Heritage Manufacturing Co. embraces the fun factor of rimfire shooting. This revolver maker offers an expansive variety of budget friendly, single-action Rough Rider revolvers chambered for .22 LR and .22 Mag (.22 WMR). These handguns are essentially scaled down versions of the Colt Single Action Army and they are fun to shoot (you can learn more about the revolver's background and operations here).
With suggested retail prices starting at $169.99, it's not hard to find Rough Riders on sale for around $120, which makes them some of the most affordable handguns available. There are some trade-offs with these lower prices, including an alloy frame finish that does not quite match the blued steel components and grips which fit properly but not always perfectly. And I've seen some of these guns arrive with minor dings and scratches to the finish.
However, any nit picking over these details fades away once a Rough Rider is in hand and pointed down range. These revolvers balance nicely and point naturally. The controls and action are surprisingly smooth and clean, especially for budget-priced guns. Picking one of the Rough Riders shown here at random, I measured the trigger pull with a digital gauge. It weighed in at just 1 lb. 15 oz. with a nice, clean break.
In addition to over 80 Rough Rider models to choose from (not including the limited editions), the company offers a diverse selection of grips and cylinders at prices which are in line with the price tags of the guns. These drop-in parts and accessories make it easy to individualize a Rough Rider even more. The company offers a variety of useful holsters as well. Here's a closer look at a few of the Rough Rider accessory options Heritage has to offer:
Pick Your Base Gun
The three features of a Heritage revolver that can't be easily modified include the sights, the barrel length and the finish. Technically speaking, you could take one of these guns to a gunsmith and make changes, but in most cases the cost of the custom work will exceed the price of purchasing a Rough Rider with the features you prefer.
The short-barrel Barkeep Series, including the Boot Gun, omit the barrel mounted ejector assembly.
Most Rough Riders have old-fashioned fixed sights consisting of a narrow blade sight up front along with a groove and notch cut into the top of the receiver at the rear. Some models are available with target sights consisting of a bright red/orange fiber optic front sight and a fully adjustable square notch rear sight.
In regard to barrel configurations, the company currently breaks the series into two groups, the Barkeeps and the Rough Riders. The Barkeeps, including the Boot Guns, are snub-nose models with 1.63", 2.63" and 3.5" barrels that do not have a barrel-mounted ejector assembly. The company ships Barkeeps with a wood-handled, handheld ejector rod instead. The Rough Riders do have an ejector assembly and ship with the customer's choice of 3.5", 4.75", 6.5", 9", 12" and even 16.25" barrels.
The Rough Rider barrels range from 3.5" to 16.25" in length.
Two “standard” frame finishes are available. The most common is the matte black which is intended to match the blued steel barrels and cylinders. A few models have frames that ship with a faux casehardened treatment which has more of a darkened brass appearance.
Cerakote finishes are durable and unify the revolver's barrel, frame and grip color.
Heritage recently added Cerakote finishes to the catalog including the Burnt Bronze and Rose Gold options shown here. Additional colors include Tungsten (dark gray), Gold and Sabre Sand. Cerakote is a durable industry standard finishing process which can be applied to different types of metal, including steel, zinc alloys and aluminum. This allows the Rough Riders to have a consistent finish throughout. For these models, the cylinders are a matte black instead of blued to better match the frames. Because the company is managing the Cerakote coatings in-house, the revolvers with this finish only cost about $10 more than the standard models.
A steel-frame revolver (top) shown with the Tactical Cowboy threaded barrel revolver (bottom).
Here are a few of the less common factory installed features to look for. Some guns ship with two cylinders chambered for .22 LR and .22 Mag. A few models have the word 'Steel' in their descriptions indicating a steel frame in place of an alloy frame. This adds a few ounces to the weight of the revolver to change the balance. Which frame is better is mostly a matter of personal preference. A limited number of models have gold-tone PVD appointments including the cylinder pin, hammer and trigger. Finally, there's one unique model called the Tactical Cowboy which is outfitted with a threaded 6.5" barrel, a fiber-optic front sight and a scope rail which supports micro red dot optics. You can see the Tactical Cowboy and Boot Gun in action here.
