Revolver Mania: Rossi’s Affordable 971 and 461 Magnums

Stainless steel Rossi revolver with 4-inch barrel on a shooting bench with four boxes of .357 magnum revolver

Rossi’s affordable magnum revolvers are among the best balanced for all-around concealed carry, home defense, and outdoors use. These revolvers strike a comfortable balance with a size between the Colt Detective Special/Cobra size and Smith and Wesson’s K-frame revolvers. In the world of six-shot double-action revolvers, they are a viable choice for those on a budget or looking for a house or truck gun. While similar in dimension to Colt revolvers, the internal mechanism is more akin to a modern Smith and Wesson.

Rossi 971

The 971 revolver is a four-inch barrel revolver with stainless steel construction. The finish is nicely polished. The barrel is a heavy under-lugged type. The ejector rod nicely fits into the lower lug. The stock panels are rubberized.

Rossi 971 revolver with 4-inch barrel chambered in .357 Magnum
Quality, adjustable sights are appreciated. Hand-filling rubber stocks take the sting out of magnum loads.

The grip material separates the hand from the revolver making magnum recoil bearable. The four-inch barrel 971 weighs about 36 ounces. This is a good balance without the belt dragging weight of larger guns but offering enough weight to help with magnum recoil. The revolver features a pleasant forward weight bias.

The front sight is pinned in but replaceable. The rear sight is fully adjustable. This allows sighting the revolver in for .38 Special 148-grain, 700 fps wadcutters for target and small game use, or full power 125-grain magnum loads for defense use.

The rib between the sights isn’t ventilated. Instead, the rib is solid. The cylinder latch is nicely checkered. There is enough length in the ejector rod to fully ejector spent cartridge cases. Overall, the fit and finish of the revolver is good.

The hammer spur is nicely checkered allowing easy cocking in single-action fire. The trigger is wide but smooth — ideal for double-action fire. Unlike modern transfer bar revolvers, the Rossi revolver uses a hammer-mounted firing pin in the old-school fashion.

The double-action trigger is smooth enough, breaking at 12.5 pounds compression. The single-action trigger press is dead on at 4.0 pounds. The double-action trigger is smoother than most and controllable in rapid double-action fire.

cylinder and grip of the Rossi 971 revolver
The smooth, double-action trigger face is controllable in rapid fire. Look at the grips, they are very well designed.

Most of the test fire was accomplished with .38 Special ammunition. A mix of Federal and Remington 158-grain round-nose lead loads were used. Averaging 780 fps, these are mild and accurate loadings. The Rossi is docile in firing strings. It wasn’t difficult to quickly get on target and tear out the X-ring of a man-sized target at 5 and 7 yards.

The double-action trigger is very smooth. I also fired a quantity of Remington’s 125-grain JSP full-power .357 Magnum. Roaring out of the 4-inch barrel at 1,449 fps this is a formidable loading. Time between shots slowed considerably.

This is a loading worth considering for defense against dangerous beasts in the wild. While formidable, control is a question. I also fired a quantity of the Remington 110-grain JHP at 1,380 fps. This load was less difficult to control in double-action pairs.

Shooting a Rossi revolver in .357 Magnum with a four-inch barrel
Firing offhand, the revolver handles well.

I moved to testing the revolver for braced benchrest accuracy at a long 25 yards. I used the Federal 129-grain Hydra-Shok as a .38 Special loading. This is a 900 fps loading that offers a good balance of expansion and penetration for personal defense.

I also used the Remington 158-grain Magnum; a 1,200 fps load suited to outdoors use. The .38 Special grouped five shots into 2.5 inches. The .357 Magnum loading landed five shots into 3.1 inches. This revolver is useful for personal defense and field use. It is also an affordable answer to many problems.

Rossi 461

I also tested the Rossi 461. This handgun is known as the 462 when offered in stainless steel. My example is a blue steel revolver. This six-shot .357 Magnum is practically the same size as the Colt Detective Special and is also a double-action revolver. This revolver is chambered in .357 Magnum. It also accepts the slightly shorter .38 Special cartridge.

