The Heritage Barkeep – Short and Sweet

Heritage Manufacturing proves that if you do one thing well enough, you can make a fortune doing it. Heritage makes the Rough Rider Revolver and has for decades. They’ve taken that same gun and spun it into a wide variety of models and platforms with numerous barrel lengths. On the long side, we have the Heritage Manufacturing Ranch Rifle, and on the short side, we have the Barkeep. With its teeny tiny 2-inch barrel.

Oddly enough, I have both, and both make me dang near giggle with every bang. The Barkeep is very much a standard Rough Rider in all ways but the barrel length. You still get a big SAA type frame, full-sized grips, and the same little thin front sight we see on all the Heritage Manufacturing revolvers. What’s missing is the ejection rod. The barrel is too short to accommodate one. We’ll talk a bit later on how to eject shells and reload the thing.

The Barkeep – A Little History

The Rough Rider was built to basically clone the SAA, a Colt design. The Barkeep was inspired by the Storekeeper model of the Colt SAA. To be clear, the Storekeeper was never an official Colt model but a nickname given to a series of shortened Colts by Colt collectors. These could be the SAA model, Lightning models, etc. However, if they featured an abnormally short barrel, they were referred to as Storekeeper models.

It would be much better looking without the chapter of writing on it.

The Barkeep is an extension of these old Storekeeper models. However, it’s a mere 22LR or 22 Magnum, depending on which cylinder you toss in. It seems like Heritage makes a 3-inch model and a 2-inch model, but if you are going short, you might as well go super short, am I right?

Well, that’s the route I went with the Barkeep. This tiny little fella tickles me and amuses me greatly, as did its bigger brother, the Rancher carbine. 22 Magnum cylinders are available, but 22 LR is so much cheaper, and it this short-barreled beast, I’d rather keep it light and fun. However, if you purchase the 22 LR and want a 22 Magnum cylinder, you can swap it out with ease.

Short, sweet, and light.

The Barkeep A Big Little Blaster

While the barrel might be short, this sixgun is quite large. The grips are massive and full-sized, so you have a nice purchase on the gun. The 2-inch barrel is actually 2.68 inches when you include the entire barrel. The 2-inch measure comes from what essentially sticks out beyond the frame.

The total overall length is 7.95 inches. For reference, the overall length of a Glock 19 is 7.36 inches. It’s not a small gun and weighs 26 ounces total. As you’d assume, it holds six rounds of .22 LR. The Heritage Rough Rider series and, by extension the Barkeep, come with a manual safety.

I’m not a fan of the safety, but since kids handle these so often I get it.

I’m torn on it. For young shooters, I get the idea, but the sight of it looks unnatural on the old SAA frame. I can excuse it. However, I wish two models would be made to allow the user to pick. The fixed sights are a trench and blade, and the grips vary. Mine has the ‘grey’ pearl, but you can get any number of grip combinations. The finish is a black oxide, which works fine, but dear lord does Heritage write paragraphs worth of text on these things.

It’s goofy looking but in a cute way.

Model designations, where it was manufactured, and this giant READ MANUAL BEFORE USING and KEEP EMPTY CHAMBER UNDER HAMMER billboards really detract from the gun’s natural good looks.

At the Range

Don’t expect this to ever be a bull’s eye gun. At 10 yards, I can make a two-inch group or so, but every round hit far left. With some Kentucky windage, I migrated the rounds into the target fine enough, but I wouldn’t call it a sharpshooter. The original intention of the short revolvers was close-range defensive use, so I guess the Barkeep keeps up with that task.

The Barkeep is a real Smokewagon

On larger targets, this isn’t a big issue. If I need to ding a gong at 20 yards, I can. The Barkeep pings away with enough accuracy to keep things straight on a six-inch gong. I love how much smoke the little gun makes with almost every shot. I guess that short barrel lets this thing be a real smoke wagon.

It’s a pleasant shooter, but not the most accurate one.

Recoil? Yeah right. This gun barely moves between shots, even with the short barrel. It’s only a 22 LR in a 26-ounce gun. The Barkeep doesn’t buck or fight by any means. Even for kiddos, the little Barkeep proved easy to handle. They could easily reach the controls and safety and confidently pull the trigger.

Even the kids loved it.

Any apprehension they had of firing the Barkeep disappeared after the first cylinder. I felt like I couldn’t keep it loaded around my three buckaroos. They loved it, and now I have Christmas ideas. I loved it too. It was a blast to shoot and just a ton of fun in general. Little 22 LRs almost universally are a blast.

