Chiappa Rhino Part 2

Chiappa Rhino Part 2

Rhino v. Rhino

By Dennis Adler

Centerfire Chiappa Rhino models come in a variety of barrel lengths, calibers and finishes. Shown are standard barrel lengths and black or nickel finishes. Two of the CO2 models are based on the 5-inch 50DS black (second gun down left column) and 50DS nickel (third gun down right column).

Authenticity of design is pretty straightforward. It either is or isn’t authentic. A Colt SAA isn’t a Colt unless Colt builds it, or at least licenses their name and emblem (the Rampant Colt) to the builder. Case in point being the Umarex Colt CO2 models and other Colt designs licensed to Umarex. It’s the same for Umarex S&W models, and for ASG and their Dan Wesson and CZ pistols. Until very recently only Sig Sauer and Webley built copies of their own guns (albeit at factories in Taiwan), sold under their own names. Now we can add Italian armsmaker Chiappa to the list with the Rhino series of CO2 revolvers, also built in Taiwan but to the original manufacturer’s specifications, and again sold by the manufacturer under their own name. There is very distinct difference between that and a gun sold by another company, say Umarex or ASG, that is licensed by the company to build and sell under the brand name. Even the superb CZ-75 SP-01 Shadow and new Shadow 2 are sold as ASG models. The Rhino, on the other hand, is a Chiappa from the start and is sold as a Chiappa and comes in a Chiappa hard plastic case. That alone adds value to the gun right out of the box. But, what exactly is the Rhino and how authentic are the CO2 versions?

Rhinos

As centerfire guns there are a wide variety of finishes, barrel lengths, and calibers offered, as CO2 models, Chiappa has started with the most popular centerfire designs, the 50DS, which indicates a 5-inch barrel. The number, for most Rhino models indicates barrel length, thus a 40DS would have a 4-inch barrel, a 20DS a 2-inch, etc. There are also special editions like the Charging Rhino (which has a 6-inch barrel in centerfire, is a DAO and chambered in 9mm), and Rhino Nebula (a spectral colored revolver with rainbow shades that are as unusual as the Rhino itself). There is also a Rhino Match pistol designed for competition shooting, in addition to which all 6-inch barrels have top rails for mounting optics. With that many options, Chiappa was bold enough to come out with four new CO2 models at once, the Charging Rhino (based on the 9mm but not exactly the same), duo-tone 50DS Limited Edition, and standard 5-inch 50DS black Rhino and 50DS nickel models. These are all comparatively inexpensive guns compared to their centerfire counterparts that are priced from a little over $1,000 to as much as $2,990.

The basics of the Rhino design are derived from the Mateba .357 magnum semi-auto revolver specifically the hexagon cylinder, forward position of the trigger, and barrel alignment with the bottom cylinder chamber.
Among Chiappa’s special edition centerfire models is the 6-inch barrel length Charging Rhino. All 6-inch barrel length models have a top rail for mounting optics.

Design features

Like the Mateba design, the Rhino is an unusual looking handgun because the mass of the pistol is above the barrel, the trigger is positioned mid-cylinder (further forward than a conventional revolver), and the hammer is not actually the hammer but a manual cocking device since the chambered cartridge is positioned at the bottom of the cylinder rather than the top. It is also struck by an internal hammer separate from the external hammer. When the trigger is pulled double action or the external hammer is used to cock the action for a single action shot, the cylinder rotates to line up a chamber with the barrel, just like a conventional revolver, but, the internal lockwork is different and more akin to a striker-fired semi-auto. There is a video you can watch that shows the internal operation of the centerfire guns, which is also very similar to the CO2 models (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BbAzUflPCo).

The CO2 Charging Rhino version of the 9mm Chiappa model has a 5-inch barrel and a handsome bi-tone mix of black frame with nickel cylinder, hammer and trigger.
Among popular centerfire models is the 5-inch .357 magnum nickel plated Rhino.
This model is also duplicated as a 50DS CO2 version.

When firing single action, after the cocking lever (hammer) is fully retracted, a small red indicator projects up from the frame just behind the rear sight, indicating that the action is cocked and ready to fire, again this is like some semi-autos with cocking indicators. The one surprising difference is the hammer only drops when the gun is fired single action. On double action the hammer does not move because it is not connected to the firing mechanism and thus the progression of the double action trigger pull cannot be observed as it would be with a traditional DA revolver. It is a bit disconcerting at first but the double action pull on a Rhino is very well defined by two stages, the rotation of the cylinder and staging of the internal hammer and the final pull through to discharge.

With the action manually cocked using the hammer you can see the red indicator rising up behind the rear sight. This is the same cocked action system used on the centerfire and CO2 pistols.
Here you can see the windage and elevation screws for the rear sight as well as the cocked action indicator (red circle at left of hammer) which is down until either the hammer is manually cocked or when pulling through double action as soon as the internal hammer is cocked.

The cylinder release is also unconventional. Based on the Mateba design, though a different shape, the cylinder release lever looks like a manual safety at the back of the frame and to the left of the hammer (a 21st century take on the Webley?) Depressing it opens the cylinder, which is pushed out to the left like an S&W or other revolver.

The lever at the top rear of the frame that looks like a safety is the cylinder release lever, the cleverest design since the Dan Wesson. It presses in on the back of the cylinder pin which is used to lock the cylinder in place. There’s also a little touch of a nostalgia to the release lever at the back of the frame like the old British Webley revolvers. The hexagon cylinder is pushed outward from the right side with the support hand fingers. It takes a little effort; it does not easily open when you press the release lever, which is a good design. But there’s more.

The other different look and feel to the Rhino (which was not taken from the Mateba) is the grip contour which is uniquely Chiappa, but hand filling and surprisingly comfortable. While the Rhino looks like a big gun, it is actually not that different in overall size from a conventional double action revolver with a 5-inch barrel.

If you recognize the speed loader you also recognize the rear loading ASG Dan Wesson pellet shells.
The Chiappa uses the same shells as the ASG Dan Wesson Model 715 revolvers, which means it is possible to shoot lead or alloy pellets from the smoothbore pistol using ASG shells!
The ASG Dan Wesson speed loader is also a perfect fit over the Rhino cylinder. I doubt this is a coincidence.

Everything I have just described about the centerfire Rhino is exactly duplicated on the CO2 models including the physical dimensions. The CO2 models with 5-inch barrels fit the same holsters as the centerfire guns (as shown).

There is another similarity between the centerfire and CO2 models as both have alloy frames. The centerfire Rhino’s ejector rod, crane, cylinder and barrel are steel, while they are alloy on the CO2 guns, and the air pistol uses an almost unnoticeable manual safety just behind the hammer (not found on the centerfire gun).  

With the barrel aligned at the bottom of the cylinder, the bore axis is lower than any other revolver except for the Mateba. The wide trigger (almost half an inch) allows more contact surface which reduces the perceived effort to pull what is a comparatively heavy DA trigger. With the CO2 model this is an advantage which we will discuss in Part 3. 

On air

Right now, and I mean as of this writing (on Monday November 16) the black Rhino and nickel Rhino models are already on wait-list and only the Limited Edition 50DS and Charging Rhino models are available for immediate shipping. The 50DS Limited Edition is a 1 of 500 model, so now is the time to buy. The Charging Rhino in black and nickel is one of the most desirable, so again now is the time to buy. The all black and nickel models should be available again very soon and you can sign up for email notification when they are in stock again.

And for that final touch of authenticity, I ordered a 5-inch Chiappa paddle holster for the .357 magnum model and the CO2 pistol is a perfect fit.

I have also addressed a couple of the questions from readers in Part 1 with the photos and captions in this article, so there is even more to like about the Rhino than originally meets the eye!

The Chiappa Rhino CO2 is a 1:1 fait accompli.

In Part 3 it is time to load and fire the Rhino. This, too, will be a new airgun experience.

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