FIRST REVIEW: NAA Ranger II Mini Revolver 22 Mag for Backup Carry

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FIRST REVIEW: NAA Ranger II Mini Revolver 22 Mag for Backup Carry

In our handgun skills and concealed carry classes, I ask our students “Should you always use the sights on your carry gun for a deadly force encounter?” More often than not after a (potentially-deadly) pause for reflection, inexperienced students answer “Yes.”  Well, most shooters know that the answer is “No” one does not ALWAYS use the sights for a close-up, tactical-combat, deadly-force encounter. You simply don’t usually have the time for careful sight alignment in bad-breath-distances, like 3 or 4-foot encounters, and with a small, very concealable Backup Gun (BUG) with no or limited sights. There you usually just point and shoot, of course, depending on the variables of the situation. But, remember that point shooting is not a universal solution to all situations and distances. So, ideally, you SHOULD use the sights on your handgun if you have the time and the situation and distance permit… and the support gun has them. After all, that is why the sights are usually on a gun. So, what does all this have to do with my review of this new for early 2018 North American Arms (NAA) Ranger II Break-Top Mini Revolver (NAA-22MC-BTII)? Two important questions have to be answered.

Do you need a backup gun (BUG)?

Well, this Ranger II is primarily intended for use for very close-up personal protection and mostly as a BUG. Most accept that a BUG is a second handgun usually with a very small profile, which is often very lightweight, with an easy operating manual of arms, quick to load, unload, and operate, and which is very easily concealed and accessible. Often with minimal or no sights. Personally, for a BUG, I want a very small, lightweight gun in an effective caliber that I can very easily conceal and quickly get to from my pocket, boot, tackle box, or walking shorts when hiking, mowing the lawn, walking the pooch, or taking out the trash, etc. I would probably very rapidly draw and use it in an emergency deadly-force encounter by quickly point shooting it without even looking at the sights. While it is a supplement to a primary handgun, a BUG is still relied on to stop the threat to give you time to escape (per the situation) safely and to avoid further conflicts. To me the primary purpose of a BUG is to serve as a final, last-ditch tool for self-defense in extremely close quarters encounters where a few shots may be all that is needed to end or escape from an attack. It is not meant to serve as a primary carry gun in an extended gunfight nor to create a fist-sized deep wound channel in an attacker. The “best” self-defense gun is the gun you actually will carry and have with you all the time. This sounds like an excellent goal. So a BUG in an adequate caliber that you always have on you may accomplish this immediate self-defense goal.

What is an “adequate” self-defense caliber? 

What is an “adequate” self-defense caliber has been debated for many years and is still debated… and probably always will be. There are just a very few, very-limited terminal ballistics testing studies in 10 percent ordnance gelatin that indicate the .22WMR’s varying short-range effectiveness for a 2-inch or sub-2 inch barrel. .22WMR is known for its high velocity, as compared to the .22LR, and limited penetration (about 10 inches.)

Tests of .22WMR and .22LR rounds by Jim Downey a few years ago show a difference of close to 100% more muzzle energy power for the .22 Magnum over the .22LR. He stressed the importance of the length of the barrel and concluded that most handgun cartridges show a really sharp drop off in velocity/power in really short barrels. There is conflicting data about whether or not the .22WMR defense load transfers enough energy to cause serious organ damages. Some indicate it does. Dr. Michael Courtney’s ballistics research at BTG Research is a good read. Also, because modern chronograph technology is based on optical sensors in testing, the smaller the bullet and the shorter the barrel, the harder it is for the sensors to detect it and the bullet must be exactly lined up. So, there needs to be more tests and data, but Speer, Hornady, and Winchester have decent .22WMR rounds for short-barrel guns. While the .22WMR Magnum may not be the ideal personal protection round (Is there a universal best one?), it may be if the only gun you have with you has those rounds, when your life is threatened. Then it beats everything, including the .45 and 10mm not in your hand. Bullet placement, however, does remain king!

