Chippa Rhino 200DS
.357 Magnum

Perfect for Space Detectives — and You Too

Frank’s wife Odessa repels borders. As Frank says, “There are few more fearsome sights to
behold than a mother protecting her flock.” We’re just having fun here, but you have to admit —
if one Rhino is good, two is better!

As a guy who makes his living evaluating and writing about guns, I get a lot of “What’s the best …” questions from folks. They’re usually pretty hard to answer because of variables specific to the questioner’s intended use. Things like physical limitations, budget, favorite cop show on TV, etc., may all come into play.

One of the few easy questions is, “What’s the best concealable, self-defense .357 Magnum revolver in the world today?” That I know unequivocally. A few years ago I concluded it was the Chiappa Firearms’ Rhino. If hitting the target fast and accuracy is important to you, there’s no other .357 topping it. But, if the Rhino shoots so well, why doesn’t everyone carry one? That’s a little more nuanced, but more than anything else, it comes down to the simple fact the Rhino looks freaky weird to most people. It did to me too … at first.

The Rhino’s science fiction looks landed it roles in numerous movies and television shows — Total Recall, Suicide Squad, Nikita, The Expanse, and others — so the lesson here is weirdness makes most gun buyers uncomfortable and suspicious. Unless, that is, they’re prop-masters in the entertainment industry. That’s a shame, too, because the Rhino is a simple case of form following function. It succeeds in the function of rapidly delivering six screaming .357 magnum bullets to the target like no other before. You won’t believe you’re even shooting a .357 magnum. Honest.

A combination of grip angle and firing from the lower chamber translates to low recoil,
even shooting .357 loads. The Rhino is accurate too.

Shifting Paradigms?

The Chiappa Rhino has a lot about it that’s very unique, so much so it’s really a paradigm shift in terms of revolver design. Unlike conventional revolvers, the Rhino fires from the bottom chamber of the cylinder, significantly lowering the bore axis. The cylinder is also positioned much farther to the rear of the frame. These two characteristics work to reduce muzzle flip by diminishing the upward leveraging force of the recoil impulse. When combined with the Rhino’s soft rubber grip — designed with a rearward raking grip angle compelling the hand to grasp the revolver high on the frame — the recoil impulse is further reduced, directed more rearward than upward. The grip angle also makes the boxy looking Rhino a natural pointer like the P-08 Luger.

The result when you pull the trigger is the recoil doesn’t cause you physical pain and the pistol isn’t left pointed at the sky. Firing full power Black Hills Ammunition .357 Magnum, 158-gr. JHP felt like shooting .38 Specials in my 4″ S&W K-Frame Model 10. But there is less muzzle flip allowing me to get back on target faster.

The Rhino’s DA trigger pull is a smooth 9.5 lbs., and the single-action broke at three lbs., the same as my favorite old S&W. In some rapid fire DA firing drills using Black Hills .38 Special +P 100-gr. HoneyBadger, the 2″ Rhino 200DS produced tighter groups than the trusty Model 10. I’ll always love my traditional revolvers, but they’ve been outclassed by the Rhino. I know, I know … heresy.

A shooter new to revolvers will acclimate to the Rhino faster than an experienced wheelgunner. The Rhino requires a different hold to prevent burning your offhand thumb on the hot gasses jetting out of the gap between the cylinder and the barrel. This is no joke because this gap is much closer to your hands in a revolver firing from the bottom cylinder. You need to keep the thumb out of the way!

Tucking it beneath the strong hand thumb seems to be the only practical and safe place for it. If I crossed it over my strong thumb, as I’m inclined to do with normal revolvers, it sometimes blocked the rearward travel of my trigger finger interfering with the pull and spoiling my shot. It’s bad, but easily correctable by simple training; like not wrapping your off-hand thumb around the back of your strong hand when shooting an auto-loader.

The cylinder release gets pushed down, the hammer returns to battery after “cocking” it
and the red nubby thing on the top strap moves up and down to show it’s cocked or not.
Odd stuff, but it works great.

Easy To Learn

The Rhino’s controls are simple like a conventional revolver, but operate in an unconventional manner. The cylinder release is operated by the right thumb, but you press it down instead of pushing it forward or pulling it back. Cocking for single-action fire is accomplished by pulling back the exposed hammer, but after rotating and locking the cylinder, the Rhino’s hammer falls back down instead of staying cocked. If you don’t read the instructions first, this is going to be very unnerving!

What looks like a hammer is not a hammer at all. It’s just a cocking piece. You can tell the pistol is cocked when a red indicator pin is sticking up through a hole in the left rear of the frame. You can feel the pin too, so it’s practical in the dark. The pin also pops in and out during double-action shooting which I found to be a distraction. I’m half inclined to file it down until it’s almost, but not quite, flush with the top of the frame. Okay, I’m easily distracted.

A practical feature the futuristic Rhino shares with old-school revolvers is the ability to use moon clips. You don’t need to use them but they can speed up loading and ejection. The only downside with them is not all ammunition is made to the same diameter as the clip’s engagement point and some brands are loose enough to fall out. Take this into consideration if you’re planning to carry one in your pocket.

Speaking of pockets, the Rhino is no pocket pistol like the J-Frame, so it isn’t quite so concealable. However, it’s about an inch shorter than a 2″ barrel K-Frame with comparable volume, and surprisingly lightweight thanks to an aluminum alloy frame. The cylinder and barrel sleeve are stainless steel.

I tested the 2″ concealed carry, fixed sights model, but there are 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″ barrel Rhinos with Picatinny rails at the bottom and adjustable sights. Pistols are currently made in .357 Magnum, .40 S&W and 9mm. Finish options include black or hard chrome. Grips are available in wood or rubber, with or without finger grooves and Hogue will be offering a custom grip soon. From time to time Chiappa also offers special, limited-edition Rhinos with custom finishes and grips, like the Nebula.

You can use moon clips or not as you see fit. Frank says to keep your left thumb well
away from the barrel/cylinder gap or suffer the consequences.

There are adjustable-sighted versions of the Rhino, along with color options and other accessories like holsters.

Competitive & Complete

The Rhino 200DS comes in a hard case with everything the first-time gun owner would need to use it immediately for personal defense. A leather ambidextrous belt holster with slots for vertical or forward cant, three moon clips, clip unloader, a cleaning brush and practical trigger lock are all part of the package. The MSRP on this chrome-finished model is about a grand, but actual online retail prices are between $850 and $900. The black finish guns seem to run about $100 less.

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