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Image: Chris Dumm for TTAG

Rossi just sent me this 16″ barreled, 8-shot Model 92 in one of my favorite calibers, the ancient .45 Long Colt. This tiny carbine is just 33″ long and weighs under five pounds; I can’t wait to play me some ‘Rifleman’ at the quarry next weekend. (No twirling, though.)

The Ruger Blackhawk posing with it is one of my favorite pistols, even though I don’t get out shooting with it very often. The old Colt costs an arm and a leg if you shoot factory ammo, but handloaders love it for its generally mild pressures, long case life, and appetite for cheap cast bullets.

Stay tuned for the full review!

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    • Model 92 winchester in .44-40. It;s my understanding that the original Winchesters were never chambered in .45 colt because the rim dimensions on the .45, a round designed for a single action revolver with an ejector rod that went into the cartridge case to effect unloading, was less than ideal for the design of the Winchester ejecter.

      The .44-40, amongst others, was designed for the rifle first. It was later that the round was used in handguns.

  1. GREAT looking piece! And I’m a strictly modern firearms guy. But would I love one of those? YOU BET!

  2. I will be looking for the review. Nice little rifle. I have a Ruger just like that one with a 45ACP cylinder for it also. It is cheaper to shoot than LC…. well back when you could find ammo it was.

  3. I have this rifle in 20″, .357 mag/.38 spl. I can’t wait for your review. I have been considering this exact rifle for a while. My Rossi 92 took about 250 rounds to really smooth out, but I love that gun. It is tricky to fully strip though. I bought a DVD from Steve Young, highly recommended if you get a Rossi 92.

    45 Colt is really a reloaders round from what I hear.

  4. IMO the .45 Colt is much more practical for modern shooters than the .44-40. The Ruger appears to be a NMBH. If that is correct, both the Rossi and Ruger will take heavier loads than standard. For lighter loads, the .45 Colt cast is excessively large for many powders. I have .45 ACP cylinders for my .45 Colt NMBHs which are modified for .45 AR. My range loads are mild loads in .45 AR brass. I load heavier loads in the .45 Colt brass for the NMBH and my .45 Marlin.

    • Apparently because of patents in the 19th century the 45 Colt round was not available to Winchester to use in their rifles. These days except for folks who want true 19th century authenticity with the 44-40 the 45 Colt arguably is better as you noted.

      Some cowboy shooters load 45 Colt down to power factor 120, 200 gr bullet at 600 fps. Hodgdon and others publish “+P” 45 Colt loads intended only for Ruger Super Blackhawk, T/C, Freedom Arms, etc.

      • The .45 colt round was designed specifically for the 1873 colt Single action revolver. The ejector rod on the colt pushed the cartridge casings out of the gun from the front. Because of this system the rim of the .45 colt round was fairly small. This was the primary reason the round wasn’t used in the old Winchesters, it caused reliability problems.

        The .44-40 was designed from the ground up for the Winchester and then it was chambered in revolvers later.

        • That is really quite interesting. Thanks. Sincerely, TTAG should have you write a few articles on history. Many of the old movies refer to a Colt .45, but I seemed to recall that the .44-40 was the common caliber. You’ve just helped to explain why.

        • Nobody, thank you. I’m not expert enough to write articles. I just have a love of firearms and the history that surrounds them.

    • It comes with a single wingnut safety that blocks the firing pin. It’s located on the top of the bolt. I removed mine with a simple kit. If it wasn’t so loose and easy to toggle I would have kept it. If I ever hunt with it I might put it back, since it makes the rifle drop safe.

  5. I’m holding out for a Uberti. Much prettier gun with case hardened receiver, bunch of different models (’73, ’76, ’83 Burgess, some Henry’s, and so forth and so on) in a variety of calibers, including some real heavy hitters in the ’76.

    • I have a Uberti 1873 in .357. Its a beautiful rifle, but a might finicky as to cartridge length. Just the nature of the mechanism. I had mine “competition tuned’ by Pioneer Gun Works.

      The Rossi 92 is on my list.

  6. I’ve thought about getting one in .44 mag. I’m assuming the .45 colt will handle the hot loads though, so that would be just as good. Less than 5lbs with 8 rounds that can pack up to 2000 lb./ft. of energy from a 16 inch barrel makes for an awesome home defense weapon (if you’re not into lasers, lights and red dots, etc.) and just as well for deer (or larger game) at limited range. And cheaper than an AR (especially when you count all the lasers, lights and red dots you won’t be buying).

    • Yes, me too. I thought at one time that I’d go for a Marlin in a pistol caliber, but you don’t see those around much these days, certainly not new (thanks, Freedom Group). And the Rossi offerings look nice and seem affordable… I’d love to get me a short carbine in .357. One of these days…

        • They can be easily had for $500-$600 new, depended on stainless steel, and hex/round barrel.

