February 2006

Budget .45 Colt Cowboy Guns: Heritage Comes Up Shooting

The Heritage Manufacturing Big Bore Rough Rider was right on target, and it ranks high among similar guns we’ve tested in the past. But the Taurus Gaucho needed to raise its sights.

According to a number of online dictionaries, there is no definition listed for the term, “cowboy gun.” Nevertheless, the popularity of revolvers descending from the Colt Single Action Army has brought new meaning to these words. Since 1999 we have tested at least 18 different handguns that fit what we define as a cowboy gun, and now there are two more entering the market.

The Taurus Gaucho No. SA45B, $499, and the Heritage Manufacturing Big Bore Rough Rider No. RR45B5, $379, are six-shot single-action revolvers each with 5.5-inch barrels and chambered for 45 Colt. Some refer to this 1.6-inch-long straight-walled case with a 0.454-inch diameter bullet as .45 Long Colt, but in either case this caliber did not actually exist in the 19th Century. What is important is that these guns are for pleasure first, and they do not come with big price tags.

But their budget prices don’t mean we’re going to let them off the hook should they prove wanting in one area or another. Physically, the Gaucho and the Rough Rider could not be closer. Indeed, since they are replica guns, any variation from form, whether a positive innovation or not, would more than likely spoil their appeal. Both guns are dark-blued steel. Both guns have a tall front sight and a rear sighting notch exposed when the hammer is pulled back. Sight radius was equal. Each gun cylinder rotated clockwise, and with the loading gate open, the cylinders clicked with the indexing of each chamber. Ejector-rod movement was approximately 2.7 inches for each gun. The hammers on each gun lacked firing pins, using instead a transfer-bar system for greater safety. The Gaucho featured a plastic grip, but the grip on the Rough Rider was wood. The shape of the bell-shaped grips each started with a wide base that tapered to a 4.1-inch neck. Their weight, size, front strap and back strap height were nearly identical.

With so little to distinguish the two guns, our main concerns in this test were accuracy, fit, and function. Our test distance was 25 yards from a sandbag rest with four different choices of ammunition, two modern and two others sold in boxes decorated with Old West graphics. The modern rounds were Winchester’s 225-grain Silvertip hollowpoints and Remington’s 225-grain lead semi-wadcutters. The remaining ammunition brands, likely being marketed to Cowboy Action shooters, were 250-grain lead flat-point rounds from PMC and Black Hills Ammunition. We also looked back at other .45 Colt cowboy guns we have tested to see how these two newcomers stacked up within the category overall.

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