Mateba Fan - The internet's only fansite dedicated to the curious firearms of Emilio Ghisoni

TYPE: Double-action/single action revolver
CALIBER: .38 special/.357 magnum (in the manual, there is reference to a .40S&W version and I've heard of a forthcoming 9mm!)
CAPACITY: 6 rounds
WEIGHT: 24.3oz/688g (200DS)
CONSTRUCTION: Aluminum, either black or hard chromed (satin nickel, maybe?), with rubber or wood (olive or walnut) grips
BARREL LENGTH: 2" (200DS), 4" (40DS), 5" (50DS), 6" (60DS)
AMERICAN IMPORTER: Chiappa USA, distributed by MKS Suppliers
IMPORTATION HISTORY: 2" 200DS version began trickling in summer/fall of 2010. Longer barrelled variations became available late-winter of 2011. Hard chrome variation due to appear late spring of 2011.
OTHER NOTES: Ghisoni's last design, although much of the design work was done by architect Antonio Cudazzo. Produced by Kimar in Italy, then imported through Chiappa in Italy and Chiappa's American branch. DS stands for "Definitive Series." A double action-only variant is also available in the 2" barrel length.

Q: Does the weird design really affect muzzle flip and felt recoil that much?
In my opinion, yes. The reduction is most noticeable and effective with the rubber grips included on the 2" model. The recoil is driven almost straight back, rather than up and over.

Q: Is it accurate?
Mine are quite accurate. I'm especially good at shooting the snub-nose accurately.

Q: Would you recommend the Chiappa Rhino?
No. I hear a lot of reports from other owners that theirs have problems, and one of mine broke within hours of opening it out of the box (see below for the full story). Chiappa's customer service is also sub-par. The guns are a fun novelty, but they are pretty expensive still and definitely not something I would rely on for defensive purposes. If you already have a decent collection and you just want something interesting to shoot, then they are okay.

Possibly the most futuristic of Ghisoni’s designs is the Rhino, produced now by Kimar and distributed by Chiappa in the United States. It’s also his final design, conceived with a lot of help from architect Antonio Cudazzo in a cold, dark office at the floundering The.Ma company he founded after selling his Mateba property to a German investor. His friend Rino Chiappa expressed interest in the design and helped him develop it, though Emilio never lived to see its final production, having died two years before its public release in 2010.

The gun was originally slated to hit the US market in the spring of 2010, though drawings and photos of a stainless 2” version had been floating on the internet for a couple years. I was already fascinated by the 6 Unica autorevolver, and it was upon finding out that the Rhino was designed by the same eccentric Italian that I realized I would one day have a need to own all of his designs.

I was lucky enough to get my first Rhino in early October of 2010, and I believe it was one of the first ones in the country. At the time, there was almost no first-hand information or reviews about the gun, which lead me to create my first Youtube review video and inspired me to share my experiences with other rare guns. Since buying that 2” black model, I’ve put nearly 2000 rounds through it, with few hitches.

In the first quarter of 2011, different variations began to appear on the market. First came the 4”, 5” and 6” black models. Soon thereafter, the chrome versions of those longer-barreled Rhinos started to appear. Finally, in the early summer, the 2” chrome “white” Rhino hit the scene.
I picked up a 4” chrome model as soon as I saw one, but it was far from trouble-free. Read below to learn about my experiences with that gun. (I hear conflicting reports about what this finish actually is. Originally, the The.Ma Rhino was in stainless steel. The Rhino was listed as having a chrome finish on Chiappa's site, but the appearance is similar to a satin nickel.)

Chiappa Rhino 200DS vs Colt Detective Special vs Beretta 92 size comparison

Chiappa Rhino 200DS vs Colt Detective Special vs Beretta 92 size comparison.
The Beretta 92 is the most "common" gun I own that I could use to compare the Rhino's size with. The Detective Special is typical snubnose revolver size and should also help get a feel for the Rhino's physical size.