All the .22 LR

Oh man, I love shooting the Heritage Manufacturing Barkeep. Especially since it seemed to hit every round of 22 LR hard enough to ignite. I used a little Federal, some good CCI for accuracy testing, and Remington Gold Bullet without a single issue. Every round fired and ejected without concern.

Ejecting the empty cases from the Barkeep without an ejection rod is easy. Included with the gun is a wood-handled tool with a metal rod that ejects the little shells easily enough. You can also remove the cylinder to empty them. Heck, I could also just use my fingernail and pry the casing out easy enough.

Like most Heritage Arms guns the grip options are almost endless

The Barkeep might not pinpoint accurate, but it’s still fun to shoot and accurate enough to turn a Coke can into a cheese grater. From a what’s the point perspective, I’d argue it’s just a fun gun. Although if you want a short and light gun for dealing with snakes, the Barkeep could do it. Like every other Heritage Manufacturing product, the Barkeep is a fun, reliable, and ultimately affordable firearm. With an MSRP of $208 dollars, it’s cheap, fun, and it works well. It might not be practical, but it’s dang sure a ton of fun.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • David Kurch March 11, 2022, 10:59 am

    I just bought a Barkeep from a local dealer.Had one previous owner who never fired it . Happened to be an old man who had it for protection around his home. It has the flag grips which drew my attention. Fun to shoot and it does get lots of attention from others. The red white and blue grips seem really patriotic. I did order the Magnum cylinder . This will make it my 3rd. Wheel gun . I own 2 others..both .357 Magnum revolvers A Ruger and a Taurus

  • Jerry March 8, 2022, 6:59 pm

    Oh, and Zamac(k) = Zink And Magnesium And Copper (Kupfer), and it WILL “rust”, its called corrosion, it will eventually dissolve into crusty crystals. I have an old police-auction heritage that looks horrible but i swapped the cylinder, replaced the gomer’d trigger, hacked the rusty barrel back to a clean bore, and put on a dovetail front sight. Like the “rusty chevrolet”, it does its job. The only hrr’s i know the barrel comes out, are pinned in the frame. heat will loosen locktite, 300-650 degrees does for locktite depending on the color, but will surely do a number on the finish, and 700 might melt the alloy……..

  • Jerry March 8, 2022, 6:38 pm

    Local pawnshop sold me a 3 1/2″ with marginally workable ejector, 9 rounds, AND the birdshead grip. Sold it back with a small selection of siblings during a short stint of no-job’itude; with my 1911, who needs a spare .22 That can buy a tankfulla gas? Careful, tho, with magnums in the alloy frame; half a box can leave some spectacular flamecutting! Like the 38/357 thing, practice with the regular stuff, carry with magnums for effect.

  • john March 7, 2022, 9:49 am

    Sorry but the gun might be good for plinking but not having an ejector rod would make it a pain to unload so there goes the fun. Also the short barrel can’t very accurate.Lastly NO single action six-gun should have a safety,it looks ridiculous. Get a Ruger single six!

  • srsquidizen March 7, 2022, 8:26 am

    While NO rimfire caliber is ideal personal defense, with Magnum cylinder and Gold Dot “Short Barrel” WMR ammo this Barkeep might be a “gun is better than none” choice for very recoil-sensitive shooters. A Barkeep with their bird-head grip (an inexpensive accessory from Heritage) would be very concealable–if you must.

  • Michael Duell March 7, 2022, 6:42 am

    I used to own a heritage with the 6 1/2 barrel. It was so much fun to shoot. I need to get another one.

  • Mike Mathis March 7, 2022, 6:10 am

    Two concerns keep me from buying a Heritage pistol. How durable is the zamak (high zinc content frame) with steel internal parts working inside and how is the barrel attached. Heritage won’t supply a clear answer. Is the barrel screwed in with spiral threads or pressed in with parallel threads with red loctite? Anyone have any insight they can share? Appreciate any guidance!!

    • srsquidizen March 7, 2022, 12:11 pm

      IME innards of a Heritage are durable enough that few habitual plinkers will ever shoot enough soda bottles to wear one out. My only criticism of the zamak frame is its thin black exterior finish. It’ll get scratched up unless you treat it like a safe queen which is not why you buy a RR. Scratches on a knock-around gun don’t bother me and on the plus side zamak doesn’t rust. Never had to remove a barrel on one so can’t answer other question.

  • Bill Hamm March 5, 2022, 10:09 am

    Finally a useful cost-effective plinker.

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