North American Arms Sidewinder .22


The little guns of North American Arms have been around for decades.  I own several of them and remember back to when our love affair first began.  Living in the Southwestern portion of the United States and growing up on a large piece of rural property, I often had close encounters with diamondback rattlesnakes.  It always seemed like these took place when I didn’t have a firearm handy.  After discovering the NAA mini revolvers, I vowed to always have one on me when in snake country.  These guns are extremely well made, easy to shoot and simple to carry and conceal.  Load them with snake shot or hollow points and they can defend you against all manner of threats (including snakes with 2 legs!).

One of the few (and minor) complaints against the NAA mini revolver has always been that you have to remove the cylinder to load and unload the pistol.  This is a trade off for how small the gun is and one I have never minded.  But NAA listened to the consumer and came up with the Sidewinder.  It is still a mini revolver but now features a swing out cylinder.  To open the cylinder, you have to cock the hammer rearward just slightly where you will feel and hear a click.  The hammer will hold in this position.  Now you can grasp the front of the cylinder pin and pull it forward.  Then you can push the cylinder from left to right as it will swing out the right side of the frame.  Pressing the cylinder pin rearward will push the empties out of the chamber.  Load 5 fresh cartridges and you are back in business.

The .22 Magnum Sidewinder features a swing out cylinder and an optional .22 LR cylinder.

The NAA Sidewinder comes in several configurations including barrel lengths of 1.5”, 2.5” and 4” long.  It is standard with a .22 magnum cylinder but can be had with an additional cylinder chambered for .22 long rifle.  All models hold 5 rounds in the cylinder.  The 1.5” barrel model weighs 6.7 ounces, is 5” long and only 1” wide!  You can put this in your pocket and forget it is there until you need it.  To change out the cylinder, you must take a fine tipped screwdriver and remove the screw at the front of the yoke.  The cylinder then comes out easily.  My revolver came with the standard Rosewood bird’s head grips and both cylinders.  NAA offers a great selection of grips and holsters for all of their pistols so I opted to try out a few of them.  For carry methods, I went with the Pug inside-the-pant holster and the Black Widow pocket holster.

This is the PUG IWB holster for a right handed shooter. Notice the wide belt clip.

The Pug IWB works great if you like carrying a gun in this manner and allows for a more rapid draw.  The holster has a black metal clip and is made of black leather.  The Black Widow pocket holster is my favorite.  It covers the gun well and has a pouch on the side for carrying  6 or 7 spare rounds.  It is made of a tacky black nylon and rides easily in just about any pocket.  I carry this set up in my front pockets or thigh pockets depending on the situation.  I also ordered a set of the Simulated Stag bird’s head style grips.  I just liked the look of these but after using them I found they give a little more grip than the Rosewood but are not so tacky they snag in a pocket like some rubber grips do.

I took the NAA Sidewinder out for a range session and was impressed with the results.  I started out with some close range slow fire and used a silhouette target.  From 3 yards, I could easily hit the head of the target with little effort.  I then proceeded to hit 4” circles with ease.  I moved back to 5 and then 7 yards and still had no problems keeping them in a six inch circle when I took my time.  At the 10 yard line I could still hit the body without any problems but had to really focus to make head shots.  So what does this all mean?  It means that up close and personal, where this gun is intended, it shoots great and does what it is intended to do.  I used NAA’s inside the pants holster and practiced drawing and shooting the target from 3-5 yards.  I found I could keep them on the body as fast as I could draw the gun and only had to slow for a split second to ensure a head shot hit.  If you are familiar with revolvers at all it doesn’t take long to get comfortable with the sidewinder.

A 5 shot group at 3 yards with the .22 LR cylinder.


A 5 shot group at 5 yards with the .22 Magnum cylinder.






At this point you may be thinking, “Seriously?? You are going to bet your life on this little gun?”  When you consider the risks we take on a daily basis, we bet our life on far less all the time.  But the reality is all firearms are inferior if your adversary is better armed and better trained.  I carry a gun for a living and can tell you I’ve never wished I had one less gun on me in a dangerous situation.  As stated before, this is a great snake/woods gun but it is also a handy personal defense tool.  It can be the back-up gun to your primary carry gun or it can be your primary carry gun when the option is a tiny gun or nothing.

I often carry my NAA revolvers in the Black Widow pocket holster that has a built in spare ammo pouch.
The imitation stag grips give it a decidedly western look.



The stag grips also give you a secure hold on the small pistol.







For those of us who carry guns, it is not uncommon to feel the need to carry more than one.  I often carry my NAA pistols as a back up to my primary carry gun.  Remember, with guns and flashlights one is none and two is one!  The NAA Sidewinder makes this an easy rule to follow.  If you are new to NAA revolvers, check them out and give one a try, you won’t be disappointed.


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John Russo is a life-long hunter, shooter and outdoorsman. He is a retired Police Sergeant from Southern California with over 29 years of service. He has been a SWAT Sniper, Child Abuse Detective and Homicide Unit Supervisor. As the leader of the Police Department's Firearms Training Unit, he has been teaching firearms for over 26 years to law enforcement, military and civilians. His credentials include a laundry list of certifications as an instructor and armorer on all types of weapon systems. John has been writing for various gun magazines for many years and has been published over 100 times on topics ranging from hunting, shooting, guns, training and law enforcement.