I hadn’t originally planned to carry a mousegun for self defense (one with a considerably smaller caliber than a 9mm Luger), but there was a reason for it. Whether or not that is a good enough reason is yet to be seen.
North American Arms (NAA) .22 Magnum mini-revolver
My original mousegun was a North American Arms (NAA) .22 Magnum mini-revolver with the 1-5/8” barrel. I got it many years ago, before I had a reason to carry it.
Its time came a couple of years later. For a short while, when I was between real jobs, I worked as a nighttime security guard (midnight to 8:00am) at a large manufacturing plant. They had several break-ins there and the criminals usually carried out a good sized truckload of aluminum wheels and radial tires each time they struck. That is why the plant eventually hired a security company.
The security company that I worked for had strict rules about any kind of self defense weaponry. Basically, you could not have them in any way, shape, or form. You could not carry a gun, a knife with larger than a 2” folding blade (no fixed blades of any size were allowed), a hammer, a screwdriver, an icepick, a baseball bat, a sap, a billyclub, a golf club, or even a flashlight that held more than two D-size batteries or had a case stronger than plastic. Anything that could be used as a weapon was considered a weapon.
There were no radios issued to us. At the time, cell phones were the size and weight of two bricks and only the really rich owned them. Management expected me to spot criminals while on my rounds (hopefully, before they spotted me), then outrun the perps (there were certainly more than one and they were probably younger and less out-of-shape than me) back to the “guardshack”, and then call 911 from there. The guardshack was a small, gray-painted plywood building outside the entrance that had large, well-lit, non-bulletproof windows all the way around. I was supposed to wait there for the police to arrive, then guide them back to the criminals, who would presumably be waiting patiently to be arrested. That did not seem to be a very good plan to me.
To make sure that we were doing our job properly, the security company also had roving “supervisors” who would randomly stop in to at each of the firms jobsites. They made sure that I was not sleeping, that I had been walking my assigned rounds (about a mile every hour at my assignment), and that I was not carrying any weapons. A weapons violation meant instant firing. Jobs were not plentiful at that particular time, so I outwardly complied with their rules and spent about 3 months working as a “target” for not much more than minimum wage.
I had several handguns and calibers to choose from. The only one that I thought could be carried with a reasonable chance of not being discovered during a frisk was the NAA. So, I dug out a hardcovered eyeglass case and started carrying it in my shirt pocket (I wear glasses all the time). When it did not raise any interest or concern on the part of the supervisors, I took out my extra set of glasses and put in the NAA mini-revolver. It fit perfectly. The supervisors frisked me several times looking for weapons, but they never found it. I would like to see the 1911 concealed carry advocates do that.
The NAA Mini-Magnum is a handful to hold onto while shooting. This is not because of the “tremendous” recoil, but because of the tiny birdshead grip. I do not have particularly large hands, but only my middle finger fits around the grip. The last two fingers dangle uselessly below it. The gun easily rotates around the middle finger when fired. Larger grips would have helped, but then it would not have fit inside the eyeglass case.
The sights are pretty much useless. They are fairly large and well defined for such a small gun, but they shot way low when lined up properly. I ended up ignoring the front sight and lining up the top of the rear sight with the top of the muzzle (which is at the bottom of the front sight). The bullets impacted close enough to center doing it that way. Accuracy is important with this gun. You only have 5-shots. No more. In order to reload, you have to take the gun apart. Pull the cylinder pin, remove the cylinder, eject the cases one at a time, reload one at a time, and then put the gun back together again – all while being chased, shot at, stabbed, or beaten.
The most important thing about the NAA (other than its size) was that it never failed to fire. It did not matter what ammunition was used. Just pull back the hammer and then pull the trigger. It always went bang. Later on, when the NAA website was created, they had a large table of different types of rimfire ammunition and what velocity they actually reach when fired in their mini-revolvers. With such short barrels, all are much less than what is listed in the ammunition catalogs. The most powerful one they had listed was the CCI Maxi-Magnum+V, so I later went to that one.
