Tag Archives: Chuck Connors

A Tribute to Mike DiMuzio and a Look at the Interarms Rossi M92 in .45 Colt


Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

Many of you may remember my popular post on firearms from 1950s Television Westerns in general, and The Rifleman’s Winchester Model 1892 in particular.  You may also recall my YouTube video on spin-cocking a full size Model 1892 rifle, the “Flip Special”.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

That very special “Flip Special” was custom made for me by Mike DiMuzio of North Carolina.  Alas, I am deeply saddened to report that Mike passed away less than a month ago.  Mike and I had exchanged emails and chatted several times over the course of the past year and a half.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

This rifle from the late ’70s to early ’80s.  It was manufactured by Rossi of Brazil according to specifications outlined by Sam Cummings’ International Armament Corporation, otherwise known as Interarms (Sam Cummings, a very interesting character, was the basis for Sterling Heyward in my mystery novel The Globe).  This particular Rossi M92 is a fairly faithful rendition of the iconic Winchester Model 1892, a rifle used in countless television shows and movies because of its close resemblance to the Winchester Model 1873.  The Model 1892 was a favorite of the late John Wayne, and he used large loop variations of the M1892 in many films ranging from Stagecoach (1939) to True Grit (1969).

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

So, why weren’t Winchester Model 1873s used in television and movie productions?  Why instead this anachronism?  Up until fairly recently the only 1873s available were rare antiques too valuable for use in television and movies.  Now new M1873 rifles are being manufactured by Uberti of Italy and since 2013 under the Winchester name by Miroku of Japan.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

I purchased this version of the Model 1892 with the sole intention of sending it to Mike for conversion into another Rifleman “Flip Special,” and I was rather excited to have found a .45 Colt example although a rifle in .44-40 Winchester would be more authentic.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

I was immediately drawn to this firearm when I first laid eyes on it at my local favorite gun store Collector’s Gun Exchange.  While Rossi made M92 rifles for various U.S. importers back in the ’70s and beyond, the Interarms versions were a cut above the rest.

Interarms Rossi M92

Interarms Rossi M92

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons I was looking to acquire another converted Rossi, and how this rifle differs from the later model Rossi seen here:

Classic "Rifleman" vs. Classic Model 1892

Classic “Rifleman” vs. Classic Model 1892

Most obvious is the finish on the wood:

Classic Model 1892 vs. Classic "Rifleman"

Classic Model 1892 vs. Classic “Rifleman”

The current Rossi M92 rifles sport a matte finish while the Interarms version displays a richer, high gloss.  Mike stained the “Flip Special” pictured here to better match the finish of an original antique Winchester.

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

Another difference is the location of the front sight.  On the Interarms the front sight is part of the barrel band that affixes the magazine tube to the rifle barrel.  The recent Rossi has the front sight dovetailed directly into the barrel.

Front Sight Comparisons — Old (top) vs. New

Front Sight Comparisons — Old (top) vs. New

Now for the most important difference of all.  See if you can pick up on the difference in the next two photos.  Here is the Interarms Rossi:

Classic Model 1892

Classic Model 1892

And now the new “improved” version from Rossi:

New Rossi M92 with Safety

New Rossi M92 with Safety

As you can see Rossi now incorporates into the Model 1892 design a firing safety whereas the earlier Interarms Rossi stays truer to the original John Moses Browning/Winchester design.  Here the two are pictured together:

New Rossi with Safety vs. Classic Model 1892

New Rossi with Safety vs. Classic Model 1892

A safety is all fine and good . . . if you’re carrying a lever action Winchester design with a cartridge chambered, but that was never the intent of the design.  As with the Colt Single Action Army, the hammer should be resting on an empty chamber (for an explanation as to why see my look at the Uberti version of the 1873 Colt).  Alas, far too many gun owners today do not understand basic firearm operation and safety, so even later Winchesters were eventually dumbed down to compensate for careless firearms handling.

