Testing the Rossi Survival Rifle & Brawler Pistol in 45/410

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Too often we analyze survival scenarios from a gear centric point of view. What do I mean? We must see past post-apocalyptic zombie horde in our survival thinking. More mundane items such as adaptability, light weight, and what best serves our needs in acquiring the next serving of camp meat should not be ignored. Let’s explore a counter-intuitive approach that stresses flexibility versus the latest, greatest, cutting-edge platform.  

Rossi Survival Rifle & Brawler Pistol

Interestingly, when the US Air Force approached the topic back in the 1950s, related to aircrews shot down in enemy territory, it settled on the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon shotgun/rifle combo. The Air Force found that a shotgun, paired with a .22-caliber rifle, was more effective than a typical military-style rifle for personnel facing a wilderness survival situation. 

The shotgun has always been labeled a utilitarian weapon viable for multiple tasks. In fact, if someone asks for advice related to getting a long arm for general purposes, what comes to mind? Many would offer up the ubiquitous shotgun. This is based on the shotgun’s simplicity, flexibility, reliability, price point and lethality.

Different Approach

Rossi firearms offering this simple usefulness is represented by the Brawler Pistol and Survival Rifle, each chambered in 45 Colt/.410. Both Rossis are more akin to a tool rather than a high-tech firearm. Often the simplest idea is the most ingenious. Nothing is as basic as a break-open action where you cock the hammer and pull the trigger to make it go “boom.” The Brawler Pistol and Survival Rifle are Rossi’s anti-hero offerings.

General purpose is a good way to describe survival-type situations we are most likely to encounter. The next meal or protection from four-legged predator are the main focus; not defending from marauding bands of two-legged opportunists. Anything related to survival there are plus/minuses with chosen equipment. Weight is a precious commodity, with every ounce needing analyzed, considering all has to be carried on one’s person. Each of the Rossis are compact in size and weight, allowing to be transported and thus likely more available when needed. The break-open design of the Rossi Brawler and Survival Rifle assists in lowering overall dimensions. The .410 (3-inch)/45 Colt chambering is another essential component of the Rossi equation.   

The Fodder

The .410/45 Colt dual chambering personifies versatility, allowing someone to successfully navigate a myriad of situations involving hiking, camping, vehicle kit gun and SHTF scenarios. The Rossi Brawler’s and Survival Rifle’s ability to utilize .410 shotshells such as buckshot, various pellet sizes, and slugs, combined with the 45 Colt chambering, translates into it having roles as personal defense weapon, trail gun and even recreation. The barrels are rifled, thus stabilizing the 45 Colt bullet. This also contributes to their classification as pistol and rifle versus verboten cut-off shotguns.  

Hornady’s Critical Defense .410 load emerged as a result of the popularity of the Taurus Judge and others–surprising the supposed gun gurus with their popularity/commercial success. The Hornady Critical Defense 410 features a unique “Triple Defense” projectile column consisting of two 35-caliber, 65-grain round balls topped with one non-jacketed .41-caliber, 115-grain FTX slug. Muzzle velocity is 750 fps from pistol-length barrels. The FTX slug engages the Brawler and Survival Rifle rifling, stabilizing it for nose on impact, where Hornady’s Flex Tip technology initiates expansion. Don’t forget about the two .35-caliber buckshot balls arriving on target as well. These are made from high-antimony, cold-swaged lead to resist deformation and provide excellent penetration as well.

Rendezvous Time

Seeing the Rossi Brawler and Survival Rifle at the recent Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous, I had to do a double take. Here were two single-shot break-open weapons at one of the industry’s premier media events next to suppressed belt-fed weapons with thermal optics.  

I will admit to nostalgia pulling me to the Rossi Brawler pistol. Rossi’s inclusion of Picatinny rail was a nice touch to maximize capability via mounting an optic, along with rubber pistol grip to cushion your hand from recoil. Rossi even has shoulder rig available to make sure the Brawler is kept handy when out and about. The Brawler’s 9-inch barrel and pistol grip reminded me of my late dad’s T/C Contender fitted with a 45 Colt single-shot barrel that he had bored out to also use .410 shotshells. It was in high demand during late summer deer hunts down in South Carolina where poisonous snakes where often encountered. Was not a matter of if, just when you would come across a rattlesnake, copperhead, or cantankerous cottonmouth moccasin.  

Shooting the Rossi Brawler.

The Rossi Survival Rifle was met with more skepticism. In this age, what could it offer? At least the Brawler is compact. By the end of my time talking and shooting the Rossi Survival Rifle with Taurus/Rossi’s Caleb Giddings, I wanted one. Weighing around 3 pounds, the 16-inch-barreled survival rifle is handy as hell. Similar in lines to the Rossi Tuffy shotgun, the compact thumbhole shoulder stock (11.5-inch LOP) contributes to an overall length of only 28.5 inches. The polymer stock has eight cutouts (four on each side) where .410 and/or 45 Colt cartridges can be securely stored. This is damn handy, making sure adequate ammunition supply is always with your weapon.  

