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Peculiarities of the Heritage Rough Rider .22 Single Action Revolver

While it may look like an old cowboy shootin’ iron, the Heritage Rough Rider .22 is a bit different – in more ways than you’d think. Sure, it’s chambered for the .22 long rifle and .22 magnum cartridges which weren’t around in the old west. It also has an alloy frame (at least mine does – some are steel frame) and adjustable sights (some come more old fashioned with fixed sights).

The item I’m going to focus on here is the manual safety which I’ve only ever seen on one other single action revolver – the Cimarron Plinkerton. A nice review of the Plinkerton by Jeff Quinn can be found at

The two “safeties” in the old west were keeping your finger off the trigger and carrying the pistol with only five rounds in the cylinder so that the hammer could rest on an empty chamber. I understand that these manual safeties are probably required in today’s society as lawyer repellant, but I would be just as happy if they weren’t there.

Heritage Rough Rider .22 - Safety On

Heritage Rough Rider .22 - Safety On

Heritage Rough Rider .22 - Safety Off

Heritage Rough Rider .22 - Safety Off

Have a look at the two pictures. The item in the blue circle is the firing pin, the green circle surrounds the safety lever, and the hammer block portion of the safety can be found in the red circle.

Before I go any further, I’d like to say that while it’s nice to have a mechanical safety on a firearm nobody should ever rely on their firearm’s manual safety as a primary means of keeping the gun from damaging things it shouldn’t. Following the four basic rules of firearms safety is the best way of ensuring that we and everyone around us are safe. Any firearm can damage property. Any firearm can kill. For a more extensive lecture on firearms safety, please see my previous post.

Back to the pictues and the quirks of the Heritage Rough Rider :wink:

The revolver is on safe in the top picture. The safety lever is in the up position which rotates the hammer block into position to do its job as described by its name. If you were to pull the hammer back and pull the trigger, the hammer would hit the hammer block which would prevent it from striking the firing pin and setting the round off.

In the second picture, the safety lever has been rotated toward the user which has caused a red dot to be visible and the flat part of the hammer block now faces towards the hammer. With the hammer block now flush with its surroundings, the hammer can hit the firing pin.

Mechanical safety or no, Heritage recommends that you never carry one of their single action revolvers with a live round under the hammer because if something happens and that hammer or something else hits that firing pin, the round will likely go off. Instead of this, they recommend the time tested and proven safety measure of leaving an empty chamber under the hammer when carrying the gun. To accomplish this, you open the loading gate, pull the hammer back to half cock, load one round, skip the next chamber and load the remaining four chambers. Once done, pull the hammer back to full cock and let it down GENTLY on the hammer block of the safety. With an empty chamber under the hammer, there is no chance of an accidental discharge if the gun were to fall or be struck on the hammer and it cannot fire until the hammer has been pulled back fully and cocked which brings a live cartridge inline with the firing pin.

Even an empty chamber under the hammer, we want to be careful letting the hammer down. Dry firing is basically just like shooting the gun without any ammo in the chamber which is what we’d be doing if we slip or just pull the trigger. Dry firing not a good idea for center fire guns as it puts undue stress on the firing pin since it does not have a primer to crush and cushion the impact. Dry firing centerfire firearms can be done safely with dummy ammo like A-Zoom snap caps which protect the firing pin. Refraining from dry firing is even more important with rimfire guns like the Rough Rider .22 as the firing pin won’t have the rim of a cartridge to crush, but instead will hit the hard steel of the side of the chamber to impact. Over time, the chamber will suffer as will the firing pin. If I ever dry fire my rimfire firearms, I make sure to use a spent shell casing so that the firing pin has something to land on that won’t hurt it. It’s probably not a good idea to dry fire the gun with the safety on either as I don’t think the hammer’s meant to take repeated blows on that area of the part.

Of course, if we’re just loading up the smoke wagon so we can shoot it right away (like plinking full, unopened cans of carbonated beverages in the desert) we can load up all six and have at it :)

Modern sixguns can be safely carried with a round under the hammer due to the invention of transfer bars and hammer blocks. Both of these innovations rely on the trigger being pulled to allow the gun to fire.

Hammer blocks prevent the firing pin from striking the primer of the round and move out of the way of the firing pin when the trigger is pulled. If Transfer bars are kind of the opposite of the hammer block. If the hammer were to fall without the trigger being pulled, the firing pin would hit the hammer block and would not strike the primer.

