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(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)

By Alan Mitchell

This review should probably be titled, “We’ll leave the light on for you….” or how a cheap revolver is like a Motel 6. In the spirit of the recent TTAG review of the Heritage Rough Rider, and needing a “trail/kit gun” replacement for the Ruger Single Six Convertible that I sold to “cull the herd,” I purchased a Chiappa Firearms Puma 1873 SAA-22 in .22LR and .22WMR.

You can stop reading now if you wish. The $149 special online price that appeared in my email from a big online gun website on July 4th turned out to be an ongoing disaster and disappointment. Stay away, spend the extra bucks and move up to a Best Western or Holiday Inn. This Motel 6 is a dumpster fire waiting to happen…or already burning in your pistol safe.

I have been intrigued by some of Chiappa’s “outside the box” offerings: Rhino, Little Badger, Double Badger, a triple barreled shotgun, so taking a chance with a Ben Franklin and a Ulysses Grant, I figured I’d have something for pest control and plinking. What I got was a shaky, web biting, pot metal-framed paper bag full of burning dog ca-ca.

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UNBOXING:

Plain Brown Box, manual, bore brush, a key to lock/unlock the revolver (I have not tried this feature so I do not know if it locks the trigger, action, hammer, whatever. It may cause the whole thing to fall to pieces which may be the safest way to handle the Puma), .22LR cylinder mounted in the frame, .22WMR cylinder wrapped in bubble wrap (not quite Ruger’s red baize bag), and two Chiappa stickers.

MANUFACTURING:

“Armi Sport” builds it for Chiappa via Legacy Sports International. A “steel rifled barrel” built around “…a special formulated (sic) alloy that offers greater ductility and flexibility assuring long lasting reliability and durability.” In short, pot metal or more technically Zamak.

“…. an acronym of the German names for the metals of which the alloys are composed: Zink (zinc), Aluminum, Magnesium, and Kupfer (copper)….” <from the fascinating Wikipedia page on Zamak>

Wikipedia goes on to say:

“Zamak alloys are also used in firearms, including those manufactured by:

·       Gyrojet
·       Hi-Point Firearms
·       Raven Arms
·       Jimenez Arms
·       Sundance Industries
·       Lorcin Engineering Company
·       Arcadia Machine & Tool
·       Davis Industries
·       Phoenix Arms
·       Henry Repeating Arms – Lever Action .22lr Receiver Covers”

Henry is quality stuff. I really enjoyed my Hi-Point Carbine, and who wouldn’t want a Gyrojet rocket pistol?  Most of the others: that’s the stuff in the “Saturday Night Special” section of your local pawn shop; the one on the gritty side of town.

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TO THE RANGE

I warmed up the steel barrel with some Federal 40 gr. Solid Round Nose .22LR at my usual (for pistols) seven yards. With fixed sights and old eyes, I could not reliably hit paper, so I backed down to 10-ish feet and found the non-adjustable sights confirmed that I would have to dust off my holdover and Kentucky Windage skills as everything printed left and low of the point of aim.

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Unfortunately, our range doesn’t allow the smell of anything resembling shotguns or shot shells, so I could not try my standard snake/rat load of CCI .22LR #12 at 1,000 FPS.  Based on the performance of the solid .22LR’s, I believe you would have to be a little too close for comfort to Mr. NoShoulders to make an effective clean kill.

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A word on the .22WMR cylinder:  it stinks like a dead sea turtle in a sauna. Where the .22LR cylinder is a little rattley in the frame, the .22WMR is seismic like the San Andreas Fault. So shaky that I believe there are serious problems with the cylinder bore to forcing cone alignment.

I am assuming that the cylinder stop and the locking notches are not engineered/built in the same language.  Also, the .22WMR cylinder regularly bound up on the hammer draw. I’m not sure if it was one bore not allowing the round/rim to seat, a problem with the stir ratchet or whatever.  With what happened next, this was the least of my problems.

I have two burn marks on my left cheek (always wear BIG shooting glasses) from hot shavings hitting the stall wall and deflecting onto my Maxilla within one-inch of my eyeball. I put the .22WMR cylinder away and will never use it again.

