Heritage Big Bore Rough Rider

A New SA Revolver Based on the 1873 SAA


by William Bell

photography by William Bell

February 4th, 2006




With 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 Manufacturing, Inc.

I 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.

When 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 CAS matches.

The 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. 

So 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 cartridges.  The 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.

I 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.

The 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.

This 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 Hayes (sox3@verizon.net), 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.

I 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.

Well, 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 tradition!

William "L a Vista Bill" Bell

Heritage .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 ounces
Finishes available: Blue, color-case/blue, nickel and stainless (coming soon)
Grips: one-piece cocobolo
Sights: Fixed
MSRP: $429 nickel, $379 blue, $389 color-case/blue


Product Information

Heritage Manufacturing, Inc. (Rough Rider Revolvers)

4600 N.W. 135th Street

Opa Locka, FL  33054-4486




Birchwood Casey (Shoot-N-C Targets)

7900 Fuller Road

Eden Prairie, MN  55344




Black Hills Ammunition

P.O. Box 3090

Rapid City, SD  57709




Meister Cartridge Co., Inc.

12752 South Hwy. 169

Oologah, OK  74053



Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.


After years of producing economical single-action rimfire revolvers, 2005 has seen the introduction of a new centerfire line of big bore SA sixguns by Heritage Manufacturing.  These examples are in .45 Colt and have 5-1/2” barrels, blue finish, cocobolo grips and were recently used by the author in a cowboy action shooting match.



While the Rough Rider looks allot like a Colt SAA, it differs in having a transfer-bar action, with an inertia firing pin mounted in the frame.  You can carry this gun as a true six-shooter, but Heritage recommends keeping an empty chamber under the hammer.



Besides “Hog-Legs” Heritage can also fit you out with a leather rig for your Rough Rider.  This nice 35-round cartridge belt and “Texas Jock Strap” style holsters are embossed with fancy stamping in the traditional floral pattern.



This 10-shot group was fired at 30 feet using Blacks Hills .45 Schofield cowboy loads.  Recoil was light with the 180 gr. round nose, flat point bullet, making for fast and accurate repeat shots.



Meister Bullets is now making loaded cartridges for CAS and this one in .45 Colt is a winner.  The 200 gr. bullet (also offered in 250 gr.) proved accurate, with 8 shots going into a 1.04” group.



The author’s .45 Colt handloads were also very accurate in the Rough Rider.  A 235 gr. SWC backed by 8.2 gr. of Unique produced a cluster at 30 feet that would have measured 1.53” without flyers.



Here LaVista Bill (SASS #11869) lets fly with his .45 Rough Rider at some “bad guys” down range at the Thunder Valley Cowboy Action Shooting Club in Southern Indiana.