Review: Rossi's .357 Mag. Revolvers

First known for its small-caliber revolvers and lever-action rifles chambered for revolver cartridges, Rossi has stepped up with a line of .357 Mag. double-action wheelguns—and new long guns to boot.

by
posted on August 1, 2023
Rossi's .357 Mag. Revolvers

The .357 Magnum is one of the most versatile handgun cartridges ever made. It is superbly accurate, has the ballistics to take up to medium-size game and has a proven track record of ending self-defense situations in a timely manner. Its chambers will also accommodate the use of low-cost, low-recoil .38 Special cartridges for a relaxed afternoon of target practice. Further, the cartridge’s versatility is an ideal match for a modern medium-frame revolver. A size, weight and balance that is perfect for all-day carry, a medium-frame revolver with contemporary metallurgy will handle a steady diet of the hottest magnum loads.

It’s into this well-established understanding that the Rossi name is making its return to the handgun market—in this case, with three formats that cover the spectrum of .357 Mag. revolver niches: hunting/target shooting, self-defense and “all of the above.” In addition, the Rossi brand now includes a diverse selection of long guns, making for a growing family of models that will doubtless create ripples even in today’s dynamic market.

RM66, RM64, RM63

Rossi History
The Brazilian firm of Amadeo Rossi began manufacturing firearms in 1889. Importation into the United States began in the 1960s with the Rossi Princess .22 Long Rifle revolver, a diminutive handgun that took its inspiration from the early 20th century Smith & Wesson Ladysmith. A decade later, two products closely associated with the Rossi brand were introduced. The Puma lever-action, pistol-caliber rifle was a clone of the classic staple of big-screen Westerns, the Winchester Model 1892. Along with the rabbit-ear-hammered Rossi Overland side-by-side shotgun, the pair became mainstays of the early days of cowboy action shooting. It was also in the ‘70s that Rossi introduced the Model 62 .22 pump-action rifle. Another close copy of a classic Winchester, it brought the joy of the slide-action rimfire gallery gun to a new generation.

While overshadowed by the company’s long guns, handguns were a mainstay of the Rossi brand. The ubiquitous Rossi revolver in those early decades was a five-shot, small-frame handgun that was chambered in .22 LR, .32 S&W or .38 Spl. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the company’s handgun lineup expanded to include five- and six-shot models in blued and stainless finishes and a variety of barrel lengths, with .22 WMR, .357 Mag. and .44 Spl. chamberings eventually joining in.

Rossi products were first imported into the United States by Benet Arms, followed by Firearms Intl., the Garcia Corp. and, finally, Interarms. In 1997, Rossi became part of the Braztech empire, which includes fellow Brazilian manufacturer Taurus. By 2010, Taurus had taken over the manufacturing of Rossi-branded products. Braztech discontinued its Rossi revolver line in 2018 to focus on Rossi’s growing assortment of long guns (see sidebar below).

RM66, RM64, RM63

The New Rossi Revolvers
This spring, Rossi announced that it would be returning to the handgun market by offering three new revolver models. The introduction was made with a slick “Yellowstone”-esque “Magnum Country” marketing campaign featuring cowboy hats, pickup trucks and the rugged Western skyline. All three new revolvers are six-shot, medium-frame, double-action designs with swing-out cylinders operated by a left-side, push-forward cylinder release. They are chambered in .357 Mag. and have full underlug barrels. Their firing pin is hammer-mounted and replaceable, but don’t let this fool you into thinking the Rossi revolvers have the same safety concerns associated with traditional-style single-action revolvers.

The revolvers’ action utilizes a hammer-block safety that moves out of the way only when the trigger is depressed to allow the firing pin to contact the primer of a cartridge. None of the models has the integral manually locking safety system seen on some previous-generation Rossi revolvers. The action is powered by a coil mainspring, and lock-up occurs both at the rear of the fluted cylinder and where the yoke latches into the frame. All models have a front sight that is pinned in place and thus replaceable. Stocks are of two-piece, finger-grooved, wrap-around rubber that enclose the entire grip frame. The revolvers are being offered with all-stainless construction with a satin-polished finish or in carbon steel with a matte-black, gas-nitride finish.

Two models, the RM66 and RM64, use the same “square-butt” frame and have an adjustable rear sight, with 6" and 4" barrels respectively. The RP63 uses a more compact, “round-butt” frame with a fixed rear sight that is a groove in the frame’s topstrap, paired with a 3" barrel. The three platforms cover the aforementioned niches in the revolver world quite nicely.

RM66, RM64
While all three Rossi models share lockwork, the RM66 (top) and RM64 have “square-butt” frames while the RP63 (bottom) features a “round-butt.”