Get a Grip
Rough Riders ship with two types of grip frames. What the company calls a Standard grip is the classic flat bottom, “plough share” or gunfighter grip. This is by far the most common grip style used with single-action revolvers of all types. But back in the day, folks who wanted their wheel guns to be more easily concealed under a coat used Birdshead grips. These more curvaceous frames have been rounded off along the backstrap to reduce printing and those who favor them enjoy their unique appearance and handling.
Choose from the classic “plowshare” (left) or birdshead (right) grip shapes.
A Rough Rider feature that can be changed with relative ease is the alloy grip frame. They are secured to the cylinder frame via five removable screws. This allows a Standard frame to be traded out for a Birdshead, or vice versa. Listed as “backstrap assemblies,” they can be purchased at the Heritage Online Store for $24.99 or $29.99, depending on the model. A walkthrough of a grip frame swap is available here.
Replacement grip frames ship with a hammer spring installed.
The removable grip panels are by far the largest piece of easy-to-personalize revolver real estate. The Standard or Birdshead grip sets cost between $24.99 to $29.99, depending on the material and design. Replacement grip screws are sold separately for $5.99.
From left: Altamont Black Dymondwood, Cocobolo Wood, Wood Burnt Scroll, Green Camo Laminate and Desert Camo Laminate standard grips.
The Standard grips are available in natural hardwood and hardwood laminates, most of which are made for Heritage by Altamont Handgun Grips . Several of the color and texture options are intended to preserve an Old West look.
From left: star-textured black polymer, Gray Pearl, textured purple/black G10, smooth black/white G10.
Heritage also offers synthetic grips for those who prefer them. Recently the company added a Heritage logo light weight, black polymer grip with five-point star texturing which provides plenty of purchase without being abrasive to the shooting hand. G10 laminate and mixed material (wood and resin) grips are available from Premium Manufacturing. Other grip material options include simulated mother of pearl, faux ivory and printed polymer.
From left, Altamont laminated Hawkeye, Green, Turquoise, Royal Blue and Purple standard grips.
For those who want something completely different, the laminated Altamont grips are also available in bright colors.
Top row, Cocobolo and white simulated mother of pearl. Bottom row from left: Black Dymondwood, Black Strata, Checkered Rosewood, Pink Laminate and Pink Pearl
Although the selection of Birdshead grips is not as diverse as the Standard, there are still plenty of laminated wood and synthetic pearl options to choose from.
Rotating Your Cylinders
While most revolvers require components to be hand-fitted by a qualified gunsmith, Rough Riders are unusual in that they use drop-in components. This means that additional cylinders can be purchased on line, shipped directly to you and installed at home without any machining or alterations to the revolver required. Additional cylinders cost between $29.99 and $38.99 depending on the finish and embellishments.
Some Rough Rider models are available with both the .22 LR and .22 Mag. cylinders.
Any 6-shot Rough Rider .22 LR can be converted to fire the more potent .22 Mag. (.22 WMR) cartridge with a $29.99 cylinder making it one of the least expensive caliber-conversion options on the market. The .22 LR and .22 Mag cylinders have clearly stamped caliber markings. But Heritage makes it easy to tell them apart, regardless of the cylinder finish, because the .22 LR cylinders are always fluted while the .22 Mag. are unfluted.
From left, Rose, Scrolls #1, Scrolls #2 and Longhorn Skull engraving.
A great way to add a more traditional touch of class to a Rough Rider is to trade out the plain factory-installed cylinder for one that has been engraved. Available in .22 LR and .22 Mag, the company has more than two dozen patterns to choose from including gambling motifs, floral scroll work, western wildlife and roses, to name just a few.