Luckily, I never had to use the gun. It would have been better than fists, feet, fingernails, and teeth, but I am glad I did not have to prove it. Regardless, I continued carrying it for quite a while afterwards in my left-front pants pocket, housed in a leather pouch that broke up the silhouette. I did this even though concealed carry was not legal where I lived and the City prosecutor was anti-gunowner. He conducted a high-profile, concealed-carry prosecution every year or two, of an otherwise upstanding, but not politically connected individual who was caught carrying a concealed handgun. Even if the jury let the accused off, the cost to defend themselves was crippling. I think the prosecutor intended that as a very public warning to people who were doing what I did. The NAA mini-revolver was evidently never spotted on me.
Beretta 21A .22LR semi-auto
Several years later (after I got back to earning a decent living), I ran across a small Beretta 21A semi-automatic in .22LR caliber. What interested me was that it has a cute “pop-up” barrel for loading the first shot. More than a gimmick, that feature makes it safe and easy to carry a cartridge in the chamber, without having to ease the tiny hammer down on a live round without it slipping.
The 21A is very similar to, but marginally larger than, their Minx model in .22 Short caliber, a gun that seems to have been around forever (at least since I was a kid). It is larger than the NAA mini-revolver, but is still easily concealable in a pants pocket. The larger size also makes it easier to grip. I can wrap two fingers around the grip instead of one and that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to controllability. I carried it in a pocket holster that covers the trigger guard to make it difficult to accidently pull the trigger. I also make it a point not to carry anything else (keys, change, or the second magazine) in that pocket for safety.
The gun supposedly held 8 rounds (7 in the magazine and one in the chamber). I later found that it is more reliable with only 6 rounds in the magazine. The gun has a conventional double-action trigger pull for the first shot with single-action from then on. The trigger pull in double-action is long and sloppy, but reasonably light. The single-action pull is naturally shorter and even lighter. All controls are on the left side. It has a 1911 style thumb safety that is so small and smooth that it is worse than worthless. I leave it “off” all the time. The barrel release lever is above and behind the trigger. The magazine release is about in the middle of the handgrip. Unfortunately, the slide on this gun does not lock back when the last cartridge is fired.
At first, I was not thrilled with the gun. It was tight and took a break-in of several hundred rounds (100 or 200 rounds won’t cut it – plan on shooting a brick). Even after the break-in, it jammed quite a bit with the boxes of Winchester white-box, “high-velocity” cartridges that I have many thousands of. After that, I went to the store and bought an assortment of eight different kinds of .22LR to try. In the bunch, I found one brand that is totally reliable and another one that is close.
The Beretta likes a solid, round-nose bullet best. It doesn’t like a truncated cone as well. It likes a hollow-point even less. It won’t take a truncated cone with a hollow-point at all. It likes 40gr bullets best. The lighter the bullet the more it jams. The 32gr ones don’t work at all, even at higher velocities. It needs a minimum velocity of about 1,260fps (from a full length barrel) with a 40gr solid, RN bullet, but faster is always better. Forget target loads (standard velocity or subsonic). Forget ordinary “high-velocity” loads, particularly the bulk packed varieties that generate less than 1,260fps. Choosing ammunition with this in mind turned the gun from a jam-o-matic into a reliable weapon.
The Winchester Super-X solid, RN 40gr cartridge, at a reported 1,300fps (from a full length barrel) has been totally reliable in my gun. The CCI Mini-Mag solid, RN 40gr cartridge at 1,260fps is pretty good, with no more than one or two failures to feed (and sometimes none) in 100 cartridges. It is good enough for practice. Federal Hi-Power and Winchester Wildcat solid, RN 40gr cartridges, both listed at 1,255fps, are not reliable enough. They failed to feed or to eject empty cases from two to five times per 50 rounds. The Remington Yellowjacket, Viper, Thunderbolt, and the CCI Stinger jammed even more (having light bullets, truncated cone shapes, hollowpoints or any combination of the three). The worst in my gun was the Yellowjacket, but the Stinger was a close second. I could not get through a single magazine with either of them without having more than one jam.
The Beretta is more accurate than it has a right to be. At 5 to 7 yards, it grouped perfectly heighthwise and just a little bit to the left of center. I filed the rear sight on one side to center the group better and also to show a little more gap between the sides of the rear sight and the front sight. Afterwards, I could cut the center out of a standard target.
The gun has to be kept fairly clean. After a couple of hundred rounds, there are occasional failures to function regardless of the ammunition. Also, don’t forget to clean the front barrel hinge. When the hinge is dirty, the barrel won’t always swing up when the release is pushed, but after a thorough cleaning and oiling, it works again.
