Some years later, when North American Arms released a model dubbed “The Earl,” I got one to test and was delighted at its reliability and short-range accuracy. Provided with interchangeable cylinders to handle either .22 Long Rifle or .22 WMR cartridges, it didn’t take long to establish that, with a steady hold, this 4” barreled five-shooter could put the hurt on a rabbit in a pinch — and for social work it was far better than having no gun at all. I had to aim low to center bullet strikes in the 10-ring, but once I got the hang of it, all was well.

Thanks to the development of .22 Magnum defensive ammunition such as the Hornady Critical Defense load topped with a 45-grain FTX bullet, someone unable to carry a larger handgun might be a more formidable would-be victim than some thug might imagine.

I now own this handgun and, having put a bunch of .22 Long Rifle and magnums down the bore, it remains a rather impressive handgun. The muzzle blast alone could make for a nasty bladder release, especially indoors.

A few years ago, I was working with another guy who routinely carried a cocked-and-locked .45 in an IWB holster, but stuffed in his front pants pocket was a little NAA break-top specimen called the Ranger II. He had this stuffed with .22 Magnums and the practicality of this diminutive little backup gun was unquestionable. It was his choice, it was virtually undetectable and I never gave it a second thought that he was carrying.

Another model which intrigues me is the Sidewinder, with a swing-out cylinder coming out on the right, rather than the left, side of the frame and a 1.5” barrel with a post front sight. It weighs less than a half-pound but my guess is, if someone ever needs to empty this (or any of the NAA revolvers in an emergency), they’re going to have the undivided attention of everyone else in close proximity.