by Scott Crawford - December 18 2023
In late July this year, Rossi announced the upcoming release of their new model R95 .30-30 Winchester rifle. While Rossi had previously offered the 336 styled Rio Grande off and on between 2010 & 2018, the release of the R95 is a step up in quality and industry interchangeability. Yes indeed, it's upgradeable with aftermarket parts that fit the very popular Marlin 336 rifle. I also love the large loop lever on the Trapper model, very helpful when wearing gloves.
Unboxing the new Rossi R95 Trapper
It was almost exactly two years ago when I wrote my first review of a Rossi rifle, the model R92 stainless in .45 Colt. That was my first experience with a newer model R92, and it has turned out to be one of my all-time favorite pistol caliber lever actions. That leads me to this review. I am extremely happy to see someone else enter the centerfire lever action rifle business giving the public more options, both in quality & pricing.
With an MSRP of $949.00, that places it below the Marlin & Henry price points of $1,239 & $1,077 respectively.
So, let’s get down to business. The model R95 is available in one caliber (.30-30 Winchester), two different barrel lengths (16.5” [Tested], & 20”).
Note, just before publishing this review Rossi announced some additional R95's which I can't wait to see.
I’ll start off with what many lever action purists say is a major concern and that is the Cross Bolt Safety (CBS). This rifle indeed is another version of the Marlin model 336. Marlin incorporated CBS across all models in 1984 and this new Rossi R95 uses the same safety as well. I say get over it, this style of safety isn't going anywhere and if you use it religiously, it'll never be a problem at the range or in the field. I've been using them since 1984 and I never give them a second thought, I just use them and they serve me well.
There are a couple of aftermarket safety delete kits available for the Marlin rifles and although I'm not certain, if you must, you could probably use one of them to remove the CBS on the rifle.
On with the details. The Rossi R95 trapper 16.5” barrel holds five rounds of .30-30 Winchester in the magazine tube which should get about anything you need done. The side loading gate is easy enough to depress to load the rounds yet the edges are fairly sharp (inherent in the design) and might bother some users that don’t have callused hands. I found it is not an issue for me.
The large loop finger lever when worked with deliberate forceful action is as smooth as any lever gun I’ve operated out of the box (The large loop is a bonus for using in cold weather conditions). As in several brands of lever actions, if you baby the lever stroke you tend to feel snags even though nothing is actually hanging up. Be deliberate and you will love how the action handles & sounds! After feeding 200 rounds of ammunition into the side loading gate and ejecting the empty cases I didn’t have one fail to fire or one extraction issue, none!
Cheek weld and sight alignment felt natural, pretty much like a 336 Marlin. Very comfortable rifle to shoulder and it is after all, only 35.50” overall length. A short Trapper package made for tight spaces. And at 6.8 pounds (naked) it is a breeze to carry all day. I’ve carried Trapper length rifles for years in the woods and this model from Rossi has just made my list of useful & reliable timber rifles.
The factory sights on this model consist of a semi-adjustable rear buckhorn and drift adjustable front blade. Not unlike the original lever guns of the late 1800’s. This time-honored design is very functional and right out of the box I was in the ten ring at twenty-five yards and later at fifty. The receiver of the rifle is drilled and taped for scope mounting using a Marlin compatible mounting base. While I didn’t mount a scope for testing the rifle, I would probably mount a scope if I bought this rifle.
There are also other sight improvements one can make with the addition of a Skinner peep sight and base rather than mounting a scope and base. There are some great choices indeed! Me, I kind of like it as designed, a true western lever action.
The stock and forearm are constructed of Brazilian hard wood which is stained to a beautiful walnut color. Both the stock and forearm have some form of laser engraved checkering although not typical (not much depth to it) yet it does improve overall grip in wet conditions. I'm very happy it had sling studs installed as I often carry it with a sling on trails or hunting. The rubber butt pad was adequate for firing the .30-30 rounds providing just enough cushion.
The metal fit and finish on this particular model is very crisp, clean and very acceptable after watching miss-steps from other lever gun manufacturers over the last dozen or so years. The sights sit plumb on the barrel, not canted to one side, the hardware isn’t scratched or mangled from assembly as on some rifles that have been released of late (other brands) and the wood to metal fit is very acceptable for this price of a firearm. Not perfect but very acceptable.
The metal finish on the barrel and receiver is black oxide not bluing. I'm actually happy to see this and very anxious to see how well it holds up in continued use. In theory, this metal finish should hold up better than standard bluing however time will tell.
The rifling twist on this model is 1:12 with six grooves which works well for a .30-30 load. I found the accuracy, repeatability quite good for a shorter barreled open sighted rifle.
The muzzle on this rifle is the typical crowned, round barrel with no threading for a suppressor.
Now let’s talk ammo. I used one factory ammo load, the Hornady LeveRevolution 150-grain FTX which seemed to hangup in transition from the tubular magazine into the chamber. Actually, right when the lever was fully open and trying to pull the lever back to close. A quick jerk would let it chamber and the lever closed. The rest of the rounds I shot were my hand loads of Starline brass and the Hornady 150-grain round nose Interlocks. They all loaded, cycled & ejected without issue.
I loaded the Starline Brass with 35-grains of leveRevolution powder providing right at 2,290 fps muzzle velocity. While not a hot round it was great for testing over 200 plus rounds from the bench and provided consistency across all testing.
At 6.8 lbs., naked, this model is plenty light enough for hauling through the woods all day long.
As alluded to before, this rifle managed to hit the ten ring at fifty yards easily with factory sights; I’ve shot several lever actions that took considerable adjustment in the iron sights to get on target. I did not attach a scope for testing so I'm unable to attest to groupings at distance beyond fifty yards however with the factory sights I'd be comfortable hunting game at normal distances here in NW Georgia.
While some may balk at the Rossi $949.00 price tag, I’m willing to wager that most of those individuals haven’t spent much time pricing the competition’s available rifles. With the new Marlin 336, .30-30 listing with an MSRP of $1,239 and a comparable Henry running $1,077. Anything sub $1,000 at this time is a welcomed price.
While Rossi certainly isn’t built in the United States it is built by a trusted firearms manufacturer that has been around since 1889.
For those that like to "modernize" their rifles, companyies such as Ranger Point Precision offer partial or complete makeover kits or parts that will rival any other modernized rifle on the market.
Do yourself a favor and look into a Rossi if you’re looking at lever action rifles. I was very surprised at the quality of the build, the level of performance and the price point.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Rossi Firearms Ranger Point Precision Hornady Bullets Skinner Sights Starline Brass Hodgdon Powder