So, I believe a .22WMR round will accomplish the immediate BUG goal in an up-close deadly-force encounter. Still, I accept that idea in my BUG, but not necessarily in my primary self-defense gun. It depends! But, don’t hate me because this is my opinion and I don’t want to debate it here. There are many opinions and factors to consider in carrying a BUG, as well as a primary gun, and their calibers… so decide for yourself. I would not insist that everyone needs a BUG nor one loaded with .22 Magnums. But I would most definitely admit that two guns are better than one and that a small-profile easy-to-handle and access gun in a decent caliber is great to have for personal protection in a lot of situations, e.g., this NAA Ranger II in .22WMR.

NAA Ranger II 5-Shot Mini-Revolver with .22WMR Cylinder in NAA Crossdraw Belt Holster 
NAA Ranger II 5-Shot Mini-Revolver with .22WMR Cylinder in NAA Crossdraw Belt Holster

Here are Specifications and Key Features for the NAA Ranger II Break-Top .22WMR and .22LR Mini Revolver:

NAA-Ranger-II-Top-Break-Mini-Revolver

NAA Ranger II Break-Top Mini Revolver with .22WMR and .22LR Cylinders
NAA Ranger II Break-Top Mini Revolver with .22WMR and .22LR Cylinders

My Backup Gun (BUG) Criteria:

 What I want in my BUG handgun is similar, but not identical, to sta. Here are my BUG criteria:

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Performs well without reoccurring malfunctions and stoppages; results in consistent, accurate target hits with a 3 to 7 inch hit group, or so up close at 3-7 yards for a backup concealed carry gun; satisfactorily used by point-shooting; mechanically reliable;

2. Trigger Press smooth, crisp, & identifiable with maximum of about 5.5-6.5 pounds – lessens force applied for less movement & better accuracy;

3. Trigger with short travel distance (a short travel distance increases the speed the trigger can be fired) and easily identifiable and short reset point; Trigger with soft, consistent press for every shot  (less need to transition between presses & make adjustments);

4. Barrel length of about 2″ or so (for Mini Revolver & mostly for backup to primary gun and support for carry); larger for subcompact or compact BUG to 3.5″ or so;)

5. Sights that are basic and simple (easy to use and see IF needed; fast target acquisition);

6. Proper Gun Weight- usually 15 ounces or less & often less than 10 ounces, but there are tradeoffs);

7. Caliber match to my needs, abilities, & situation (consider medical & physical limitations); 9mm (preferred), .380ACP, or .22WMR are very minimal caliber choices for personal protection;

8. Capacity -adequate for use & feature tradeoffs- prefer minimum of 5 rounds in revolver; usually prefer about 7-9 rounds or so (for subcompact) in 9mm for carry (but can carry a spare mag/rounds);

9. Ergonomics – Hand Comfort and Grip Fit, controls easy to work and easily accessible; rounded, low-lightweight profile;

10. Miscellaneous – Easy, Quick, & Safe Accessibility & Draw; Mechanically Safe & Solidly Fit; Overall Quality Finish, Fit, and Function, appearance & workmanship; mag release location & function to drop mags freely; smooth trigger & easy operating controls; grip angle; bore axis; competitive market price; excellent customer service with friendly & helpful representatives; ease of disassembly-assembly; Hard Case; Extras (like a third mag, holster, pouch, extended & flush-fit mags); warranty length & extent; etc.

