People don’t usually respond well to the fact that I am not an AR or AK man. I’m not much of a semi-auto rifle man at all. Sure, I own them, and know how to use them, but I don’t like them.
This isn’t a political statement, either. I don’t believe in regulations beyond what we already have, and even some of that I take offense to. If you’re not a crook, you ought to be able to have whatever rifle you like.
Life is simply too short to shoot guns you don’t like, friends.
That of course raises the question of what I DO like. Specifically, what high capacity repeating rifle do I like?
The Rossi R92 In .44 Magnum
The title of this post should’ve given that answer away. If you’re new to guns, though, you might not understand what rifle I’m talking about. The image below is my Rossi R92.
It is a Rossi branded clone of the venerable Winchester 1892, a John Moses Browning designed and Winchester manufactured rifle of yesteryear. It was discontinued sometime after WWII, but Winchester recently brought it back.
They brought it back due to the popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting. While I love what CAS has done for the shooting world, I don’t like Winchester’s decision to bring the ’92 back in .357 Magnum only.
.357 is the most popular choice among those who choose to “game” the CAS system, using light .38 special loads. Those light .38 loads aren’t much good to someone who expects their rifle to both protect home and hearth AND get the groceries.
Rossi has been making their clone rifle for quite some time, and doing it for half the price. What’s more, they offer it in multiple finishes, barrel lengths, and chambering.
So, as the story goes, I went to my LGS (Local Gun Store, for the non-gun-nut readers) around 5 years ago and a blued, 20″ barreled .44 Magnum followed me home.
Specifications on my Rossi R92
As I mentioned above, my rifle wears a blued finish with a 20″ barrel. The .44 Magnum chambering was nice, but that extra 1/10th of an inch per cartridge wouldn’t see much use. I primarily load it with my .44 Special handloads.
Speaking of ammo, my rifle has a 9+1 to 12+1 round capacity, depending on what load I’ve got in it. That may not make sense to someone who doesn’t shoot a levergun, but here’s the short answer:
The cartridges are front to back in the magazine tube instead of one on top of another like in a box magazine. Your capacity is determined by your cartridge’s length and how many times that length will fit into your magazine tube’s length. I usually get 11+1 in .44 Special, which matches up with Rossi’s claimed 10+1 capacity in .44 Magnum.
That might not fit your definition of “high capacity”, but it beats any .44 Magnum firearm that isn’t a lever action rifle.
The hardwood stock didn’t have any coating whatsoever, but hell, I didn’t figure it would need it. I’ve been told it’s mahogany, but I’m not too concerned with it. In my world, guns are working guns and expected to earn their keep. I don’t own safe queens.
The rifle weighs a handy 5lbs, which makes it lighter than most folks loaded AR-15s. That has been a godsend on many scouting trips, believe you me.
It is a tube fed rifle with a loading gate, if you couldn’t tell by looking at it. I always assume at least some readers are new to guns, and don’t know some details the rest of us take for granted.
The recessed oval in the side of the receiver is pushed inward and cartridges are fed into the opening. That’s how you fill up a tube magazine like this one. If you shot a Marlin .22 as a kid, you probably had the other kind of tube magazine.
The loading gate type is quicker to reload under stress, especially if you carry your ammo the way I do.
I mentioned my .44 Special before because I usually carry the sixgun, belt, and cartridge belt slide pictured when I carry this rifle.
My .44 Magnum rifle and .44 Special sixgun can share ammo, being that the former was developed by elongating the case of the latter.
Put another way, the .44 Magnum is a .44 Special with a little bit more room for gunpowder in the cartridge case. It isn’t quite as cut and dried when pressure enters the picture, but you get the idea.
The bullet diameter and case rim and all are exactly the same, so the bullets on my belt slides (I have two, even though only one is pictured) can feed either my rifle or my sixgun. Don’t try that with an AK and a Glock 19.
Rounding out my Rossi R92’s specifications are the obvious. Lever action, exposed hammer, bead-and-buckhorn sights, and the familiar straight grip stock of a Winchester.
The sling and sling studs were not on the rifle when I bought it, discussed further below in the modifications section. First, we’re going to talk about the final feature – the manual safety I never use.
Manual Safeties and Leverguns
Yes, the Rossi R92 features a manual safety. It is just rear of the bolt, and turns one way to fire and one way to safe. Fire is painted red, Safety is painted green.
I don’t use the damned thing.
There are a few reasons why I don’t, and this is my own personal choice. I take no responsibility for anything you do with yours, and if you choose to use the safety, you’ll get to argument from me.
