Rossi Rio Bravo RL22181WD 22 LR

Bravo to the Rio Bravo. The rifle was accurate, lightweight, and had a smooth-cycling lever. This rifle is traditionally styled in wood and blued metal for plinking or small-game hunting and comes in at a good price.

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Lever-action rimfires can be a lot of fun for kids or adults, whether it’s popping a can along the ground (with a safe backstop), punching holes in paper, or knocking a rabbit down at 100 yards. We recently tested a trio of entertaining lever-action rimfires to find out which one shot the best, operated most smoothly, and was easiest to carry. Our products were: Chiappa LA322 Standard Carbine 920.383 22 LR, $290; Henry Golden Boy Model H004 22 S/L/LR, $500; and a Rossi Rio Bravo RL22181WD 22 LR, $300.

Besides the straight-grip wood stock and exposed hammer, these rifles had other similarities, such as a 15+ round-capacity tubular magazine, adjustable open sights made of steel or plastic, and they came optics ready. Overall, our test guns delivered good accuracy at short ranges, and they delivered better firepower than bolt guns. Moreover, because they are manually operated, they can feed and eject more reliably than many semi-autos. Even so, one of the guns had some function problems, as we relate below.

The Henry gun will fire 22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle ammo. However, the shooter should use discretion when firing 22 Shorts in it. A continuous diet of this ammunition will cause carbon build-up at the end of the Short case, and in worse-case situations, they will cause a ring to form in the chamber. This ring will cause extraction problems when Long Rifle is later fired.

Bravo to the Rossi Rio Bravo, (top), a traditionally-styled lever action that nipped at heels of the Henry Golden Boy (middle).

Accuracy testing was conducted using our range bag as a rest. We fired at black and red 3-inch bullseye Splatter Targets (10/$11; SplatterBurstTargets.com) placed at 15 yards. The black open sights on the rifles were fairly easy to see on these targets, and the range data attests to our ability to see the target and aim consistently. Ammo used included Remington Thunderbolts with 40-grain lead round-nose bullets, CCI Blazer 38-grain LRNs, and CCI “Stangers” with 32-grain copper-plated hollow-point bullets. The Stangers are a hot round, with a factory muzzle velocity of 1640 fps. In real life, it is a lot less. CCI doesn’t list the length of the test barrel in its data, but our data shows muzzle velocity in the range of 1435 to 1498 fps — less than factory data, but still cooking along. We also fact-checked the CCI Blazer’s factory muzzle velocity factory data, which states 1235 fps. Our data ranged from 1155 to 1229. Remington Thunderbolt factory data states 1255 fps, and we recorded 1111 fps to 1165 fps. Our test barrel lengths were 20 inches with the Henry, 18.5 inches with the Chiappa, and 18 inches with the Rossi. The Rossi, with the shortest barrel length, produced the most velocity with all the ammo. Accuracy was very good with these rifles, with 15-yard groups forming one ragged hole, in most cases. With an optic mounted, we know groups would be even smaller.

The Rossi front sight was a steel post with a brass bead, dovetailed into the barrel.

We also used our range bag as a rest to slice playing cards. We cut a vertical slit in the cardboard and inserted a card in the slit. Initially, it took a few shots to get our dope. The diameter of the 22 LR bullet is small, so if you are a bit off, you just nick the card. With all three rifles, we were able to hit the cards on their edges. Some cards we hit multiple times before a shot flicked the pieces onto the ground.

For our speed shooting test, we placed an 8-inch paper plate at 15 yards and ripped through a magazine as fast as we could manipulate the lever. We found some of the rifles were faster to operate than others, and with all three rifles, we found it easy to keep hits on the plate.

Tubular magazines offer extra rounds compared to a box magazine, but tube magazines take more time to load. We loaded these rifles by pulling out the inner brass magazine tubes just enough to open the loading port. All the loading ports are cut out in the shape of a cartridge, so loading should be idiot proof. We also mixed up ammo in the magazines to try and trip up these lever actions. All fared well except for the Chiappa LA322, which choked on ammo a few times and had a few soft primer hits.

We like this Italian version of the Marlin Model 39A, but we can’t say we have total confidence in this rifle. The Henry Golden Boy is good, but it is heavy and the pitch in the stock did not allow shooters to get a good cheek weld. We like the looks of the Henry, and you’ll pay for them. The Rossi Rio Bravo was a pleasant surprise, and it gets our nod as a Best Buy, even with some cheap-looking plastic parts. Here’s what we thought about this trio in more detail.

Gun Tests Grade: A (BEST BUY)

$300

The Rossi Rio Bravo is a newer lever action introduced in 2020. Our sample is the model with a German beechwood stock, though there is also a model with a black polymer stock. The wood Rio Bravo has classic lever-action 22 looks, like a miniaturized Winchester Model 1892. It features a straight pistol-grip stock, smooth satin wood finish, brass bead post steel front sight, and adjustable rear steel sight with a stepladder setup to adjust elevation. You need a punch and hammer to adjust windage. The top of the receiver is grooved for a scope mounts.