That is unfortunate because the .22WMR out of the 4.75 inch barrel gives a satisfying bang…and a big flame front at the cylinder gap(!). Again, don’t waste your money, move on, nothing to see here but a guy who blew $150 and got two facial pits for his trouble.

OTHER ISSUES

Switching the cylinders involves dropping a bushing into the cylinder. You get one bushing for two cylinders.  Like any SAA, you push the button at the front of the frame allowing you to withdraw the base pin.  Unfortunately, when I went to put the base pin back in to take the photos for this review, the pin went WAY past its detent, and I’m not sure it is even worth walking to the tool box for a pair of pliers to try and draw out the pin.

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The trigger of this replica is very straight, the frame is fairly wide, and my long fingers had to contort a bit to allow me to get a purchase on the trigger face. I ended up using my DIP (the last joint before the tip of the finger) as my purchase point, not as accuracy sensitive as using the pad of your finger.

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The hammer will bite the web of your strong hand. Just like a Peacemaker. Those old soldiers and cowboys had to be durable to put up with twisted fingers and bitten webs.

ANYTHING GOOD TO SAY ABOUT THIS THING?

The loading gate snaps open and closed as well as a Ruger, bringing the hammer to half cock to load/unload allows you to stir the cylinder by hand aligning a cylinder bore with the very long and quite effective ejector rod.

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My old Ruger convertible required some fancy finger work to align a bore with the ejector, but I understand the newer Rugers now have auto alignment of bore to ejector rod.

A WORD ON SAFETY

This replica of the Peacemaker does not have a “hammer the hammer” system. Like any real cowboy, keep an empty chamber under the hammer when carrying. All of my target work was accomplished by “load one, skip one, load four” so that an empty chamber was under the hammer.

In reality, I load a fired cartridge shell (with the rim strike turned away from the upper edge of the bore) as the “skip one” to avoid breaking the firing pin of any rimfire revolver by dropping on an empty position. This system is OK at the range, but carrying in the field this way won’t let you peek through the breechface to the cylinder back to see if you really do have an empty under the hammer. Be aware, cowboy. Hell, be afraid cowboy.

Specifications: Chiappa Firearms 1873 SAA-22

Caliber: .22LR and .22WMR
Capacity: 6 rounds
Barrel Length: 4.75”
Barrel Material:  Steel
Frame Material: Pot Metal ZAMAK
Grip: Plastic
Sights: Fixed, non-adjustable open style
Trigger Pull Weight: probably 5-6 lbs. and crunchy like Frosted Flakes.
Weight: 2.2 lbs empty
MSRP: from $150-$200

Ratings (out of five stars):

Build Quality: —
Junk. Rattly cylinder-to-frame, base pin drove past the detent. Serious concerns with .22WMR cylinder bore-to-forcing-cone alignment can cause hot flying metal — danger, Will Robinson.

Ergonomics, Loading and Firing: *
Unloading indexing of cylinder when opening loading gate is a positive as is the “stroke length” of the ejector rod. The hammer bite and awkward trigger ergos are awful. Too much like a Peacemaker for comfort. The Heritage has a safety next to the hammer; this has a hammer that bites the hand that feeds it.

Accuracy *
Hits low and left, but groups are adequate at VERY short range (sarcasm font).

Defensive Capability: —
Buy 1,000 rounds of .22LR in a bucket, fling the bucket at your assailant, and run like hell. If you are going after a RattleHeadedCopperMocasin, bring a gun, not a Puma.

Overall: —
I cannot give this thing enough negative stars. Just don’t go there. This is a piece of junk — don’t waste your money. Don’t let anyone near this thing.  Really, buy a  Ruger or Uberti, or High Standard, or Spatula City (or buy the Heritage, at least it won’t put out your eye like a hot BB off a Daisy Red Ryder). Don’t let anyone else shoot it unless you have a great lawyer on retainer. You are not getting your money’s worth here, no matter how little you pay.

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54 Responses to Gun Review: Chiappa Firearms 1873 SAA-22 Revolver

  1. I’m stumped. You trimmed clutter by selling your Ruger only to turn around and replace it with a clone?

    I have the Ruger convertible. It cost more than the chiappa or heritage, probably more than both together, but that’s cause it’s worth it.

