Chiappa Rhino – Space Cowboys and Future Revolvers

In the world of revolvers, none strike my fancy as much as the Chiappa Rhino with its game-changing design that shows there is a lot of life left for the old revolver.

Chiappa produces a wide variety of firearms out of Italy, but the Rhino is without a doubt their flagship firearm. The designer of the Mateba Autorevolver had his hand in the design of the Rhino, and it shows.

Chiappa Rhino 40DS six-shooter wheelgun wednesday.
This model is the Rhino 40 DS—a mid-sized variant that packs a four-inch barrel, a six-shot cylinder, and an under-barrel rail perfectly sized for a TLR 7.

The Space Cowboy and the Rhino

The Rhino has popped up as a futuristic space cowboy gun in tv and media numerous times. We got Total Recall, Divergent, Ghost in the Shell, Terminator, and many more.

Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Shailene Woodley) aims the Chiappa Rhino in Divergent.
Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) aims the Chiappa Rhino in Divergent. Image source:

The Chiappa Rhino looks like it could star in the next episode of the Mandalorian. This unique flavor makes the Rhino stand out, but I assure you it’s more than good looks. The Rhino has a lot to offer those looking for a powerful, easy to handle revolver. 

The Rhino’s barrel is admittedly what draws most in.

Most revolvers use a similar system in which the barrel is aligned to the top chamber of the revolver’s cylinder. The Rhino aligns the barrel with the bottom cylinder of the chamber. Looking cool is admittedly half the battle, but this feature doesn’t just look cool. 

The barrel’s location impacts how the weapon handles.

Bore axis is one of those things that people have overblown. The bore axis between a SIG and a Glock makes no applicable difference in how the gun handles. However, the bore axis does make a difference when the barrel is placed this low, and weight is placed over the bore. 

Chiappa Rhino barrel aligned with the bottom cylinder of the chamber.
The Rhino aligns the barrel with the bottom cylinder of the chamber.

The barrel sits aligned with the wrist and drives force more rearward than upward.

If you look at the Rhino’s barrel, there sits what’s essentially a rib over the barrel. This thick chunk of metal acts as a weight to help counteract recoil as well as the low bore axis. 

Does It Make Much Difference? 

Hell yeah, it does.

The barrel barely moves between shots, even when fired with the powerful 357 Magnum rounds. The Rhino jumps up a hair, but nothing like a traditional revolver. It’s somewhat startling at first. Muscle memory says there should be more time before the next shot is fired, but the gun is already back on target. 

A double-action revolver can only be fired so fast, but even when firing fast, the Rhino is controllable. More so than other revolvers. I’m not a six-gun expert by any means, but even I can put a lot of lead on target in a very short time. The lack of recoil and muzzle rise allows me to keep all six shots on a ten-inch gong at 15 yards when fired as fast as possible. 

The Fighting Rhino 

The Rhino has a unique set of ergonomics. The grip is interesting and comfortable. The wood design is a nice throwback. The cylinder release is placed upwards and sits where the thumb naturally falls. It’s placed perfectly for faster reloads. The cylinder is circular-ish, with some angles that make gripping it easy while reloading. The hammer doesn’t move when the gun is fired but is used to cock the gun into single-action mode. 

When cocked rearward, the gun goes into single-action, but the hammer goes back forward. A small orange nub is then risen, showing that the gun is in single-action mode.

The small orange nub indicates that the Chiappa Rhino is in single action mode.
The small orange nub indicates single-action mode.
Chiappa Rhino, decocked
Decocking is as simple as pulling the hammer back again and riding it forward. 

Brainstorming the Future of Revolvers 

The Rhino is more than a gimmicky cool-looking gun. It’s well crafted, accurate, easy to control, and in 357 Magnum—it’s powerful. The 40DS has a light rail, but the 60DS model ups the game with an optic rail as well. 

Taking all this into account got me thinking. What’ the future of revolvers? 

Automatic pistols have been mainstream for over a century now, and revolvers have stuck around. They haven’t necessarily been pushed to the edge of mediocrity and forced off the hill to become a niche collector’s item. 

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I’d love to see a truly modernized revolver. The Rhino shows that some of the ideas make sense, but we are a long way from seeing a snub nose 4.6 revolver that holds ten rounds and is cut for a Trijicon RMR. 

Optics and Light Compatibility

In the realm of accessory attachment, revolvers have lagged behind. Optics and weapon-mounted lights are excellent force multipliers on a handgun, and there is no reason why revolvers can’t join in on the fun. Companies like Korth, Chiappa, and occasionally Smith and Wesson have recognized this and produced revolvers with rails to accommodate the finest in optics and lights.

Chiappa Rhino under-barrel rail for weapon mounted light.
Chiappa Rhino’s under-barrel rail is perfectly sized for a TLR 7.

Optics could be attached via rails or with dedicated milling to accommodate specific optics. Dedicated milling could be another option to allow the optic to sit nice and low and easily cowitness with iron sights.

Since a revolver doesn’t have a moving slide, lights can be attached to the bottom or even the side of the gun. Why the side? Well, if the gun is ultra-small, you can still attach a light or laser to it without the need for a dedicated under barrel rail. 

Lower Bore Axis 

Chiappa got it right with the Rhino. The lower bore axis makes a significant difference in how the weapon handles and functions. Upward muzzle rise is nearly eliminated, and recoil is easily controllable. A lower bore axis is an easy and proven improvement for revolvers. 

Rethink Ergonomics 

Chiappa again did it right in rethinking the ergonomics of the gun. The placement of the Rhino’s cylinder release is smart and easily accessible. Reloading the revolver is a tricky mistress, and speed is king with reloads. Changing the controls and reducing the time to reload would be a big priority. 

Higher Capacity 

Revolving cylinders can only do so much. To improve their capacity, you’ll need a bigger cylinder. S&W and the TR8 got it right with its 8 round capacity. It’s a big gun, admittedly, but two extra rounds is a nice touch.

We don’t have to stick to traditional revolver calibers either, which brings me to my final point. 

New Calibers 

As far as fighting guns go, the 357 Magnum is the go-to, with the 38 Special being the snub nose option.

New calibers are all the rage in the automatic world, and revolvers can be altered to accept these cartridges, or new cartridges could be developed for revolvers. 

Mateba Unica 6
The Mateba Unica 6 was designed by one of the engineers working on the Rhino. This is a rare example of a semi-auto revolver. Are semi-auto revolvers the future? Maybe.

I could see revolvers being chambered in PDW rounds like the 5.7×28 or 4.6, or any other PDW style caliber. These rounds are thinner and would allow for more space in the cylinder to accommodate more rounds. They are longer than most automatic pistol cartridges, but revolver cylinders are already longer than most and accommodate longer calibers. 

Rounds like the 7.5 FK BRNO are slightly wider than the 357 Magnum but offer extreme ballistic performance that could make the revolver a long-range platform. 

What is the future of revolvers? Could they make a comeback, or at least keep up with the changing times? If they can, what could they do? I had a few ideas to bring revolvers into the mainstream. I’m no manufacturer but think of this as a thought experiment.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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