Chiappa Rhino Postscript

Chiappa Rhino Postscript

Living with a heavy trigger pull

By Dennis Adler

Here’s an interesting set of facts; the double action trigger pull on a Walther PPK is 13.4 pounds, an S&W Model 29 is 12 pounds average, 13 pounds for a Beretta M9, a Heckler & Koch USP averages 10 pounds. So, a long, heavy double action trigger pull is not unusual for DAO and DA/SA semi-autos or revolvers. In fact, a long, heavy, double action trigger pull was intended as a safety measure, Webley made this so from the start with its double action/single action military revolvers like the MK VI. The wisdom of a very heavy double action trigger, like most things pertaining to handguns, is debatable and particularly so in law enforcement where some departments and agencies require DAO or heavier than standard DA/SA triggers for duty guns. An 11 pound, 11 ounce double action trigger pull, like the Chiappa Rhino, is about average. In fact, compared to Walther PPK and PPK/S models, the Rhino is on the light end for a double action. What becomes an issue is when the single action trigger pull is also 11 pounds, 11 ounces, which is contrary to the logic of a single action trigger, a PPK for example, which can have a double action trigger pull as heavy as 16 pounds, is a genteel 5 pounds, 4.5 ounces single action. But for the sake of the CO2 Chiappa Rhino and its unusual DA/SA system with an internal hammer (based on the centerfire gun, not just the air pistol version), the question arises, “Can accurately shooting the Rhino in single action be achieved over time?” The answer is yes, just as one learns to shoot any DAO or DA/SA pistol double action, heavy trigger pull and all.

If looks alone could sell a gun (and it often does!) the Rhino sells itself to most who find its unusual lines captivating. As a target pistol in centerfire the Rhino line has acquitted itself quite nicely over the years, but as a CO2 pistol it leaves a little to be desired. The sights are excellent, the smoothbore barrel delivers almost rifled barrel accuracy with pellets (at 21 feet), but the trigger pull is what takes the most commitment to shooting this air pistol.

My weekend with the Charging Rhino

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I have been shooting double action revolvers for nearly 50 years and most are very manageable, even those with typically heavy DA triggers like the Colt Detective Special, (mine has an average pull of, ironically, 11 pounds, 11 ounces), and most S&W revolvers come in around 12 pounds. My favorite S&W is a Model 29 that was a limited production model only manufactured in 1987 (just 5,000 made) called the Classic Hunter. It has a factory double action trigger pull a hair over 12 pounds. Over the years I have learned to smoothly pull the double action triggers on S&W and other double action revolvers and semi-autos. Of course, the S&W Model 29’s excellent wide trigger shoe and precision action help. If you’re curious, the single action pull on that gun is 4 pounds, 6.4 ounces, but it shoots quite well double action.

A heavy double action trigger is not at all unusual. The S&W Classic Hunter .44 Magnum at top has a DA pull a little over 12 pounds, the vintage Colt Detective Special an average DA pull of 11 pounds, 11 ounces, and the equally old Walther PPK has a DA pull approaching 16 pounds. All three, however, have light single action trigger pulls. That, unfortunately, is something you won’t get with the CO2 Rhino.

One of the important characteristics of double action triggers is the width. Historically most triggers (especially early Single Action revolvers) are narrow, and with single actions this is not a problem.  Add 10 pounds to the trigger pull and a narrow trigger is less accommodating. Look at the trigger on a Walther PPK, it is comparatively narrow and with a DA pull that can be up to 16 pounds, it is a hard gun to shoot double action (only for the first shot if you don’t cock the hammer, after that the semi-automatic operation puts the gun into single action with a much, much lighter trigger pull). Take an 11 to 12 pound trigger pull on a small DA revolver, like a Colt Detective Special, and the heavy trigger pull is again hard but more manageable than a gun with the same resistance and an even narrower trigger. Then look at a 12 plus pound trigger pull like the Model 29 has and how S&W helps mitigate that with a gracefully curved 0.43 inch wide trigger that makes the job much easier. The width and shape of a trigger is a very important component of a double action pistol, especially when it is an exceptionally heavy trigger.   

