A Match Made in Heaven: My Rossi M92 and Ruger Blackhawk

By Phil LA

This is my Rossi Model M92 20” lever action rifle and Ruger Blackhawk 7.5” single-action revolver. Both are stainless steel, chambered for .45 Colt and have become best friends. I don’t know what’s more satisfying on these guns; dropping the hammer or cycling the next round. I keep doing both trying to figure out which I prefer. I love the 45 Colt. It is the cartridge that got me started reloading due to its cost and extreme versatility.

All those years watching John Wayne must have taken hold. There’s no arguing with the superiority of the modern firearm, but I was always missing something with my GLOCK or various AR pattern rifles. So I added a couple of “just for fun” guns to my collection.

TTAG Content Contest Remington R1 ZORE X Core

I’ve been loading the .45 Colt for four years now and have had some good experiences. As a cartridge, it has been a joy to learn, load and shoot. The recoil varies from mild to stout, depending on the load and there is nothing quite like the cloud of smoke after sending 255 grains of lead down range with Titegroup or Unique powder.

I bought the Rossi ’92 about three years ago. Kentucky Gun Company had a sale on blemished Rossis and the rest is history. I would have preferred the 16” barrel, but couldn’t pass up the deal on the 20” model. I was thrilled to find that the “blemish” was just a light scratch on the stainless steel receiver. This rifle doesn’t stay at home on range days and that single scratch has become many scratches. I love this gun.

But not at first.

It was jam-city! It would not cycle my handloads to save its life. The problem was the elevator. The ‘92 lever action ejects the spent casing then requires a little extra “oomph” at the end of the cycle to fully actuate the elevator, aligning the new cartridge with the chamber.

First I totally stripped the rifle and cleaned everything. Then I cursed and cursed as I tried to put it all back together. No luck. Still a jam-o-matic. The jam was a “loaded round stove pipe”variety where the feeding cartridge would miss the ramp altogether and just stand up in the action. The rim on the 45 Colt case would get stuck on the bolt grooves and make for a tricky stoppage.

Then I researched how to smooth the action. Keep in mind that the name on the gun says “Rossi,” not “Henry.” Words have meaning. I’d chosen the Rossi .45 lever over the Henry for 1) the loading gate and 2) the cost. Now here I was wondering if I’d made a grave mistake.

I’ll skip the details, but I smoothed the action by taking the standard sandpaper, oil, spring adjustments and elbow-grease approach. It still isn’t a Henry when cycling the action, but it’s not far off. And it is way above my buddy’s Marlin 336.

That solved 90% of the jamming, but it was still a problem. The tubular magazine holds 10 rounds (11 with time and spring wear), so that meant that it would jam on almost every full magazine. Again I went searching for an answer.

The original Model 1892 was never chambered for the .45 Colt. The straight-walled cartridge and flat-nosed bullet combined for a tough feed in the action. That being said, most feeding problems could be avoided by seating the .45 caliber bullet to an overall length (OAL) of +/-1.600”. I set up some dummy cartridges at a specific OAL, then loaded and cycled each through the Rossi’s action. I noted any jams and then repeated the test after seating the bullets to a slightly shorter OAL. After trial and error, I found that 1.575” is the magic OAL for my rifle and it has been a gem ever since.

Make no mistake; this rifle will still jam if the lever isn’t fully cycled. But with proper cycling and bullet seating, it has been a joy at the range. And for what its worth, a $0.50 trigger job has made this the absolute best trigger in my collection.

I have upgraded most of my other guns with great after-market triggers from MCARBO to Geissele. I had a Henry H001 .22LR with an excellent stock trigger. None of them are even close to the trigger on this Rossi ’92. This single-action trigger has a glass rod break at two pounds and has been tested drop-safe, end of story.

The chamber on this rifle is tough. I started out loading my .45 Colts to mid-pressure and wondered how high the ‘92 could go. I still don’t know how high it can go, as I gave out before either the case or rifle did. I took my loads up to some pretty stout pressures (nothing like what I’d read online) in 0.1 grain increments. My current preferred handloads are within the lower “Ruger only” spectrum, so it became obvious that my Rossi ‘92 needed a Ruger friend.

Ahhh, Gunbroker! How I love you. I just happened to search for a Ruger Blackhawk. The Blackhawk has a tough frame, thick cylinder walls and ability to handle high-pressure .45 Colt loads. This single-action revolver has a very good reputation, though I’d never actually held one. So I took a chance.

