Budget-friendly guns are kind of my jam, since I started collecting when I had a significant lack of funds. But affordable and adaptable is even better. That’s one reason I was drawn to the Rough Rider series from Heritage in the first place. These little single-action-only revolvers have the allure of the Old West but in an affordable package and chambering. 

All it takes is a few seconds – and a separate cylinder – and your Rough Rider transforms from a .22 LR rimfire plinker into a …well … more powerful .22 WMR magnum plinker. Let’s take a closer look.


Table of Contents

Intro: .22 Mag Cylinder 
Function & Shooting 
Specs
Pros & Cons
Final Thoughts

Intro: .22 Mag Cylinder

 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Mag Revolver
The cylinder really is the heart and soul of the .22 Mag and .22 LR versions, with the non-fluted .22 Mag pictured here. Removing the pin is all that it really takes to swap it out. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


The base of the Rough Rider line is a mostly true-to-form single-action-only revolver that resembles the classic Colt Single Action Army series. There are some significant differences from the original, but the most notable are the materials used to make the gun, the addition of a manual hammer-block safety, and – of course – the chambering.

Each Rough Rider comes in two flavors, .22 LR and .22 Mag, with the only real distinction being which cylinder you have inserted into the gun at any given time. If you didn’t buy one that comes with a .22 Mag cylinder, fear not. You can add that as a separate purchase from Heritage for around $30, opening a whole new round to your revolver-plinking world.

The .22 WMR cylinder simply allows you to run the longer and more powerful .22 Mag cartridges without changing anything else about the gun itself. Installation is as simple as pulling out the cylinder pin, popping out the old .22 LR cylinder, and replacing it with the .22 WMR cylinder. The process takes about 10 seconds.
 

Function & Shooting

 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Mag Revolver
That cylinder slides into a cutout where the rotating and locking mechanism engages it at the rear. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


I’m a big fan of the Heritage Rough Rider line, with its price, affordable .22 chambering, and pure appeal as a “Western” plinker leading my list of wins. Hence, the sample gun above was my third personal purchase of a Rough Rider. I’ve already done a breakdown on the Rough Rider itself, but to summarize it again, the guns are basically budget clones of Single Action Army revolvers chambered in .22.


RELATED: Heritage Rough Rider .22 LR Revolver Review
 

Heritage Rough Rider Revolver
The sights are basic but classic. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Heritage Rough Rider Revolver
The grip, on the other hand, points very naturally. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Most of the metal frame is actually a more affordable alloy, while the hammer, cylinder, and barrel remain steel (the latter apparently inside an alloy barrel sleeve). Sights are incredibly basic with a blade front and grooved rear channel. Every shot requires a full cocking of the hammer to rotate the cylinder, cock the hammer, and set the trigger. 

Loading and unloading are done manually through a side gate with the aid of an ejection plunger. The only other notable feature is one that will catch you off guard while shooting if you don’t pay attention: the manual hammer-block safety. This can be left on the fire position for ease of shooting, but it will result in an unsatisfying click if you forget to disarm it before trying to fire.
 

Heritage Rough Rider Revolver
There is that manual safety, which can be a tad pesky, but it's easy to forgive for the price and may even appeal to some folks. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)
Heritage Rough Rider Revolver
Like the safety, the ejector has plastic parts. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Beyond the obvious fact that this Heritage Rough Rider now hosts a .22 Mag cylinder – sometimes – otherwise it has basically the exact same characteristics as the .22 LR version. Even the weight remains unchanged, with both the .22 LR and .22 Mag cylinders coming in at 8.1 ounces on my scale. 

A keen eye may note that the .22 Mag cylinder lacks any fluting, while the .22 LR version has that familiar revolver cylinder look. I’m not sure to what extent this was done for strength, given the stronger .22 Mag round, but it seems like it would only marginally help with what is still a relatively low-pressure round from a revolver. Regardless, the lack of fluting does make it easy to tell the two cylinders apart.

As for shooting, the .22 Mag cylinder results in an unsurprisingly louder experience with a touch more gusto to the recoil. I haven’t noticed any difference in close-range accuracy between the Rough Rider in .22 LR or .22 Mag, but that might change over longer ranges. If long-range shooting is your goal, I might point you to the long-barreled versions of the gun with better sights. 
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Mag Revolver
The trigger offers an appreciated crisp break that comes in at around 3 pounds for me. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


Hunting with .22 Mag or .22 LR isn’t out of the question with the Rough Rider, but accuracy is a bit trickier with the shorter barrels and crude sights. Regardless of what type of shooting you are looking to enjoy, the Rough Rider is loads of fun to actually fire. I personally like it more in the .22 Mag, which offers a more satisfying bang-to-recoil ratio than the weaker .22 LR. But that comes with some added costs. It also tends to keep its velocity better at longer ranges.

The real fun is slowing down the shooting process, experiencing the individual clicks as you cock the hammer, and rounding out the act with what is a surprisingly light and crisp trigger. To date, after 600-plus rounds, the only issue I’ve had is the occasional loose frame screw, which is easily solved with a drop of Loctite. 
 

Specs
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Mag Revolver
Regardless of what cylinder is used, the weight remains basically the same on my scales. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


As already noted, the Rough Rider in .22 Mag and .22 LR both weigh almost exactly the same. I’ve listed some additional specs on my particular revolver below. 

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, cylinder, and barrel, which actually appears to be 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, and those can slowly work themselves loose over time without some Loctite or routine tightening – just a note.

What the specs can’t really tell you is how this gun feels in the hand. It has enough weight to feel substantial and points very naturally. While it’s no Single Action Army ready to deal out justice in hard calibers like .45 Colt, it has enough of the feel of an Old West gun – at a huge fraction of the price – to scratch the itch of playing John Wayne with some yellow-bellied tin cans. 
 

Heritage Rough Rider .22 Mag Revolver
The .22 Mag, right, brings a bit more enjoyable heat and power to the gun over the smaller .22 LR. But both are easy to control and comfortable to shoot in a gun this size. (Photo: Paul Peterson/Guns.com)


As far as the difference between the calibers, I recently spent some time shooting Federal Varmint & Predator Speer TNT .22 WMR alongside some of the new Federal Personal Defense Punch .22 LR. After 50 rounds of each, I had no issues but certainly noticed a difference in the .22 WMR. It’s nothing outlandish, but there is a bit more snap, fire, and noise to the .22 Mags, and I like it.

The two rounds share a similar weight at 29 grains for the .22 LR Punch and 30 grains for the .22 Mag. The .22 Mag does offer 2,200 fps, compared to the 1,070 from the Punch. I also tested the Federal .22 Mag against some heavier 38-grain Aguila .22 LT hollow-point rounds with a higher velocity of 1,280. The difference between the .22 Mag and .22 LR rounds is noticeable on the range.
 

Pros & Cons


Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Cheap ammo
  • .22 Mag cylinder can ship to your home
  • Two chamberings, one gun
  • Nice trigger
  • Lots of color and grip options
  • Tons of fun

Cons:

  • Only offered in .22
  • Not all steel construction – though there is a more pricey steel-frame version
     

Final Thoughts

For a gun that routinely comes in at under two bills – on top of the fact it can be had in two chamberings – I haven’t met many value-priced, current-production firearms that compete with a Heritage Rough Rider. It’s simple, reliable, fun to shoot, and feels solid in the hand.

My first one was a guilt-free addition to my plinking collection. The next two were, well, “somewhat-guilty” additions to my plinking collection. They’ve all been worth it in my book. Plus, Rough Riders come in so many different looks and barrel lengths that there is bound to be one that fits your style.

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