With its revolutionary design, the Chiappa Rhino .357 Mag has helped bring the DA/SA revolver back in the spotlight.
The Rhino holds six rounds of .357 Magnum ammunition.
A full-length ejector rod ensures positive ejection of spent cases.
When the Rhino is “cocked” for SA trigger press, a red button protrudes from the left side of the topstrap.
The Chiappa revolver uses a low profile hammer with sight notch cut.
The front sight blade is pinned to the flat revolver frame.
The six o’clock barrel position helps reduce the felt recoil impulse.
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.”
The 200DS Rhino was built with personal defense and concealed carry in mind. Chiappa has gone the extra mile and includes a very nice molded leather belt holster with each of these guns. This holster is a belt slide version that secures the gun snuggly against the shooter’s body.
While speedloaders are fast, they ride in your pocket like a rock. To carry spare ammunition for a concealed revolver, a rubber strip that holds the cartridges in line is a more practical choice. The QuickStrips from Tuff Products will hold six rounds of .357 Mag ammunition together and allow for rapid reloading. The skill to use a QuickStrip or other device does not simply materialize during a crisis. Take your loaders to the range and practice.
For my range testing, I took three separate loads with me: Black Hills 125-grain JHP in .357 Mag, Black Hills .38 Special 125-grain +P JHP and Winchester’s USA brand with a 130-grain FMJ projectile. I didn’t expect record-breaking speeds from a 2-inch barrel. When I chronographed each load, the averages were on par with a compact gun.
Firing magnum ammunition from a compact revolver is always going to be an exhilarating experience. However, I did indeed confirm that the reverse barrel location helped direct the recoil back toward the strongest part of the shooting grip and the kick you’d expect from a 2-inch .357 Mag was lessened tremendously. The recoil from the .38 Special ammunition was easy to manage in this the 1.5-pound steel revolver.
When it came time for accuracy testing, I conducted it all using a double-action trigger press. The trigger function proved to be smooth and sure without undo stacking or creep. From a standing, two-handed hold at 10 yards, I found that the Rhino revolver was capable of keeping all six shots under 2 inches. That’s pretty impressive for a compact handgun of any style.
The sights on the Rhino were right on as far as windage and elevation were concerned. However, my one big caveat for this gun is that the front sight is the exact same color/shade as the rest of the frame and is difficult to pick out quickly. Given my choice, I would definitely install some type of white or tritium front sight on this gun. When it comes time to defend your life, you don’t want to find yourself searching for the front sight. It needs to be obvious and nearly impossible to miss.
Using the .357 Mag loads, I ran drills against a steel popper target single-handed and with my off (left) hand only. The gun was controllable, and I was able to get rounds on target without undo muzzle flip or harsh recoil.
It should be kept in mind that, because the barrel is mounted at the base of the cylinder, the forcing cone is relatively close to your hands. Applying a standard semi-automatic, two-hand grip is a recipe for pain. When I fired the gun two-handed, I worked with a “thumbs down” grip. After about 100 rounds, I had carbon build-up on my left thumb as evidence of the clone proximity to the cylinder gap.
During my evaluation period, I put somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 rounds through the Rhino. That’s .357 and .38 Special. Naturally, the .38 Special is less expensive, but don’t cheat yourself by only practicing with the lightrecoiling ammunition. You need to put a fair amount of magnum fodder through the gun to get the experience.
In all, the 200DS version of the Rhino revolver proved to be a solid performer. The gun is very well-made and the reversed barrel position does dampen muzzle flip and kick. Combined with the included belt holster, this gun can be comfortably carried in a discreet fashion all day long when mated with a proper cover garment.
If you are looking for a fistful of magnum firepower, the compact Rhino revolver might just be what you need. It is certainly worth consideration. Find out more by calling 937-835-5000 or visiting chiappafirearms.com.
In the two decades since I attended the police academy, we’ve seen a complete shift…
by Bryce M. Towsley / Oct 16, 2012