Wheelgun Wednesday: Battle of Barkeep vs Storekeeper vs Shopkeeper

    Wheelgun Wednesday: Battle of Barkeep vs Storekeeper vs Shopkeeper

    Wheelgun Wednesday: Battle of Barkeep vs Storekeeper vs Shopkeeper

    Recently, Heritage Manufacturing Inc released an exciting yet petite-sized revolver in the Barkeep that we covered HERE. What few people do not realize is that the Barkeep is one wheelgun in a line of revolvers based off of a Colt Single-Action Army from the late 1800s. If you happened to be a business owner in the last 170 years (and love your wheelguns) there are 3 unique options you could have chosen, or still could choose, to protect your shop or store. Those include the recently debuted Heritage Manufacturing Barkeep, the original Colt “Storekeeper” SAA (Single-Action Army), and the Ruger “Shopkeeper” Bearcat.

    The most lethal, or should we say persuasive revolver, against railcar robbers that might want to steal from your business would be the Colt Storekeeper SAA because it was chambered in .45 Long Colt while today’s reproductions are more nostalgically-fun models chambered in rimfire cartridges. We will take a look at all 3 models – the Barkeep, the Storekeeper, and the Shopkeeper – so you can decide which small revolver you would prefer for protection at your apothecary, barber shop, or bank. Let’s dive in!

    Heritage Manufacturing “Barkeep”

    As we make our way through this list of the keeper revolvers we will go from youngest to oldest, and that means we need to start with the newly introduced Heritage Manufacturing Barkeep. This revolver is chambered in .22 Long Rifle from the factory, but you can uniquely request a 2nd cylinder chambered for .22 Winchester Magnum (.22 WMR also known as .22 Mag) if you like. Heritage Manufacturing’s whole shtick is producing incredibly affordable revolvers to get people off of the sidelines and start shooting. So, the full-retail, MSRP of these Barkeep revolvers is $189.39 for their Gray Pearl grip offering and $180.30 for their Custom Scroll Wood grip model. The rest of the specs can be read below as presented by Heritage Manufacturing:

    • Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
    • Capacity: 6 Round Cylinder
    • Cylinder: Alloy Steel with Black Oxide Finish
    • Barrel: 2.5″ Black Oxide with 1 in 10″ Right-Hand Twist
    • Frame Finish: Black Oxide or Simulated Case-Hardened
    • Grip: Custom Scroll Wood or Gray Pearl
    • Sights: Fixed Front with Notch Rear
    • Action Type: Single-Action Only
    • Overall Length: 7.95″
    • Overall Height: 4.86″
    • Overall Width: 1.50″
    • Safety: Manual


    Ruger “Shopkeeper” Bearcat

    One of the keeper revolvers that sometimes gets forgotten is the Ruger “Shopkeeper” Bearcat because the line the Shopkeeper hails from – the Bearcat series – evokes quite a bit of excitement in the Bearcat name by itself. It is definitely the most stylish and attractive out of all of the revolvers we are going to discuss here today. It features a Bird’s Head grip frame, crescent-shaped ejector rod, and the Bearcat roll mark on the cylinder is pretty eye-catching as well. This wheelgun is only chambered in .22 Long Rifle, but you have 2 options for barrel lengths and finishes at an MSRP of $749. Also, it is a Lipsey’s Exclusive for Ruger. All of the specs can be read below as presented by Lipsey’s:

    • .22 Long Rifle
    • 6-Round Cylinder
    • Single-Action revolver
    • 3″ or 3.5″ Barrel
    • Blued or Stainless Finish
    • Birdshead Gripframe
    • Button Head Cylinder Pin
    • Transfer Bar
    • Crescent Ejector Rod
    • Fluted Cylinder on 3-1/2” blued model only
    • Mfg. 2013 – Current

    Photo Credit: Lipsey’s Guns

    Colt “Storekeeper” SAA (Single-action army)

    Now we have reached the daddy of them all! The Colt “Storekeeper” SAA (Single-Action Army) has a unique history for multiple reasons. For one, the term “Storekeeper” is not a phrase that Colt ever used while producing or selling the original firearm we will discuss. The term “Storekeeper” actually came from those who collected the revolvers and it was not until the 3rd Generation of SAA revolvers that Colt adopted that term.

    Originally, Colt produced the SAA in 30+ cartridges in a wide range of tremendously short to very long barrel options. What began to happen is people were cobbling parts together from several revolvers in the late 1800s to the early 1900s creating their small wheelguns. These were appealing to shopkeepers, storekeepers, bandits, and gamblers. Essentially anyone who wanted to be able to easily hide a revolver wanted one of these “Storekeeper” configured revolvers.

    Because that authentically is a really long time ago and Colt has poor records dating back to then, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific year when Colt began shipping out Custom Shop requests for “Storekeeper” sized revolvers. Nevertheless, a cult following of sorts had begun from the early 1900s via storekeepers, bandits, and collectors alike. Eventually, Colt brought the Storekeeper model back using the name that collectors had applied to their short-barreled SAA revolvers. Right now if you owned either one of the newer vintage 3rd Generation Storekeepers or an original one you would have something tremendously valuable. The oldest ones are rampant with fakes so it is a buyer beware situation if you attempt to buy one from the early 1900s. Some of the listed specifications for the newer models of Storekeeper wheelguns can be read below as presented by Colt:

    • 3rd Generation (1984 – 1985 Mfg.) / $1,895 – $2,000 New Condition
      • .45 Colt only
      • Blackpowder Frame
      • 4″ Barrel w/ Ejector Rod
      • Full Nickel or Blued/Case-Hardened Finish
      • Ivory Grips
      • Approximately 280 manufactured
    • 3rd Generation (2008 – 2010 Mfg.) / $1,695 – $1,795 New Condition
      • .44-40 WCF or .45 Long Colt
      • Blackpowder Frame
      • 4″ Barrel w/ Ejector Rod
      • Blued/Case-Hardened Finish (discontinued 2009)
      • Nickel Finish (Mfg. 2010)

    Photo Credit: Rock Island Auction – Colt “Shopkeeper” Single-Action Army with Factory Box

    Colt “Storekeeper” vs. Ruger “Shopkeeper” vs. Heritage “Barkeep”

    While the days of old west saloons are long gone, the times of masked bank robbers do still exist – that’s a horrible COVID-19 joke – so maybe all these keeper revolvers still have a place on your hip or under the shop counter. The prices vary wildly depending on if you want the ultra-affordable Heritage Manufacturing Barkeep at $180 or if you want the real-deal original in the Colt Storekeeper that could be $1,800 or more! In either case, which one of these wheelguns intrigues you the most? Is it the Colt “Storekeeper” SAA Single-Action Army .45 Long Colt? The Heritage Manufacturing “Barkeep” .22 Long Rifle? Or how about the Ruger “Shopkeeper” Bearcat .22 Long Rifle? As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.

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