Believe me, I understand the argument for manual safeties on firearms. I understand it better than you might think. I lost someone very dear to me as a child due to unsafe gun handling, and I saw what it did to everyone who loved them.
Even so, or rather, especially so, I believe safety is something that happens between your ears and not on your gun.
I carry my Rossi R92 the way everyone carried leverguns back when everyone carried leverguns. Back before safeties on guns was actually a thing.
That means that I typically carry it with the tube loaded and the chamber empty with the hammer at full rest. When a round is chambered, I carry my Rossi R92 with the hammer at half cock.
The only times a round is chambered and the hammer is at half cock is when I am:
- Hunting with my Rossi R92
- Having a grand time plinking at a backwoods firing range
- Dealing with something hostile
I put more emphasis on always observing the 4 safety rules than I put faith in a mechanical device that can fail. If you think that’s a terribly stupid way to go about it, I’m okay with that.
You do what you’re gonna do, and I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do.
Now, on to the modifications I’ve made to this rifle while living with it.
Modifications Made to My Rossi R92
First and foremost, I had to have a sling on this rifle. A rifle without a sling is like a pistol without a holster.
I’d never attached a sling swivel set before, having relied on wrapping wire and paracord for makeshift slings in the past. I wanted something a little better on this rifle, so I acquired some Uncle Mike’s Sling Swivels.
One of the swivels is screwed into the wood of the stock, which was no problem at all. The other attaches to a clamp that goes around the magazine tube. Surprisingly, I got it installed with a minimum of cussing at my rifle.
Click Here to Get Uncle Mike’s Barrel Band Sling Swivels (Affiliate Link)
If you’re an older hunter with good eyes, you might say my sling looks like 1980’s camo. You’d be right – it’s a sling given to me by an older hunter in my family.
There’s just something about trucking my rifle around the same deer woods with the same sling as another did decades ago. Completing a circle of tradition and reverence.
The next thing I did was to take care of the hellaciously rough action, which was functional but practically bruised my knuckles after a long day of plinking. Some might say a rough action is a deal breaker on a rifle, but for me it never is.
That roughness (as long as it isn’t induced by mechanical faults) is very fixable. Instead of outlining everything I did to my rifle, I’ll point you to this gentleman’s video below. I did a little more than him, but that little more was specific to my rifle.
This led to a lot more cussing at my rifle than the sling swivel installation did. 2 straight nights of it, to be honest. These rifles don’t disassemble as easily as your garden variety AR, but it’s doable.
I’ll also add, in case it wasn’t obvious, that I’m in no way responsible for what you do to your Rossi R92. You’re not responsible for me, so why should I be responsible for you?
Exactly. Now, here’s the video:
Usually when I work on my gun’s springs, it’s for one of two reasons. Either I’m ensuring reliable function (semi-auto pistol recoil spring, tube magazine spring in shotgun or rifle, etc) or I’m sweetening the trigger (a la the Ruger Blackhawk pictured earlier).
In the case of my Rossi R92, I didn’t modify the trigger at all. The Rossi R92 doesn’t have a sear. It has a hammer to trigger lockup. If you don’t know what that means, then guess what? You’re the type that shouldn’t monkey with it.
What’s more, it wasn’t necessary in my rifle. My trigger breaks at 5lbs, and while it could be better, it’s just fine for the wide range of functions it performs. Some have reported theirs at more than double that, so maybe I got lucky. Who knows?
Instead, I wanted to do something about the mainspring weight. Since I was going to be using handloads, I knew I had more say-so in how hard my load’s primers would be than the next shooter. Having a heavier hammer than necessary would be dumb.
I also wanted to have a few ejector/extractor springs to play around with. The Winchester leverguns are open-top designs, as opposed to Marlin’s closed-top designs. That becomes apparent after the first time ejected brass hits you in the forehead.
This is the spring kit I bought from Brownell’s (Not an Affiliate Link).
I could go into my load development, but that’s against my policy. I never post my handloads anywhere, because I don’t want a company changing their powder 5 years later and making something I published unsafe.
That rounds out the modifications I made to my Rossi R92.
Why a Rossi R92 In .44 Magnum Instead of an AR/AK/Other Popular Rifle?
