In the April ’87 issue of American Rifleman, Pete Dickey notes “The first production units of the Brazilian-made version of the Winchester 1892 carbines were completed in August of 1976.” US Importation of the 20″ carbines, chambered for 38 Special & 357 Magnum, commenced shortly thereafter. This was the beginning of a long (and mostly happy) relationship between American Western Firearms enthusiasts and Amadeo Rossi S.A. Cowboy Action Shooting insured these little lever actions would stay popular even longer. But a lot has changed since the Bicentennial and today’s Rossi’s 92’s are like a poker hand… you might get a great one, an OK one or a dud. My great one was this 16″ 45 Colt, which I picked up an outdoor market in 2009. It was about a year old, according to the seller. It came with a Steve Young magazine spring, follower, safety plug and a few other extras. Cartridges slide through the loading gate effortlessly and it feeds any bullet shape slick as a whistle. It will keep three bulk reloads under 3″ at 100 yards and crowd 1 ½” with heavy cast bullets or Hornady XTP’s. I simply couldn’t have asked for a better pistol-caliber lever action carbine in my favorite pistol caliber of all.
At barely five pounds and less than a yardstick long, the Puma 45 Colt carbine balances perfectly and is a joy to handle. Magazine capacity is listed at eight, but it happily accepts nine rounds of typical RNFP 45 Colts loads. With careful handloading it is also amazingly versatile. 335 grain Keith SWC’s, over what we’ll call ‘over 20 grains’ of Winchester 296, produce 1364 fps from its 16 1/8” barrel. I would expect a wound profile from that load not unlike the old 45-70 Trapdoor ‘carbine load’. For lighter game, a Sierra 240 JHP can easily be driven to 1550 fps. My factory duplication load of 7.2 of W231 with a 255 grain RNFP runs 950 fps from this carbine, with insignificant recoil. John Linebaugh’s ‘working load’ of 13.0 of HS6 and a 255 SWC ran 1232 from the Rossi; and in reality you don’t need much more for the anything but biggest of game.
The Puma’s factory sights were useless for anything but dinging tin outlaws at 40 feet. The front post was way too short and the rear notch was too wide for any precision; it shot a good 6” high at 25 yards. This rifle has oddball sight dovetails of about 0.385” which eliminates the myriad of good dovetail sights available for other rifles. So I cobbled on a Marble Folding Sporting Rear Sight No. 95, Brownell’s part #579-000-082, and the Marbles 50W .500 tall front sight, with a 1/16″ gold bead, Brownells part #579-105-031. While I don’t consider these sights ideal, they facilitated a good working zero.
The trigger was six pounds with lots of creep. On this light little carbine, it was all the more noticeable. That creep had to go, so the engagement depth of the hammer’s full-cock was lowered substantially. The trigger sear was nicely finished and only required a light break-away chamfer. Finally, I took about 20 light file strokes off each side of the trigger return spring, tapering it toward its bearing surface against the return cam on the trigger. All interacting surfaces were burnished lightly with a hard Arkansas stone, taking care not to change any angles. The resulting trigger is icicle-crisp and breaks at 3 pounds per my RCBS Trigger Scale. It passes all the ‘bump’ and ‘push-off’ tests. This Puma isn’t going to fire until you touch that trigger; but you’d better be ready when you do.
Shoot-ability improved dramatically. Standing unsupported, I can now consistently hit 12 gauge hulls at 25 yards or make overlapping bullet splashes on the Tin Man’s noggin at 50.
My wife is pretty fond of it too…
…and she chews ragged holes with it at 25 paces.
Damn fine little lever action, not that I like them or anything 😉