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North American Arms True Black Widow

The new North American Arms True Black Widow is a lethal mini revolver.

North American Arms True Black Widow

So-called mini or micro revolvers are those niche guns everyone has seen, and they often think, “That’s cool, but what would I do with it?” Apparently, there have been a lot of satisfactory answers to that question because there have never been more mini revolvers on the market than now.

North American Arms has a whole catalog of mini revolvers intended for self-defense. One of the newest is the True Black Widow. Offered only in .22 Magnum, it comes with fixed sights from Marble Arms and a matte black PVD finish.

PVD stands for physical vapor deposition, and PVD coatings are very durable. Slapping PVD atop stainless steel means it’s going to be almost impossible to get it to rust. It adds $40 to the suggested retail price of the gun, which is more than worth it for the corrosion prevention. Also, I prefer black guns to silver (the original Black Widow was available only in plain stainless) and would pay the extra money just for the different color.

North American Arms True Black Widow
In keeping with its namesake, the True Black Widow has a black PVD finish on its stainless steel construction. It looks good in addition to being very corrosion resistant.

Technically, this is a “heavy vent barrel,” but that sounds rather tactical and serious for something so small. The barrel actually looks longer than it is. When I first picked up the True Black Widow, I thought it sported a three-inch barrel, but what you’re seeing is actually a two-inch barrel. Your eyes get confused because of the relative size of the cylinder.

Speaking of the cylinder, the True Black Widow has a bull cylinder that is smooth all around. I believe this was done more as a style choice than to add recoil-absorbing weight. Even with the smooth-sided cylinder the True Black Widow weighs a scant 8.9 ounces.

Overall, this revolver is 5.88 inches long and 3.69 inches tall. The fattest part of the gun is the grips at an inch. The cylinder itself is only 0.8 inch thick, which means this gun is flat and easily concealable.

What makes this pistol stand out from the NAA line are the large rubber grips with the Black Widow logo on them. Most of the other NAA mini revolvers have wood grips no larger than the small steel frame of the gun, which means they are roughly half the size of the grips on the Black Widow models.

This rubber grip adds about a quarter inch to the length and three-quarters of an inch to the height of the gun, plus width. The oversized grip makes the gun less concealable, but it is what makes this gun comfortable to shoot and actually grippable by an adult-size hand.

North American Arms True Black Widow
While the rest of the gun is minimalist, the steel three-dot sights on the True Black Widow are serious defensive sights.

Like almost all single-action revolvers, you can’t really see or use the sights until the hammer is cocked. The True Black Widow has some of the most serious defensive sights I’ve ever seen on a mini revolver. These are real three-dot sights. The front sight is a post, and the rear sight is a no-snag Novak- style piece.

As for the trigger, if you don’t have a lot of experience with mini revolvers, be prepared for something a little different. First, there is no trigger guard. A trigger guard large enough to admit a finger would proportionately look huge and make the gun significantly harder to conceal. The fact that it is a single-action pistol is what makes this setup safe. Until the hammer is cocked, the trigger is just an inert hunk of metal, incapable of doing anything.

As far as the trigger itself, if you’re used to a nice curving bow of steel, you won’t see one here. In fact, with the hammer down, you might not see what looks like a trigger at all. But it’s there.

North American Arms True Black Widow
The trigger is basically a nub located on a protrusion of the frame, a setup mandated by the design. It does make the mini revolver a bit of a challenge to shoot accurately.

Just in front of the grip you’ll see a pointed frame extension, and it’s there you’ll find the trigger, a tiny nub of steel protected on either side by wings. When the hammer is down, the face of the trigger is flush with the wings to either side. When you cock the hammer, the trigger then protrudes, but not by much. You’ll find you have to use the flat of your trigger finger to properly press the trigger. Which flat depends on your hand size.


The True Black Widow has a blade-style hammer. The front of the hammer has a narrow protrusion that hits the rim of the cartridge when you pull the trigger. There is no internal transfer bar safety.

The hammer has three positions: fully cocked; resting against the cartridge rim after you’ve pulled the trigger; and what I’ll call quarter cock. The last involves pulling back the hammer slightly, which takes the hammer off the cylinder/cartridge but keeps the cylinder locked up.

Quarter cock is where the hammer will end up after you’ve loaded the revolver, but if you want an added level of safety when carrying it, NAA has a solution. If you look closely at the rear of the cylinder, you will see notches at the outside corner, in between each of the chambers in the cylinder.

If you pull the hammer halfway back, you can rotate the cylinder freely and turn it so one of those notches is under the hammer. If you then lower the hammer, the blade on the hammer rests safely in that notch, not on a cartridge rim, and impacts to the hammer will not fire a cartridge. When you cock the hammer, the cylinder will rotate normally, moving a loaded round under the hammer.

The True Black Widow does not have a traditional swing-out cylinder, and loading the gun requires removing the cylinder from the frame. To do that, you’ll notice the locking lug underneath the barrel, just in front of the cylinder. It is spring-loaded. Pull it down and then turn it sideways, crosswise to the barrel.

North American Arms True Black Widow
To load and unload the gun it’s necessary to remove the cylinder. If the cartridge cases don’t want to come out of the cylinder, you can use the cylinder pin to push them out.