For now this Interarms Rossi will remain unconverted, although I have found two other sources to do the work for me.  I’m just not convinced that anyone can do as good a job as Mike DiMuzio, who learned his craft at the hands of Moe Hunt — personal gunsmith to Chuck Connors (Lucas McCainThe Rifleman).  Mike not only modified and installed levers on his conversions, he also smithed the internal action to beef it up and smooth it out to make spin-cocking the rifle possible.  Here’s one last look at Mike’s handwork:

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

Loop Lever Conversion vs. Standard Lever

And finally I leave you with two videos of Mike doing his thing and making it look simple (it isn’t, trust me).  So long, Mike.  You’ll be sorely missed.

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Rifleman’s Rifle Video — 1,000 Hits and Counting


I just this afternoon passed a milestone of sorts.  My popular YouTube video on how to spin-cock a full-size Model 1892 rifle as well as the Model 1892-based Rossi Ranch Hand just hit 1,000 views.  Many thanks to all who viewed that video and helped me reach the 1,000-views mark.  As you’ll recall, that video was produced for my blog post Firearms — Television Westerns from the 1950s.

Rifleman’s Rifle (made by Mike DiMuzio using a Rossi M92 rifle with 20″ barrel) and Rossi Ranch Hand Pistol

The Rossi Ranch Hand is stock straight from the box, but the Rifleman’s Rifle is a customized Rossi M92 specially modified by Mike DiMuzio of North Carolina.

Rossi Ranch Hand and Mike DiMuzio’s modified Rossi M92 “Rifleman’s Rifle”

I’m so please with what Mike‘s product that I’ll be sending to him another rifle for the same treatment — an earlier beautiful pre-safety Interarms/Rossi Model 92 chambered for the .45 Colt black powder cartridge.  More on that rifle in a later blog post.

Specially Constructed Rifleman’s “Loop” Lever with Trigger-Tripping Set Screw

Thanks Mike.  This rifle is just a blast, and I’ve yet to fire it.  I practice spin-cocking this thing nearly every night just before retiring.  It is indeed, as Mike calls it, great “Rifle Therapy.”

Close-up of Trigger Trip

My other video for my blog post on El Paso’s Chihuahuas Baseball Team and our new Southwestern University Ballpark, hasn’t been nearly as successful, having garnered only 31 hits since it’s posting nearly six weeks ago.  Oh, well.  That’s life at the ball game.

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Firearms — Television Westerns from the 1950s


Model 1892 Pistol (Wanted: Dead or Alive) and Model 1892 Rifle (The Rifleman)

American television in the 1950s were rife with thirty-minute black-and-white Westerns.  Among the more famous and enduring: The Lone Ranger, Have Gun — Will Travel, The Deputy, and Gunsmoke (yep, originally only 30 minutes for the first six seasons).  And that’s just some of the more successful ones.  There were many, many more because they were cheap to produce, fun to watch, and in demand.  Two of the more successful such series were The Rifleman and Wanted: Dead or Alive, the latter catapulting relatively unknown actor Steve McQueen to fame.  What do these last two have in common?  The main character in both shows (Lucas McCain, The Rifleman; Josh Randall, Wanted: Dead or Alive) used unique variations of the Winchester Model 1892 rifle, although Josh Randall’s version is more accurately a “pistol”).  To see more on Winchester lever-action rifles check out Winchester Rifles — Part 1 and Winchester Rifles — Part 2:

Matched, consecutively numbered pair of Centennial Edition Winchester Model 1894 Rifles in .30-30 and .44 Magnum

The first two firearms featured above are the Rossi Ranch Hand pistol and a highly customized Rossi R92 rifle, both equipped with loop levers, and both modeled after the famed Winchester Model 1892 pistol-caliber rifle.  The two examples here are both chambered for the .38 Special/.357 Magnum, and are thus not historically correct in that regard.  The original Model 1892 was chambered for black powder pistol cartridges, such as the .44-40 and .38-40, which were in wide-spread use at the end of the 19th Century.

