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Handgun Reviews Revolvers

Review: Chiappa Rhino 200DS

by James Tarr   |  December 22nd, 2011 20
Chiappa Rhino 200 DS

The Chiappa Rhino 200DS fires rounds from the bottom chamber of its cylinder instead of the top.

The bore of a revolver sits high off the hand, and because of that the muzzle flip during firing has always been quite pronounced, especially with magnum loads. That’s just physics, leverage and force. Traditionally the barrel of a revolver is lined up with the top chamber in the cylinder, which puts it far above the user’s hand.

What Chiappa (pronounced key-apa) has done with the Rhino is put the barrel in line with the bottom chamber in the cylinder. Not only does this drastically lower the bore, because of the rearrangement of the internal parts, the grip itself—available in black rubber or wood laminate—can be put higher on the frame of the gun.

Chiappa Rhino 200DS in hand

The Rhino design puts the bore axis much lower in the hand, resulting in a significant reduction in muzzle rise, even with magnum rounds.

The Rhino is not the first revolver with a bottom-chamber barrel design. In 1997 we saw the introduction of the Mateba Model 6 Unica, an “autorevolver” designed by Emilio Ghisoni. If the Mateba looks like a more complicated cousin of the Rhino, that’s because Ghisoni helped design the Rhino as well.

Just moving the barrel down the width of the cylinder required a complete internal redesign, and the Rhino has more parts than a traditional double-action revolver.

What appears to be the hammer is actually the hammer’s cocking lever; the hammer is set way down in the frame. At the top rear of the frame is a small red plunger that protrudes when the unseen hammer is cocked.

The cylinder can’t be opened when the hammer is cocked, and to uncock the gun the procedure is the same as on any other double-action revolver: Carefully hold back the cocking lever, pull the trigger and then slowly lower the hammer by use of the hammer cocking lever.

Given all this, it should come as no surprise that the two-inch-barreled Rhino 200DS I tested is a unique-looking piece. A six-shot .357 Magnum, the Rhino sports a flat-sided cylinder to aid in concealment. There is a square notch milled into the frame for the rear sight, and the front is a serrated ramp pinned into place. The cylinder release is a lever on the left side of the frame that rotates downward under your thumb.

Chiappa Rhino 200DS cocking lever

What you see here is not the hammer but the hammer cocking lever. To the left of that is the cylinder release. The red plunger at the top is the cocking indicator.

Between the lower bore and the higher grip, muzzle rise out of the two-inch Rhino when shooting .38 Specials is akin to shooting a .22. I’m not kidding; there is almost no muzzle rise with Specials. With .357 Magnums, muzzle rise isn’t much more, although you can hear and feel the difference, especially in the palm of your hand. The revolver still recoils, but the recoil forces are almost all straight back, as with a semiauto.

Trigger pull on my test sample was the same as on the numerous other Rhinos I have fired: excellent. The double-action pull was just under nine pounds, and could be staged just before breaking for precise work. The single-action pull was four pounds, with no take-up or overtravel. The trigger is wide and smooth, just how I like it.

Even though it has a short two-inch barrel and lightweight aluminum frame, because of its size this is not a pocket gun. Chiappa provides a leather pancake belt holster with the pistol.

The Rhino’s design requires more parts than a traditional double-action revolver. How durable is it? Time will tell. I have shot three different Rhino 200DS revolvers extensively—one at an industry event, one for this article, and one during the filming of the Handguns TV show. I managed to “break” one of them (specifically an internal spring fell out of place) while filming the TV show, but all the others I’ve shot or seen used ran flawlessly.

Chiappa Rhino 200DS cylinder

The six-shot .357 has a flattened cylinder to aid in concealment. It’s not a pocket gun but does come complete with a pancake holster.

My first handgun was a .357 Magnum S&W 586. I learned right away that shooting magnums is not fun or enjoyable, due to both blast and recoil, and the S&W Model 10 I have at home is loaded with .38 Specials, because my philosophy is that hitting with a Special is better than flinching and missing with a Magnum. The Rhino is the first carry-size revolver I’ve shot that I would load with .357s and not worry at all about recoil. An underbarrel revolver is an idea long overdue, and designs like the Rhino are the future of revolvers.

 This article originally appeared in the February/March issue of Handguns magazine.

Fast Specs

  • Type: centerfire DA/SA revolver
  • Caliber: .357 Magnum
  • Capacity: 6
  • Barrel: 2 in.
  • Overall length: 6.5/1.38/4.75 in.
  • Weight: 24 oz.
  • Finish: black aluminum frame, blued cylinder
  • Grips: black rubber (tested), wood laminate
  • Sights: serrated ramp front, fixed notch rear
  • Trigger: 10-lb. DA, 4-lb. SA
  • Price: $749
  • Manufacturer: Chiappa Firearms, Ltd.
  • Importer: MKS Supply


Accuracy Results

  • Smallest avg. group: 158 gr. Hornady XTP .38 Spl.—2.6 in.
  • Largest avg. group: 110 gr Hornady Critical Defense .38 Spl.—3.0 in.
  • Avg. of all ammo tested (4 types): 2.8 in.
  • Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at 25 yards from a sandbag rest.

