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Stab ’N’ Grab Special: Rossi R351

Rossi, the other, other Brazilian firearms manufacturer. Though the company has been around for 129 years now, the history important to this piece started in the 1970s. It was right about this time was when Taurus International acquired both the rights and the tooling for Rossi revolvers; hence the markings on the frame of this one. It’s no coincidence that the Taurus Model 85 and the Rossi R351 are nearly identical — with the exception that the Rossi has a hammer-mounted firing pin like the classic Smith & Wesson M68. After all, Taurus is the one that actually manufactured this pistol in the first place.

We picked up this (insert sarcastic tone here) beauty from The Bullet Ranch in Pataskala, Ohio. The main issue we heard from their gunsmith, Jake Stepanovich, consists of broken hammers. Hell, just look at how the hammer is attached and the fact that it’s a different color should be indication enough that it’s readily replaced.

The Awesome
In this section we’re mostly going to talk about the price. While many guns at this price point are mere .22LRs or awful .380s, we managed to squeeze five shots of 38 Special for a price below $200. The finish (which frankly doesn’t matter much regarding reliability) is blued and, at least with our example, fairly uniform.

The OK
Most of the “OK” section falls into the realm of revolvers in general and not the Rossi in particular. Yes, it has limited ammunition capacity. Yes, reloads are god-awful. Furthermore, the action itself is generally regarded as being more robust in imaginations than in reality — keep it clean, don’t snap the cylinder shut like a bad action movie, and it’ll last far longer.

The Awful
As mentioned by our gunsmith friend, the number-one issue he runs into with these revolvers are broken firing pins. The logical conclusion is that perhaps people who shoot them enough to matter often upgrade into a wheel gun at a higher price point. After all, it’s damned hard to go lower than this without dropping into the .22LR realm.

Aftermarket grips are largely nonexistent. While an S&W K-frame grip is close to actually fitting, you’re not going to make it happen without some modifications. Speaking of which, we found our R351 grips to be too large, so we removed them then took them to a grinder. Oh, she’s ugly, which is why we wrapped them in stab-’n’-grab athletic tape after. It just seemed suitable.

But it’s more than just grips; you’re far less likely to find individual Rossi parts than their more expensive brethren. Smaller market plus lower price equal less availability. While sure, some parts from other guns may fit in a pinch (and with modification) you surely cannot rely on any sort of aftermarket support. Quite frankly, we’d be more likely to simply just buy another when it breaks, as opposed to paying a gunsmith for the parts and the pleasure.

Furthermore, the Rossi R351 isn’t rated for +P or +P+ rounds. Granted, these are awful to practice with anyway — and a goodly number of people will carry +P rounds in a revolver not suited to it. Risk versus reward on that one.

When you can’t afford a Smith or Colt, you buy a Taurus. When you can’t afford a Taurus, you buy a Rossi. Given our druthers, we’d probably pick a Rossi over a Taurus — your mileage may vary.

rossi 38 special

Loose Rounds
As of the time of this writing, this is absolutely the best value we have found in a sub-$200 handgun. So much so that it may well end up as a wintertime “front pocket gun” once we hit the cooler months. Keep an eye on the firing pin and have a plan for when it inevitably breaks, and this one is a winner for the price.

Also, we’re damn tempted to make a hood-rat “Fitz Special” out of this. And if we muck it all up, nothing of any real or tangible value will be lost. After the time of writing and before publication, Rossi issued a recall for drop safety on 38 Special and .357 mag revolvers manufactured between 2005 and 2017. Go to rossisafetynotice.com to check your serial number.


Rossi
R351 38 Special
rossiusa.com
Purchased from: The Bullet Ranch, Pataskala, OH
Caliber: 38 special
Weight (unloaded): 22 ounces
Magazine Capacity: 5 rounds
Length: 6 5/8 inches
Height: 5 inches
Barrel: 2 inches
Price paid: $175


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