Heritage Barkeep

[Exclusive Review] Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

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Are you looking for an inexpensive .22 revolver to carry with you on your rambles into the hinterland? Does your tackle box need an inexpensive .22 in it? How about a gun to carry with you as you run your traplines? Do you need something to take with you when you check your fence rows or stock tanks? Maybe you want another inexpensive .22 that, if it gets scratched, isn’t a big deal. The answer to these scenarios might well be the Heritage Barkeep .22 LR revolver.

If you’re a fan of vintage firearms, the Barkeep will appeal to you. This gun seems to be a bargain in terms of both design and functionality. For around $180, you can try it out. I’ll make a point of telling you why you should get the Barkeep, not to mention that I own a couple of Heritage firearms, all of which are fantastic. I’ve written a review of some of the Heritage firearm guns.

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Let’s take a closer look at the Heritage Barkeep .22 LR:

Pros
  • Attractive and classic Western design
  • Handy and easy to carry
  • Inexpensive revolver
  • Accurate gun
  • Available in .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) caliber with a 3.59-inch barrel
  • Backed with a one-year warranty
Cons
  • There is no ejector mechanism

Quick History of the Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

Heritage Manufacturing is well-known for being one thing ― inexpensive, single-action .22 revolvers. The firm’s aim is to develop a gun that will last for generations and will preserve the country’s rich legacy. Although they do sell some very nice Uberti-built guns, they are also known for the .22 LR and magnum revolvers. Moreover, the guns are all American-made, and the company is owned by Taurus.

The Barkeep is a stylish revolver that appears to be a step up over the regular Rough Rider. It’s known as a little revolver with an Old West flair. This compact gun is a rendition of Colt’s iconic 19th Century Storekeeper model. As you know Colt Single Action Army (SAA) is America’s Legendary gun, and it’s the real deal. Colt offered the SAA in the late 1800s. That’s when individuals began fitting revolver pieces together to make their own guns. These appeal to both storekeepers and bandits. Thus, Colt’s early clients were people who sought to conceal a revolver.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver Typical short-barreled sheriff's or bartender's Colt.
Typical short-barreled sheriff’s or bartender’s Colt.

The Rough Rider and the Barkeep seem to have a strong market position today. Both these revolvers are Storekeeper-inspired and are a good weapon to start with. The Barkeep will set you back around $180 while the Colt Storekeeper would set you back $1,800. That should come as no surprise since Heritage’s entire aim is to supply affordable revolvers to encourage people to pick up a gun and start shooting.

What more can you ask for? This compact single-action revolver has a certain charm. Consider a six-shot revolver with a traditional western design. Plus, a .22 LR cylinder, compatible with 22 WMR cylinders. It has a 2-inch barrel and is easy to conceal. 

Why Do I Need an Inexpensive .22 Revolver?

Through the years, several people asked me that question. Why do I need an expensive .22 revolver? Well, most shooters see the value of adding a decent .22 revolver to their collection. For example, the Ruger Single Six and Smith & Wesson Models 17 and 41. For years, they are the mainstays of the serious .22-handgun shooting crowd. Ask yourself. Is there room in your gun safe for a lesser-experience version of the ubiquitous .22 handgun

There are times when we don’t want to take our expensive, highly polished handguns out into the field. With my Heritage .22 rough finished revolver, I don’t get too worried about possibly scratching it as I wander around outdoors.

Another use might be as a loaner to a family member or friend. If you are trying to recruit new shooters into the fold, you might loan them your Heritage revolver. Then, let them get used to pulling the trigger. They don’t have to be the most accurate shot at the range to have fun. As they progress, then you can dig your expensive whatever-it-is out of the safe and let them shoot that. This is just one use for a gun like this. Some won’t agree with starting a newbie off with a less-than-excellent revolver, but it’s only one scenario. For example, another use includes keeping the revolver handy for varmints.

We’ve examined the uses for an inexpensive revolver. Heritage makes many models of guns, with barrels ranging from 4.75 to 16 inches in length. However, maybe you’re looking for something shorter.

The New Kid on the Block

It was with a definite “yes” that I answered an email from my contact at Taurus. By the way, Taurus owns Heritage Manufacturing. They asked if I would be interested in reviewing a brand-new, not-yet-released .22 revolver. After acceptance and agreement, they sent me a new model Heritage Barkeep. A short .22-styled short-barreled .45 Colt-inspired revolver. It looks like those that saloon keepers kept under their bars in the late 19th century. At the time, the revolver served as a threat against miscreants bent on doing harm to bar patrons.