    • See the Heritage Rough Rider review remarks, he sold the Single Six the finance a CZ75 and then bought this at Bud’s. His comment name is “AR”.

    • My Ruger Single Six convertible was made in 1971. It is the first pistol I ever fired at the wee age of five. It was my Grandfathers, who always promised it would be mine when he passed. Well luckily he’s still alive and kicking but when he and my grandma moved to Florida he gave it to me.

      My single six has seen forty five years of varmint hunting, plinking, thousands upon thousands of range rounds, and served its duty as a bedside gun with the .22 WMR cylinder in it. And it’s never failed to perform. Not once.

      Look I’m all for saving money, but the older I get the more I buy into the buy once cry once philosophy. I try to find good quality equipment that’s still affordable, and hopefully get it on sale. For example, I use a Wiley X Valor sunglasses for everyday, tactical, and range purposes. Great example of great quality at an affordable,but not cheap, price

      I’m sure that’s what you were looking for with this gun and I certainly can’t fault you for trying. Sorry if turned out to be cheap and not just inexpensive.

  2. You people keep reaming me for being a highbrow snob when I tell you that quality guns are going to cost you money. You hurl your invective and ire at me, instead of towards the people actually at fault for turning your currency into bum-wipe. which when used to purchase anything made of tangible materials by someone who gives a rat’s posterior orifice about quality, shows you how little your dollars are worth. ie, you should vent your collective spleens at the Federal Reserve, not me.

    And then you folks go and prove me correct, time and again, by throwing your money down ratholes like this, instead of saving your bucks in a pile for something with some semblance of quality.

    Do you folks begin to understand why so many gunsmiths are so irritable?

    My first question, right out of the gate, is, “why did you sell the Ruger Single Six? You had what you claim you want – right there, in your gunsafe. It was made out of steel.”

    It might not have had the finish of the early Colt or S&W .22LR revolvers, but the Rugers work, work well, and hold their value.

    • I’d imagine you’re irritable because you have to tell someone the billable hours on a gun like this are worth more than the gun is?

      That said, we all make mistakes at times and this definitely seems to be an acknowledgment of that. Hell I did it with my M4-22 upper and have no issues admitting it. Lesson learned on my part.

      At the same time though there also needs to be a distinction between price, value and understanding that any tool (much less a firearm) is suitable for a particular task. As an example, the ~$75 Mossberg 185 bolt action shotgun sitting in my safe would likely have little disadvantage to a shotgun costing many times more in taking a deer save sighting, and my S&W 66es would likely have little disadvantage over say a Korth once again worth many times more.

      In this case price was the value rather than the function.

    • I got disgusted with everything that I had that was not a Ruger & got rid of them–Rugers always work & work very well–getting rid of a Single Six to ‘cull the herd’ ???? to only replace it’s spot in the herd????–truly a dumb move & proof that herd was not too large, since it’s spot needed replacing

    • I kinda half-agree w/ ya. However, there are some decent to good guns in the price range just above this .22 revolver. Com-bloc guns may have some limitations but rugged, reliable, and cheap they are. The price on them has gone up but pistols can still be had for under 300.00. Rifles have gone way up but SKS’s can be had for well under 400.00. There are plenty of average quality pump and break open shotguns under 300.00. I don’t own one but I heard if you can put up w/ a slide the weight of a large cat (and you are willing to spend the time to break them in) then Hi-points get the job done. Heck, I have heard even the Rohm revolver in .38 was not that bad. But yeah for the same money as this crap-o-matic Dan could have just bought a metal flare gun w/ a rifled insert and called it a day. I just don’t like the idea of spending a grand on something a used glock can do.

    • I don’t know who’s been spitting venom at you and I’m sorry that’s happened. However, I understand where some people come from on this issue.

