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 Gunblast.com.
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.
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
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
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