Pros and Cons of the NAA Ranger II Top-Break Mini-Revolver

Pros

  1. Small & Subcompact Profile: Only 5.16 inches long and 1.06 inches wide across the grip
  2. Lightweight: Only 6.9 ounces unloaded weight (frame & cylinders are stainless steel)
  3. Break-Top: Loading and Reloading is very convenient (Do Not Need to Remove Cylinder & Pin to Reload);
  4. Interchangeable Cylinders: A .22LR Cylinder is available as an extra for economical practice; the .22WMR (Magnum) cylinder is best for self-defense
  5. Very Concealable: Narrow frame for deep concealability; no trigger guard
  6. Well-Made Single-Action Revolver: Requires the hammer be manually cocked before it will fire; has a very crisp & smooth trigger, with about an 8.50-pound trigger press measured on my Lyman Gauge
  7. Safety Notches: Enhance safe carry with all 5 chambers loaded; safety slots are milled into the back rim of the cylinders, so lowering the hammer into a notch locks the chamber in place so hammer rests against cylinder rather than cartridge rim
  8. Decent Capacity: 5-Rounds minimum
  9. The Grip Angle: is very nice, open, aids in natural pointing, and allows a solid & comfortable grip
  10. Accessories: Many are available, including about 15 grips & 19 holsters for various purposes & guns
  11. The .22LR ammo: is less expensive for more practice and plinking than the self-defense Magnum rounds; I am anxious to compare the .22LR cylinder performance with the .22WMR cylinder
  12. Warranty & Service: No-Hassle Lifetime Warranty; Great Customer Service and Amelia in Marketing are friendly and helpful.

Cons

  1. The Rear Sight Notch is not that wide to help with sight alignment and the Bead Front Sight is very small (But remember your purpose and use for this gun- point shooting for extremely up-close encounters, probably NOT using your sights)
  2. While extensively tested before the Early-Bird Release about a few weeks ago, the Break-Top latching system and solid fit have not proven, over an extended time period, their absolute 100% reliability because of the short amount of time in the hands of users. All indications are that it will continue to prove its long-term reliability. Remember, time is just one indicator and NAA has much experience.
  3. No quick reload or extra pre-loaded rounds (e.g. magazine) available to supplement 5 rounds in chambers.

Range Testing the Ranger II in .22WMR JHP and .22LR

I was impressed with the accuracy, demonstrated bullet velocity and penetration of this little gun, especially for extremely closeup targets and with the .22 Magnum rounds and its short barrel. I quickly drew (safely with the crossdraw holster) and shot it using only point shooting. Both .22LR and .22WMR rounds performed well in the gun. The .22WMR rounds were fun to shoot and the felt recoil was assuredly acceptable, but more than the .22LR, of course. I believe with proper shot placement this Ranger II with .22WMR cartridges may end an attack or potential attack and allow you to escape the encounter and cease an attacker’s assault from up close out to about 4 yards or so. I certainly would not want to get shot with a .22 Magnum round. I would not carry the .22LR because there are so many other fine options in larger calibers and in similar small sizes. But, it is so much more inexpensive to shoot the .22LR rounds compared to the .22WMR. So .22LR is great for practice.

Backup Gun Ammo

The .22WMR load is now a more appealing option for personal defense given the improvement in ballistics of contemporary ammunition. There are several new loads specifically designed for self-defense with enhanced ballistics and deep penetration out of short revolver barrels. The CCI Maxi-Mag +V JHP (30 grain, 1875 fps velocity & 322 ftlbs muzzle energy) in .22WMR is reported to have about 17 inches of penetration in gel.  Here below are my first 5 target hits with the NAA Ranger II .22WMR by point shooting and rapid fire at 3 yards. I found I had to grip the gun very firmly (moreso than usual) for better accuracy. I shot the ammo I bought myself which was 100 cartridges of Winchester Super X .22WMR JHP, 28 grain, rated 2200 fps velocity and 100 rounds of CCI Maxi-Mag .22WMR JHP, 40 grain, rated 1875 fps velocity and 312 muzzle energy. I also bought 50 rounds of the CCI Mini-Mag .22LR High Velocity, 40 grain, rated 1235 fps velocity and 135 muzzle energy ammo, to shoot in the .22LR cylinder. NOTE: The .22 magnum rounds cost more than the .22LR rounds and are often difficult to easily find.  I had no malfunctions or stoppages with the Ranger II and the JHP ammo and any of the 250 rounds of ammo fired. The recoil was very manageable for this very lightweight, ultra small, and very concealable mini-revolver.

