the on-going popularity of Cowboy
Action Shooting (CAS) and other Western action shooting
games, replica guns and close copies of the classic firearms of
the Old West proliferate. Some
might ask if there is a need for more such guns and I would have
to give that question a qualified “yes” answer.
When a new firearm combines traditional looks and
innovative technology, plus good quality at an affordable price,
I say “make way!” One
of the newest such guns is a single action revolver which I
refer to as the Big Bore Rough Rider from Heritage
covered the .32 Magnum Rough
Rider for Gunblast.com, and this larger handgun is its
big brother, with a few differences. While the smaller .32 Magnum is based on the Heritage Rough
Rider series of rimfire revolvers, all of which are completely
made in the USA, the Big Bore model is produced in the Heritage
factory using parts imported from Pietta of Italy.
Both Heritage and Pietta are family-based companies and
so they teamed up to make a new product for the Heritage line
unlike any of the others.
you look at the Heritage Big Bore Rough Rider, there is no
mistaking its resemblance to the Colt 1873 Single Action
Army, the “Peacemaker” of Old West legends.
It has the same lines and shares many of the same traits
of the Colt like the barrel selection which come in 4-3/4”,
5-1/2” and 7-1/2” lengths. They both have one-piece wood grips like the original
military contract Colt, while the frame and sights look like the
later generation Colt SA’s.
They are chambered for not only the historic .45 Colt,
but can be had in .44-40 and .357 Magnum.
The obvious difference to me just looking at the new
Rough Rider is that the trigger that is more towards the center
of the trigger guard than those on the more true Colt replicas.
Crank the hammer back and you will note there is no fixed
firing pin in the hammer nose, but a frame mounted, inertia
firing pin. With
the hammer moving to full-cock, you will also observe the
transfer bar rising inside the exposed part of the action.
This means that you can carry a full six rounds in this
revolver if you wish; however, the manufacturer still recommends
carrying the gun with an empty chamber under the hammer and this
is also the rule in Single Action Shooting Society sanctioned
Heritage Big Bore Rough Rider is an all-steel handgun with no
alloy parts and is available with several finish options. The folks at Heritage tell me that their new handguns can be
had all blue, blue with a color-case frame, full nickel plate,
and stainless steel may be in the offing.
Grip materials at this time are a solid chunk of
beautifully finished cocobolo.
The grips that adorn the test guns I was sent have a
reddish hue with a black grain and the looks of hand oil
finishing. My Rough
Rider samples are in all-blue and this finish really sets off
these grips. My
pair of test revolvers have really outstanding fit and finish,
the wood and metal mate well and the polish of the metal is
better than I have seen on more expensive handguns.
My only complaint is that the right side of the triggers
look almost serrated for some reason. You get three “clicks” when you cock the hammer all the
way back, instead of four “clicks” like with the original
Colt, which is of course attributable to the more modern action.
It has a very precise action, with a solid cylinder
lock-up and no “scratch ring” around the circumference of
the cylinder between the bolt cuts.
The trigger pull has some “take-up” before breaking
at around 4-1/2 pounds. To
load or unload the Rough Rider, you must bring the hammer back
to the first “click” which allows the cylinder to rotate in
a clockwise direction, and then you open the loading gate on the
right side of the frame’s recoil shield.
This exposes the chambers for loading or allows you to
slide back the spring-loaded ejector rod to remove expended
cartridge cases. You
can also now remove the cylinder base pin for cleaning the
cylinder and barrel. The
base pin release button is located on the left side of the frame
just ahead of the cylinder.
much for my wordy description of this new sixgun and its
particulars; now to the nitty-gritty.
I went to my ammo locker and selected some test
folks at Meister Bullets just recently started producing
loaded ammunition (using their bullets, of course) and they had
sent me some samples in .32 Magnum, .38 Special, and .45 Colt
all made especially for CAS competition.
The .45 Colt load I elected to use features a 200 gr.
flat-nosed bullet, ahead of Vihtavuori powder and a Federal
large pistol primer. They come in a white paper box, 50 rounds each with the décor
on the box specifying they are “cowboy loads.”
Next I picked out a couple of boxes of Black
Hills .45 Schofield cartridges as I had already shot a
nickel plated .45 Rough Rider that had a penchant for this load,
so I wanted to see if its blue, shorter barrel brothers would
also prefer it. I
may not have mentioned it earlier, but Heritage sent me a pair
of these six-shooters, the better to go Cowboy Action Shooting
with! Lastly, I
grabbed some handloads I’d made up with a 235 gr. lead bullet,
backed by a dose of Unique and a
Winchester large pistol primer.
loaded guns and gear in my SUV and it was off to the range to
see what these Rough Riders would do.
