Guns > Rifles

Rossi Rio Grande

The lever-action rifle is inherently American, and Rossi tried to capture as much of the design's history as possible with its Rio Grande.


The lever-action is America’s rifle. Sure, we’re living in the time of the AR, which might even be slowly usurping the lever gun. But the AR will never have the storied history or carry the romance of the lever-action rifle. In that vein Marlin’s Model 336 could be considered the dean of lever-actions. Rossi’s Rio Grande could be considered a clone of this classic American hunting arm.

Why would a company set out to copy another manufacture’s rifle? Why didn’t Marlin throw a temper tantrum? There are several reasons, actually.

For starters, the patent on the Marlin 336 design has expired. Secondly, there exist enough cosmetic differences to protect Rossi from any trade dress infringement claims by Marlin. None of this is intended as a slight toward Rossi or Marlin. Imitation is a grand form of flattery: consider the 1911 and AR-15 clones currently available.

Rossi’s Rio Grande lever-action rifle in .30-30 Winchester and .410 bore is available in three configurations. All are facsimiles of the Marlin 336, and each variation comes with a 20-inch barrel. All also have hardwood stocks but the stock on the RG3030BAPG version has a Realtree APG HD camouflage finish. Additionally, a one-piece Weaver-style scope base is shipped with each rifle.

The test rifle was the RG3030SS. As you might guess, the “SS” in the model designation stands for stainless steel, which is used for the barrel as well as all external metal parts to include the two sling swivel studs. The brushed finish and reddish-brown hardwood stock contrast nicely to make an attractive rifle.

Though the Rio Grande is manufactured offshore in Sao Leopoldo, Brazil, it is not exempt from modern liability concerns and thus uses a cross-bolt safety common on modern Marlin lever-actions. While some consider this an abomination, I’ve come to trust and appreciate it. No, it is not 100 percent traditional but neither is mounting a scope on a lever gun. I often do that, and the gun gods have yet to come for me. The beauty of the cross-bolt safety is that by physically blocking the hammer, it is safe. If you don’t like it, don’t use it.

The cross-bolt safety on the Rio Grande has a red ring around its circumference on the left side to indicate that it is in the “fire” position and a green ring on the other side to indicate it is in the “safe” position. When I hunt with a lever gun equipped with a cross-bolt safety, I carry it with the hammer back and the safety engaged. To shoot, I simply press the safety with my trigger finger and I’m ready to start a gun battle with a whitetail buck. If the cross-bolt safety is used in this manner it is as convenient and reliable as the safety on any bolt-action rifle.

One feature I particularly liked on the Rio Grande was the lean and trim fore-end and the slim wrist of the buttstock. Somewhere along the line Marlin began using a lot more wood on its rifles. The result is a thick fore-end and a beefy wrist. On the Rio Grande the forearm is only an inch and a half wide. It feels exceptionally comfortable in your support hand. To me this brings back some of that quick-to-action feel a lever gun should have.

I had no complaints about the rifle’s performance on the range. One hundred-yard accuracy from the bench is about par for the course for lever-action rifles, with averages ranging between 1.75 and 2.75 inches. Sure, there are .30-30 lever guns that shoot better. And some that shoot worse. Regardless, based on the retained velocity and trajectory of the .30-30, a practical maximum range for this cartridge is around 200 yards. Any rifle that will shoot consistent 2 MOA groups is totally sufficient for big-game hunting inside those ranges. If you dream of shooting at critters farther than that, choose a different rifle and cartridge.

There were no functional issues during the test. The rifle was easy to load, the action was easy to work and the trigger was surprisingly crisp, breaking between 4 and 4.25 pounds according to my Timney trigger pull gauge. Please, a round of applause for Rossi for putting a good trigger on a lever gun. In total there were 140 rounds fired through the Rio Grande without a single mechanical issue.

Complaints: There are a few but nothing major. Wood-to-metal fit was good but the white-line spacer and butt pad were a tad oversized. Metal surfaces were also finished well but the lever liked to unlock with a minimal amount of pressure. This required a good grip be kept on the lever while shooting. Otherwise, if the fingers of your shooting hand slightly bumped the lever, the action cracked out of battery and the rifle would not fire. Not a deal breaker but something to keep in mind while shooting the rifle.

