Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guns: The Poor Man's .357 Lever-Action - Rossi 92 review


Introduction: Zombies beware!

For some folks, lever-action rifles conjure up classic Westerns like "The Searchers" and "True Grit." For me, though, lever-actions are the quintessential zombie guns. After all, Ben used a Winchester 94 in the original "Night of the Living Dead," and Peter wasted marauding bikers wth a Savage 99 in "Dawn of the Dead." It was this undead nostalgia that prompted me to pick up the relatively inexpensive Rossi Model R92.

The Rossi 92 is a clone/reproduction of the Winchester 1892, a lever-action designed by John Moses Browning as a scaled-down version of the Winchester 1886. The Rossis have gone through various importers through the years - my Rossi 92, and all new Rossi 92s as of December 2010, are manufactured in Brazil by Taurus and imported by Braztech.

There are other options for those seeking a lever-action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum. The Marlin 1894C is popular, and the best choice for those who wish to mount a scope over the receiver. There's the Henry Big Boy, a tube-loading design that's considerably heavier than the Marlin and Rossi actions. You can also still buy an actual Winchester-branded '92; these are made in Miroku, Japan. If you're on a budget, though, the Rossi is about $150 cheaper (and easier to find at the moment) than the 1894C, and much cheaper than the Miroku '92s (which run close to the $1000 mark). Like most things, though, you get what you pay for...

First Impressions: Rough around the edges

I found the Rossi 92 to be a quick-handling little rifle, especially since I opted for the 16" trapper-style carbine; when held in one hand, the barrel doesn't even touch your shoetops, let alone the floor. The point of balance is right at the receiver, too, which is just about ideal for a long arm. The lever-action also makes the gun thin and slim compared to big, bulky semiautomatic carbines like the AR and AK.

Despite this handiness, I noticed several areas where the Taurus/Rossi factory cut corners on the gun. Unlike the real-deal Winchesters, the Rossis have plain flat fore-ends and crude-looking barrel bands. Unsurprisingly, mystery hardwood is used throughout. On the positive side, the finish on the barrel and receiver is serviceable, and I found the adjustable semi-buckhorn sights to be clear and simple to use.





The Action: More hitches than a trailer park

I had heard from anecdotal reports that some Rossi actions were smoother than others. I must have gotten one of the rough ones, because my example had noticeable hitching, especially near the end of the down-stroke (when the next cartridge is lifted into position to be fed into the chamber). A rough action is not only less fun to shoot, it detracts from reliability and messes up your sight alignment when you cycle in another round.

The Rossi 92s come with the top-mount safety that everybody seems to hate. It isn't the most positive safety I've ever used, but it didn't really bother me, especially since the other controls on the gun worked fine. I thought my rifle's trigger was pretty crisp, and I didn't detect any major ergonomic problems with the hammer or the lever.

Range Report: Isn't this thing chambered in .357 Magnum?

After inspecting and cleaning the rifle, I took the Rossi 92 out and put it through its paces. As an initial observation, the rifle kicks more than you'd expect with .357 loads. The long barrel allows the bullets to develop several hundred feet per second more velocity compared to a handgun, so typical 158 grain loads can reach muzzle velocities of 1700 fps or more (roughly 1000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy).

First, the good news - I found that the Rossi readily fed all manner of .38 Special cartridges, including my own handloads (158 grain LRN, 158 grain LSWC, and 125 grain JHP bullets) as well as Remington 125 grain SJHP. Accuracy wise, I regularly shot 3" groups at 50 yards with my .38 Special handloads (seated, but not in a mechanical rest).

