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OK…time for a quick poll. All you shooters who have never shot a .22 single action revolver, raise both hands.
Now, if you’ve shot any .22 revolver – single or double action – put one hand down.
Look around the room – hands went down, right? (Oh, yeah – I forgot. I’m writing this during the Covid-19 crisis, so you’re excused if you’re the only one in the room). If you’ve shot a single action .22 revolver, put your other hand down. What we would probably have seen, if we had done this little exercise in a room full of shooters would be many hands (both of ‘em) go up in the beginning, with several single hands being lowered the second go-around. I’d venture to guess that there would be few single hands coming down at the end, especially if the room contained a number of new or younger shooters. Why? Good question.
What – No .22 Revolver Experience?
A lot of newer and/or younger shooters have cut their shooting teeth on semiauto pistols, most likely a striker-fired 9mm of some sort. I do read many gun forums and sites and really try to keep up with what’s going on in the shooting universe and it seems I can’t read very far into a forum without coming across a shooter who not only doesn’t own a revolver but has never shot one. Never mind the .22 single action part – they’ve never shot any wheelgun. My reaction (to myself, of course) is that they don’t know what they’re missing. Call it old-fogey-ism, call it growing up in a more revolver-friendly time, call it too-lazy-and-fat-to-bend-over-for-the-brass…I do like revolvers. I own a few, and have fond memories from when I started shooting in earnest about 40 years ago. One event stands out… I remember looking at a S&W Model 19 four-inch blued revolver in a store’s gun case. That gun was, in 1978, $150.
Its price might as well have had the decimal point moved to the right four places – the $150 was not within reach on a rural school band director’s salary. It was shiny blue, with the big target stocks. That was some revolver. I saw one not too long ago, at a friend’s house. It had seen use but was still in good shape. (I wanted to say drool-worthy, but that’s sophomoric). That reminds me of my very first firearm purchase as a card-carrying member of the over-21-adult set. It was an Iver Johnson double action revolver in .22 LR.
This was an inexpensive gun. You had to remove the cylinder pin and then use it to poke the empties out of their chambers. I also recall paying a local fellow $5 (or its equivalent in six-pack form) to polish the thumb rest off the plastic grip’s left side. Talk about a right-handed gun… It was accurate – I could knock off small targets at a decent distance.
I guess I just belong to a different time, gun-wise. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love a good semiauto. Those of you who have read many of my reviews of such guns know I like to shoot them and reload for them, using my home-cast bullets. I just don’t discriminate against the “archaic” wheel gun. My problem in acquiring more revolvers for my collection lies in the fact that many revolvers cost more than my retired status will allow to pay. A case in point – the new Colt Python. Here is a gun that is being produced again for the first time since October, 1999 (not counting Colt’s Custom Gun Shop production, which ceased in 2005). The new-production Python has been well-received, for the most part. (I do know that Colt had a slight problem with a few guns that has since been addressed, to the best of my knowledge). The new Colt retails for its full MSRP of $1500, at least around here. That’s more than twice as much as my first car cost. Even allowing for inflation, I still can’t afford one. Another example is the Kimber snub-nosed .357 Magnum. The K6S is a 6-shot revolver that carries an MSRP of $899. Now, I’m not complaining about the price – it’s just out of my reach. So, what’s a feller to do who likes wheel guns but is on a budget?
One Nice Budget Gun
Answer – the Heritage Manufacturing, Inc “Rough Rider” .22s. I have found a gun that is one great way to get into the world of revolvers without breaking the bank. The Heritage Manufacturing, Inc. company (now owned by Taurus) makes two different types of single action revolvers – an inexpensive .22 LR/Magnum line of decently-built guns, and a more-expensive big-bore line. I will be talking about the .22s here, but I would like to try one of their $515 MSRP .45 Colts. The guns I’ll be reviewing here cost $147 (model RR22B4) and $297 (model BR226B16HS-LS), respectively. I’m talking about a 4 ¾” revolver and a 16” (what they call a) rifle. Those are the full-blown MSRPs on these two guns. I’ve seen the handgun for around $120 or even cheaper, and the rifle for around $230 for sale online. Sometimes gun stores will run the inexpensive Heritage guns on sale as “loss leaders” to get you into the store. No bait & switch – they actually sell for those inexpensive prices. And – they are a bargain!
