Gun Test: Rossi Model 1892 — In .45 Colt
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.
As you can see, the .45 Colt has enough power at safe pressures (in the Rossi) to compete with the .44 Magnum and even the .454 Casull out of a long-barreled revolver. The two heavies – the DT 335-grain hardcast and the BB 325-grain hardcast — were the most interesting to me. The DoubleTap load (at 1.665″ overall) was just short enough to feed through the Rossi when the lever was worked energetically, while the Buffalo Bore load (at 1.695″ overall) was just too long. The DoubleTap would get the nod on this basis, but should be able to stop anything you might encounter in the woods. All the other loads worked smoothly and functioned perfectly, both in feeding and ejecting. Ejection of fired cases could be done vigorously and the empties thrown into the next county, or gently and deposited right in your hand. What could be better?
Side view of front sight.
Quarter-view of rear sight showing buckhorn shape.
Typical 20-yard groups with the various +P “stopping” loads.
All grouped well except the deer grenade load.
Fun To Shoot?
Firing a short, light carbine with heavy loads is an experience indeed. Within the parameters of a bear-stopping/home-defense gun (which is from room distance out to about 20 yards or so), it was more than adequate. Although the curved steel buttplate produced some next-day shoulder bruising, recoil while shooting was tolerable with the heaviest +P loads and wasn’t worth worrying about with the standard loads.
Fast follow-up shots could be delivered with any load. Accuracy testing of some loads was conducted at 50 yards to see if the bullets were stable, and groups of about 4″ or so were obtained. This is more than you would think, based on the 1″ groups (or less) fired at 20 yards, and the reason is the bead sight would cover the entire 6″ bull at 50 yards, making any kind of precision doubtful, for me at least. Happily, I was still able to hit 1-gallon water jugs at 80 yards consistently.
As a dyed-in-the-wool lever-action man, I am very familiar with the Buckhorn rear sight and I like it very much. I prefer it to any type of aperture sight, finding it much faster to use at close range. In addition, it’s important to relate there was plenty of adjustment in the rear sight to cover the trajectory of any of the loads, should you prefer a light or heavy bullet, either slow or fast. The Rossi was nearly perfect for me as-is — the only concession I made was to the front sight. The rounded gold bead reflects light more in some conditions than others and I don’t like it. My treatment is to mix up some ivory-colored nail polish, flatten the face of the bead, and paint it. Unlike paint, nail polish is immune to most gun cleaners and oils and stays put. The ivory-colored bead provides a very uniform sight picture under the most varied conditions, from full sunlight to semi-lighted hallway. A couple thousand elephant hunters can’t be wrong!
The short, maneuverable rifle can be used anywhere: bedroom, tent or vehicle. I also like the fact I can manually control the action: utilizing the safety, the hammer and the lever to achieve the exact state of readiness I desire at any time. The heavy-hitting, large-diameter bullets inspire a confidence smaller projectiles don’t impart, and the decisive accuracy of the short rifle is streets ahead of any handgun. For massed hordes of zombies, perhaps a vz .58 would be a better choice, but for the usual types of 2- or 4-legged attackers, I don’t think a better all-around defensive weapon can be found.
|LOAD||MUZZLE VELOCITY (fps)||MUZZLE ENERGY (ft. lbs.)|
|DT 335-gr. WFNGCHC +P||1,452||1,564|
|DT 300-gr. SP +P||1,478||1,467|
|BB 325-gr. LBTLFN +P||1,641||1,944|
|BB 300-gr. JFN +P||1,444||1,461|
|BB 260-gr. JHP +P||1,850||1,989|
|BB 260-gr. Deer Grenade +P||1,834||1,950|
|BB 225-gr. Barnes XPB +P||1,876||1,953|
|BB 200-gr. GD HP||1,411||886|
|BB 225-gr. Barnes XPB HP||1,309||855|
|BB 225-gr. Soft Cast SWC-HP||1,357||918|
|BB 255-gr. Keith SWC||1,250||893|
|DT 255-gr. Keith SWC||1,117||730|
|Winchester PDX1 225-gr. HP||1,071||572|
|Glaser Silver 145-gr. PF +P||1,696||928|
Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision
Legend: GC=Gas check; HC=Hardcast; SWC=Semi-wadcutter; WFN=Wide flat-nose; LFN=Long flat-nose; PF= Pre-fragmented; GD=Gold dot (Speer); LBT=Lead bullet technology (design shape); Keith=Keith (design shape); XPB=Barnes lead-free
Action Lever with large loop
Caliber .45 Colt
Sights Gold bead front; buckhorn rear (adjustable)
Barrel Length 16.25″
Overall Length 33.5″
Weight 4.8 pounds
Finish Blue and Stainless Steel
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