A Rhino update: how the Chiappa Rhino works, part I.

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Today I’m starting my promised technical evaluation of the new Chiappa Arms Rhino revolver. This will be strictly an analysis of how the gun is constructed and how it functions; my full shooting review, including my evaluation of its suitability for self defense, will appear in an upcoming issue of Concealed Carry Magazine. (The review will be a must-read for anyone interested in the Rhino; I’ll be covering some aspects of the gun that you’re not likely to find anywhere else. If you’ve been thinking about joining the USCCA and getting their superb magazine, now would be a good time!)

I received the Rhino some weeks ago, but had to return it and request another. There was a serious issue with the action on the first gun, as it had a pull that I estimated at 17 lbs. (I say estimated because my digital gauge only goes to 12 lbs, and it pegged out before the trigger even started to move!) An email to someone who I know had also gotten a Rhino for evaluation said that his example definitely didn’t display that behavior. I concluded that the problem wasn’t one of design but rather of production, and gave them a second chance.

The replacement arrived last week and is much better. I’m not holding it against the gun, as I’ve had out-of-the-box S&W and Ruger revolvers that displayed the same issue. In fact, I just recently sent a brand-new GP100 back to the factory for just that problem!

From a technical standpoint the Rhino is very interesting. The lockwork is complicated and very unusual, but that’s not all. The gun contains many examples of a decidedly unusual approach to building a revolver.

I’ll start my technical evaluation by saying that the engineering on the Rhino is typically Italian, and I mean that in a good way (as opposed to “typically British”, which people usually take to mean the opposite. With good reason, I might add.) Having owned and worked on Italian cars and motorcycles I’ve grown used to how the Italians approach an engineering challenge, and while one can always find things to complain about, there are also things that make you smile and think “now THAT”S neat!” The Rhino is like that.

Take, for instance, the way the frame is constructed. The entire gun is made from an aluminum alloy, like a S&W Airweight. The breechface area of such guns, where the firing pin protrudes and the cylinder locks into place, is often subject to excessive wear (see my article at the Personal Defense Network for a discussion.) In brief, the relatively soft aluminum wears prematurely, leading to headspacing, endshake, and cylinder lockup problems in guns that see a lot of use.

Chiappa came up with an interesting solution: make the breechface removable, and construct it from steel! Their breechface (red arrow) is polished smooth, nicely blued, and fits into the frame very precisely. It hangs off to each side of the frame, serving as the cartridge shields as well, and is quite thick – on the order of .300”.

The machining necessary to do this definitely adds to the cost of producing the Rhino, but it’s a good way of ensuring that an aluminum gun will have a very long service life. I was surprised that they bothered, because no one else does and nobody would have thought twice if they hadn’t.

Next time we’ll take a look at their unique extractor star and the unintended consequences of precision.

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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