Most handgunners own a rimfire revolver or two and appreciate them as affordable and enjoyable plinkers, useful for informal target practice, firing at tin cans, dirt clods, and other stuff on a range backstop (where allowed). Such revolvers allow for cheap and easy marksmanship training, and because of their manual of arms, they make it clear to a new shooter how everything works, because the shooter is involved in working the gun on every shot. Many shooters also use rimfire revolvers for small-game hunting, if they are accurate enough to take a bedded rabbit or knock a squirrel from a tall tree. Rimfire revolvers are also useful for controlling pests and dangerous reptiles. So, because of these guns’ utility, our Gun Tests shooters fired three contenders side by side to see which one they thought was the better buy. All three have cowboy styling, although one is a double-action revolver intended to mimic the handling and handfit of a single-action revolver.
Our first contestant was Diamondback’s Sidekick DB0500A001 22 LR/22 WMR, $288. This is a relatively new handgun that handles like the vintage High Standard Double Nine. As its name suggests, the Diamondback revolver was delivered with an easily changed spare cylinder chambered in 22 Magnum.
Our second gun was likewise a twin chambering of the 22 LR/22 Magnum rounds. The Heritage Rough Rider Tactical Cowboy RR22B6-TH 22 LR/22 Magnum, $212, is unusual in that this cowboy-looking handgun has a threaded muzzle and carbon-fiber grips, lending it a very contemporary look. When he first saw this gun, the staffer who ran this test asked, “What will you do with that?” After using the Heritage Cowboy Tactical a few weeks, he ate crow. We paid full MSRP for one of the first of these revolvers, but recently we have seen several on sale for less than $175. Add shipping and FFL receiving fees, and it’s safe to say you should be able to find one of these revolvers for around $200. The Heritage revolver did not come with a 22 Magnum cylinder, but we added one for $29 plus tax from our local Academy Sports, for a total price of $241. The cylinder did not require fitting, a neat trick.
The third gun in the trio was Ruger’s Wrangler Birdshead 2030 22 LR, $250. This is a Talo Distributor Exclusive model. The standard birdshead Model No. 2015 has synthetic grips. Ruger introduced the Wrangler as a direct competitor to Heritage’s Rough Rider series, but Ruger cannot match Heritage’s price point, but Ruger has sold plenty of inexpensive Wrangler revolvers. In contrast to the two guns above, there isn’t a Magnum cylinder option offered for the Wrangler because Ruger cylinders must be fitted at the factory.
Accordingly, we test-fired the Diamondback and Heritage revolvers with 22 Magnum cartridges using CCI and Federal ammunition. The accuracy results obtained were in line with the 22 Long Rifle testing, with the Heritage revolver being slightly more accurate. But if you look at the energy calculations, some Magnum loads have twice the energy of the 22 LRs. During the test period, we used 40-grain lead round-nose 22 Long Rifle high-velocity loads from Federal, Fiocchi, Remington and Winchester, firing 200 rounds in each revolver. We also had a range bag of suspect tarnished loads from another test that we used up, and which you might see in some of the filled cylinders. They all fired without a hitch, and we didn’t have to leave the range rubbing our wrists after firing 600 rounds offhand. With the 22 rimfire, practice is fun and not painful. Here’s what we thought about each gun in more detail.
Gun Tests Grade: A (BEST BUY)
The Heritage Rough Rider Cowboy Tactical is easily one of the most versatile and useful rimfire handguns we have tested. The heart of the revolver is the single-action Heritage action. The trigger action is nice and broke cleanly at 3.0 pounds. The Heritage is unusual in that it offers a manual safety. The safety lever is turned and then blocks the hammer from striking the firing pin. It is kind of a crossbolt safety. We recommend loading only five cartridges in the Heritage. Load one cartridge, skip a chamber, load four cartridges then cock the hammer and lower the hammer on an empty cylinder. We prefer loading five cartridges to loading six and using the safety device, but either practice works well. Loading five is for keeping the Cowboy Tactical at home ready or for carrying hunting. For informal target practice, loading six rounds is fine.
