Heritage Manufacturing has done two things lately. First, they shrunk the Rough Rider, and then they stretched it. The shrunk gun became the Barkeep, which I covered last week, and the stretched gun became the Rancher, the subject of today’s article. The Rancher took the famed Rough Rider single action, rimfire revolver and turned it into a rifle.
They stretched the barrel to 16.125 inches and slapped a stock on, and called it a day. Well, they might have done a hair more than that. They revamped what would traditionally be a pistol grip to accommodate a stock. On top of that, they added sling swivels, a set of buckhorn sights, and they even tossed in a leather sling. Overall, they made a .22LR revolving rifle, making it a rather uncommon configuration.
Revolving rifles go back, way back. In fact, a ring lever revolving carbine was the first gun produced by old Samuel Colt. Revolving rifles were used by the Ohio volunteer infantry in the Civil War and were carried by Pony Express riders. In a time where percussion muzzleloaders offered only a single shot, these guns offered five to six prior to the need for a reload.
However, once metallic cartridges became a thing, the revolving rifle faded away in favor of the lever-action rifle. As such, we don’t see revolving rifles appear very often, so I was quite stoked to grab one of the Rancher carbines from Academy.
Digging Into the Rancher
The Rancher carbine does use the standard Rough Rider design as its core firearm. The Rancher is a six-shot, 22LR rifle that utilizes a single action trigger and a side loading gate complete with an ejection rod. Like the Rough Rider, the Rancher rocks and rolls with a weird manual safety. I don’t like it, but that’s purely because it ruins the classic single-action revolver lines. I can easily ignore it and choose not to engage it.
The Rancher comes with a 22LR cylinder, but you can jam a 22 Magnum cylinder in the gun and fire a round with a little more ass to it. Personally, I stuck to 22LR because I don’t have a big need for .22 Magnum in this silly little gun.
The wood stock actually looks great. It’s an American walnut style and has a nice short 12-inch length of pull. The gun weighs a hair over four pounds and excels at being lightweight and well-balanced. The total overall length is 32 inches.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The good part of this revolving rifle comes from the fact the Rancher is super lightweight and easy to handle. It’s short, sweet, and fun to shoot. Recoil is obviously super minimal with 22LR loads. It barely moves, kicks, or bucks. I’ve had a handful of kiddos plink with the gun, and it runs extremely well for new shooters, especially kids.
The single-action design means they can’t rapid-fire the gun, and should they make that kid’s mistake of swinging the gun a little wildly, it’s easy to see if it’s ready to fire. Yet, as a repeater, they can take several shots before needing to reload.
The trigger provides a light, short, and crisp single-action design—a design from over a hundred years ago that’s easy to get right in 2021. The Rancher’s trigger is sweet, and the hammer is large and easy to engage. Ergonomically the gun’s quite sound. Loading, unloading, and handling the gun is quite easy.
The Rancher delivers a reliable experience. If you pull the trigger, the gun goes bang. It’s brilliant and keeps your plinking fun and frustration-free.
The grip you are required to use places both hands behind the cylinder. Using this odd grip is easy due to the weapon’s balance and its overall lightweight. You can very easily handle the rifle with this odd grip.
If you use a standard grip, you’ll quickly learn via a painful burn one of the big flaws of revolver rifles. They bite. Specifically, the gap between the cylinder and the barrel emits burning gas, and as such, your firearm catches the blast. Don’t use a traditional rifle grip with the Rancher.
Also, holy crap is the Rancher loud for a .22LR. That cylinder gap emits quite the blast and gives you way more noise than any other .22LR rifle I’ve ever shot. It’s easily as loud as a .22LR handgun.
Those six rounds seem to disappear pretty fast when shooting. It’s slow to reload, and you’ll likely spend about as much time reloading as you do shooting. This can be boring for some, especially if you are a seven-year-old girl with very little patience.
The worst part is that regardless of how you handle the gun, you are going to get gas in the face. Worst than a little gas to the face is unburnt powder stinging the heck out of you. The Rancher sends a burst of painful unburnt powder to the face, resulting in a painful sting. This happens at least once every six shots and will make you thankful for eye protection.
Plinking Perfection — Aces and Eights Drill
Finding an example beyond general infantry combat where a revolving rifle was used is seemingly rare. So I couldn’t find a specific event where the gun made a difference. So instead, I came up with my own drill that tests your skills, is fun, and utilizes nothing more than a shot timer and a deck of cards.
It’s called Aces and Eights and references the famed Dead Man’s Hand of Wild Bill. Take a deck of cards and pick out the ace of spades and clubs and the eight of spades and clubs. Then pick four random cards. Shuffle your deck.
Now dealing from the top, staple or attach each card to a cardboard backing. The luck of the draw might put them close together or quite far apart. With all eight cards on the target, move back seven yards with the Rancher carbine.
With six rounds, you have a par time of seven seconds to hit all four targets. That gives you two mulligans, so be accurate and be fast. It’s pass or fail, and a pass is four shots on four targets in five seconds. Anything else is a failure!
The Rancher Carbine
The Rancher carbine has some problems, but ultimately it’s a very fun gun. It delivers an experience unique to the revolving rifle, for better or worse. It’s not the most efficient, accurate, or capable 22LR rifle, but it’s a fair bit of fun and brings new life to your plinking. It’s not for everyone, but if you want something a little different than the autoloaders out there, give the Rancher a peak.