Chiappa Rhino reinventing the wheel(gun)
Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door is a misquotation of Ralph Waldo Emerson but it has truth to it, no matter who said it.
I believe Chiappa Arms has taken that advice to heart when they introduced the Rhino. If you are unfamiliar with the Rhino it is a double action six shot revolver, but where the innovation begins is the barrel location. The revolver fires from the bottom cylinder thus putting the barrel lower.
The theory behind that is reducing the leverage a recoiling handgun has by getting the barrel lower in the gun and more in line with your arms. Instead of the barrel being above your hands and pushing back and up under recoil the Rhino pushes straight back into your hands.
The grip shape is also designed to lock into your hand, also reducing muzzle flip. Chiappa has suggestions on proper grip in the instruction manual. Bear in mind of the location of your fingers in relation to the cylinder gap when firing this revolver
I spoke with the good folks at Chiappa at last years SHOT show and have been exchanging emails about a test sample. I requested the six inch model to use for the upcoming .357 Magnum tests as well as to do some target shooting out to 100 yards. The revolver shipped in a nice black clam shell case with appropriate paperwork, a cleaning rod, moon clips and an optional beautiful Galco custom holster.
Picatinny rail machined to the top of the vent rib.
Another Picatinny rail machined in the bottom of the barrel.
The trigger broke very clean at 4 pounds in single action and 12 pounds through double action. The cylinder is machined so the sides are flat.
The front and rear sights are fiber optic, and picked up the light excellent. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation.
It is clear in this photo where the muzzle is in relation to the cylinder.
What you would assume is the hammer is actually a cocking lever for the internal hammer. When you cock the revolver the cocking lever returns to the forward position. Decocking is the same as decocking a standard double action revolver, by pulling the cocking lever until it engages, pull the trigger, and riding the cocking lever home. As always use caution when decocking a revolver.
A red tap sticks up just behind the left of the rear sight denoting the internal hammer is cocked.
Here you can see the trigger is back, showing the revolver is cocked as is the red tap sticking up. The cylinder lock is also shown here just above the stocks, by depressing it down the cylinder is released.
I called on Barbara Elliott (my mother), Allison Cartwright, Clinton Jamison, and John Carter to assist with the review. As you may know Clinton and John review for rangehot.com and Allison has helped with several gun tests. My mother is a proficient revolver shooter, so with she and Allison being somewhat familiar with handguns, and females, I wanted to see how much of a difference the Rhino design made on recoil for women.
Initial Range Trip
The first trip out was with Barbara and Allison to get the revolver broke in. So, we three each ran a few cylinders through the Rhino. Allison and my mom both are about five feet tall and around 100 pounds so they are smaller framed women and are shooting a full size .357 Magnum revolver. Both my mom and Allison were able to get on target and stay on target throughout their part of the review. Both women commented on the noticeable decrease in perceived recoil and absence of muzzle flip. Barbara also commented on easy of use of the fiber optic sights. Both my mom and Allison were comfortable with the Rhino within a cylinder or two and were accurate with it out to thirty feet.
Second Range Trip
So the Rhino, so far, is reliable and the theory of the design proves to be sound. Now the mission is to prove reliability and get some serious target work done at twenty-five and 100 yards. I mean this is the target model so we need to see how well it can shoot. Starting out at twenty-five yards we got some three shot groups from a rest. Once that was done and over with we took turns putting rounds down range through the Chiappa revolver offhand between twenty to forty feet. From slow and well aimed single action to all out as fast as you can pull the trigger double action the Rhino was flawless in reliability and really was controllable with full house .357 Magnum Defensive loads. We took turns running about 200 rounds through the revolver as hard as we could until the cylinder and barrel were way too hot to touch. Taking a break and policing up brass from quick cylinder dumps we got back on it for another 100 rounds.
Here are six rounds of Federal Hydra Shocks, which seemed to have the most felt recoil. Notice the slight muzzle flip and what you would think is the hammer does not move during double action firing.
Next up was shooting some groups at 100 yards from a rest. The revolver sighted in at twenty-five yards was about five inches low at 100 yards. Counting both range trips and accuracy testing we were about 350 rounds without an issue. We did test it with .357 Magnum and .38 Special rounds as well as with and without the moon clips. The .38 Special rounds were very mild and almost boring to shoot in this gun.
Five rounds of Winchester PDX-1 fired from a rest at 100 yards,
Accuracy chart, please click on it to see a larger version.
Some people think that is a great looking revolver, and a couple others thought it was ugly as all get out. Either way you feel about the aesthetics of the Chiappa Rhino, the design proved to be solid. By lowering the bore axis and center of pressure deeper into the gun and aligning the bore in front of your hands it makes a drastic difference in muzzle flip. Regardless of how any of the folks felt about the looks they all liked the way it shot. The first time everyone shot the Rhino commented the recoil felt “weird”. It took everyone a cylinder or less to get used to the difference and were able to get the hang of it.
I can see this revolver at home at handgun matches and as a personal/home defense firearm. Now, the model I tested has a six inch barrel so it may not be ideal for concealed carry but the Rhino is also available in two, four, and five inch configurations. All except the two inch models have a Picatinny Rail mounted to the bottom of the barrel. For a home defense firearm this is a great feature for adding a light and/or laser. The six inch also has a Picatinny Rail on the top strap to mount a scope or some sort of holographic red dot sights. I will also say that I believe this would be suited for someone who may lack upper body strength and/or be recoil sensitive.
There was one aspect I did not love, the look of the wooden stocks. This revolver is an Italian made high end target revolver and personally I would have liked to see a nicer wood grain used for the stock. Is this a big deal? Not really but my mom also commented on this so I felt like it was worth bring up. Don’t get me wrong they were plenty comfortable just not as beautiful as the rest of the handgun.
After the dust cleared the crowd that helped wring out the Chiappa Rhino were all pleased with the way it shot and were convinced it was reliable and accurate. I cannot say I was surprised, as a revolver generally works but that is an idea that always needs to be tested with a brand new handgun. Accuracy was excellent as was controlability. For some of the folks that thought the Rhino was a bit ugly, had a change of heart as the revolver kind of grows on you. Lastly, and not of great importance, the Rhino has a bit of intimidation factor as it is a large, unconventional looking handgun.
I left wondering how that same design would work with a .44 Magnum and some of the larger cartridges.
Shown here with optional Galco holster, a fine example of Galco craftsmanship.
Another opinion by my friend:
“I bought my Chiappa Rhino 3 years ago after I sold my .357 magnum J-frame because I couldn’t manage recoil, and it hurt to shoot. I thought after I lost my fingertips I was done with compact magnum revolvers until I took a risk and purchased the Chiappa Rhino in .357 Magnum. The recoil was light, and the grip small, but beefy enough. Surprisingly accurate for a 2″ barrel. The recoil allowed me to shoot all day. I carry with the Radar leather holster that came with it every day when I’m not on duty. This is my favorite handgun.”
Photos by Adam Cavanaugh
Caliber .357 Magnum / .38 Special
Barrel Length 6 inches
Overall Length 10 1/2″
Rifling 1 in 19″
Weight 2.06 pounds
Trigger Pull SA/DA