Upper — Rossi Ranch Hand in .38 Special/.357 Magnum; Lower — Rossi R92 by Mike DiMuzio in .38 Special/.357 Magnum

Upper — Rossi Ranch Hand in .38 Special/.357 Magnum; Lower — Rossi R92 by Mike DiMuzio in .38 Special/.357 Magnum

The Rossi Ranch Hand is not a true scale replica of the “Josh Randall Special” — also knows as a “Mare’s Leg — used in Wanted: Dead or Alive.  Both the barrel and stock are slightly longer than the one used by Steve McQueen’s character in that show.  The Rossi is also not the only Mare’s Leg on the market.  The Henry Repeating Arms company also makes a version which they sell as the Mare’s Leg Lever Action Pistol:

marenew

So what about that intriguing “Lucas McCain Special” pictured beneath the Rossi Ranch Hand; how close a replica is it?  Pretty darned close, as it turns out.  This particular weapon — also known as “The Flip Special” — was custom-made by Mike DiMuzio of North Carolina.  And if the Rossi R92 basis isn’t accurate enough for you, he’ll even customize a true, antique Winchester Model 1892 chambered in the historically accurate .44-40 cartridge depicted in The Rifleman.  He even installs that special trigger tripping set screw in the loop for rapid firing.

Rifleman trigger trip — Conversion by Mike DiMuzio at www.riflemansrifle.com

Rifleman trigger trip — Conversion by Mike DiMuzio at http://www.riflemansrifle.com

If you’re interested in owning such a weapon then visit Mike’s website and then give him a call at 704-915-2325: Mike does a good job not only reproducing the loop lever and trigger trip of the Winchester Model 1892 used in The Rifleman, he’ll also upon request add the saddle ring (additional charge) and darken the stock to match Winchesters of the era.  And if you’re really hungry for that authentic look he’ll even age the rifle to make it appear a century old.  Take a look at the stock he darkened compared to the original finish that came on the Ranch Hand:

"Rifleman" conversion includes upon request darker staining to match era Winchesters

“Rifleman” conversion includes upon request darker staining to match era Winchesters

Now all this may sound like nostalgia at the cost of practicality, and in a sense it is.  I mean, after all, no one can spin cock a Winchester rifle with a 20-inch/51-centimeter barrel unless you’re 6-foot 5½ inches/197 centimeters tall like Chuck Connors, right?  Well, not quite.  I’ll demonstrate what I mean in a short video below.  But spin cocking a Model 1892 is impractical nevertheless.  Using snap caps (don’t even think of trying this highly dangerous maneuver with live ammunition; as the grownups in the classic movie A Christmas Story told Ralphie, “Kid, you’ll shoot your eye out”) I proved to myself what I’d always heard.  If you spin cock an 1892 the cartridge will be flung clear of the ejection port well before it can be chambered.  Your “bullet” then goes skittering either across your living room floor or winds up burying itself into the dusty streets of North Fork, New Mexico (fictional town of The Rifleman)

Loop comparison — Ranch Hand "small" loop vs. Rifleman large loop

Loop comparison — Ranch Hand “small” loop vs. Rifleman large loop

On the practical side, that trigger trip does work.  But you must be careful in setting the depth of the set screw and then in locking it into place with the nut.  If the trip is set too far back it won’t reach the trigger.  If it contacts the trigger too soon the hammer will trip while the rifle is still out of battery, meaning that the chamber will not be completely closed and the bullet casing fully encased.  If the hammer contacts the firing pin and the firing pin reaches the bullet primer while the rifle is out of battery there’s a potential for a burst cartridge with resulting damage to both firearm and shooter.  So, be careful!  To fire the rifle normally, just back the screw out and lock it into position with the lock nut.

