For many of us, the .22 revolver is an inexpensive handgun to coax young shooters into safe handling and marksmanship. While I like a high grade .22 revolver as much as anyone, a handgun that costs less than $200, but delivers good service, is appealing. The Heritage Rough Rider is among these.
The Rough Rider has the cowboy gun style we all like. Roughly similar in size to the now out of production Colt Scout, the Rough Rider operates in the same manner. The hammer is pulled to half-cock, and the loading gate is opened. The cartridges are loaded into the cylinders one at a time. The gate is closed, and you are ready to fire.
After firing, the hammer is placed on half-cock and the gate opened again. The ejector rod—located in the ejector housing under the barrel—is then pressed to the rear to eject the spent cases one at a time as the cylinder is rotated. This system isn’t fast, but it is sure. Just as we begin a young shooter with a single-shot bolt-action rifle, the single action revolver is a great place to begin the shooting life.
The modern Rough Rider has an advantage over early single action revolvers. The transfer bar system is far safer than that used with the first single action revolvers. In the earliest revolvers, the hammer would simply rest on the primer of the cartridge when lowered. The hammer isn’t touching the firing pin when the hammer is at rest with the Rough Rider. Cock the hammer and then press the trigger. When this action is taken, a transfer bar rises and takes the hit from the hammer. This momentum is then transferred to the frame-mounted firing pin. Once the trigger is released, the transfer bar is no longer in contact with the firing pin.
There is also a rather unique hammer block safety. There is a steel block between the hammer and firing pin when this safety is in place. All in all, it is a modern set up. The trigger action is smooth and the hammer indents solidly when cocked. The trigger release is about six pounds and free of grit. It is ideal for beginners and controllable by a trained shooter.
While it isn’t really needed, the Rough Rider follows the traditional line of rebating the rear of the cylinder in order to provide an extra measure of safety in the case of a ruptured cartridge. Modern .22 caliber ammunition just doesn’t fail, but I like the rebated portion. When firing the revolver, I found the frame and grips fit most hands well. This revolver is about three-quarter the size of most single-action centerfire revolvers, so the fit is right for just about anyone. Yet, the grip gives a hand filling portion that allows good stability when firing. The 6.5-inch barrel of my personal fixed sight version gives excellent balance.
I like the look of the cowboy gun, and with fixed sights the lessons of marksmanship may be applied. However, if you wish to own a crackerjack hunting revolver, the full adjustable sights in the upgraded version are the superior option. Practical accuracy is better. The revolvers with fully adjustable sights are also fitted with a large post or fiber optic front sight. These are serious small game revolvers—particularly when the revolver is fitted with the .22 Magnum cylinder. Frankly, as inexpensive as these handguns are, it isn’t a stretch to own more than one. The long-barrel gun for hunting, perhaps, and a short-barrel handgun for recreation.
I have fired these revolvers extensively over the years and cannot recall any example giving trouble. They are simple to maintain. Simply ensure the revolver is unloaded, place the hammer on half cock, press the center pin latch, and press it forward. The cylinder may then be removed for cleaning. Clean the breechface, clean the chambers, and occasionally run a patch through the barrel and you are good to go.
As for accuracy, the fixed-sight handguns have as much intrinsic accuracy as the target sighted handguns. It is just that practical accuracy is more difficult to come by. Firing the Winchester M22, Winchester Dyna Point, and Winchester Super X, the 6.5-inch barrel revolver with fixed sights averaged 2.5- to 3-inch groups for five shots each at a long 25 yards. At a more practical 15 yards, two inches is the norm—often a bit less with the Dyna Point. There just isn’t anything to fault that type of performance.
The Heritage Rough Rider .22 is a rough and rider revolver with much to recommend. It is reliable, accurate enough, and affordable. And, while I would never recommend the .22 or even the .22 Magnum for defense use (if the owner could handle another caliber), the Heritage revolver is reliable and accurate. There is something friendly about this handgun, and it is affordable enough that anyone should be able to own a good example.
Do you own a Heritage Rough Rider? What’s your take on modern versions of cowboy guns? Share your answers int he comment section.
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