I took pleasure in introducing my ’92 and Blackhawk. They share the same interests in stainless steel and leather, love the same food and enjoy taking long walks down range.

I swapped out the rear buckhorn sight on the ’92 for a Marbles Bullseye rear sight, which has more of a “red dot” feel to it. Target acquisition has improved, as has my accuracy. I’m minute-of-volleyball at 100 yards with this gun, which isn’t bad considering I can barely see the volleyball. I get consistent hits on a 2’x3’ steel plate when I stretch it out to 200 yards.

I haven’t done anything to the Blackhawk other than shoot it and clean it. I may change to more traditional wood grips to match the stock on the ’92.

I can’t say enough about shooting these guns. I don’t really enjoy shooting my GLOCK or ARs. Don’t get me wrong; I shoot them all the time, but I’m always training for better groups or quicker reloads or faster transitions or whatever. But these .45 Colts are just plain fun.

These two guns are heavy and soak up the recoil. That being said, you still know that you’re sending a 255 grain bullet down range at +/-1250 fps. The rifle jumps into the shoulder as the hammer drops, but the quiet (compared to the .223) report from the 20” barrel is refreshing. it is a nice recoil impulse it never feels like its going to jump out of my hand.

I paired a leather holster and a NcSTAR scabbard in trying to keep the scratches from adding up on my rifle and revolver. This setup keeps the guns secure and safe and has plenty of MOLLE for attaching a small range bag. Additionally, it makes for an easy connection point for the revolver gun belt and both guns are happy riding together.

Sometimes an impromptu trip to the range is in the cards. I just grab the scabbard handle and drop it in my trunk. My .45 Colt handloads perform beautifully in the rifle and are nice and stout in the revolver. I ring steel all day at 100 to 200 yards with open sights, and every GLOCK/AR guy at the range stops by for a look and a “nice gun” conversation. I give them a chance to squeeze off a few rounds, and each one smiles from ear to ear after the hammer drops.

So to sum it up, I love these guns. I take them to the range almost every trip and think of them as a nice change of pace to the usual 9mm/.223 diet. And while I don’t typically name inanimate objects, if I had to, I’d probably call the rifle “Duke” and the revolver “Rick.”

Duke and Rick are best buds and never seem to be clean.

comments

  1. avatar Stephen M says:

    I may have to look into a Rossi to match the old Model Vaquero I just picked up.

    Just started playing with a Lee Loader last night. About the only way I can afford to shoot .45 Colt in the quantities I want

    1. avatar Phil LA says:

      FYI- Vaqueros are nice but are not meant to take Ruger-only loads. That said, they fit the hand and draw easier than my Blackhawk.

      1. avatar Esoteric Inanity says:

        FYI the old Vaqueros were built on the same size of frame as the classic Blackhawk. Said frame was designed specifically for the .44 Rem Mag. The new Vaqueros, however, are built on a frame closer to a SAA. They probably shouldn’t be used with any loads exceeding 23,000 psi.

        For reference, an excellent article by Brian Pearce: http://buffalobore.net/HandloaderDecJan2012.pdf

      2. avatar Stephen M says:

        ^what he said.

        I find the old model to be a bit slower in the hand, but it’s a very robust design more than capable of handling stouter loads. I intentionally waited til I could find one because I’m a recoil whore.

  2. avatar Spot In says:

    Wow. It takes a lot to make a lever action that jams.

    Two guns I want nothing to do with.

    Have fun yourself though.

  3. avatar Just Sayin says:

    Niiiice.
    Love the stainless.
    My Rossi 92, in .357, is the best. Accurate as heck. And the trigger and action keep getting better with every range trip.
    Keeping my eyes open to bring a Blackhawk into the fold…

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      I’d love to pick up a lever gun in .357 to go with my 4″ Security Six. My Henry .22 already has a companion in the Heritage Rough Rider.

  4. avatar 41mag says:

    Henry big boy steel in 41mag, alongside my Ruger Blackhawk in the same, for me.

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2017/01/jon-wayne-taylor/gun-review-henry-big-boy-steel-41-magnum/

  5. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘I may change to more traditional wood grips to match the st ock on the ’92.’

    Please do. I love the Bla ckhawk. I’ve got the 50 year .44 magnum flattop mo del with a 6-1/2″ ba rrel and the R uger laminated rosewood grips. I’ll gladly take the knuckle rapping over those rubber abominations.

