5 min read

Chiappa Rhino and S&W 686

It's no secret that I am a big fan of revolvers. I love the .357 Magnum round, and the first revolver I bought for myself was the S&W 686. It's an absolutely great revolver, and I can easily recommend it to anyone interested in getting into revolvers. I'm also probably going to sell it soon. Why? The Chiappa Rhino.

Anyone who doesn't know what the Chiappa Rhino is by now should read up on it right away. It deserves to be in your list of firearms on the tip of your tongue. For all intents and purposes, I've basically stopped using my 686 in favor of the Rhino in nearly every situation. Let's examine some of the reasons.

The Chiapp Rhino is simply a more comfortable gun for me. For people like Jerry Miculek who have been shooting S&W revolvers for longer than I've been alive, there's a lot of muscle memory that the Rhino simply ignores. It has a much sharper grip angle, the barrel is at the bottom, which means that reloads and overall hold are different. The trigger face is wide and smooth, whereas many people like a ridged and narrow trigger. The grip is high and somewhat fat. The cylinder release is a down lever compared to a push switch of some sort, and the trigger is totally different than what you would get out of a normal revolver trigger. Take all of this together and I love it.

It's no secret that many people who love their revolvers have used them for a long time. There's a sort of old-timey feel to the revolver that attracts both the young and the less young. The Rhino is unashamedly a modern revolver with modern ideas, modern styling, and modern characteristics. My love of revolvers may be partly because of their classic heritage, but I'm also distinctly modern in a few of my preferences, so the Rhino presents a perfect blending for someone who doesn't have any of the old muscle memory of the older revolvers. For all the complexity of the Rhino, it's as simple and as reliable as any other revolver, it's sturdy, surprisingly light, and it carries really well. It shoots like a dream. The trigger really grows on you and I love the wide face and sharp grip angle. All of the ergonomic decisions going into the Rhino results in a great shooting pistol that just feels right. I enjoy the short but heavy double action pull, and the soft, clean single action. I love that I can get a really high grip on the gun without the hammer getting stuck in my palm when I'm shooting, but in a way that still allows me to shoot DA/SA easily, rather than bobbing the hammer as many do with their more traditional revolvers.

And it's no joke that shooting .357 Magnum rounds out of this gun might as well be shooting .38 Specials out of another. The whole design of this gun really does make that much of a difference in the shootability of the weapon. Combine that with the out of the box moon clip support and everything else, and you get the most comfortable revolver I've ever shot.

In the end, while I have the utmost confidence in the quality and reliability of my 686 revolver, I don't have the same confidence with that revolver that I do with the Rhino when it comes to the revolver and me coming together and making a shooting machine. I'm just more confident and capable with the Rhino, and that's makes all the difference in the world. Here is a quick list of some of the things that makes the Rhino my go to revolver.

  1. It's the most shootable revolver I've ever used.
  2. The manageability means that I can put wood grips on the revolver and still shoot full power magnums from it without issue; that's a great advantage for me when carrying the gun, as I prefer to conceal carry or OWB carry wood grips rather than wood.
  3. The trigger feel and design, while different, are very nice, and I prefer them to the 686 trigger or most other revolver triggers I have tried. It's short, clean, and heavy, which is what I want from my DA.
  4. The gun is super accurate, as any revolver should be.
  5. It comes with excellent sight options, IMO.
  6. The hexagonal cutting of the cylinder makes carrying the revolver much more comfortable.
  7. It's lightweight construction makes it easier to carry around at the range or in CCW than other revolvers of a similar power.

On the other hand, the Rhino is different, which means that you need to consider a few things before you start expecting good performance with one.

Reloading. Don't expect to be able to use some of the techniques you see others using to reload with the Rhino. Since the barrel is at the bottom, this interfers with the grip that some people use when reloading their revolvers at speed. Since the barrel will be in direct contact with your fingers if you grip it traditionally for a reload, after a rapid fire situation, that barrel is so hot that you'll likely flince back and possibly drop the gun. You'll need to consciously practice a different technique for reloading. In particular, the Massad Ayoob left hand slap technique for extracting cartridges, and some modifications of it work very well with this gun, instead of punching out the spent cases using the thumb of your non-dominant hand while you hold the revolver. I've found that the latter is just asking for burned fingers.

After extracting the cases, there's the choice of whether to use your strong or weak hand to do the reload. Either way works pretty well, but for me, I've found that you'll want to get a lot of practice with the moon clips if you're shooting .357, as the longer cartridges require that you really understand how to get things to flow into the cylinder in a fast enough fashion. I've found nickel plated brass to be increadibly superior in this situation.

Furthermore, if you're going to use your weak hand to load the revolver, I find that a slight cant to allow gravity to keep the cylinder open works best, because otherwise, under speed, there's a tendency for the cylinder to want to close if nothing is keeping it open.

Finger placement. You'll want to spend some time thinking about finger placement on this gun. Due to the aggressive grip angle and the wide trigger face, you'll want to make sure you practice and play around with different angles to see which one gives you the best results, as the normal advice you hear around doesn't transfer as well to the Rhino as it does to old school revolvers and light trigger semi-autos.

Grip. Definitely take some time to work on your grip, which I've found to be critically important with this gun. Because you need to keep your fingers away from the front of the cylinder, you need to work on the grip to ensure you've got the best set up for your hands and for the future health and safety of your thumbs. See Jerry Miculek's review of the revolver to notice his slip up here.

And there you have it. Good luck, and I hope you all enjoy!