If you have been reading my columns for a while, you know I have a great deal of admiration for North American Arms firearms, both their Guardian line of semi-automatic pistols and the firearms they are best known for: their single-action .22 Short, .22 LR and .22 Magnum mini-revolvers. I like to compare NAA’s mini-revolvers to “Swiss watches that shoot” because of their precision manufacture and quality machining.
One of their newest iterations is perhaps their best: the Pug-T .22 Magnum.
The Pug-T .22 Magnum Mini-Revolver
According to the NAA website, the name “Pug” may have derived from the Latin “Pugnus,” meaning fist. I like this name association better than that of the small Pug dog. The Pug dog really doesn’t exude thoughts of aggressive fighting. Thinking of the Pug revolver as an extension of a combative fist works much better for me in terms of what it is designed to do.
The Pug-T is a refined version of the standard NAA .22 Magnum mini-revolver, with several modifications to make it even more “combat effective” (which is a cool way of saying “user friendly”).
Of course, the Pug-T retains the standard single-action operation of all the North American mini-revolvers. For those of you who are not familiar with them, this means that the hammer must be cocked for every shot fired. The five-shot .22 Magnum cylinder can be kept fully loaded while the Pug-T is carried, as long as you rest the hammer-mounted firing pin in the appropriate cylinder notch per the provided instructions (rather than keeping the hammer down on an empty chamber with only 4 rounds loaded). I highly recommend carrying it fully loaded; I do.
Different Than the Standard .22 Magnum Revolver
So, back to the refinements. The most obvious difference between the Pug-T and the standard .22 Magnum is the substitution of the oversized rubber pebble grip for the standard Rosewood Birds Head grip. Although the pebble grips are oversized compared to the standard wood grips, they are not anywhere near as large as the rubber grips used on the Black Widow mini-revolver, so that keeps the Pug-T still in the micro-concealable category.
The rubber pebble grips help most in maintaining a solid grip on the Pug-T while drawing and firing. Recoil, in terms of feeling discomfort, is really not a factor with these tiny revolvers. I definitely like the pebble grip feel.
The next refinement is the most important one to me at almost 60 years of age, and that is the addition of the outstanding XS Big Dot Express combat sights. The “T” in Pug-T stands for “Tritium” which is part of the front sight. (Note: The Pug-D model is the same as the Pug-T, except that its Big Dot front sight has a plain white insert and no Tritium.)
Both sights operate off the old “Express Sight” principle used on big game rifles. With this sight system, the shooter aligns the large front dot in the center of a shallow “V”-shaped rear sight. In the XS version, there is a vertical white stripe (or Tritium bar as an option) to help center the dot in the rear sight. The sights used on the Pug-T have a white stripe, rather than Tritium bar rear, which I prefer anyway.
When I teach someone to use the XS Express sight system, I tell them to align it by “making a lollipop.” This aligns the front dot in the center of the rear stripe and touches it. I find this system easier to align more precisely and more quickly than standard Patridge type sights these days. Since the standard North American sights are a plain stainless-steel front blade in a rear notch, the addition of the XS Express sight is a great improvement for me. I like the XS system well enough that it rides on my Beretta M9A1 that I carry on duty at my police department. More handguns should have them as standard equipment.
The last addition is a design modification as well as a shootability enhancement, and that is the barrel and cylinder release mechanism.
The Standard .22 Magnum weighs in at 6.2 ounces, while the Pug-T weighs in at 6.4. While .2 ounces may not seem like much of an addition, all .2 ounces of it are on the barrel of this very small gun. It is enough to change the balance dynamic, giving a bit more muzzle steadying weight, which comes in handy when using a gun like this in life-or-death defensive situations.
I really like the aforementioned cylinder release mechanism. With the hammer carefully set to half-cock, the underbarrel latch is pulled straight down under spring tension, and the cylinder pin is retracted, which releases the cylinder for loading/unloading. The cylinder pin is used for clearing fired cartridges from the chambers; live rounds will slip right out. Reverse the procedure for returning the cylinder into battery, then carefully set the firing pin into a safety notch. Be careful when performing this procedure, and keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
Testing the Mini-Revolver at the Shooting Range
I test-fired the Pug at an indoor shooting range. The XS Sights really helped me see the sights in the interior lighting conditions there. Firing Hornady V-Max 30-grain .22 Magnum ammunition, two-handed and standing at 20 feet, I was easily able to keep all five-round groups in the central chest area of the silhouette target on which I was firing — about 9-10 inches in diameter. Holding the Pug-T firmly in my strong hand and cocking the hammer with my weak-hand thumb allowed for some fairly fast firing, since adjustment of my shooting grip was minimal compared to cocking the hammer with my strong-hand thumb. Previous chronographing of the Hornady V-Max load from the .22 Magnum Sidewinder (with the 1.5-inch barrel) gave a velocity reading of 1201 feet per second and 96 FPE at the muzzle, which may not sound like much. However, when the round was fired into my standard 25-pound clay block test medium, it produced a cavity that was 2.5 inches in diameter at the widest point, with penetration of 12 inches. This performance is roughly equivalent to a .22 LR round fired from a rifle. The Pug-T’s 1.0-inch barrel should give similar performance.
If you are looking for a hideout handgun, one that is as low-profile as you can possibly get, check out the entire North American line of mini-revolvers, and make sure you check out the Pug-T. The XS Sights and the rubber grips are great additions to an already fine handgun, and the Pug-T carries great in a trouser pocket in a Tuff Products Size 15 inside-the-pocket holster, where it is undetectable. It makes a great hideout gun while on duty. Remember, never carry any handgun loose in a pocket.