    Also, just curious if the Ro ssi feeds the factory stuff well.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Here’s a great place to start for grips; https://www.altamontco.com/pistol-grips/ruger/blackhawk/

    2. avatar Phil LA says:

      I honestly haven’t bought any factory 45 colt ammo in years. In hindsight it may have been a shortcut to the right answer. But whatever, it was fun and I learned something.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        I checked my Hornady reloa ding manual and it says 1.6″ is the COL, you can probably cheat that just fine with most revolvers, but I would think almost all factory loads would be a touch shorter. That and you’d think that Ro ssi would take notice and fix the problem if it was common with factory am mo. You’d think…

    3. avatar Ed says:

      FWIW, I have a Rossi m92 16″ large loop and have had ZERO feeding issues with it, with both factory and handloads. It is also paired with a Ruger Vaquero 3.25″ stainless W/ birdshead grip. A STELLAR combo.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        I’ve got the Vaquero birdshead in .44 mag. Awesome little hand cannon.

  6. avatar jwm says:

    Some of our fellow commenters on ttag seem to have forgotten that shooting can be fun. Not every firearm has to me made to fight tyranny with.

    Sometimes, shooting can be fun.I own Rossi’s and Rugers, amongst others. My wife laid claim to a Rossi .38. I offered her one of my S&Ws. She liked the Rossi better.

    The only single action Ruger I own at the moment is a convertible single six. My brother owns a decades old Blackhawk in .357 magnum. It has been used to pistol whip a bad guy. With no apparent ill effect on the Ruger.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Rugers are the choice of pistolwhippers world wide.

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        The Worldwide Association of Pistol-whipping (WAP) rates Rugers very highly. In fact, some people’s head meat is rated as “Ruger only.”

        1. avatar Just Sayin says:

          “head meat” ¡?¡

          Instant Classic.

      2. avatar VieteranGunsmith says:

        When in doubt…

    2. avatar Art out West says:

      Over the years, I’ve had a couple of the older Rossi .38sp revolvers (3″ barrel, 5 shot, steel frame, model 68 I believe). They are a nice size, weight combo. They are small enough to conceal pretty well, and heavy enough that recoil isn’t bad, plus they a long enough barrel to shoot reasonably well. In addition, they can be purchased pretty inexpensively used. I bought one in good condition for $125 (about 5 years ago).

      Sure a SP101 or Security Six (not to mention a Glock,M&P, XD) would be better, but those Rossi revolvers are ok for most purposes.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Sounds like the same gun. She liked it the moment she picked it up. I keep it to standard pressure loads and it works just fine. Not as smooth as a Smith or Colt but she’s happy.

        A 3 inch barrel on a j frame size revolver makes a world of difference it it’s handling and shooting qualities. The Rossi and my son has a 3 inch model 85 Taurus. That Taurus is as accurate as any Smith, Ruger or Colt I’ve owned.

        1. avatar Art out West says:

          I think they make a great gun for a newbie or someone who isn’t really a “gun” person. I’d recommend one to my wife, dad, mom, brother, or sister (all not really gun folks).

          If I were limited to one handgun, I wouldn’t mind too much of it was one of those. Still, I’m glad that I get to have more than one handgun.😀

    3. avatar DC says:

      William Ruger makes a heavy firearm lol I changed the words around a little but thank u Appaloosa

  7. avatar JesusLovesGunss says:

    A lever action that jams!

    Bwahahaha!

    What a piece of crap.

    1. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Instead of being a tool bag and making fun of this dudes gun, you should be impressed with the work he did on it. In fact, if you read the article, you’d actually learn a thing or two. But judging by your name, I’m going to guess your just an anti gun LUberal with Trump Derangement Syndrome.

      1. avatar Swarf says:

        Yeah… pretty sure that name isn’t intended ironically.

      2. avatar VieteranGunsmith says:

        Guys like that are mostly keyboard commandos and fanboys of some sort of semiauto rifle. Most have little to no real experience, and they show it by shooting their mouths off making silly and ignorant comments about things they don’t know about – which amounts to most everything.

        I think it takes a lot of applied intelligence to analyze and overcome malfunctions and it shows determination to solve a problem – instead of being a loser jerk with a keyboard and an internet access account.

        Congrats to the author of this article for applying himself and making it work for himself.

  8. avatar Tom Smithe says:

    So many rude people on this comment section. It’s just unbelievable. Sometimes the reviews that tell you what guns to not buy are the ones that really save you money. We should all be thanking the author for the warning.