      • I have a marlin 1894 in .44 magnum (the most versatile cartridge for a reloader ever)

        I would definitely be into a Rossi 92 in .357 or .44 if it’s nice. Or maybe a Rio Grande in .410 bore! If it turns out to be a nice piece I’m going to pine that they don’t offer something in .22 LR!

      • The Marlin in .357 was my dream rifle. I love the closed top receiver over those based on the Winchester action. Freedom Group has killed my dream as finding a non-Remington model is darn near impossible these days and expensive.

        • I picked up a Marlin 1894 CSS in .357 magnum about 4 years ago. It is without a doubt my favorite rifle. It did take some time to smooth out and I did replace some trigger components to get a better trigger, but it’s a pretty easy gun to work on. Only thing left is to install a rear aperture sight (probably the Skinner). I just love that rifle.

          But when I pick up one of the Uberti lever actions in a pistol caliber, with the longer, heavier octagonal barrel, case colored receiver… totally drool worthy (but up to double the price of the Rossi or Marlin).

        • And that’s the problem: the aperture sights work better on a Marlin. Not that I would kick an Uberti out of my safe. Thanks for making me jealous … of both firearms. If you ever decide to get rid of that Marlin ….

  7. My goal is a lever gun in. 357/.38 and a Ruger NMBH.357. I’ve grown up with the NMBH in .357 and loved it. But, it’s my dad’s and I will have to get my own. I also want a Henry in. 22lr as a plinker.

  8. I have the Ranch Hand in .44 Mag, though I’m more apt to shoot .44 Spl through it. I imagine it’d be the perfect hog gun, but I mainly got it for the novelty factor. That, and to supplement my dad’s old Ruger .44 Mag carbine. Hmmm, now I need a .44 Mag revolver….

    • You might want to look at a Super Redhawk, but it’s just a matter of personal preference. I have a Redhawk (and it’s really great), but the Super Redhawk (for me) is comfortable enough to shoot Buffalo Bore 305 gr. and not feel punished. All of this is only if you want double action.

      We need more revolver reviews!

  9. One thing that most people don’t notice about the .44-40 is that, unlike the .45 Colt, the .44-40 has a slight taper to the case. This, as well as the more pronounced rim, helps with feeding and extraction in the 1873 rifle.

    For people buying new guns (ie, without collector value): I’d recommend the .45 Colt. Several reasons come to mind:

    1. The .44-40 isn’t as straightforward a cartridge to reload as the .45 Colt. There’s the taper to consider (meaning: you can’t use carbide dies, so you’ll have to lube cases), the brass is thinner at the case mouth (leading to deformation or crushing if you’re not careful) and your bullets might need to be a slightly different size than today’s nominal “.44” size (which is actually .429).

    Modern .45 handguns (both .45 ACP and Colt) use .452 as their bullet diameter. Some older .45 Colts would slug at .454. I like being able to share bullets between my .45 Colts and 1911’s.

    2. .44-40 guns going back in history (and by “history” I mean as recently as the early 1970’s) seem to have groove diameters that vary all over the map. You should slug the bore of any old .44-40 gun before assuming that you need only stuff a .429 dia. pill onto a case and go.

    3. Sometimes, .44-40 brass is more expensive than .45 Colt, and factory loads are harder to find in quantity. .45 Colt will be around for a long, long, long time. Similarly, you can find more choices in for modern guns in .45 Colt than in .44-40.

    The .45 Colt can be loaded to higher pressures in modern guns, especially the Ruger single action revolvers. I wouldn’t put hot .45 Colt loads into an Italian wheelgun, much less an older Colt SAA. If you’re a reloader, you’ll notice a trend in data manuals for “Ruger only” loads for the .45 Colt.

    One thing to NB when reloading the .45 Colt: It would be very easy to double charge the case with many modern pistol powders, and with some of the fastest powders, it is conceivable one could nearly triple-charge a .45 Colt case. This would be bad, mmmkay?

    To help prevent this, IMR (now part of Hodgdon Powders) developed “Trail Boss” powder, which will typically overflow a .45 Colt case if double-charges are thrown.

    • Dyseptic: the .44-40 bullets size was/is originally .401. It is a true .40 caliber. the “44” part refers to the charge of black powder.

      • Tsgt B. In the blackpowder days the second number, in this case the 40, denoted powder charge. They actually used a 3-4 number code in their cartridges. !st number denoted caliber. Second denoted powder charge. Third denotede bullet weight and where needed the fourth denoted length of cartridge. In the case of the winchester repeater the round was the .44 Winchester Center Fire, the .44-40 or the .44-40-200. All the same cartridge.

        The true .401 caliber you’re referring to is I believe the .38-40 round. It was also available in Winchester rifles and various pistols. .38-40-180.

    • One thing to NB when reloading the .45 Colt: It would be very easy to double charge the case with many modern pistol powders

      You mentioned IMR Trail Boss gunpowder. Similarly Vihtavuori makes Tin Star (N32C) gunpowder – endorsed by Evil Roy!