The RM66 is a long-barreled hunting and target model. Its adjustable sights mean you can fine-tune your point of impact over the wide range of velocities and bullet weights available in .38 Spl. and .357 Mag. ammunition, and its barrel length helps wring the ballistic potential out of the magnum cartridge. Despite its overall size, the RM66 doesn’t have the bulk of a larger-frame revolver and is easy to carry all day in a belt, chest or shoulder holster. It’s about 10 ozs. lighter than your typical large-frame .357 with the same length barrel, meaning you could add a handgun scope to the RM66 and still have a reasonably light overall package.

The RP63 is a compact model for concealed carry and home defense. Its “bobtailed” grip frame offers a solid, full-handed gripping area, while minimizing the revolver’s “print” when carried concealed beneath clothing. Its fixed sighting system rounds out the RP63’s low-profile, snag-free outline. Its overall length of 7.88" and height of 4.93" approximates the size of a compact semi-automatic handgun, such as the Glock 19. With a width at the cylinder that measures 1.46", it is slightly wider than a double-stack-magazine pistol, but the barrel and grip are narrower, making the revolver feel smaller when tucked inside the waistband.

hammer-mounted firing pin
The Rossi design features a hammer-mounted firing pin along with a hammer-block safety (above) that ensures the gun is safe until the trigger is depressed. Removing the RP63’s sideplate reveals the action’s coil mainspring (r.).


With six rounds of 125-grain defense ammunition in the cylinder, it weighs a little more than an ounce less than the Glock 19 I measured it against when that model has a full 15-round magazine on board. To make that comparison against the de facto standard for concealed-carry revolvers, the Smith & Wesson 642, the RP63 is about 1.5" longer, 0.75" taller, 0.16" wider and it weighs 12 ozs. more empty than the alloy-frame pocket revolver. The trade off? The RP63 has a magnum payload and an extra round of capacity.

Rossi is offering a holster made by UM Tactical as an accessory, and I carried the RP63 in this rig for the duration of my testing. Of the company’s Qualifier design, the holster has adapter clips that allow it to be worn either inside or outside the waistband with adjustable cant and retention, and it can also be switched from right- to left-hand carry. Made of Boltaron, a thermoplastic that UM Tactical claims handles extreme temperatures and impacts better than Kydex, the holster is molded specifically to the RP63’s profile with a matching minimalist style. Using it in IWB configuration, it keeps the revolver tucked securely, yet is cut to allow for a full firing grip when drawing.

Sights
Sights are geared toward each model’s intended use. For the RM66 (l.), that means an adjustable rear for target shooting or hunting, while the carry-oriented RP63 (r.) suffices with a groove in the topstrap.

The RM64 splits the difference between the two other models, with the flexibility of adjustable sights combined with a barrel length for comfortable belt carry. This combination is the classic magnum service revolver that dominated the duty belts of law-enforcement officers for decades. The RM64 is a compromise that can handle most of the duties of both its siblings, from close-range, open-sight hunting to concealed carry. It was my go-to of the three for outdoors all-day “home and range” carry in a belt-mounted hip holster and makes an ideal companion to one of Rossi’s .357 Mag.-chambered R92 rifles. The RM64 I tested had the matte-black gas-nitride finish, which contributed to its no-nonsense, all-work-and-no-play appearance.

Though “new” models, the current Rossi revolver lineup is an update of the previously imported Rossi R972/971 (adjustable sights) and R462/461 (fixed sights) guns, meaning that there are already some aftermarket accessories available for them. They also have compatibility with certain accessories designed for Smith & Wesson and Taurus medium-size revolvers. The six chambers of the cylinder of all three Rossi revolvers aligned perfectly with my HKS 10 speedloader, and the revolvers slipped right into my collection of vintage and modern K-frame-size holsters. But this doesn’t mean you’ll have to rely on eBay to acquire accessories for your Rossi revolver; the company is partnering with other manufacturers to ensure its new handgun line has new accessories available. Along with UM Tactical, Rossi is working with other holster makers, such as Galco and DeSantis, for models made specifically to accommodate the revolvers’ configurations. Rossi has also partnered with LOK Grips to offer stock options machined from G10 material.

Why would Braztech, which already has a prolific line of revolvers, need to re-introduce Rossi-branded handguns? The new Rossi models represent a premium revolver in the company’s line that is positioned between the standard Taurus revolver and that brand’s Executive Grade offerings. Their price reflects this: The RM66 has an MSRP that is $50 more than the similarly spec’d Taurus 66, but $70 less than the Taurus 856 Executive Grade.

RP63, cylinder latch and ejector rod
(left) The compact RP63 works with speedloaders compatible with popular S&W K-frame models—in this case, an HKS 10-A. (right) The Rossi design includes a cylinder that locks at the front and rear. Functioning of the test guns was smooth with proper operation of the cylinder latch and ejector rod.


