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Rossi M92 Review

This is a guest post by Andrew BettsRossi M92

There is simply no denying that part of the reason we buy lever action rifles is that they are fun to shoot. Sure, they are practical. Yes, they are reliable, short, light, well balanced, and quick handling. But be honest: when you shuck that action it just plain makes you grin. You may not go so far as to imagine yourself plugging desperados like Ralphie Parker, but lever action rifles do give us a fantastic feeling of nostalgia. The Rossi M92 Carbine is modeled after the Winchester Model of 1892 carbine and fuels that nostalgia wonderfully.

The Rossi M92 is available in a variety of calibers, barrel lengths and finishes but the subject of this review will be the 16” blued .357 magnum version. .357 magnum might not be the most historically relevant cartridge, but it makes a lot of sense in a carbine. As useful and versatile as it is in a handgun, when you load it in a longer barrel it transforms into an entirely different animal. It is as though it wakes up from its long slumber in a revolver and it comes screaming out of that carbine barrel with the authority of an intermediate rifle cartridge like .223 or 7.62x39mm.

When .357 mag is fired from a rifle, it can easily reach or even exceed 2,000 fps. Now, most .357 projectiles do not have the ballistic coefficient to hang on to that velocity very far down range like pointier true rifle bullets, but in the 0-200 yards that these carbines were made for, it can hit hard and accurately.

Of course, if the eighty year old .357 is too modern for your taste, the M92 is also available in more period appropriate calibers like .44-40 and .45 Colt. Whatever caliber you choose, the M92 is a joy to shoot and is more affordable than its peers. Although the MSRP is $624.36, it can usually be found for under $500. For that price the little Rossi gives you an awful lot of rifle. It is made in Brazil, imported by BrazTech, and sold under the Taurus brand. While the fit and finish is not perfect, it is far more refined than one would normally expect from a $500 rifle. The wood is attractive, smooth, and wears a stain with a slight red tone. There are few visible tool marks. The bluing may not be as deep and lustrous as a classic Smith & Wesson but it is even, smooth, and dark with a pretty decent polish.

The action is a little stiff when new. It is not rough, just stiff, and it eases with repeated cycling. That just gives you an excuse to sit on the couch and work the action while watching Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies. Although it is possible for a loose nut behind the stock to induce a malfunction on any manually operated firearm, this rifle has experienced no stoppages in our testing despite the use of .357 magnum and .38 special ammunition loaded with an array of bullet profiles at a range of seating depths, even when fired by novice shooters. So long as you work the lever through its entire range of motion, you should have no malfunctions.Rossi M92

Like many other rifles of this type, this rifle features a loading gate. The spring on the loading gate is light enough to allow easy loading but the edges of the port are sharp. To avoid insult to your digits, it is best to load this rifle by pushing a cartridge in just until the case rim is about half way into the loading gate, then push it in the rest of the way with the next round. To make the rifle ready to fire, continue loading until no more cartridges fit (the 16” barrel version will fit 8 rounds of .357 mag or 9 rounds of .38 spl in the magazine), then chamber a round by moving the lever down and forward until it stops and then returning it to its original position.

At this point one more cartridge can be inserted in the magazine, if you wish. After firing, working the lever cocks the hammer, extracts and ejects the spent cartridge, and feeds a live one from the tubular magazine. Spent cartridges are ejected from the top of the receiver and are directed almost straight up, but slightly to the right of the shooter. Left handed shooters had no difficulty. This top ejection makes scope mounting somewhat challenging.

The real star of this rifle is the trigger. It is light, short, and crisp. It is not a match or custom trigger, of course, but there is virtually no take up, creep, grit, or over travel. If it doesn’t break like the proverbial glass rod, it at least breaks like a really nice piece of uncooked pasta. The trigger on this little carbine is markedly better than that of a pre-Freedom Group Marlin M1894c.Rossi M92

Unfortunately, the Rossi M92 has a concession to the lawyers that was never present on the original Winchester 1892. There is a rotating hammer block safety at the rear of the bolt. It has two tiny levers offset from each other at 90° and will expose a green “S” or red “F” for safe or fire. One could simply ignore this feature except that it has a weak detent that does a poor job of keeping it in place and can occasionally be moved unintentionally. Worse, it fits in its recess loosely so it is sometimes easy to rotate and sometimes gives more resistance. This inconsistency and potential for accidental activation or deactivation can be infuriating.

Thankfully, there are some options for relief. The simplest remedy is to simply remove the offensive chunk of steel. Without the ridiculous afterthought safety, there are two options to keep the rifle ready to fire but safe from unintentional discharge.

The first is to simply refrain from chambering a round until ready to fire. That practice is just fine for the range or defensive use, but working the action makes noise and could spook a game animal.

The second option is to point the rifle in a safe direction, chamber a round, get a good grip on the hammer with your weak hand, then pull the trigger and carefully lower the hammer. When you are ready to fire, you can simply pull the hammer to the rear with your thumb.

Removing the safety leaves an unsightly hole, though, and there are a couple products offered to fill that space. You could simply buy a steel plug that blends almost seamlessly with the bolt or you could purchase a plug that also acts as a rear peep sight. This both increases sight radius and provides a vastly improved sight picture over the original buckhorn sights. Both are available from Steve Young at www.stevesgunz.com .

While you are at it, you might consider replacing the yellow plastic magazine follower with a polished stainless steel magazine follower. It is more durable, offers less friction for improved feeding, and is arguably more visible than the yellow plastic, especially with some carbon buildup.

Despite a couple minor faults, the Rossi M92 is reliable, accurate, and fun to shoot. It is perfectly capable for home or camp defense or for hunting and it would still be a fair deal if it cost half again as much. As it stands, it is an incredible value. While other guns may offer slight improvements in fit and finish or more modern features like a drilled and tapped receiver, they also come with a substantially greater cost. The Rossi M92 is simple but it is a quality rifle at a great price.

 

Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.

Photo credit – Andrew Betts

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