|Action Type||Single action only, hammer fired|
|Overall Length||11.85 in.|
|Overall Height||5.0 in.|
|Maximum Width||1.5 in.|
|Weight Unloaded||32.0 oz.|
|Weight Loaded||35.8 oz.|
|Cylinder Gap||0.07 in.|
|Barrel||Alloy steel, 6.5 in. long, 1:14 RH twist, 6 grooves|
|Frame||Zinc alloy, black oxide finish|
|Cylinder||Alloy steel, black oxide finish|
|Frame Front Strap Height||2.25 in.|
|Frame Rear Strap Height||3.0 in.|
|Grip Thickness Maximum||1.5 in.|
|Grip Circumference||5.6 in., 5.9 in at toe of grip|
|Front Sight||Fiber optic|
|Rear Sight||Fixed rear, rail for red dot|
|Sight Radius||7.0 in.|
|Trigger Pull Weight Single Action||2.9 lbs.|
|Trigger Span||2.5 in.|
|Warranty||1 year limited|
The carbon-fiber grips are attractive and fit most hands well. Like many other single-action revolvers, the grips are comfortable but wider at the toe, or bottom of the grip. In this case, the primary rater’s hands are average to small for men, while another rater has hubcap-sized mitts. The larger size results in the small finger hanging off the bottom of the grip and no loss of control. The grips are nicely finished, and overall fit of the firearm is good. The only drawback is that the rear strap doesn’t quite meet the grips, a small defect not critical in a 22-caliber handgun.
At 32 ounces, this is the heaviest revolver tested. The barrel is 6.5 inches long and threaded for a suppressor. That makes for real value. The big news on this revolver is a rail that makes the Heritage Cowboy Tactical optics ready. It is very easy to slap a red dot in place or even a long-eye-relief hunting scope. The rail is also a rear sight. The rear sight notch is generous, and the front fiber-optic sight is a good match for this sight. This was easily the best sight system of the three handguns.
Firing the revolver off hand was easy: Get on target, press the trigger, and you have a hit. This is the easiest 22 revolver to get hits with that we have seen in some time or can remember. Balance is excellent. Considering the sights, trigger, and weight of the revolver and adding the 6.5-inch barrel length, it should be a shooter, and it was. In bench-accuracy testing at 15 yards, the revolver turned in several 1.25- to 1.5-inch five-shot groups, making it the most accurate revolver tested here.
Our Team Said: The Heritage Rough Rider Cowboy Tactical offers an excellent fiber-optic front sight and the ability to easily mount a red-dot sight. With the popularity of red-dot sights and optics-ready handguns, the Heritage Cowboy Tactical has an advantage. We question the value of fitting a sound suppressor on this revolver because the sound escaping from the barrel/cylinder gap would seem to defeat the purpose.
22 LR Range DataWe fired all groups of 22 LR above and 22 Magnum left at 15 yards from a braced benchrest position using an MTM Universal Shooting rest. We used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony to measure velocity, with the first screen of the chronograph 10 feet from the muzzles of the firearms.
|Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain RNL||Heritage Tactical Cowboy||Diamondback Sidekick||Ruger Wrangler Birdshead|
|Average Velocity||991 fps||940 fps||929 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||87 ft.-lbs.||78 ft.-lbs.||77 ft.-lbs.|
|Small group||1.5 in.||2.0 in.||3.0 in.|
|Average Group||2.1 in.||2.45 in.||4.0 in.|
|Fiocchi Performance 40-grain CRN||Heritage Tactical Cowboy||Diamondback Sidekick||Ruger Wrangler Birdshead|
|Average Velocity||1006 fps||989 fps||960 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||90 ft.-lbs.||87 ft.-lbs.||82 ft.-lbs.|
|Small group||1.4 in.||2.2 in||2.9 in.|
|Average Group||1.75 in.||2.7 in.||3.6 in.|
|CCI Mini-Mag 36-grain||Heritage Tactical Cowboy||Diamondback Sidekick||Ruger Wrangler Birdshead|
|Average Velocity||1112 fps||1101 fps||978 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||99 ft.-lbs.||97 ft.-lbs.||76 ft.-lbs.|
|Small group||1.8 in.||2.0 in.||2.8 in.|
|Average Group||2.4 in.||2.7 in.||3.45 in.|
22 Magnum Range DataWe fired all groups of 22 LR above and 22 Magnum left at 15 yards from a braced benchrest position using an MTM Universal Shooting rest. We used a Competition Electronics Pro Chrony to measure velocity, with the first screen of the chronograph 10 feet from the muzzles of the firearms.
|Hornady Critical Defense 45-grain FRX 83200||Heritage Tactical Cowboy||Diamondback Sidekick|
|Average Velocity||1160 fps||1150 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||134 ft.-lbs.||132 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||1.25 in.||2.5 in.|
|Average Group||1.65 in.||3.4 in.|
|CCI Maxi-Mag 46-grain Polymer-Coated SHP||Heritage Tactical Cowboy||Diamondback Sidekick|
|Average Velocity||1201 fps||1186 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||147 ft.-lbs.||144 ft.-lbs.|
|Small Group||1.8 in.||2.0 in.|
|Average Group||2.4 in.||2.6 in.|