In the two decades since I attended the police academy, we’ve seen a complete shift from double-action revolvers to semi-automatic pistols. This trend naturally translated to the citizen’s personal defense world. However, the rampant popularity of compact, concealable handguns has caused a bit of a change in that situation and citizen gun owners are now eyeing the old wheelguns not as antiques but as practical self-defense tools. Several firearms makers have made serious headway back into the double-action revolver market by offering compact .38 Special guns with modern attributes. Chiappa Firearms has pushed the envelope even further by importing a DA revolver that is both unique in its appearance and powerful in its delivery.
The Chiappa Rhino Model 200DS is a double-action revolver that holds six rounds of .357 Mag ammunition. A strikingly distinctive profile sets the Rhino revolvers apart from the rest. What is most unique about this gun is the fact that the barrel is located at the base of the cylinder—not the top—as DA revolvers have been configured for more than a century.
Anyone familiar with “magnum” revolvers can attest to the fact that when you fire such a gun, you feel a definite upward recoil impulse or “kick.” The premise of the reversed-barrel position is to align the recoil impulse and the strongest part of the shooter’s grip. Rather than a hard, upward flip, you should experience more of a backward shove. At least that was the idea I set out to test.
The 200DS Rhino has a matte black finish in a matte black with black rubber grips. These grips are ample and allow the shooter to maintain a solid purchase on the gun. In addition to the unique profile, Chiappa has strayed from the norm by installing a flat-sided cylinder on the gun. This cylinder is more a rounded hexagon than a circle and it is not fluted as your normal DA revolver might be.
You will find a rear sight channel and a ramped front sight blade atop the compact revolver. The blade is pinned into the frame. As for manual controls, there are really only two: a wide, smooth-faced trigger and the cylinder release lever located high up on the left side of the frame.
The two-stage hammer is exposed and the gun can be thumb-cocked, though this action would prove impractical for personal defense and adds little in the way of accuracy or practicality. Close examination of the revolver shows a small, rounded pin that is painted bright red and protrudes from the top of the gun when a complete trigger stroke is completed. If the shooter should desire to thumb-cock the revolver, the hammer does not remain “cocked” to the rear. However, the red indicator protrudes from the top strap of the gun, indicating that the action is indeed “cocked.”
The Achilles’ Heel of most snub-nosed revolvers is the short ejector rod that can make ejecting spent cases difficult. The 2-inch-barreled Rhino has essentially the same frame dimensions as the full-sized, 6-inch-barreled version, so the ejector rod is “full-length.”