One quirk about the Beretta is that it does not have an extractor. It does have an ejector, but that only works if the cartridge fires. If the cartridge is a dud, doing the natural thing (pulling back the slide) will make the jam even worse. If you have any experience with clearing other semi-automatic handguns, you will have to first unlearn the standard jam-clearing sequence. The proper way to handle a failure with this gun is to push the barrel release lever forward. The barrel will spring up, usually throwing the dud cartridge out of the chamber. If not, it can be picked out with a fingernail.
Going from a .22 Magnum to a .22LR would seem to be a step down (and it is). I rationalized that the cartridges that must be used in this gun are fairly close to the .22 Magnum in power and I can carry 2-1/2 times as many of them. I carried it with 13 rounds: 6 in the gun, one in the chamber (with the hammer down), and another magazine (with 6 more) in another pocket. Reloading with the second magazine is quick and easy. Although not designed for plinking, it can be used as such, especially with its unusual accuracy. I carried the Beretta for a while, but betting my life on a .22LR was always a concern. Again, it was evidently never spotted on me. That was important since the draconian gun carry laws were still in place during most of the time I carried it.
Kel-Tec .32ACP semi-automatic
The next mousegun on my carry list was the Kel-Tec P-32 in .32 ACP. This was before they (and everyone else) began to offer similar guns in .380ACP. Mine is one of the very early ones with a conventional extractor (three parts) instead of a single-piece leaf spring extractor screwed to the outside of the gun. I have never had problems with extraction, so I think the change was probably made to keep the cost down. I also had a couple thousand rounds of .32ACP ammunition in the basement and figured it was a step up from a .22LR. That was because I owned a couple of what were considered pocket pistols a couple of generations ago: a Walther PPK and a Mauser HSc, both in .32ACP. Both are really nice guns; accurate, reliable and easy to shoot, but neither are really concealable if someone is looking for it. I guess my good experiences with them predisposed me towards that caliber.
The law in my state now allows concealed carry and I have a permit. The original anti-gunowner prosecutor has retired, but his deputy is now in charge. Unfortunately, the deputy is just as anti-gunowner as his mentor, so nothing much has changed. The new law has slowed, but has not stopped the show trials for people without a CCW permit. CCW holders are not totally immune, either. His latest interpretation for CCW holders: even though you have a permit, if the is gun “spotted”, you are not carrying concealed. You are “brandishing” a firearm and can be arrested for that. That has always been the interpretation for open carry which, in effect, bans it. The continuing war between gunowners and politicians/anti-gunowners goes on.
The Kel-Tec was just about the smallest and lightest .32ACP handgun around at the time and was much less costly than the similar sized, but heavier Seecamp. It is even smaller and lighter than the .22LR Beretta mentioned above. Even so, the grip is large enough to get two fingers around it, which makes the gun easy to control during firing.
Both factory loads and my 71gr FMJ handloads were totally reliable in the gun from almost the very start. There was not much of a break-in period needed – 100 rounds are plenty. There was originally a problem with my 77gr lead-bullet handloads (even after the break-in period), with a few of them coming to a halt partway up the feed ramp. It was rough. I polished the ramp with some 600grit sandpaper, followed by 1,500grit, wrapped around a 1/4” dowel. Afterward, it fed the lead bullets just as reliably as the FMJ ones. I have not tried hollow-points in it and probably won’t. I figure I need all the penetration I can get with this caliber.
Unlike the Beretta, there are no safeties or controls sticking out from the sides of the gun, other than a small magazine release button below and behind the trigger. The action is semi-double-action only. Pulling back the slide half-cocks the hammer. The hammer can be seen, but is shrouded so it cannot be fully cocked or uncocked by hand. That makes it more dangerous than the Beretta to carry around with a cartridge in the chamber. However, the light recoil spring makes it easy to rack the slide to feed the first cartridge.
To fire, just point it and pull the trigger. The long, but reasonably light trigger pull brings the hammer the rest of the way back and then drops it. All subsequent shots are the same as the first one. Being semi-double-action only and having sights almost as small as the Beretta, its practical accuracy is not quite as good. However, it is more than adequate for its intended use. It is easy to strip down for cleaning, but be very careful not to lose any of the tiny loose parts. There are several of them.