Remember, this was many years before snub-nosed guns were popular or even available. Colt would make revolvers with barrels in whatever length you requested. Thus, these little “hideout” SAAs were at least available from the factory. Notice that there is no ejector rod or ejector stud on the barrel ― the barrels were too short to house such a thing. After firing, you would grab a stick or something handy to poke the empties out with. Fast reloading wasn’t in the cards, and this was a last-ditch weapon.

So, now we have a little background on the short-barreled SAA. Heritage has brought this model to the forefront with its Barkeep. As with the .22 LR or WMR and opposed to the .45 Colt, it is easy on the pocketbook. Plus, Heritage even gives you a fancy “stick” with which to poke the empties out.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver Specs

Caliber.22 LR (.22 WMR available)
Capacity6 rounds
Weight26 ounces
Height4.8 inches
Cylinder Width1.436 inches
Barrel Length2.68 inches
Overall Length7.95 inches
Action TypeSingle action only
Front SightsFixed
Rear SightsNotch at rear
SafetyManual
GripGray Pearl or Custom Scroll Wood
FinishGray Pearl - Black Oxide
Custom Scroll Wood - Simulated case hardened
Cylinder MaterialAlloy steel
Other1 year warranty
MSRPGray Pearl - $208.33
Custom Scroll Wood - $198.33
Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

Opening the box, you’ll notice how lovely this small gun is. The build quality is excellent, particularly for a revolver at this price point. The revolver’s modest size and classic designed grip make it comfortable to handle.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

The Heritage Barkeep .22 revolver lacks an ejector rod housing. As a result, the gun includes a convenient ejector pin with a classic handle and the “H” logo. The metal parts in this Gray Pearl model are Black Oxide finish whereas the grips are a synthetic material that looks like a pearl.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver A shot of the hammer.
A shot of the hammer.

When you hold the pistol in a two-handed grip, your support thumb rests on top of the safety. It makes turning it off and on a breeze. If you discharge it with one hand, your dominant thumb may flick it off and hit the hammer.

Frame-mounted safety; hammer-block safety engaged.
The single-action revolver has a fixed cylinder and loading cartridges must be one at a time.

The single-action revolver has a fixed cylinder and loading cartridges must be one at a time.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver
The frame (above) and barrel (below) engraving. The difference between the frame and barrel finish is obvious here.
Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver
Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver
Just so you know what caliber you’re shooting …

Loading and unloading is easy. It won’t bug you if you’re used to loading a single-action revolver.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

When controlling the revolver, the grip is large enough to provide a secure grasp. Firing at specific targets at uncertain ranges would be a lot of fun.

Going Outdoors

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

I have owned several pistols and revolvers through the years that were expensive and had a see yourself in the reflection deep-blue finish that I was a bit hesitant to take outdoors. But, unless you’re a collector, what good are guns if you’re afraid to take them out and shoot them? That’s where guns in the price range that this Heritage occupies come in. 

The finish on this preproduction Barkeep’s Zamak 5 frame leaves something to be desired. But that shouldn’t be the case with regular production guns. That doesn’t take anything away from its ability to shoot straight. I’d say that, once you found the right .22 load, you would give small varmints fits out to 25 or 30 yards.

Shooting the Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

I shot three brands of ammunition for my Barkeep shooting experience. With .22 ammo in short supply, I am having to cut shooting a bit shorter than I care to ― just like many other people. But until things lighten up I have no choice. At any rate, I shot my three targets which were interesting, sort of.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

I am not including my targets herein. I am, however, going to show you three target shots at the factory by the engineers who designed this gun. These targets are definitely of more interest than mine.

Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver Range test of the Barkeep
Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver Range test of the Barkeep
Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver Range test of the Barkeep

As you can see, the gun is accurate. These targets were shot at 10 yards using CCI Rimfire Ammo standard velocity, from a bench rest. They switched the rifling to 1/10 vs. 1/14 for regular Heritage guns. It looks like this gun is a winner, even given its short barrel/sight radius.

I could see sticking this little guy in a holster or backpack for an informal day afield. That might be one of its most popular uses. Since not too many of us will be standing behind an old-timey 1890s bar, pulling beers for customers. If you do that for a living, please comment below. That would be an interesting profession.

The Heritage Barkeep .22 Revolver

Hits and Misses

Here are a few things I discovered during my time with this little revolver.

