The Heritage .32 Magnum Rough Rider

A New American-Made SA Revolver


by William “LaVista Bill” Bell

Photography by William Bell

September 30th, 2005




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 syndrome.  The 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 office.

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  33054

Phone (305) 685-5966

Tell ‘em LaVista Bill sent you!

William Bell


Ed. Note: This is Bill's first article for Please join us in welcoming him to our team!

You can read about Bill on our About Us page.

- Boge Quinn


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Click pictures for a larger version.


New for 2005, the Heritage Rough Rider line of single-action revolvers now includes models in .32 H&R Magnum.



Three different barrel lengths are available (top – bottom) 6-1/2”, 4-3/4” and a 3-1/2” with a birds-head grip frame.



Each Heritage Rough Rider comes packaged in a cardboard box with a padded insert to protect the gun (belt buckle not included).



The .32 H&R Magnum was first made by Federal and their 95 gr. bullet load was used for testing along with Black Hills .32 Magnum cowboy action shooting cartridges.



With the safety lever on the left recoil shield lowered a red dot is exposed and the revolver may be fired.  For added protection an empty chamber should be kept under the hammer.


With the safety lever in the “up” position a steel block is rotated in between the hammer face and the firing pin to help prevent accidental discharges.



In this close-up you can see the hammer does not contact the frame with the safety lever activated.  The hammer on the new .32 Magnum Rough Rider has been redone for a more authentic look.



The rear of the cylinder on the Heritage Rough Rider is rebated, with a ring of steel on the outer edge of the cylinder; a feature the author is not sure is necessary with centerfire cartridges.



The six-gun at the top is the Colt Frontier Scout, a .22RF introduced in 1958.  The Rough Rider bears a strong resemblance to this fine little revolver that was dropped from the Colt line in 1971.



Accuracy testing was done from a rest at a distance of 30 feet.  The best group with the 4-3/4” Rough Rider was 1.85” using the Black Hills ammo (center target).



With the 6-1/2” Rough Rider, the center target would have been a dozy if I hadn’t thrown one out into the 3-ring.  The best group ended up measuring 1.45” using my handloads (left target).