Here are the jobs I expect my do-all rifle to handle:
- Truck Gun Duty
- Home Defense
- Bump In The Night Outside The Window
- Deer Hunting
- Pest Control (Snake and Coyote and Hog)
- Small Game Hunting
- Woods Bumming
- Personal Satisfaction (Aesthetics and Handling)
Sure, I could get that with an AR platform. I don’t think any other common and popular rifle platform meets all of these criteria at the same time. So yes, I could do all of the above with an AR.
I have a few concerns about giving an AR this job we haven’t covered yet, though.
#1 – How Much Money am I Supposed to Spend Here?
I spent as much on my Rossi R92 as you would expect to spend on a Sport model AR. An entry level gun. An entry level gun in a single chambering, likely .223 or 5.56mm.
To fulfill my requirements for home defense, my weapon cannot fire a round that will exit my home and endanger anyone outside of my home who is uninvolved.
That means either a shotgun or a handgun, and either of those have to be very, very load specific. To give you an idea of what I mean, I use #4 Buck in a home defense shotgun.
With the AR, I’d need to fuss with a pistol caliber conversion or ammo that is so underpowered that it would need a much shorter gas tube than I’d have. With my Rossi R92 and backup sixgun, I have no such concern. I just need a handload tailored to the job.
Then there’s plinking – I’d need a .22 LR conversion. How about hunting? I’d need another upper for that too.
With the R92, all I have to do is change the load I’m using. What’s more, I spend less reloading my .44 than I’d spend buying multiple different cartridges and magazines and uppers for an AR.
So yes, I can have an AR that does all of what I want it to, but I would have to spend substantially more money than I did buying my Rossi R92 in .44 Magnum.
If I’d bought the .45 Colt or (perish the thought) the .357 Magnum R92, I’d have hit a few more snags. But the .44 has me covered. I simply have 20 fewer rounds in the rifle than the AK and AR fellas.
And you know what? I’m not enough of a badass to need 20 more rounds if 10 rounds of .44 Magnum doesn’t cut it. I’ll be too dead to be bothered.
#2 – What Happens If I Lose My Magazine?
An AR or AK can be run without a magazine, one round at a time. They don’t have a magazine disconnect safety like (for example) the Browning Hi Power pistol. But that’s all you’re getting out of them if you don’t have your mags.
The Rossi R92 has a tube mag and loading gate, as mentioned above, so this isn’t an issue whatsoever. No detachable magazine means there’s nothing to lose.
It’s true that the SKS has an internal magazine, but it’s the only rifle I know of that is inexpensive, common, popular, AND Semi-automatic.
Guess what else it is? Incapable of fulfilling all my requirements. It’s also heavy and awkward compared to a levergun.
#3 – Perception Vs Reality Unexpectedly Costing Me
Think, for a moment, about the reaction that people who are gun-dumb could have to seeing your gun. I know, I know, you shouldn’t care what anti-gun or gun-dumb people think.
You’re correct…to a point.
What is the average person’s response to seeing someone NOT in uniform holding a semi-auto rifle that isn’t clearly a scoped hunting rifle?
Fear, uncertainty, and maybe even calling the police to report a “strange man with a machine gun”.
Even if you’re just putting your rifle back in its case to drive home after a fruitless hunt, or doing something else completely harmless and not threatening in any way.
That’s not the same response as something they would see as a hunting rifle, especially if any of their friends or family are hunters.
I can already hear you saying, “Yeah, but, I’m completely within my rights, and can’t be charged with anything if I’m not breaking the law.”
Yeah, you’re right. And that doesn’t matter, because that’s not what I’m trying to avoid. I’m talking about avoiding the huge time cost of having to deal with law enforcement when there isn’t a good reason to.
It wastes your time, it wastes the officer(s) time, and nobody wins except for Old Lady Smith who called it in and now has something to gossip about with the other church ladies.
I’d rather be hunting or plinking or spending time with my kids, thanks.
Shoot What Ya Brung
Around here, we have a saying. Shoot What Ya Brung. Translated into Non-Southern American English, Shoot what you brought.
It’s usually reserved for the guy who tries to explain him missing an easy shot by blaming his gun. “If I’d a brung my .30-06 I’d a made that shot upside down’n backerds.”
Too bad for him that he’s got to shoot what he brung. He didn’t bring his .30-06, he brought what he brought and that’s what he’s going to have to shoot.
Good news for you is that, regardless of what I brought, you don’t have to shoot it.
If you read all of this and think I’m crazy as hell, that’s perfectly fine. You’re going to shoot what you brought, not what I brought.
As for me, unless I’m hunting a cutover and need my Browning A-Bolt, I’ll be happy as can be with my .44 Magnum Rossi R92.