Rossi 461 revolver with the cylinder open showing 6 spent cartridge
The revolver is easily loaded and unloaded and makes for a good defensive handgun, for those who practice.

The shorter barrel results in less velocity and accuracy than the 971. The 461 also features fixed sights. It is more of a personal defense revolver. The size heft and balance are good. I recommend this revolver be fired and used primarily with .38 Special loads.

The blast and recoil of the magnum are terrible in this revolver. Moreover, the short barrel loses a lot of velocity compared to a four-inch barrel revolver. The 461 is a nice handling, well-balanced revolver for personal defense use, and most of us will load it with good quality defense loads in .38 Special.  

I fired the 461 at man-sized targets, getting on target quickly, and focusing on the front sight, as I ran the double-action trigger through its travel. The results were good. This is a well-balanced handgun. The finger groove grips are actually better suited to the larger 971 revolver for controlling recoil.

I fired mostly mild .38 Special loads and a cylinder full of Federal Punch .38 Special. The revolver was controllable. I also fired a cylinder full of 110-grain magnum loads. Surprisingly enough, the felt recoil was modest. The grips simply eliminated any pain from sharp edges or contact with the revolver.

The 110-grain Remington load clocked 1,290 fps from the two-inch barrel. Muzzle blast — which is simply unburned powder burning outside the handgun along with the usual blast — is tremendous. If you are under attack by the big cats and bowled over on your back, this revolver may be pressed into the animal’s body and fired repeatedly without jamming.

Rossi snub nose .357 Magnum revolver, right profile
The Rossi snub nose .357 Magnum is well balanced and handles quickly. It is problematical in combat shooting with magnum loads but docile with .38 Special ammunition.

I fired a single group off the benchrest with this revolver. At 25 yards the Remington 158-grain RNL .38 Special went into just less than three inches. That is outstanding performance for a light revolver.   These revolvers are not as smooth or as accurate as those costing $1,000 or more. However, they are reliable and smoother than expected. That makes Rossi revolvers a personal defense option worth considering. About 99 out of 100 personal defense incidents take place at ranges far less than 15 yards. At 7 yards, either of these Rossi revolvers will put every shot into one hole.

Do you have experience shooting Rossi revolvers? Do you shoot them for target or self-defense training? How do Rossi revolvers compare to Smith and Wesson and Colt models? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Rossi 461 revolver's snub nose barrel
  • Sight picture of the Rossi 461 revolver
  • Rossi snub nose .357 Magnum revolver, right profile
  • Rossi 461 revolver with the cylinder open showing 6 spent cartridge
  • Rossi 461 revolver grip
  • rear view of the rubber grip on a revolver
  • Hammer spur on a revolver
  • cylinder and grip of the Rossi 971 revolver
  • Heavy barrel lug on a revolver
  • Rossi 971 revolver with 4-inch barrel chambered in .357 Magnum
  • Shooting a Rossi revolver in .357 Magnum with a four-inch barrel
  • Bob Campbell at an outdoor shooting range with a Rossi Revolver in .357 magnum
  • Stainless steel Rossi revolver with 4-inch barrel on a shooting bench with four boxes of .357 magnum revolver
  • Bob Campbell shooting a Rossi 971 revolver with a one-handed grip

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. I have a stainless Rossi 971 with an unfluted cylinder that I bought from a Pawnshop in Denton, Texas back in 1997. It was that smooth cylinder that caught my eye. It has a GREAT trigger, equal to my S&W’s and shoots right to point of aim. It kind of reminds me of my S&W 686 but shrunk to about 80% size. I love it, shoot it, and after 25+ years it is tight and dependable. My ONLY complaint is that I can’t find nice wood aftermarket grips to fit. I’ve made holsters to fit (I do good leatherwork) but I don’t work with wood. Does anyone know a source of grips for a 971?