With a transfer bar, the hammer rests on the frame of the firearm when down. When the trigger is pulled, the transfer bar moves between the hammer and the firing pin so that the force of the hammer striking the transfer bar is transferred to the firing pin to fire the round. In this case, a hammer falling without the trigger being pulled would strike the frame of the gun and the firing pin would not be touched.

So in conclusion, I think a manual safety’s not really necessary on a single action. In my ever so humble opinion it’s redundant as the pistol requires manual cocking of the hammer before each shot and it should be carried with an empty chamber under the hammer no matter what. I like the simplicity of an old sixgun and have no problem knowing that it’s ready to go anytime. I also like the looks without the manual safety better. That said, if it’s there, I’ll use it – it makes no sense not to. I’d also say that the depreciation in the looks department is OK considering I only paid $200 for the gun and it does everything I want it to :)


73 comments to Peculiarities of the Heritage Rough Rider .22 Single Action Revolver

  • Shawny

    I just bought the “Rough Rider” 22lr/22. Mag in Washington State. I fell in love with the firearm the first time I saw it and after being shown all the modern pistols under the gun shop glass. I was impressed that it shoots the 22. mag which makes it a great defensive round going at 2200 frps, more then enough to stop a hungry Zombie. Look forward to taking it back to California with me. :)

  • Jack

    Shawny says the 22mag goes 2200 FPS which is correct when fireD in a 22″ rifle barrel. However, when fired from the 4.75″ revolver barrel, the velocity would be more in the neighborhood of 1250 FPS. Of course, Heritage also makes 22’s with 3.5″, 6.5″, 9″ barrels, and each barrel gives the 22mag a difference in velocity not even close to 2200 FPS.

    As far a defense goes, any firearm and caliber can be used for that purpose if it’s the only weapon at hand. However, I’m guessing that about 99% of knowledgable shooters would NOT CHOOSE a single action 22 as their primary self defense weapon – there are better, more powerful guns available that don’t cost any more than a Heritage 22/22mag.

  • Terry

    I bought a Heritage 22lr/mag and put about 125 rounds through it today. Noticed a couple of things that I was hoping for some feedback. Never had a revolver before so these things may be no big thing but still would like to know if it’s unusual. 1. Had a couple of times when the cylinder would lock when loading ammo – If I decocked the gun and started over it would load fine. It did seem to get better toward the end. 2. Casings were often hard to eject – most noticeable when using the Magnum rounds. I’m guessing this might be brass expansion but not sure. Thanks for any feedback

    • Thanks for stopping by :thumb:

      For the first part, I’d say that it may need to be broken in. I never had that problem with mine, but it sounds like something a new gun might do. As to the second, I’d say brass expansion but you might try cleaning out the chambers :wink:

      Best of luck :cool:

  • Terry

    Thanks. I always clean my gun(s)after being on the range but really didn’t think about doing it before with the new one. One thing I noticed with the Magnum rounds is a lot more blow-by and it was considerably hotter than the 22lr ammo. Maybe that even answers the expansion concern. Thanks for the help. “It’s five o’clock somewhere”

  • Brad

    I just bought two of the .22 LR Heritage Rough Rider’s on a Black Friday sale, I’ve looked at both the .22LR and the .22LR/WMR and I cannot see a difference in the guns other than the cylinders. If I ordered a .22 mag cylinder would it work in the model that only comes with the .22 LR cylinder?

    • Congrats! You would need to send the guns in to Heritage to have the cylinder fitted to the frame so that it’s correctly “timed” – the alignment needs to be perfect. Other than that you should be good :thumb:

      • Sarkus

        According to Heritage’s website you do not have to send the gun back in when you buy a cylinder. They do recommend you have it checked by a gunsmith, though, if you do not feel you qualify to make sure the fit is right.

  • chris

    What will happen if I shoot 22 LR from my 22 mag cylinder in my 22 heritage rough rider 6.5 inch. I only have the mag cylinder.

  • Rob

    I just got a used Rough Rider. A nice little revolver for the price. There was a similar Ruger revolver there when I got it, probably a Single Six. Saved almost $300 getting this instead. I was surprised at the accuracy of it. Spot on. I’ll probably put a few hundred rounds through it here soon.
    I agree about the safety, it would look so much better without it…..but I guess it gives a little piece of mind.
    There’s some customization options out there too, different grips, engraved cylinders…and the cost isn’t too bad either.

