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.
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.