I can’t say I spent a whole lot of time playing cowboy as a kid. I was really more into laying out sandbags and digging foxholes in the backyard, but I certainly dabbled in toy revolvers as I grew up. That said, I really wish I had something like the Rough Rider .22 revolver from Heritage Manufacturing when I was younger. This thing has been pure fun, and it brings that joy at a pretty shoestring budget.

Heritage offers its Rough Rider line at a price point that makes it hard to sneeze at the idea of long days plinking cans on the range. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect with these budget-friendly revolvers.

Table of Contents

Intro 
Function
Specs
Shooting & Accuracy
Pros & Cons
Final Thoughts

Intro: Meet the Rough Rider

 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
There's a real beauty in the old-school single-action-only design. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Technically a six-shooter, the Rough Rider is actually designed to have only five rounds with the hammer down on an empty chamber when carried – if you wanted to do that. Its .22 chambering hardly makes this little revolver a “Big Iron” from the Wild West. Though, you can opt for a .22 Magnum cylinder if you want to ramp up the power. Regardless, the gun is a simple single-action-only revolver like the classic Colt Single Action Army

Unlike the other single-actions in harder-hitting calibers, Heritage’s Rough Rider has a small hammer-block safety on the left side of the hammer. I have personally forgotten to use this feature a few times, resulting in an unsatisfying click. Some might hate this addition, but to me, it’s simply there and may even help prevent dry-firing on a rimfire cylinder, which can damage the firearm. 
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
The Rough Rider does feature a simple hammer-block safety. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)

 

Function
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
Loading is done one round at a time through the loading gate. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


The Rough Rider’s cylinder is held in place with a long pin that is held in place with a retaining button in front of the cylinder. Disassembly is incredibly easy. Simply depress the retaining plunger, pull out the cylinder pin, and pop out the cylinder. You could go further, but you probably never will. Reassembly is done in the reverse order. 
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
Disassembly is a synch, and you can even swap out the cylinder for a .22 Mag version if you want more power. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
The plunger is mounted to the side of the barrel with a screw. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
The cylinder pin is held in place with a spring retaining button. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Loading and unloading happen one round at a time through the loading gate with the help of a spring plunger mounted on the side of the barrel. There are versions too short to host this feature, such as the Barkeep model, so a manual poker is required. This gun’s firing pin is separate from the hammer and held into the frame with a spring pushing it rearward until the hammer strikes.
 

RELATED: Review – Heritage Barkeep Single-Action .22


Cycling the gun is done solely with the hammer, which cocks to three stages while rotating and finally locking the cylinder. The first is a safety that locks the cylinder and the trigger, while the second releases the cylinder to spin for loading and unloading. The third full-cock position is for when you’re ready to fire. (There is also a fourth click you’ll hear as the final travel of the hammer locks the cylinder into place.) The process is tactile, audible, and frankly fun on the range. 
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
I remember the hammer positions as simply "lock, load, cock." Remember, to safely lower the hammer after cocking it even to just the lock position, you must fully cock it and use your thumb to slowly lower it after pulling the trigger. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


When it comes to loading, the easiest way is to simply pop in six rounds and plink away at the range. But there is an easy method to drop the hammer on an empty cylinder for safe carry. Just load the first two rounds, skip the next, and load until you see brass in the loading gate again. Then fully cock the hammer and let it down – or load one round, skip one, and load the next four. Both methods work.
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
Despite the hammer-block safety, the gun still comes with a warning to keep an empty chamber under the hammer when carried. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Specs
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
There are steel-frame options, but even the alloy version feels solid in the hand for a budget-friendly .22 plinker. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I’ll keep the specs short because Heritage has more barrel lengths, finishes, and grip designs than you can shake an angry fist at. Heck, the company even released a tactical model with a Picatinny rail up top for optics and an ultra-stubby Boot version earlier this year. 
 

RELATED: New at SHOT – Heritage Boot & Tactical Cowboy


Here are some general specs for my particular Rough Rider:

Length: 10.1 inches
Height: 4.75 inches
Barrel Length: 4.75 inches
Weight: 1.9 pounds
Trigger Pull: 2.93 pounds (10-pull average) 

The frame is mostly made of alloy metal with a steel hammer and barrel. That barrel is actually set inside an alloy sleeve. There are some plastic parts, notably the plunger handle and the safety. A host of little screws hold the entire thing together.
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
Most of the gun is made from alloy metal, but the inner barrel and hammer are steel. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
For the price, the cocobolo grips are actually quite nice, and the rocking motion from the grip design makes the gun a pleasure to shoot. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


While they are not made of your finest forged steals, Rough Riders don’t need to be as affordable plinkers. This particular version also has handsome – though budget – cocobolo grips, but you can pick any number of designs and colors.

*Note: I highly recommend using Loctite or at least routinely checking those screws. After hours of plinking, they will work themselves loose.
 

Shooting & Accuracy
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
The sights are very basic and not that easy to pick up, but the gun points very naturally. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


This gun points quite naturally, and I often find I shoot better while plinking at close ranges with more instinctive shooting. The sights don’t offer much, and neither did the originals. They are merely a notch and grove with a rounded front blade. But once the gun is in your hand, you can almost just look at a target and your hand will follow.

Rough Riders are single-action-only guns, and that light, crisp trigger can attest to that. It breaks under three pounds for me and basically starts at the wall with no travel. There is just a hint of creep before the break. 

I will say that I was a bit apprehensive when I got my first Heritage .22 revolver (I’m now on my third). I feared it would feel, well, like a child’s toy. It does not. It may not have the heft of a .44 caliber Colt Walker, but it feels the part of a solid pinker.

I’m sitting at over 500 rounds of a mix of Federal bulk pack, Aguila, and CCI Stingers through this Rough Rider. There were no malfunctions to report to date, either with the gun or the ammo. That’s somewhat unique for a .22 plinker since the round is a common failure point. 
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
The 10-yard groups were pretty good for such crude sights, and the two worst flyers were actually when I was focusing overly hard on trying to use the sights. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
It's not going to win many shooting awards, but even at 15 yards, the gun was still able to take down some playing cards. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I won’t call this my target pistol, but I can reliably stay inside the 5.5-inches of black on a standard pistol target at 10 yards without much work. In fact, strenuous attempts to aim generally offer somewhat varied success. This is more of a “be the gun” kind of shooter, and it’s way more fun that way. Plus, the slow loading and shooting slows you down and forces you to focus on the fundamentals. 
 

Pros & Cons
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Revolver
There are quite a few screws to maintain, including at the back of the frame by the hammer and holding the plunger in place. These, in particular, require some regular checking or a dab of Loctite. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I would say you get what you pay for with the Rough Rider. It is affordable, so it doesn’t host high-quality metals or metalwork. Yet, it’s better than I personally expected. Here’s my general list of pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Feels good in the hand
  • Nice trigger
  • Points naturally
  • Fun to shoot
  • Reliable
  • Easy to maintain
  • Fairly accurate

Cons:

  • Made with cheaper materials
  • Unnecessary safety 
  • Lots of screws 
  • Very basic sights

There is almost no real recoil. That’s both good and bad. I rather like a bit of snap, but it makes the gun unintimidating for newer shooters.
 

Final Thoughts

I have spent my money on three Heritage revolvers and consider them a great bang for the buck. I often tuck one into my range bag with a box of .22 LR just in case I have extra time for plinking. They’re fun, easy to maintain, and cheap to shoot.

I can see this as a gun people use to teach new shooters, though single-action-only revolvers can be a bit tricky for a first-time shooter. That said, it’s certainly an affordable entry into handguns, and you can always practice before you shoot. 

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