About eighteen months ago, I reviewed the Puma
Bounty Hunter pistol. Like the Rossi Ranch Hand shown here,
the Puma is basically a shortened Model ‘92 Winchester lever
gun replica, but built from the beginning as a pistol, thus
eliminating the need to register the weapon as a short-barreled
rifle in the US. Making these arms as pistols means that if you
can legally buy a handgun, you can legally buy these shortened
This style of weapon is commonly known as a
Mare’s Leg, and was made popular by the old TV Western “Wanted:
Dead or Alive”, starring Steve
McQueen as Josh Randall. Like most things from Hollywood,
there was a bit of fakery involved with that show. McQueen
carried 45-70 rifle cartridges in his gun belt for effect, but
there is no way that those big cartridges would work through the
action of a Model ‘92 Winchester. Anyway, the Mare’s Leg was
really cool, and flung a craving upon me to someday have one, as
it did upon a lot of folks. The Puma Bounty Hunter from Legacy
has been a hit, but is priced beyond what many are willing to
pay for such a pistol, at $1250 US suggested retail. This new
Ranch Hand from Rossi is a good-looking, good-shooting Mare’s
Leg at less than half the retail price of the Puma. Rossi has
been in the business of producing replica ‘92 Winchesters for
decades now, and I own three of their 357 Magnum sixteen inch
carbines, finding them to be exceedingly handy, very reliable,
and accurate. I prefer the earlier Rossi lever guns that have no
safety lever atop the bolt, but that safety is a sign of the
times, and the Rossi rifles still have the half-cock notch in
the hammer, which I prefer to use when carrying the rifles
afield. My 480 Ruger Puma had the
Rossi safety in it when purchased, but I have removed it, again
preferring to use the traditional half-cock notch. While on the
subject, Steve Young has a dandy little peep sight that replaces
the safety on the bolt of a Rossi or earlier Puma lever gun (the
current Pumas are now made in Italy) that is adjustable for
elevation correction, and has a knurled nut to hold the sight
setting. It is very handy and effective. You can order it online
Anyway, back to the subject at hand.
The new Rossi Ranch Hand has a polished blued
steel finish, and wears a walnut-stained hardwood stock. The
wood to metal fit is very good, with the forend wood being just
slightly proud at the receiver. The abbreviated buttstock wears
a blued steel butt plate. The lever loop is of the large style,
which has ample room for the largest gloved hand, and is just
right for twirling the lever gun to work the action, if you are
feeling a bit “Hollywood” yourself. Yeah, I tried it, while
no one was watching. The left side of the receiver wears a
traditional saddle ring, and has a short leather thong attached.
The magazine holds six cartridges, plus one up the spout for a
loaded capacity of seven. Currently, the Ranch Hand is available
chambered for the 357 Magnum, 44 Magnum, and the 45 Colt
cartridges, with the pistol shown here chambered for the latter.
The Ranch Hand weighed in at four pounds,
nine ounces unloaded on my scale. It wears a twelve inch tapered
round barrel that measures .640 inch at the muzzle. The overall
length measures twenty-four inches. The rear sight is of
buckhorn style, and is ladder adjustable for elevation and drift
adjustable for windage correction. The front sight is a brass
bead on a blued steel blade, and is adjustable for windage
correction in its dovetail. The blued steel magazine tube is
attached to the barrel by both a screw near the muzzle, and a
barrel band about one-half inch aft of that.
Cartridges are loaded into the magazine tube
through the loading gate on the right side of the receiver.
Working the lever fully chambers a round from the magazine tube,
and the magazine can be topped-off at any time that the bolt is
closed. The locking bolts are of the traditional ‘92
Winchester style, and securely lock the bolt from movement
during the firing of the weapon. It is a very strong and
reliable system, designed by John Browning first for the larger
Model 1886 Winchester. The receiver is, like all Models ‘92,
slim, rounded, and easy to carry. The action is very smooth, the
hammer easy to thumb-cock, and the trigger pull measures a crisp
two and one-half pounds on my sample pistol.
Shooting the Ranch Hand was a real pleasure.
The weapon is short and handy for a rifle, but large and bulky
for a pistol. It is a hybrid of sorts, even though it is sold as
a pistol. I still think of it as a short rifle, myself. I would
love to have a full buttstock on this thing, but doing so would
put me in jeopardy of spending my next five years in Federal
prison, and I figure that my next five years will be my best
five years, so I will let that idea pass for now.
While the Ranch Hand is a bit larger than
your typical 45 Colt revolver, the twelve-inch barrel does have
its rewards, and that is in more velocity when compared to a
revolver. With light loads, there is not much difference, but
with powerful hunting loads, the difference is substantial. For
example, the Buffalo Bore 300 grain jacketed flat nose load that
clocks 1104 fps ten feet in front of my four-inch Redhawk,
registers 1400 at the same distance from the Rossi Ranch hard.
That is a pretty hefty increase in power, and with the heavier
Ranch Hand, felt recoil is minimal. The longer barrel and closed
breech squeeze the maximum amount of power from a handgun
cartridge, pretty much giving rifle barrel velocities from a
more compact weapon.
Accuracy from the barrel of the Ranch Hand
was target-grade. Holding over a solid rest using the open
sights, the Ranch Hand would cluster a magazine full into one
ragged hole at twenty-five yards, repeatedly. While this is not
a handgun that we are likely to see on the line at Camp Perry,
it is good to know that it is capable of fine accuracy, if
needed. Functioning was perfect throughout all testing.
Cartridges fed smoothly from the magazine, fired, and ejected
easily with no stickiness at all, even with the heavy Buffalo
For packing the Ranch Hand, I used pretty
much the same style of Mernickle Holster that I used for the
Puma Bounty Hunter. There is a slight difference, however, in
that the rear sight on the Ranch Hand is set farther forward
than on the Bounty Hunter, and the holster for the Rossi is cut
to allow for that difference. The Mernickle rig is a
beautifully-crafted belt and holster that replicates the rig
worn by Steve McQueen in the TV series. The cartridge loops are
spaced about 1.4 inches apart, center-to-center, and there are
twenty-four of them on my belt. The loops were very tight on the
45 Colt cartridges, but are always easier to load the second
time. The holster is a drop style, and has a tie down to hold it
to the leg, if desired. The belt is suede-lined, and like
everything to come from Bob Mernickle’s shop, the material and
workmanship are first-class. This holster rig is sold only
through Legacy Sports, but when you order, be sure to specify
whether you have the Puma Bounty Hunter or the Rossi Ranch Hand,
as the holsters are cut differently for the sights.
The Rossi Ranch Hand is a dandy little
weapon, fun to shoot, accurate, and reliable. It can be used for
hunting and self defense, but I think that most who buy the
Ranch Hand will want it for just a fun gun, with a bit of
nostalgia, and that is reason enough to buy one. Compared to the
other production and custom Mare’s Leg lever guns on the
market, the Rossi Ranch Hand is a real bargain.
Check out the Ranch Hand online at www.rossiusa.com.
To find a Rossi dealer near you, click on the
DEALER FINDER at www.lipseys.com.
To order the Ranch Hand online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.
Check out Bob Mernickle’s fine leatherwork
online at www.mernickleholsters.com.
To order the Mernickle holster rig shown from
Legacy Sports, click