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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.