Back in 2021, I took a look at the Heritage Arms Barkeep revolvers in that gun review. As an aficionado of revolvers in general and old west revolvers in particular, they always piqued my curiosity. Yet, I kind of stayed away from them as I have plenty of 22 revolvers. While I liked the look and feel of the Barkeep, I felt something was missing, like a Birdshead grip. In less than a year, Heritage Arms decided to roll one out with just that feature.
I decided that I needed to shoot one. I reached out to Heritage and asked for a sample for review. They were kind enough to send one along for me to try out.
Heritage Barkeep Revolver + Boot Grip Frame
The boot or birdshead grip frame was a fairly common design throughout the 19th Century. You can see them on revolvers manufactured by Colt, Smith & Wesson, Forehand & Wadsworth, Hopkins & Allen, Merwin Hulbert, and scores of smaller companies such as Robin Hood, Bulldog, etc. This tradition is carried on by Heritage, Ruger, Cimarron, and North American Arms.
It makes for a very compact grip frame, which was very important when most people tended to conceal these small revolvers in pockets before holsters became popular. They started to fade from the public eye by the mid-20th Century, but surprisingly picked up steam in the 1990s between the rise of Cowboy Action Shooting and the movie Tombstone.
Enterprising Wholesalers, Jobbers, and Retailers would often conjure up an unofficial name that was never recognized in an official capacity but may still be used today like the Lightning, Thunderer, or Rainmaker for the three different calibers of the M1877 double-action revolver. Short-barrelled M1873s were known as the storekeeper, shopkeeper, banker special, etc. It really depended upon which reseller was hawking the revolvers and his intended clientele. The Barkeep nicely fits in here as well with this idea.
These revolvers are very well-made and typical of most single-action rimfire revolvers. Unlike my previous outing with a Heritage revolver, I found the grips on these were better fitted to the frames than the typical plow handle-shaped grip.
The Gray Pearl has a matte black oxide finish and lacks a front sight. This may be a deal breaker for some, but the spirit of intent is to make it quick to draw out of a pocket without snagging the sight on anything.
Aside from that, these are fun little guns, and Heritage offers a ton of accessories to customize your revolver. You can mix and match grips, swap the frames between bird’s head or plow handles, and even drop in a 22 Magnum cylinder.
These revolvers are equipped with external safeties on the left-hand side of the frame. At first, that thought seems anathema to a revolver. However, after being exposed to a lot of first-time gun owners over the past year or two, I no longer have anything bad to say about it.
The other oddity here is the lack of an ejector rod due to the very short barrel. Heritage includes a tool: a stylized stick for poking out empties.
These revolvers may not have a true basis in a historical firearm, but they do look as if they could have found a home in at least the fictional West.
At the Range
With the ammo situation being the nuttiest I’ve seen in my lifetime, I had to use whatever 22 lr ammo I could scrounge up: CCI Mini-Mag, Winchester Silvertip, Gemtech Subsonic, and Ely Match. At 50 feet, the best I could average was about 2 inches. some groups opened up to 3.5 inches but I did not notice any keyholes. That is always a concern here with short-barreled rim fires combined with high winds off the Sierra Nevadas.
Even without a front sight, you can use the front of the barrel to get a good point of aim. If you like the revolver otherwise and find you need a sight, any capable gunsmith can easily install a front sight or even a brass or gold bead. The intent here is close-distance point shooting or perhaps using a snapshot to dispatch rodents and other vermin at close range.
It certainly won’t replace any of my target revolvers, but can easily provide hours of fun for shooters new to the game as well as experienced.
For the money, you can do a lot worse. I find these little revolvers to be accurate, fairly priced and well-finished. They are fun to shoot and would not be out of place for tooling around the farm, ranch or campsite should you need to dispatch vermin at close range. The frames may be a cast alloy, but it’s a 22. And yes, before the rabble of mouth breathers and oxygen thieves shows up to whine about “Duh 22 Magnum will blow it up”, go and actually read the specs on both cartridges while everyone else laughs at you.
- Brand: Heritage
- Model: Barkeep with Boot Grip
- Caliber: .22 LR
- Capacity: 6 Rounds
- Action: Single Action
- Barrel: 2.68″
- Overall Length: 7.95″
- Sights: Fixed
- Frame: Alloy
- Finish: Black Oxide
- Grip: Grey Pearl
- Weight: 26 oz.
- MSRP: $208.33
- Website: https://heritagemfg.com
About Mike Searson
Mike Searson’s career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, and Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.
Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites, and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, Examiner.com, and the US Concealed Carry Association, as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.
- Home page: www.mikesearson.com
- FB: www.facebook.com/mike.searson
- TWITTER: www.twitter.com/mikesearson