Reviewed By: William S on 11/12/2011
Bloviating About The Chiappa Rhino
Review by Bill Schroeder - November 2011
In 2010 Chiappa released the Rhino Revolver. Initially this product was available in very limited supply and quality control was far from stellar. That problem now seems to be solved, and the two Rhinos I now own work flawlessly. I have two of the Model 200D, this is a 2 inch, black, fixed sights, double action only (DAO), with the standard medium grip of a molded "rubber-like" material.
The Rhino's design is revolutionary in that it has the barrel aligned with the BOTTOM chamber of the cylinder rather that the top chamber. It is chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge, the cylinder release is a "down-press" thumb lever, the six tube cylinder is a hexagon, the trigger is smooth, and almost 1/2 inch wide, the aluminum frame is mid-sized with steel inserts as needed, weight is only 25 ounces, easily concealable size at 6.25L x 4.85H x 1.35W, the grip is at an odd angle, and the grip itself is some kind of rubber.
I'm going to call this design a Bottom Barrel Revolver (BBR, or BB Revolver), it seems like we need a new name for this handgun design.
What I will now tell you about this gun YOU SIMPLY WILL NOT BELIEVE, unless you actually spend an hour with this gun, and shoot 100 rounds through it. I have shot other versions of this gun, and they do behave somewhat differently, specifically the SA/DA version. All of my observations here will be in direct reference to the Rhino Model 200D product, with serial numbers greater than 2800.
This gun generates very little muzzle flip or perceived recoil upon firing, even with 357 Magnum loads at rated at 500-600 foot pounds of energy. This fact, and the unusual ergonomics that cause almost natural pointing of the weapon are the features that make this handgun design unique and desirable.
I want to state something that no one else has put forth about the Rhino because I think they have missed the most important point about this gun. I believe that whether you love or hate this implementation of a BBR, it makes no difference to the fact that this gun is going to change firearms history... It is not that THIS gun is perfect (because it is not)... but it is clearly a PROOF-OF-CONCEPT... After shooting it a bit, even the dim bulbs among us will realize that this BBR design WILL be pursued. Taurus loves to try new things and copy things, with their own twist, so they are likely to be next to offer a BBR, but don't be surprised if S&W, Ruger, Springfield, Colt or some of the minor manufactures offer up their own visions and versions of the BBR after this true proof-of-concept firearm lights a fire under their firearms engineers.
Some users have complained about the trigger on the Rhino. I did try Models 200DS and 400DS that each had serial numbers below 800, and they were terrible in Double Action, and very difficult to cock for use as Single Action. Although after the hard cocking the single action trigger was pretty good. However, I would not own a DS Model of this gun. After you cock it for single action this "cocking lever" (that looks like it is the hammer) goes back to what looks like a definitely uncocked firearm. There is a little red flag that pops up on the left rear of the frame to indicate the cocked condition, and that is fine... IF YOU CAN SEE IT... IF YOU NOTICE IT... and IF YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS... This is not a safe system. It would have been just as easy for them to have the "cocking lever" stay back to look like a "cocked" conventional revolver, and then fall forward on firing.
My two Rhinos are the "D" models, which are true DAO guns. They contain none of the SA action system parts or cocker. The triggers on mine are just fine, for self defense use. They are fairly smooth and consistent at 10-12 pounds.
You will learn to shot a Rhino WELL in 30 minutes or less. Even a novice shooter will put all six rounds in a 9 inch paper plate at 25 feet by the end of first box of ammo. You can pull it from its provided holster and fire it before you even raise it and hit a near target, every time. As you raise it to a target it comes naturally to the target, no long term training or weekly practice needed with a Rhino. The weapon is almost magically deadly.
After you have put a couple of boxes of ammo through a Rhino... try this... Load it and pick it up in you WEAK hand and quickly empty it at the target... again you will be deadly with the Rhino, weak handed, no practice. Think about how life saving this could be if your strong hand or arm were injured when critical defense action was required.
Both of my Rhinos have been 100% reliable out of the box. I have fired only factory ammunition, about equal 38 Special and 357 Magnum. Over 2,000 rounds through one and about 1,200 through the other. Both of mine have serial numbers in the 2800's.
It is a fact that it is very, very unlikely for the average person, or even police officer, to ever find themselves in an actual gun fight. But if you are, the chances are very high that it will be a 3-3-3 event... that is - it will last 3 seconds or less, involve 3 or less shots from you, and have your opponent at 3 or less yards of distance... and if that is the case then the perfect weapon for the average person is a BBR in 357 Magnum, loaded with strong 38 +P or moderate 357 defense specific ammo.
This is the ONLY firearm I have ever used where I can confidently say that the average shooter, CCWer, Soccer Mom, or LEO could actually be very effective in its use, every time, even if they shot just a single box of ammo once a year.
The BBR is much more than a fad or a novelty... for CCW and LEO the BBR is a giant step forward... now we just need the BBR design concept to evolve...
As the BBR design develops it would be nice to see a 35-40 ounce version, in all stainless, 4 inch barrel, as a "service" revolver, and a 6 incher for hunters (drilled and tapped for scope mounts or a rail). The 2 inch version that I have would be perfect if it had a little lighter trigger pull, lost about 4 ounces of weight, and lost about 1/8 inch of width.
The .357 Magnum is without a doubt the most versatile revolver chambering, but hopefully the future will bring some different chamberings to the BBR world.
One other thing that must change in the BBR world is the grip availability. My Beretta PX4 Storm pistols all came with 3 backstap inserts. That is what BBR guns are going to need, as the grip size and trigger reach are very important to user acceptance of the BBR design. It must fit you correctly (like a shotgun). A BBR should come from the factory with a medium grip installed (as the Rhino does) and it should be supplied with easily user changeable "small" and "large" versions of the grip, as standard, included accessories. This would make the gun a winner for 90-95% of the market instead of the 40-50% that the gun properly fits with the standard grip. The standard medium grip on the Rhino happens to fit me perfectly, but the trigger reach is way too much for my wife.
If I am ever in a situation where I must be the one forced to stop the continued actions of one or two really bad actors, then I want to be pulling out a 357 Magnum BBR... and for now that means the Rhino 200D.
Last point... a BBR is certainly NOT a full-on "combat" weapon... it is a civilian type emergency defense weapon, suitable for carry and use by persons that rarely engage in weapons training or practice... if I have the need for true battlefield combat weapon, I would always turn to a quality semi-auto pistol in 45 ACP... but that's just me...
Bill Schroeder - November 2011