True Innovation, the Chiappa Rhino Revolver

There hasn’t been much innovation in the design of revolvers. In the last few years, we have seen polymer-framed revolvers, revolvers that shoot .45 Long Colt and .410 Bore shotshells out of the same cylinder, and different placement of controls, but nothing really in how the revolver functions. That is, until the Chiappa Rhino debuted at the 2010 SHOT Show. When you see the Rhino for the first time, you immediately know it is different. Sure, it resembles a revolver, but a revolver designed by special effect artists in Hollywood for a sci-fi action film. In fact, Ron Norton of Chiappa’s U.S. division said it was the ugliest gun he’s ever seen.

In all other revolvers, the barrel of the gun sits above the cylinder. However, the Chiappa Rhino’s barrel aligns with the bottom of the cylinder, right above your hand. Cartridges are loaded from the bottom of the cylinder, rather than the top, as in traditional revolvers. Lowering of the barrel’s axis greatly reduces muzzle climb and produces recoil much like you feel from a semi-automatic pistol. Instead of feeling the recoil in the web of your hand, the recoil from the Rhino goes straight back, therefore your palm absorbs the recoil instead. When compared to a Smith & Wesson revolver of the same caliber and basic size, there is a significant and visual difference in muzzle climb. This innovative design makes the Rhino par one in quick and accurate follow-up shots.

Emilio Ghisoni’s Rhino is similar to the design of his Unica Autorevolver, the Mateba. Both have barrels that sit in the 6 o’clock position, instead of 12 in traditional revolvers. After Ghisoni passed away in 2008, investor Antonio Gudazzo took the Rhino’s design to the Italian firearms company, Chiappa. Production on the futuristic revolver began in 2009.

Its outside appearance reveals the complexity of what’s happening inside the revolver. Because of its design, the inside mechanisms are more complicated than traditional revolvers. What looks like a hammer is actually a cocking device. The hammer in the Rhino is internal. Other revolvers with an unexposed hammer fire only in double-action, but the Rhino works in single-action or double-action mode. When you pull the lever to cock the Rhino, the lever will not move again, so Chiappa added a red cocking indicator to let you know when the gun is ready to fire. The cylinder release lays under your thumb for one-handed operation. Another odd feature of the Chiappa Rhino is its hexagonal cylinder with flattened sides which aid in concealment. The shape of the cylinder allows the Rhino to lay flatter against your body and prevents snagging upon drawing or reholstering.

Available in a variety of barrel sizes, the Rhino comes in either black or hard chrome, and the Target model offers an accessory rail so you can add optics. You can choose between rubber or wood grips on any model. Though you may like the look of the wood grips, the rubber grips are more comfortable. Current calibers are .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, and 9x21g with 2-, 4-, 5- or 6-inch barrels.

The Chiappa White Rhino revolver is a two-inch version chambered for .357 Magnum that holds six rounds. In a hard chrome finish and rubber grips, this 24.7-ounce revolver is perfect for those who insist on a .357 Magnum concealed carry and self-defense gun that also have a difficult time with recoil. When comparing how comfortable it is to shoot, everyone chooses the Rhino snubbie to his or her Smith & Wesson snubbie. If you want a revolver for ease of use and reliability, the Rhino is manageable and accurate, with most shooters getting less than one-inch groups from 10 to 15 yards.

This is one of the Rhino’s greatest advantages. There is not one shooter I know who says, “I just love target shooting with my two-inch, .357 Magnum revolver.” It is undeniable that shooting these types of small-barreled, high-caliber handguns smarts. Chiappa says, “The negative consequence is that those who use this type of handgun for personal defense, mostly neglect training.” The Rhino makes shooting .357 Magnum loads like .38 Special +P loads. If you can handle that, you can handle the Rhino. You will be pleasantly surprised, if not a little shocked by the difference.

Range reports from shooting the Rhino say that the revolver performs flawlessly. For the average sized hand, including women, the gun’s ergonomics give you a natural point of aim. For point shooting, the Rhino is spot-on. The sights are basic fixed sights with a rear sight notch cut into the cocking device. The trigger pull in double-action, which is tougher in any revolver ranges from about 10 to 12 pounds. In single-action the Rhino’s trigger weighs in at 4 to 5.5 pounds. Neither are a surprise for a revolver. The frame is made of aluminum alloy and all other parts are steel. The Rhino includes a leather belt holster, so you do not have to spend the extra cash on a custom carry holster.

Specifications and Features

  • .357 Magnum
  • 2″ barrel
  • 6 rounds
  • Holster
  • Fixed sights
  • Rubber grips
  • Length: 6.45″
  • Weight: 24.7 oz
  • Hard chrome
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (17)

  1. I look at this gun and I don’t want it. However, thanks for the article because I knew nothing about this funny shaped pistol except that the barrel was in the middle. It makes sense that this would effect recoil and I’m glad to hear they provide a holster because, I would imagine, finding one for it to be impossible. Some guns are downright sexy. The Rhino is aptly named.

  2. vaughn d.,
    If your ccw is intended for protection from bad guys, think long and hard befor making this your everyday carry. New and more complicated may be fun on the range, but not where your well being is at stake. “More complicated” equals more that can go wrong, and remember Murphy’s law.

  3. The person responsible for the promo should learn a few firearm basics. 1. The only revolver I have ever seen even a drawing of with the barrel “above the cylander” was the joke Smithinski and Wessonovich target pistol back in the 1960s. All of my revolvers and even the rhino have their barrels FORWARD of their cylanders; most at 12:00 and rhino at 6:00. 2. Almost all of my modern revolvers load from the side (swing out cylander or loading gate) except for a couple top breaks and one bottom break. The rhino does not appear to be either of these exceptions.

    I recognize that I am being picky, but it is bad enough to have semi-literate news readers on tv telling us “facts” about guns that aren’t even close to the truth. It is even worse to have industry representatives that don’t quite get it right.

  4. I have had one for a year now and it has been one of the best firearms I have handled. Not sure about customer service as I have never needed it. Good build quality and it has relegated my SP101 to backup duty. It makes my handloads going 1600fps feel like 38 target rounds.

  5. The article doesnt say anything about an MSRP… Also, I think I saw one of these on “Covert Affairs”, the female Lead, Piper Parabo, had one in a scene.. Couldnt figure out what it was, til now

  6. I have just about every caliber of hand guns except for 357. I have been waiting to find just the right fit/look .this gun in 357 may be it

  7. Will there be a larger caliber Chiappa pistol such as 44, 454 or 460 in the future? The reason for the question is I will be going on a fishing and hunting trip to Alaska and want a large enough handgun to dissuade bears from having me for lunch.

  8. Funny you should mention sci-fi. the 5-inch (I think) version was used by the female villain in the “total recall” remake that came out this summer. very distinctive if you knew the gun, but pure sci=fi if you didn’t.

  9. Actually I find them attractive, my problem is with their quality. They’re poorly made, problematic and Chiappa USA’s customer service and repair center is totally incompetent. If only they spent their time improving the quality of their products instead of putting all their efforts into marketing of this POS!

  10. Actually, I DO love to target shoot my 2.5″ S&W model 66! I use stiff loads too. The trick is to use lighter bullets (110gr or 125gr). I prefer these over 158gr anyway because of the increased velocity. If I were to carry for protection against bears, I would use a heavier bullet–like a 240gr .44!

  11. Can the included holster be used lefty?

    Also, some reviews/comments seem to suggest that the trigger on the DAO version is better, any thoughts on this from CTD?

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