At that point you’ll be able to push that lug, which is connected to the cylinder pin, right out the front of the gun. The cylinder is then easily removed from the frame for loading and unloading. Helpful hint: If spent cartridge cases don’t fall out of the cylinder, you can conveniently use the cylinder pin to push them out.

The cylinder of the True Black Widow is countersunk so the rear of the rimfire cartridges are flush with the face of the cylinder. North American Arms recommends against the use of PMC ammunition in its revolvers, but that is the only restriction.

This revolver also comes with a steel lockbox—a traveling safe if you will, which is a nice extra. Pocket holsters are readily available for the Black Widow as it’s been around for a while, and the True Black Widow is identical in every way but finish and the grips.

Shooting the True Black Widow was interesting. When it comes to all firearms, but handguns in particular, there is a difference between inherent accuracy and practical accuracy. Inherent accuracy is what kind of groups the firearm is mechanically capable of doing when locked into some sort of immovable device (e.g., Ransom Rest), removing all human error from the equation.

Practical accuracy is what kind of accuracy you can expect as a person, holding and shooting the firearm in a normal manner. Revolvers have excellent inherent accuracy because the barrels are fixed to the frames and have the sights on those parts, as opposed to on a moving slide like on a semiauto. However, small revolvers tend to have poor practical accuracy because of the short sight radius and traditionally heavy double-action trigger pulls like you find with snubbies.

While the True Black Widow does not have a double-action trigger, the pull feels heavier than it is, maybe because you’re pressing all that weight onto a tiny nub of a trigger. It has surprisingly good sights for its size, but it is light and small and you might have to hold your finger at a funny angle to work the trigger properly. At least I did.

Every imperfection with your sight alignment or trigger control is amplified with the True Black Widow. I think if it were clamped into a Ransom Rest it would probably do two-inch groups or less at 15 yards. Wedged onto sandbags shooting by hand I was able to do four-inch groups or so.

Offhand at the same distance, shooting as fast as I could cock the hammer and get back on the trigger, I had to work just to say on a silhouette target. Not to belabor the obvious, but before I ever fired a shot out of it, I thought this revolver seemed best suited for extremely close-range work, and my range time with it proved that out.

As I’ve mentioned in past articles, my two nearly adult sons like checking out and shooting the guns I get in for testing. When I pulled out the True Black Widow, I already knew they’d never seen anything like it. At least in the real world.

“What’s that?” my 17-year-old asked.

“The Noisy Cricket,” I told him, knowing they’d both get the “Men In Black” movie reference.

“Is it chambered in a huge cartridge?” my 21-year-old asked. (The Noisy Cricket in the movie might even be smaller than the Black Widow but could send cars flying.)

“No,” I told them. “In the real world tiny guns hold tiny bullets.”

Which leads us to the question, Is the Black Widow suitable for self-defense? Well, the first rule of a gunfight is bring a gun. And a .22 Magnum is easily fatal, even when fired out of a short two-inch barrel.

Jeff Cooper liked to say that the problem with carrying a “mouse gun” like a .25 or a .22 was that if you carried one you might have to use it, and if you shot someone with it—and they noticed—they might get angry.

Plenty of people have been killed with “just a .22,” but caliber is a point to consider. Yes, .22 caliber rimfire bullets are small. However, because of all the .22 Magnum handguns on the market, some ammo makers are designing loads specifically for defensive use out of handgun-length barrels.

Hornady, for example, offers the Critical Defense load featuring the FTX bullet, and Winchester offers a 40-grain jacketed hollowpoint in its Defender line.

However, for something the size and weight and price of the Black Widow, you could arm yourself with a semiauto .380 and, in my opinion, that would be a much better choice for personal defense than a single- action five-shot revolver chambered in a rimfire cartridge—if that was all you were carrying.

I have known several “serious” people who have carried guns exactly like the True Black Widow as a backup to their backup. My first gunsmith kept one in his back pocket between his wallet and his backside, in addition to the snubbie in his front pocket and the custom 1911 in his vehicle. He had to pull that little revolver once, in response to a knife-wielding mugger’s demands for his wallet. The mere presence of even that tiny revolver was enough to send a bad guy away without a shot being fired.

I had a chance to have some fun with the True Black Widow at a media event that included everyone from active-duty SWAT cops to former CIA operators. And I actually had a line of people wanting to shoot this little revolver. Everyone there seemed to know somebody who owned one or had themselves thought about buying one—even if they weren’t sure what they’d actually do with it.

But as I pointed out above, guns like the True Black Widow do have a place. It certainly wouldn’t be my first line of defense, but for many people it might be a secondary gun—or even a primary, as evidenced by the Hornady and Winchester defensive loads. They’re selling this ammo because there’s a demand for it. And besides, variety is the spice of life. Can’t we buy a gun just because we think it’s cool?

North American Arms True Black Widow
Notes: Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at 15 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of 10 shots measured with an Oehler Model 35P chronograph 12 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviation: JHP, jacketed hollowpoint


TYPE: single-action revolver
CALIBER: .22 Magnum
BARREL: 2.0 in.
OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 5.9/3.7/1.0 in. (width at grips)
WEIGHT: 8.9 oz.
CONSTRUCTION: matte black PVD-coated stainless steel barrel, cylinder, frame
SIGHTS: 3-dot steel
TRIGGER: 5.0 lb. pull (measured)
PRICE: $328
MANUFACTURER: North American Arms, 

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