The Unique Chiappa Rhino

The new Chiappa 30DS X is an all stainless version of the proven Rhino line of revolvers.

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.

The barrel is located at a non-traditional 6 o’clock position. This design eliminates the majority of felt recoil and muzzle rise, even with the hottest magnum loads.
The hand is located in a traditional position. Notice the location of the firing pin.

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 exposed hammer is actually a cocking lever and does not move during firing.

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.

The shape of the cylinder adds to the Rhinos unique appearance.
A full length ejection rod ensures position ejection of the longer magnum cases.

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 Rhino’s smooth, wide trigger gives it an exceptional action. Notice the relief cuts on the side of the frame.
The rear sight is fully adjustable and features fiber optic inserts.
While the Rhino has an unorthodox appearance, the ergonomics are actually very good.

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 front sight, on our test pistol, had a fiber optic insert. The front sight blade is easily changed by the user.
The G-10 stocks filled the hand and the angle resulted in the Rhino indexing very well.
The tensioned stainless steel barrel is enclosed in the frame shroud.

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.  

Shots Fired

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.

The Rhino was an absolute joy to shoot and we quickly ran through our supply of ammunition.

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
ManufacturerLoadAverage Velocity
Federal Premium125 gr. Training1,228 fps
Federal Premium158 gr. JHP Fusion1,068 fps
Federal Premium180 gr. JHP Power Shok988 fps
Speer Gold Dot158 gr. Personnel Protection1,076 fps
Speer Gold Dot125 gr. GDHP1,263 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.

The author scored a respectable 95 shooting his 5x5x5x2 drill from 15 yards.

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.

Final Thoughts

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
Caliber.357 Magnum
Barrel Length3”
Weight45 Oz.
SightsAdjustable/Fiber Optic

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{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Dave O May 11, 2021, 8:15 am

    Hope to have one soon, I like the chubby unicorn.

  • David Stark May 10, 2021, 5:00 pm

    I agree that the Rhino is a bit on the ugly side, when compared to what we are accustomed to. I have only had the opportunity to fire one, but it lives up to the felt recoil reduction claims in a big way. As for the reminder to keep your thumb away from the new-to-you location of the barrel / cylinder gap…, pay heed. I mentally reminded myself. The gun’s owner verbally reminded me. And then I reminded myself again by not adhering to the advice. Expensive; yes. But, a sound design.

  • George May 10, 2021, 9:59 am

    No mention of the original design by Mateba in the 1980’s that led to this? Seems it would have been appropriate to go back to the source in the interest of a complete review. For the person complaining about the “wrong shaped grip” it’s not wrong if it works which it clearly does. Blame other manufacturers for producing revolvers with grips that look “normal” but offer nothing in the way of recoil control and are hidebound by traditional looks rather than performance.

  • Griffendad May 10, 2021, 8:48 am

    For the price tag I”ll take my chances with a new Python. Same $$.

  • Phylo May 7, 2021, 2:45 pm

    I would buy one, but where? As with ammo, handguns, or rifles, they are Out of Stock from any manufacturer I have checked.

  • JH May 6, 2021, 1:01 pm

    At $1500 plus and with the rather crude workmanship, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy one…If innovation is what you are looking for I would also expect you to be looking at the overall quality as well which this homely thing seems to be lacking….Furthermore I am not sold on the red cocking indicator as the sole means to let you know that the weapon is ready to go in single action…That’s an accident waiting to happen in my opinion.

  • A.S May 4, 2021, 12:36 am

    I love mine. An early model 40DS from 2012. I think it is one of the coolest looking revolvers of all time. Everyone seems obsessed with a revolver looking ‘traditional’ but I hope for more interesting and like in this case innovative designs in the future. Let’s not totally eschew tradition (I like those classic lookibg revolvers a ton) but let’s not be too scared to dip our toe into the waters of the future.

  • BillJ357 May 3, 2021, 8:36 pm

    For over 1500 plus tax –I would get 2 or 3 Smiths and a Taurus…

  • Tim May 3, 2021, 8:25 pm

    I guess it could be machine marks but to me it looks like flame cutting on the inside bottom of the frame below the barrel?

  • Tom May 3, 2021, 2:17 pm

    Judging from the photos there appears to be a problem with gas exiting at the rear of the cylinder. Not a good thing, Over sized chambers? Poor design tolerances? I like the idea behind the design but,judging from what I can see in the photos,it’s not really ready for the market place.

    • Sherril Burger May 3, 2021, 5:12 pm

      I’m looking for a small pistol for home invasion protection. I ama female with never owning a gun

  • Clay May 3, 2021, 12:48 pm

    Kinda like dating an ugly woman (So I’ve heard) She may be good in bed, but you wouldn’t want to be seen in public with her.

    • KMacK May 3, 2021, 2:58 pm

      “A pretty woman only has to be pretty. An ugly woman has to be everything else.

  • a11four1 May 3, 2021, 11:32 am

    If anything ever needed to be chambered .44 Special, .45 Auto-Rim, especially .45 ACP……..after all, their doing them in 9mm.

    There would be one directly, IWB on one citizen I know.

  • Il Grande Silenzio May 3, 2021, 10:40 am

    “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.”

    Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given!

  • David and Libby Mullis May 3, 2021, 10:28 am

    I own a 2″ Rhino and absolutely love it, because of the flattened cylinder it’s very comfortable to wear, it’s recoil is so mild it’s the only gun my wife will shoot.Its very accurate hope to one day get a 6″ to hunt with.

  • W. B. Johnson May 3, 2021, 9:04 am

    What’s with all the ugly machining marks in the frame? Seems rather careless on a $1600 revolver.

  • Resolute May 3, 2021, 8:44 am

    First, for a $1500 firearm, I find (via your photos) the fit and finish of the Rhino is unacceptable. Is that flame erosion on the frame’s bottom face, or a combination of poor casting and machine work?
    Second, talk about “rode hard and put away wet”. The Rhino obviously saw no maintenance. Was it your objective to show how accurate a neglected firearm can be? Maybe you were testing to failure – that’s it!
    Third and last. The Chiappa Rhino design has its merits. I like it. I would a purchase if there is an improvement in quality control.

    • Rob Garrett May 6, 2021, 9:50 pm

      There was no neglect. The photos were taken after two range trips and about 200 rounds. The frame was discolored but was not cut. The pistol cleaned up just fine.

      Thanks for the comments.

  • Marshall Williams May 3, 2021, 8:38 am

    Interesting little semi-circular cut out below the barrel-cylinder gap. I presume it is to prevent “gas cutting” from the very high pressures gases which escape at that point and are known to cut into the frame. Such gas cutting is what ended Ruger’s production of the .357 Maximum.

  • Jin Wright May 3, 2021, 8:25 am

    Very interesting weapon. I will be looking to put my hands around one.

  • Malpas May 3, 2021, 8:04 am

    Nope…won’t be trading in my S&W 66 for a weird overpriced Rhino with a wrong shaped grip any time soon thanks…

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