  • Spartos

    I have a Rough Rider .22. Bought it used and have put about 1600 rounds through it. The firing pin is wearing down so I’ve order a new pin. I agree that the safety is really not necessary (don’t have one on my other revolvers)–but since the Rough Rider requires the hammer to be partly cocked in order to load or unload the gun–I’m glad the safety is there.

  • joseph ball

    hey, do you know what the one is with adjustable sites. also, i’ve been seeing that they are 9 round. am i just a “tardo” or are there 9 round cappable? about the sites, the one i looked at has no adjustable sites, and i kind of like the ability to site mine in. and, if there are, how much more in the price is it

  • judy spradley

    I had a toy colt .45 cap pistol as a kid and loved it. The rough rider has the same feel although a little heavier and a real gun! I’m looking at one as my first handgun, for plinking and scaring away snakes on our property. Anyone have any experience using the rough rider with .22 snake shot? Any advice? Thanks.

    • Judy – Best wishes and I think you’ll like this revolver! I’ve fired both .22LR and .22 Magnum snakeshot from my revolver and it worked great on soda cans :) I’d suggest you get one of the combo models that comes with both the LR and Magnum cylinders and try the snake shot from both. I’m pretty sure the .22 Magnum with snake shot will take care of any snakes that might trouble you and will do so from a comfortable distance :wink:

  • Lewis

    I bought a Heritage about a week ago and the only issue I have with it is that it hits a little high and to the left.

  • George

    I was watching “Swamp People” on the History channel and one of the gator hunters used the R.R. w/ 3.5in barrel chambered in .22mag to blow the gators away before bringing them up. These were big gator over 7ft. and 400# talk about power in a little pkg. I have one on layaway at bud’ a 3.5″ blue barrel w/ pink pearl bird beak grips for my daughters first pistol. If this puppy is nice i plan to get one for myself. I was looking @ the Ruger Six, but the price was a little more than I was willing to part with. Thanks for the info.

  • Jay

    I think this is one of the most informative reviews I have read. I have a buddy who just purchased the “don’t tread on me” R.R. After playing with it like a kid in a candy store for a few minutes I was very impressed. The springs were tight and just an overall well balanced firearm. I preferred the manuel safety though (I guess Peice of mind). I actually believe that the safety was pretty well countersunk. This way it does not do much damage to the looks. Necessary? No. Useful? Yes.

  • Cheyenne

    I Just bought a Heritage RR 22LR today. I have two spindles that came in the packaging with it, one fits a 22 mag shot and a regualr 22 shot, however the other spindle will not fit the mag shot. Do you think that it is for maybe a snake shot or something? I’m not really sure about it . My husband bought it for me , for my protection since he works night shifts and does not like me all alone. So far I completly love this Rough Rider. It just has a great feel to it. oh, also , the firing pin it hitting the side of the lip when I shoot it, although it still shoots fine. do you think it is a major problem or I should worry about it. If so , do you know of anywhere that i could get it fixed for an acceptable price?

    • Cheyenne,
      Congrats on the new gun! When the firing pin hits the rim of the .22, that’s normal :wink: With a “centerfire” round like a 9mm, the primer is pressed into the shell casing and is right in the center. .22 ammo is called “rimfire” because the ammo is set off by the rim of the casing being crushed – that’s where the primer compound is :)
      Any questions about the spindles would be best addressed by calling Heritage Manufacturing :cool:

  • Josh

    I’m new to guns. I bought a .22 Rough Rider, but it isn’t shooting. It went off once by accident. Luckily it facing into the range. It’s as if the hammer isn’t going all the way down. I noticed the time it did shoot, the reloading hatch was open. I can’t remember if I had it open or it came open on it’s own. The discharged bullet casing was sticking out a bit and didn’t let the chamber revolve. What am I doing wrong? I don’t want to look stupid. I’d appreciate any feedback. I love this gun, but want to know what’s the story with it. I read my manual, but need more input. Please help thank you.