Hits

  • Handy: The short barrel makes for a gun that is quick to action and easy to carry.
  • Looks: This is an attractive gun ― if such a thing is possible. The grips are also very nice.
  • Accuracy: OK, it’s not a 50-yard bull’s-eye gun. But for an under-3-inch barreled, inexpensive revolver, it works well.
  • Trigger pull: No take-up, no creep, or overtravel, plus a quick hammer drop at an average of less than 3 pounds ― an average of more than 10 pulls with my Lyman gauge. That’s not bad at all.
  • Availability of a .22 Magnum version: You can buy this gun in .22 WMR with a 3.59-inch barrel.
  • Action timing: There is no “drag ring” around the cylinder at the notches like many revolvers. The timing is superb, as is the lock-up. The cylinder has a tiny bit of play on only two of the chambers. The other four are tighter than Scrooge’s purse strings. This is very unusual in an under $200 revolver.
  • Ejector rod: The spring-loaded ejector rod cannot be mounted due to the small barrel. As a result, they incorporate a handy rod with a wooden handle for poking the empties out. It’s a nice touch.

Misses

  • Finish: Many splotches were visible on the “Zamak 5” frame and finish. As you can see in several of the photographs, there are flaws. Yet, it’s worth noting that the steel barrel and cylinder finish are both excellent. It’s a rich blue-black color with no flaws. They’re also both polished. FINISH UPDATE: The representative who sent me the weapons explained the finish. He’s a buddy of mine, and he informed me that I had received a preproduction gun with a rough finish. Actual production models, he claims, have a nicer polish. If it’s anything like my experience with other Heritage guns, the finish should be much better. New Heritage guns have a deep, even bluing that belies their price point. I wouldn’t be afraid of buying one of these because of its finish.
  • Sights: The fixed sights of the classic single-action gun are distinctive to the breed. When I lined up the front sight in the rear sight groove, there was no space on either side of it. This contributed to my lack of accuracy when shooting the gun. I had to just about guess when I thought the sights were lined up. This was not exactly news to me. I’ve owned other Heritage guns with the same sights. What I did before with my personal Rough Rider was to square the notch in the rear with a file. I also file the too-tall front sight down. This allowed the ammo to hit properly on the target and put sufficient space around the front post. A dab of white rear and red front paint after touch-up bluing helped my old eyes pick up the sight picture quickly.
  • Warranty: I’d like to think that a firm owned by Taurus would also give a lifetime warranty. But Heritage includes a 1-year warranty only.

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Rough Rider Difference

The Heritage Barkeep .22 revolver is described as a sleek version of the Rough Rider. Barkeep’s barrel measures 3 inches in length, and the grip is quite strong. The Rough Rider has an advantage in terms of ammo flexibility and performance. My revolver was a 6.5-inch model Rough Rider model. It’s accurate enough to hit your intended target. As a fun weapon, I enjoy taking it to the range.

If speed is important to you, the gun’s manual design means you won’t be firing or reloading quickly. This single-action .22 revolver is still a good deal at roughly $164.93. Interchangeable cylinders for .22 LR and .22 magnum are available on some models. The Rough Rider also features 4-inch and 9-inch barrels.

Heritage Rough Rider
Heritage Rough Rider

I like both the Heritage Barkeep and the Rough Rider revolvers. They’re a fun weapon that’s also both inexpensive and useful. These revolvers are an effective use for training and small game hunting. Check them out if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind, affordable, and useful range gun.

Heritage Rough Rider -VS- Heritage Barkeep | 22 Single Action Revolvers

Maintenance

Firearm care is important to keep your firearm safe to use and functioning properly. To avoid corrosion, it must be cleaned regularly and covered with a thin layer of high-quality oil. Rub the gun with a lightly greased cloth for routine cleaning. Treat the bore of the barrel in the same manner. Make sure to clean the barrel to keep it free of debris. Remove excess oil and use a clean brush to remove dust from any crevices.

For the illustration on how to disassemble and clean the Barkeep, check out this video:

Accessories

You can customize your revolver to your personal taste. Heritage offers a huge selection of replacement components. For a complete, old-fashioned shooting experience, they also sell leather goods and apparel. There are also a few decent 3rd party accessories.

Rough Rider Rosewood GRIPS for Heritage Barkeep .22
  • Beautiful wood
  • Works on both 6 & 9 shooter
  • Premium finish
$68 Shop Now
Pro-Tech Holster For Heritage Barkeep .22
  • For both left and right hand draw
  • Durable
  • Secure retention
$55 Shop Now
Gun Gear Depot Western Style Revolver Holster Hand-Made
  • Hand Made
  • Genuine Leather
  • Can accommodate longer barrels
$68 Shop Now

Conclusion

The advantage that this gun has over its 4.75-inch barreled cousins is that it would be easier to fit in a pocket holster or backpack. Also, don’t allow the lack of an ejector rod to deter you. The very first handgun I owned back in the mid-1970s was an Iver Johnson DA six-shot .22. It had no ejector rod, and you needed to use the cylinder pin to poke out the empties. Needless to say, I fashioned an empty pusher out of a metal rod and tied it with a string to my holster. At least Heritage gives you a classy-looking “empties-puncher-outer.”