Manual of Arms

Both the Brawler and Survival rifle have exposed grooved hammers and are fitted with a transfer bar safety to prevent the gun from going off should the hammer be bumped or the gun dropped when hammer is down. Engaging the crossbolt safety prevents the hammer from being cocked but still allows the action to be opened for loading or unloading. The guns are a single-action, meaning the hammer must be manually cocked for each shot fired. The steel triggers are single-stage, breaking smoothly with 4-5 pounds of pull.  

Multiple steel targets stretched from 7 to 125 yards in front of Rossi’s firing position. Extraction and ejection proved extremely positive with both the Brawler and Survival Rifle. In fact, ejection was so rigorous that you best mind where your face is when breaking open the action with a spent round. After having Caleb pinky swear he would send me one of each for further orientation, I moved on to the next exhibitor.  

Quality Time

A man of his word, a Rossi Brawler and Survival Rifle arrived at my FFL, Stonewall Arms. I mounted a Trijicon RMR to the Survival Rifle and a Meopta Meosight IV to the Brawler via their Picatinny rails. The red dots allow for precise zero of the 45 Colt cartridge and were found to be spot on for the .410 loads as well. My red dot decision might smack as extravagant considering the optics cost more than the weapons. Do not fear, as the Brawler and Survival Rifle come with iron sights as well for those so inclined. 

The Rossi Brawler mimicked the feel of the old T/C Contender creation of my youth. I would not want to be a snake within a few yards of its barrel with .410 #6 or #7.5 shot loaded. Loaded with Hornady or Black Hills 45 Colt ammunition, large holes could be created with ease at 30 yards and even beyond. The Black Hills 45 Colt 250-grain lead slug leaves the muzzle at approximately 700 fps and offers historically reliable terminal performance. Hornady’s souped-up and modernized 185- and 225-grain FTX 45 Colt loads are even more potent.  

Shooting the Rossi Survival Rifle.

.410 Stopping Power

The Hornady Triple Defense .410 potency was proved with three holes punching silhouette targets out to 12 yards with the Brawler. That’s right, all three projectiles kept in center of target with spread of about 14 inches. The .41-caliber FTX point of aim with the Meopta Meosight IV and two .35 caliber partners stacked vertically above and below, a few inches away.   

The Rossi Survival Rifle turned into the crowd favorite. The well-designed stock, ability to shoulder, and longer barrel extended its effective range compared to the Brawler. Like the Brawler, the Survival Rifle’s .410 barrel has a 3-inch chamber. However, the Survival Rifle also features a fixed, modified choke at the muzzle. The Trijicon RMR-equipped Rossi Survival Rifle kept 45 Colt rounds on target out to 50 yards. The longer Survival Rifle barrel speeds up the 45 Colt another 200-250 fps. This is deer-sized game medicine. The longer barrel and choke seemed to tighten .410 shot patterns as well. The Hornaday Triple Defense at 12 yards was only a few inches apart and dead center of target. The Triple Defense load got its velo boosted up a good bit as well; #6 and #7.5 .410 shot also significantly denser in pattern compared to its Brawler little brother. 

Recap

Making decisions related to survival situations involves factors such as climate, geography and habitat. These factors go into the equation for picking what items are a must-have, optional, and a luxury when it comes to basic survival scenarios. Without causing a collective gasp in the gun culture, weapon decision is not the priority in terms of survival planning. The easy-to-transport Rossi Brawler and Survival Rifle with caliber/round flexibility provide a sure way to hedge your bets.  

The utility of the two Rossis is not merely confined to survival scenarios. A walk to your rural mailbox, ride in your ATV across your property, or saddling a horse for a jaunt to the back 40 will find the Rossi Brawler and/or Survival Rifle hard to leave behind.  

For more info, visit rossiusa.com.

Rossi Brawler Specs

  • Caliber: 45 Colt/.410
  • Magazine Capacity: Single Shot
  • Barrel Length: 9 inches
  • Overall Length: 14 inches
  • Height: 5.9 inches
  • Width: 1.3 inches
  • Weight Empty: 36.8 ounces 
  • MSRP: $239.99

Rossi Survival Rifle Specs

  • Caliber: 45 Colt/.410
  • Magazine Capacity: Single Shot
  • Barrel Length: 16.15 inches
  • Overall Length: 28.75 inches
  • Height: 6.5 inches
  • Width: 1.25 inches
  • Weight Empty: 47 ounces 
  • MSRP: $371

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