Chiappa Rhino Part 2
Rhino v. Rhino
By Dennis Adler
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?
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
In Part 3 it is time to load and fire the Rhino. This, too, will be a new airgun experience.