Concealed Carry Drill Challenge and Goal

I use my Concealed Carry Drill challenge which is based on the 3-3-3 Rule. Most self-defense encounters occur at 3 Yards Or Less; 3 Rounds are Fired; and it Lasts 3 Seconds. Intentionally, there are not bullseyes or zones or numbered areas to aim at, to conform to reality. My drill is as follows:

Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill

  1. Shoot it at the typical up-close Self-Defense Distance of 3 yards
  2. Draw and Rapid Fire 15 Shots Total
  3. Put 3 Hits Each on 5 Circle Targets (Circles have varying sizes: 4″, 3″, and 2.5″)
  4. Goal: 80% Hits (at least 12 of 15 shots fired Hit inside 5 Circles- line hit counts as Hit)
  5. Goal: Complete in 20 Seconds

Below are my actual 13 rapid-fire targets hits using my CC Drill and the self-defense distance of 3 yards with the CCI Maxi-Mag .22WMR JHP. This was more difficult than I expected from this less than 2-inch-barrel gun weighing about 8 ounces, which had to be manually cocked in single action for each shot. I barely made the 20-Seconds Goal and the 80% to pass, after 2 attempts and some practice. For me, this was a challenge. After my target hits shown below, my evaluations, opinions, and ratings for each of my BUG criteria follow.

13 Target Hits with My CC Drill & Ranger II: Drawing & Firing Rapid Fire 15 Rounds at 3 Yards at 5 Circles in 20 Seconds
13 Target Hits with My CC Drill & Ranger II: Drawing & Firing Rapid Fire 15 Rounds at 3 Yards at 5 Circles in 20 Seconds

Range Test Results for each of my 10 BUG Criteria:

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 9

The point-shooting accuracy of the Ranger II was acceptable for me at self-defense distances of 3, 4, and 5 yards. Remember, my aging eyesight and average shooting skills. My best hits from a draw for my “Col Ben’s CC Drill” were 2″ groups on 4 of my 5 circles at 3 yards (close-up self-defense distance), with the last circle having about a 3″ group. It was a challenge for ME, but I passed my CC Drill with 13 out of 15 hits at 3 yards rapid-fire in about 20 seconds. OK, I admit that at 5 yards my groups were about 8-9 inches and it took me a lot more time with this sub-2″ barrel mini revolver. I still have that challenge to master. Not great at that distance, but acceptable for personal protection up close and with my mediocre skills. Practice for me.

Mitigating Excuses:

  • My Excuse #1: I had to get accustomed to the single-action trigger and my movement to manually cock the revolver each time to shoot it. This was not my usual 1911 single action or my striker-fired single action guns. Come on Snowflake, just grip it tighter, lock the wrist, and focus.
  • My Excuse #2: It was the CCI and Winchester JHP ammo. No way. Students and my wife shot this ammo just fine. Oh, the reality. Seriously, it was a fun gun to shoot, the felt recoil was controllable for me, and self-defense accuracy was more than decent. All ammo was reliable, without malfunctions or stoppages.
  • My Excuse #3: The Ranger II’s lightweight 7-8 ounces caused more movement, thus my flinches, and it was difficult for me to control it. Lock the wrist, hold it tight, extend the arm, and press straight back. PRACTICE!

As always, I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed very-tight grip, sometimes the center-mass sight picture, frequent point shooting, and NAA’s fine crossdraw belt holster.

Ranger II Break-Top with Safety Notches in Cylinder & CCI Maxi-Mag .22WMR JHPs & Winchester Super X JHPs
Ranger II Break-Top with Safety Notches in Cylinder & CCI Maxi-Mag .22WMR JHPs & Winchester Super X JHPs

2. Trigger Press – Score: 9

The trigger press averaged 8.50 pounds with six readings on my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. It was difficult to measure the press because of the small trigger and adjusting the gauge to it. For me, I wanted it to be less since I am used to shooting my 1911 single-action and striker-fired semis with lighter presses. But, this was certainly acceptable for a BUG Mini-Revolver and its features. And the hard press was a helpful safety supplement. A harder trigger press does require more pressure to be exerted. I did notice after firing about 175 rounds, the trigger loosened some and was a little softer and smoother. So, the press will probably improve some hopefully. I did not experience any problems with the JHP magnum loads. Personally, I would use this gun only as a concealed carry BUG and for short, neighborhood trips, around the yard, jogging, and for some sports, so this is fine for those purposes. The trigger press was smooth and crisp.

