By Tim Going
Like most Mandalorian children (hey if Rachel Dolezal can identify as black, then I can identify as Mando, cin vhetin ner vod), I began accompanying my father to the battlefield at the age of eight. And by battlefield, I mean the deer woods. At the time, I remember there being nothing in the world as cool as dad’s Remington 700 in .30/06. It was the epitome of a deer rifle, after all, on the third day God created the Remington bolt-action rifle, so that Man could fight the dinosaurs. (And the homosexuals). But, like many middle-lower class families, times got tough and the rifle was sold to help make ends meet . . .
For many years, dad borrowed rifles for hunting season, a 6mm Woodsman, a Model 70 .243, and a few others depending on what he could get. So when I became old enough, and financially stable enough to buy guns, one of the first I bought was a new rifle for him. Ya see kids, my father had never owned a new gun. In his day, you bought used guns, and you took them hunting in the snow, uphill both ways. So when I decided to surprise him with a new rifle, I wanted it to be NEW. Granted, I wasn’t the fattest cat in the land, so I had a small budget. But there were plenty of options out there.
The biggest problem though was my father himself. You see, my father struggled with many health issues. Vision problems, heart trouble, difficulty walking, arthritis. The typical issues that an older man with many logging accidents in his past faces. I had watched him begin to struggle more and more with even simple outdoors activities like threading a hook, setting up his blind, and manipulating his weapons. Thusly, the single biggest thing I was looking for in a rifle was something that was easy to use, and easy to carry.
Armed with that knowledge, and $250 dollars, I walked into the LGS and walked out $215 poorer, but one rifle richer. Of course, I would never knowingly break state and federal law by purchasing a weapon for someone else (hey there David! How’s the NSA these days?), so I waited til his anniversary and sold it to him for a $1.00. And he loved it, and just as importantly he successfully used it for four years in the deer woods.
My father passed away in February of this year, and so this gun has come back into my possession. Obviously, its sentimental value far surpasses its physical value, but nevertheless it is a worthy and potent weapon. Now, to the meat of the review:
First for some technical specs about the gun. The Rossi Wizard is actually a weapons system that features interchangeable barrels. Rossi’s website lists approximately 10 centerfire calibers, 3 rimfire calibers, as well as shotgun and muzzleloader barrels. It is a tip-up single-shot, hammer fired weapon, with a synthetic stock (wood available) blued carbon steel barrel, and….. Well really that’s as technical as it gets.
For the purpose of this review, we are going to focus on the .308 model, which features a 23” barrel, 1-in-12” twist, and features a Monte Carlo stock riser and fiber optic sights. For those of you who are interested in the multi-barrel feature of this weapon, I’m sorry, but this article will be lacking on in depth details. What I do know about it is from a friend who had one with a .50 Muzzleloader and 12 GA barrel. And having shot it a few times, I can say those barrels behaved as you would expect a muzzleloader and single shot shotgun to behave. And as of writing, he has had no issues with either in the three years he has owned them, with the exception of some barrel fouling due to failure to clean the muzzleloader.
Now before we go any further, I should point out that the Rossi Wizard is no longer in production. However, there are apparently still many of them out there for sale, with at least three new versions still at local gun stores in my area. Some of of you may balk at that and I wouldn’t blame you, but that does mean that they are often available at rates even further discounted from when I purchased mine. Now let’s breakdown some key features.
People, it’s a freaking hammer-fired single shot rifle. It really can’t get more simple than that. It has a thumb release to the right of the hammer to open the action, and even to change to barrel even to change barrels you only have to take off the forearm and lift the barrel away. Now granted, it does sport way too many safety features.
It has a traditional transfer bar safety (necessary), a manual S/F safety on the left side (unnecessary), and Taurus’ keyed security system behind the hammer, (what the shab?). But considering that you will probably not use two of those, there shouldn’t be any issue with them breaking. It’s far from a torture test, but as you can see, this rifle hasn’t been babied, and over it’s life and the course of my testing, it’s probably had about 300 rounds through it.
So if an end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine…..) situation is what you are prepping for, rest assured this rifle will probably outlast you. Stuff a matched set in the trunk of your car and you’re prepared for ba’slan shev’la (that’s a Mando bug out for you aruetti).
One of the best features of a single shot rifle is the short overall size. Turns out, when you take that whole “means to load and unload rounds into the barrel” thing out of the way, you can make a gun a lot shorter. Even with a 23” barrel, this little baby measures in at only 38 ¾” and that’s with a pretty hefty recoil pad factored in. Even with a 22” barrel, the beloved Model 70 Featherweight is 42 ¾”. However, the Wizard much like Ashley Graham, is a curvy gal, weighing in 6.5 lbs (listed by Rossi at 6.25, but my fish scale rarely lies). With scope and sans Monte Carlo riser, she is about 6 ¾ lbs, not awful, which is only a quarter pound less than that same Model 70.But also like Ashley Graham, she carries it well, is pretty easy on the eyes, and balances nicely on the shoulder….okay the Ashley Graham metaphor may have gone slightly off track there at the end.
Here is the icing on the cake, I bought mine for $199 plus tax. In local stores now, they are running from $159-189 depending on caliber. Even a full set with barrels (.22, .243., .50) comes in at less than $500 when you can find them. So it definitely is easy on the wallet. There are of course many rifles out there that are cheaper, such as the used market (tip for all you new hunters, buy your used deer rifles during January-March, prices are much lower), or military surplus. But at least with buying new the odds are better that you won’t get a rifle that is complete osik. (I love my Mosin, but I do good to keep three rounds inside a large Domino’s pepperoni.)