"Lucas McCain Special" Loop-levered M1892 rifle with trigger trip

“Lucas McCain Special” Loop-levered M1892 rifle with trigger trip

Now let’s look at the “smaller” Ranch Hand loop:

"Josh Randall Special" — Loop-levered M1892 "pistol"

“Josh Randall Special” — Loop-levered M1892 “pistol”

The loop is still large enough to perform the spin cock maneuver made famous by Chuck Connors, although I can find no reference that Steve McQueen ever attempted this in Wanted: Dead or Alive.  Probably because it takes practice and is not an easy thing to do, especially as the front-heavy Mare’s Leg configuration throws the whole contraption terribly out of balance.  It can be done (as I’ll demonstrate later), but a dozen repetitions or so will make your bicep feel as though you just finished up with some serious weight training.  Consequently I’m trying to learn this left-handed for some upper body strength training.  No, seriously.  It’s fun exercise, or “Rifle Therapy,” as Mike DiMuzio refers to it.

Loop comparison — Ranch Hand "small" loop vs. Rifleman large loop

Loop comparison — Ranch Hand “small” loop vs. Rifleman large loop

Still, if you think twirling the Ranch Hand is fun, wait until you try a full size rifle with a 20-inch barrel.  Just don’t let your face get in the way like John Wayne purportedly did.  John Wayne was the first film actor to spin cock a Winchester.  He did it in a movie in Stagecoach way back in 1939.  He repeated that stunt in at least two other films — El Dorado (1966) and True Grit (1969).  But take a look at the rifles he’s spinning in those films.  In each case that large loop rifle has a short 16-inch/41-centimeter barrel.  Wonder why the 6-foot, 4-inch/193-centimeter actor would only spin a shortened rifle?  Reportedly it’s because when he first attempted the stunt with a full-size rifle back in 1939 the barrel struck him squarely in the jaw, knocking him out cold.

Loop comparison — Stock Ranch Hand vs. DiMuzio conversion

Loop comparison — Stock Ranch Hand vs. DiMuzio conversion

Well, heck, I’m only 5’9″ (175 centimeters).  If The Duke can’t do it with a full size rifle, then what chance have I?  Not much, right?  Well, Mike DiMuzio does it with two rifles at once, and he tells me that he’s not even my height.  So let’s see what I can do after first perfecting the maneuver with that much smaller Rossi Ranch Hand and its the 12-inch/30.5-centimeter barrel.  Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s see that trigger trip in action as well:

So, what’s the trick?  Well, it isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossibly difficult.  On the upside the full size rifle is much better balanced than the Rossi Ranch Hand pistol, as the longer butt stock helps offset the fore stock and barrel despite the barrel’s longer length.  But, still, twenty-inches of cold, hard steel swinging back toward your head?  At a pretty good clip with a lot of inertia?  This is where full arm extension becomes an absolute must.  You’ll note very little bend in my elbow — just enough to snap down the loop lever and start the rifle along it’s arc, at which point the elbow is straightened out even further to increase distance.  Even so, the tip of the barrel clears me by somewhere around an inch or so.  Yes, I hit myself in the chest a couple of times, but not the face!  Take that, Duke.  By the way, if that long barrel scares you then Mike will make your replica using a shorter 16-inch/41-centimeter barrel.

At some point I’ll be firing both these firearms and offering up an actual shooting review.  Until then, I can still say that the Mike’s Rifleman’s Rifle conversion makes the Rossi M92 the most fun weapon in my collection even though I’ve yet to fire it.

How can that be?  Simple.  I’ve been practicing the art of spin cocking both the Ranch Hand and the Rossi M92, and I spin-cock the M92 nearly every day.

Hope you enjoyed this post, as it was an absolute blast producing it as well as producing for it my first blog video clip.  I’ve created my own YouTube channel just to create video links such as the one in today’s post, so watch for more video’s in the future.  Meanwhile, I’m going to leave you with two more video links, neither of which I made.  The first is Mike DiMuzio demonstrating his prowess with his own creations, performing two simultaneous spin cocks and two simultaneous swing cocks as well as demonstrating rapid fire marksmanship.  The second is a brief history of Hollywood-style spin cocking in both the movies as well as television, including the king of spin cocking Chuck Connors.

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