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, and 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.
When pulling the hammer to half cock, the loading gate opens. The cartridges load into the cylinders one at a time. When the gate closes, you are ready to fire. After firing, the hammer is on half cock and the gate opens again. Located in the ejector housing under the barrel, the ejector rod then presses to the rear to eject the spent cases one at a time as the cylinder rotates.
This system isn’t fast; it is sure.
Features of the Heritage Rough Rider
Just as we start 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, then press the trigger. When you do this, a transfer bar rises, taking the hit from the hammer and transferring this momentum to the frame-mounted firing pin. Once the trigger releases, 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, 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. Moreover, while it isn’t really needed, the Rough Rider follows the traditional line of rebating the rear of the cylinder to provide an extra measure of safety in the case of a ruptured cartridge.
Modern .22 caliber ammunition just doesn’t fail; although 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 providing 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, you may apply the lessons of marksmanship. 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. Consider the long barrel gun for hunting perhaps, and a short-barrel handgun for recreation.
Maintaining the Rough Rider
I have fired these revolvers extensively over the years and cannot recall any of them giving me trouble. They are simple to maintain.
- Make certain the revolver is unloaded.
- Place the hammer on half cock.
- Press the center pin latch forward.
- Remove the cylinder for cleaning.
- Clean the breech face.
- Clean the chambers.
- Occasionally, run a patch through the barrel.
You’re good to go.
As for accuracy, the fixed-sight handguns have as much intrinsic accuracy as target-sighted handguns. It is just that practical accuracy is more difficult to come by.
Firing the Rough Rider
Firing the Winchester M 22, 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 ready revolver with much to recommend. It is reliable, accurate enough and affordable. While I would never recommend the .22 or even the .22 Magnum for defense use—if you 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 Rough Rider? Share your thoughts about adding it to your arsenal in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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