    I love the gun, have been looking at the 6" version in the nickel finish, but have had no luck finding a dealer that has one or can order one. Customer service at Chiappa is for crap. I have e-mailed them a number of times asking where I can get one and have never gotten a response.

    • Guest

      None of our inboxes has any requests for finding a dealer for the Rhino. Perhaps you have the wrong email address? Try

      • MDSPHOTO

        Well then you need to fix your inboxes because I emailed you directly from the "Contact Us" form on YOUR website. I event went so far as to contact your Italian location asking for assistance!

    • Joe
  • Ken

    MDS- I don't know where you are at, but here in central Ohio I have found them at three different dealers and at a gun show this weekend. My son and I just bought a 2 inch for each of us. We saw 5 inch and 6 inch at a local gun store and a 6 inch at the gun show.

  • stevemoriarity

    ugly as sin

  • Texas Gal

    I would rather have ugly &accurate than pretty and useless due to muzzle flip, recoil. Selling a Rugger LCR for that very reason!!!

    • P. Barbour

      Hey Texas Gal,
      I have one of the Rhino 357, 200DS( 2" barrel). I love it because even shooting 357 bullets, the gun has very little recoil. I have only had it about 8 months, but shoot it plenty and have had not problems at all; it is very well built. I was interested in your comment on the LCR, because I have been eyeing it as my next purchase. Do you recommend that I stay away from it? Any helpful comments would be greatly appreciated.
      NC CCW Gal

      • Watchman73

        P. Barbour, regarding the Ruger LCR, I owned one briefly. Even with the factory rubberized grips I found it somewhat punishing and after about 20 rounds, I decided it wasn’t for me. The pistol is rated for +P loads, but if found it painful enough with regular .38 special ammo. Hope this helps.

      • Jason Birdsong

        The Ruger LCR is a fantastic pocket sized revolver with an amazing trigger out of the box, and 100% reliability. The .357 version is stout with full power magnum loads but what else would you expect out of a pocket gun with .357 magnum rounds. 38 special and +p rounds are a delight to shoot with the LCR. Mine has guarded my family on summer outings to the beach countless times and i never felt underpowered or was worried about it not working. The 200DS on the other hand weighs entirely too much to be carried and is akward to hold. Just my opinion for what its worth.

  • old vet

    Have seen some pics. showing insides and all. Lots of parts, cams, and springs. Would like to get a little more info on how it holds up and if things tend to break after a while.

    • HunterG

      My first one was a bg problem. It wouldn't fire with most of the different .38 special ammo I tried. When I tried 357 Mag ammo. onlt two of the six went off and they split the brass cases the whole length. The firing pin strike was off center and the cylinder chambers were oversize. Eventually they sent me a new gun. With the second one, the trigger pull was sp heavy I called them about it. Was told it would improve after firing maybe 500 rounds. Shot it some, dry fired it with snap caps. The trigger pull got so heavy I needed two hands to get it to go. The next pull was easy but I found that now the cylinder wasn't turning. Again, back to Dayton. This time it only took two, maybe threee weeks to get it back. Since then I haven't shot it much. Hope it is finally fixed. I really like the fact that it is comfortable to shoot, even with full power 357 ammo. The problem is reliability.

    • dupkaman

      My thoughts also

  • Will Carry

    I have heard some good reports about the durability of the Rhino. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder and I think this revolver is the coolest looking pistol I have ever seen. It looks like something out of Blade Runner.
    I will have one of these soon I hope.

  • Anthony DiGiovanni

    Guns are like SUVs ,all look the same .The rhino may be the future.

  • D.S.

    Look where that guys thumb is on his left hand. It's pretty darn close to where the hot gasses come out between the cylinder and barrel gap

  • Bill White

    I have one and love it. Yes , I did have a problem with misfire when I first got it BUT I sent it back right away . They sent me the mailer , it went back and was back to me in two weeks. It works perfect now. It is such a cool little gun and worth the minor repair. Gosh, have patience and you shall receive. To many people out there so big headed saying " if it don't come to me perfect it must be a hunk of junk" They're the ones losing out.

  • Gum

    After looking at a lot of YouTube videos on this gun & reading, I decided that you don't want the 200DS, but the 200D (double action only).

  • Maxx

    Just don't hold the Rhino the way the photo above shows. There is a reason they include instructions on how to hold it properly to avoid your thumb being singed or perhaps, worse. This ain't a semi, you've got to grip it with both hands (if you're using both) behind the wheel.

  • dupkaman

    Yes, seems like a good idea but the trigger mechanism is probably the Achilles heel. My gut feeling is after a diet of 357s it probably will need some repairs.
    When they redesign it to be more dependable I’ll buy one. As for mow….I’ll stick with Ruger or S&W

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