The bad news? The Rossi 92 was very, very picky about feeding .357 Magnum cartridges. In fact, Remington 158 grain SJHP simply would not feed in the gun, even after decreasing COAL with reloading equipment. The round would jam into the top of the chamber when you tried to close the action. Here's an illustration:


Shorter .357s with a more rounded bullet shape seemed to do better (though there was still the odd fail-to-feed). On the right is the Remington 125 grain SJSWC, which fed okay; on the left is the Remington 158 grain load that simply could not be cycled through the gun:


Second Range Report: And there was much rejoicing

Taurus guns have a reputation for inconsistent quality control - one gun might be a complete basket case, while the one right next to it is unfailingly reliable. Wanting to test this theory out, I returned the Rossi 92 at my local gun shop and obtained a replacement. Immediately I could tell that the new gun's action was slicker and tighter - even the shell carrier angle looked different. I headed to the range again with high hopes.

Hallelujah! The second Rossi 92 worked fine with several types of .357 Magnum, including the Remington 158 grainers that were literally impossible to feed in the first one. I only shot about 50 rounds through the second Rossi, so the jury's still out on whether or not it's reliable enough to bet your life on in a fight. For me, it's certainly good enough for low-level cowboy action shooting and range fun.

Conclusion

Can I recommend the Rossi 92? Well, yes and no. After shooting both Rossi 92s, I really can't even believe they were made on the same assembly line, much less that they were identical examples of the same model.

That is, if you get a good Rossi 92, it will probably do everything a lever-action .357 can be expected to do, especially considering the price. If you slick it up and get it tuned by a good gunsmith, it might even work for serious cowboy action competitions and self-defense. If you get a lemon, though, like I did, you'll definitely have to send it back in. In short, pick your poison, pay your money, and have fun popping some zombie brains...

34 Comments:

At 10:43 AM, Blogger James R. Rummel said...

Good post! Thanks for sharing your impressions!

 
At 1:49 PM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Thanks, James. I had a hard time finding a neutral review on this particular rifle, so I'm hoping this helps somebody out.

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger Kansas Scout said...

I have had a Rossi 92 in .357 for about five years or so. Mine is glass smooth and shoots great. I have had NO trouble with feeding. SWC's no problem. The butt pad fit is rough to be sure but otherwise it's made well. I used it for CAS for three years. It's now my defense carbine for the vehicle when things would call for it. I would definitely buy another. I love mine.

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Kansas Scout - thanks for the comment! There are definitely good ones out there. If anyone reading this is considering one, I recommend going to a gun shop and physically working the action to make sure it cycles smoothly.

One side note I forgot in the review - my second Rossi, though reliable, slightly dings up the case mouths (the first one literally destroyed them to the point of being unusable, so the level of damage is probably correlated to action smoothness/overall reliability). Something to consider if you handload.

 
At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen rossi lever actions and wondered about them. Your post was most informative and helpful. Very well writen!

 
At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently got a Rossi and had the exact same problem. It would not cycle any .357 rounds at all. 38 special went through ok but tried a few different factory .357 and all of them hit the top edge of the barrel and did not even look like they would work. Took it back to the gun shop and they tried to polish it up a bit but no luck. Waiting to see what they can do for me.

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger LFL said...

I decided to try cowboy shooting and purchased a Rossi new from Cabela's (Sept 2011). The extractor would not hook on the round that was loaded in the barrel - repair number one. The ejector would not consitently kick out empties - repair two. The action was very difficult, so I replaced the springs with an aftermarket set and polished rough spot on the ejector - repair number three and four. One average, 3 cartridges per match are thrown up and out of the gun instead of feeding into the chamber - repair number five that is not completed yet. Overall I got one of the lemons, but every repair puts is one step closer to being an awesome and smooth running gun. I am starting to see the light at then end of the tunnel.

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Thanks for the comment, LFL - quite helpful. If at all possible, I recommend buying Rossi/Taurus guns from an outfit like Davidson's. They have a no-questions-asked warranty where you can simply send in the offensive gun and get a whole new one. It sorta insulates you from spotty QC, because if you get a bad one, you can send it back for one that is good (or close enough to good that it can be tinkered to work okay).

 
At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Free Sheet Music said...

I must've gotten one of the good ones. No trouble feeding; when wearing ear protection could hardly tell when a .38 fired. Did find I had to be "firm" when racking the lever.