  9. avatar DD says:

    True american grit.good job

  10. avatar Gun Owning American says:

    Nice write up and nice guns.

    1. avatar Esoteric Inanity says:

      http://www.rossiusa.com/pdf/2018-rossi-catalog.pdf

      For what it’s worth. Further info in comment below.

  11. avatar Junior says:

    I love me my Marlin 1894 CB Special in 45 Colt. Smooth action, never a jam, and fun to shoot. Load it hot or load it mild, your choice, but either way a blast to shoot.

    1. avatar Swarf says:

      Love my 1894c .38/357 but be aware of the snail-cam/carrier interface issue, if you aren’t already.

      An easy fix, but can lead to some serious frustration if you don’t take care of it.

  12. avatar TruthTellers says:

    Rossi stopped making the .45 Colt, all that’s out there now is used rifles and the prices on them are going up. I keep my eye out, but 500 for a used Rossi just doesn’t sit well with me, not when that’s what they were going for new a few years ago.

    The crappy thing is after Rossi, Henry is the next lowest in price, but they have no loading gate and cannot handle the “Ruger Only” .45 Colt loads like the Rossi can. To get that, the Chiappa/Taylor’s Alaskan Takedown is a nice 1892 action with the ability to take the barrel off, but it costs $1100, twice what a Rossi does.

    It’s really hard out there right now for .45 Colt fans who want a strong .45 Colt rifle and not pay a lot of money. The next cheapest option is a Thompson Center single shot.

    1. avatar Esoteric Inanity says:

      “Rossi stopped making the .45 Colt, all that’s out there now is used rifles and the prices on them are going up. I keep my eye out, but 500 for a used Rossi just doesn’t sit well with me, not when that’s what they were going for new a few years ago.”

      Ostensibly, Rossi has consolidated all its gun manufacturing operations into one facility in Brazil. However, there were some issues when moving and setting up the equipment. Thus why the companie’s imports into the U.S. have slowed.

      This is all anecdotal and Esoteric Inanity has not spoken personally to any representative from Rossi. However, there 2018 should suffice to show that their M92s are still available in theory: http://www.rossiusa.com/pdf/2018-rossi-catalog.pdf

      “The crappy thing is after Rossi, Henry is the next lowest in price, but they have no loading gate and cannot handle the “Ruger Only” .45 Colt loads like the Rossi can. To get that, the Chiappa/Taylor’s Alaskan Takedown is a nice 1892 action with the ability to take the barrel off, but it costs $1100, twice what a Rossi does.”

      Actually the Marlin 1894 is almost half the cost of a Henry. Also, from this one’s knowledge, the Henry’s should be able to hand high pressure loads with little issue. As proof, Buffalo Bore’s website should suffice: https://www.buffalobore.com/index.php?l=product_detail&p=335

      *Note that Henry Big Boy .45 Colt is specifically listed.

      Granted that the Henry and Marlin 1894 actions aren’t as strong as the 1892 JMB design. The real issue regarding Henrys, aside from lack of load gate, is in their limitations in utilizing ammunition of excessive COL.

      “It’s really hard out there right now for .45 Colt fans who want a strong .45 Colt rifle and not pay a lot of money. The next cheapest option is a Thompson Center single shot.”

      Again, the Marlin 1894 is an excellent gun for .45 colt. The slower 1:38 barrel twist isn’t as detrimental to accuracy with 300 grain .452 diameter bullets as it is with the .429-.430. Also the 1894, while weaker than an 1892, isn’t significantly so: http://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/45coltlevergun.htm

      Good reference article.

      1. avatar Scoutino says:

        The catalog in your link shows R92 in .357 and .44. No .45 to be found. Looks like Rossi did stop making them in this caliber. 🙁

        1. avatar Esoteric Inanity says:

          Technically, the catalog in the link only shows the availability of Rossi’s U.S. imports for 2018, not the companie’s entire firearms line. So yes, by the looks of it the M92 in .45 Colt isn’t currently being imported(however their website still lists it as being manufactured at the moment). Although Esoteric Inanity isn’t aware of any current imports by Rossi. Hard to say what is going on for certain.

  13. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Good Stuff Phil.
    I also like the look of nice walnut and stainless.

    It’s also nice to see a review of non-tacticool firearms.

