Ugly, Heavy and Groundbreaking
It’s ugly! It’s heavy! It’s clunky! It’s expensive! It’s unconventional! Yes, it is! But damn if it doesn’t shoot! The Chiappa Rhino revolver is probably the most uniquely designed revolver produced in the last 100 years or more. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to evaluate the new Rhino 30DS X. Before I get to the evaluation, a little background is in order.
In 2008, Chiappa introduced the Rhino to the shooting industry. Not only did it look different than anything else on the market, it was a completely different design and operating system. Unlike every other revolver on today’s market, the Rhino fires from the 6 o’clock cylinder, not the 12 o’clock cylinder. This design significantly lowers the bore axis to where it is actually in alignment with the web of the shooter’s hand. This not only reduces felt recoil but almost eliminates muzzle rise.
Form Follows Function
While this sounds simple, the engineering behind the Rhino is not unlike a modern Smith & Wesson revolver. As with a conventional revolver, the Rhino has a trigger, hammer, hand, cylinder stop, and mainspring, along with the return lever and hammer spring lever. All these parts interact to give the Rhino a very good double action and single action trigger. This is aided by a smooth and radiused trigger that is almost ½” in width. During double action, a red cocking indicator, located on the top of the frame and left of the external hammer, raises and drops.
The actual hammer is located low in the frame and indexed to the barrel. The external “hammer” does not move during double action fire which takes a little getting accustomed to. Instead, it acts as a lever to cock the internal hammer to single action mode. When this is done, the red indicator is visible to let the shooter know that the revolver is cocked! This is important because the external “hammer” returns to a forward position.
Externally, the Rhino features a six-shot cylinder that has faceted flats instead of cylinder flutes. Relief cuts on both sides of the frame, provide a smooth channel for the finger to index the trigger. The cylinder release consists of a lever that is located on the top left side of the frame and is easily activated with the thumb. Given the location of the barrel, the Rhino has a large rib over the barrel that interfaces with the top strap. Lightening cuts above the barrel serve to reduce weight and are also esthetically pleasing.
The front sight ramp is integral to the frame and features a pinned fiber optic blade. The rear sight is fully adjustable and also features fiber optic inserts. The butt of the frame on the Rhino is very abbreviated. The stocks are made from G-10 and are a one piece design that slide on the frame and are held in place with a hex screw. They taper toward the butt and, other than the finger grooves, are completely smooth. While the stocks look awkward, they actually fill the hand and provide a wide surface that fills the web of the hand. I was actually quite surprised at how well the Rhino indexed and pointed.
The stainless steel barrel is sleeved inside the frame shroud. Currently, the Rhino is available in 9mm, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum with barrel lengths from 2” to 6”. To reduce weights the original Rhinos were manufactured with a 7076-T6 alloy frame. However, our test pistol was one of the new all stainless models with a 3” barrel. The 30DS X model weighs in at a hefty 45 ounces as compared to 23 ounces for the alloy frame Model 30DS. While the double action exceeded my electronic gauge, the single action broke cleanly at 2 lbs. with no overtravel.
A word of caution; shooters should be cautious not to extend the thumb of the support hand but to keep it curled or tucked. Extending the thumb can put it in a position where injury could occur from the gases expelled from the cylinder gap.
On the range, the Rhino handled even the heaviest .357 Magnum loads with ease. We ran six different loads through the Rhino and all were pleasurable to shoot. The muzzle rise was very slight and the recoil amounted to a gentle push. The same could not be said for the Colt Python or the Smith & Wesson Model 19 Classic. During the same range trip, they both had significant muzzle flip and the shape of the stocks was not conducive to recoil control.
The hottest of the rounds was the Speer 125 gr. Gold Dot which averaged 1,263 fps out of the Rhinos 3” barrel. The chart below reflects the other loads that we shot.
|Chiappa Rhino 30DS X|
|Federal Premium||125 gr. Training||1,228 fps|
|Federal Premium||158 gr. JHP Fusion||1,068 fps|
|Federal Premium||180 gr. JHP Power Shok||988 fps|
|Speer Gold Dot||158 gr. Personnel Protection||1,076 fps|
|Speer Gold Dot||125 gr. GDHP||1,263 fps|
The Rhino was just a pleasure to shoot and we ran through the allotted supply of ammunition far too quickly. I was able to have four friends shoot the Rhino and all were impressed with the pistol. As we rang steel at 50 yards, and shot tight sub-two inch groups at 15 yards, the unconventional appearance was quickly forgotten.
My general small revolver drill is a 5X5X5X2. Five shots, from five yards, with a par time of five seconds. I run the drill twice for a total of 10 rounds. The drill is shown on a B-8 bullseye target and scored using the values of each ring. Given the sights and the trigger on the Rhino, I selected to shoot the drill from 10 yards. I kept the par time at five seconds and started from a compressed ready position. I also used Federal .125 grain .357 Magnum ammunition. I shoot this drill cold and only the first run counts. I scored a 95 out of 100, with two in the X ring. I dropped three rounds in the 9 ring and threw one out in the 8 ring. I would consider this a very good run for any full size duty pistol and consider it excellent for a .357 Magnum revolver. The combination of a good trigger, great sights, and the low recoil all contributed to the score.
Accessories Galore and Daily Carry
Chiappa has built a name for providing excellent customer support. Looking at the website, Chiappa Accessories reveals a wide range of options including holsters, stocks, and replacement sights. Holster options include polymer rigs as well as quality leather rigs. Galco also offers a number of premium leather holsters for the Rhino series.
The more I shot the Rhino, the more I appreciated the design. While the stainless 300DS X is a heavy pistol, it can still be easily carried with a proper belt and holster. For those that opt for carrying full .357 Magnum loads for personal defense, there isn’t a more controllable revolver on the market. The shooter also has the option of the lighter alloy frame models. I can also see the longer barrel models being an excellent revolver for hunting.
All in all, innovation has placed the Rhino in its own place in the market. While some will continue to be critical, it is obvious that the Rhino has a solid following in the market. Were this not the case, Chiappa would not offer as many versions and be expanding the product line. All in all, this was one of the more enjoyable evaluations I’ve done in recent months. If you have an opportunity to shoot a Rhino, take it! And, don’t judge the book by its cover!
For more information visit Chiappa Firearms.
|Chiappa Rhino 30DS X Special Edition|