Rossi Ranch Hand 45 Colt Lever-Action Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

December 18th, 2010


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Rossi Ranch Hand 45 Colt Lever-Action pistol, with Mernickle holster rig.








Manual safety on bolt blocks firing pin from striking primer.



Saddle ring with thong is a nice touch.











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 rifle-style pistols.

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 from 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 Bore ammunition.

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

To find a Rossi dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the Ranch Hand online, go to

Check out Bob Mernickle’s fine leatherwork online at

To order the Mernickle holster rig shown from Legacy Sports, click HERE.

Jeff Quinn


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Mernickle holster rig.