I have an enduring attraction to lever action rifles and especially the pistol-calibre Model 92 variations. In fact, the only thing I like more than a nice Model 92 in .357 or .44 magnum would be a takedown version. Takedowns are practical and fascinating.
So imagine my joy at getting to review the Chiappa Model 92 rifle in both traditional blued model and brushed-chrome takedown version. Specifically, it’s the Trapper Skinner version and the Alaskan Takedown, respectively.
Having zero previous experience with Chiappa firearms, I was unsure what to expect in regards to quality and function etc., especially when the rifles are Chiappa’s own versions of the classic Browning-designed Winchester Model 92. I quickly learnt that both these Italian-made versions are of very high quality.
The Alaskan looks like it is stainless steel but is in fact a very hard-wearing and attractive brushed chrome finish, which may in part explain why the Alaskan is the smoothest operating lever gun out of the box that I have ever had in 45 years of using them.
The stock is also not what it seems, being wood with a very tough, bonded, black rubber covering, rather than being solid polymer or rubber. It gives the gun excellent feel and balance.
The slight grippy feel of the stock makes it a dream to handle. Even in the wet or when I have blood on my hands the rifle has never even thought about slipping or moving.
After three months using the rifle around the farm the finish on both the stock and the metal remains unmarked and still looks new despite my using it as a work rifle (distributor Raytrade told me to use it like I owned it).
As well as our written review, check out this video by our mates at Ozzie Reviews as they test the same Alaskan rifle we’ve reviewed here.
The Trapper Skinner
The Trapper Skinner model is more traditional looking with truly beautiful wood stock and forend that is well fitted to the action. It’s sealed well with a satin finish to protect the wood, but isn’t too shiny like some guns. The metalwork is all finished in a nice matte/satin blue that seem very hard wearing and easy to wipe clean. It does not reflect light so is great in the hunting field as it will not spook any game animals or give your position away.
The action is also extremely smooth to work and load right out of the box, like the Alaskan, and the trigger weight and feel was also exactly the same as the Alaskan takedown model, indicating excellent manufacturing consistency across the two models.
With a 420mm (16.5 inch) barrel both carbines are very compact, fast handling and useful around vehicles or heavy scrub. They balance exceptionally well when being carried by hand. This barrel length is likely ideal for the two magnums (.357 and .44) in which they are available as both of these calibres reach maximum velocity in short barrels.
Don’t underestimate the .357 magnum in a short rifle or carbine. It gives massively improved ballistic performance when used in a rifle compared to being used in a handgun. I found velocity increased more than 300fps compared to being fired in a 150mm (6 inch) revolver. I was getting just over 2000fps from 125-grain factory loads and around 1850fps from the more common 158gr loads. That gives you vastly improved stopping power out to the 100-150 metres or so effective range of this rifle/cartridge combo.
The takedown action
The takedown part of the design on the Alaskan model is exactly as the original Winchester Model 92s were made back at the turn of the 20th century, so it is a well proven design using a simple interrupted thread to assure consistent and reliable functioning despite being taken apart repeatedly.
Why a takedown? Well, for me, there are a number of excellent reasons:
1. Ease of cleaning from the chamber. You cannot easily clean the barrel of a regular lever action except from the muzzle, and nor is it easy to get inside the action, so this is a real advantage.
2. Portability. When travelling, a takedown needs far less space, but can be assembled rapidly and be ready to use.
3. Discretion. Sadly, Australia is not always the most gun friendly place to live and travelling with obvious gun cases sometimes can cause issues. Takedown design means you have the gun in a much more compact, less obvious gun bag.
To disassemble the rifle, simply (after checking the gun is empty of course) open the lever, then flip out the small arm located at the front of the tube magazine below the muzzle and unscrew it. This will allow the magazine tube to slide out and then you just twist the barrel sideways and the gun will come apart. It actually takes less time to do than write about and is very simple and intuitive. The rifle can then be cleaned or stored as needed.
I have taken the Alaskan apart at least 30-40 times and put over 500 rounds of both .357 magnum and .38 special ammo through the gun and it has never changed point of impact and seems just as tight as the first time I took it apart.
Sights on both models
I was very skeptical about the barrel-mounted peep sights. I am a big fan of peep sights as I age, especially of the excellent Skinner brand sights that are fitted to both the Chiappas, but normally they’re mounted very close to the eye on the receiver or stock. Chiappa did their homework well, though, as the barrel-mounted sight is quick and accurate to use. Mated with the highly visible fluoro orange front sight, you can shoot well under any light that is suitable for shooting.
After making a some small adjustments to elevation and windage (easily done via allen key) to the rear peep sights on both guns, they were spot on for me. I sighted both in to shoot about 25mm (1 inch) high at 50 metres and this has worked very well on a variety of ferals, from goats to pigs, out to around 125 metres or so, which is as far as I have used them both on game or targets.
Off the bench using a variety of ammunition, Geco 158gr .357 magnum kindly supplied by Cleaver Firearms and the PPU 158 grain I had on hand each performed extremely well in both rifles, consistently grouping three shots into 25-35mm at 50 metres, over and over again on more than a dozen different days at the bench. With my 60+ year old eyes, that says to me that both rifles have excellent accuracy for their intended purpose, and could likely be enhanced by a red-dot or scout-style forward-mounted scope (a combination peep sight and scope/red dot rail is available as an option).
Both the Chiappas feed .38 specials just as fast and smoothly as .357s. They were just as accurate and, naturally, quieter with much less blast. The 38 specials did shoot a little lower on the target at 50 metres than the .357 loads but the groups were very similar.
Recoil is simply not an issue even with full power .357 loads and with the .38s there seems zero recoil at all. One of my daughters was visiting with a friend and they spent an afternoon shooting tin cans and bowling pins at the farm. Between them they put over 200 rounds (mixed .357 and .38) through the guns and only stopped when I ended their free ammo supply!
They loved these little rifles (in fact my daughter later bought the blued model for her very first gun) and I have had exactly the same result every time I take it out when others are around. People are attracted to these little carbines like flies to honey and they never fail to put a smile on everyone’s face.
The Chiappa Alaskan takedown retails for around $2100-$2200 and the more traditional Trapper Skinner model (non takedown) for around $1500. Both are well worth the asking price with exceptional fit, finish and function. Both were a little stiff on the thumb to load for the first few magazines but then settled down and I find I can load them by feel quite easily. Neither jammed or hesitated even once in over 500 rounds and they are seriously the smoothest lever actions of any type I have cycled. It’s pure joy using them.
Both these carbines are portable little powerhouses that put the fun well and truly back into shooting.
CHIAPPA M92 ALASKAN TAKEDOWN & TRAPPER SKINNNER SPECIFICATIONS
- Calibre: .357 Magnum (& .38 Special)
- Barrel: 407 mm (16 inches)
- O/A Length: 864 mm (34 inches)
- Weight: 2.66 Kg (5.9 pounds)
- Stocks: Wood with soft-touch rubber finish (Alaskan); Satin-finished wood (Trapper Skinner)
- Sights: Fiber-optic front, Skinner Express rear
- Action: Lever
- Finish: Matte chrome (Alaskan); matte blued (Trapper Skinner)
- Magazine capacity: 7+1
- Price: Around $2100-$2200 (Alaskan Takedown); approx $1500 (Trapper Skinner) as at 2021
- Importer: Raytrade