The 2” Rhino 200DS is a chunky gun, although not overly so, in my opinion. It’s around 25 oz unloaded. The 4” model is a little heavier, and obviously a couple inches longer. The grips on both guns, which I describe in detail below, are short and trim, unlike target-style grips common to many revolvers. I’ve taken a picture of the 200DS to compare its size with the archetypal snubby, the Colt Detective Special, as well as my most “common” semi-auto, a Beretta 92.

One of the biggest positive impressions on me when I first received the 200DS was the grip ergonomics. The stock grips seem to be made of a type of silicone, and are incredibly comfortable. The shape and size of the grips fit my hands extremely well, and put the gun into a nice, deep hold. I’ve since put wood grips on the 2” version, and the 4” 40DS (and other longer-barreled guns) come with them standard. In my opinion, the wood looks nice, but the rubber feels better, as it gives a little and fills the hand better.

The cylinder release is on the right side of the revolver, and rotates back-and-down, in an arc. It is unusual, and probably not as efficient in a combat setting as S&W’s push-forward or Colt’s pull-backward releases.

The “hammer” is an interesting feature on the Rhinos. Since the barrel is at the 6 o’clock position in the gun, the firing pin and hammer mechanism is located inside the frame. The “hammer spur” protruding from the top is actually a cocking lever. Pulling the lever back pushes down on a pin that cocks the hammer inside the gun. It’s pretty uncomfortable to cock, really, and makes single action a bit less fun than it usually is with a revolver.

The sights on the 2” aren’t spectacular, but they work well enough. The front sight is bright orange and shows up well during point shooting exercises. The rear sight is actually a cutout in the cocking lever. The 4” and 5” guns have adjustable rear sights, and the 6” Rhinos have Tritium night sight inserts.

Longer guns also have rails under the barrels, with the 6” variation having another rail on top. I’m not a huge fan of the double rail look, as they look a bit like an afterthought to me. I think it works okay on the 4” and 5” versions, but I could still do without. Note that any accessory dangling off the end of the barrel will be quite the reach for most fingers.

Chiappa Rhino 200DS sight picture

Chiappa Rhino 200DS sight picture.
The sights are fast and easy to acquire. I didn't choke up as much as I could, in order to not obstruct the view of the gun too much.

My two Rhinos shoot very well. The 200DS was quite accurate, due in large part to the excellent grip ergonomics and natural pointability. In my hand, the gun points as easily as my index finger. The barrel just happens to be at almost the same level, so it’s quite easy to point shoot. The 4” is similarly comfortable to shoot, although I’ll mention again that the wooden grips are a little less pleasant than the rubber ones. They don’t soak up the recoil, and, especially when shooting .357 magnum loads, the recoil can start to wear on the webbing of your hand.

Double action in the 2” is heavy, and has a bit of a strange stacking to it, but it is manageable and easy to stage. Single action is exquisite, breaking like a glass rod, although perhaps a touch heavy. (I’d guess 4 pounds, maybe?)

I’ve installed a Stage II trigger upgrade kit in my 4”, and the double action pull is much improved. It’s a lot lighter, although is still has a quirky sort of rhythm to it. However, the difference from stock is noticeable. Single action with the Stage II is a bit squishy for my tastes, having more creep than I like in a gun, especially a single action revolver.

I originally didn’t have many criticisms of the gun. My first Rhino, the 2” 200DS, has a great SA trigger, a passable DA, with stunning grip ergonomics and first-rate build quality.

My second Rhino, the white 4” 40DS, on the other hand, has given me reason to pause in recommending Rhinos to friends.

I’ll tell the story here:

When I picked up my 40DS from the dealer, I noticed right away that the trigger was nothing like the original 200DS I already had. Double action was long and mushy, and single action was just a shorter version of that, with all the mush preserved. I was a little concerned, but I was planning on being a guinea pig with Chiappa’s Stage II trigger upgrade anyway, so I took it home to join my collection.

