Reviewed: Rossi Wizard Inline .50 Caliber

March 20, 2013

Originating in Brazil, Rossi firearms — at least the long guns — are imported into the United States by Braztech International, LC, headquartered in Miami, FL. In her purest form, the Wizard is a single-shot hammer gun; truth is, she doesn’t get much more complicated than that.

Beginning with the receiver, Rossi’s Xchange-a-Barrel break-action is opened via a thumb release to the right of and slightly behind the hammer. Press down, the barrel hinges open; simple as that. Interestingly, the little gun features three safety mechanisms — a traditional transfer bar safety; a manual toggle-esque S/F safety on the port side of the receiver, which prevents the hammer from reaching the transfer bar; and Rossi’s — Taurus’, actually — keyed security system. Locking the system, in the case of the Wizard, prevents the hammer from being fully cocked. Speaking of the hammer, the MZL does come complete with a hammer spur — very necessary for those who would immediately mount optics.

The .50 caliber MZL barrel measures 23 inches and has a 1:24 twist. It is drilled and tapped for a Weaver-style base and comes equipped with fiber-optic sights, front and rear. A single thimble secures the ramrod to the underside of the barrel; the remainder of the rod is housed inside the forearm. The ramrod itself is brass, with a wooden (3 3/8-inch by 3/8-inch) eight-groove handle, and it measures just 15 1/2 inches long but telescopes to a full 23 1/8 inches. The barrel exchange process is as simple as is the gun itself — unscrew the front (forearm) sling swivel, remove the forearm, break the action, and lift the barrel away from the frame.

The Wizard’s stock might best be described as a high Monte Carlo style, with no checkering on the pistol grip and only a black plastic ROSSI-emblazoned cap on the grip. The stock attachment screw, a metric hex bolt, is located underneath the pistol cap; not in an inline configuration accessed by removing the recoil pad as is typical. The 1-inch ventilated rubber recoil pad is substantial and is separated from the buttstock by a wafer-thin white spacer.

Variety is, as the cliché goes, the spice of life, and that’s particularly true with the Wizard. In addition to the .50 caliber MZL barrel, the company also offers a .45 MZL barrel. Along with the blackpowder options, Rossi also makes available three rimfire barrels (.22LR, .22WMR, and .17HMR); 10 centerfire barrels ranging from .223 to .45-70; and shotgun tubes including 12-gauge (rifled and smoothbore), 20-gauge and .410. Several different aesthetic variations are available, such as black synthetic, traditional wood/blued, and of course, camouflage.

My personal report card?

I was impressed with the performance and functionality of Rossi’s .22LR, so the proverbial bar had been set relatively high before the .50 caliber even got out of the house and onto the range. Perhaps not surprising, I wasn’t disappointed with her performance.

Although I’m typically a pelletized powder kind of guy, I decided to test the Wizard with both pellets and granulated powder, basically out of curiosity. Pyrodex products got the nod here; I’ve had nothing but good fortune with the company’s RS granular material and 50-grain pellets over the past decade or so. For bullets, I chose a variety — 295-grain PowerBelt AeroTips (AT) and Hollow Points (HP); 290-grain Barnes Spit-Fire TMZ (TMZ); PowerBelt AeroLites in a 300-grain format; and 300-grain Knight Red Hot bullets using the High Pressure (black) sabot. Like the powders, I’ve used all of these projectiles over the years, and all with good success both on the range and in the field. Ignition was supplied by Remington’s Kleanbore 209 muzzleloader primers, and the barrel was swabbed clean between shots.

Mechanically, I experienced no problems throughout the course of the 50-shot run at the bench. Ignition was immediate and reliable; I did pull the breech plug — NOTE: Long extension and 3/8-inch socket — halfway through the testing to clean, lube and replace, although I’m not sure it was necessary. Recoil was noticeable, though tamed somewhat thanks to Caldwell’s Lead Sled and a PAST shoulder pad. In terms of downrange performance, it was the 295-grain ATs that won out, printing 2- to 2 1/2-inch three-shot groups at 50 yards; however, I’ve never been extremely impressed with the ATs’ on-target performance in the field on whitetails. The Red Hots were a close second with their consistent 2 1/2-inch clusters, and they provide (in my experience) extraordinary knockdown power on deer-sized creatures. Post-range cleanup was minimal, quick, and easy — pull the plug, scrub the bore, take a toothbrush to the plug, lube, install, wipe, and it’s over.

What didn’t I like about the Wizard .50 MZL? At almost 9 1/2 pounds, it’s a heavy little thing, and quite barrel-heavy and unbalanced. The telescoping ramrod, though understandable in this particular situation, does take some getting used to. Afield, my thoughts are to either pack a lightweight 25-inch fiberglass rod with me, or telescope the OEM rod and lay it alongside my pack — just in case I need to reload the Wizard with the quickness. And I think the transfer bar AND manual safeties are a bit of overkill; in fact, I found the left-side manual switch to be inconveniently located for a righthander, not to mention tremendously noisy when allowed to fall forward by itself. That said, a little practice with the manual safety can help overcome both inconvenience and noise.

By The Numbers

Make/model – Rossi Wizard

Caliber - .50 Caliber Muzzleloader

Operating system – Inline; blackpowder only

Barrel – 23 inches

Overall length – 38-3/4 inches

Weight – 9.4 pounds

Trigger pull – 5.6 pounds

Safety – Transfer bar; Rossi/Taurus key lock; manual SAFE/FIRE safety

Sights – Fully adjustable rear, fiber optic; fixed front bead

Finish, metal – Blued

Wood – Walnut stock/forearm

Recoil pad – One inch ventilated rubber, with white spacer

Accessories – Sling swivels; Weaver style one-piece base

Ramrod – Brass; expandable from 15 1/2 inches to 23 1/8