The Heritage Manufacturing Roscoe: Old School Cool

— Travis PikeCADRE Dispatch

One of the best new fads to sweep the gun industry is this reintroduction of old-school-themed firearms. Mossberg did it first with the Retrograde series, and the general theme of retro reissues has expanded since then. Several companies are pumping out retro-inspired firearms. The latest and arguably the first in its class is the Heritage Roscoe.

Fans of the Heritage brand likely know that Taurus owns Heritage, and those same fans might find something similar about the Roscoe. 

Underneath its new exterior, the Heritage Roscoe bears a striking resemblance to the Model 85 revolver. In fact, it is a Model 85. Taurus imported the Model 85 from Brazil for nearly half a century until it was recently replaced by the Taurus 856, a Model 85 with an additional round.

The Roscoe proudly displays two distinct markings, a large white H for Heritage and the familiar Taurus Made In Brazil markings. It’s a crossover that we didn’t know we needed. 

Why the Roscoe? 

I jammed the Roscoe in his button and said, ‘Close your yap, bo, or I squirt metal.’ – Sam Spade.

Doesn’t the name Roscoe sound a little odd? I assure you it’s not a Brazilian inside joke. If you have ever read some hard-boiled fiction, you know the term Roscoe. It’s a slang term for handgun, and broadly speaking, it can describe either a revolver or a semi-auto handgun. It dates back to the early 1900s, and the exact origin is unknown. It’s like the term gat, heater, rod, and piece. 

Heritage Roscoe revolver profile
The Roscoe is a classic snub nose.

It’s a slang term for firearm, but Roscoe has fallen out of favor in the modern world. If it’s used now, it’s more or less an inside joke among firearm enthusiasts or those who like to cosplay 1940s detectives or are Sam Spade enthusiasts. 

It’s easy to see why Taurus and Heritage named the gun the Roscoe. The gun lends itself to those classic revolvers that you might have seen in detectives’ shoulder holsters. The Roscoe fits in with guns like the original Colt Detective Special or the S&W M36. It’s small, simple, and deliciously old school. 

roscoe revovler on green
The Roscoe is a five-shot adaption of the Model 85.

From top to bottom, the gun exudes old-school design. The grips are small, and the wood has checkered grips. It’s a dark wood finish that’s fantastic, and the checkering feels nice in the hands. The blued finish is shiny enough to gather fingerprints, worse than my stainless steel fridge. 

It has an exposed hammer, a ramp front sight, and an exposed ejector rod. There are none of the modern features you’d expect to find on a modern snub-nose revolver, and that’s the point. 

Working the Roscoe 

I’m not a revolver guy, but recently, I’ve found my hands wrapped around several revolver grips. I like learning, and revolvers have been a learning experience.

The Roscoe does make you realize that even modern revolver shooters are spoiled. Prior to the Roscoe, I was shooting an S&W Model 432 UC and a Taurus 856 Defender TORO with a red dot. 

roscoe muzzle flash
The Roscoe features simple sights and they aren’t the best, but it’s retro to the end.

The Roscoe has a rear trench and front sight. The ramp front sight could easily be painted to make it more visible. I don’t do well with these types of sights. Anything beyond 15 yards becomes a bit of a challenge. I know that’s likely the intended range of this gun, but I like the ability to hit targets at 25 yards with regularity. 

The Roscoe is mechanically capable of shooting straight because the groups are tight when I shoot from a rested position in single action. I just need to learn how to use the sights quickly and at longer ranges when shooting practically. It’s the shooter, not the gun. 

the roscoe revolver in hand
The Roscoe features a rich blue finish.

Revolver triggers seem to be improving by leaps and bounds. Heritage and Taurus make budget-friendly guns. I don’t expect super smooth triggers from these guns, but they keep impressing me. The Roscoe has a fantastic double-action trigger. 

Old School Ergonomics 

The grips are tiny and are just enough to leave my pinky hanging. These all-wood grips are nicely textured to help them cling to your hand. I shot the gun between sets of squats, so I was quite sweaty and didn’t have issues with the gun sliding or moving in my grip. I can clench down on the grip and keep it locked in my hand. 

roscoe wood grips
The grips are classic wood and very simple.

The recoil ride isn’t exactly soft. Little .38 Specials have never been confused with soft-shooting guns. The super-small grips aid in concealment but don’t do much for the gun’s ergonomics. That thin grip creates a bit of pressure point for recoil, and you feel it in your hand. That’s just sort of the sacrifice you make when you get into the old-school revolver game. 

Complaining about this gun’s old-school features seems silly. It’s like buying a bolt-action rifle and complaining it’s not a semi-auto. If you purchase a Roscoe, you’re deciding to get an old-school gun with old-school ergonomics, but you should at least know what to expect. 

Heritage roscoe revolver features
Look at the classic ejection rod design.

The Roscoe’s short ejection rod makes ejecting the empty cases a bit of an affair. That’s just snub nose problems. You want to get the gun fully vertical to drop those rounds. Gravity is your best friend when it comes to reloads. The five-shot cylinder and grips don’t allow for speed loaders, but speed strips will help you get the gun reloaded quickly. 

On Longevity 

I’m 300 rounds of .38 Special through the Roscoe. My hands are tired! The little Roscoe chewed through every round without a problem. Every round fired reliably, and the gun functioned like a champ.

The Roscoe might not necessarily be intended for concealed carry, but it’s reliable enough to fill that gap. I would likely carry an 856 over the Roscoe, but if you want an old-school cool revolver, then the Roscoe has you covered. 

shooting heritage Roscoe revolver
The Roscoe has all the stout recoil you expect from a micro-sized 38 special.

It’s perfect for cosplaying a 1940s detective. You just need a shoulder holster, a trench coat, and a fedora. The Roscoe delivers a revolver most new gunners wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise. It’s also not a collectible, like an old-school Colt Detective, so you don’t feel bad shooting the hell out of it.

The Roscoe has a captivating look that makes me want to hang up the writing game, become a private detective, and change my name to Tracer Bullet. 

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