Advantages Of The Heritage Guns
I will go so far as to say that these guns might be a very good way to introduce someone to the world of handgun shooting. Why? First of all, they’re in .22. The .22 LR is the most popular round by far. It is inexpensive, doesn’t generate much noise or recoil and is generally available at most stores that sell any kind of ammo. Even stepping up to the .22 Magnum, we’re still talking about an easy-shooting round that has definite hunting (and some say, self-defense carry) capabilities. These factors make the price of admission to Shooterville (sorry, I like old TV) very affordable. Once someone has learned the handgun basics of safety, trigger control and sight picture with one of these nice little .22s, it won’t be long before they are ready to move to the next level. This would most likely be a semiauto in a serious caliber. I daresay many shooters start out this way. The .22 is a very capable gateway into a lifetime of shooting.
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A Bit Of Backstory
Heritage Manufacturing, Inc. wasn’t always owned by Taurus. This merger occurred in May of 2012. Before then, Heritage made their Rough Rider .22 revolvers and big-bore guns right here in America. They started making these in 1992, to the best of my knowledge. I couldn’t find a lot of information about the pre-Taurus-owned Heritage Manufacturing company – I do know they’ve always been made in the U.S. Here’s a quote from their website, under Company > History:
“At Heritage™ Manufacturing, we’re not just gun-makers. We’re storytellers. Since 1992, our goal has been simple: make guns that tell a story and stand the test of time. It’s this mindset that brings you the legendary Rough Rider rimfire revolver – an American-made, single-action classic that pays homage to the Old West.
The Rough Rider revolver isn’t your ordinary replica gun. It’s a looker, all right, but it sure as heck won’t be reduced to a dust-collector. It’s built tough and boasts workmanship, accuracy and quality that’ll turn heads. Whether you’re plinking, hunting or western action shooting, the Rough Rider revolver means business.
Quite frankly, we think the story of the Wild West is one worth telling. It’s full of grit, glory and a whole lot of get-up-and-go. We’re proud of our rich history, and that’s why we build guns that can be passed from one generation to the next. This is our way of keeping the spirit of the American frontier alive and kicking.
WE DIDN’T WRITE THE STORY. WE’RE JUST PASSING IT ON.”
Speaking of their website, you can tell that this is a company in transition. I create websites for others and tend to notice things other folks may miss. If you search for Heritage Manufacturing, you are taken to their home (index) page. This is a rather slick, new-looking page. Click on any of the links at the top except for “Store” and you are taken to a page with the same red-bar format as the home page. But, click on “Store” and you go to what looks to Heritage’s original web site Store link. Evidently, they haven’t updated this link yet (at least as of this writing). Nothing wrong with that – it just shows a company in transition.
Here is the image that greats you on their home site “Firearms > Revolvers” page – it is nicely done and compelling…
So, it seems that the company is trying to re-create the guns used in the old west, and thereby pay homage to the guns used during that colorful part of our country’s history.
Before we look at the two samples I have up close, let’s see how many different guns the company makes. All prices shown here are MSRP. (I have not differentiated grip styles – Heritage makes several models with an abbreviated bird’s-head grip. These are very popular sellers).
Big-Bore Revolvers:4 (two each in .357 Magnum or .45 Colt with either a 4.75″ or 5.5” barrel)
Small-Bore Revolvers are broken down into the following:
Small-Bore 3 Inch: 3 different models costing $197 each.
Small-Bore 4 Inch: 12 different models, with prices ranging from $131- to $285. Barrel length is actually 4.75”.
Small-Bore 6 Inch: 14 different models ranging from $147 to $226. Two models have an adjustable rear sight. Also, capacities range from 6 – 9 rounds. Barrel length is actually 6.5”.
Small-Bore 16 Inch: 3 models ranging from $180-$233. One model has an adjustable rear sight.
Two-Tone: 3 models with nickel-plated cylinder, hammer and trigger. Prices range from $249-$253.
Special Editions: 18 models ranging from $147 – $227. Both 4.75” and 6.5” are included (with one 16” thrown in), mostly with custom-style grips.
Rifle: One, the 16-inch model we have here to review. Price is $297.
According to my calculator, that’s 58 different models of guns. That’s a lot for any manufacturer to turn out.
Parts: Oh – your Heritage didn’t come with a .22 Magnum cylinder? No worries – get one here for $29.99. Need springs, grip frames, triggers, etc? All available here. You like the bird’s-head grip frame but your gun didn’t have one? Get one here, $29.99. You get the point – you can customize your gun to your heart’s desire.