3. Trigger – Score: 10

The trigger had no creep and grittiness. It was smooth, crisp, and positive. The curved trigger face was large enough, felt good, and allowed fast follow-up presses after cocking. I really liked the trigger.

4. Barrel Length – Score: 10

The improved Break-Top Barrel was a very-welcomed enhancement to help with easier loading, unloading, and reloading, compared to just a few of their other models. But, I do like my NAA Black Widow. The high-quality barrel & fine finish contributed not only to a very beautiful appearance but was also functional and very durable for the 250 rounds fired.

5. Sights – Score: 8

The standard sights were very basic and useful for their close-up self-defense purpose. They were, however, not very helpful at dusk and at nighttime. My eyesight is not the best, however. But, keep in mind that as BUG sights for point shooting, they probably will rarely be used and do suffice for close, tactical distances. The bead on the front sight was easily acquired & better than some other revolver sights I have reviewed.

6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9

The loaded Weight of 7.6 ounces was certainly light and great for all-day concealed carry. With both the .22WMR Magnum and .22LR ammo, I just shot and shot it with minimal recoil. I did notice some felt recoil with the magnum rounds, but the revolver was still controllable and no problem with the magnum felt recoil.

7. Caliber – Score: 9

As previously stated above, the .22WMR Caliber load is not a concern for me for a BUG. It is not the best caliber for a primary carry gun, but acceptable for up-close BUG point shooting. Without a doubt, this Ranger II is a quality gun and is easy, comfortable, and natural to shoot. While I strongly prefer the 9mm caliber, this Mini Revolver used with appropriate ammo with the right ballistics, velocity, and grain weight will do, if you can.

8. Capacity – Score: 10

The capacity of the Ranger II was an acceptable standard 5 rounds, so this is not a 2-shot derringer. The shooter can carry both fully-loaded cylinders for extra rounds, plus pocket extras. It was VERY EASY to change the cylinders and both .22WMR and .22LR rounds were fun to shoot… 10.

9. Ergonomics – Score: 9

Overall, the Ergonomics of the Ranger II Mini-Revolver were very good. The high-quality Rosewood grips felt very good in my medium-size hands and were beautiful. My hands slipped just a very little on the small grip, but I could control this mini revolver well. It has excellent build quality and is a classy gun. The fine craftsmanship is very evident.  This is an accurate gun up close and is enhanced by its nice ergonomic factors. The safety notches worked well to prevent a negligent discharge. It was easy to learn how to engage the hammer in them and I had a short learning curve (See the “Safety Slot” topic below from the NAA Operating Manual.) Overall, the ergonomic features helped minimize my felt recoil.

NAA Mini-Revolver SAFETY- from NAA Owner's Instructional Manual & Ranger II Break-Top Addendum
NAA Mini-Revolver SAFETY- from NAA Owner’s Instructional Manual & Ranger II Break-Top Addendum

 Please make sure to read both the basic mini-revolver Instructional Manual and the Ranger II Break-Top Addendum before operating the NAA Ranger II. While some of the features of the Ranger II are the same as others, there are many design differences that owners should be aware of for the proper and safe use of the NAA Ranger II. I strongly recommend knowing and rehearsing the functioning and use of the Safety Slot, by practicing the manual’s Safety Slot procedure with an UNLOADED Ranger II.