    • Josh,

      The loading gate would have nothing to do with it. From the bit you said about the hammer not going all the way down, it sounds like the safety may be on. Look to the left of the hammer as you’re looking down the sights and there will be a little lever/switch thing. If it’s vertical, there will be a bit of metal blocking the hammer from falling completely. Rotate it so that the lever is facing you and you see a red dot which will have been uncovered facing you. That red dot will be the indication that it’s ready to fire ;-)

  • terry

    Some of us forget to read the manual, thinking we know quite enough to use the gun. However; I’m always amazed how wrong I can be in that thinking. I have another pistol that uses a red dot to signify that the safety is “On” so I too dry fired a few times before realizing that on this gun it meant “ready to fire”. Glad nobody was near me on the range.

  • Ira

    Josh, I’m new to guns also–and I’m 55! Buying my first gun ever–the RR in LR and WMR in a week or two.

    Been wracking my BRAINS over what I need, want, value, etc. I ain’t rich these days, so this first gun has to satisfy my learning and plinking experience.

    That being said, although I know some people who supposedly know about guns, I will in no way trust them to teach me gun safety and proper operation of the RR. So the price for my RR with fixed sights and 6 1/2″ barrel is $219 at BassPro Shops near me, and I’ve already out aside a hundred bucks for a certified NRA instructor to spend 3 hours with me:

    Two hours just learning safety and book operation of the firearm, and one hour actually shooting. In a few months, I’ll have the bucks to for concealed permit, although in Florida, and with this 22, it isn’t actually a concealed candidate.

    Main thing I want to say is, I would be scared SH*TLESS if a firearm discharged without my intent. Accidents like that just don’t happen 99.999999999999999% of the time, and if they did, it’s an indication of improper training.

    The 100 bucks for my
    training will be the best money I ever spent.

    • George

      Ira, remember to leave the 12 o’clock cylinder empty that way there isn’t a round underneath the hammer and you should not have an accidental disharge even if you accidentally drop your revolver when loaded. This is a good rule of thumb for carrying any revolver with a hammer.

  • Ashton

    So is it legally considered a handgun? It doesnt take handgun ammo but it is a pistol and I being under 21 dont want to be illegaly in possession. Its fine to be in my car or house or on my person?

  • Larry

    Excellent summary of the RR pistol’s operating characteristics. Hard to find this sort of info anyplace else…better even than the HERITAGE website! Now I can buy with confidence. Thanks to all contributors for this great forum.

  • Jacob

    I have one of these revolvers, and I have found that there is some inconsistency in the accuracy, do you have any tips that will help me increase my accuracy?

  • Terry

    I don’t like to mess with sights, etc. so I’ve found that if after practicing I’m noting some hi/lo/left/right tendencies, I adjust my aiming point to compensate. These aren’t built to military specs so I don’t expect dead on accuracy.

  • Rusty

    Terry, Military spec ammo is not anything special, its just run of the mill low bidder stuff. Its not made to be more accurate than others.

  • terry

    Sorry Rusty. I wasn’t talking about ammo but the pistol itself. I thought military specs on hardware was tighter than commercial stuff.

  • terry

    Ian’t that a old trainer? I remember some Navy trainers that looked just like that.

  • Sam

    I bought a Rough Rider this week and was shooting it for the first time today and was getting a misfire about one out of every five rounds. I realized that the cylinder wasnt locking when I pulled the hammer back causing it to not strike the cartridge properly. Does anybody know if this is a common problem?

    • Paul

      I am having the same problem. Although, mine misfires about once every 20 rounds. I have e-mailed the company to see what may be causing this. If I find out anything I will post it.

  • Skillet

    You can remove that superfluous safety, I did

    Had my gunsmith chamfer/polish the forcing cone. Cost $15 and improved the accuracy hugely!

    Cheap, Remington Golden ammo, bulk boxes of 525 shoots great in mine

  • Hey Skillet, exactly what did you have done to your R.R. to improve the accuracey. I have the 3.5″ model and somwtimes its a little squirrly. I appreciate your explanation in advanced. These little revolvers are a lot of fun on the range and easy on the wallet. Thanks for sharing your experince.

  • Lucas

    Just picked up a RR today. Been looking at it for 6 months and bought it for my 15yo daughter (yeah, right). Can not wait to try this bad boy out!!

  • Skillet

    Any decent gunsmith can chamfer/polish the forcing cone for you.

    This is the slightly larger bored breech-end of the barrel where the bullet ‘jumps’ from the cylinder and into the bore.