For purposes of this test I used only one of the
revolvers during the accuracy testing phase and later used both
in an actual CAS match. I
put some of those wonderful Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C
self-adhesive bulls-eye targets on some used computer paper and
sent them down-range to a distance of 30 feet.
Using an improvised rest, I fired 10 rounds each at these
bulls-eye targets with the test ammo.
I was slowly chewing out a group that would have measured
1.04” with 8 rounds of the Meister cartridges, but two flyers
opened it up to 2.91” per my dial calipers.
With my handloads I had a big one-hole group going that
was 1.53” with 8 rounds and then a low hit and a high hit
expanded that group out to 3.21” almost doubling the size.
As I anticipated, I got an honest 1.94” group with the
Black Hills .45 Schofield loads, that carry a light 180 gr.
bullet and have a minimum of recoil.
folks at Heritage also offer a limited line of cowboy leather
and they sent me a nice embossed rig that looks like a hand
stamped floral pattern. The
cartridge belt had 25 loops for ammunition and was of the
“River Belt” pattern with a silver plated buckle.
The holsters were the Texas Jock Strap type and the whole
outfit looked pretty impressive in its antique tan color with
black dyed edging. The
Heritage guns and leather rig accompanied me to the Thunder
Valley Cowboy Action Shooting Club way out in the sticks
near Campbellsburg in Southern Indiana (www.thundervalleycas.com).
Redneck Rebel ramrods this spread and he and the
club officers and members always put on fun and interesting
cowboy shooting events.
particular shoot was the last main match of the 2005 season and
was held on December 3rd. The
weather for that time a year was just outstanding and although
there were threatening gray clouds, it wasn’t bad at all and
there was a fairly decent turnout of cowboys and cowgirls.
I normally shoot either Duelist or 49er shooting
categories, but on that day on a whim chose to shoot in the
Traditional group. If
you aren’t a cowboy action shooter that means I can hold the
handgun with a two-handed hold, using the support-hand thumb to
cock the hammer. Kinda
speeds things up, but I never saw Matt Dillon do it!
Anyway, we did eight main match stages that day and both
of the Heritage Big Bore Rough Riders did pretty well.
I had used the two Heritage sixguns at a fun match at
Thunder Valley in November and as a result, I had Vaquero
who’s a pretty good gunsmith, to do a little action refinement
on the new Rough Riders. They
are not bad as is from the factory, but I wanted things a little
smoother and with their moderate price tag, you have some money
left in your pocket after purchase for such niceties.
really wanted to shoot a clean match, but after a miss at stage
one I new that was history, so I tried to speed up just a
little. I went a
lot faster with the two handguns when I used the Black Hills and
Meister .45 cowboy loads. My
handloads were a bit “stiffer” and the recoil drove the guns
down deeper in my hand as I fired, which caused me to skip a
chamber once and another time I had a high primer that caused me
to use both thumbs to crank that hammer back.
I figured after the match that I’d stick around and see
how low in the Traditional category that I had placed.
The match director kept reading names from the bottom up
of what turned out to be a short list, and I thought, “Where
am I?” I almost fell off my seat when he announced that La Vista
Bill (my SASS alias) had taken first place.
Heritage Manufacturing, you won’t be getting these two
six-shooters back, I’m here to say.
The rest of you folks, if you want a good SA sixgun for
CAS matches, field use or just plinking, then these Big Bore
Rough Riders from Heritage will more than fill the bill.
They offer quality and affordability…an American
a Vista Bill" Bell
.45 Rough Rider Specifications
|Replica of Colt SAA, but has transfer bar
action with an inertia firing pin
|Takes 6 rounds of .45 Colt or Schofield
cartridges (.357/.44-40 available)
|Barrel lengths available: 4-3/4”,
5-1/2” and 7-1/2”
|Empty weight with 5-1/2” barrel: 29.9
|Finishes available: Blue, color-case/blue,
nickel and stainless (coming soon)
|Grips: one-piece cocobolo
|MSRP: $429 nickel, $379 blue, $389
Manufacturing, Inc. (Rough Rider Revolvers)
N.W. 135th Street
Locka, FL 33054-4486
Casey (Shoot-N-C Targets)
Prairie, MN 55344
City, SD 57709
Cartridge Co., Inc.
South Hwy. 169
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