      The RCBS Lock-Out die I think is very worthwhile when using a progressive press and making light loads in large cartridges. It locks up when the gunpowder level in the case is too low or too high. It catches partial loads that occasionally happen when I use Trail Boss. Apparently the bulk and low density of Trail Boss causes it to stack up in my powder dumper.

  10. Since I’ve been playing with it all afternoon (but still haven’t shot it yet) I can weigh back in with a few more notes on this neat little gun.

    Rossi advises against it, but all the lever-gun forum guys agree that the 1892 action is more than strong enough for ‘Ruger-only’ handloads. That’s a good thing, because that’s all I bother to assemble.

    I’ve somehow lost my trigger gauge, but I’m guessing the smooth, short trigger pull is less than 5 pounds. The lever also cycles with a smoothness I didn’t expect, and I’m quite impressed with both.

    .44-40 was the most popular caliber for many classic Winchesters, but I’d have no use for a .44-40 rifle because the ammo and brass are too expensive and scarce. .45 Colt brass is more common and more durable and it’s also much easier to handload. (And as a bonus I’ve already got a ton of it sitting around.)

    I’d better stop before I spoil everything I should put in the full review. Calling Joe Grine: want to go blasting?

    • If all you assemble are “Ruger only” loads, please do be careful if you ever acquire a SAA or clone. The Ruger loads will almost certainly cause damage to a SAA-design revolver.

      The Rugers are hell for stout, much more so than most all other single action revolvers. The Freedom Arms revolvers are about the only thing significantly stronger.

      As to the Rossi (or other) reproduction lever-guns, I can’t comment.

    • Rossi advises against it, but all the lever-gun forum guys agree that the 1892 action is more than strong enough for ‘Ruger-only’ handloads.

      Rhetorical question: can 45 Colt in a lever action be loaded to a power level sufficient for Cowboy Lever Action Silhouette shooting? This event I think is usually shot with 30-30 or 45-70 etc., calibers that can topple the 50 lb. ram target at 200 meters. My back of the envelope calculations make me doubt that a standard pressure (14,000 psi) 45 Colt load could get it done. Hodgdon’s published “Ruger/TC/Freedom Arms” only loads (28,000 psi) might.

      I’ve loaded and shot a few of these 28,000 psi loads in my ’92s, a Puma M92 chambered for 454 Casull and a Rossi chambered for 45 Colt. As expected these were just a snack for the Puma. However in the Rossi I got brass bulged near the base. This Rossi does not do this when shooting ordinary cowboy loads.

      Apparently the Rossi’s chamber is out of spec. Maybe to meet their price target they don’t bother to QC for pressures beyond the SAAMI specs.

  11. I recently picked up a 16″ Rossi 92 in .357, having given up hope of seeing a Marlin, and I’m quite happy I did. Handles well, nice trigger, better quality than I expected (better than a Winchester I bought cheap in the ’90s and gave up on). Lots of fun to shoot. Haven’t done any tuning yet. (I also have a Ruger Vaquero to go with it–very sweet wheelgun.) Looking forward to the .45LC review.

  12. Nice looking Model! I have also read a reviews, specifications and features on that Rossi Model rifle via Google search engine. I am sure that it is a really good quality rifle. Looking ahead to place review for it. My one of the best friends Herry has a Rossi Model 92 in .45 Colt.

    Artherr Rouse

  13. Sadly it is illegal in several slave states. Would be nice alternative to handgun for a RAFFLE …hint hint…

    • This is the 16″, which is quite legal in NY, CA, etc. It’s the Mare’s Leg (12″) that is problematic.

      • Not as of april 2013. It’s 8 shot mag makes it a NY Assault weapon. Only 7 rounds allowed in mag 🙁

  14. It’s great to see an article on a 19th century pattern firearm/reproduction and it’s pretty obvious from the number of responses that plenty of TTAG readers are interested in these weapons.

    How ’bout a regular feature on some of the high quality and very authentic replica firearms on the market? The various Colt clones, S&W breaktops, 1866,1873 and 1892 pattern rifles, period style shotguns, and big bore single shot rifles command a lot of interest and sales besides being tons of fun to own and shoot.

    It’s good to remember that the world of shooting does not revolve exclusively around concealed carry, high cap semi auto pistols, military style rifles, and 3 gun competition.

    • Management seems to think that such content would appeal to only “old fat [rich] white guys,” so methinks you’re going to be waiting awhile.

    • I’m with you 100%. I have just as much fun with a Plastic Fantastic wondernine as the next guy, but it’s nice to have a traditional firearm in your hands too. Our biggest hurdle to reviewing the replica lever-actions is that they’re highly expensive and only made in limited numbers, and the manufacturers are less than keen to loan them out (for no money) when they could sell them right away at full price. The Miroku-made Winchester I shot in Las Vegas is breathtakingly lovely, but it’s about three times the price of this Rossi. And we’ve been waiting for more than a year to get our hands on the Rossi.

  15. Please tell us more about the “fix” for that gawdawful top wingnut safety, my Rossi wants to get fixed like that, I don’t want to disappoint her!


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