Back in 1984 in collaborative effort between
old-line gun maker Harrington & Richardson (H&R)
and the Federal Cartridge Company, a new cartridge
emerged that was dubbed the .32 H&R Magnum.
It was touted as giving .38 Special (standard velocity)
performance in a .32 caliber package.
H&R made up three revolvers to chamber the cartridge
and were basically 5-shot .32 Magnum versions of their .22
rimfire handguns. Federal
produced two .32 Magnum cartridges; a 95 gr. lead SWC load and
an 85 gr. JHP load. Charter
Arms, Ruger and Smith & Wesson jumped on
the bandwagon and started producing handguns in this caliber.
Small frame revolvers that were limited to five .38 Spl.
Cartridges could now be made to chamber six .32 H&R
cartridges and you could also load .32 S&W or .32 S&W
Long ammunition. Unfortunately,
Harrington & Richardson stopped production in 1986 and
shortly thereafter went out of business.
Handguns for the .32 H&R Magnum have come and gone
over the past 20 years, but the little cartridge has clung to
life and I think has received its biggest boost in the past few
years from the Cowboy Action Shooting fraternity.
The 2005 SHOT
Show saw the introduction of the newest .32 H&R
Magnum revolver, this time from Heritage Manufacturing, Inc.,
a company well-known for their economically priced line of
single-action (SA) Rough Rider rimfire revolvers. I’ll have to admit to having had a hand in this project as
I happen to be friends with the Heritage owners, Jay
Bernkrant and his wife Maria Diaz.
When they began producing a steel frame version of the
.22LR I asked Jay why he didn’t bore out the barrel and
cylinder chambers to .32 caliber and offer the steel frame Rough
Rider in .32 H&R Magnum?
To me this was a “no-brainer” and would make the
Rough Rider the most economical centerfire SA revolver on the
market (the blue version has an MSRP of $219).
Well, to make a long story short, when I arrived at the
Heritage Booth at the 2005 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, there was my
.32 Magnum Rough Rider on top of the display case. The demo model had a 6-1/2” barrel and was in the
relatively new satin black finish, with two piece laminated wood
grips that had tones of gray, brown and green.
The Rough Rider revolvers are styled after the Colt
1873 SAA and look almost identical to the Colt Frontier Scout
.22 rimfire that was made from 1958-1971.
The .32 Magnum versions as I mentioned earlier have a
steel frame, barrel and cylinder, with other parts like the grip
frame, loading gate and ejector rod housing made of high
strength aluminum alloy. The
Rough Rider revolvers function much like other SA six-guns and
when you thumb back the hammer, you get those four, distinct
“clicks” going back to full-cock.
Although the gun has a frame mounted firing pin, it is
not of the inertia variety, so keep an empty chamber under the
hammer. There is a
hammer block safety located on the left recoil shield that when
activated interposes a steel block between the hammer face and
the firing pin. The
hammer itself on the new Rough Rider has been redesigned to give
it a more authentic look. The
trigger pull has a little creep and pull weight runs about 6
pounds; it is wider than the triggers found on previous Heritage
models. Sights are
of the fixed variety and the cylinder is un-fluted.
The rear of the cylinder is rebated which provides the
added protection of a steel ring around the cylinders
circumference, a feature that is somewhat questionable with
modern centerfire ammunition.
The 6-1/2” model weighs around 35 ounces, so subtract
an ounce or two for the shorter barrel guns.
I immediately ordered two of the dandy little
revolvers, but I told Jay that I wanted something different.
Heritage has another finish called Satin Silver and that
is what I wanted on my six-shooters, along with simulated ivory
grips. Well, a few
weeks after the SHOT Show I received a parcel from Heritage and
inside were my .32 Magnum Rough Riders.
They looked really good with the silver satin on the
steel parts and a silver anodized, slightly contrasting finish
on the grip frame and ejector rod housing.
The screws, front sight, loading gate, trigger, and some
other small parts were finished in black.
My simulated ivory grips had scrimshaw designs and on the
4-3/4” barrel gun I have the Mexican Eagle, while on the
6-1/2” gun I have a mounted cowboy galloping and shooting.
The pair of six-guns were just plain attractive in my
opinion…take a look at the photos. Since these six-guns were intended for Cowboy Action Shooting
I named them the “LaVista Bill Specials” after my Single
Actions Shooting Society (SASS) alias.
