The day I turned twenty-one was the day I stopped fiddling around with blackpowder handguns and was able to legally purchase cartridge handguns on my own. I waltzed into my local gun shop and numerous single action 22 caliber revolvers were on the shelf in a variety of grip styles and barrel lengths. I fell to temptation and my first ever gun review began. The gun is the Heritage Rough Rider, a single action handgun made by Heritage Arms in Miami, FL.
The Heritage Rough Rider is a single action revolver that is most commonly found in 22 LR and 22 Magnum calibers but are also made in 32 H&R Magnum, 357 Magnum , and 45 Colt. All feature the same stylish lines of Colt’s Single Action Army revolver. Like the Colt, it is single action (meaning the hammer must be cocked for ever shot), a loading gate on the right side of the gun, and a spring loaded ejector rod housed on the side of the barrel.
The Heritage comes in many flavors with many grip varieties, some models with target sights, some with a 9 shot capacity cylinder, some with a different grip frame, and are available in carbon steel or a zinc alloy frame. For those unaware of zinc alloy, it is a less expensive alloy of metal used in some budget 22 caliber handguns and given the low pressures of those rounds it is not an issue. The zinc alloyed guns are marked by a lower price point than those of carbon steel. A nice package I have seen in gun stores are Heritage Revolvers with 2 interchangeable cylinders. One for 22 LR and another for 22 Magnum . My particular revolver came with this extra cylinder and featured a bird’s head grip and a short 3 3/4 inch barrel. Heritage retails their rimfire revolvers for $150-220 depending on the frame material and the addition of the extra cylinder.
Changing the Cylinder
I like the combination 22 LR/ 22 Magnum interchangeable cylinders. It allows you to shoot inexpensive (back in 2012) 22 LR ammo and its shorter ancestors, the 22 Long and 22 Short. But if you need some extra power, you can switch out the cylinders and load up 22 Magnum shells. Both cylinders have a six shot capacity.
1) Pull the hammer back two clicks to the half cock position so the cylinder can turn freely.
2) Depress the spring loaded retaining pin below the cylinder pin under the barrel but forward of the cylinder.
3) While you depress that, pull out the cylinder pin.
4) Open the loading gate and push the cylinder out.
All you have to do now is replace the new cylinder and push the cylinder pin back into position.
Shooting the Heritage Rough Rider
Loading the gun is straight forward.
1) Open the loading gate on the right hand side.
2) Half-cock the hammer so the cylinder can turn freely.
3) Place your cartridges in one at a time as you index the cylinder with your hand.
4) Close the loading gate and cock the hammer. Then lower it.
Ordinarily it is not recommended to carry a single action revolver with the hammer resting on a live round for fear of dropping the gun could set off the pistol. Heritage has an odd safety catch on the left side of the recoil shield that raises a bar between the firing pin and the hammer when engaged. This might come in handy if you want to carry the gun fully loaded but is something to get used to since almost all revolvers lack an external safety.
On camera, I fired 22 Short CCI CB rounds and 22 LR Winchester 36 grain hollow-points at a target ten yards away. The fixed sights may not be precise but they are fool proof and allow a 4-6 inch group with this ammo from that distance. The 22 Short rounds were extremely quiet and that’s why it is my preferred pest control round. The 22 LR out of the Heritage barked with fury and it shocked me as I am used to shooting 22 LR rounds out of a rifle but the round does not burn all its powder in a short pistol barrel. That means more blast. But it is not bad.
The story is about the same with the 22 Magnum rounds. The rounds I used were Hornady 30 grain VMax rounds more at home in a varmint rifle than a single action handgun. I managed about an eight inch group at ten yards. With better concentration I found I could cut the group sizes in half but I attribute the hum ho accuracy to my own physical problems than to the gun. Having to remember a safety on the revolver is, however, quite annoying but it might be better to be safe than be sorry.
Another point of annoyance to me is reloading. Most familiar with single action revolvers know that unloading the gun involves half cocking the gun, opening the loading gate, and indexing each chamber over the ejector rod and pushing the rod back to eject each case one by one. Hitting 22 caliber chambers with the ejector is more complicated than doing so on a big bore gun but that’s not my gripe. My grip is the short ejector rod. The rod extends the full length of the barrel yet just starts the cases out of the chambers instead of actually throwing them out of the gun. 22 LR and Magnum rounds have to be pushed out with the rod and normally takes a finger nail to pluck the cases out. 22 Shorts ejected very cleanly however. But we must remember that shorter barreled revolvers have shorter eject rods. True with single action guns and modern snub-nosed revolvers. So if you want brisk ejection, a 5 1/2 inch barreled Heritage or longer might be up your alley.
On a positive note, cocking the hammer is effortless one handed and two handed and you can really let fly if you needed to. Being its a clone of a Colt SAA, it fits like a glove and points naturally. Recoil is light with all loadings with only more noise to indicate you actually fired a round. Great for a new shooter.
Also, out of one thousand rounds in this gun’s testing, I had no failures to fire even with old ammunition. Being a revolver, it can use a variety of ammunition and it is easy to skip over a dud round by simply cocking the hammer. Not so simple with an autoloader.
While not perfect. Be it the funny manual safety or the ejector rod on my short barreled model, the Heritage Rough Rider 22 remains a great deal to be had on the market today. It is perfect for teaching a new shooter handgun fundamentals in my opinion. Its a solid handgun appropriate for woods work and range work as well. But also, in a time where money is short and the world is not getting any less dangerous, I am confident the Heritage loaded with some 22 Magnum shells can settle a dispute. Definitely not ideal but for $150 it is a firearm. The ultimate handgun it is not, but it is versatile at a good price point.