The Safety Slot

“The traditional half-cock (first hammer stop) position is not intended to serve as a safety. Its sole purpose is as an aid to loading and unloading.” NAA mini-revolvers come with the traditional half-cock. Notice the small notches (Safety Slots) on the rim of the cylinder. These slots allow the hammer blade to rest into one of these slots, locking the cylinder, allowing you to load all five chambers. The manual says that “By engaging the hammer in the safety slot, there is no threat of accidental discharge and the revolver can be loaded to full capacity. We recommend that you practice the following procedure several times with an unloaded mini-revolver.” I also suggest you closely study the photographs and instructions to know the proper engagement of the hammer into the Safety Slot and so you can recognize that the hammer is NOT on a live cartridge.

The manual says if you have any questions regarding safety and the safe operation of your NAA firearm, please call NAA Customer Service at 1-800-821-5783. (Customer Service and Amelia in Marketing there are excellent to work with and very helpful.)

Dry-Firing a Rimfire Handgun 

Note that the NAA manual says “Excessive Dry Firing is to be avoided!” I never dry fire my .22 rimfire handguns, since the firing pin is not positioned to strike the soft brass cartridge rim. But, it instead strikes the outside mouth of the chamber and the hard steel of the breechface. The repeated dry firing of a rimfire can eventually peen the firing pin and cause misfires and problems. Invest in some snap caps for dry firing.

The NAA manual and Product Performance Advisory Bulletin give these SAFETY WARNINGS:

  1. This handgun may DISCHARGE IF IT IS DROPPED or stuck on the hammer with a live round under the hammer, or if the THUMB SLIPS while cocking or uncocking the handgun with the trigger depressed.
  2. Do NOT carry this handgun with the hammer resting above a live cartridge or in the half-cock position.
  3. To make an accidental discharge impossible, place the hammer in the SAFETY SLOT immediately after loading and after finishing firing.
  4. Do NOT use ANY “PMC” or “Armscor Precision” branded ammunition in any NAA mini-revolver!
  5. Do NOT use any .22 caliber Long Rifle (LR) or Short (S) ammunition in a Magnum (WMR) cylinder.

NAA Ranger II .22WMR Mini-Revolver with Included High-Quality Metal Locking Storage Case

10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9

As always before shooting any new gun, I lubed and cleaned it before I shot it. It was so very easy and quick to clean. (I love the simplicity of revolvers.) The price of this gun is a little high for some folks, but I can tell you that you usually get what you pay for. This gun involves a lot of technical research and engineering efforts, which are not inexpensive. To me, it is reasonably priced for its high-quality and features. While the exterior cardboard box is utilitarian, it includes a very nice, high-quality metal lockable storage case, with owner’s Instructional Manual and an Available Accessories pamphlet. This is an outstanding storage case made of durable metal which can be securely locked for safety. It does not include extra accessories. The customer service folks, administrators, and executives at NAA are top level and very accommodating. All indications are that they stand behind their mini revolvers with their No-Hassel Lifetime Warranty.

Conclusions

92 TOTAL POINTS

I recommend the NAA Ranger II Break-Top Mini Revolver in .22WMR as a BUG and supplement to your primary carry handgun, but not as a primary gun. The .22LR cylinder is a very nice option for economical practice, but be sure and exchange and fit it properly. This Break-Top design model is very easy and quick to load and reload. Its small and slim profile makes it an excellent concealed carry mini revolver to supplement your primary carry gun. I forgot I had it in my pants pocket when taking the garbage can to the street. These are just my opinions with my limited data and minimal field testing with only 250 rounds downrange. After shooting 250 or so more rounds and testing how well it maintains its tight fit, this mini revolver could well be moved up even higher on my scale. This is a beautiful, very well-made mini revolver which will make a nice BUG. Of course, you must make your own decision, handle, and shoot it for yourself. Aside from being a very fun gun to shoot, the Ranger II would be a nice companion when fishing, camping, hiking, walking your dog or aardvark, working in the yard, etc. You should try it for yourself to decide if it works for you and how best it meets your purpose and goal.

Be Safe and Continued Success!

Photos by NAA and Author as marked.

Contact:

North American Arms (NAA)
2150 South 950 East St.
Provo, UT 84606
800-821-5783

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever. 

© 2018 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected]