North American Arms Factory Tour

   05.17.16

North American Arms Factory Tour

North American Arms of Provo, Utah, is widely known as the maker of exotic variations of historic firearms. Their reputation is build largely on the many variations of the mini revolver, from the tiny black powder percussion version and the .22 Short to the long and loud .22 Magnum Earl with conversion cylinders.

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The Earl revolver with 4-inch barrel. 6-inch Hogleg variant is also available.

The same company that replicates 1860s designs also comes out with more modern looking variations.

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Bottlenecked pistol ammunition might date back to 1893, but chambering pocket pistols has only been done by the Soviets with their PSM and by NAA with the Guardian. 25NAA caliber improves on the 5.45×18 in everything but flak vest penetration, and even that only due to restrictions on bullet materials for non-government use.

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25NAA on left, 32NAA on right

The outward impression of traditionalism is only partly accurate. On the inside, NAA is a modern CNC machine shot. The machines they use look much like every other, and I couldn’t get details of the process without interfering with the production.

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Every one of these cylinders can fit any of the frames below. Eli Whitney would have been awed by the repeatable precision while recognizing most of the designs as something nearly within reach of his generation.

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NAA designs are often whimsical. For example, this 22LR revolver clips onto a pocket and…

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…it’s hidden in plain sight.

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Other guns have such beautiful finish that you’d want to show them off.

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North American Arms has been around 44 years. What have they been doing right that enabled them to prosper while making relatively simple designs that could have been imitated by others? My guess from watching similar successful companies is that NAA invested in the right people and paid attention to fostering the right culture. It’s always a good sign for the consumer when the people making the product are happy to come to work. The team comes across as one big family, goofy at times but always cohesive and self-motivated.

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These people are just a few of the NAA employees I was able to pull from their work for a minute on camera. When daily work is a source of pride, it’s a little wonder that the results of that work are good–and varied, over a hundred different models. I wonder how much of that pride comes from the Utah culture. Salt Lake Valley is home to numerous firearm and suppressor makers. John Browning did most of his work there. It seems to me that culture matters a great deal more than even geography, if a rather inhospitable land can hold so much design and manufacturing talent all in one spot.

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