  2. I have 2 model 971 both stainless with 6″ barrels the first one I bought about 25yrs ago for $200 and it has the fluted cylinder and I bought another one about 10 years ago it is a little newer model and has the unfluted cylinder and it is not as smooth operating and the trigger is also not as good as the older one but it works ok and I just recently bought a used model 461 blue snub nose 357 and they are all good shooter’s and I carry them most of the time when i carry a revolver mostly the 461 so I don’t beat up my higher priced guns because they work and plenty accurate enough for anything im normally shooting at

  3. In answer to T. Marion’s inquiry, Taurus offers a Handsome “Snubby” chambered in 327 Federal Magnum that may be what they’re looking for.
    They might also consider the Charter Arms “Undercoverette”.
    I quite agree with the opinion about Ruger and S&W’s pricing.

  4. Yes I agree I have the 6 inch barrel as well and it is ported when you shoot it in a 38 special there is literally no recoil at all. I am very happy with it, in fact I have a custom-made holster to where I can carry a concealed if I wear a long enough shirt. I plan on doing that this winter.

  5. In answer to T. Marion’s inquiry, Taurus offers a Handsome “Snubby” chambered in 327 Federal Magnum that may be what they’re looking for.
    I myself purchased a Charter Arms “undercoverette” Stainless chambered in 32 H&R Magnum and couldn’t be Happier with it!

  6. I carry my Rossi 971 every day as a civilian. I practice with both .38sp and .357 magnum, and find both to be equally accurate. I roll my own cartridges using Hornady 140 and 180 grain XTP bullets and find them both to be very accurate in this pistol.

  7. My first pistol I ever bought was a 4″ Rossi 971 in .357 magnum back in 1988. All these years later it still performs quite well despite its age. Sure it gets much less carry time these days in favor of more modern pistols I have, but I am happy to see that they appear to have only improved on that original version of the 971. I have used it for a trail gun often and pair it with a marlin lever action also in .357 magnum to deal with most likely woodland threats in my part of the country. Definitely a decent pistol at an affordable price.

  8. I’ve off and on carried a Rossi 720 for the last 25 years. It’s such a perfectly sized package chambered in .44 Special. The DAO trigger on mine is super smooth as well. I just wish the ammo availability was better and more economical right now.

  9. I own three of these revolvers they are all the VRC revolvers from the late 90s. I have a 2 1/4 inch barrel, 4 inch barrel and a 6 inch barrel. The 4 inch barrel is my go to every day carry piece. These are phenomenal guns they look exactly like the stainless steel one pictured in the photos. Because they have a vented rib you could put a scope on them to hunt with. The small revolver does not have a vented rib but the four and 6 inch barrels do. The porting on the front of the barrels make it excellent for follow up and really cuts down on the recoil. I really love to carry these firearms because of the power of the 357 magnum. If this handgun is anything as good as the one I have, I recommend everyone get on. it is the same size as a Smith & Wesson K frame and will fit all their holsters and you can use all their speed loaders from safari land had anyone else. I am very happy with my weapons.

  10. I too picked up a used 971 from a local gun shop 20 years ago. I traded a Blackhawk that couldn’t consistently hit a 4” target at 10 yards. My 971 also has the longer 6” barrel, this makes presentation of the handgun a bit of a challenge. When using .38 special ammunition there’s almost no recoil, magnum loads are not abusive to shoot. I don’t regret that trade one bit.

  11. I own a 971 with 6 inch barrel that is the most fun and accurate gun you could hand to any shooter of any experience level and hit the paper every time. And I bought used from a gun shop 145 so how can you go wrong

  12. At one time Taurus owned your company. I do not know, nor care about, presently or past,

    – -You, as I understand it make decent revolvers. I have one, a small size 38 Spec.

    What I am presently looking for is a pocket size revolver with a hammer spur and a hand filling grip, to be in 327 Federal caliber. Do you mfg. such or have you so considered mfg. such
    a product ? I would courage you to do so! When you do, please notify me.

    Both Ruger and S & W have priced themselves out reasonable consideration. Then / now the Taurus retail supply line is totally empty. Obviously there is a market for you.

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