A well-crafted single shot rifle is (probably) theoretically the most accurate weapon that can be made. Unfortunately, this one was made by Rossi, so you won’t be shooting coyotes with the Quigley anytime soon. I won’t claim to be a world-class rifleman, but I know my way around a range. And this isn’t a top of the line scope either, its a Bass Pro special 4X32 that cost me about $50. Some sample images from a 100-yard shooting session below.
No, that is not earth-shattering accuracy. But it’s pretty reasonable, especially with Wolf brand FMJ and Hornady Whitetail softpoints. It is definitely helped by an excellent single-stage trigger. It breaks cleanly with almost no discernible take-up. It’s not the best trigger I’ve ever pulled (Baconmaker suckers!…sorry, couldn’t help myself), but if you miss a deer you can’t blame the go-pedal. Standard the rifle comes with fiber optic sights that are adjustable for elevation and windage. I would be lying if I said I have ever used them, but they are bright and contrasty if you are into that sort of thing.
The Fatal Flaw
So all these great features and the gun was still discontinued? Curse you Obamacare! No..wait…actually that’s not to blame this time. I would probably blame that on the fact that it is a single-shot rifle. There is no way around it, this is not a rifle built for speed. You aren’t going to be mowing down hogs with this one, and personally I don’t have the gett’se to stare down anything that could be considered dangerous game with one shot.
When that meant it was much cheaper than other hunting rifles it was excusable, but I see Ruger American Rifles at gun stores for $300 or so, and it’s a pretty top notch gun. So why therefore, should one go about purchasing this gun? Well for those of you who read the whole story, you know why…
The Perfect Match
The ideal audience for this gun to me (**and I’m sure I’ll see plenty of arguments to the contrary in the comments**) are those hunters who are elderly or have physical ailments that make it difficult to manipulate weapons. Because let’s look at the steps to go from completely unloaded to firing this rifle, vs the Ruger American Rifle:
1. Press thumb button to open action.
2. Put pointy end of bullet into hole.
3. Close action firmly with two hands (or snap vigorously with one hand if you’re a cool person)
4. Thumb back hammer (gun includes a thumb extension for use with optics)
5. Pull trigger
Now for the Ruger:
1. Eject magazine.
2. Load rounds into the rotary magazine.
3. Reinsert magazine into bottom of gun.
4. Throw bolt up and back.
5. Push bolt forward then down.
6. Pull trigger.
Granted, for most of us that’s not a difficult task, but if you have difficulty with your fine motor skills as my father did, it can be a real struggle. Add in a solid ejector to the Rossi and it’s fairly easy to do no matter how hard it is to get your digits to cooperate. My dad never had an issue with it, and he struggled to load and pump a Mossberg 500.
Reason number two I would suggest it for older, disabled shooters is the length and the handiness of the gun. The last two seasons my father hunted, it was very difficult for him to walk. Many days, he would just sit in the truck or side-by-side where we parked and hope for the best. Having a gun that is relatively short made it easy to swap from window to window, and he was in fact able to take a deer from the passenger seat of his old Ford. (Also useful if you are a planning on any drive-bys, although you would have to be a bad mama-jamma to use a single shot rifle for a drive-by). One piece of advice for that, wear hearing protection. Big gun plus small space equals bye bye hearing.
For beginning shooters, the single shot also has an appeal, as it reinforces the fundamentals of accuracy and proper trigger control. Although, I would recommend a lower caliber for a new shooter. While recoil is fairly well tamed by the rubber pad, noise is not, and it is a loud sucker.
So yes, there are better guns that are still in production out there, that offer many of the same benefits. But, I still recommend a good single shot rifle to a lot of my fellow hunters. And if that’s what you’re in the market for, the Rossi ain’t a bad choice.
Specifications – Rossi Wizard .308
Caliber: .308 Winchester
Barrel: 23” 1-in-12 twist
Size: 38 ¾” Overall
Weight: 6.5 lbs unloaded/no optics
Operation: Hammer-fired, tip-up, single-shot
Capacity: 1 (I feel like that should be a given)
MSRP: Discontinued, but street price of approximately $200 depending on caliber
Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
Remember, ratings are completely subjective, and I reserve the right to rate how I darn well please. That being said, I will try not to let my personal bias affect my opinions:
Accuracy * * *
It’s fair. Plenty accurate enough for deer sized targets at hunting distances, though an Olympic competition rifle this ain’t. That being said, the trigger is solid, and with good glass and better ammunition trials, you could make this thing really hum.
Ergonomics * * *
The pistol grip is nice, and the checkering offers a good grip in wet conditions. The Monte Carlo riser is a nice addition, but makes using irons impossible. Control wise, everything is laid out well and easy to operate while shouldered.
Reliability * * * *
Barring freak failure, I can’t imagine an issue that would make this system not work. Simplicity is a virtue.
Customization * *
If you consider barrel swapping a customization option then it could be rated higher. If not, well it’s a discontinued single shot rifle, so short of additional sights or slings its limited.
Ease of Use * * * * *
I put this in as an extra because I feel like it is such an important piece to the gun. All the controls are big, smooth to operate, and easy to understand. Whether it’s physical ailment or inexperience, there are few rifles out there that can be operated easier.
Overall Rating * * * *
I’m torn on this gun. In the end, it’s a niche weapon. With so many quality budget guns out there it really only makes sense if you have problems operating other rifles. So rated on a chart for deer rifles in general, it gets only two stars. But for that niche it’s a great option that won’t let you down when Buckzilla crosses your path. And isn’t that the essence of a good deer rifle?