Those of you old enough, like myself, who grew-up in the 1950s and 1960s, saw a lot of television Westerns. Today’s youth call guys who play sports “heroes” and many, not all, of them, give sports a bad name, for their behavior off the field.
Two of the things I liked about television Westerns, and Westerns on the silver screen, were the ol’ fashion Single Action Army revolvers, and the lever-action rifles most gunfighters and good guys carried and used. I still remember my first lever-action rifle – it was a Daisy Red Rider BB gun, and I’m sure I put tens of thousands of BBs through that little gun. And, even today, I have a Red Rider BB gun – just for fun.
Over the years, I’ve owned Winchester and Marlin, lever-action .30-30 rifles, and they were solid performers. I’ve taken deer with lever-action .30-30 rifles. There are a lot of makers who produce .30-30 lever-action rifles these days. One in particular, that I really like is the Rossi Rio Grande .30-30 rifle. First of all, if you’ve followed my articles over the years, and on Survivalblog, you know I enjoy a good deal on a gun – but the gun has to be a solid performer, as well as being easy on the pocket book.
The Rossi Rio Grande offers accuracy, performance and practicality for a lifetime of fast, lever-action shooting. The Rio Grande has a tubular magazine that holds 6 rounds of .30-30 ammo, and one in the chamber. My sample was in blue with a hardwood stock and forearm. They also offer a stainless steel version with a camoflage stock. The Rio Grande weighs in a 7 pounds but it felt lighter than that and it balanced extremely well. A nice rubber recoil pad is on the butt of the stock – I have never found the .30-30 round to “kick” very much, however, the recoil pad is there to help absorb any perceived recoil.
Topped with a buckhorn rear sight and bead front sight, it allowed for a fast sight picture for up-close and personal hunting in thick brush. There’s also a sliding button safety. The lever-action was as smooth as any lever guns I’ve owned over the years. It takes some practice to be able to operate the lever while keeping the rifle shoulder – anyone can get the hang of it, with a little bit of practice. [JWR Adds: Youths should be trained to operate a lever action rifle from the shoulder from the very first time they shoot it. If you lower the butt to your waist during target practice then you will develop a bad habit that will likely recur in the stress of hunting or in combat. Perfect practice makes perfect!] Empty brass was ejected cleanly to the right, and I had no malfunctions of any type during my test and evaluation.
Some lever-action .30-30 rifles don’t come with, or allow use of a scope. The Rio Grande came with a Weaver-style sight base installed on the top of the receiver, should you elect to mount a scope. Personally, given the limited distance you’d want to use a .30-30 round, I’ve never mounted a scope on any lever-action .30-30 rifle.
The only .30-30 ammo I had on-hand to test in the Rio Grande, was the Buffalo Bore “heavy” 190 grain jacketed flat nose bullet. This round is not designed for deer hunting, as are other .30-30 rounds. Tim Sundles, who owns and operates Buffalo Bore Ammo, designed this round to reliably kill elk or moose-sized game. A .30-30 can now be carried as a defensive tool in grizzly country and will be much more effective in stopping a grizzly attack than any other .30-30 round in the world. Even though the BB .30-30 round is not designed to kill a deer – it will – it will kill three or four of ’em with one shot, if you line ’em up just right – we’re talking serious penetration.
What makes the Buffalo Bore round so potent is the 190 grain Hawk bullet, that is designed with a harder core and thicker than normal jacket, so the expansion is minimal, thus insuring very deep penetration, which is needed to break large bones and destroy organs deep inside big game. This load generates an impressive 2,100 FPS from a 20-inch barrel – which is the length of the Rio Grande’s barrel. Buffalo Bore has added a new dimension to the old .30-30 round with this potent offering.
Personally, I wouldn’t go out looking to hunt the big brown bears with a .30-30 lever-action rifle. However, if that’s all I had, and the gun was loaded with the BB round, I wouldn’t feel under-gunned. I don’t see any problems using the Rossi Rio Grande and the BB round, if you want to hunt moose and elk – at close range – and we’re talking 150-yards or less – and closer is better.
I had problems zeroing the rear sight for elevation on the Rio Grande. Using the BB ammo, the rounds were hitting too high. I lowered the rear sight elevator as low as it would go, but it was still hitting too high for a 150-yd zero. I removed the rear sight elevator and the gun was hitting dead-on for me. Now, don’t take this as a bad sign against the Rio Grande. I’ve had numerous .30-30 rifles that had to have the rear sight elevator removed to get them to hit to point-of-aim at 150-yds. If you don’t believe me, next time you’re in a gun shop, take a look at some of the used .30-30s they have, bet you’ll see a lot of ’em with the rear sight elevator missing.
I also had to remove the Weaver-style scope mount in order to see the rear sight, with it lowered. Rossi obviously used Loc-Tite on the screws of the sight base, I buggered-up one of the screws trying to remove it – tight, real tight! Again, don’t deduct any points from the Rossi Rio Grande because of this, I’ve had the same thing happen on other makes of rifles when the rear sight elevator was removed – I couldn’t clearly see the rear sight in total. It’s just one of those “things.”
If you elect to shooting lighter, regular .30-30 ammo, in either 150 grain or 170 grain you probably won’t have to remove the rear sight elevator in order to zero the gun. The Buffalo Bore ..30-30 load is heavier and thus is shoot higher. Just make sure that you zero your gun with whatever load you decide to carry. For most small to medium sized deer, the 150 grain jacketed round nose soft point loads from most makers will suffice. If you need a little bit more knock-down power for larger deer, then go with a heavier bullet.
Remember I said that the Rio Grande came with a nice rubber butt pad? Well, I’m glad it did. The Buffalo Bore 190-gr rounds were screaming out of the barrel, and there was a bit more recoil than I thought there would be. I guess Rossi knew what they were doing when they added a recoil pad.
I carried the Rio Grande and and off during deer season last year. However, I didn’t get out and hunt hard, and I didn’t hunt often. All I ever saw were Does. Of course, the weeks leading up to deer season, I saw all kinds of bucks out there. Never fails – come opening day of deer season and all the bucks disappear. I usually have some bucks in my front yard before deer season, but this past deer season, non came in, and neither did any Does. I never fired a shot during deer season.
Now, I’m not advocating that you go out and purchase any type of lever-action .30-30 rifle as your one and only survival rifle. A lever-action gun is slow to reload, and they carry a limited amount of ammo. However, if you want to supplement your arsenal, with a close-range, .30-30 lever-action rifle for filling the stew pot, then the Rossi Rio Grande is a gun you should take a look at. And, like all Rossi products, they are usually discounted. My local gun shop was selling the Rio Grande for $350. That’s far below the retail price of $549 – I’m not saying all gun shops will sell the Rio Grande this low, but check around. I’m a sucker for a good shooting gun, and one at a good price. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio