November 10, 2010

Working The Rossi Gallery Rifle, from American Gunsmith's Book of the Rifle

Americans want good looks and cheap prices, and the Rossi Gallery Rifle meets those criteria. Here’s how to solve problems related to this low-cost rifle.

Americans like nice looking but cheap things. Manufacturers, especially in our field, accommodate those people by cutting back on costs by concentrating the majority of their efforts on the outside.

The object is to keep production costs down in order to keep prices low and sales high. That is certainly the case with the Rossi gallery rifles. This gun looks like a Winchester .22 pump rifle but Rossi did its own thing in putting it together.

While working on these Rossi rifles, the first thing we need to remember is that the internal parts are usually rough and rough parts do not work together smoothly. The second is that the metallurgy in this rifle leaves a lot to be desired. The original Winchester’s internal parts were hard steel and were hand-smoothed and fitted. This allowed the parts to be tight yet work together very well.

Most of the problems you will have with this little Rossi rifle are directly related to the finish and quality and finish of its metal. If you bear that in mind from the start, you will avoid many problems that might otherwise be encountered and solve others, feeding in particular, this rifle is infamous for.

Four Common Woes

Before we take our Rossi apart, let’s look at the four most common problems with this rife and discuss their solutions. To fix these rifles, you need to be sure what the problem is and what is causing it before you do a full take-down. It is true that improving fit and finish on the inside of these rifles will solve many of their problems. However, it is still best to know what is causing the complaint before taking the rifle apart.

Feeding. Many of the problems have been solved since the Rossi now only takes on cartridge where the older versions took .22 short, long, and long rifle. If you are working on an older model, it will have “short-long-l.r.” stamped on the barrel. These rifles have a cartridge stop located inside the carrier, a part that gives us enough trouble to merit its own paragraph. Feeding problems on more current versions can be caused by a rough feed lip between the magazine and the receiver, poor alignment between the carrier and the magazine feed lip, a roughly cut carrier slot, a broken or weak carrier spring, or roughness in the carrier or breach that does not allow a proper shell lift. The extractor, which also pushes the cartridge forward into the barrel, may not be fitted into the carrier slot correctly or it may be so rough as to hang up. It also may be as simple as a bad or dirty magazine tube that is not pushing the cartridges onto the carrier with enough force to cycle the rifle.

Misfires. Barring ammunition failure, the most common causes are a broken or locked up firing pin, a misaligned carrier’s blocking the full stroke of the hammer, a chipped sear, drag on half-cock, an improperly locked breech, or the firing pin or spring hanging on roughness in the breech block. A weak hammer spring could also be the culprit but this is vary rare unless someone has worked on the spring.

Action binding or locking up. The cause of this problem may be as simple as a loose take-down screw. Other reasons include a poor-fitting side plate, a bent, chipped, worn or broken action slide, or a bent or dented outside magazine tube. The breech bolt could also be worn, there could be excessive play between the breech bolt and receiver or the carrier might be misaligned with breech bolt. The carrier could also be loose.

Firing upon closing breech. You should check for a broken or shortened sear, a broken or soft trigger spring and a broken or shortened trigger.

As we go through this rifle step-by-step, we’ll discuss other problems but since about 80 percent of the Rossi gallery rifles I’ve ever seen have feeding problems, let’s look at those first.

Make sure to find out from the owner what cartridges he has been using and when and where they did not work right. Some of these rifles are chambered for magnum and when they do not feed, it is often because someone has been trying to shoot .22 long rifle and has fouled the rifle up. A .22 magnum chambering tool will clean the barrel out so the rifle will take the magnum rounds correctly. This will take care of the problem most of the time but sometimes the carriers will be bent or broken in these magnum rifles because people have tried to force feed .22 long rifle cartridges through the action. We will discuss this repair later. If the owner has been trying to feed shorts in one of the new models made for long rifle only, this will explain his problem. Unlike most rifles that say “.22 l.r. only,” Rossi’s merely says “.22 l.r.” and does not include the word only. The earlier models are marked “.22 short, long, lr” and will shoot all three but won’t feed all of them well. Your biggest problems will come from the earlier model.

