One of the most iconic images in our cinematic history is the American cowboy with his lever action rifle. John Wayne had his 1873 Winchester. Chuck Connors had an 1892 Winchester. Even Zoe carried a mare’s leg 1892 in the “Firefly” universe. The lever action rifle is a uniquely American invention, a rifle design that was a huge leap forward in firearm technology, yet destined for the hands of American hunters and outdoorsmen rather than soldiers.
The Rossi Model 92 retains much of that heritage, from the walnut stock and forend to the curved buttstock that matches the receiver finish. Obviously designed after the 1892 Winchester rifle, the Rossi 92 has the same straight stock (as opposed to the curved, near-pistol grip of the Marlin 1894). Models are available in a wide variety of chamberings, from period-correct .44-40 and .45 Colt to more modern calibers such as .44 Magnum and .454 Casull. Barrel lengths vary from carbine length 16 inch up to full rifle 24 inch, and receiver finishes are available in stainless, blued, or case-hardened.
The model used for this review was chambered in .357 Magnum/.38 Special and came with a case-hardened receiver and blued, octagonal 24 inch barrel. The capacity of the tubular magazine is twelve rounds in either .38 Special or .357 Magnum. The front sight is a gold bead, and the rear sight is a buckhorn leaf. Both sights are adjustable, with the front drift-adjustable for windage and the rear has a sliding adjustment for elevation.
It’s not without its flaws and quirks, though. Loading is tedious and getting the last few rounds into the tubular magazine can be an exercise in finger strength. .357 Magnum cartridges are longer and often need to be “finessed” into the chamber. However, .38 Special cartridges loaded without incident. Brass from the last round in the magazine would often not get ejected from the rifle. The safety lever, while easy to use and manipulate, looks out of place on a classic lever action rifle.
These quirks and flaws do not take away from the rifle’s biggest strength, in my opinion, which is that this gun is just plain fun to shoot. With standard .38 Special loads, there is essentially zero recoil, especially in a seven pound rifle with a 24-inch barrel. During a shooting match, the 92 was passed from an experienced shooter to novice alike, including an 11-year old boy and everyone that used this firearm commented on how easy it was to handle. Even the heftier .357 Magnum rounds were easy to handle, with the long barrel turning all of that powder into velocity rather than muzzle flash.
Accuracy is very good for a pistol caliber rifle. 25-yard offhand groups measured an inch or less, and were no more a measure of the rifle’s accuracy than that of the shooter. If the purpose of this rifle is to harvest deer at distances out to 100 yards, it will perform this task admirably. No, it won’t match a Remington 700 in .308 Winchester at 200 yards, but it’s not designed for that task. If it’s a fun day of plinking with light .38 Special reloads or introducing a new shooter to rifles, the Rossi Model 92 is an ideal choice.
Reliability for the 92 was average. As mentioned above, loading .357 Magnum rounds required more than just closing the lever. It was necessary to close the lever slowly and in some cases a light “feathering” was needed to get the rounds into the chamber. It fed and fired everything reliably, and the only issues with ejection occurred with the last round in the magazine. Using the Model 92 as a defensive firearm might require a little gunsmithing of feed ramps and improving the springs, but out of the box for plinking it’s just fine.
The Rossi Model 92 is a solid lever action rifle based on the Winchester 1892. The MSRP starts as low as $559, for certain models. It’s available in pistol calibers only and is one of the best values in lever action rifles on the market. There are a few rough edges that may need to be smoothed out, but for a fun plinking rifle or an occasional deer-taker, the 92 is certainly up to the task at hand. Anyone in the market for a pistol caliber lever action rifle would be well-served to check out the Rossi Model 92 product line.
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