Polished PVD cylinders are available six different colors.
For those who favor more flash, cylinders are available in bright PVD finishes including metallic colors, like Gold, Copper and Silver, along with bright Blue, Purple and Prism finishes. In some cases, the colorful cylinders line up nicely with some of the grip options, like those shown here.
Some PVD cylinders can be color matched to available grip sets.
Mixing It Up
Now we’re getting to the fun part! Heritage sent out a set of revolvers, grips and cylinders for my family and I to experiment with. The only tool required was a standard screwdriver with a tip sized to fit the heads of the grip screws. The cylinders were traded out by simply removing the cylinder pins as one would when cleaning the gun. All revolvers were verified to be completely unloaded and no ammunition was in the work area while components were swapped around. Here are some of the results.
At the top is a 6.5" faux case-hardened frame with a scroll work engraved cylinder and a cheerful green laminated wood grip. In the center is a 6.5" Burnt Bronze Cerakote model fitted with an unadorned .22 Mag. conversion cylinder and a Wood Burnt Scroll grip set. At the bottom is a 4.75” Rose Gold Cerakote finished revolver. This finish color was a tough one to match with most wood and synthetic grip colors. We stuck with the two-tone black and rose theme by installing a rose engraved .22 LR cylinder and smooth black Dymondwood grips to take the place of the factory installed polymer star texture grips.
The 4.75" Rough Rider at the top of this group is fitted with black and white stripped G10 grips and a Longhorn Skull engraved .22 Mag. conversion cylinder. The 3.5" barrel Barkeep in the center arrived from the factory with a gold PVD hammer, cylinder pin and trigger installed. Once again we stayed with a two-tone theme by adding the Gold PVD cylinder and black polymer star texture grip. The 3.5" barrel Birdshead Rough Rider at the bottom sports a pink laminated wood grip and the rose engraved cylinder, which was a favorite among the engraved cylinder options.
Shown here are three black frame revolvers outfitted with matching bright color PVD cylinders and grip sets. The blue and turquoise grips (top and bottom) are Altamont laminated hardwood. The purple set in the center are Premium Manufacturing G10 grips with circle and groove texturing.
Grab a Holster
Once you have your revolver sorted out, it’s time to pick a holster. Rough Riders are quite popular but there are not as many aftermarket holsters available for them as one might expect. This is why Heritage offers a solid selection of holster options in their online catalog. With prices range from $24.99 to $99.99, these holsters are sourced from trusted manufacturers and made to the same exacting standards as those made for centerfire handguns.
If you prefer cowboy rigs, Heritage branded leather rigs are available in classic brown and black finishes. They are made of top grain leather, neatly stitched and exhibit the levels of finish and quality one would expect for centerfire wheelguns. The Slim Jim belt holsters are sleek, simple and comfortable to wear. For those who prefer a more embellished rig, Heritage offers the Embossed Cowboy options.
Traditional leather rigs like these are good looking and comfortable to wear.
Heritage also stocks more modern holsters, like the Range Rider (left) made by The Hunter Company. The version sized for the Barkeep series has loops along the front edge to store the hand-held ejector rod. It has a removable retention strap and can be worn in a right hand, left hand or crossdraw position.
These modern holsters provided handy features like removable retention straps or reversible belt clips.
The handmade UM Tactical Qualifier (right), molded from Boltaron polymer, is designed to be worn inside or outside of the waistband. Currently available for Barkeep models, it ships with a reversible IWB belt clip and an OWB belt strap.
It seems like there will always be a tug-of-war between those shooting sport enthusiasts who prefer to stick with the Old West style of single-action revolvers and holsters and those who want to break with convention and give their guns a more modern twist. The good news is that Heritage Manufacturing is ready to serve folks in both camps and do so at prices that will fit just about any budget. We had a great time trying out different Rough Rider configurations and found combinations that will suit just about anyone with the inclination to personalize their revolvers. For more information, visit heritagemfg.com.