“There will be two types of people in pistol competition,” Ron Norton tells TTAG. “People who start shooting this pistol and people getting beat by people shooting this pistol.” Well he would say that wouldn’t he, being the President of Chiappa Arms and all. But the man’s got pedigree. Norton built his first gun when he was 12. In the intervening 42 years, the accomplished gunsmith and shooter spent 16 years in the Dayton (Ohio) Police Department and several years with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU). The latter experience, including shooting competitions throughout South America, is what convinces Norton that the Chiappa Rhino is the best thing since sliced Browning. I mean bread . . .
“I was fortunate enough to work with Lucky McDaniel at the AMU,” Norton says, referring to the legendary teacher of natural or instinct shooting. “The Rhino has the most natural point of aim of any handgun I’ve ever seen or used. The barrel is parallel with axis of your arm. It minimizes over-looking and under-looking your sights.”
Norton identifies the Rhino’s other advantage to precision shooters, leaving no word unminced. “Muzzle flip is the enemy,” Norton says. “By putting the bottom chamber in the middle of the gun, it lowers the leverage and fulcrum point. You can bring the Rhino back on target quickly, easily and naturally.”
Last week, Chiappa Arms sent 100 or so Rhinos to MKS distributors. The majority of the snub-nosed (2″ barrel) model are headed to jobbing journos (along with the “free” pancake belt holster). Norton reckons the next lot through will find instant favor with competition shooters—and slight-framed men, women and the elderly.
“The moment you put one in the hand of a woman, she smiles and says ‘I like this.’ It just feels right . . . It’s perfect for people new to shooting or haven’t shot in a while.'” Especially if the gun reduces felt recoil as Norton describes it.
“Because of the barrel position, the Rhino’s recoil goes straight back; it feels like a 1911. Shooting a .357 feels like shooting a .38 Special. Shooting a .38+P feels like shooting wadcutters.”
We shall see. As will competition shooters, who never miss an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. With an $800 price tag and a torrent of hype presaging its arrival (you’re welcome), the Rhino has a lot to live up to.