By Jerry Catania, GUNS Magazine
Have you been looking for a home-defense gun? Perhaps you need it to defend against bears or other outdoor predators as well? Do you find shotguns too long and heavy? Maybe handguns lack the power or accuracy you need. Similarly, have you found that most of today’s rifles and carbines are semi-autos in small calibers, or really big and heavy? Imagine, if you will, a light, handy rifle weighing less than 5 pounds, giving you complete manual control over its operation, yet not lacking in speed, power or close-range accuracy. If this type of rifle has piqued your interest, then keep reading, because I think we have a firearm for you.
In 1892, John Moses Browning decided to shrink his Winchester 1886 to an appropriate size to fire handgun cartridges. The result was the most recognizable lever action in the world: the Model 1892. Manufactured until 1941, the Winchester 92 was a Hollywood icon, and has been seen in more Western movies than all other lever actions combined. Light, handy and reliable, the 92 was manufactured in the most popular handgun cartridges of the late 1800s — except the .45 Colt. The reason for this is a mystery, although speculation abounds. A million rifles were made, and the Model 92 was used all over the world. It was even carried by Admiral Peary on his North Pole expeditions. Sadly (and strangely), the most recognizable American rifle of all time is no longer made in America by anyone. Today, the Model 1892 is made in Japan, Italy or Brazil.
The Rossi R92 is virtually identical to John Wayne’s Rifle in True Grit.
Quality At Half The Cost
Miroku of Japan makes the “genuine” Winchesters, while Chiappa makes an Italian version. Both are much more expensive than the Brazilian Model, the Rossi, which lists for less than half as much as the Japanese offering. What about quality, you ask? I can tell you the most recent Rossi 1892 (called the R92) rifles I have seen are every bit the equal of anything else on the market in quality, showing excellent fit and finish. I received an R92 in .45 Colt and ran it through a couple of shooting sessions with a wide variation of loads, from low-pressure CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting) cartridges to heavy-bullet loads operating at nearly twice the normal pressures. It took them all in stride. No loose screws, broken parts or cracked stocks.
A traditional lever action with no frills, the R92 has an overall length of just over 33″. Weighing in at a feather-like 4.8 pounds, the R92 has a short 16.25″ barrel, a saddle ring and a large loop lever just like the one in the original cowboy action thriller, True Grit. In fact, it’s virtually a dead-ringer for John Wayne’s rifle in that Academy-award winning flick. Happily, while Rooster’s rifle was a .44-40, my R92 is chambered in .45 Colt.
Large loop lever and saddle ring.
Rossi safety in the “fire” position.
Right side of Rossi R92.
Why .45 Colt?
The .45 Colt is just about the most versatile, most forgiving to reload and most pleasant-to-shoot round in existence. Adopted by the US Army in 1873, the .45 Colt was originally chambered in the Colt Single Action Army. Later, Smith and Wesson came out with a model that wouldn’t accept the Colt round and chambered their revolver for a shorter (and less powerful) job called the .45 Schofield. I suppose this is when the .45 Colt became the “Long Colt,” a name it carries to this day. Please don’t get wrapped around the axel over calling it “.45 Colt” or “.45 Long Colt.” Guys in gun shops and Internet forums argue about it ‘til they are blue in the face or their fingers are bleeding. Spend your time more constructively — like shooting or reloading! Even the brass is labeled .45 LC.
Speaking of brass, forget the dreaded “balloon head” cases you sometimes read about in reloading manuals. These are strictly collectors’ items today. Modern .45 Colt brass is manufactured to the same strength levels as .44 Magnum cases — although most guns chambered in .45 Colt are not.
The .45 LC can be used for CAS with soft lead bullets, home defense with lead-free hollow points or pre-fragmented rounds; for real bear-stopping power, a variety of heavy hardcast and heavy-jacketed bullets can be used. The .45 LC is better than a .44 Magnum in a rifle because most .44 Magnum rifles are made with a 1:36″ twist, which will not stabilize the heavyweight bullets in .44 caliber (.429 inch, to be exact) over 270 grains or so. The Rossi’s 1:30″ twist stabilized the heaviest loads out to 50 yards, with no key-holes noted, and decent accuracy was obtained. Some of the many loads available were chronographed for comparison. (See chart on next page.)
Next, the accuracy test and tech specs.