Aside from these two issues, I would have liked to have seen lower, steel scope bases, which would not obstruct the open sights when the scope was removed. If this rifle were mine I would replace the high Weaver rail with a set of Weaver Grand Slam bases. With quick-detach rings this would allow an easy transition between scope and open sights.

I don’t particularly like to compare firearms but it's hard not to in this instance. With a suggested retail price of $582, the Rio Grande is about $120 cheaper than a stainless steel Marlin Model 336SS. Actual prices will obviously be less for both. Nevertheless, in this economy a $120 difference is enough to make many hunters side with Rossi. On the plus side, the Rio Grande has a much trimmer wrist and fore-end, which to me makes it more comfortable to shoot and carry. If that appeals to you too, the Rossi Rio Grande—in one of its three configurations—is an affordable lever-gun option. With it, all you’ll need for deer season is a cowboy hat. 

Technical Specifications:

Caliber: .30-30 Win., .45-70, .410-bore
Barrel: 20"; six grooves, 1:12" RH twist
Trigger: single-stage; 4- to 4.25-lb. pull weight
Magazine: tubular; 6-rnd. cap.
Sights: blade and bead front, semi-buckhorn adjustable rear; one-piece Weaver scope mount
Safety: cross-bolt
Stock: hardwood
Overall Length: 40"
Weight: 7 lbs.
Metal Finish: blued or stainless steel
MSRP: $582

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8 Responses to Rossi Rio Grande

Herman wrote:
August 06, 2014

Pieter, I have owned a .30-30 Rossi for a while now and would strongly recommend it. Using the 150gr flat point factory ammo will give you enough penetration even if you hit the shoulder bone. If you haven't used a lever action before; from personal experience, you will love it. It's much lower recoil than .308 etc. and unlike bolt actions, you hardly change your sight alignment when reloading, making follow up shots VERY fast on mobs of running pigs. 'Feral pigs' (wilde varke) in Oz are similar in size. Took 2 from the same mob within 4 m of another at about 8 meter distance as they burst from a stand of reeds, running side on. Few guys with bolt actions can do that. (I know I couldn't.)

Pieter Van Zyl wrote:
January 13, 2014

I am looking to get this for African Bush pig. Much like your European wild board and very scary. Short range work, needs a lot of stopping power. 30-30 ok?

John wrote:
May 28, 2013

Just mentioning Marlin is putting me off lever guns. What a heap of crap. I don't care where a gun is made. I do care that it's reliable and works properly (which is also why I drive a Toyota). So the question is, patriotic crap aside (geezez we sold out to China yrs ago), is the Rossi better than the super crap Marlin?

Bill Newman wrote:
February 05, 2013

The Rossi is a decent value, but for $120 more, you get a USA made Marlin, and in stainless to boot. For a firearm investment and a top shelf lever gun, I disagree with Richard Mann, I think the Marlin is a better investment - even in this economy.

Gman wrote:
February 04, 2013

I have a Marlin 336 and 2 R92s in 357mag. One is a 20in. blue and the other is the 16in. SS. The Marlin is a gem of a 30-30 and I shot my biggest deer 2 years ago with it. I carry one the Rossi at the deer camp when running around the ranch so I don't have to carry my scoped rifle. The Rossis are excellent rifles and were accurate straight out of the box. The Rio Grande appears to look like(without the scope mount) the 336. I have been interested in the Rossi RG 410ga. version. This review just took it up another notch for a gun buy.

Veteran wrote:
January 27, 2013

While you might like the Rossi, you should check out the Henry Mare's Legs, which come in more calibers and have been available longer than the Rossis, and are MADE IN AMERICA! I have one in .38/.357 and it's great, easy to rack and accurate right out of the box! Since it has a 12" barrel it is considered a handgun and has to go through the same buying gymnastics, but I also use the same handloads in it that I do with my Ruger and Colt Single Actions. And it looks really good in its special holster on the right side and my cross-draw revolver holster on the left! If you want a Mare's Leg, do check out Henry Rifles.

nightshaker wrote:
January 26, 2013

About a year ago I thought Rossi advertised a reo Grande in a 410/45lc model is that still avaiable?

oneyeopn wrote:
January 26, 2013

I have had a Marlin 336 and I have a Rossi M92. If this rifle is anywhere close to the quality of the M92 then Rossi has hit upon another winner!!