Here’s a quick look at the specs for each gun. I am featuring the 4.75-inch gun that was sent to me, but other models feature 9-shot cylinders and adjustable rear sights and different grip materials and patterns. I am showing the “base model” specs here…
|RR22B4 Revolver:||BR226B16HS-LS Rifle:|
|Capacity:||6 (9-shot available, extra cost)||6|
|Weight:||30.1 oz.||65.9 oz.|
|Rear Sight:||Notch in frame (adjustable rear available, extra cost)|
OK, let’s look at the two guns now. I took a few photos to show how these things are put together. We’ll look at the handgun first (notice I didn’t say revolver…)
A very decent-looking gun for $147. Note the cocobolo grip panels, a rather exotic wood. You can buy these from the Heritage store for $29.99.
Notice the Bainbridge address – that’s where the new Taurus plant and HQ are located.
It warns us to keep an empty chamber under the hammer, but the hammer block action really precludes this need. Also, note front sight height – sufficiently tall for most loads.
Also notice the red dot on the left. That’s the indicator that the gun is off safe, ready to fire. The safety lever is right below the dot – raise it to put the gun on safe (and to allow dry-firing, a no-no with most .22 handguns. The hammer strikes the hammer block, not the firing pin).
I owned another Rough Rider revolver, in particular the 6.5-inch version. It was accurate, especially moreso for me after I performed a little sight surgery – I opened the rear notch up a bit, squared it in the frame and then filed a touch off the front sight so as to get the guns’ favorite .22 load centered on the target. It was nice, but I think if I get another one I’ll get the 4.75-inch version. I could see getting another 6.5-incher, but if I bought the longer tube model, it would make sense to get one of the two models with an adjustable sight. My ideal gun would wear the short barrel but have the adjustable sight. That’s one thing that shouldn’t be too hard for a company that bases most of its production off one rimfire frame – they ought to be able to screw a short barrel onto the adjustable-sight frame. Maybe one day I’ll pursue this.
Something else to consider is the fact that the more expensive (by $30-$40) guns come with an extra .22 Magnum cylinder. If you were wanting even more punch from your .22, this is the way to do it. Heck, you can even order .22 LR and .22 WMR cylinders from Heritage’s Store for $29.99… that’s downright affordable versatility! But, whatever you do, don’t shoot your LR rounds in the Magnum cylinder – the two cartridges are not too far apart in size, but they are enough different that you could possibly rupture a case by firing a LR in a Magnum cylinder. That could ruin your day, because even the “lowly” .22 still develops enough pressure to let you know something happened that shouldn’t have. For $30, get the extra cylinder.
Fit and Finish
One thing you may notice from the photos is the fit and finish. First, fit…the gun goes together pretty well. One thing I did notice, however, is the fit of the grip panel to the grip frame. The wood sticks out past flush by a decent amount. I will re-post one of the photos I used above to illustrate my point…
Notice how the wood seems to stick up a bit above the grip – I believe the official term is “proud.” This word is used when two surfaces aren’t totally flush with each other. The wood is just a bit above the metal, both at the top and on the vertical surfaces. Again, no big deal on a $150 gun, but it at least needs to be mentioned. The finish is not bad – the guns are blued (two-tone versions are available), or at least darkly finished. I have no concern with the coloration of the finish but I do notice on a lot of these guns that the metal hasn’t been polished as good as it could have been, with a sort of “blurry” undersurface. Notice in the photo above, directly above the cylinder pin release button, how the part of the frame that the barrel is screwed into isn’t the same color as the metal around it. It just didn’t receive the same level of polish as other areas.
Again, I don’t want you to think I’m nit-picking a very inexpensive gun. I do not think a $147 revolver will have the level of polished bluing as will a gun that costs four times as much. Again, this is a review and I am merely pointing out some of my impressions. Does the metal/grip fit and overall finish affect accuracy? Nope. Actually, when you see the guns in a shop’s gun case they do look nice and stand out, especially those with the fancy cocobolo grip panels. Speaking of grip panels, a session with some sandpaper on a flat surface will address the overly-large grip fit.
Heritage is selling a new product, their 16-inch “Rancher” model. This is basically the same rimfire frame but with a longer barrel and synthetic (read: plastic) wood-grain stock attached. Let’s look at it in some detail…
Heritage is really playing up the “Rough Rider” Rancher angle. This is a gun that would make a neat little camp gun (my son wants one for that purpose), general close-range varmint control, or just as a target/plinker gun. It works for all those uses.
Here are a couple of close-ups of the action…or, since it’s a rifle, receiver?
I had one similar to this one on a Rossi lever gun in .45 Colt.