My experience with the Heritage Barkeep .22 revolver has been overall very positive. If you remember their price point and set your expectations accordingly, you won’t be disappointed. For what they are, these revolvers are a good buy. I don’t think you can beat them. You’re down into the pellet gun price range, but for a real .22 revolver ― it’s a bargain. 

Please leave a comment below if you have something to add to the discussion. As always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe.

Related reads:

Updated: September 2021

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16 comments
  1. 99 I have one six and a half 22 long rifle heritage the thing is terrific I compared it to the Wrangler and put the ringer down immediately picked up the Rough Rider and they’ve been liking it ever since oddly enough shortly after I got this I thought what about a 2-inch snubby and I’ll be down here it is probably will be my next gun reliable easy to clean I like the three clicks pulling the trigger back and the safeties not even bad highly recommended

    1. William, looks like you asked the right question to yourself about the snubby! They should be at dealers as soon as production gets ramped up. Thanks for writing!

  2. Hi Mike

    As usual great review. Question please. I bought the Heritage Rough Rider already in 9 inch, BUT the hand grips are literally child size.

    Is THIS grip on the Barkeep meant to fit a full size male’s hand or another tiny set of grips?

    I either have to make my own grips or find an after market set for my Heritage RR to enjoy shooting it. Do you know of anyone making full size grips that fit the Heritage Rough Rider? Heritage doesn’t.

    Thank you, Sir.

    1. Vulcan, as far as I know all Heritage .22 revolver grips are the same size, at least the dozen or so different types I’ve handled. Do you have really large hands? That could explain it. I did a quick ‘net search and found that most places selling aftermarket grips for the RR22s sell Heritage-made grips. I did see, at the Ebay link below, a few that don’t look like they were made for the Rough Rider. You might want to contact someone connected with them and ask them. Thanks for writing!
      https://www.ebay.com/b/Rough-Rider-Pistol-Parts/73944/bn_1942331

  3. Have the 6.5 Johnny Boy & 16″ Rancher Carbine revolver; nice guns that shoot well. Had the 3.5 Bird Head, liked it, but sold it off and got a ruger Wrangle.. On the 635 RR & Wrangler I fabricated a front sight where I put a flattened 22 shell casing, appropriately modified, that pushes over the front sight & is held on with Loctite. The Brass bead effect that that has makes the front sight much easier to see.. The Rancher comes with a brass bead front.. Hard to beat the price on Heritage stuff: I shoot mine a lot: been real good so far.

    1. Just Me, very clever solution to an age-old (since 1873) problem! Maybe you could do a quick explanation of what you did (details) here so that others who want to try it will know how. Thanks for telling us about it!

      1. i purchased one and i love it,,,,,i now have the shortest one heritage makes plus the longest one,,,the 16 inch barrel and yes i am a heritage rough rider revolver collector

  4. I used to be a prolific gun owner, after moving to the center of a University Town I sold them all. Recently upon moving again I started my collection up. Staring with the Hetirage Barkeep. This has to be my all-time favorite handgun. It’s adorable, small, inexpensive, decently accurate, the upgrade to the .22WMR makes it a good defence pistol somewhat comparable to a 9mm. Its a heck of a lot of fun to use for target practice even with its tiny barrel it is accurate enough at 15 yards that you wont feel discouraged. At 50 yards however it is not ideal. Any first time shooter should look into this pistol, its the only revolver ive seen with a safety switch, and the single action acts as a secondary safety, light trigger pull and low recoil will together help any new shooter get more comfrotable with the process until they can move up to larger and more powerful ammo. 10/10 would reccommend to every shooter of every skill level. Its just a lot of fun. The sights do have a bit to be desired but its quick to learn how to use them.

  5. Steven, you hit on some good points. This is a decent little gun, and is a lot of fun. Thanks for writing!

  6. Picked one up switched to birdshead
    Shoulder surgery left me out if semuauto game
    Got 22 mag cylinder
    Now is just over 7″ long and just under 26 ounces
    Fits in Allen sticky pocket holster
    Not the best but I am to recoil sensitive after surgery for much else.
    Co insistent at ten yards with velocitors or maxi mags about three inches
    Great gun fits my need
    Hope I never need mire than six shots.

  7. Wm, glad it works for you. Six shots should suffice, I’d think – most bad guys don’t even want to see a gun in their victim’s hand, let alone experience it. Thanks for writing!

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