Review: Rossi Brawler .45 Colt/.410 Single-Shot Pistol
My first opportunity to work with Rossi’s single-shot pistols came along more than a decade ago in the form of the Rossi Matched Pair model. Based on the company’s small bore break-action shotgun, this particular version shipped with one barrel chambered in .45 Colt/.410 bore and a second in .22 LR. Although I could find no reason to complain about the Matched Pair’s performance or reliability, it was by no means a fancy gun, nor was it particularly elegant in its execution.
Recently, Rossi has stepped back into the single-shot pistol marketplace with the release of a new break-action dubbed the Brawler. Manufactured for Rossi by CBC Braztech in Brazil, the company has taken steps to modernize the platform and give it a more refined profile while maintaining an affordable price.
The Brawler is a handy and affordable update to Rossi’s single-shot pistol models.
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If a Rossi’s Tuffy break-action .410 bore shotgun and a Taurus Raging Judge .45 Colt/.410 bore revolver were tossed in a blender to produce a new gun, the Brawler would be the most likely result. The 9″ carbon-steel alloy, heavy-profile barrel is configured to safely chamber and fire .45 Colt revolver cartridges along with .410 bore shotshells in 2.5″ and 3″ lengths. This barrel features a recessed crown, a matte-blued finish and six-groove rifling with a slow, 1:24″ right-hand twist-rate. The sides of the barrel have been flattened to reduce weight and to give the gun a more refined appearance. The chamber is fitted with an ejector that kicks out spent cartridge cases, energetically sending them sailing several feet over and past the shooter’s shoulder.
The top of the barrel is outfitted with a 4″ long, 10-slot aluminum, Picatinny rail. This is an ideal upgrade considering the popularity of micro red-dot optics for handguns these days. It also has a set of factory-installed iron sights consisting of a polymer blade up front and a square notch rear sight affixed via a single screw to the back end of the optics rail. It’s a simple, rugged sight system that works nicely and allows the pistol to be used right out of the box.
The polymer-overmolded steel receiver shaves off a good deal of weight when compared to the all-steel receiver version of this gun.
The stubby black polymer fore-end is nicely rounded with panels of aggressive, molded-in texturing on both sides. Folks who choose to fire this pistol with the support hand in a forward position with find it provides plenty of purchase. Twisting out the single Phillips head support screw from the fore-end allows it to be removed. The barrel can then be lifted out of the receiver for cleaning, if needed. In most cases, swabbing out the barrel and wiping down the breechface will be all that’s needed to keep the gun clean and ready to use.
This pistol employs a break-action receiver and control set lifted directly from the Rossi SS Poly Tuffy shotgun. It features what could be described as a one-piece steel trunnion of which provides the core support for this pistol, including the barrel hinge and breechface. It is overmolded with the exterior polymer housing that includes an integral trigger guard. I read another review in which the writer commented that the use of polymer in the receiver gives this gun a ‘cheap’ feel. I can remember when it was en vogue to say the same thing about the semi-automatic pistols with polymer frames, which now dominate the defensive pistol market.
This pistol ships with a set of factory iron sights and a slab-sided barrel that has a recessed crown.
The Matched Pair version of this gun I worked with before had a blued-steel receiver that contributed to an unloaded weight of 5 lbs., which is a fairly hefty handful by handgun standards. The Brawler tips the scales at 2 lbs., 4.7 ozs. The red-dot optic used for part of the evaluation weighs 2.2 ozs. This means that with an optic installed the Brawler is just over 2.5 lbs. lighter than its predecessor, marking a 50 percent reduction in weight, thanks in no small part to the use of polymer throughout. There is not much to complain about.
The heavy steel hinge pin at the front of the receiver supports the barrel as it opens and closes. The breechface is also steel and secured to the receiver using a pair of removable pins. The long exposed hammer spur has been serrated for improved purchase. This pistol is essentially a single-action, meaning, the hammer must be manually cocked for each shot fired. Placed between the hammer and the receiver is a transfer bar for additional safety. This bar drops down and away from the firing pin when the hammer is in the forward position so that the hammer is resting directly against the receiver instead of the pin. This prevents the pistol from firing in case the hammer is bumped or the pistol is dropped.
