size of the revolver only leaves about one finger's worth of grip surface to work with. As a back-up gun or a last-ditch, get-off-me gun, when the priority is maximum concealment, it’s enough to do the job.
But not everyone is going to find the standard magnum Mini model to be a good fit for their needs. For those with more modern concealed-carry handgun preferences, and larger hands, NAA offers the Black Widow.
Thanks to an oversized rubber grip, it feels and handles more like a J-frame size concealed carry revolver. The 2-part sight system is easier to see and the barrel has been extended to 2" in order to squeeze more performance out of the .22 Mag. cartridge. Last year, the company introduced a version of the Black Widow with a matte-black PVD coating. Here's a closer look at this model.
The Black Widow shares the same sight, barrel and cylinder pin configuration as the Pug and Mini Master models. This version ships with fixed Marble Arms 3-dot sights, which are dovetailed into the barrel.
The squared off front sight blade and square notch rear sight provide a sight picture that's typical for today's defensive pistols. The 2" long slab-side barrel has a squared off vented rib that's reminiscent of the Colt Python. The top of this rib, between the sights, is grooved to reduce glare.
NAA Minis have been simplified for improved frame strength and reduced production costs. As a result, they don't have loading gates or ejector rods. Instead, the cylinder is removed from the frame for loading. Other Minis have cylinder pins with rounded, knurled heads and a release button.
However, the Black Widow's cylinder pin is held in place by a rotating locking block. The pin is released from the frame by pulling down on the block and giving it a quarter turn before pulling the pin forward and out of the frame. The cylinder is then tipped out of the right side of the frame. Spent cartridges are removed by poking them out of the cylinder with a small punch type tool.
Because this revolver is a single-action, the exposed hammer is manually cocked each time the gun is fired. The rimfire primers are ignited by a hatchet-like blade extension which is fixed directly to the hammer itself. In order to prevent the lowered hammer from resting on a live cartridge, NAA has cut a set of safety notches into the unfluted cylinder in between each of the five chambers. Lowering the blade of the hammer into one of these notches allows the Black Widow to be safely carried with all of the chambers loaded.
The trigger is quite small. It's more of a textured stud or button than the bow shaped triggers found on most revolvers. Nevertheless, it's comfortable to work with due to a short 1/8" ark of travel, a smooth feel and a clean break. In this case, the trigger pull measured 4-lbs. 12-oz., according to a Lyman digital trigger gauge.
Some folks worry about the absence of a trigger guard. With the hammer set forward into one of the cylinder's safety notches, the Mini will not fire until the hammer is manually cocked. This means that a trigger guard is not required for safe concealed carry.
The rounded black rubber grip has finger grooves along the front strap, the NAA logo on the left panel and a red hourglass medallion on the right. I've described other Minis with smaller grips as having a jumpy kind of felt recoil.
The recoil is modest, but it feels like the little guns are trying to jump straight up out of your hands if you don't have a firm grip on them. The Black Widow’s hand-filling grip eliminates that jumpiness for a comfortable, soft-shooting feel that makes this revolver accessible to beginners as well as more experienced handgun operators.
At the range, the Black Widow proved to be utterly reliable with all the ammunition tested, including rifle and handgun-specific . 22 Mag. loads. With its five-shot capacity and the need to dismantle the gun for loading, it's not a high-speed, low-drag competition gun. But it's enjoyable to shoot.
Because this is a pocket pistol, formal bench rested accuracy testing was conducted at 7 yards by firing five 5-shot groups into paper targets. Bullet velocity was measured using a LabRadar chronograph with a 12" offset from the muzzle.
How well-suited a small .22 Mag. handgun may be for self defense remains a matter of debate. But what I do know for certain is that ammunition choice is important should you choose to carry a small handgun in this caliber.
The majority of .22 Mag. ammunition is designed for hunting rifles with barrels that are 16" or longer, like the Federal Champion 40-gr. full metal jacket. These loads tend to shed a good deal of velocity when fired from short-barreled revolvers, as you can see here in this table containing the range results:
The other two loads tested, Hornady’s Critical Defense 45-gr. FTX and the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 40-gr. jacketed hollow point, are specifically designed for small revolvers with listed velocities that match their purpose. Both of these loads performed well out of the Black Widow.
I've enjoyed shooting North American Arms’ Mini revolvers for quite some time. They are well-made, reliable and provide a shooting experience that's unlike any other handgun series currently in production. The Black Widow is a well-balanced option that's easier to learn to operate while remaining compact enough for deep concealment or carry in light clothing.
This model is also an ideal kit gun for fishing, camping and hiking. The Black Widow is available with a stainless-steel finish and it can be ordered with a second factory-fitted cylinder chambered in .22 LR for less expensive practice sessions and plinking.
Specifications: Manufacturer: North American Arms Model: NAA-BWM-PVD Action: Single-Action Revolver Caliber: .22 Mag. Finish: Stainless Steel with Matte Black PVD Coating Cylinder: Fluted Grips: Oversized Rubber with Black Widow Logo Sights: Marble Arms 3-Dot Barrel: 2" Heavy Barrel with Vented Rib Trigger Pull: 4 lbs. 12 oz. (As Tested) Overall Length: 5.88″ Height: 3.69″ Cylinder Width: 0.85" Weight: 8.6 oz. Unloaded Capacity: 5 Rounds Twist: 1:12” RH Rifle Grooves: 8 Accessories: Locking Steel Storage Box, Owner's Manual MSRP: $318 (.22 Mag Only), $353 (With Second .22 LR Cylinder)