Slicked up…..but won’t shoot!
This blog post may be a bit like a ‘romance novel’, in that it revolves around a long search, a found jewel (turns out not so much), bitter disappointment, work to redeem fallen favor, and life afterwards, with adventures in D.I.Y. gunsmithing (PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK WITH ANY GUNSMITHING. IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING, DON’T MESS WITH IT!).
What are you babbling about, Silas? Well, it’s like this. For months, I’ve been saving my pennies and had sufficient funds to go find myself a new shootin’ iron. Researched online up against another popular cheaper brand, preferred for quality and reputation. Had as my target of choice the Uberti ™ 1873, 24 inch octagonal barrel, .38 – .357 magnum, 12 +1 shot lever gun. List price at around $1,200 US. Sweeeet.
Now, for the rest of the story. A few days back from this posting, there was a large, regional gun and knife show event. So, I figure I’ll go there and peruse the wares, see what I can find because there’s always a few lever guns in a mix of these hundreds of dealers and thousands of firearms in this one building. So, walking around and around (LOADS of Henry lever rifles of all kinds) seeing the occasional lever gun….eh, not what I’m looking for. But wait! What’s that? A 24″ octagonal barrel lever gun on that table? Gotta see that! Oh, um… It’s a Rossi™ M92, same features I’m looking for, the 24″ barrel, 12 + 1 capacity, .38 – .357 caliber, nice looking wood, decent blue finish. Hmm. And less than half the price of the Uberti? Hmmm.
Now, I’ve seen the vids online about this brand, how some think their particular rifle is the cat’s pajamas, and others think they’re utter junk. (Guess which one I wound up with). The guy’s babbling on about it, I’m looking it over, not a scratch, no evidence it’s ever been shot, he’s saying it’s had an ‘action job’. Hard to tell, because show regulations require the actions of every firearm on display to be kept shut. And less than half the price of the Uberti™. Hmm. I’ll get back to you on that. So, an hour later and no other lever guns of that particular description are in the building, as far as I could find. I go back to this guy’s table and tell him ‘let me check that action and I’ll decide if I’ll buy it’. So, he cuts off the tie strap….well, the action is indeed as smooth as warm butter, mighty fine. So, impulse overcomes wisdom and I buy it.
OK, there’s disadvantages to buying at a gun show, advantages as well. On the ‘dis’ side, you can’t work actions, inspect bores, look the thing over or ask if you can run some snap-caps thru the action while standing there until you get right down to the price dickering stage. So, I get home with the new toy and go to run some rounds thru it to see what flavor ammunition it likes best. Well, Ms. Rossi doesn’t like ANY kind…the loading gate is a bear to get rounds thru. And after a few have been fought with long enough to get 4 or 5 into it, working the lever finds that any kind of .357 just WON’T go into chamber without kinking up. Same for most .38’s. And as I cycle the lever, the cartridge extracted just sort of dribbles out of the breech and the last one extracted just lays there? And now I’m rather peeved.
So, ‘action job’ or not, bargain or not, what I have here is 98% useless. The show has packed up and moved on. Let me show you here what to look for if you should ever find a Rossi™ on a table at a gun show or any place else. Make the clown selling it let you work the lever, so that when you have the breech open and can see the bolt face….if you see this below….lay it back on the table and go find another lever gun. That arrow is pointing at the ejector mechanism….which in this case is jammed into the bolt, immovable. Which adds to the ‘slick feeling’ of the action because there’s no resistance pushing the ejector into the bolt face, it’s already jammed in there….but adds to the SICK feeling when you finally notice it after your last cartridge lays in the breech without being ejected as bellow. You can clearly see the extractor hook has the cartridge by the rim, but it’s just sitting there. The only reason all the previous cartridges were ejected was that the cartridge lift mechanism was knocking out the extracted round as the next one was being lifted into place.
So, here we go into the tear-down. This is already going to be a long post, so here’s a link to Rossi disassemble.
You can find a Rossi parts diagram on line like this one with all the generic parts called out by name on Rossi’s website.
Once I had the thing scattered across my workbench, I started inspecting it’s guts. If this ‘action job’ was indeed done (doubtful by a pro, considering the rest of the functionality) there was precious little evidence of any ‘smoothing’ on most surfaces one would typically deal with for ‘smoothness’. Since it does work so smooth, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt it was done and then cold blued to re-cover the places that were smoothed, but then the dude threw it back together without checking ALL the functions. Taking apart the most obvious culprit first, the bolt and ejector, I find that the ejector (F, G, & H on the diagram) was apparently hammered out of a miniature railroad spike. What a friggin’ joke for quality control, major burrs on EVERY SURFACE and there is a spring and collar that’s supposed to ride on this shaft?! My driveway is smoother than that shaft.
In the right hand pic of the ejector you can see a worn smooth spot where the spring collar was doing it’s own ‘smoothing job’ on that shaft opposite side of that tail hook in the center above the flat section. And yet another burr on the back side of the ejector head. The ejector rod, spring and collar are all supposed to slide freely assembled like we see here, from Trey Wall’s video.
See how the little collar around the shaft is captured by the hook ( capital letter I in that diagram ) attached to the bolt body? That collar has to freely slide on that shaft, and it stays in place when the bolt / lever link pin is installed thru the hole in the left side of the bolt as you see above. This spring is another that these marketed D.I.Y. slick-up kits commonly have in them, a softer one that makes the final 1/4″ of bolt travel ‘smoother’ because it takes less effort.