This pistol can safely chamber and fire .45 Colt (left) along with 2.5” (center) and 3” (right) .410 bore shotgun shells.
The barrel release is a grooved polymer lever, located to the right of the hammer, which requires a press down into the receiver in order to open the action. Thankfully, it rests flush with the receiver rather than sticking out and spoiling the lines of the gun as in previous models. A crossbolt-style button safety is located between the barrel release and the trigger. When in the Safe position, it blocks the hammer from being cocked. When in the Fire position, it protrudes from the left side of the receiver with a visible red ring indicator. This safety can be engaged when opening or closing the action.
The gently curved, steel bow trigger is untextured with a sleek, smooth trigger pull. It’s best described as a single-stage trigger since it exhibited no movement at all before breaking cleanly with a 4-lb., 10-oz. pull of trigger. After the break, the trigger moves 0.5″ to complete the arch of travel. I found it to be enjoyable to work with and significantly better than one might expect considering the gun’s budget pricing.
The monolithic soft rubber grip may have a blue backstrap and a Rossi logo, but it’s been lifted directly from the Taurus Raging Hunter revolver, which is a good thing. It is supported by a polymer grip frame, which extends through the center of the grip with a single screw at the base to keep the grip in place. The rubber of the grip fits over the rear of the receiver and fills in behind the trigger guard. This grip shape, along with the finger grooves, textured sides and shock-absorbing backstrap, fills the hand comfortably, provides plenty of purchase and works to tame felt recoil effectively.
The Brawler was utterly reliable with all ammunition tested.
At the shooting range, the Brawler proved to be unexpectedly well balanced and pointable. Much like a big-bore revolver, it was comfortable to hold in a typical two-handed grip with the support hand wrapped around the shooting hand. Felt recoil ranged from moderate to stout, depending on the load fired. The gun successfully chambered, fired and vigorously ejected all tested ammunition.
Handguns chambered to fire both .45 Colt and .410 bore shotshells call for a different range testing protocol. This is because they do not behave exactly like typical handguns, nor are they shotguns. You can read more about why .45 Colt/.410 bore firearms are configured this way by following this link.
The .410 bore shotshell testing was conducted at 7 yards using the factory iron sights
In this case, individual rounds of various .410 bore shotshells were fired into 18″x13″ Champion VisiShot Sight-In targets at a distance of 7 yards using the pistol’s factory sights. This is a relatively short distance for a 9″ barrel. However, the rifling, which works to stabilize .45 Colt bullets, also puts a spin on shot loads as well. This causes them to spread very quickly, as you’ll see in the following results. Birdshot loads that would yield viable patterns out to 25 yards and beyond when fired from a smoothbore shotgun tend to reach that same optimal pattern size somewhere between 5 to 10 yards when fired from a rifled handgun. This makes 7 yards a useful target distance compromise.
The 2.5” No. 9 birdshot load from Winchester opened up quickly but evenly.
For up-close pest control, it’s hard to beat 2.5” .410 bore shotshells packed with fine birdshot. Winchester’s AA No. 9 lead birdshot shotshell, loaded with 0.5 ozs. of lead shot with a listed velocity of 1,200 f.p.s. (AA419) is a great fit for pest control. It patterned evenly across the entire target. However, of the ~292 lead pellets, only 144 hit the paper. That’s a strike rate of 49 percent at 7 yards.
The 3” No. 6 birdshot load produced a ‘donut’ pattern with no pellets landing in the center of the target.
The longer 3″ .410 bore shells can hold more pellets, which would suggest more strikes on target. But that’s not always the case with pistols like this one. I’ve seen useful long gun patterns when firing Federal Premium’s Hi Brass Game Shok (H4136) round which is packed with 11/16 ozs. of No. 6 lead at a listed velocity of 1,135 f.p.s. In this case, only 60 of the ~155 pellets, or 38.7 percent, hit the paper. Not only that, the pattern was doughnut-shaped with a 5″-diameter circle dead center of the target where no pellets landed.
The five pellets of 000 buckshot came close to forming a diagonal line from the top left to the bottom right of the target area.
