North American Arms' Black Widow


by Paco Kelly

Photography by Paco Kelly

October 26th, 2005




North American Arms, Inc. Has been manufacturing mini guns since the early 1980s. The revolver designs and styles over the years have gotten better, new mini auto loaders have been added to the line, and a new cartridge (the 32 auto necked down to 25 caliber) has been developed for the Guardian Auto Series.

I have had the chance to do yeomanís duty with the mini revolver I think has the best design and cosmetic lines, the Black Widow. And to add to it, having two cylinders, one in 22 long rifle and one in 22 rimfire magnum is icing on the proverbial cake.  I am most interested in the 22 rimfire magnum as a backup pocket gun. 

As many of my readers have learned from my first book on lever actions, I spoke of an incident in the late 1960s as a young undercover Narc with the Treasury Department about the 22 magnum rimfire round.  I took to carrying a High Standard two shot 22 rimfire magnum derringer as a backup gun.

And as it goes sometimes, one dark night on First Avenue in New York City I had the occasion to fire a warning shot with the little derringer into the air...which had some varied results.  The drug dealer immediately laid down on the ground yelling something about giving up, and in the process throwing away a knife that he had just previously pulled out to show me... My back up Agents came screaming up in their G-Cars, lights glaring and flashing with a calliope of colors.  Which suddenly brought the New York City police patrol car that was a block away at the time... also screaming up to join the festivities. Later when it was all sorted out, the patrolman told me he had been looking in our direction when my little derringer went off... He said it was like the electric company suddenly lighting up the night

The Black Widow I have been testing is the 2 inch barrel model. It is perfect to drop into your front pocket, small, flat with the cylinder only .85 of an inch wide, 5.5 inches long and 10 ounces in weight.  It is so unobtrusive even I forget itís there. Much better than the old High Standard two shot, because the Black Widow holds five rounds.

At first I thought the hammer spur would hang up in my pocket when I would try to pull it quickly.  But that never happened testing in tight pockets and loose ones.  The cylinder is 1.4 inches long. And has detents between the chambers that the hammerís firing pin slips into making the little revolver exceptionally safe.  If you measure from the bullet nose to the muzzle, the length for gas expansion and velocity gain is 2.2 inches.

Many wonder if it is just a waste to use 22 rimfire magnum ammo in a two inch plus barrel.  Well everyone has to decide that one for themselves... but a little back up gun that gives a 40 grain bullet 1000 to 1100+ fps at across the room ranges is going to do a lot of damage to an individual, pest or varmint... two legged or four.  I tested a number of different types of rimfire mag ammo, and got some rather surprising results.  First of all the lowest velocity (not counting the two 50 grain low velocity 22 MRF squirrel loads) 22 rimfire mag ammo,  was more than 100 fps higher in velocity than the fastest 22 (non mag) hyper velocity rimfire 22 RF loads. The fastest RF mag ammo was well over 200 fps faster.

In the 22 standard rimfire cylinder the little Black Widow clocked an average of 910 fps for five 32 grain CCI Stingers. But the Remington 40 grain HP 22 magnum RF ammo came in at 1025 fps. Winchester Super-x 40 HP mag was 1040 fps and the same ammo in the solid form was the lowest at 1012 fps. The high ground in velocity was CCI Maxi-Mag RF V-Max HP at 1120 fps.  All of the mag ammo expanded in very wet newsprint.. except the Winchester solid FMJ.

A new comer on the 22 mag RF block in ammo is Lellier & Bellot.  They produce a 45 grain, what appears to be solid copper washed bullet. At 1050 fps it did expand, about half what the CCI mag ammo did... but it penetrated three inches deeper than the seven inches of the CCI ammo.  The 50 grain CCI Maxi-mag... isnít so maxi. It penetration is good but itís velocity couldnít break 1000 fps, running in the low 900s.

For those that want the 22 rimfire standard cylinder and not interested in the magnum cylinder availability... Stinger was the highest velocity at 910 fps.  Remingtonís Yellow Jacket ran close to it with 902 fps.  But the Yellow Jacket opened up very nicely in five inches of soaked paper Stinger didnít. Velocitor was a disappointment at 880 fps with no expansion.  Remingtonís high speed 40 grain HP was 840 fps with no expansion.  But a surprise: Aquilaís 60 grain S.S.Subsonic ammo clocking at 720 fps, and with the nose of the bullet given the ACUíRZR dish treatment ...expanded to 34 diameter and went seven inches into the soaked paper.  Remingtonís subsonic 40 grain load went 709 fps but no expansion, just a little upset.

The Black Widow is also given a set of drift sights front and back. The back sight square notch for me, had to be opened a small amount so it had light on both sides of the front sight when aiming. These are generous sights, not like most on small guns that have no use at all. After a little practice I was able to keep 5 Leller & Bellot rounds in a ragged inch at 20 yards.... but that is with a lot of slow concentration and focused aiming from a rest.  I wanted to know the gunís potential. CCI Maxi-Mag Max-V went into 1 and Ĺ inches.  So the accuracy is there.  The standard 22 rimfire ammo showed the same promise... though the Aquila did tip slightly at that range.

Drawing from my pocket, bringing the gun up to eye level looking over the sights, then cocking and firing as quickly as I was able, I could keep every type of mag ammo in groups under the size of my palm at 10 yards.  Thinking of times past, I asked my wife to stand outside with me, at night and tell me what she saw when I fired the little gun straight up with Maxi-V ammo.

Her comment... ďVery bright, but if the bullet doesnít do it, the noise will scare the hell out of him!Ē  As a pocket gun, so I can be armed 24 hours a day... as a back up gun to a regular sidearm.. and as just a fun gun to own... the Black Widow is hard to beat.  And it can be as deadly as its name.

Paco Kelly


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