Heritage Rough Rider vs. Ruger Wrangler — .22 Single Action Rivals

As I get more into revolvers, I find myself looking for smaller caliber guns that are less expensive to shoot. That desire may or may not be influenced by recent ammo prices. I like the ability to shoot .38 Special from a .357 Magnum gun, but even that stuff ain’t exactly cheap these days. Since revolvers are mostly fun guns for me, I actually prefer lighter calibers. So, naturally, I’ve gravitated toward the various offerings in .22. Two of the most ubiquitous and affordable .22 revolvers are the single action Ruger Wrangler and Heritage Rough Rider. In the interest of full disclosure, I own a Wrangler, but not a Rough Rider. 

How do they compare?

In the video linked below, Dustin from Guns of the West gives us a brief comparison of the two based on his experience with both and knowledge of single action revolvers in general. There are some real differences between the two, with some good and a couple less than ideal things with each gun. Make sure you give the video a watch. Dustin does a great job breaking it all down.

Heritage Rough Rider vs. Ruger Wrangler
Dustin from Guns of the West gives us a good breakdown of how the Rough Rider and the Wrangler stack up.
Heritage Rough Rider and Ruger Wrangler
The Heritage Rough Rider (L) and Ruger Wrangler (R) are both affordable, quality plinking guns. This model of Rough Rider also comes with a .22 Magnum cylinder in addition to the standard .22 Long Rifle.

First, let’s do a quick rundown of the basic features of each gun:

  Heritage Rough Rider Ruger Wrangler  
Price Paid by Dustin $180.00 $210.00  
Available Calibers .22 Long Rifle or .22 Magnum .22 Long Rifle  
Barrel Length Multiple 4.62 Inches  
Finish Black Standard or Simulated Case Hardened Cerakote  
Colors N/A Multiple  
Capacity 6 or 9 6  
Grip Options Multiple Multiple  

Both pistols are available with birdshead grips.

Heritage Rough Rider vs. Ruger Wrangler
Both guns have the firing pin mounted in the frame, as opposed to the hammer. Note the transfer bar on the Ruger (bottom right).

The Heritage Rough Rider

At first glance, the Rough Rider seems to offer more than the Wrangler and it’s less expensive to boot. But Dustin goes a little deeper and points out some differences that may sway you one way or the other.

The Rough Rider’s action is “pretty true” to the original Colt Single Action Army revolver. It’s a four-click cocking action with the firing pin embedded in the frame as opposed to the hammer. The Rough Rider does have a thumb safety on the left side of the frame that serves as a hammer block, which I know some people don’t like. The trigger pulled at 2 lbs., 7.1 ounces.

Heritage Rough Rider frame-mounted thumb safety
The Rough Rider has a frame mounted thumb safety that blocks the hammer from falling on the firing pin.

The Rough Rider has a half cock feature, just like the Colt, which must be engaged to free the cylinder for loading and unloading. A loading gate provides access to the chambers. The cylinder has nice positive clicks as it’s turned clockwise from one chamber to the next, making it easy to line up the chambers with the loading gate.

Heritage Rough Rider half cock function
True to the Colt Single Action Army, the Rough Rider has a half cock function. The Wrangler does not.

The Ruger Wrangler

The Wrangler has a typical Ruger single action design. As with the Rough Rider, the firing pin is in the frame. There is no half cock feature, and the cylinder is freed by opening the loading gate with the hammer down. The cylinder turns freely in both directions with no tactile clicks, as with the Rough Rider. This makes lining up the chambers for loading or unloading a bit more challenging. Upon closing the loading gate, the cylinder is turned clockwise until it reaches the next stop.

Dustin points out that his Wrangler’s cylinder has developed scratches on the finish from where it turns in the frame. I’ve noticed the same thing with my Wrangler. Dustin’s Rough Rider does not have this problem.

Ruger Wrangler cylinder
The Wrangler’s cylinder lacks the tactile precision of the Rough Rider and develops scratches from normal use.

The Wrangler does not have a manual safety like the Rough Rider. Instead, it has the typical Ruger transfer bar system, which many will prefer. The trigger pulled at 5 lbs. 0.4 ounces.

Dustin says the Wrangler’s cocking action feels a little “clunky” compared to the Rough Rider. It has a point of resistance about halfway back. “Not terrible,” he says, “doesn’t make it hard to use or anything, but the Heritage is definitely a smoother operating action.” His demonstration does appear to confirm that observation. My Wrangler feels okay to me, but I admittedly don’t have a ton of experience with revolvers, and I don’t have a Rough Rider for comparison.

Rough Rider and Wrangler revolvers
Dustin says the Rough Rider’s (L) action is smoother than the Wrangler’s.

Fit and finish, Dustin says, “is not great” on either gun but is just a little better on the Ruger. The grips on the Rough Rider aren’t exactly flush with the backstrap, while the Wrangler’s grips are fitted better to the rest of the gun. The Rough Rider’s grips are a bit wider than the Wrangler’s which Dustin says he prefers. That’s obviously a personal preference for each shooter.

Dustin gives the nod to the Heritage for the finish. While not a fan of the simulated case hardening on the frame of his example, he says he likes the blued barrel and notes that a blued frame is available. The only blued component on the Wrangler is the cylinder. The frame and barrel are finished in Cerakote which, Dustin notes, makes it easy to clean and allows lots of color choices.

Which One Shoots Better?

The sights on both guns are virtually identical, with a front blade and a groove cut into the top strap. Neither has an advantage over the other, though the machining on the Ruger looks more refined.

Rough Rider and Wrangler revolver sights
The sights on both guns are virtually identical. Rough Rider on the left, Wrangler on the right.

Range accuracy in Dustin’s test went to the Ruger, with a 1.5-inch group, over the Rough Rider with a 2-inch group. Dustin notes that the Ruger’s barrel is also shorter, and the gun fired closer to point of aim. He cautions that he has fired better and worse groups with both guns and that the viewer should remember that both guns are low cost plinkers. Neither is intended as a precision shooter. Both are pleasant to shoot and fill that role nicely.

 revolver target groups
The Wrangler (target on the right) held a tighter group and fired closer to point of aim than the Rough Rider, despite its shorter barrel.

So, Which Is It?

So, what is Dustin’s verdict? Well, it’s probably no surprise that he prefers the Heritage Rough Rider, despite saying that both guns are “good shooters.” It has a better trigger, a smoother action, and is more historically correct, if that’s important to you. All for a cheaper price. The Rough Rider also offers more options in terms of barrel length, caliber, capacity, and aftermarket grips. Dustin’s Rough Rider also came with a .22 Magnum cylinder in addition to the standard .22 Long Rifle cylinder, though it isn’t standard with all Rough Riders.

The Ruger is available in multiple colors and it’s not surprising that it features the proven Ruger revolver action. The Ruger name also likely carries some weight for some folks. I’ll admit to choosing the Wrangler because it’s a Ruger.

Either way you might go, you’ll end up with a fun gun that doesn’t break your bank account and you can afford to shoot often. I do want to take a look at the Rough Rider, not because I think it’s necessarily a better gun, but because it offers something different to add to my collection. And I’m always looking for a reason, even a little one, to buy a new gun. Do you have experience with these guns, or have a preference? Hit us up in the comments and let us know. Happy plinking y’all.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap