U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- The Chiappa Rhino is an interesting revolver, the underslung barrel made popular by Emilio Ghisoni is hard to look past in the gun case. Seeing as the Rhino is the last pistol that Chisoni designed before his death, it’s fitting that the Rhino carries on the most defining feature of his Mateba revolvers. There are distinct benefits to this design, and I personally believe that Ghisoni would have further refined the Rhino had he lived longer; hopefully, someone will pick up the torch and continue on where he left off.
Important: Before we get too deep into this one, I should point out that while the pistol is a range rental. The issue I experienced where the barrel shroud came loose and was able to be removed by hand is not something that my research has led me to think is a common issue. That said, I do have an obligation to share all of my experience with a firearm when reviewing it regardless of it being a one in a million problem or something that is far more common.
The Rhino example that I was able to get some time on the range with was their 5″ .357 Magnum 50DS model; I was able to get my hands on the super cool looking Nebula Rhino 60DS for some photos, though. I would have loved to get some time on the range with the 6″ version (especially since it hadn’t been shot to death), but sadly the Nebula Rhino was a brand new gun that had just sold, and the new owner was kind enough to let me photograph before he took it home.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Rhino carries over the low-mounted barrel that Ghisoni first incorporated in his MTR line of revolvers. The initial goal was to improve performance in fast-paced competition shooting, which I can attest that the time needed to get sights back on target between shots is significantly faster thanks to the underslung barrel.
The 6″ versions like the Nebula Rhino 60DS that I photographed incorporate a rail section on the barrel shroud, which is awesome should you want to fit your revolver for a red dot sight. Sadly the rest of the lineup lacks the ability to bolt a dot onto your gun without the use of an odd adapter that mounts to the bottom rail.
You do get some nice adjustable fiber optic sights on all models, with the exception of the 2″ barrel versions, which would be my preference if I am not able to run a dot on my pistol. I do wish they had left the rear sight black and only use a fiber front; you can do some great work with a pistol while keeping a target focus with the black rear and fiber front style of sights, but that is more my personal preference than anything.
Due to the revolver’s underslung barrel, the way you hold the Rhino differs from traditional revolvers. The grip has a more semi-auto shape to it and is available in both wood or rubber variants. Personally, I preferred the gripper rubber even though the wood sure does look nice.
You also get a section of rail on the bottom of the barrel shroud for the 4″, 5″, and 6″ variants, with the exception of the Match Master variant. I really appreciate the inclusion of the rail section; it makes a great place to mount a weapon-mounted light or a weight to make the pistol recoil even softer.
The scallops just behind the trigger guard do a great job of helping those with shorter fingers get to the trigger; it is a bit of a longer reach than you are used to, thanks to the hand’s higher position on the backstrap. Another benefit to the unique design is the trigger guard shape; the shallow angle means that you don’t need to install aftermarket grips to prevent your knuckle from getting whacked during recoil.
One element of the Rhino’s design that I am not too fond of is the cutout to handle the gasses that escape between the cylinder and forcing cone. Sadly, there isn’t much of an option short of moving to a revolver action similar to the Russian M1895 Nagant revolver. You do need to be aware of your support hand thumb; it isn’t hard to grip the revolver in a way that puts your thumb at risk of being damaged by the gasses escaping from the gap.
Since the revolver fires from the bottom cylinder, the Rhino has an odd, yet well-executed false hammer. Should you want to cock the hammer, pull back just like you would on any revolver and release. The hammer will spring back to what appears to be an uncocked position but the red single action indicator will pop up to help identify when it has been manually cocked at a glance.
The cylinder release is also a bit odd due to the unique design. While the Rhino could have used a push release like a normal revolver, Ghisoni chose to go with a lever that operates much like a slide release. While I didn’t have an issue with the lever’s placement, I could see it being an issue depending on how you grip the Rhino.
The range that I frequent had a 50DS in their rental cabinet, why not break into the .38 ammo I rarely shoot and put the weird revolver through its paces. I have to admit, even though this thing has been treated like a rented mule, it still felt well built. I might not rely on this particular example for defensive use, but it would be an outstanding training gun to pair with a newer example.
I ran the Vickers-Hackathorn “Test” at 10-yards a few times and always came in under the 6-second par. Sadly I didn’t record the times like a dolt. Even with .357 Magnum, I found the Rhino to be very manageable with near no muzzle flip.
It didn’t take long to learn that the double-action trigger was something I needed to really focus on, it was pretty dang heavy and the weirdly wide trigger shoe made it a challenge to get the distal joint right over the shoe. Staging the trigger isn’t the easiest thing to do either, I found that cocking the Rhino into single action was far more reliable than attempting to pull the trigger to 95 to 98% before refining the sight picture.
Even though the rental Rhino was obviously shot a crap ton, it still gave me some pretty good results at 25-yards considering I was using my range bag for a rest rather than a mechanical rest. The Geco .357 Magnum performed about in-line with what I would expect from a gun that I had only put a few hundred rounds through with iron sights.
Could it be tightened up some? Probably, but after the next 6-shot string I noticed the barrel shroud was very loose putting an end to my range time.
As expected, the Atomic Ammunition inverted wadcutter .38 +P loads made pretty holes in the paper but was less accurate than the Geco .357 Magnum. Had the barrel nut been properly tight, the results would have likely been much better.
Historically the Atomic load hasn’t performed too well in any of the revolvers I have shot it in, which is why I still have a bunch in my ammo stash after buying it almost a decade ago on clearance.
A Loose Nut
As I mentioned earlier, the Rhino 50DS that I was able to spend some time on the range with is a rental gun. It had obviously been shot a lot which I believe is likely why the barrel nut was loose. Without knowing the round count on the gun, I can’t blame the loose barrel nut on Chiappa or the range. It should be noted that the Rhino’s manual doesn’t include any mention of checking the barrel nut, so it seems more likely that the nut may not have been properly installed or the revolver was past its service life.
The barrel nut had come so loose at the point that I was able to remove the barrel shroud entirely. While unfortunate that my time with the Rhino was cut short, it was interesting to see how the Rhino was put together.
Notice the barrel is recessed from the barrel nut, on a Rhino in good repair that is reversed with the barrel being slightly proud of the barrel nut. This was as tight as I could get it without specialized tools, I wanted to ensure that the pistol was in one piece when the range packed it up to go back to Chiappa for repair.
Is The Rhino Worth Buying?
If you are looking for an interesting revolver to add to your collection, sure! Sadly unique firearms don’t stay in production long and become collectible, the Chiappa Rhino seems to be an exception to this though.
I won’t be adding one to my own collection anytime soon though. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my range time; it just wasn’t an experience that I felt commanded $1,279 of my hard-earned dollars (if I was to pay MSRP). Even at the street price of $800 to $900 depending on the retailer, the 50DS still doesn’t move me enough to buy it.
That isn’t to say that those of you that bought one is wrong, I just wasn’t able to assign enough value to the gun to justify a purchase, especially with the kinda poo double-action trigger.
If you want to stare at the Chiappa Rhino’s specs, head over to the Chiappa website.
About Patrick R.
Patrick is a firearms enthusiast that values the quest for not only the best possible gear setup but also pragmatic ways to improve his shooting skills across a wide range of disciplines. He values truthful, honest information above all else and had committed to cutting through marketing fluff to deliver the truth. You can find the rest of his work on FirearmRack.com as well as on the YouTube channel Firearm Rack or Instagram at @thepatrickroberts.