Firing the first round with a Walther PPK has always been daunting because the double action pull is very heavy. This gun hovers around 16 pounds. The width of the trigger is not much help, either, but none of that matters if you shoot it single action. Regardless of the DA trigger pull, the PPK has been around since 1929.
Another DA finger test is the Colt Detective Special. Look at the narrow trigger and consider the heavy double action pull which averages over 11 pounds, yet this was one of the most successful double action revolvers of the 20th century.
Now look at the graceful curve of the S&W Model 29 trigger and its extra width. Even at 12 pounds this is a trigger you can control with very little practice.

So, this brings me back around to my weekend with the Chiappa Charging Rhino CO2 model. The heavy DA trigger pull is more than manageable, in part because of the trigger’s near half-inch width. The same resistance firing SA is also manageable once you get comfortable with it. There doesn’t seem to be a break-in period for the trigger but more of a break-in period for the shooter!

And that is the secret of the Chiappa Rhino as a double action centerfire gun and as a CO2 pistol. The wide trigger gives you an advantage. The worst aspect of the Chiappa trigger design is the that its short and you don’t have as much surface to engage with your finger as the S&W. Still, the width is a plus, especially for the CO2 model.

With the sights adjusted for H&N Sport Match Green 5.25 gr. alloy wadcutters shooting from 21 feet, and firing single action, I began finding just how much trigger finger was needed for the trigger press. This, of course, depends upon the size of the shooter’s fingers, but for me I found controlling the heavy SA trigger on the Charging Rhino required the entire first joint. With a two-handed hold I was able to keep the gun solidly on target and the short, heavy pull became more controllable with successive shooting sessions. By the end of the weekend I was shooting groups single action just as tight as my best double action targets and getting comfortable with the still heavy but consistent SA pull. The Chiappa was beginning to live up to its promise.

Shooting at a Birchwood Casey sighting target I ended my weekend with the Charging Rhino delivering 12 shots in the center diamond with a spread of 1.87 inches. One low flyer opened up the total group, which otherwise would have been 1.43 inches comprised of two six-shot groups, each averaging under an inch (even with the flyer in one group). It is not a precision target pistol but it is capable of keeping six rounds under an inch, and with even more trigger time I am certain that could improve further. This will not be the gun for everyone, but serious revolver shooters will find any of the Rhino models both a challenging and rewarding wheel gun, even if the wheel is a hexagon.

After hours of trigger time and getting a feel for shooting the Charging Rhino CO2 model single action, I found the best combination of finger placement and trigger pull effort to break shots consistently. My final target shot from 21 feet with 5.25 gr. alloy pellets represents 12 rounds with most shots overlapping. The Charging Rhino has earned a place in my airgun collection; a curiosity for sure, but one that seems worthwhile.

Thursday is Thanksgiving, and in terms of airguns, I am going to give thanks for a new CO2 semi-auto I never expected to see.

3 thoughts on “Chiappa Rhino Postscript”

  1. Seems like the enemy of good is better. Trying to reinvent the wheel is an example here. Fans of interesting replicas will welcome this as a Webley Fosberry of its’day. Heavy da pulls can usually be improved as are sa pulls. My stainless Ppk was fitted with Wolff springs. Da dropped to around 11 pounds, sa around 5. The revolver series that was destroyed by overly heavy trigger pulls. A simpler and more durable design than the older leaf spring designs. Came from the factory with around a 15 lb mainspring and a da pull around the Sa Mesa was around 5-6 lbs. writers complained about it constantly. For magnum revolvers using a 11-13 lb replacement spring dropped the pulls to the 10-11 lb da pull. Replace t of the trigger spring dropped pull to 3-4 lbs. A trick for improving the da pull on a D frame Colt is to put a pin the size of 2911 firing pin in the crotch of the V mainspring g and pull the trigger. This resets the bend I ever spring and drops the da pull by a couple of pounds. These fixes won’t work in the Chiappa , so the solution will be technique

  2. Speaking of heavy/difficult DA triggers the Umarex H&K P30 comes to mind. After some (hundreds of) shots it still fights me in DA mode, although the MIM sight in SA makes wonders.
    Do you think that there could be an improvement on the trigger since I really love this pistol?

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