Although I had planned on starting my 7-year-old son’s journey into handguns — kept securely in my safe, of course — with a single-action .22 revolver, I hadn’t thought about getting him one yet. The timeline changed, however, when on a routine trip to the Columbus, Ohio, Vance Outdoors, he stopped, mesmerized by a 4.75-inch Black Standard Rough Rider six-shooter honoring Betsy Ross.
As we drove home, he talked more about the Betsy Ross handgun. I knew that Rough Rider would be the single-action .22 to get for him. I surprised him a month later by picking up the Betsy Ross. Though I’d initially had a moment of snobbery in thinking my son’s first .22 would be a “better” gun, the gun department manager told me they sell a lot of Heritage .22s, and he had never seen one come back for repairs.
Details of the ‘Betsy Ross’ Revolver
The first thing I noticed about the Betsy Ross was its solid heft. It definitely has a big gun feel to it. The weight of this particular model with its 4.75-inch barrel is 30.1 ounces. The frame is made of black satin Zamak metal, but the barrel and cylinder are blued 1215 steel. The only complaint about Zamak is that basic finishes chip easily. This minor complaint was the only one from Vance Outdoors customers about Heritage Arms guns. Zamak construction is the reason most of these nice, little guns are less than $200. The Betsy Ross features a traditional rounded, plain black front sight, with a trough rear sight in the topstrap.
The hammer is left in the white, nicely checkered and easily manipulated. You hear a classic four clicks when cocking the hammer. There is a half-cock notch for loading and unloading, and the firing pin is mounted in the frame.
Heritage .22s are traditional single actions. There is no automatic transfer bar or similar safety that protects it from discharge if dropped. It is best to carry single-action revolvers of this type with the hammer resting on an empty chamber. (The Old West rule of load one, skip one, load four applies here.) Applying the manual safety adds extra protection if dropped, as well as makes loading and unloading even safer.
Heritage recommends if you must carry one of their revolvers loaded, it should be with the hammer over an empty chamber and the safety applied. Load the nine-shooters with only eight rounds total and carry them in the same fashion. Heritage advises that if you are at a range and will be shooting immediately, it is okay to load the cylinder to full capacity.
Rough Rider at the Range
The Rough Riders are available with unfluted .22 Magnum interchangeable cylinders, although the Betsy Ross didn’t come with one. I decided first to test fire in the backyard using Aguila Colibri .22 “CB” low velocity/low noise loads. This was the fastest way for my son to try “his” new gun out.
The quiet Colibri’s send their small conical bullets out at a BB gun velocity of 425 feet per second from a rifle. Setting up a cardboard box with a target against the firewood pile, I shot the first six rounds as a demonstration of how quiet the report was.
The trigger pull of the Betsy Ross was nice, averaging a surprising 3 pounds with zero slack. After reviewing all the safety rules again with my son, I loaded the revolver and applied the safety, explaining the operation. I placed my hand on his arms to steady him and helped him cock the hammer for the first shots. The results were wonderful! He was all smiles and started producing nice groups at the 20 feet were standing.
Then we persuaded my wife, who is totally blind, to try it. After having her follow my hands with hers to explain the operation, I stood at her right shoulder to sight in on the bullseye circle. She carefully pulled the trigger and was rewarded with a mere ten-ring hit. The rest of her rounds ended up in a nice group at the 9 o’clock position.
We used up the box of Colibri’s. And my son will be stepping up to .22 shorts at the range before we advance to .22 LR loads.
I feel bad about my previous snobbery toward this inexpensive yet nice handgun. The Betsy Ross is a great way to introduce a new shooter to handguns. There are a wide variety of models available, including some that would make a great tackle box or trail gun. And a Heritage Roughrider would make a great Christmas gift. Heritage provides a one-year warranty from the date of purchase. Their firearms are made in the USA.