That evening, I was dry-firing it with snap caps, when suddenly, single action became incredibly difficult to engage. Double action was making a different sound than usual, also. With a bit of inspection, I found that when pulling the trigger in double action, the hammer was slipping prematurely and hitting the firing pin with little-to-no “oomph.” Later, when I went to the range, I confirmed that DA would not send a round off, or even dent the primer. Single action would fire a cartridge, but it was hard to cock.

I registered the complaint with Chiappa using their online form system, and had the gun on its way just a few days after I picked it up. I was a little annoyed that they made no effort to cover my shipping costs, which can be quite expensive when shipping a handgun. My only other experience with customer service in the gun industry was with Smith & Wesson, who are known for top-notch care. S&W sent me a prepaid label immediately, and the gun was returned within a week. Chiappa failed at step one, and disappointed me throughout the process.

The gun arrived in Ohio, signed for by one of Chiappa’s employees, I assume. Almost two weeks go by with no word at all from Chiappa, so I write them an email. I hear back within a couple hours that the gun has been ready, they just needed an FFL to return it to, since they needed to replace the frame and it’s now a new gun to be transferred to me. I don’t know why I wasn’t contacted sooner and told to supply the FFL. This turned out to be another expense, as I had to pay my dealer the $20 to transfer me the new gun after the OTHER brand new gun broke within hours.

Via email, I responded to make sure the Stage II kit was installed like I wrote in my original form submission, and again in a note enclosed with the broken gun. The response came a few days later, on a Friday afternoon, that I needed to call in my payment information, and then they’d install the kit.

I called the following Monday to pay for it. Nobody answered the phone all day, at any extension I tried. It wasn’t a holiday. I left a message asking for them to call me back. Around noon on Tuesday, I called again, and the guy who answered (who seemed to be the only person I dealt with during the whole process, in both emails and phone conversations) said he was just about to call me. He took my information, and I found out the next day that the kit had been installed.

Since it was a new gun, it first had to be sent to the original distributor for some reason. The gun had been out of my hands for about a month at this point, so I asked Chiappa to ask the distributor to hurry it along, if possible.

About two weeks later, having heard nothing from anyone, I got in touch with the distributor, Taylor’s and Company, in Virginia. The woman there said she had the gun, but needed an FFL to send it to. (Shouldn’t Chiappa have included that?) I sent her the FFL, and the gun finally got in the mail to my dealer two days later.

So, I was without the Rhino for about 6 weeks, and I was also out about $60 in shipping and dealer’s fees. Not a positive experience, and I’d categorize Chiappa’s handling of it as borderline incompetent.

I’ve heard multiple sources online question the build quality of the guns as of late, too. People say squishy triggers are common, and one person said that the cylinder ejector rod actually unscrewed itself while he was handling it in the store.

It’s sad to say, but because of my poor experience with Chiappa’s service, and the common problems I’ve been hearing, I have trouble recommending the gun enthusiastically now. I hope that they get these problems sorted out, because I still really like my original 2” gun. My theory is that they cared more about the first batch (my 2” was a very early model) and got sloppy later on, or that they’re intentionally making the triggers worse to sell the trigger kits. I should note that they’ve taken the trigger upgrade kit option down from their site, so I’m not sure if it’s still available or if it’s a special request item.

Article scans coming soon.

My initial review of the gun, part one:

Part two:

Face-Off: Chiappa Rhino 200DS vs 40DS:

Face-Off: Colt Detective Special vs Chiappa Rhino 200DS:

My update on owning and shooting the gun after some time:

My initial review and discussion of the problem with the 4" 40DS:

Shooting the 2" Chiappa Rhino 200DS:

Chiappa Firearms website
Chiappa Firearms online store

Do you know of a good Chiappa Rhino-related link? Please share it with me and I'll include it here!