By Jerry Moody
My love for revolvers is a newfound one. Revolvers, AKA “wheel guns,” scream “class” with their retro / modern coolness. There is something about the sound a wheel gun makes when you cock the hammer. The cylinder rotates a cartridge into place with clock-like precision, and then the hammer falls a split second before feeling a little explosion in the palm of your hand. It’s a beauty hard to describe. It’s raw, it’s powerful and I love it.
In this week’s article, we feature the Rough Rider single action .22LR revolver by Heritage Manufacturing. This company is an All-American business that has been in production since 1992 with one main goal, to “make guns that tell a story and stand the test of time.” The guns Heritage makes are replicas of old west single action revolvers. They produce them in calibers from .22LR up to 45 Colt and 44–40. I personally haven’t fired one of the big boys yet, but I certainly hope to soon. Their parent company, Taurus, who makes the famed “judge” revolver, acquired Heritage Manufacturing in 2012.
A Quick Word On Revolver Action
For those of you that aren’t sure what the “action” of a firearm means, let me shed a little light on it for you. The action of a revolver is determined by the number of steps that trigger must make it to fire the bullet. In a single action only, or SAO, the hammer must be manually cocked. Pulling the trigger causes the hammer to release and strike the cartridge’s primer, thus firing. The trigger will do nothing if the hammer is not in the cocked position. In a double action, or DA, pulling the trigger cocks the hammer and then releases it. Some double action guns can be fired in single action mode to lighten the trigger pull.
Keep in mind no single action pistol can be fired in double action mode. In contrast to the single action only, there is a double action only, or DAO, and you guessed it…it can only be fired in double action. Most DAO revolvers are recognizable due to not having an exposed hammer extending out from the frame. With this quick lesson on revolver actions out of the way, its time to head back to the main feature…
First Impressions – Heritage Rough Rider
The Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver ships from the factory in a nice light brown cardboard box which I still use to store the pistol. The box has the Heritage Manufacturing Incorporated logo on it as well as “Made In USA” boldly stamped right below it. The fact that it’s made in the USA makes me just a little bit prouder to own this gun. My particular version is the RR22B6 with a blued finish and Cocobolo grips. The barrel measures six and a half inches from breech to muzzle. Inside the box along with the pistol was a trigger lock, a hang tag to put on the gun in the display case and an orange pistol chamber flag. There was also a coupon in the box for a discount on an optional 22 Magnum cylinder that could be used to fire .22 Magnum cartridges through the pistol. I opted not to use it but I still thought it was a nice touch.
My gun has a fair amount of wear from being used extensively over the last couple years which is to be expected. When it was new, I’m pretty sure the fit and finish were flawless as I have seen on recent versions in local gun shops. I would surely remember if there was a blemish when I purchased it. I say this because I expect things to be flawless when I purchase them so that I’m the first one to add character to things.
The pistol’s Cocobolo wood grips are very smooth and comfortable. The overall look is outstanding against the pistol’s deep blued finish. The hammer is unfinished stainless steel and features a knurled top so your thumb can cock it without slipping. The loading gate, which flips outward in order to load the cylinder, is made of a hard plastic. It seems to be an ABS type plastic material which has proven to be very sturdy over the past couple of years.
The sights are fixed. The front sight is a blade-type that sticks up about a quarter of an inch from the barrel while the rear sight is made from a u-notch cut in the top of the frame. The sights are simple but as you will find out later, very effective. There is also a safety that Heritage calls a hammer block and that’s exactly what it does. It blocks the hammer from striking the round under it. A single action typically does not need a safety if the hammer is already fully forward but Heritage apparently takes no chances. To me, the fact that it does have a safety is a bonus for teaching new shooters. As a NRA certified instructor, teaching others was one of the main reasons why I bought this gun.
On the Range
I have been putting my Rough Rider through its paces for two years now. My friend Jeff Nolan, who is an NRA Training Counselor, suggested I get one for training purposes and now I am glad I took his advice. I use this Rough Rider .22 pistol regularly for shooting drills to hone my own accuracy as well as training with other students. Lately, I have been carrying it around my property with me in case I run across a critter that is up to no good. I live off the beaten path and come across slither-y and bite-y type things fairly often. My small caliber insurance policy makes me feel little bit more comfortable in doing so.
Most people would agree that single action pistols are generally the most accurate type of pistol on the market. The Heritage Rough Rider fits this mold perfectly. It is without question a tack driver. To borrow a slightly paraphrased quote from the editor of Swanson Media Group, Trampas, it can shoot the private parts off of a fly at twenty-five yards. My Rough Rider’s timing has always been perfect (This would be the cylinder rotation to place the next bullet under the hammer when the hammer cocks). This isn’t always the case with budget-friendly revolvers. When I pull the hammer back to cock it, the cylinder crisply rotates to put a fresh round under the hammer. I pull the trigger, the hammer falls without fail, the ammunition fires and repeat ad nauseam. Simple and boringly reliable, just the way it should be.
The sights are very basic but exceptionally effective. I do remember having to take a little time to get use to them when I first purchased the gun because I was so used to the tritium 3 dot sights on my semi-automatic pistols. Once the proper point of aim / point of impact is achieved, it is game over for whatever you shoot at. One thing I should mention is that different brands and types of ammunition will impact in different spots due to grain weights and other small factors. It is up to the individual shooter to determine which ammunition makes their guns point of aim / point of impact true in relation to how they shoot. It will be different for every shooter and every gun.
The small caliber combined with the all steel frame and 6 ½ inch barrel translates to almost no felt recoil. It is comfortable to shoot one-handed or two-handed and just as accurate either way. New shooters are surprised by its lack of recoil which translates to them wanting more trigger time which equals more opportunity to work on fundamental skills. Twenty two long rifle ammunition for the Rough Rider is also very affordable in relation to larger calibers. This all adds up to a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.
The Heritage Manufacturing Rough Rider .22LR single action revolver is in a crowded field of competitors. Huge companies such as Browning, Ruger and Smith & Wesson seem to dominate the .22 pistol market in production and marketing to new shooters. Fortunately, the Rough Rider comes in a bit less pricey than most of the larger brand names. While it may be inexpensive, but pistol is certainly not cheap! It is well-made here in the United States to be accurate and easy to shoot.
Personally, due to gun being a single action revolver, it gives off that old west “rough and tumble” kind of vibe when shooting. Who doesn’t love that? If you have a large caliber single action revolver and want to get another in .22 LR so you can train cheaper, you cannot go wrong with the Rough Rider from Heritage Manufacturing. As always, just remember, if I don’t like it, I won’t review it. Well what are you waiting for… head on over to 1800gunsandammo.com and get some!