Action TypeLever-action, exposed hammer
Overall Length36.0 in.
Barrel18 in. long; 1:16 RH twist
Overall Height7.25 in.
Weight Unloaded5.5 lbs.
Weight Loaded (22 LR)7.3 lbs.
Sight Radius13.7 in.
ReceiverAlloy
Action FinishPolished black
Barrel FinishBlued
Magazine Capacity15 LR
Magazine TypeTube
StockSmooth German beechwood
Drop at Comb2.0 in.
Drop at Heel2.75 in.
ButtplateSerrated plastic
Length of Pull1.5 in.
Front SightBrass bead on steel post
Rear SightAdj. steel semi-buckhorn rear; optics ready
Trigger Type/Pull WeightTwo-stage, 5.5 lbs.
Manual SafetyHammer-block button, half cock
Warranty1-Year limited warranty
Telephone(800) 948-8029
WebsiteRossiUSA.com
Made InBrazil

The barrel band and forearm cover on the Rossi Rio Bravo are black polymer and slightly cheapened the look of this otherwise fine little rifle. The serrated polymer buttplate was nicely fitted to the stock, and the wood-to-metal fit was nice. The receiver has a matte-black finish, and the barrel is blued. The four Phillips screws attaching the receiver to the carrier were a slightly different finish and made the rifle look a bit cheap. Sling swivels were installed on the stock toe and the barrel band. We appreciated the sling-swivel studs.

The Rossi was the second-most accurate rifle in the bunch with any ammo we fed it.

Out of the box, the Rossi felt lively and allowed us to get a nice, firm cheek weld on the comb. The lever was smooth to operate, but not nearly as silky as the Henry. The loop and trigger guard were large, so the Rio Bravo could be operated with gloved hands.

The Rossi loads the same way as the other rifles tested, through a loading port in the magazine tube. To access the port, you need to rotate the knurled knob of the inner brass magazine tube and withdraw it. When you see the tip of a cartridge in the magazine tube, it is fully loaded. Then push the inner magazine tube back into the outer steel magazine tube and twist and lock it into place. A rubber O-ring ensures a tight fit. Loading was an easy process. The hammer had plenty of medium serrations, allowing us to cock and uncock with confidence using our thumb.

The Rossi had no half-cock safety, but it did incorporate a button safety above the trigger. Put the safety on Safe, and the hammer and lever are locked. A right-handed shooter can easily manipulate the button with the trigger finger.

The wood-to-metal fit with the Rossi was better than on the Chiappa, but it was not as good as the Henry’s. We thought the plastic barrel band cheapened the look of the Rio Bravo.

The two-stage trigger pull broke at 5.5 pounds. The trigger pull was a bit much, and the initial stage-one take-up was about a half inch. Not the best trigger, but again the queen of clubs was sliced, and the Rossi came in a very close second to the Henry in terms of accuracy.

Going hot with the Rio Bravo, we found yet another sweet-shooting rifle. Our best five-shot group was with CCI Stangers that measured 0.33 inch. The Remington rounds gave us a best group that measured 0.55 inch. The CCI Blazers were no slouch either. Best group with them measured 0.78 inch. The paper plate didn’t stand a chance. It was easy to cycle the lever fast and stay on target. We slowly operated the lever to incite a jam, but could not. It cycled a mixture of 22 LR ammo with no issues.

Our Team Said: If you are looking for a great-shooting, slick-operating lever-action rimfire with the traditional blued metal and wood, consider the Rossi. Some of the screws and plastic parts look cheap, but the rifle performs and comes at a reasonable price. It is a Best Buy.

22 LR Range Data

To collect accuracy data, we fired five-shot groups from a bench using a rest. Distance: 15 yards with open sights. We recorded velocities using a ProChrono digital chronograph with the first screen set 15 feet from the muzzle.

CCI Blazer 38-grain LRNRossi Rio BravoChiappa LA322Henry Golden Boy
Average Velocity1229 fps1155 fps1198 fps
Muzzle Energy127 ft.-lbs.113 ft.-lbs.121 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group0.78 in.0.65 in.0.64 in.
Average Group0.96 in.0.88 in.0.72 in.
CCI Stangers 32-grain CPHPRossi Rio BravoChiappa LA322Henry Golden Boy
Average Velocity1498 fps1435 fps1483 fps
Muzzle Energy159 ft.-lbs.146 ft.-lbs.156 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group0.33 in.0.93 in.0.35 in.
Average Group0.49 in.1.16 in.0.50 in.
Remington Thunderbolt 40-grain LRNRossi Rio BravoChiappa LA322Henry Golden Boy
Average Velocity1165 fps1140 fps1111 fps
Muzzle Energy121 ft.-lbs.115 ft.-lbs.110 ft.-lbs.
Smallest Group0.55 in.0.35 in.0.50 in.
Average Group0.61 in.0.59 in.0.64 in.

