2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the Chiappa Firearms iconic Rhino revolver, the most revolutionary design in its category in our times. Let’s take a look at its history and at what makes it so peculiar.
Almost ten years have passed since then, and the Rhino revolver has become iconic as the gun that marked the “new course” for its manufacturer: originally known mostly for its muzzle-loading, rimfire and centerfire historic replica firearms and for its KIMAR line of blank firing guns – all of which still in production and quite healty – the Chiappa Firearms company turned into a “young at heart” entity, operating state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies and producing firearms that meet the ever-changing needs and tastes of the modern shooter.
But the Rhino revolver traces its roots much farther back, to the figure of engineer Emilio Ghisoni – a name known to hard-core revolver enthusiasts for his work with the MA.TE.BA. company. Ghisoni was the brain behind the eclectic MTR and “Autorevolver 6 Unica” lines of sporting revolvers, just as ingenious in terms of engineering as they are nowadays a rarity to find.
MA.TE.BA. was Ghisoni’s family company and originally manufactured industrial kneading machinery. When the gun business folded in the late 1990s, Ghisoni got back to the original family business, but his mind kept returning to new and innovative ways to bring a revolution to a centuries-old platform as the revolver.
Helped and spurred by architect Antonio Cudazzo, who also first presented him with a wax model patterned after his original concept, Ghisoni got back to the revolver business with his new Pavia-based THE.MA. - “Thermoballistic Machines di Emilio Ghisoni” company. A first prototype of the Rhino was showcased at the 2003 edition of the EXA gun show in Brescia, Italy, but THE.MA. didn’t produce working models for three more years. By then, however, Emilio Ghisoni was already gravely ill, and on April 24, 2008, he passed away.
Unwilling to see Ghisoni’s last years of work go to waste, his friend Antonio Cudazzo headed to the Chiappa Firearms company, who had the technologies and the capabilities to perfect and mass produce the new revolver. The Chiappa Rhino was first introduced to the European market at the 2009 IWA expo in Nuremberg, Germany, and hit north America the following year with its introduction at the 2010 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
The key signature feature of the Rhino revolver design is the 42NiCrMo4 steel barrel aligned with the bottom chamber of the cylinder, rather with the top chamber as it’s found on standard revolvers. Such an unusual layout keeps the shooter’s hand more in line with the bore axis and results in a pronounced reduction of recoil and muzzle climb, thus improving accuracy and making the return on target faster for follow-up shots.
The alignment of the barrel with the lower cylinder chamber also meant that the front sight had to be redesigned so that it would align with the rear sight and the center sight tunnel. The front sight of the revolver thus reminds in shape the horn of a Rhinoceros – hence the name "Rhino" (but also, with a "coincidental" reference to the company CEO first name: Rino Chiappa).
All variants of the Rhino revolver are built around an airspace-grade lightweight aluminum alloy (ERGAL) machined from solid billet, and all variants except the 2-inch barrel models feature a bottom MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for tactical accessories. 6-inch barrel models also feature an additional rail on top of the sighting rib, allowing for the use of red dot or reflex sights. Also manufactured out of steel is the hexagonal cylinder and its rear shield.
Virtually all the components of the Rhino revolver are CNC machined, resulting in a high manufacturing quality and very tight tolerances for accuracy.
The peculiar shape of the cylinder – hexagonal rather than cylindrical – reduces the width of the Rhino revolver to a minimum, minimizing printing when the gun is carried concealed and making it easier and quicker to draw.
And this is specifically what makes the Rhino the new reference point for defensive carry revolvers for the early 21th Century. The trigger, hammer and cylinder revolving mechanisms are separate, and feature bearings to reduce attrition and wear on those key components.
The trigger system is likewise unique. Fully enclosed, it does not feature a real external hammer: rather, a “faux” hammer that dubs as a manual cocking handle and pops out a visual cocking status indicator when operated. Single/Double action is the standard, but Single-action only or double-action only variants are also available.
Chiappa’s Rhino revolver is currently available in more than fifty different combinations of barrel lengths (2”, 3", 4”, 5”, 6”), sights, grip size and material, outer finishes and calibers.
The Rhino is currently manufactured in .357 Magnum (compatible with .38 Special ammunition), 9mm and .40 Smith & Wesson. The cylinder holds six shots in all variants and is compatible with speed-loaders; variants chambered in 9mm and .40 use moon-clips to hold the rimless ammunition in place.
The Rhino has very quickly made its way into popular culture, having appeared in over twenty-five movies, TV shows and videogames up to date, and is safely described as the more easily recognizable revolver currently being in production. Ten years after its debut, the Rhino revolver is more than ever one off the top products in the Chiappa Firearms catalog, for sure an attractive one for any "wheel guns" enthusiasts.
Revolver Chiappa Firearms "Rhino"
Personal defense, sport shooting
.357 Magnum, .38 Special, .40 Smith & Wesson, 9x19mm
Single and double action
Automatic, on cylinder and firing pin
2", 3", 4", 5", 6"
Fixed or adjustable rear sight; fixed front sight
6.5"/165mm - 10.5"/266mm (depending on models)
700g/1.5lbs - 900g/2lbs (depending on models)
7075-T6 alloy frame, with steel barrel and cylinder; blued, anoddized, cerakote, nickel, chrome finishes
Contact your local dealer