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This is a new model, as of 2002, imported by legacy sports, and manufactured by Rossi in Spain. The importer claims this to be a recreation of the Winchester model 94, though it reminds me more of the Model 73. At any rate, this is a classic lever action carbine, chambered for the current king of the handgun rounds, the 454 Casull. The 454 is a derivative of the old 45 Long Colt, of cowboy fame. The cartridge case is reinforced, and lengthened so that it can not be loaded in guns chambered for the older round. Since this gun is chambered for the more recent cartridge, it can also chamber the older cartridge, making it a nice traditional carbine companion to my 45 single action, or it can accompany my newer, Taurus Raging Bull 454 pistol.
The action is tight, and smooth, the parts well fitted, and the finish is very nicely executed. A rubber recoil pad is installed, in consideration for those who might find themselves shooting the 454, more often that the old 45 L.C. There are traditional sights, with the rear being adjustable for elevation. The wood is dark, smooth, and oil finished. The blue of the metal is also very dark, being almost black. All and all, the gun looks great, and has a nice traditional feel.
Lever action guns are generally thought of as nice nostalgic toys, for closet cowboys, or perhaps as small cheap guns, to be knocked around with in the woods. The venerable 30-30 lever action, has been the traditional eastern woodland deer rifle, almost since it's inception, over 100 years ago; but nobody would consider using such a gun for big game, or anything like long range shooting. Big bore lever guns are highly thought of as brush busters, using large, heavy bullets, at rather low velocities. As a rule, the humble lever action is considered to be a hundred yard gun. This is particularly true of the lever action carbine, which dates back to the old 44-40, and the old cowboy habit of using a pistol/carbine combination, both firing the same cartridge. These guns have always been highly regarded for their light weight, sturdiness, relatively high rate of fire, and fairly large magazine capacity. They have also, traditionally, been low in cost. Even with all of these virtues, the traditional lever action has always been handicapped, somewhat, by the limited power of the cartridges that it employs, making it unsuitable for serious, big game, or long range shooting. The large caliber, low velocity, brush busting cartridges, such as the Marlin 444, have made these guns somewhat suitable for dangerous game; but only at relatively close range. How close do you want to get to a bear, moose, or buffalo, particularly if your hands might tend to be a bit shaky, in anticipation of a charge? Even with it's great popularity, the lever action has always been a bit overshadowed by the strength and power of the bolt action rifle.
There are two ways, in which the big Puma may be loaded. There is the traditional way, through a loading gate on the right side of the receiver. The standard 45 Long Colt, loads through the gate with no problem, but the longer, 454 rounds are a bit hard to get up into the magazine tube. The solution to this, is to have the magazine open at the front, in the manner of countless 22 rifles, so that the rounds may be loaded down the front of the tube, and have the follower pushed in after them. It is nice to still have the traditional loading gate, but also quite helpful to have the more practical tube loading option, and a bit easier on the fingers as well. Loading the stubby little cartridges up the gate or down the tube, has a bit of the feel of a cartoon character. Elmer Fudd loaded big fat cartridges like this, as did Yosemite Sam.
The 454 is quite an impressive round, out of a six to eight inch pistol barrel, realizing muzzle energies in the 2000 fp range. Out of the Puma's 20" rifle barrel, which adds another 400 feet or so of muzzle energy, it rivals the energy of a high powered rifle. While the large diameter slug will not hold it's energy out to the long ranges realized by some of today's magnum rifles, at close range, or even within a few hundred yards, it is as lethal a rifle as anything out there, this side of a 50 BMG. The 454 actually has more power than the 45/70 buffalo round. What we have here, would have been the old time buffalo hunter's dream, or possibly the salvation of the old pioneer, trapper, or Indian War solder. This is a 300 - 500 yard brush gun, holding 9 rounds of a near magnum rifle cartridge. This is the kind of thing that blurs the division between rifle and pistol.
As with the 44 Magnum carbines, recoil is not particularly objectionable, especially compared to using the same cartridge in a pistol, though it is certainly noticeable, being rather similar to that of a regular rifle, rather than of a carbine. I can fire a magazine full of the powerful cartridges (9 of them) into one ragged hole, at the pistol range. I have not yet had a chance to take the new gun out to the rifle range. Legacy makes no mention of being able to fire 45 Long Colts through this rifle, though I have tried this, and have had no problems. It may be that problems with leading of the bore, or chamber erosion would occur after time, so I may discontinue the practice, but for now I would say that this could be considered as a 45 L.C. as well as 454 Casull carbine.
Unlike most lever action rifles, the Puma actually has a safety, mounted on top of the bolt. This is a classic top ejecting lever action rifle, and is thus not tapped for a scope, though it will take the same type of sidesaddle scope mount, that has been used on the classic Winchester rifle for decades. I personally would never mount a scope on a lever action rifle; but this is a matter of personal choice.