November 19, 2021
By J. Scott Rupp
As popular as the lever-action rifle has been in this country, you would think there would be more rimfire lever-gun options. But with the departure of Ruger, Marlin and Winchester from this segment over the years, we’re left with just three: various Henrys; the Browning BL-22; and the subject of this review, the Rossi Rio Bravo.
The rifle is based on the company’s R92 centerfire lever action. It’s available with a black polymer stock—complete with M-Lok-type slots for mounting lights and lasers—or with a German beechwood stock. Traditionalist that I’ve become, I chose the latter.
The Rio Bravo has an 18-inch barrel with dual barrel bands, a full-length 15-round tubular magazine and, as I mentioned, a German beechwood stock. What is German beechwood, you ask? It’s what the lumber folks would call an “all-arounder,” a strong, even-textured wood that’s easy to work with. It’s also a common wood and therefore less expensive than other rifle stock wood choices.
The wood on my sample has a handsome red tint. There’s no figuring or grain structure, but it’s still attractive and pairs nicely with the metal’s black metal finish.
Wood-to-metal fit is decent. There are a few minor finish/sanding flaws around the receiver and a proud fit next to the lower tang, but overall it’s in line with expectations for a gun at this price level. The straight-grip buttstock has a black plastic buttplate that’s grooved so it won’t slip from your shoulder, and there’s a sling swivel stud at the toe.
There’s also a stud on the forward barrel band, which is just forward of the gold-bead front sight. The rear sight is a buckhorn with stepped elevator for adjusting elevation; windage is adjusted by tapping the front sight.
The 15-round magazine is a twist-and-pull brass tube, and Rossi has added an O-ring to ensure the friction stud stop pin won’t accidentally rotate out of its notch in the outer magazine tube.
The receiver and the bolt are black, and four Phillips-head screws secure the receiver’s side plates. That’s not as nice a look as you would get with pins, but it’s fine. There is a shallow groove in the top of the receiver, and I thought it might be for a tip-off mount, but the tip-off I have wouldn’t attach securely to it because the groove is too small and shallow.
The Rio Bravo incorporates a manual crossbolt safety at the rear of the receiver; pushing it right to left places it in the Fire position and exposes a red ring on the left side. The grooved hammer has a “half-cock” safety position as well, and drawing the hammer back just slightly places it in this position.
The rifle has a decent trigger, averaging four pounds, 10 ounces. There’s a fair amount of take-up and a bit of creep, but overall I was happy with it. The action operates smoothly, but note that there is no trigger stop or trigger interlock that prevents the trigger from being pulled unless the lever is in full contact with the lower tang.
However, even if you pull the trigger with the action not fully closed, the hammer will stop on the locking bolt and will not fire. The hammer will strike the firing pin only when the bolt is locked.
I tested the Rio Bravo at 25 yards because I don’t see iron sights, especially a buckhorn, well enough to test it at 50 yards as we usually do. Even with my astigmatism I was able to shoot groups as small as 0.22 inch with the Lapua load, and the gold bead front sight was a big help in accomplishing that. I would expect shooters with better eyes could shoot decent groups at 50 yards with the right ammo.
I had one failure to fire—a light primer strike with the Fiocchi ammo—but other than that the rifle functioned perfectly. I ran two magazines through the rifle in rapid fire, just for the fun of it, and operation was flawless. The action works smoothly, and while it doesn’t eject spent cases with authority, it gets the job done.
Rossi’s Rio Bravo is a great little rifle. While I’d prefer the bolt be left in the white to give the receiver a spot of contrast, overall it’s a good-looking gun. The beechwood stock isn’t going to be mistaken for fine walnut, but as I mentioned up top, I really like the combo of the warm reddish wood and the black metal.
It’s a good shooter, capable of picking off empty soda cans or small game at any range to which you’d put an open-sighted .22. And it’s priced to fit anyone’s budget.
Rossi Rio Bravo Specifications
- Type: Rimfire Lever Action
- Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
- Capacity: 15
- Barrel: 18 in.
- Overall Length: 36 in.
- Weight: 5.5 lb.
- Finish: Polished Black
- Stock: German Beechwood
- Sights: Buckhorn Rear, Gold Bead Front
- Trigger: 4 lb., 10 oz. (measured)
- Safety: Crossbolt
- Price: $367
- Manufacturer: Rossi, RossiUSA.com