Working with Italian competitive shooter Antonio Caduzzo, the team produced a unique revolver that highlighted Ghisoni’s signature bottom-barrel design; however, Ghisoni didn’t live to see it become reality, since he passed away in 2008. But, Caduzzo found another partner, Rino Chiappa, owner of Chiappa Group and Chiappa Firearms. Chiappa Firearms is well-known for its replica arms of notable models from Sharps, Winchester and Colt.
The unconventional revolver, coined the Rhino, was introduced at the 2010 SHOT Show. It drew a crowd, mostly because of its unorthodox appearance, but also because of its distinctive design. The response was similar to that of the Glock pistol’s introduction because the Rhino was such a radical departure from the conventional wisdom that dictated what a handgun had to be.
Redefining The Revolver
The Rhino functions as differently as it looks. The geometry of the design seems off because the trigger is positioned about mid-cylinder and the hammer is directly above—as opposed to forward of—the grip. Revolvers also typically have a curvaceous look to them, and if you compare a Rhino side-by-side with a modern revolver, such as the Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special, then it looks, well, prehistoric. With regard to its size, the six-shot Rhino is essentially the same length—about 0.2 inches thicker and 1-inch taller—and 5.5 ounces heavier than the five-shot Model 36.
As for operation, forget the established parameters of the conventional revolver. The only similarity the Rhino shares with the modern double-action revolver is that when the trigger is pulled or the hammer is cocked, its cylinder rotates to line up a chamber with the barrel before the gun is fired. The internal lockwork produces the same result, but in a completely different manner.
The most radical departure from the common revolver is the position of the barrel, which made it impossible for a conventional, exposed hammer to work. This is because the cartridge to be fired resides just above the trigger, not near the top strap and in front of a hammer, as found in traditional revolvers. On the Rhino, what appears to be an exposed hammer is nothing more than a cocking lever. Pulling it to the rear rotates the cylinder, and when it is released, the lever falls forward. It may startle those accustomed to a conventional revolver. The lever, however, just actuates the true hammer buried inside the complex lockwork. The single-action firing mechanism within the Rhino operates like a standard striker-fired semi-automatic handgun; by retracting the cocking lever the striker is pre-loaded—comparable to cycling the slide on a Springfield Armory XD.
When the cocking lever is fully retracted a small red plunger, signifying the handgun is in the single-action mode and ready to fire, is visible near the top, rear of the frame. For double-action operation, the Rhino requires only that the trigger be pulled. One difference, however, between the Rhino and conventional revolvers with hammers it that the progression of the trigger pull cannot be observed.
Ironically, the Rhino is uncocked like conventional revolvers: while maintaining a grip on the cocking lever, pull it rearward while depressing the trigger. Then, ease the cocking lever and the trigger forward together. This reverts the revolver to double-action operation.
To the left of the cocking lever, which is notched to serve as a rear sight, is the cylinder-release latch. Depressing the latch frees the cylinder, similar to how the safety of an M1911 is disengaged. It is easily pushed clear of the frame using a single finger. With the cylinder free the ejector rod is visible at the front of the crane for case or cartridge removal—nothing new here.
The Rhino’s ejector rod, crane, cylinder and barrel are steel; however, the frame, which fully encases the barrel, is aluminum alloy. A one-piece, rubber-like boot-style stock fits over the grip frame, and it is held in place by a single screw at the base. The material is soft, pliable and comfortable, but seems a bit under-engineered compared to the rest of this abnormal revolver.