|Back to The Collection||Back to Home|
Heritage Rough Rider
Both the Heritage and the Ruger are copies of the classic Colt Single Action Army, with size weight and profile being nearly identical. The Ruger has become quite an expensive gun, and the genuine Colt has long been far too expensive to realistically consider buying as anything other than a collector or investment. Heritage is moving in to take up the slack. So why would anyone bother to buy, or manufacture an obsolete, 145 year old design?
A lot of reasons are given for the continued popularity of the classic single action revolver. We talk about history, tradition, freedom, and the gun as an icon. We talk about the wild west, and the opening of the frontier. All of these things may have some truth, but in all honesty, these guns are desirable because they are uncomplicated, quite a bit of fun to shoot, they look great, and are utterly dependable. So what about the Rough Rider?
The Rough Rider has an aluminum frame, and steel barrel, with a cylinder that appears to be of steel as well. The frame has an enamel finish that mimics an old fashioned blue. I don't have a problem with this, like the look of the finish, and since the frame is of aluminum, it will not rust, making the finish a matter of taste. The frame has been described by one reviewer as being of "pot metal" a reference to some old cheap pistols and the so called Saturday night specials. This reviewer was in error, as there is no pot metal in this gun.
More junk pistols have been made from steel than any other material. The pot metal guns were usually of cheap steel or zinc alloy, with some models being susceptible to melting at stove temperatures. The Heritage is made from aluminum alloy, quite a different thing. With the cylinder, barrel, and mechanical parts being of steel construction, the point is largely moot. With all of the plastic and alloy handguns out there, I am surprised that people still concern themselves with such things. At any rate, I have no problem with the materials used, particularly for a 22 rim-fire. These guns have been around for quite a while now, and are generally well thought of by their owners.
One strange thing about this gun is that it has a hammer block safety. A safety on a single action revolver is contradictory at best, but not a bad thing to have. This particular safety detracts a bit from the ergonomics of the gun, and will doubtless be hated by purists. It is activated by a small lever on the left side of the frame, behind the cylinder. Flipping the lever up engages a total block on the hammer, so that it can not engage the frame mounted firing pin.
Flipping the lever down pivots the block out of the way, and reveals a red dot on the back of the revolver, which acts as a ready to fire indicator.
Safety aside, the Rough Rider has a frame mounted firing pin, and in common with the original Colt SAA, will fire (with safety disengaged) when the gun is dropped, or if the hammer slips. The manufacturer recommends that only five chambers be loaded, and that the hammer rest upon an empty chamber. They are also quite adamant that these guns should not be dry fired unless the safety is on to block the hammer. Ignoring this recommendation will damage the cylinder and void the warranty. The gun comes packed with a plastic insert within the rear portion of the cylinder. This is to prevent any such damage during transit, or during careless handling by customers or salespeople in the retail environment. Once the gun is purchased, it will be up to the new owner to remove the insert,.
Loading is accomplished in the time honored fashion of opening the loading gate on the right side of the frame, punching out the empties with the ejector rod, as shown to the left, and then loading fresh cartridges through the gate, as shown to the right. Operating a single action revolver is not rocket science, though the little 22 rounds can be a bit cumbersome to handle with my big hands.
The button on the ejector is plastic, which appears more than strong enough to the job, though the ejector itself and it's housing are of steel.
The gun has traditional fixed sights, and is generally said to shoot high, though mine was right on the money with 22 LR rounds. This is an easy gun to shoot well. I noticed no roughness in the action, a crisp trigger that broke at 6 pounds, and recoil that was negligible when confined to the 34 ounce weight of the Rough Rider. The cylinder was a bit stiff when loading up, but I expect this will work itself out after a few hundred rounds. In general, accuracy is pretty good, with the major limitation being the sights. At 25 feet, I was able to get everything into just under 2". As with any 22 revolver, I have the option of firing short, long, or long rifle cartridges. There are also the asonic types, which are rather low powered and make little noise. In a semi, such rounds can mess with the gas or recoil that cycles the actions. In a revolver, such things are not even noticed.
One thing about this gun that does not impress, at least not at first, is the size of the bore. Yet the diminutive 22 impresses where it counts - in the wallet. Everything is more expensive these days, including rim-fire ammunition. Yet, it is still possible to spend a day shooting and not break the bank.
Bought in quantity, basic 22 rim-fire costs about four to five cents a round. While many of us may long for the days when this same money would get you centerifre ammunition, the 22 is far more affordable than the thirty to thirty five cents a round being asked for 9mm, or the dollar or more a round being asked for some of the larger calibers. This may be one of the main reasons I added this little gun to my collection.
My three other western style single actions are a Ruger Super Black-hawk (44 magnum), a Ruger Vaquero (45 LC), and a Hawes/Sauer (45 LC). With standard 45 LC going for seventy to eighty cents a round, and 44 magnum selling for a bit more, ammunition for these guns is a bit too expensive for casual recreational shooting. The prices given are also for economy loads. Special defense or hunting rounds will cost considerably more.
One option available on this gun is the provision to swap cylinders. It is possible to fire 22 magnum ammunition, through the use of a 22 magnum cylinder. Though the bore is nominally the same (.224 for the magnum, vs. .222 for the LR), the magnum cartridge has a taper which gives it a slightly wider base. So it will not chamber in a 22 LR cylinder, even if the cylinder is long enough. There have been a number of such convertible revolvers made by various manufacturers, and all seem to work well, particularly of the somewhat larger bore of the 22 magnum is used.
Heritage sells a convertible, and includes a coupon for a 22 magnum cylinder, in guns it sells for LR only. This gives the option to upgrade later. At the present time, the magnum cylinders are selling for around $30. Heritage advises on its website that all current production revolvers use the larger .224 bore size.
The reason for the bother to use the magnum is the considerable extra power offered. the 22 magnum generates over 300 fp of energy. To put this in perspective, the standard 22 LR is a bit over 100 fp, and the 9mm standard load generates 275 fp, and the standard 38 special tops out at 254 fp. While the 9mm and 38 can be handloaded to energy levels of up to 400 fp or more, these are not considered standard loads.
The downside to the extra power is extra cost. fifty rounds of 22 magnum sell for around $15 or more. This is about the same as 9mm. Additionally, 22 magnum, being a rimfire cartridge, can not be reloaded. For the handloader, it may end up being a bit more expensive to fire the little rimfire magnum.
So, would I buy one? Well, I did, and I am happy enough with the purchase.The gun is a natural for taking the kids (or myself) out in the woods, learning to shoot, or just playing cowboy. I have also already ordered the magnum cylinder (an extra $37 with shipping). Though I doubt any 22 will replace my beloved Buck Mark, as my favorite, there is something special about a single action revolver. A day at the range or in the woods, only costs a few dollars in ammunition, is lots of fun, not very stressful, and keeps me shooting. That's more than I can say for a lot of the more expensive guns in my collection. For the price - anywhere from $125 - $200, it is a great little gun, and the most fun you can have for the money. Those who criticize it for not being a Colt or Ruger, might want to consider that Ruger single actions are selling in the $500 range right now, and the genuine Colts are way up around a thousand or more, depending upon condition.
The Rough Rider comes packed in a leather look paper box, with a manual, a coupon for a second cylinder, and an invitation for a free one year membership to the NRA. All in all, not a bad deal.