Disassemble the take-down portion of the rifle and look at the butt stock. Bringing the hammer to half-cock will allow the carrier to rise to its feeding position. Slide a cartridge in and out of the carrier to see if it slides smoothly. On the old-style rifles, a cartridge stop is built into this carrier. Many of these carriers are very roughly cut and can be smoothed up with a roll of emery cloth to polish out the roughness. With the hammer in the half-cock position, work the carrier up and down in its full top to bottom movement to check for sticking or roughness. It should move be smooth, without much side movement. If it is rough or sticks, remove the carrier-lever spring screw and the spring to see if the roughness is in the carrier lifting lever. This part fits so loosely that it seldom sticks or drags. If it is loose, drive out its retaining pin from left to right and remove the lever. Use the emery to remove the rough edges but do not try to polish the entire piece as it is already too loose. If the roughness or sticking persists, it will be necessary to totally disassemble the butt portion of the rifle.

First remove the tang screw and the stock. Now you can remove the hammer, spring stop, the hammer spring and the hammer spring guide rod. Small punches will drive these retaining pins out without any problem. Remember, however, that this is very soft metal. Just use the punches carefully and there should be no damage. Driving the retaining pin out of the take-down screw is also touchy because it goes through the threads in the screw and is also easily damaged. After removing the take-down screw, it is easy to remove the assembly-screw bushing. At this point, everything but the trigger assembly will come out. Dragging or sticking of the carrier is almost always caused by a burr or roughness between the trigger-guard housing and the carrier on a new rifle and dirt or foreign matter on a well used one. Emery fixes the new one; cleaning the old one.

Now, take the front half of the rifle and remove the magazine tube. Drop a couple of cartridges through the outside tube to see if they fall through without hanging up. Check the feed lip for burrs but do not polish away the sharp front edge of this lip. It is cut oversized and rounding off this edge will produce too much space and cause the cartridge rims to jam. Make sure the magazine tube is not bent or dented.

As we discussed briefly a little while ago, a cartridge stop is built into the carrier base on the older rifles that were designed to shoot all three types of .22 cartridges. As the rim of a cartridge slides into the carrier, it pushes down the butt end of the cartridge stop and forces up the front end to block a second cartridge’s entry into the carrier. These parts must work with perfect timing and smoothness to perform correctly. With poor fitting, loose parts, it just does not work too well. Rossi discontinued the cartridge stop because it caused too many problems and required too much fitting and finishing to work right. If the rifle you are working on has this problem, then you are going to have to do what the factory didn’t, or you will have about the same luck Rossi did.

Remove the cartridge stop by driving out the retaining pin and sliding the stop out of its slot. This slot will occasionally be dry, rusty or in otherwise poor condition so a good cleaning might return the rifle to a usable state without much more effort. In addition to the stops’ nearly always fitting loosely, the end of the stop is often badly worn. In this case, the best repair option is replacement. New ones ordered from the factory usually will be too loose when you get them but are still preferable, at least from a time standpoint, to making one yourself.

When fitting a new cartridge stop, it must be loose enough that a .22 long rifle cartridge will still slide into the carrier without binding up yet be tight enough that a .22 short will slide into the carrier. The front end must rise enough to prevent the rim of a second cartridge from entering the face of the carrier. If a second cartridge even starts onto the carrier, the rifle will jam when it is pumped.

If you do decide to make your own stop, use hard steel so it will not wear. It should also be slightly oversized so it will fit tightly but move easily. Make it just a little long so you can remove the extra metal as needed for the perfect fit. Making these stops is time-consuming, so make sure you are willing to expend—and the owner is willing to pay for—the time it is going to take to do it right.

The last area of feeding problems is in the breech of the rifle. To remove the breech, you remove the side-plate screw then slide the side plate forward and out of the receiver. By pulling the pump as far forward toward the muzzle as it will travel you will be able to put a flat-bladed screwdriver under the action bar as close to the receiver as possible. Pry the action bar up enough to slip it out of the breech block. Sliding the pump just a little bit more toward the muzzle will release the breech block completely and the block can be slipped out the rear of the receiver.