Just recently I asked for a third Rough Rider,
this one with the 3-1/2” barrel and birds-head grip frame.
It came in standard black satin finish with the laminated
wood grips. It is
just a nifty looking, compact little revolver and I’d like to
see one fixed up with the adjustable sights Heritage puts on
some of their .22 LR and .17 HMR revolvers.
I think it would make one nice little “Kit Gun”…are
you listening Jay and Maria?
The only difference (besides the finish) in this gun and
the others is the ejector rod lever. It is hollowed out on the shorter barrel Rough Riders to
allow it to come down just a fraction of an inch over the base
pin for positive extraction of empty cases.
I took the LaVista Bill Specials with me to the
range to do some paper punching and included in my shooting bag
boxes of Black Hills .32 Magnum 90 gr. lead, flat-nosed
bullet “cowboy loads”, along with some older Federal .32
Magnum cartridges that had a 95 gr. blunt nosed lead bullet.
I also brought along some .32 S&W Long handloads that
I’d made up, using a 115 gr. lead semi-wadcutter bullet and a
few grains of Bulls-Eye gun powder.
At a distance of 30 feet, using my shooting bag for a
rest, I was able to shoot some pretty acceptable groups with the
4-3/4” and 6-1/2” revolvers.
My smallest group was made using the 6-1/2” barrel gun
and my own .32 Long handloads, with 5 rounds going into a tight
1.45” cluster. My
best with the 4-3/4” gun was 1.85” using the Black Hills
cowboy cartridges. In both guns most groups averaged around 2.3” to just a
hair over 3” and some of that I blamed on the infamous 4+1
sights were pretty well regulated on both guns for the
mild-shooting Black Hills .32 Magnum cowboy loads, while the
Federal ammo and my handloads tended to shoot a little high and
left. The sights
are what an old-timer might call “fine” and just a little
taxing on my 51+ year old eyes.
The Rough Rider revolvers worked fine throughout my
shooting session with no malfunctions of any kind.
For the real acid test, I took my pair of satin
silver specials to a cowboy action shooting match and shot the
two six-guns in five “main match” stages. If you don’t know anything about Cowboy or Western Action
Shooting, essentially you have a group of people dressed up in
19th Century Old West style attire and armed with
guns one might expect to see accompanying a cowboy, lawman or
outlaw of the period. Single
action handguns are the rule, along with lever action rifles and
double barrel shotguns. Some competitors might also use pump-action rifles and/or
shotguns in the main match stages.
All the guns must represent those designed before 1899
and the vast majority are modern-made replicas.
Shooting scores are based on time, shooting accuracy and
following the procedures mandated for the stage.
Time penalties are given for missed targets and
procedural errors. Safety
is foremost and all firearms are loaded and unloaded at each
stage under supervision. Sounds
like a lot of rules, but it really is not “rocket science”
and everybody has a heck of a good time!
One good thing about the Heritage .32 Magnum
Rough Rider is that it will fit in the same holster as most
other smaller frame .22 RF SA revolver, like the old Colt
Frontier, Ruger Single-Six or your favorite Heritage rimfire
revolver. I used a
rig from Hunter Leather and it worked out just fine.
Loaded up with the Black Hills cowboy cartridges, I
transformed myself into “LaVista Bill” a mounted Customs
inspector who patrolled the Southwest Mexico border in the late
1890’s. My age
now allows me to shoot in a SASS category called “49er” and
on that particular day the weather kept a lot of other
middle-age cowpokes away. I
only had one miss out of 50 shots fired from the two Heritage
.32 Magnums and their size, coupled with the way they fit my
medium size hand, plus the low recoil and quick recovery time
assisted me in shooting a pretty fine score that day.
I actually took home a blue ribbon in the “49er”
Class to add to my extremely modest collection at home in my
I believe the Heritage .32 Magnum Rough Rider
revolvers will be just the thing for beginning cowboy action
shooters, cow girls or young buckaroos.
It will also appeal to those you would like a .32 Magnum
to pack around in the woods or to use as a pick-em-up truck gun. These little six-guns are ruggedly built and the black satin
finish staves off rust. The
Rough Rider line offers both quality and affordability…an
American tradition. For
more information contact:
Heritage Manufacturing, Inc.,
4600 N.W. 135th Street Opa Locka, FL
Phone (305) 685-5966
Tell ‘em LaVista Bill sent you!
Note: This is Bill's first article for Gunblast.com. Please join
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