Rossi steps up the lever-action game with its first bottle-necked cartridge chamber in a rifle engineered for modern sensibilities

by Rob Reaser

The lever-action rifle wave has been rolling strong for several years now, and there is no indication that it will subside any time soon. And for good reason. Once the sparkle and razzle-dazzle of “the next big thing” wears off (and it always does), practical-minded shooters and hunters often settle back into the tried-and-true.

While lever-action rifles were eclipsed by all manner of “latest and greatest” over the last several decades, the foundational truth of the lever-action rifle remains solid: these guns continue to deliver on all the important attributes desired in a defensive or hunting arm. They are light and lean (perfect for home or mobile defense and bushwacking big game), accurate, quick to cycle, and ensure unquestionable knockdown power when suitably chambered.

Rossi has long been a player on the lever-action rifle field, planting its flag firmly in the straight-wall cartridge camp with its popular R92 series guns. These rifles have held significant appeal not only for those who fancy the Old West flare of a lever-action but also for those who like the idea of cartridge compatibility with their favorite carry or hunting revolvers. The R92 series currently comes chambered for several handgun cartridges, including common loads from the humble .22 LR up to the mighty .454 Casull.

Now, Rossi enters a new realm with the introduction of the R95 series. The chamber is for the classic .30-30 Winchester — an obvious choice for this debut. Two variants of the R95 are offered. The R95 Classic features a 20-inch barrel and standard-size loop lever while the R95 Trapper comes with a 16.5-inch barrel and a medium loop lever.

Those familiar with the Rossi line will immediately notice that the R95 is a notable breakout from the legacy R92 series; the new guns feature side ejection rather than flipping the empty brass through the top of the receiver.

There are many benefits to this, of course. Although I can’t quantify it, I feel that the more substantive side-eject receiver provides a more stable platform for enhanced accuracy potential than that of traditional top-eject actions.

The greater benefit for the modern shooter, though, is the ability to mount an optic, be it a red dot or a magnified scope. To that end, the Rossi R95 receiver comes tapped in 8-40 for optic mounting.

For those who want to keep it simple and traditional, Rossi held to form by including the familiar buckhorn-style rear sight. It is a simple setup with a dovetail mount and a free-float elevation ramp.

Up front, the R95 comes with a drift-adjustable front sight secured to the barrel via a ramped, blackout mount.

I decided to test the R95 with the open sights, shooting 150-grain Federal Power-Shok. After a 25-yard test to establish windage and elevation, I set the target out to 100 yards. It was the worst-case setup, to be honest, given that my eyes struggle mightily now with front sight focus. I also couldn’t see more than a suggestive blur of the 2-inch bullseye at that distance. My strategy, therefore, was to do my best to aim at the center of the 8.5×11-inch white target. I was shocked to have been rewarded with solid 2-inch groups.

For sure, the R95 isn’t lacking in accuracy potential, with its hammer-forged alloy steel barrel and 1:12 twist. Had I installed a scope, I have no doubt the gun would have delivered one-inch or sub-one-inch groups. Nevertheless, it’s good to know the R95 will run strong and shoot straight in its most minimalist configuration.

The trigger is another high point of the R95. I love the look and feel of the classically styled and contoured trigger face. It is also well-engineered. After the loose take-up, the trigger/sear engagement is positive, with very short travel and a sharp, decisive break. The pull weight is on the money. My Lyman scale recorded a 4 lb., 7.8-oz. average from 10 pulls — just right for hunting or defensive scenarios.

The hammer has robust serrations atop the spur, so there is little chance of slippage when cocking. The safety is the simple yet effective crossbolt variety — right to safe, left to fire.

As expected, the rifle comes sling-mount-ready. The front sling stud is part of the forend cap, so there is no worry about it coming loose even after years of use. The rear sling stud secures into the bottom of the buttstock.

On the aesthetics side of the ledger, the R95 stands tall. The furniture is comprised of beech hardwood with a stately walnut finish — not too light, not too dark. The rubber butt plate is downright plush, with plenty of grip to prevent slipping on the shoulder and ample cushion to soak up the.30-30’s admittedly mild recoil.

The forend and grip texturing is…interesting. Rather than go with a more traditional checkering pattern, Rossi opted for something that looks more like a fine stippling akin to that found on polymer pistol grips. This doesn’t provide an aggressive grip, but it does do a better job than old-school checkering that’s been covered in too much lacquer.

Loading the R95 is accomplished via the side-loading gate. The magazine tube will accept five rounds of .30-30 Win. Add one to the chamber and you have six rounds at your disposal.

As you can see, the new Rossi R95 satisfies all the requirements of a modern lever-action while holding to the classical styling we all appreciate. But let’s say you’re one who favors the lever-action platform for a more dedicated, defensive-type role. Well, good news, because the R95 launches with aftermarket support from a couple of companies that know their way around lever-actions: Ranger Point Precision and Midwest Industries. If you want to turn your R95 into a tactical-style lever gun, there’s no need to wait.

Here is Ranger Point Precision’s take on the R95 Classic. This gun is outfitted with the full spectrum of RPP’s newest products. The M-LOK-compatible buttstock can be adjusted for comb and cheek riser height to match your optic choice. Two M-LOK handguards are also available. The Costa Rossi model seen here offers an extended Picatinny rail system for adding a wide range of optic types as well as providing room for night vision accessories. Additional hardware offered by RPP include an oversized buttstock takedown screw, M-LOK cartridge quivers for .30-30 Win., and self-cleaning aluminum magazine followers.

Similarly, Midwest Industries has two M-LOK handguards for the R95 — a standard handguard and an extended sight model.

Both the R95 Classic and the R95 Trapper boast an MSRP of $949.99. As of this writing (the day of launch), Gunbroker.com has them listed at $800, so prices may vary.

The new R95 series represents a large step forward in Rossi’s commitment to the famed lever-action platform. While the initial offerings come in .30-30 Win. — a wise choice for the debut — we have no doubt that additional chambers will be forthcoming. In the meantime, check out the Classic and the Trapper at your local dealer for an up-close look at this intriguing series. But be warned…you might not come away empty-handed.

Rossi R95 .30-30 Specifications

  • Caliber: .30-30
  • Capacity: 5 rounds
  • Action Type: lever-action
  • Barrel Length: 16.50 in. (Trapper); 20 in. (Classic
  • Twist Rate: 1:12 RH
  • Grooves: 6
  • Barrel Material: alloy steel
  • Barrel Finish: black oxide
  • Frame Material: alloy steel
  • Frame Finish: black oxide
  • Stock Material: hardwood beech
  • Front Sight: drift adjustable
  • Rear Sight: adjustable buckhorn
  • Overall Length: 35.50 in. (Trapper); 39.00 in (Classic)
  • Overall Height: 7.40 in.
  • Overall Width: 1.70 in.
  • Overall Weight: 107.20 oz., unloaded (Trapper); 109.70 oz., unloaded (Classic)
  • Safety: crossbar

Shoot On Editor-in-Chief Rob Reaser is a lifelong outdoorsman, former magazine editor, columnist, and contributing editor to numerous national publications in the automotive and outdoor segments. He has also authored and co-authored several DIY gun building books. His shooting and hunting passions cover everything from traditional archery and big-game bowhunting to the latest in handguns, rifles, and reloading. Rob has a troublesome habit of pulling guns and things apart to see how they work; occasionally, he manages to get them back together...

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