Each time I watch “The Hunt for Red October,” I have to laugh at the scene where the Soviet submarine commander refers to the American skipper as a “cowboy” for wearing a sidearm. Being raised on old western movies, I resemble that remark, as do many Americans. No matter how many polymer pistols I handle or ARs I shoulder, I’m still a cowboy at heart.
That’s why I had to smile when I was handed this assignment to test a couple of Heritage Manufacturing’s .22LR Rough Riders. Replicas of Single Action Armies, one of the revolvers could be classified as a “standard” Old West cowboy gun with a 6.5-inch barrel. But the other one is far from standard. It resembles a Colt Buntline with a 16-inch barrel. Yep, that’s not a misprint — a 16-inch barrel.
When I first opened the box of the 16-incher, I wondered where the stock went, for it could really pass as a carbine. Back in the day, some single actions did come with a buttstock that attached to the grip to enhance accuracy. While history is foggy on whether or not there ever was a gun made with a barrel this long (rumor has it both Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill may have had one), I nonetheless would do my best to relive shooting history.
Nothing Rough About These
These revolvers are part of Heritage’s Rough Rider series and sell for less than $200. While scaled-down versions of their Old West brethren, they still have that legendary feel, with all-metal construction and smooth cocobolo wooden grips. Like their older kin, both are single action only. There’s something soothing in cocking back the hammer for each shot and feeling the clicks of the cylinder rotating to a fresh round. It’s a sensory pleasure a semiautomatic can never achieve.
Along with being produced by the latest state-of-the art manufacturing processes, the only modern addition to the design is the addition of a hammer block safety. Located on the left side opposite of the loading gate, the safety has to be flipped down to lower the bar blocking the hammer. With a flick of your thumb, a red dot is exposed to indicate the gun is ready to fire.
The finely machined barrels are micro-threaded for optimal barrel/cylinder gap. The 6-inch model comes with Old West-style sights with a blade up front and a groove cut along the top strap. The 16-inch version deviates from the old world with a set of fiber-optic sights that form three dots (one red, two green). While the front red sight is fixed, the rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage. If you desire a truly realistic experience, it’s also available with fixed sights.
Handling and Firing
When it came to handling, the 6.5-inch model was a dream. Balanced nicely, the revolver fit well in my hand and made supported and unsupported firing enjoyable. Its flat-sided, spurred hammer has plenty of area for my thumb to easily find and bring around another cartridge.
Accuracy was good at 25 yards from a sandbag rest. It gave me 2.25- to 2.5-inch groups about 2 inches left of center. Results were pretty even from the four loads that the revolver liked. The single-action trigger pull wasn’t an issue, breaking at only 3.4 pounds of effort.
As for the 16-inch version, one can believe it was just a bit muzzle heavy. At 3 pounds, the revolver definitely took more effort to hold it steady shooting offhand. While the handling wasn’t on par with the 6-inch revolver, the longer barrel excelled from the sandbag rest, turning in incredible groups at 25 yards.
Best overall accuracy and groups went to CCI’s 36-grain hollowpoints. Its average group size was .88 inch for five, five-shot groups, with a range best .52-inch cluster.
Seeing that the 16-inch revolver made a meal of the 25-yard targets, I decided to see how good it actually was. Moving the target to 50 yards, group sizes opened up to as much as 4 inches. The overall group average was 3.06 inches, with the 36-grain CCI load again turning in the single best group of 2.61 inches.
Shooting a revolver with that long of a barrel was quite fun. And whether or not it represents something used in the Old West, I don’t care. It shoots and shoots well. That’s good enough for me.
So, tie your pony up outside Heritage Manufacturing and check out these and other deals they have that won’t break the bank account. Just make sure to take home a couple of cowboy guns for that next generation of cowboys and cowgirls.