Three retaining pins hold the breech block assembly together and the pins should be driven out from the bottom up through the top of the breech block. When these pins are out of an older rifle, you can remove the extractor to be sure it is not chipped or broken. On a new rifle that is not feeding correctly, check for burrs and excessive sharp edges. These need to be cleaned up. This extractor is its own spring so make sure the extractor slot cut into the side of the breech block is smooth. A bent or broken extractor will neither push the cartridge into the barrel nor extract it correctly, which can create one of your feeding problems.

Our second major problem with this rifle is misfiring. The way the firing pin is made, it seldom needs to be replaced but it often sticks or drags so badly that it causes misfires. Improper cleaning and oiling is normally the cause here, followed by burrs, a rough finish, or springs that are out of position.

On a new rifle, make sure the breech is closing down all the way. The slightest opening will prevent the rifle from firing as it should. If someone has cut the hammer spring on the rifle to give it a softer pull, it will cause misfires.

On the older Rossi, it common for the soft metal to wear down enough that the hammer sear will drag on the half-cock notch as the hammer falls, slowing the hammer enough to cause a misfire. This is often overlooked because a shooter who jerks or pulls the trigger hard will never have this problem; he will pull the trigger away from the half-cock notch. The one who pulls the trigger slowly and smoothly will only apply enough pressure to release the sear and let the hammer fall but will not apply enough pressure to get it out of the half-cock notch’s way. Check out both the sear edges on the hammer and trigger to make sure there are no chips missing. Check the travel on the hammer and make sure it moves freely. Just like the other problems, check for burrs on the new and rust on the old.

The third major problem with these rifles is the binding up of the actions. If it is a new rifle, you’re going to have to do some fitting. The first thing to look for is a poorly fitting side plate that is causing too much drag on the action arm. If this is the case, you will find evidence on the action arm. Front or back, top or bottom, it might be any of the four but it will mark if it is dragging. With the breech bolt out of the rifle, pump it to check for drag. The action bar sometimes drags on the outside magazine tube that is not rounded. Make sure the action bar itself is not warped or bent. The action bar lug that fits into the breech bolt slot sometimes chips or wears off enough to allow so much play that it puts the bar into a bind that locks the action. When the carrier fits so loosely that it can move around inside the action, it will hang on the side of the bolt and lock the action up. This can sometimes be solved with a thin shim but the best solution is a light weld that is then cut back to the correct specifications. When the carrier is misaligned with the breech bolt it can be fixed in the same way. The most common problem here is when someone has not reassembled the “take-down” rifle correctly or just did not tighten the takedown screw tight enough.

The fourth problem is often man-made. Some people want to make their rifle fire by holding down the trigger and pumping the action, so they have gone inside to file down working parts to make the rifle fire in that manner. What they have created is a very dangerous rifle that goes off on its own. When you see this has been done to a rifle you are working on, make sure to replace all these parts or you can find yourself with a major lawsuit on you hands. It is the hammer/trigger set that causes this.

You might find and replace a broken hammer sear and think the problem is solved but play it safe and always check out every aspect of the action as the situation is so dangerous. Examine all sear points, hammer and trigger, and check for soft or broken trigger spring. Also, see if someone has shortened the trigger or hammer sear or changed the angle of the sear cut.

Once you get past the major faults, it is not uncommon for people to complain about poor accuracy. Most of these little rifles seem to group well enough even though from the factory their sights are not very well aligned to the point of impact. The sights sometimes have to be moved radically to get them to come in line with where the rifle is shooting but other times, it is necessary to install different sights to make them align. Both rear and front sights are dovetailed and this does make for easy replacement.

The Rossi gallery rifles aren’t all that complicated to work on. Keep some fine emery cloth with you to smooth up some of the internal roughness but don’t forget how loose most of the parts already are and how soft the metal is. In essence, don’t go overboard on smoothing or with your punches.