    Sometimes not every cylinder chamber is perfectly aligned with the bore. The chamfering helps to correct this

  • Madmatt

    hey Sam I have the same situation with my uncles revolver I been taking a look at it and noticed after the hammer is fully cocked the cylinder would continue to roll just a little but if you reverse rotate it then it would lock in to place it is almost like the locking mechanism is sticking a bit then works we are going to try to oil it and see if that helps out. any one else have any idea what else it might be let me know.

  • Sam

    Hey Madmatt-After posing my comment, I looked further into it and figured out that mine was malfunctioning on the same spot every time. I took it back where I bought it and they tried a different cylinder in it and it now locks properly every time. Turns out it was a machining flaw on the cylinder. You may have the same issue.

  • Mike

    Josh I had that problem when the cylinder hand spring broke on my heritage rough rider, I had it about a year when that happened, it happened due to my ignorance and pretending I was a cowboy fanning the hammer. But for 179.00 for the combo 22lr/22mag not a bad deal, 12.00 for a new hammer spring, other than that one hiccup this has been a great gun, I use it all the time and take it to to the range and fire at least 100 rounds through it everytime of magnum and regular lr. this christmas I will have had the gun for 3 years.

  • Mike

    Sorry, forgot to mention that the hammer wasn’t striking the firing pin because the cylinder hand spring had broken off of the cylinder hand and was jamming up the hammer spring, I had to take off the backstrap and shake it around to get it to fall out.

  • Terry Voges

    I recently bought a rough rider 22 and it has been misfiring regularly. I tried different ammo as I thought that may be the problem but it doesn’t seem to matter…. it still misfires. Very frustrating. What could be the cause of this?

  • Skillet

    Cock the gun (unloaded), and see if that floating firing pin moves freely.
    Push on it with your thumb. Could be a burr, try a coupla’ drops of oil on it.

    Could be a weak hammer spring too. Examine the fired cases, look for light hammer strikes on the misfires


  • Ira

    Did you buy it new?

  • Skillet

    Something else, regarding the .22 mag cylinder and ammo:

    Have used the mag cylinder a few times, and was less than impressed. Not only does the .22 mag ammo appear less accurate than the LR ammo, it also groups to a different POI (point of impact). This is target shooting off sandbags at 30 yds.

    In short, the mag cylinder is retired and I’ll continue using the milder, more accurate LR ammo.

    Also, my pistol shoots quite well with (Remington) sub-sonic ammo. This might be a fix for those fixed-sighted guns that shoot high with standard velocity fodder.


  • Josiah

    I Just bought my R.R. last week, and am lovin it. Came with the LR and WMR cylinders. But now I’m wondering.. can i get a 9-shot cylinder fitted for this gun? or is it a different gun? Thanks for any comments.

  • BILL


    • Bill – I’m sorry I don’t have that answer for you. My best advice would be a Google search or maybe try a cabinet maker to see if they could do some custom ones as I’m just flat busy with lots of stuff right now :)
      Best wishes for some good ones :D

    • terry

      My span from thumb tip to middle finger tip is 9.5 inches, so I understand the problem. Mine came with wood grips and I adjusted my grip a little and it’s okay. You might want to check Heritage’s website and see if you can get the dimensions on the bird head grip. It looks a little longer and thicker, so might work for you.9

  • RH Fisher

    For Bill that needs larger grips. Heritage has grips on their web site. They have a larger set that come on the 45/410 . These may fit on your gun.

  • Noob

    Can any anyone tell me if the Heritage Roughrider is made in the USA from foreign parts, or made in the USA from US made parts? This is important to me and will impact my purchase decision.

  • Curt

    Jeff—-I left my Heritage loaded for a few months and when I took it back out I was unable to pull the hammer back. What do you think has happened???????????

  • sgopus

    was just wondering someone had published a book on how to assemble and disassemble the rough rider 22 cal SA only. so far i haven’t been able to find one,

  • Brendan

    My fireing pin strikes my cylinder when I fire it and some lead shoots out the side of my cylinder and barrel conjunction any ideals why?

  • ty

    Bought one six months ago and yesterday when I went to lay it down it went off and shot my best friend through both legs, and yes the safety was on, I went to his house today to look at his pistole witch is the same pistole, I took it out back and tried it and it shot with the saftey on, would not by again

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