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There likely isn’t a more quintessential .22 rifle than a western-style lever action. It’s a class of gun that’s equal parts utility, nostalgia, and fun. I vividly remember the first time I ever shot one—my dad’s Ithaca Model 72, when I was five years old or so. My dad got that rifle at a young age himself and, while raising me, we expended countless bricks of ammunition at tin cans, cottontail rabbits, and prairie dogs. Many of the classic .22 Lever action rifle designs like the Marlin 39A, Ithaca Saddlegun, and Winchester Model 94 are hard to come by—and very expensive these days. That doesn’t mean that you have to write off having a good-looking .22 lever gun of your own.
A couple years ago, Rossi introduced the Rio Bravo, a lever-action .22 that’s made in Brazil. It resembles the Ithaca Model 72, and carries a friendlier price than much of the competition. The rifle is available in four configurations: black with polymer furniture, black with wood furniture, a gold-Cerakote receiver with dark wood furniture, and, the model I tested, which they refer to as the Wood, Gold trim. It has a polished gold-colored, PVD-finished receiver and stained wood furniture. It rings up at a little over half the price of the similar-looking Henry Golden Boy. The real question is how well do these Brazilian imports shoot, and are they reliable? My 7-year-old son and I have been trying to wear out the Rossi Rio Bravo to answer that question.
- Cartridge: .22 LR
- Capacity: 15 Rounds, tubular magazine
- Weight: 5 pounds, 7 ounces (measured)
- Receiver: Aluminum Alloy
- Receiver Finish: PVD gold finish
- Action: Lever action
- Barrel: 18-inch, alloy steel, 1:16 twist, 12 grooves
- Optics Mounting: Tip-off rimfire dovetail atop receiver
- Stock and Fore-end: Wood, unspecified
- Overall Length: 35.9 inches
- Trigger: Curved shoe, two-stage, 5 pounds, 5 ounces (measured)
- Price: $367
Nuts and Bolts of the Rossi Rio Bravo Gold
The jazzy finish of the Gold, Wood model Rossi Rio Bravo does give it a look like the Henry Golden Boy rifle, while coming in at a more affordable price. Its gold-colored PVD finish is durable, flashy, and presents a posture of Old West showmanship. Finishes like this collect more fingerprints than the ATF, but when it’s wiped down it looks sharp. Aside from the eye-catching gold, it’s actually more similar to rifles like that Ithaca model 72 Saddlegun.
Rossi Rio Bravo Receiver and Action
The heart of the Rossi Rio Bravo is its aluminum alloy receiver that has a cover plate that encloses the top and sides of the receiver. It’s held in place by four Phillips screws and can be removed for cleaning the barrel and bolt. This style of receiver is characteristic of many .22 LR lever-action rifles, and features a small dovetail for mounting a scope with tip-off rings on top.
The lever loop is also finished in gold PVD, and in the closed position there’s a half-inch gap between it and the stock. This might seem odd to those accustomed to loops that touch the stock, but it’s not unprecedented. The action operates smoothly and, when closed, the lever has no play or wobble.
The Rossi Rio Bravo has an external hammer and a crossbolt safety. Unlike some lever-action rifles, it does not have a half-cock position, but does have what I’d call an eighth-cock position. When the hammer is retracted slightly, it clicks into a position that keeps the hammer approximately an eighth-inch off the firing pin. The trigger is good for a lever gun. It has a two-stage pull with a long first stage and a crisp, reasonably light break that makes pinging steel rimfire targets a cinch. I measured the overall trigger pull weight at a consistent 5 pounds, 5 ounces on my Lyman trigger pull gauge.
Furniture and Fasteners
This Rossi Rio Bravo is stocked with an unspecified species of wood furniture, with a decent finish that’s in line with the rifle’s price point. I don’t expect the finish to hold up well to a lot of exposure to moisture, and the wood seems to dent easily. Fit of the wood is also in step with the price tag. It’s acceptable, but not at the level you’ll see on more expensive rifles—particularly the fit between the receiver and fore-end.
