Gun Review: The Heritage Roscoe Snub Nose Revolver

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

It’s fortuitous timing that the Roscoe came out this year. I had been drooling over a classic Chief’s Special at a local gun store. It had wood grips, an exposed ejector rod, and a rich blued finish. It was in great condition. The cylinder didn’t even have a ring around it. I wanted it, but the price tag was tough to justify.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

Its pristine condition would have made me shy about shooting it and I wouldn’t have carried it. I’m sentimental that way, and if that old gun made it this far looking as nice as it did, who am I to wear it out? But I wanted to shoot it and experience the kind of old-school cool revolver we don’t often see today. Heck, try finding a modern revolver that has wood stocks. They’re out there, but a lot of them are Performance Center models.

Then the Roscoe showed up at my FFL.

Taurus, who owns Heritage Manufacturing, told me they were shipping me a gun, swore me to secrecy, and didn’t tell me a thing about it. Sometimes that’s the way the industry works, and I don’t mind. It makes a fun surprise trip to my FFL possible. The Roscoe turned out to be that old school revolver I had wanted and wouldn’t feel bad about beating up or carrying.

What’s in a name?

Where do we start? With the name? A name that dates back over a hundred years that was used as slang to describe a handgun?

Hard-boiled detective novels taught me what a Roscoe was when I was a teenager. The term picked up with the detective craze of the prohibition era. The Heritage Roscoe certainly fits the name and as soon as I saw it, terms like Detective Special and snub nose immediately popped into my head.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

The gun invokes a look and a time period that we don’t see often any more. I’m a big fan of this step back in time some gun companies are taking. Mossberg did it with the Retrograde Series, Colt with bringing back the snake guns, and PSA is making some awesome retro ARs. The Roscoe falls perfectly into that old-school cool mentality and it’s quenched my thirst for a classic revolver.

The Roscoe Snubbie

The Roscoe as a firearm isn’t anything crazy. The subtle things all add up to form its classic, retro look. At the gun’s core, it’s not Chief’s Special but a Taurus Model 85. The Model 85 was one of the most popular Taurus imports and it’s been mostly retired and replaced by the Model 856. Like the classic Model 85, the Heritage Roscoe holds five rounds of .38 Special and can handle +P rounds.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

The Roscoe has an exposed hammer and this model has the period-appropriate 2-inch barrel. There’s also a 3-inch version that’s probably a great gun as well. It’s worth noting that the 3-inch model of the Chief’s special was very popular in its time.

Under the Roscoe’s barrel sits an exposed ejector rod. Unlike a Smith & Wesson, the little nub in front of the ejector rod isn’t a locking point. It’s just a hair of protection. The Model 85 locks at the rear of the cylinder and on the crane.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

We get an exposed hammer so you single-action aficionados and Murtaugh cosplayers can all snap into single-action mode. The stocks — that’s old gun guy-speak for grips — are wood and look really nice. Heritage has used nicer wood here than Mossberg has on the Retrograde series. The finish appears to be an attractive, shiny blue that looks fantastic.

That finish gathers fingerprints quite well, too, in case that’s your jam. If you see me wiping a Roscoe down with a rag, I promise I didn’t just commit a crime, and I’m not planning to throw it in the river. I’m doing it purely for vanity reasons.

Old School Cool, Old School Feel

Guns evolve and get better. Revolvers have evolved, and when you purchase something like the Roscoe, you purchase it for what it is, and you know that. I knew I wasn’t getting a modern revolver. Hell, that’s the point.

Those little wood grip panels are small in my big hands, and there isn’t much to hold onto. I’m looking for the equally old-school grip adapter just to fill it out and help keep that old-school aesthetic. You could swap the grips easily enough, and there are plenty of Model 85 grips around, but that seems silly for my purposes.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

The front sight is a fairly large serrated ramp. I want to add some white paint to make it pop. The sight’s fine enough as-is, and I suck with trench sights but can hit an FBI Q target in the chest at seven yards with a group no larger than my hand. If I slowed down and took my time with a perfect trigger pull, I can produce sub-3-inch groups at seven yards.

The Roscoe’s trigger is deceptively good. It’s better than expected at about 13 pounds. Weight is one thing, but it’s quite smooth throughout the entire pull. It’s no LCR, but it punches above its weight class.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

Heavier bullets tend to shoot better with the fixed front sight, and 158-grain stuff was dead-on. The lighter and faster 125s seem better reserved for longer barrels. Like most snub nose guns, the Roscoe gives you that good high-five feeling with each shot. It’s not painful, but you won’t mistake the gun for being a soft shooter. Shooting five rounds quickly won’t take you off target, but you’ll feel those five rounds.

Going Fast

I used a DeSantis Thumb Break Scabbard holster as part of my testing. It seems only right to mix an old-school gun with old-school leather. It’s an entirely different experience, but one I enjoyed. I’m used to polymer IWB rigs with small semi-automatics or pocket-carried revolvers. Swapping to an OWB leather holster with a thumb break was something new.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

I appreciated the challenge and my hands-on with something less modern was entertaining. Polymer holsters and P365s, as good as they are, can get boring. I practiced some basic draw-to-fire and tried my best impression of the Jelly Bryce hip firing technique. I found out I’m no Jelly Bryce, even if we share a birthday.

I worked in some old-school drills with the Roscoe and committed a few failure to stops, a modified Bill Drill, and some draw-to headshots. The little snubbie is a blast, and the Roscoe is most certainly combat-capable. While the main appeal to me is its old-school cool design, the price point makes it an affordable carry gun.

Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe .38 revolver

The MSRP is a mere $363, but I’ve seen them for less than $275 online. That’s a rare bargain these days. After 300 rounds of .38 Special, the gun got a little sluggish, but a little Hoppe’s and an AP brush got it running smoothly again. I checked the cylinder, frame, and yoke, and everything remained tight and solid on the gun.

A New Day, An Old Gun

The Heritage Roscoe is a very nice surprise from Heritage and parent company Taurus. It gives you an old-school look and feel with a great price tag. The gun works and could be a great budget-minded concealed carry gun. Taurus seems to have righted their ship, and they’ve impressed me a lot with their recent products.

The Roscoe makes me wanna put on a fedora and trench coat and strap on a leather shoulder rig. It worked then. It could work just as well now.


Caliber: .38 Special (+P)
Capacity: 5 rounds
Barrel length: 2.0 inches
Overall length: 6.5 inches
Overall height: 4.8 inches
Overall width: 1.4 inches
Weight: 22 ounces (unloaded)
MSRP: $363.99


5 Responses

  1. I love the look of the old school snubbed guns…bring back a lot of find memories of shooting my dad’s.

    1. Thanks for pointing out the Rock Island M206, I see its made in the Philippines, gonna have to look at one…

  2. It appears to be a reissue of an early 70s Taurus M85. which is not a bad thing. It should serve and sell well as a Basic affordable/reliable 38 snub with +P capability and better quality/cust.service over the RIA M206 for only a few more $$$.

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