    1. avatar richard sharpe says:

      rossi uses brazilan hardwood, not walnut

  14. avatar former water walker says:

    Gee he DID say the Rossi was USED. There are lots of reasons guns are used. KUDOS for getting it to work well…a Rossi 92 in 357 is in an ever growing list.

  15. avatar Toni says:

    i used to have a rossi 92 in .44 mag and a ruger super blackhawk with a 4 5/8″ barrel. loved those two guns. the only problem i had with the rossi was an occasional failure to eject. was a problem with the extractor claw. other than that it performed flawlessly.

  16. avatar See-Dubya says:

    fun gun and a solid entry. I own a stainless ’92 Rossi in 44 mag but never had any jamming problems with it. For one thing, my owner’s manual says the capacity is only 8 in the shorter 16″ version, not 10.

    I also replaced the plastic magazine follower with a stainless one, and put a receiver/ ghostring sight where the annoying safety button used to be.

    It’s no-drama reliable, but the accuracy has just never been there. And I don’t think I can claim all of the credit for that. Barely good enough to hunt with.

  17. avatar Mark N. says:

    I have a “Winchester” (Miroku) I bought used for $700 in .45 Colt. It really prefers roll crimped rounds (uncrimped rounds like to snag the ramp), and yes, full cycling is mandatory. Mine has a 24″ barrel and holds 14. It also has the unfortunate rebounding hammer that I would love to eliminate, as well as a safety that prevents mounting of certain longer range sights.(I understand that Turnbull can fix those issues.) I have never taken it apart–the manual does not recommend it (and this author’s experience suggests why), nor was I able to find a video describing the process.
    I have it matched to a Pietta 4 3/4″ 1873 sporting faux ivory grips I made from a kit from Tombstone Grips. I know how to slick up a Colt single action, but the Pietta came amazingly slick right out of the box, and with final polishing of its internals, it is probably the slickest single action I own.

    1. avatar Phil LA says:

      For what its worth, with experience I can now strip and reassemble the ’92 in 5-10 minutes and 2-3 curse words.

      1. avatar Porridgeweasel says:

        Great article Phil. I have the Blackhawk in “blue” and love it. I have that same grips as well. Those Altamonts are good lookin’ though. I might have to get some.

        I have been thinking about a lever buddy for the Ruger…this article stirred up those ideas again. I think my bank account is gonna be pissed soon!

  18. avatar TommyG says:

    I got the exact same combination (Rossi R92 and Ruger Blackhawk in 45Colt). Except I didn’t have any problems with either of them. There are great pair to use at my range where we have a set of Bianchi plates at 25 yards (that can only be shot at with Pistol cartridges). The 45 Colt really knocks the plates down with authority.

  19. avatar PeterK says:

    Nice guns. Good article. Great pics. Thanks for the share.

  20. avatar CCityGuy says:

    I run a Henry Golden BigBoy in .357 and have a Ruger 1976 Blackhawk also in .357. I still have more fun with this pair than my scary black rifles. Glad he got everything running!

  21. avatar Keith says:

    I’ve got a stainless 16″ Rossi in 357. I love it. It goes great with my Mississippi rolling block in 357 and 4″ sp101. But I may need to get a proper single action.

    What was the $0.50 trigger job? I’ve worked on my loading gate stiffness and ejector spring. It would be great to improve the trigger too.

    1. avatar Phil LA says:

      I watched several videos and followed the included steps. I took a bit of sandpaper to the sides of the hammer until it was very smooth, a touch on the sear, clipped off one or two coils from the hammer spring and made a shim of aluminum foil that goes under the trigger group. Then I cocked the hammer on an empty chamber and dropped the rifle about ten times. The hammer never discharged. I don’t walk around with it cocked on a loaded chamber, but half-cocked is fine.

      I also clipped a coil or two off the extractor spring to ease the cycling issue. The empties don’t fly as far now, which is a bonus for brass collecting.

      I don’t have a trigger gauge but the pullweight is slightly less than my Geisselle 2 lb SSA-E. And there is not an ounce of grit, creep, two-stage or any other movement other than a glass-rod break. Its perfect.

      The down side is that this trigger job has me convinced that I can somehow get the same result on my AR triggers. Sadly, I am mistaken! I keep throwing Geisselle all my money.

  22. avatar David says:

    I have the same disease, only worse. Marlin 1895 Guide Gun in 45-70, which led to a Magnum Research BFR in 45-70. There is no cure, I’m afraid…

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