All this crapola had to be dealt with, the burrs on every surface of the ejector that has to work within the bolt (and deal with the bolt’s own burrs inside and out, as well) and the insane roughness of the shaft had to be polished out, nice and smooth, which required it seemed like a dozen test fit assembly trials into the bolt and action with the lever linked up to see if the ejector would finally work. Whew. So now it’s looking and working like it’s supposed to when you inspect the bolt face. The two fingers towards the elevator lever are supposed to help grab / feed the cartridge into the chamber, and that’s the next feature of this overhaul.
As you can see here at the left, the lower lip of the chamber is as rough as any other lack of finish place in this particular rifle. This makes any other bullet type beyond a heavy crimp, round nose, .38 type round difficult to insert into the chamber because of the rough and edgy surface it has to travel over to enter the chamber. That round you see in there is a hand loaded dummy, I made several up for this project so that good, live ammo wasn’t going to be hacked up by this experimental process, requiring running thru this mess untold numbers of times until it all actually works.
Now that all the works, other than the immobile guide fingers are out of the guts of this rifle, I can reach the chamber lips with a half-round rifle file, working the bottom of the rim until I have polished and smoothed the ORIGINAL FACE of the chamber lip, going NO further into it than that original factory cut. Coming in from underneath from the trigger area, just working that little area, nice and smooth. If you go beyond that factory profile ‘rough cut’ in this case, you will be getting into the chamber space and causing potentially BAD problems with head space, gas blow-back and all kind of other stuff you don’t want happening to your potentially (after all this work) nice lever gun.
With that done, the chamber lip now has a nice smooth, burr free ramp to take whatever bullet configuration or cartridge type, .38 or .357, that comes at it.
Now, on to the loading gate and all it’s problems. You see here the extent you could shove a cartridge into this thing before I redid this segment. Right there, the rim of the cartridge is STOPPED COLD by an absolutely square, rough and poorly done surface that the cartridge is forced up against by the loading gate, and adding to the finger pain is the sharp edged hole of the loading gate. Before modification, you had to use extreme finger pressure in two directions at once, forcing the gate cover down to the max and trying to get the rim past this barrier. Even using the old poke the cartridge in with the next one in line won’t work with this kind of opposition.
So, this is what you have to deal with, this square faced barrier that is NOT letting any cartridge rim past without extreme hassle as you attempt to force any type into it, .38 or .357.
Happens that I had a Dremel™ stone that was just the size of a cartridge. Masked the area heavily with tape in case of a ‘boo-boo’ with a live power tool / stone for protection of the finish on the receiver body. With this and some more working with the half-round rifle file, we now have a far more cooperative face for the cartridges to get past.
Now, ain’t that purty compared to that original edge? All nice and round, cooperative and easy to work with. I also slightly rounded off all the sharp edges of the hole that will argue with my fingers as I stuff ammo into this thing. You can even see the magazine follower underneath. That was the ONLY evidence I found of anyone being into this rifle before me, as the ‘real’ Rossi followers are a cheap yellow plastic plug that tends to bind from all the chips and crud sometimes left in the mag tube at the Rossi factory.
I have seen some accounts of the Rossi loading gate falling apart on some owners. Inspection shows a cheaply done ‘rivet’ idea to hold the gate to the spring. The arrow points to where I used a center punch to peen out the head, on both sides, so that it may fit a bit tighter in place. If you do this, be SURE you have the opposite side surface flat on your anvil before you whack it with a punch and hammer, as you see it laying here, lower left picture. Otherwise you may break it when you whack it. It must NOT bend during the process. I speculate that these folks who have broken a gate may have had to use such force to load the thing that it bent at the ‘rivet’ and forced it thru the hole, separating the two pieces. While I had the gate off, I smoothed the flat end of it and amplified just a tiny bit of the radius of the spoon shape of it’s face. Also did a bit of spring modification to ease the insertion effort. If you do this to your gate spring, the edges of the area you have ground on must be returned to perfectly smooth, otherwise any rough surface could eventually foster a crack, and break.
So, after several hours of filing, sanding, smoothing, assembling and disassembling, thus becoming very familiar with it’s innards, the Rossi M92 will take ‘most’ .357 ammo I offered it. The group on the right, below, all fed and cycled with no hesitation or maybe just a little jiggling of the lever. The two on the left…nope. The extreme left is a CorBon™ specialty round, which is way too long. The next to it, a hand load that doesn’t have a firm enough crimp to suit the Rossi, so the edge of the case mouth snags on that brilliantly done chamber mouth ramp, that I may have to do yet more beveling on. I don’t think it will ever take a CorBon however. By the way, that second from the right hand end cartridge, that nickel one….that’s the joker that typically fails in your lever gun where the case splits around that cannelure in the middle of the body, leaving half the case stuck in your chamber, rendering the rifle useless until you can get that piece out. So, I’m using this type ONLY in my revolvers until I cull out all that type from my ammo & brass supplies by shooting it.
Well, there you have it, what it takes to get a wrong end of the scale Rossi (compared to those that do work well, by reports) up to par. Now, off to the range to see how well it actually shoots, now that it will finally take ammo. Then we decide if it will be graced with a scout scope mounted on one of these rails from Pearson’s no drill scope rails.
This Rossi may climb back up my ‘firearms social ladder’ and be near equal to my American made Winchester 94 Trapper, shown here in ‘Cowboy Assault Weapon’ attire.
But it’s got some reputation to overcome at this point before it gets anywhere near that. Don’t let this article turn you off altogether on a Rossi…..just look for these kind of faults and run some snap caps thru it before you buy it. You may have a great one without having to do a thing to it.