The stock is capped with a plastic ribbed recoil plate that’s secured by two Phillips screws. It shoulders well, and should hold up just fine. One of few quibbles I have with the rifle’s build is the plastic construction of the two barrel bands—the front one features an integrated sling swivel stud. They are perfectly functional, but steel, or even aluminum, would make a big difference in the aesthetics and overall appeal of a western-style .22 rifle.
Barrel and Blued Parts of the Rossi Rio Bravo
The barrel, magazine tube, bolt, trigger, and hammer all have a blued finish—as do the steel iron sights. The rear sight is a classic buckhorn sight with a steel graduated elevation ramp for adjustments. The front sight is a simple drift-adjustable blued steel blade with a brass bead.
Although Rossi lists the barrel as a 6-groove barrel, I count 12 on my sample. It reminds me more of the old Marlin Model 39A microgroove barrels than what many contemporary .22 LRs use. The outer magazine tube is steel, and uses a typical removable brass magazine tube and bullet-shaped loading port. It holds 15 rounds of .22 LR, and uses a plastic follower.
The finish on the blued parts is consistent, and the level of wear I’m seeing is in line with what I’d expect. The barrel-to-receiver interface isn’t as nicely executed and tight as I’d like, but it’s within the parameters of a rifle of this price. There’s a small gap where the receiver meets the barrel and some powder fouling has escaped through that crevice onto the barrel. The fit is secure and functionally satisfactory, but it’s a flaw that wouldn’t go unchecked on a more expensive rifle. I’m not a fan of the characteristically Brazilian style of laser-engraving the serial numbers on the barrel and bolt either.
How Does the Rossi Rio Bravo Shoot?
Many imports and lower-priced guns will automatically draw more scrutiny than their domestic counterparts—understandably so. It’s especially true for rimfire rifles. These cartridges are inherently dirty, and the ammunition is prone to foul just about any rifle. Guns like the Rossi Rio Bravo are affordable, sure, but how well do they run?
My 7-year-old-son and I put more than 500 rounds through this rifle without a single cleaning and we found it to be pleasantly reliable. The action cycles smooth and feeds many flavors of .22 LR ammunition well. It ejects cases smartly and the only issue we encountered was when my son tried to cycle the lever hesitantly. Sometimes that would cause a cartridge to feed improperly. I never encountered it myself. After firing approximately 400 rounds, we would see an occasional case stick in the chamber and slip the extractor. This is a typical .22 LR issue when wax lubricant from the ammunition builds up in the chamber. Swabbing the chamber with a pipe cleaner and a dab of solvent quickly remedied it.
My son was quickly smitten with the looks of the rifle and took to it right off. After getting a feel for the action, he was hitting steel targets out to 50 yards from a bench. It’s a little heavy for him to shoot offhand for long periods of time, but the only thing I regularly have to help him with is twisting the small magazine cap to the closed position on a full stack of .22’s. It’s stiff, but locks up securely.
Rossi Rio Bravo Accuracy
For accuracy testing, I temporarily mounted a Leupold VX2 2-7×33 scope to the Rossi Rio Bravo and fired 15 5-shot groups at 50 yards with three different types of ammo: Browning 40-grain Pro 22, Remington Eley Match, and CCI Mini-Mag. The overall average group size was 1.9 inches, and the Remington Eley ammo was most accurate, averaging 1.68 inches.
What the Rossi Rio Bravo Gold Does Well
This Rossi Rio Bravo looks good, and runs reliably. It’s a load of fun on the range and just a great nostalgic .22 rifle that’s priced and built to be used rather than kept in the safe.
Where the Rossi Rio Bravo Gold Could Be Better
I think the rifle falls right into the quality and finish level of its price point, but a couple simple touches like cleaner serial numbers, nicer receiver screws, and steel or aluminum barrel bands would make an appreciable difference at a minimal cost.
I’ve been very happy with the performance of the Rossi Rio Bravo and, in Gold trim, this one looks good too. It’s priced well, functions reliably, and is easy to clean and maintain. It’s not a collectors item that you’ll be hesitant to take out of the safe or cabinet, but I don’t have much interest in guns that are built to collect dust. Shooting it will put a smile on just about anyone’s face.