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Thursday, March 24, 2011

On the Edge: Rimfire Review of the Heritage Rough Rider .22LR / .22 WMR

For tonight's edition of SFTH, I have decided to try something new.  This will be the first in a periodic series of columns in which I give my reviews on rimfire guns, ammunition, and accessories.  I am entitling this series "On the Edge," so if you see that in the title, you will know what to expect.  I believe that rimfire enthusiasts are often overlooked in a lot of gun review sites, so hopefully I will be able to share my thoughts and experiences with you, and through your comments, you can share your own insights with myself and our other readers.

For my first On the Edge review, I have decided to cover my favorite rimfire gun:  the Heritage Rough Rider single action revolver.  And if you look at the GunTotingVigilante avatar, you will see this fine pistol which has become my favorite firearm to shoot.  When I go to the range, this gun almost always accompanies me.  Why?  Because it is accurate, inexpensive to shoot, and, if for no other reason, it is just plain FUN!

A little history lesson first.  Heritage Manufacturing operates out of Opa Locka, Florida.  It is an American owned and operated company in the business of providing fine firearms at relatively low cost to consumers all across our country.  Heritage manufactures its rimfire line of pistols, the Rough Riders, here in the States.  A line of big bore single action revolvers is also produced, but these are made from parts manufactured in Italy, then imported and assembled at the Florida plant.

The Rough Rider revolvers are available in both .22 LR (which also allows the use of .22 CB,.22 Short, and .22 Long) as well as .22 WMR, and some, like mine, come with both cylinders which can be swapped out in a matter of seconds by simply pushing in the cylinder-pin release, pulling the pin out, lifting out the cylinder, and replacing it with the new cylinder, then re-inserting the cylinder-pin.  Barrel lengths vary from 3.5" up to a full 9".  There are two types of frames available for these guns:  where it is allowed by State law, you can get a RR with an alloy frame, and in other states (HI, SC, IL, and MN) a steel frame is available.  The alloy frame is certainly strong enough for the low-power of the rimfire rounds, and it reduces costs, making these pistols some of the most affordable revolvers on the market, under $200 in many places, depending on model (I paid $180 for mine, a blued finish, pearl handled, 6.5" barrel LR/ WMR combo gun).

A variety of finishes is available, with a traditional blue (which I opted for), a case-hardened finish, a black satin, and a silver satin finish.  Purchasers also have a decent selection of grips to choose from, including colored laminated wood grips, Cocobolo grips, synthetic pearl finishes (mine wears the white pearl grips...  yeah, call me a New Orleans pimp), as well as synthetic ivory stocks.  Some of the Rough Riders come with old fashioned fixed sights which consist of a front blade and a grooved top-strap for the rear sight, while others have adjustable sights.  And every Heritage Rough Rider comes with a hammer-block manual safety, an unusual addition to a single action revolver, and one that takes getting used to (I feel that it is unnecessary, but as a former attorney, I understand why the company has opted to include it).

Ok, sure...  but how does it shoot?  Thought you would never ask.  As of the posting of this column, I have fired approximately 1250 rounds of .22LR, 50 rounds of .22 Super Colibri, and 70 rounds of .22 WMR through my Rough Rider.  I have never had a single malfunction, apart from having ammunition which failed to fire or squibbed (look for my upcoming review of Remington Thunderbolt ammunition).  Even when fanning back the hammer and firing as fast as I can, the timing and cylinder lock-up has always been right on.  While I have heard from other owners that have had to tweak their front sight blades to achieve accuracy, mine was dead on right out of the box.  One of my favorite skill tests is to line up shotgun shells at 10 and 15 yards and plink at them with this pistol.  And this gun is more than capable of making them dance, even at those ranges.  I have found that the gun seems to be a bit more accurate with LR rounds than with WMR, which is counter-intuitive to me, but seems to be borne out by the performance of the gun.

After all of those rounds, and the cleanings, and the holstering and unholstering, the finish still seems to be holding up very well, with just a little darkening on the frame around the forcing cone, but a lot of rimfire ammunition is notoriously dirty, and I imagine that has a lot to do with that.  The trigger is not the best in the world (not compared to, say, my dad's old Ruger Single Six, for example), but it seems to have improved with use.

All-in-all, this has been one of my best purchases.  I use this gun on a regular basis, and do not see that changing any time soon.  Maybe I am just living out my childhood cowboy fantasies (which will also be addressed in my upcoming review of the Henry Golden Boy), but there are few firearms that I enjoy shooting as much as this little revolver.  Is it destined to be a family heirloom?  Not at all.  But I would not be surprised if my Heritage Rough Rider is still being used by future generations of GunTotingVigilantes in the years to come.

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