 
At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just bought a Rossi 92 an hour ago, so Im keeping my fingers crossed. The actions feel very smooth thus far, but we shall see...
Thanks for all the great comments/reviews!

 
At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a new m92 and I took it apart and cleaned it. It was more difficult to reassemble than most others I have taken apart. The parts were difficult to align until I got the small tapered alignment tool. I recommend that if you are not patient and mechanically handy that you get someone else to do this for you.

I felt that my rifle was pretty smooth out of the box. Upon taking it apart, I noticed some shavings/turnings and burs on several parts. I cleaned off all the parts and picked off the burs with the end of a very small screwdriver. The places that had burs were not perfectly smooth but next time I will have something ready to polish the rough spots. I lubricated with white lithium grease and reassembled the rifle. I worked the action and it was alot more smooth. I have not had the opportunity to shoot it yet.

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Mulliga said...

Thanks for the comment, 9:23 AM. I haven't gotten mine apart yet, since in my experience, the older a gun design is, the harder it is to take apart. I might send it off to a gunsmith with experience in working with cowboy action firearms.

 
At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Frank said...

Two years ago I bought a 20 inch Rossi in .357. To date I have not experienced any issues. The action also seems to be getting smoother with use. I would estimate that I have put 300 rounds through with a 75/25 mix of 38s and 357. Very happy with it. If your eyes are not what they once were try the Skinner rear sights.

 
At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had two Rossi Model 92s in .357 Magnum. The first was a 24-inch octagonal barrel that had a smooth action, strong ejection, fed most cartridgesand was very accurate. The second was a 16-inch round barre. The action wibn't even function unless the screws the lever pivots on are left finger loose. It's very finicky about .357 rounds that it will feed, and the front sight dovetail was cut at a canted angle, not straight across the barrel. Many times the last cartridge will not eject but simply hang up in the receiver. In short, Rossi now suffers the inconsistant qaulity control I have experienced with Taurus ever since the mid-1980s.

 
At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently bought a Rossi 92 lever-action 357. It simply WILL NOT chamber a 357 round... not even close. I did get it to chamber 38 special rounds, but it was very rough. I am extremely disappointed with it.

 
At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Own 3 Rossi 92s ....357Mag....44Mag....454Casull/45LC. great guns.....very accurate.....love'em !!

 
At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At Rossi like Taurus the new guns roll off the assembly line and are thrown into a box without a second look or thought.
Quality control is non existent.
It's pot luck what you'll get when you open the box.
Hand pick your Rossi off a rack where you can check it over before purchase.
Never buy a Rossi by mail order sight unseen.......they'll send you the junker rejects and returns....bin there dun that.....never again.

 
At 12:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I WILL NOT own a Rossi anything. They are Poor quality and a joke. I will spend the extra dollars to have a GOOD gun.

 
At 1:03 AM, Anonymous 336bl said...

I had two Rossi's in .357mag, both had issues (the second one cam e already broken, sent it back to Rossi on my dime, waited 8 weeks for it to be returned, sold it three days later), mostly failure to feed. The parts are not high quality, Rossi-USA only gets one shipment of replacement parts per month--this fact alone made me see the second. In the end you get what you paid for--Rossi/Tarus not worth the money or the aggrevation...look else where..

 
At 5:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I purchased a Rossi92 in stainless steel over the weekend through Davidsons... It will eject the shells(357 mag remingtons in 125 gr sjsp and sjhp)fine, but when chambering or rather trying to chamber the next round, it hangs up and will not allow the round to chamber... I'm going to send this one back and hope my next one is much better. If not? I'll never purchase another firearm through Davidsons...

 
At 5:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To my comment listed above.. I purchased mine for my backpack for when i go up to Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, etc.. That's also why I got it in stainless steel.. I only want one type of ammo to carry and I thought this would make a very good complement to my revolver... It "CANNOT" hang up like that though... I see alot of individuals are having the same issue with theirs... And that's completely unacceptable... I really wanted a Marlin 1894css, but as many of you already seem to know, kind of hard to come by right now... This one here is a good lookin lever action carbine, but it has to be 100% functional. Not halfassed in any way.. It's a firearm and a tool for me, not a toy... It better work..