We had to move it all the way up to get our shots near the bullseye.
You can push this sight in its dovetail for windage adjustments.
I was thinking that they sure didn’t skimp on the walnut, very nice grain … until I picked it up. It definitely needs some sort of weight back there to counterbalance the 16-inch tube up front. But… it really does look nice, and it’s very functional. The molded-in checkering helps, as well.
I’d bet that the sling and swivels account for about 25-30% of the cost of the gun – it is very nicely done.
Old-timey, for sure! Reminds me of the old TV show “Rawhide”… guess it’s supposed to.
He wants one. Notice-his support hand is nowhere near the front of the cylinder. It hurts when you put your hand there while shooting, believe me. That’s why they put the finger hook behind the trigger guard, for your support hand. Keep your support hand away from the front of the cylinder.
These photos lead me into the shooting section…
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Shooting The Rifle
We shot four different types of .22 ammo (five with the rifle, for velocity but no target). Here are the loads we put through both the short and the long revolver (it sounds funny to say that, but that’s what it is). I’ll list the stated factory velocity for each, then the results from our chronograph session. All numbers are feet-per-second.
|Load:||Bullet:||Advertised Velocity:||4.75-inch Barrel:||16-inch Barrel:|
|CCI Mini-Mag||40-grain RN||1235||931||1074*|
|Federal Champion||40-grain RN||1240||1053||998|
|Remington Thunderbolt||40-grain RN||1235||1049*||940|
|CCI Stinger (rifle)||32-grain HP||1640||--||1160|
As you can see, we have a couple of conundrums with the velocities…three of the loads were slower out of the rifle than out of the 4.75-inch-barreled revolver. I have no explanation for this other than those loads are possibly optimized for shorter barrels, but this is grabbing at straws. I don’t think my chronograph acted up, but I did test over differing conditions – it was sunny, but towards sunset for the revolver and the sky was cloudy for the rifle. I would imagine that if I tested these again, the results might vary at least a little. It is nice to know that the short-barreled gun had some decent velocities…that makes for a decent small-game load. At any rate, this isn’t an ammo comparison – we’re looking at the guns. Here are the targets…
4.75-inch Revolver… CCI, Remington, Federal, Winchester:
The revolver did fairly well. The only issue I had with it was that it shot a bit to the right. This is a common thing with single action revolvers and is usually fairly easily fixed. Now for the rifle…targets in the same order as above (CCI, Remington, Federal, Winchester):
…and, just for fun, a target shot with the Mini Mags after moving the rear sight up. It can still go more to the right, but that can happen later.
So, you see that these guns can be pretty accurate. Would I want to enter a high-stakes bullseye competition with one? No, but that’s not what they’re for. For plinking, moving tin cans across the ground, popping balloons, close-up varmint control and even small-game hunting with the right load, these guns shine. You can have a whole lot of fun in an afternoon range session, especially shooting at informal targets. With .22 ammo prices becoming more reasonable, you can do a heap of shooting for a small amount of change. Also, you can afford to buy a box of several different types of .22 ammo in order to find which one your guns likes best – this is a required expenditure for any .22 gun. They will usually like one brand or type over all others. It really pays to find out which one they like best.
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So, you want to get into revolvers? You like the “old-timey” single action cowboy guns? You don’t have a ton of money to invest, in either the gun or ammo? Well, here you go. As I stated above, I’ve seen some of the lesser-expensive models of these guns on sale for around $120. Even if you want an adjustable rear sight, you should be able to find one for around $200.
Are these guns popular? Well… my gun-shop owner friend Duane has been trying to get the new 16-inch rifle in for a good while and can’t – they’re selling them as fast as they can make them. There’s a word for that, and that word is “value.” These guns represent a heck of a value for the .22-shooting crowd. Just don’t expect the equivalent of a Colt “Royal Blue” finish and hand-fitted grip panels, tuned actions, etc. For what they are (and what they cost), they work. You’re even in luck if you want a 9-shooter…for about twenty bucks more than the corresponding 6-shot model, you can get three extra shots per cylinder load. That’s hard to beat. And, to complete your rig, buy a belt, holster and extra grip panels from the Heritage store. That’s one-stop shopping for sure!
Would I buy one? Sure, why not? It isn’t a Ruger Single Six, but it isn’t meant to be. For what it is, it’s a great buy. Check one out online or at your favorite emporium – I think you might like what you see. Please leave a comment below if you’ve had experience with one of these Rough Riders. As always, get out there and shoot, and stay safe!