The Heritage Barkeep – The Shorty Plinker

Heritage Manufacturing knows what works. They’ve been building a single revolver, called the Rough Rider, for decades. This little rimfire revolver has had little variety to it. It works, works well, is cheap, and plentiful. Shooters could choose between a few barrel lengths for the longest time. Recently Heritage has experimented with a few different barrel length options. This includes the Rancher carbine with a 16-inch barrel. A Rough Rider with a hilarious 16-inch barrel, and now the Barkeep, which qualifies as the subcompact in the family.

What’s a Barkeep

Way back when Colt used to produce shortened versions of their famed revolvers. These shorter versions would use three or so inch barrels and gained affectionate names like the Sheriff or Shopkeeper model. These guns were lighter, easier to carry, and ultimately easier to conceal.

A shopkeeper these days might carry a P365 compared to a police officer with a duty belt and P320. Back then, it was no different, and the Shopkeeper didn’t want or need a full-sized Colt revolver. Heritage based the Barkeep in both name and size on the famed Shopkeeper models of Colt revolvers.

Barkeep revolver
I wish Heritage didn’t leave a paragraph of warnings and manufacturers marks all over the gun.

The Barkeep is almost identical to the Rough Rider, which itself is a Colt SAA-inspired clone in rimfire form. The Barkeep comes in two-barrel lengths, two and three inches. However, the barrel is actually 2.68 inches and 3.6 inches, respectively. There are only two and three inches of exposed barrel beyond the frame.

Heritage Barkeep revolver
The Barkeep comes with a 2″ or 3″ barrel, and all the grip options you could dream of.

It’s the standard Rough Rider frame giving the gun a reverse stretch look to it. The use of the same frame keeps the price low and allows for the massive variety of grips available for the Heritage Rough Rider series. My specific Barkeep is the two-inch model with the gray pearl grips. It’s short, sweet, and just kinda cute.

Barkeep Basics

This gun comes with a 22LR cylinder, but you can drop in a 22 Magnum cylinder if you need Tim The Toolman Taylor’s “MORE POWER.” I’m happy with 22LR in a gun like this. It’s a pure plinker to me, and I like to keep my plinking affordable. Like the Rough Rider, this gun is very simple.

It’s a single-action-only revolver with a loading gate. Not too complicated. The Barkeep keeps the manual safety in place, which I find somewhat silly. It’s easy to ignore, but I feel like the gun could ditch it. The safety sits left of the hammer and is admittedly very easy to engage and disengage.

Heritage Barkeep revolver manual safety
The manual safety isn’t a bad thing, but it detracts from the gun’s smooth looks.

Since the Barkeep uses such a short barrel, you might notice the conspicuous lack of an ejection rod. The barrel is too short to accommodate one. How do you remove empties? Well, Heritage included a wood-handled tool that allows you to poke them out as you see fit.

ejection rod tool
This handy ejection rod makes it easy to poke out your empties.

Most of the time, the healthy application of a thumbnail under the room of a 22LR case makes it easy enough to remove. Sometimes cases swell, though, and this calls for the application of the little handheld ejector.

Getting Frisky

The short barrel ensures the Barkeep is plenty loud and emits plenty of smoke. It’s, as Wyatt Earp would describe it, a real smoke wagon. I don’t mind noise and smoke, especially with this wanna-be Cowboy gun. It makes things fairly fun. As you’d imagine, the short barrel and short sight radius don’t do much for accuracy.

The light single-action trigger helps. It is smooth and quite nice. No major complaints, and for such a cheap gun, the trigger sure is nice.

Barkeep revolver
In all the languages, this says, “Howdy, partner.”

Trying to put six rounds into a two-inch circle at seven yards proved plenty challenging. There is no way to adjust sights, so if you’re off in a particular direction, get used to Kentucky windage. That being said, when I moved to more practical targets, I had no issues hitting them. Be it paper targets, gongs, or playing cards.

I might not punch out a bull’s eye, but I’d get close enough. The Barkeep is still plenty hefty, and 22 LR isn’t known for its recoil. Combine the two, and the gun’s soft shooting enough for the kiddos. They all seem to enjoy playing cowboy with the Barkeep. We’ve shot soda cans, melons, pumpkins, and zombie targets quite a bit with the little gun.

Barkeep revolver, trigger squeeze
The Barkeep has a short front, but thick rear end, youknowwhatimsaying.

Keeping the enjoyment moving means having a reliable little gun. The Barkeep most certainly checks that box. It’s super reliable, and with even the cheapest bulk pack stuff, the Barkeep goes bang. The Barkeep is a fun-shooting little gun that packs a lot of plink for very little dinero.

Long Branch Saloon Gunfight

Since we have a cowboy blaster, why not do a little cowboy plinking? I found a real-life Old West gunfight that is prime time for the range. Of course, your opponents will be cardboard or paper. I figure why not take plinking beyond soda cans and playing cards?

The Long Branch Saloon Gunfight occurred between a rather character named Levi Richardson and a young, bright-eyed chap named Frank Loving. Levi didn’t get along with most people and had a reputation as a gunman. He apparently made a move on Lovings wife, which led to a verbal argument and some insults traded back and forth. Later on, they got into a fistfight, and finally, a month later, they settled it for good.

The Barkeep makes for fun western LARPing.
The Barkeep makes for fun western LARPing.

They settled across from each other a poker table and played. Before long, things got violent. Richardson reportedly pulled first, Loving followed, and from across the table, they opened up on each other! Loving escaped unharmed except for a graze, and Richardson was hit in the chest, the side, and the arm. Richardson fell down dead. Loving won, and today you get to be Loving.

Setting Up the Drill

You’ll need six rounds of ammo, your Barkeep, a chair, a shot timer, and a target. Set up the chair four feet from the target. I set the target up at a sitting height to represent the gunfight at a poker table. You can choose to use a holster, but I just rested the gun on my chair’s armrest. This is more about fun than realism, folks.

saloon gunfight drill
Our FRED target played the part of the bad guy in our drill.

I used a USPSA target, and my requirements were at least one shot in the A zone to represent the chest shot, one round in the C zone to represent the side shot, and one in the D zone to represent the arm shot. That’s the minimum ‘pass’ for this drill. Aim for a five-second par time without a holster and a seven-second par time with the gun holstered.

22LR revolver
Six rounds is all you got. Make ’em count.

Feel free to shoot while seated, but you can also go from sitting to standing while you shoot. Again, this is more about the fun than realistic training. See how fast you can win the gunfight against Richardson, although luckily for you, Richardson isn’t firing back this time.

The Barkeep and Fun

Some guns can just be fun, and the Barkeep is one of those. It’s a total blast to shoot and is endlessly enjoyable. Sure it’s silly, but it’s also cheap — and that’s a good combination. Who can’t love a little gun and fun? What do you think of the Barkeep? Let me know below!

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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