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much is one in good shape cost

 
At 7:02 PM, Anonymous John Colorado said...

I've been shooting lever action guns for years and have several and have shot several. No gun right out of the box should have the problems the Rossis do. It simply is a case of poor quality control. My advise is you're better off buying a Henry or Winchester. The Henry's aren't much more than the Rossis, but the Winchester are even pricier. However, I've shot literally thousands of rounds through each over the years without a single hitch. That's right, not one repair needed for either. In short, I want to use my rifles for shooting, no matter what type of ammo. I don't want to spend time getting them fixed. Pay more and get a better rifle.

 
At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Rossi came with a manufacturers defect. The firing pin doesn’t hit the primer hard enough to fire every round. Rossi doesn’t sell repair parts. I search the Internet and found many other Rossi owners with the same problem. I called Rossi USA. The only way I can get it fixed is to ship the rifle and pay Rossi almost as much as a new rifle costs. I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER ROSSI!!!!!

 
At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review. Checked it over well at the gun shop, especially the action. Confirmed with the salesman any problem would be the shops problem. Took it out for the field test with fiocchi 125 gr. SJSP mags and 125 gr. remington FMJ specials. Performed outstanding, I am very pleased!

 
At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had my 92 for 3 months and have had no issues. It shoots reloads with no issues and I find the quality to be really good. The only thing I have had to do is Dremmel the sharp edges the lever loop had so that it quit cutting my hand. After 15 minutes of sanding, this is a rifle I could shoot all day.

 
At 2:04 PM, Blogger D Moehrke said...

Just bought a Rossi Puma M92 stainless steel, Octagon barrel, .357/38 special cal. Will not get my hands on it for about a week or so. I can't wait to see how it runs.

 
At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Oldwestman said...

I bought a Rossi .44 mag. which I use with .44 special rounds as the mag is too much punishment for me the only problem I have had is with the sights, couldn't get the thing to shoot any lower with the factory sights so had a taller front sight installed works good now.

 
At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had my Rossi .38/.357 for a few months and it will digest any .38, but has problems with .357's. My brother bought the same exact rifle, and his handles both .38 and .357 flawlessly. I am going to carefully look both of them over carefully to see what the difference is.

 
At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is an old thread so I don't know if this will catch any followup comments, but here we go.

Has anyone heard of the Taurus made Rossi 92s having a manufacturing defect in which the hammer seem to be out of line with the barrel and sights?

 
At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had my Rossi 92 44 mag for 2 months and 300 rounds of my reloads and no chambering issues, just wish I find a scope that will work easier

 
At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 20" Octagon in 357.

Somewhat finicky in what it will feed, especially the 180 gran RNFPs I hoped to shoot out of it.

358429 and 358156 seem to feed fine once ya figure out OAL and seem to be accurate with some loads I had on hand and developed for the gun.

I have no plans to shoot any jacketed rounds out of the gun.

 
At 10:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have had a Rossi 92 short barrel for 20 years and no problems. I did have a smith go through it for a tune when I bought it. Sometimes it won't load .38 specs because some rounds must have a bigger rim case and hang up on the loader entrance. It's my daughters favorite gun when I feed it 357 mags.

 
At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Rossi 92 in .454, 20" barrel. Accuracy is average with Ruger-only .45 Colt loads, (335 lead), not as good with hot .454 loads, 300 grain jacketed bullet. It won't feed .454 with the 335 lead bullet, feeds everything else ok. The edges of the chamber are sharp and case mouths show small nicks after feeding. Action is smooth enough. It appears there is a flaw in the rifling about six inches from the end of the barrel. .454 loads are equal to 45-70 factory ammo. Pretty good bear protection since it feeds well, but not accurate enough for serious hunting.

 

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