The Kel-Tec carries easily in a pocket holster that covers the trigger guard for safety. It is easy to draw and is easy to reload, although I would not consider it a plinker. The cases are so small that I lose about half of them in the gravel every time I go shooting. I carry it with the chamber empty and the hammer down, with one magazine in the gun and another one in the pocket for a total of 12 rounds. Again, the gun is more reliable with one round down in the magazine (carrying 6 instead of 7). I have evidently never been spotted carrying this one, even though I have walked through many doors with “Gun Free Zone” decals on them.
I am impressed with the overall value (size, reliability, and cost) of the Kel-Tec.
Future mouseguns and Real guns
I should replace the P-32 with the newer Kel-Tec P-3AT in .380ACP. Or, I could get Ruger’s exact copy of the Kel-Tec in the same caliber. There is no reason not to. They are only a little bit larger than the P-32 and will even fit the same pocket holster that I currently use. All I would have to do is get new dies, a thousand or so cases, some proper bullets, and start reloading. I have just not gotten around to that. The difference in power does not seem to be enough to make the change worthwhile.
I have been keeping a close eye on the new 9mm handguns being released in recent years. The Kel-Tec P-11 (which was introduced several years ago) is a little 9mm that is still too big to carry in my front pants pocket. It was a step in the right direction, though. Their newer P-9 has a single stack magazine and is thinner and handier than the P-11. It looks like it might be just on the ragged edge of being too large to carry in an ordinary pocket, particularly since they added an abbreviated Picatinny rail to the front of the frame. Actually, carrying it might not be the problem. Getting it out of a pocket quickly enough without the rail catching on something could be the problem. I will have to ask a dealer to let me stick one in my pocket and pull it out a few times to see. Still, a step up to 9mm is worth considering. There are several other new 9mm’s out that are smaller than what would have been thought possible just a few years ago, but I have not yet seen one that is smaller than the P-9. Too bad it has that Picatinny rail.
One disappointment to me is that NAA did not scale up their .22 mini-revolver for the .32 H&R Magnum cartridge. Keeping the same layout as their smaller ones (single-action, a minimum-sized 5-shot cylinder, and a spur trigger), it would be smaller than any of the .38 Special revolvers now on the market. I believe it would probably be small enough to carry in a pants pocket. Although there would still only be 5 shots, they would be more potent and you could be confident that they would always fire. Instead, NAA got sidetracked copying the Seecamp (old technology) and developed a couple of wildcats to compensate for the lack of power. Wildcats will never sell very many guns.
In any case, it is important to practice with any of them. I practiced with the earlier ones as often as I could and currently practice with the Kel-Tec at least once a month. That includes drawing from the pocket, jacking a round into the chamber, firing 6 rounds as fast as I can put the front sight on the target, then reloading with the second magazine and doing it again. It is surprising how much improvement that practice makes with a gun that has a long trigger pull, a short barrel, and very small sights. It also forces me rotate the ammunition, magazines, and clean the gun on a regular basis.
Notice that I have said nothing about how any of the mouseguns work in actual combat. I am happy to say that in the 25 years or so since I started carrying them, I have never had to draw one for anything other than practice. However, there have been a few times that I have been comforted by the knowledge that I had a gun on me in case the situation deteriorated. That is the primary reason for mouseguns.
In case anyone reading this wonders, I do have a few “real” carry guns. When the weather was such that I could wear a large enough and long enough coat, I used to carry a 3” bbl S&W J-frame in .38 Special in a Small-of-Back (SOB) holster. It has since been replaced by a 3” bbl Ruger SP-101 with .38 Special +P ammunition carried the same way (but not in the same holster – the Ruger is larger). Hip holsters don’t conceal well enough to suit the local Prosecutor. This particular Ruger is one of the very early ones with a 1/8” shorter frame and cylinder than the current version. It is not chambered for and cannot use the .357 Magnum used in the latest ones.
Both guns shoot great; accurate, reliable, and easy to control. However, with their concealment limitations, I can probably only use the bigger guns approx 5% of the time when I am out of the house. With my carry license, I can legally carry the gun in the car now, which ups the time it could be with me, but that does not change anything when I step out of the car. Remember that there is no such thing as “almost concealed” or “concealed most of the time” where I live. Mouseguns can be very well hidden. That is the other reason for them.
Mouseguns are not ideal, but they are always there.