The Heritage Manufacturing Rough Rider series revolvers are some of my favorite guns. They are fun, cheap, and work immensely well for their low price point. I’ve watched the Rough Rider form the basis of the company, and that includes guns like the popular Rancher carbine. The Heritage Barkeep takes the Rough Rider in the opposite direction of the Rancher, trimming the barrel to two inches. Well, 2.68 inches, but only 2-inches of exposed barrel.
The Barkeep gets its name from the Colt Shopkeeper models, although, as far as I can figure, Colt never used the term Shopkeeper to describe the shorter SAA models. It seems to be a nickname given to the little revolvers by enthusiasts and collectors. The Barkeep offers a shortened single-action revolver in the classic Colt styling, but chambered in .22LR or .22 Magnum.
Breaking Down the Barkeep
The Heritage Barkeep is available with barrels of either 2.68 inches or 3.6 inches. You can choose the longer version, but if I’m going short, I’m going super short.
Like most Heritage Manufacturing guns, you have tons of options for the grips. Mine are gray pearl, but you can choose wood, faux ivory, and some custom designs.
The short barrel and simple design eliminates an ejector rod, but Heritage includes a small rod to punch out casings. I mostly pulled them out with my fingernail, but the tool helps with some of the more swollen cartridges. The cylinder can be swapped for a six-round Magnum variant if you so choose, and there are also a number of engraved cylinders you can choose as well (all are priced under $40).
The finish is a black oxide that looks fine to me. What I don’t like is all the silly, lawyer-driven safety markings on the gun. It’s nearly a paragraph of text warning you of this or that. I guess if I was at the range and nature called, at least I’d have something to read.
If you’ve ever handled a Colt-style SAO revolver, you know what to expect. The grips are small but angled comfortably. The hammer clicks and pops just right, and the cylinder gate allows you to load and eject a round at a time.
The length of pull on the little revolver is short, and even most kids can use it comfortably. The Barkeep has a weird little safety to the left of the hammer that I don’t love, but understand. Lots of kids shoot these guns and I get why the safety is there. I would love to see Heritage produce safety-free models for the grown-up Cowboy LARPer.
One thing you’ll notice with the Barkeep is nearly all of the weight is to the rear. It’s not balanced, but it’s also not unbalanced in a bad way.
At the Range with the Barkeep
I loaded up my Barkeep, shot six rounds, and quickly remembered I needed that little tool to unload the stiffer, more stuck casings. So I trotted back to the car for it. It does the job quickly enough, and popping out stuck casings of an SAA clone is never going to be a quick affair.
As you’d imagine, the combination of a very short sight radius and rudimentary sights make accurate fire challenging. At seven yards, I had trouble placing every round inside a two-inch circle. However, I could easily pop holes in soda cans, ring gongs, and split those tiny gopher reactive targets. The Barkeep isn’t an inaccurate gun, there is just little to no room for error.
Since Halloween is over, I still had a few mini pumpkins around and a few kids willing to put holes in them. We spent an afternoon with the Barkeep, some Remington .22LR ammo, and three pumpkins. After reciting the four firearm safety rules, we tossed pumpkins downrange and worked on our basic marksmanship.
The kids had a blast with the Barkeep. Even with its accuracy challenges, no one got frustrated by the occasional miss. The gun went bang over and over again. We had one failure to fire the whole day, because rimfire..
The gun’s 26 ounces of metal absorbs all the recoil of the .22LR cartridge with ease. There’s a fair bit of smoke that makes the gun even more fun, in my opinion.
While I could make the case for a practical purpose for the standard Rough Rider for small game hunting, snake removal, and similar tasks, I come up short for the Barkeep. It’s short, but not genuinely compact. To me, the Barkeep is just a fun, affordable gun. I have my boxes checked for practical firearms, and the safe still has room for fun guns. The Barkeep ultimately emphasizes the ‘fun’ in fun gun and does so at a very friendly price.
Specifications: Heritage Manufacturing Barkeep Revolver
Barrel Length – 2.68 inches
Overall Length – 7.95 inches
Weight – 26 ounces
Capacity – 6 rounds
Caliber – 22LR / 22 WMR
MSRP – $208.33 (about $160 street price)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy * * *
There is very little room for error here with the Barkeep’s short sight radius and rudimentary sights. The SAO trigger helps, but you’ll see your accuracy mistakes quite fast. With that said, I could ring gongs at 25 yards, but producing nice tight groups is tough.
Ergonomics * * * * *
It’s an SAA-inspired design, so the ergos are great. All the weight is to the rear, and the gun points naturally and instinctively. I’m not too fond of the Barkeep’s safety, but I understand it for teaching new shooters.
Reliability * * * * *
The Barkeep is a .22LR SAO revolver. It’s tough to make a bad one. The gun went bang over and over throughout a brick of ammo and two different shooters, and we had only one fail to fire and I’ll chalk that up to a dud round.
Bang For Your Buck * * * * *
With a low MSRP and an even lower street price, the Barkeep could dang near be a stocking stuffer. But seriously, the Heritage Barkeep keeps things cheap, and there’s always room for a gun that combines low cost with tons of fun.
Overall * * * *
I like fun guns. The Barkeep might not be practical, but it makes me smile. It has my son asking for a .22LR revolver for Christmas and made my girlie girl daughter smile. What’s not to love?