Value Guide 22 Rifle Rankings

Gun NameIssueGradeComments
Browning BL-22 Grade I 024100103 22 S/L/LR, $700Sep. 2021A-Our Pick. The fit and finish were superb, and that is reflected in the cost. Accuracy was the best of the three.
Henry Classic Lever Action 22 H001 22 S/L/LR, $386Sep. 2021A-Best Buy. The Classic 22 Lever Henry is well made, fun to shoot and inexpensive. Accuracy was good.
Taylor’s & Co. Scout RIF/2045 22 LR, $594Sep. 2021A-Styled after a resized Winchester Model 1873. We liked the option of adding an optic. Silver finish is striking.
Savage Model 64 Takedown 40207 22 LR, $212Sep. 2020ABest Buy. Basically a Model 64 barrel and action attached to an abbreviated polymer stock.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown 11100 22 LR, $372Sep. 2020AOur Pick. This has all the performance the iconic 10/22 is known for in a compact package.
KelTec Model SU22CA 22 LR, $373Sep. 2020A-While not a true takedown rifle, the folding stock on the SU-22CA makes it easy to stow and go.
Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 22 LR, $500Mar. 2020ABest Buy. The Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 operated as we wanted and shot well. It won’t break the bank.
Walther Arms HK416 D145RS 578.03.01 22 LR, $583Mar. 2020BIf you’re looking for an M27 clone, this one is worth thinking about.
Anschütz MSR RX22 22 LR, $900Mar. 2020CThe Anschütz RX22’s trigger wasn’t the best, its buttpad fell off repeatedly, and no one liked its open sights.
ISSC MK22 ISSC211000 22 LR, $270Mar. 2020FShowed ongoing failures to feed and extract. The blems on the sides of the receiver put us off.
German Sport Guns GSG-StG44 GERGSTG44 22 LR, $330Feb. 2020AOur Pick. The action had very similar stampings to what you would find on the historical firearm.
Walther Arms Colt M4 Carbine 5760300 22 LR, $350Feb. 2020BThe Walther Arms Colt 22 LR M4 looks almost identical to the standard-issue Colt centerfire rifle.
Walther Arms HK MP5 A5 5780310 22 LR, $390Feb. 2020CAs tested, the stock limited the enjoyment of the firearm and was completely unacceptable for the price.
Chiappa Citadel CIR22M1W 22 LR, $300 (Two guns)Feb. 2020F, CWhile the Chiappa looks very similar to a classic M1 Carbine, too many of the parts were made of plastic.
TPS M6 M6-100 22 LR/410 Bore, $487Jan. 2020AOur Pick. The M6 follows in the footsteps of the previous M6 design and does it it better.
Rossi Matched Pair 22 LR/410 bore, $182Jan. 2020AWe liked the sights, the ease of disassembly, and handling of this gun. You get a lot of gun for the price.
Savage Model 42 Takedown 22440 22 LR/410 Bore, $425Jan. 2020B+The gun has some fine attributes: accuracy and simple disassembly/reassembly.
Hunting Tactical Super Sixty HTSSA1 22 LR, $500Nov. 2019AFrom the extended bolt release to the super-sharp 3.8-pound trigger, the Super Sixty is an exceptional rifle.
Adaptive Tactical Ruger 10-22 Build 22 LR, $635Nov. 2019AWe would have liked a better trigger, but we didn’t feel limited by it, as the accuracy results show.
Thompson Center T/CR22 12299 22 LR, $350Nov. 2019A-Reliable, accurate, and light. If we were grading for best truck gun, one of the raters said this is it.
Mossberg 715T 37209 22 LR, $254Nov. 2019B-Reliable, but the least accurate rifle, and the plastic shell didn’t look very good against the nicer rifles.
Savage MKII FV-SR Threaded Barrel 28702 22 LR, $2482018-07-01 00:00:00A-Affordable and a great shooter. Shot lights out with the Eley subsonic load.

2 COMMENTS

  1. We own the black polymer Rio Bravo…had to send it back for a headspace problem, returned within 3 weeks, has run fine ever since…the gun might be a slight smidgen more accurate than our Henry, but the action on the Henry smoother…we have scopes mounted on both, our thing plinking at 100 yards with the cheapest bulk we can find…it is a very fun gun, now reliable, accurate enough, easily cleaned…don’t let our minor problem dissuade you from considering buying one of these rifles; for plinking or squirrel hunting it can get the job done…one more thing, you have to be absolutely starving to eat a groundhog…

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