Want to make a statement on the range? Bring a Buntline. From a company whose name is synonymous with affordable single-action revolvers, comes the 16-inch barreled Rough Rider — born of the legendary 19th century Colt Buntline six-shooter.
Meet the Non-Buntline, Buntline
Heritage Manufacturing puts out the most affordable, American made rimfire revolvers in modernity. The bread and butter wheelguns are both the six-shot and nine-shot Rough Riders, both single actions and with multiple grip frames, grip options, sights, finishes, and more. Those revolvers, however, are most often found with the two most common barrel lengths– 4.75-inch and 6.5-inch.
Heritage does not call its 16-inch barreled Rough Rider revolver a Buntline, though, by Wild West standards of a long-barreled wheelgun it fits the bill. There are two versions of the lengthy Rough Rider, one with fixed sights and other adjustable. Our fixed sight model is as plain as they come with a nondescript heavy black finish and fixed front sight with a simple notch at the rear. Had it been available at the time, we would have opted for the adjustable sight version, which has a nice fiber-optic red front along with a green, two-dot rear.
The rest of the build remains the same on both, with an aluminum alloy frame and steel barrel. Per the company’s website, Rough Riders are 100% American made.
Both long-barreled models ship standard with Cocobolo wood grips, and each is also available as a combo. With a combo, the rimfire bases are covered and you can shoot .22 LR, Long, Short, shot, and CB through the .22 LR cylinder and, of course, .22 WMR in the magnum cylinder.
Don’t fret if you can’t grab the combo just yet as the company includes a mail-in voucher to purchase the additional cylinder at a reasonable price later. Shooters can order the cylinders via the company’s e-store as well.
Variations and Warranties
The interchangeable cylinders popular with the earlier Rough Rider follows over to this long-tube model, as both cylinders and grips interchange. Several special editions are also available — one wearing sweet Betsy Ross flag grips and the other a Joker with playing card grips and receiver of simulated case hardening. One of the nicer things Heritage offers is a place to buy its most common parts. From firing pins to sights, hammers to springs, consumers can find that and more on its website. (Also, check out Altamont to see a collection of grips under $30.)
Heritage warranties its Rough Riders for one year from the date of the purchase for the original buyer. Should you require service, the warranty department, along with company headquarters, is based in Bainbridge, Georgia, and will inspect and offer an estimate for any repairs.
The revolver wheeled through every brand of ammo we fed and recoil, of course, is non-existent. We loaded up a mix of Federal Premium Hunter Match, Aguila Super Extra, Blazer and Winchester Wildcat .22 LR. For good measure, we also popped off a few cylinders of Federal Bird Shot and CCI Shorts. The Rough Rider, even with its 16-inch barrel, is no target pistol; but then again, that’s not what it’s intended to be.
Even with the less-than-ideal fixed iron sights, which we found to shoot consistently high at anything less than 50-yards, we were able to explode aluminum cans and prairie dog-sized targets. With some practice, greater ranges are not out of the question.
The trigger pull is not noteworthy, and that is a good thing. It breaks better than expected at just under 6-pounds, while many similarly priced revolvers have much heftier and more gravely affairs. This makes the Rough Rider easier to keep on target.
While the length of the Rough Rider’s barrel naturally feels more front-heavy than, say, the 6.5-inch barreled version of the same make, it is still a very manageable piece. The most difficult part of a Buntline is finding a convenient way to carry the thing. It’s a ridiculous handgun to attempt to conceal, with weight hovering around 45-ounces and overall length measuring under 22-inches; but it offers a carbine length barrel in a platform that can easily be tucked behind a truck seat –where legal of course.
The longer barrel grants greater accuracy than a short-barreled revolver due to an extended sight radius. This means increased accuracy potential for rimfire handgunners wanting to reach out to further ranges. As a bonus, the new 16-inch Rough Rider may just be the most affordable conversation piece on the homestead.
Operating any Rough Rider is simple, though they do not feature swing-out cylinder designs. Pulling the hammer to half-cock allows shells to be loaded and ejected one by one. The Rough Rider is a utilitarian gun, plain and simple. There are no frills, nor high end fit and finish.
In fact, after just over 100 rounds, there are a few wear spots on the finish at the top strap. We’ve had Rough Riders before, and while the finish never excels, we’ve never had a single problem with functionality.
Like the others in the Rough Rider family, this one also has the thumb safety to the left of the hammer — both a blessing and a curse. As a result of its reasonable price point, Heritage wheelguns are often the first rimfire handguns offered to beginner shooters. In that case, the added safety is most welcome.
For those of us accustomed to firing single-action revolvers, it takes some practice to work the safety. We’ve pulled the trigger on more than one offending target only to hear the dead click of the activated safety. Like anything else, it’s all a matter of practice.
What They Are, What They’re Not
These new long-barreled Rough Riders are not slicked-up Colt or Ruger Buntline compatriots, but they don’t pretend to be. Rather, the Rough Rider excels as a budget-priced, slightly gritty, yet all-American six-shooter. Take it to the squirrel woods, shoot some cans, plink on the range, keep it in the truck. It is about as much fun as you can have under two bills.
Rough Riders in general make an excellent entry point for new revolver shooters to get comfortable without laying out lots of cash. The longer barrel on our test model makes it simple to shoot from sandbags and get a feel for a handgun. Managing the longer barrel off-hand, though, will likely be a bit off-putting to younger shooters. With a bit of practice and even a modified rest, like a tree in the small game woods, partnered with that longer sight picture, the Buntline excels.
A Good Buy
We have sweet Ruger Single Six models and collectible Colts, yet it’s the Heritage that’s always there for the dirty work. The newer long-barreled piece is another tool in the arsenal. The Rough Rider is one of those guns that will always be associated with the phrase “for the price” and, indeed, for the price they are a no-brainer buy.
Will they last for three generations? Maybe, maybe not. What is guaranteed, however, is that shooters will get their money’s worth—or more — in a utilitarian gun that one needn’t be afraid to keep handy and just plain shoot. MSRP is $180 and $233, respectively.