Winchester’s 3″ Super X load (XB413) launches five pieces of unplated lead 000 buckshot at a listed speed of 1,135 f.p.s. All five balls hit the target, forming an 11″ pattern. Note how one of the buckshot marks looks like a round-nose bullet impact, while the other four have crisp edges. Because the lead balls are stacked directly on top of each other in the shell, the force of firing flattens them out in the center of the stack. The front of the first ball to leave the muzzle remains round, which results in a more ragged hole in the paper, while the impacts of the pancaked pieces have neater edges.
The Hornady load’s three projectiles and wad produced a tight 1” grouping.
The popularity of the Taurus Judge revolver contributed to the development of mixed payload .410 bore shells. The Hornady 2.5″-long Critical Defense Triple Threat load contains a .41-cal. 115-grain FTX lead slug followed by two .35-cal. lead balls weighing in at 65 grains each with a listed velocity of 750 f.p.s. Fired from the Brawler, this round’s three projectiles and wad produced a 1″ pattern consisting of two holes in the target. It could be that both lead balls formed a single hole. The other possibility at this short distance is that all three projectiles marched through the target in single file and that the second hole is the wad. Either way, it’s a tight group!
Some folks will notice that there are no .410 bore slug results shown here. My experience has been that .41-cal. rifled slugs fired through rifled handgun barrels sized for the .45 Colt’s .452-cal. bullet produce accuracy results ranging from poor to abysmal. If a single projectile is required, modern .45 Colt bullets are heavier and more accurate.
The .45 Colt cartridge testing was conducted with a red-dot optic from a bench rest.
That being said, I had low expectations for .45 Colt performance based on previous experiences with these dual-caliber handguns. A chamber sized for 3″ .410 bore shotshells leaves about 1.70″ of wiggle room for the .45-cal. bullets to destabilize before reaching the rifled portion of the bore. With .45 Colt/.410 bore revolvers like the Taurus Judge, the .45 Colt cartridge’s accuracy can be usable at shorter 7- to 15-yard distances, but it’s typically nothing to write home about.
The Leupold DeltaPoint Pro micro red-dot was an ideal fit for the Brawler platform.
However, the Brawler’s accuracy results were much more promising. Formal accuracy testing was conducted for five consecutive, five-shot groups at 7 yards using Hornady’s top-notch LeveRevolution 225-grain FTX .45 Colt loads, which generated an average muzzle velocity of 919 f.p.s. for 422 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy. I took advantage of the optics rail to mount a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro 2.5 m.o.a. micro red-dot optic for this portion of the testing. At this distance, the groups form ragged holes in the target with almost all shots close enough to overlap for groups ranging from 0.89″ to 1.57″ in size. The five-group average was 1.27″. Hopefully, in the future, I can shoot this gun a bit more at longer distances to see what it can really do.
The .45 Colt groups were promising at 7 yards, indicating accurate shot placement at longer distances.
The Rossi Brawler is a welcome update to this company’s break-action, single-shot pistols chambered for .45 Colt and .410 bore shells. It has the look and feel of a purpose-built pistol instead of previous models which seemed more thrown together. The reduced weight, polymer-overmold receiver, the higher-riding grip and an optics rail, in addition to iron sights, brings this old-fashioned action firmly into the 21st century. With a suggested retail price of $240, and real world prices around $20 less, it’s an affordable and portable option that’s ideal for use as a backpacking pistol, a ‘trunk gun’ or for around a camp site or the farm for pest control. It’s a rugged, reliable and flexible pistol that is surprisingly enjoyable to shoot.
Rossi Brawler Specifications:
Importer: Rossi USA
Chambering: .45 Colt/.410 bore; 3″
Action Type: break-action, single-shot, centerfire pistol
Receiver: steel; black-polymer overmold
Barrel: 9″ steel
Rifling: six-grooves, 1:24″ RH-twist
Sights: fixed, square-notch, post front; Picatinny rail
Trigger: single-action; 4-lb., 10-oz. pull
Capacity: 1 round
Overall Length: 14″
Weight: 36.7 ozs.
Article by B. GIL HORMAN