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Heritage Manufacturing is known primarily for one thing – inexpensive, single action .22 revolvers. Although they do sell some very nice Uberti-built centerfire guns, they are mostly known for their .22 LR and Magnum revolvers. I have reviewed some of their guns (read it here) and have owned a couple of them. The guns are made in the U.S., and the company is owned by Taurus.
Why Do I Need An Inexpensive .22 Revolver?
I have been asked that question by several people over the years. Most shooters see the value of adding a decent .22 revolver (or autoloader, for that matter) to their collection. The Ruger Single Six and S&W Models 17 and 41 among others have, for years, been the mainstays of the serious-.22-handgun shooting crowd. Is there room in your gun cabinet or gun safe for a lesser-experience version of the ubiquitous .22 handgun? I would like to think so. There are times when we don’t want to take our expensive, highly-polished handguns out into the field if we are just on a quick “walkabout”. I know I don’t want to do that. So, I reach for my Heritage .22 Rough Rider. With its Zamak 5 frame and finish to match, 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 in order for them to get used to pulling the trigger, aligning the sights, etc. They don’t have to be the most accurate shot at the range in order for them to have fun. As they progress, then you can dig your expensive whatever-it-is out of the safe and let them shoot that, with its refined trigger and sights. Of course, this is just one use for a gun like this and some won’t agree with starting a newbie off with a less-than-excellent pistol or revolver…it’s just one scenario. Other uses include keeping the revolver handy for varmints, or for whatever particular reason you come up with.
We’ve examined the uses for an inexpensive revolver. Heritage makes many, many models of guns with barrels ranging from 4.75 to 16 inches in length. But – what about something shorter?
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The New Kid On The Block
It was with a definite “yes” that I answered an email from my contact at Taurus (Taurus owns Heritage Manufacturing) that asked if I would be interested in reviewing a brand-new, not-yet-released .22 revolver. After acceptance and agreement on the future publication date of the review, I was sent a new model Heritage revolver called the “Barkeep” – a shorty .22 styled after the short-barrel .45 Colts and .44-40s that saloon keepers kept under their bars in the late 19th century as protection against miscreants bent on doing harm to bar patrons (or bartenders).
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, for the most part, so these little “hideout” single-action Armys 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. Obviously, fast reloading wasn’t in the cards – 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. And, in .22LR or WRM as opposed to .45 Colt, it is easy on the pocketbook (and ears). Plus, Heritage even gives you a fancy “stick” with which to poke the empties out.
A shot of the hammer and frame-mounted safety (above and below)
Hammer-block safety is engaged, lower photo, and is off in the upper pic. Note the red dot.
Frame (above) and barrel (below) engraving. The difference between the frame and barrel finish is obvious here (see explanation below).
Shooting the Barkeep
I shot three brands of ammo for my Barkeep shooting experience. With .22 ammo in short (or no) supply, I am having to cut shooting a bit shorter than I care to, but until things lighten up I have no choice. At any rate, I shot my three targets which were interesting, sort of.
I am not including my targets herein. I am, however, going to show you three targets that were shot at the factory by the engineers who designed this gun. These targets are definitely of more interest than mine…
As you can see, the gun is accurate. These targets were shot at 10 yards using CCI standard velocity, from a bench rest. They switched the rifling to 1/10 vs. 1/14 for regular Heritage guns and since, they have had nothing but great groups, so I’m told. it looks like this gun’s a winner, even given its short barrel/sight radius.
I could definitely see sticking this little guy in a coat pocket (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!).
Here are the specifications for the Barkeep. Since it is not on Heritage’s website as I write this, I used the specs given in the owner’s manual. They match up very closely to my measurements, for the most part.
|Caliber:||22LR (.22 WMR available)|
|Weight:||24.8 oz. empty (my scale)|
|Cylinder weight:||7.9 oz. (interesting that 1/3 of the total weight of the gun is in the cylinder)|
|Sights:||Fixed front, fixed rear (trough in the frame)|
|Trigger Pull Weight:||2 lbs, 14.6 oz. average of 10 pulls|
|Grip panels:||Mother-of-pearl look, made of high-impact acrylic|
|Safety:||Lever-activated hammer block mounted on the frame|
|Materials:||Frame, Zamak 5; barrel, 1215 steel|
|MSRP:||$189.39 pearl-look grips; $160.61, wood grips|
|“Real-World” Price:||~ $140-$170, depending on grips|
Hits And Misses
Here are a few things I discovered during my time with this little revolver…
Handy: The short barrel make for a gun that is quick into action and easy to carry.
Overall Looks: This is an attractive gun, if such a thing is possible. The grips are very nice. The frame finish leaves a bit to be desired – see below.
Accuracy: OK, it’s not a 50-yard bullseye gun, but for an under-3-inch barreled, inexpensive revolver, it works well.
Trigger Pull: No take-up, no creep or overtravel …just a quick hammer drop at an average of just under 3 pounds, average of more than 10 pulls with my Lyman gauge. Not bad at all.
Availability of a .22 magnum version: You can buy this gun in .22 WMR, with a 3.59” barrel.
Action Timing: There is no “drag ring” around the cylinder at the notches like many revolvers develop due to the hand clicking up too soon, thereby etching a ring. The timing is superb, as is lock-up. The cylinder has just 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 short barrel does not allow the usual under-barrel, spring-loaded ejector rod to be installed so they include a useful rod with a wooden handle to use to poke the empties out. Nice touch.
Overall Finish: The “Zamak 5” frame and its finish showed many splotches and imperfections as you can see in some of the photos. It’s interesting to note that the steel barrel and cylinder’s finish is an excellent, deep blue-black with no imperfections. They are both nicely polished, as well.
FINISH UPDATE: After asking my friend, the rep who sends me Taurus, Rossi and Heritage guns about the finish, he explained that I had received a pre-production gun with a very rough finish. He said that actual production models have a much better finish. 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 old single-action “cowboy gun” fixed trough-and-post sights are endemic to the breed. Part of the trouble I had with accuracy when I shot the gun had to do with the fact that there was literally no space on either side of the front sight when I’d lined it up in the rear sight groove. 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 and 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 company owned by Taurus would emulate its practice of giving a lifetime warranty to at least the original owner, but Heritage includes a one-year warranty. Just my opinion.
Are you looking for an inexpensive .22 to carry with you on your rambles into the hinterland? Does your tackle box need an inexpensive .22 in it? Or, how about a gun to carry with you as you run your trap lines? Need something to take with you when you check your fence rows or stock tanks? Or maybe you just want another inexpensive .22 that, if it gets scratched, isn’t a big deal … the answer to these scenarios might well be our little Barkeep.
The advantage that this gun has over its 4.75-inch barreled cousins is that it would definitely be easier to fit in a pocket holster or backpack. And, don’t let the lack of an ejector rod rain on your parade – the very first handgun I owned back in the mid-’70s was an Iver Johnson DA six-shot .22. It had no ejector rod – you were supposed 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”.
I have owned, and do own, several pistols and revolvers over the years that were expensive and had a see-yourself-in-it deep blued 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. I would have zero hesitation about taking this gun through briars and brambles, or for that matter, accidentally dropping it into the muck I might encounter on my walks. The finish on this pre-production Barkeep’s Zamak 5 frame leaves something to be desired, but that shouldn’t be the case with regular production guns. At any rate, 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.
My experience with Heritage Manufacturing Rough Rider revolvers has been overall very positive. If you remember their price point and set your expectations accordingly, you will not be disappointed. For what they are, the Rough Riders are quite a bargain. Given that I’ve seen them for as low as $129.95, 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. And, as always, keep ‘em in the black and stay safe!