The company known as Rossi was founded in 1889, by a man named Amadeo Rossi. It has since become known worldwide as a manufacturer of revolvers, semiautomatic pistols, rifles, and shotguns. For several years the firm has offered a lever-action Model 92 in various configurations and in calibers ranging from .38 Special/.357 Magnum to .45 Colt/.454 Casull, but prior to 2010 a repeater with an action long enough to handle the indestructible and ever-popular .30-30 Winchester cartridge was absent in the lineup.
That is no longer the case. A new Rossi lever action called the Rio Grande was recently introduced, chambered in that cartridge.
Even though it is a new model, its look has been around for many hunting seasons. Whereas the Rossi Model 92 is a copy of the Winchester repeating rifle by that same model designation, those who designed the Rio Grande were obviously quite familiar with the form and function of the Model 336 built by Marlin. They look alike, and like the Marlin, the Rossi features side ejection from a solid-top receiver, making it suitable for mounting a scope low over the bore. The receiver is drilled and tapped for an included one-piece Weaver-style base. A hammer extension is also supplied with the rifle.
The design of the Rio Grande makes it easy to field strip for cleaning.
Removal of one screw detaches the finger lever, allowing the cylindrical bolt to be withdrawn from the receiver. This is a good thing–the barrel can now be cleaned from its breech end. Made of spring steel, the extractor is held to the bolt by its integral clip. The ejector is held captive in its slot in the left wall of the receiver by the bolt and is easily removed after removal of the bolt.
Several safety features are incorporated into the design. One is a horizontal crossbolt at the rear of the receiver; a push to the right exposes a green-colored band and blocks the hammer from contact with the firing pin. Pushing the button to the left exposes a red-colored band, indicating that the safety is disengaged. The safety can be engaged when the hammer is fully cocked or when it is lowered to its safety “halfcock” notch.
Another safety feature handled by a small part inside the action is called the trigger safety lever. It blocks the trigger from movement until the finger lever is moved to its fully closed position.
A two-piece firing pin serves as the third safety feature. When the bolt is retracted, a coil spring pushes the rear section of the firing pin downward out of alignment with the front section. Then as the bolt is levered to its locked position, the rising locking block engages a shoulder in the body of the bolt and pushes the rear section of the firing pin into alignment with the front section.
Taurus now owns Rossi, so it comes as no surprise to see the Security System developed by Taurus for its rifles and handguns appear on the Rio Grande as well. Using one of two supplied keys to turn a screw located in the rear surface of the hammer locks the action closed by preventing the hammer from being cocked.
The 20-inch barrel measures 0.65-inch at the muzzle and has six-groove rifling with a twist rate of 1:10 inches. The tubular magazine is held in place beneath the barrel by a steel band near the muzzle, holds six cartridges, and is loaded through a port in the side of the receiver. A slotted-head bolt running from the top to the bottom receiver tang holds the buttstock to the receiver. Moving forward, a steel band secures the forearm in place and serves as a mounting point for the front sling swivel post. Everything about the Rio Grande looks so traditional that each time I pick it up I am surprised by its one-inch-thick, ventilated recoil pad replete with white spacer.
Sights consist of a steel blade front with a gold-colored bead dovetailed into it and a stamped-steel rear sight that is ladder-adjustable for elevation and drift-adjustable for windage. The full buckhorn styling of the rear sight may appeal to traditional-minded cowboy action shooters, but when viewed through the practical eye of a hunter, it covers up far too much of the target when compared to a more shallow “V.” And since the leaf on the sight of the Rio Grande is quite high and not hinged, it prevents mounting a scope low enough for firm contact between the comb of the stock and the shooter’s face. Using a nylon punch to remove the rear sight and filling the vacant dovetail in the barrel with a slot blank is an option if the rifle will be used only with a scope. Another possibility is to replace the rear sight with a folding version. Slot blanks and folding sights made by Marble Arms are available from Brownells.
With the exception of the two nits I have just picked, I found the Rio Grande to be a very impressive rifle for the money. Metal finish is pleasing to the eye and wood-to-metal fit is as good as you will find on a rifle in its price range. Throughout my accuracy testing I checked feeding by always loading and feeding six cartridges from the magazine rather than single-loading directly into the chamber. Doing so worked fine with Federal, Remington, and Winchester ammunition, but the rifle fed reliablywith the Hornady load and its pointed FTX bullet only when no more than five cartridges were pushed into the tube.
Just the right amount of spring tension on the loading gate allowed cartridges to be easily pushed into the magazine with not a single broken fingernail. Briskly operating the lever caused ejected cases to land about 6 feet away from the gun. Trigger pull weight averaged 3 pounds, 4 ounces. Pull-to-pull variation was only 3 ounces.
Accuracy was as good as we see from some bolt-action rifles. It is not uncommon for a tube-fed rifle to string its shots vertically, an affliction usually caused by slight shot-to-shot variations in the amount of weight pulling down on the barrel as the magazine is being emptied during firing. The Rio Grande showed no such tendency, and the first shot fired from the fully loaded magazine grouped in the same neighborhood as the sixth. With most ammo, group size remained about the same whether the first shot was fired when the barrel was cold or when it was quite hot.
As I write this, the Rio Grande is available only with a blued carbon-steel barreled action and either a birch or a synthetic stock. Coming soon, I am told, is stainless steel.
The grand old .30-30 cartridge will surely be around for as long as deer are there to be hunted and hunters choose to hunt them. I’m thinking the same will eventually be said of the new lever-action rifle from Rossi.