Rossi has always banked on nostalgia to market its firearms, and the new revolvers are no exception. Thumbing the hammer back reveals the hammer-mounted firing pin that is unique among most contemporary double-action revolvers. Without wading into the debate over the perceived advantages and disadvantages of frame-mounted versus hammer-mounted firing pins on revolvers, it is sufficient to say that going this route gives the Rossi guns a feature and appearance that is appealing to many. This unique aesthetic also extends to the rest of the revolvers—not a “clone” of something else on the market, their overall profile distinctively recalls the classic Rossi handguns of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

shooting the Rossi

On The Range
For my formal accuracy and velocity testing, I employed the RM66 with a variety of .357 Mag. and .38 Spl. loads. In a world of red-dots, reticles, tritium and fiber-optics, it’s easy to forget the value of the classic and simple handgun sighting system, as featured on the RM66. The front black ramp is serrated to reduce glare, as is the rest of the sighting plane along the top of the barrel and the base of the rear sight. The fully adjustable rear is a simple square-notch blade with a white outline. Windage and elevation are screw-adjustable with tactile clicks. The aligned sight picture nestled in perfectly at the six o’clock position on the 5" bullseye of an official NRA 25-yard slow-fire pistol target. Firing from a rest at 25 yards, almost all of the five-shot groups stayed within the 2" to 3" range, with an overall average of just greater than 2.5".

The RM66’s single-action trigger pull contributed to this accuracy. Rossi calls the trigger on its revolvers “match grade.” The trigger on the RM66 broke crisply at just less than 4 lbs., with no perceived take-up or grit in single-action mode. The RM64 and RP63 triggers were similar, but about a pound heavier. The wide and checkered spur makes it easy to thumb the hammer into the cocked position.

RM66 sights
The RM66 features a front sight base with pinned, serrated blade that is affixed to the barrel’s integrated top rib with a screw (inset). Its rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation.


Double-action pulls on all three guns measured just less than 11 lbs. The Rossis’ 0.395"-wide, smooth-faced trigger made it easy to manage the double-action pull. I utilized the double-action mode almost exclusively when shooting the intended-for-self-defense RP63. Its trigger pull was smooth throughout its arc, making it easy to place all six rounds in the vital zone at a rapid pace from close ranges.

At 7-to-15-yard ranges, the RP63 shot to the point of aim of its fixed sights. For serious defensive use, it would be recommended to replace the front sight with something with more visibility. While the black front sight contrasted nicely with the satin stainless of the rear sight gutter of the test revolver, the minimal sights were hard to pick up on a black background or in low light. As the Rossi uses the same front sight pattern as contemporary Taurus revolvers, aftermarket options from XS Sights and Ameriglo are available.

The 3" barrel of the RP63 delivered respectable velocities from the .357 Mag. cartridge, yielding about 200 f.p.s. less with 125-grain loads than the 4" barrel length that most .357 Mag.’s advertised velocities are clocked at, but nearly 300 f.p.s. more than is delivered from an ultra-compact 2" barrel.

Rossi’s round-butt RP63, Smith & Wesson J-frame
Rossi’s round-butt RP63 (left) is a six-shot, yet its frame is not significantly larger than that of a five-shot Smith & Wesson J-frame (right).


And the RM64? Because of its competency, there is very little additional to say about it. In handling both longer-range precision shooting and up-close-and-dirty work just as well as the two aforementioned revolvers, you can take everything described above and apply it to the RM64.

When firing magnum loads in the Rossi revolvers, the recoil is noticeably more than in heavier and larger handguns chambered in the same cartridge, yet still easily managed. Along with the weight of the full underlug barrel, the wraparound rubber stocks helped dampen the recoil, with the square profile and checkered handles on the RM66 and RM64 doing the best job of this. The more minimal and pebble-grained stocks on the RP63 are the compromise between minimized profile and comfort that you expect from a concealed-carry revolver. With its 3" barrel and all-steel construction, recoil was reasonable with even the stoutest magnum loads, especially when compared to lightweight, alloy-frame, five-shot magnum revolvers. Those who have problems handling recoil would find the RP63 to be soft-shooting with .38 Spl. +P defensive loads.

SHOOTING RESULTS

All three revolvers functioned perfectly in my testing. Deliberate attempts to short-stroke the double-action triggers were unsuccessful in inducing a bind in the mechanism. The cylinder releases worked smoothly and cylinders latched in place positively. Positive action on the ejector rod removed empty cases from the cylinder without issue, even after the revolvers had gotten very dirty.

With the introduction of the RM66, RM64 and RP63, Rossi is returning to its double-action-revolver roots with three handguns that deliver the value that the brand is known for. In the kingdom of the polymer handgun, an all-steel firearm that necessitates the care and fitting of a revolver is just going to be more expensive, but expect the store price for all three Rossi wheelguns to stay in the $400 to $500 range. It’s what Rossi calls “premium quality without a premium price.” The result is three “affordable quality” options for the classic and versatile pairing of a medium-frame, double-action revolver and the .357 Mag. cartridge. And, in this case, each is unmistakably a Rossi.
rossi rm66 specs

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