North American Arms Mini Revolver in 22 Short ~ Gun Review

Terril review a classic mouse gun , the North American Arms Mini Revolver.

North American Arms Mini Revolver in 22 Short
North American Arms Mini Revolver in 22 Short

USA – -( When one thinks North American Arms, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Their mini-revolver line, of course. They have been producing small, five-shot rimfire revolvers for decades with what seems like ever increasing spins on the design every year; but one of the original designs is still in production with the distinction of being the smallest available handgun out there—the North American Arms Mini Revolver in 22 Short.

North American Arms Mini Revolver in 22 Short

Although I have long touted the Mini as being anything but a novelty, I decided to lay down the $200 just for the novelty factor of having the “tiniest of the tiny” handguns. When I first received the 22 Short, my urge to review it kicked in. The 22 LR and 22 Magnum versions are far more common, so why can’t the 22 Short get some love? I was reasonably confident in the gun, given that the 22 Short is the only rimfire round designed for use in a pistol. I stocked up on three hundred rounds of 22 Short ammunition and set out for the range.

North American Arms Mini Revolver Features, or a Lack Thereof

When I first got the NAA Mini Revolver, it came in a padded steel lockbox—a smart thought and something that should be included in every pistol purchase instead of a silly cable lock and a plastic tub.

The North American Arms Mini Revolver itself was laughably small when I first opened the box. The pistol is less than five inches in length. The five-shot fluted cylinder is half the length of the 22 Magnum version I once owned. The barrel is 1 1/8 of an inch with a fixed half-moon front sight blade. The small bird’s head grip-frame is paneled with relatively plain rosewood grips.

22 Short Ammunition vs 22 LR Ammo
22 Short Ammunition vs 22 LR Ammo : The 22 Short (left) is dwarfed by the diminutive but popular 22 LR (right).

Operationally, the Mini is a single-action revolver that requires the little knurled hammer to be cocked for each shot with the only safety being milled hammer rests in between the chambers of the cylinder. The gun can only be fired by a pull of the little spur trigger. The cylinder is fixed in place with no loading gate. It can only be loaded and unloaded by pulling out the cylinder pin that rests under the barrel, which allows the cylinder to pop out when the hammer is in its half-cock position.

This little stainless-steel monstrosity is reminiscent of many pocket revolvers produced until the turn of the 20th century and its tiny 22 Short chambering was the classic choice for such guns. The 22 Short uses a tiny rimfire case and was originally loaded with black powder and a 29 grain lead bullet. While not very powerful, it could be chambered in small handguns—and was—starting with its introduction with the Smith & Wesson No. 1 revolver back in 1857. Today, the 22 Short is probably best used as a low-noise option for pest control out of a rifle with the NAA Mini being the only 22 Short pistol in current production.

Reloading the North American Arms Mini Revolver
Reloading the North American Arms Mini Revolver : The NAA 22 Short loads and unloads slowly, with the cylinder pin being used to punch out empty cases. Note the powder burns on my thumb

North American Arms Mini Revolver On The Range

The NAA Mini in 22 Short is tiny. I could easily forgot about it being in the fifth pocket in one of my pairs of jeans on my walk to test fire the pistol at the range.  My thumb over the grip and my index finger over the grip was about the best grip I could get on the gun. I raised my thumb, cocked the hammer, and put the blade over the center of my target.  Pop!

The pistol jumped up in my hand and I lowered it to see a hole just high in my target. I fired my last four rounds and was pleased with a group that was just over palm sized. That was good accuracy by any measure, but I decided to switch ammunition from CCI’s 29 grain CB Short rounds to the same brand of high velocity Shorts, which used a 27 grain hollow-point. I pressed the cylinder pin detent and drew the pin out, put the gun’s hammer on half-cock and rolled the cylinder out. I used the cylinder pin to punch out my empty cases and reversed the process to load back up with this new ammunition. With the new ammo loaded and at that same distance, four out of every five rounds of this ammunition keyholed—hitting the target sideways. I got close to target and found at distances beyond three yards, that ammunition was keyholing while the CB Shorts were hitting straight on.

Keyholing is something you don’t want, retarding any meaningful penetration that you will need in a defensive firearm, especially one this small and low-powered to begin with.

After a brief inspection of the muzzle, I found that the crown favored to one side of the bore. This vents gas unevenly as the bullet leaves the barrel causing bullets to tumble in space. While the 1 1/8-inch barrel doesn’t offer much stability to begin with, this makes things worse. This is a flaw that should have never gotten past the factory and the barrel needed to be recrowned evenly before I took the pistol for its next session.

With more extended firing a few things became obvious.

A two-handed grip on the pistol makes no sense and it is just as fast to fire the pistol with stability with one-hand. The revolver’s front sight needs to be held like an upside down “T” with the tip of the blade resting on the desired aiming point. This will get you shooting into the bullseye, if the gun doesn’t wave around much.

Taking Aim North American Arms Mini Revolver
Taking Aim North American Arms Mini Revolver.

I also noticed powder burns on my fingers after about ten shots into each session. The Mini is so small that gas from the cylinder is near the gripping fingers and you can feel warm wind blowing on the fingers with each shot. There was no pain associated with this, however.


The NAA Mini was a surprise on the range with that keyholing issue solved.

The pistol can hold a 4-6 inch group reliably at seven yards. The group expands slightly at ten yards but beyond that, it wasn’t uncommon to miss a silhouette target with at least one of my five shots. This kind of accuracy is unexpected since NAA Minis are generally regarded as belly guns or something to use at arm’s length.

Rimfire pistols are generally not as reliable due to spotty ignition of the cartridges, but the NAA gobbled up all three hundred rounds without misfire. This might be due to both a strong hammer spring and the use of CCI ammunition, which is quite reliable for serious use. Power was a little surprising, though.

Ammunition Brand Projectile Velocity (feet per second)
CCI 29 grain CB lead 579
CCI 27 grain hollow-point 768
*chronograph readings taken at 10’

The high velocity 22 Short loading demonstrated velocity on par with many 22 LR loadings, however this is accomplished by using a somewhat lighter weight bullet. Penetration tests proved underwhelming. The tiniest of the tiny guns sacrifices any shred of power for ease of carry.

Shooting the North American Arms Mini Revolver
Shooting the North American Arms Mini Revolver : A respectable seven-yard group using CCI HV 29 grain hollow-points.

Should I Carry It?

Despite its anemic performance, I find myself carrying that little 22 Short around very much as it fits my lifestyle. I find myself wearing khakis and a tucked shirt much of the time, so a pocket gun is a must. In my usual loose-fitting athletic wear the little NAA is forgettable and doesn’t weigh down one side of my pants. It is as natural as having a set of car keys in the pocket—with the included pocket holster of course. I consider it, like anything else that goes into my pockets, as a tool to be used when needed. True it may not replace your EDC weapon and the 22 Short is weak, but it still puts holes into things and aiming at the right part of the target will go a long way if the little gun’s deterrent factor fails.

Terril Hebert
Terril Hebert

About Terril Hebert:

Terril Hebert is a firearm writer native to south Louisiana. Under his motto-Guns, Never Politics-he tackles firearm and reloading topics both in print and on his Mark3smle YouTube channel, where he got his start. Terril has a soft spot for ballistics testing, pocket pistols, and French rifles. When he is not burning ammo, he is indulging his unhealthy wildlife photography obsession or working on his latest novel. Scourge of God, published in 2017. See more from Terril on youtube under Mark3smle.