      I’m not cheap but I didn’t get to where I’m at in life by pissing money away on things that go for insane prices because of a name and work just as well as something that’s 1/2 or 1/3rd the price. Don’t get me wrong, Kimber, Wilson Combat et all make great guns but you’ll never catch me paying 3K for a 1911 when there are a ton of equal or better guns out there in .45 for $1000 or less. I know lots of people who say “Well, when your life’s on the line would you rather pay the 3K or die?” as if that’s some sort of argument. Um, no I’ll drop $1100 on a USP that’s just as accurate and reliable as your semi-custom 1911, holds six more rounds and costs 36% of what your special 1911 does. AND if I lose it to evidence in a DGU I’ll go buy another one and still have another $840 bucks for ammo before I hit the price tag on your super amazing pistola that you got for a “steal”.

      Look, I’m not saying that you don’t get what you pay for here, but as the owner of my LGS once remarked to me “Put the world “tactical” on it and mark it up 300%. People a fucking retarded”. Some of the pricing on guns is straight out predatory and only dipshits buy some of the guns I see. There was story here on TTAG a few months back about some guy doing something. I don’t really remember because I wasn’t particularly impressed and didn’t care. Either way there was a lot of hype on the linked sight and here on TTAG’s comment section about this guy’s pistol. Apparently it’s amazing. I mean like a tricked out Blaster Pistol previously owned by one Han Solo and it’s been to all corners of a far away galaxy right? Nope, it’s a fucking FS92 with some “semi-custom” work (trigger job and new sights) done to it and they wanted like $2899 for it. Sorry, ain’t no Beretta pistol ever made that’s worth close to three grand.

      • Just another reason I love my Rugers–amazingly rugged, reliable guns that a working person can afford–from what I have seen, a lot of expensive priced items, guns or otherwise, are not as reliable than other more affordable ones–German cars and German guns come to mind

        • I’ve never had a problem with my USP until I torture tested it with a Silencerco Osprey on it and I had to work to cause trouble.

          My point, very simply, is that a lot of this high end stuff is the same as Gucci. A Gucci purse carries your shit the same way a Coach purse does the difference is that the Gucci costs thousands while the Coach costs hundreds. You’re paying for a name, not increased functionality and that’s just stupid.

          As for Ruger, I own a few of their offerings, Single Six included and I like them enough that I have one of their T-shirts.

      • Middlebrow!

        With 1911s, for example, you can go low brow (made in the Phillipines), middle brow (Para, Ruger), or highbrow (wasting money on a Dan Wesson carved from a meteorite).

        • But, but when I fire my Dan Wesson (I don’t actually own one btw) Jesus gets a hardon and if do have to kill someone with it they’ll be super impressed with what gun I used to do it! Meteorite brah!

        • I agree – middle-of-the-road is serviceable.

          I emphatically agree that Ruger IS that “middle-of-the-road” combination of functional and reliable quality without being “blinged out” or (as a gunsmith is wont to say) “highly finished” or “embellished.”

          Ruger’s guns aren’t “cheap,” they’re made with methods to allow them to bring the price down – such as investment casting, then machining to finish sizes. This, ironically, is how the above revolver was made. Mazak is used in investment casting for auto parts quite a bit, and that’s what was done here.

          The problem here is that the manufacture probably tried to cast to final size, and the metal that they’re using (Mazak) is too soft to hold a dimension well.

          Ruger casts with real steel alloys, oversized a bit so they have a bit of machining to do to reach final dimensions and when they’re done, their guns are hell for stout and hold their dimensions the way you’d expect any steel firearm to do so. The complexity of casting properly (and Pine Tree Castings does casting work for other companies as well, they’re so good at what they do) costs money, and that’s why a Ruger costs so much more than just the materials difference between steel and Mazak.

          If you want a quality firearm (and Ruger is a quality firearm), you need people who know WTF they’re doing. Those people want to be paid. That fact is reflected in the price of a quality firearm.

          Now, if you want an embellished or highly finished firearm, now you need to pay much more for those skills – hence the sky-high prices of finely finished firearms.

    • Yeah, for the few brief months my shop had these Chiappas, I was less than impressed – even without actually shooting one.
      I routinely steered folks toward the Heritage Rough Riders if the Ruger Single-Six was out of their price range. I would still try looking a little harder for a used Ruger on the cheap(ish) if someone really wants quality but can’t afford a new one.
      On that note: I really need to get back to that buddy of mine who’s looking to part with his old “three-screw” Ruger. Missing magnum cylinder or not, I need to grab that off him before he changes his mind…

  3. Unfortunately this is typical of Chiappa’s efforts. Their 9mm “M1 Carbine” is a “jam-o-matic”. This company keeps making low-end arms that appeal to those that either don’t know, or can’t afford any better.

    Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware).

    • The 1911-22 I reference above was my first gun, bought when I didn’t know. Or didn’t know enough.

      It was a valuable lesson.

      A big part of the lesson was learning that somehow, for reasons I still don’t really understand, manufacturers in this industry can knowingly release dangerously faulty products to the buying public and not get sued in to bankruptcy and prison terms. It boggles my mind.

      If a blender manufacturer had the kaboom recorded of, say, Chiappa, do you think they would still be in the blender manufacturing business?

      When I bought that first gun, I assumed (yeah yeah) that there were certain standards of safety and reliability that would be met before a product as important and potentially dangerous as a handgun was released on to the market.

      More the fool was I.

    • I looked at one of these 9mm carbines awhile back. I was not even sure it was a real gun. Handed it back and made a quick exit. Put it this way my Universal is a Colt compaired to this. Shame cause a good 9mm in a .30 cal action/size would be fun.

  4. This sounds like the perfect gun for me to introduce new shooters to the world of shooting. What do you want for it?

    • I’m sure it must, because there are so many guns of very fine and high quality made in Italy.

      Since the Brits have decided to accelerate their descent into madness on the issue, Italy is one of Europe’s last bastions of really high quality gun making, even as they adopt the latest technology. There’s, what, a dozen companies making really nice shotguns in Italy?

      • Many more. Italy is the kingdom of small independent and creative companies.
        Over 20 years ago I used to work for Bernardelli, before they went bankrupt. Great guns.
        On the other side of the wall from Beretta. A few meters from Pedersoli, Sabatti, Zoli……..
        There are so many.
        Franchi, Benelli, Caesar Guerini………..
        All the microcompanies…….
        Having time, money and a guide, you could get lost here.

  5. Life is too short to buy a cheaply made handguns. I’m a Ruger fan, Most of revolvers are Ruger LCRs, Ruger SR 22lr pistol.
    Gunbroker has RUGER LCR X LCRX 38SPL 38 SPL REV 3″ 5RD ADJ SIGHT on a buy now price of $499.00 NIB as a head’s up for those of you who wanted a longer barrel, also has double/single action trigger. So tempting but will have wait as X-Mas or Birthday present

    • Don’t pay $499 for a 3″ LCR-X. Plenty of places online will sell you the same gun for just a few bucks over $400. Search for “LCRX” on slickguns.com.

  6. Thanks to Alan Mitchell for writing and TTAG for publishing one of the toughest reviews I’ve ever read anywhere about anything. Not too many blogs would have the balls to go with it.

    Kudos, guys.

    • This might be the first time I’ve seen a reader review that really trashes the product. Seems like every time I read “This is a reader-submitted review” then a whole lot of 4.5-star praise follows, to the point where I’m tempted to skip the reader-submitted reviews…

    • I bought one to beat up on my trap line. 99 bucks. It’s not to hard to shoot a coon 2 feet away. The review is very accurate. It’s junk but does go bang when you pull trigger.

  7. Good review. I made the mistake of picking up a Chiappa 1911 22 a couple of years ago. It looked good in the case. It was the biggest piece of shit I ever bought. I told the LGS owner if he didn’t take it back, I was done buying from him.

  8. Funny, I just picked up a Heritage Rough Rider 6.5 SA – very used – for $50 like 3 days ago. Shoots great. No slop,no shavings on target. Looking at it right now as I type. Gonna use it for my camping/hiking/kayaking/jeep/snake gun.

    Also, I don’t know if anyone fixed it but you could not look up the HRR on the reviews tab. (by maker, Heritage) I thought that was a shame cause it appears to be a tough little outdoors gun. (and CHEAP!) I even like the safety, not needed but at least it’s not a chinese fire drill to use.(or not use)

    • I find the safety on HRR totally unnecessary & a total annoyance–will not own one because of it, plus I have a Ruger Single Ten that spoils you for anything else, but it was not cheap either

      • Oh, I whole heartily agree. I have a Super Redhawk in .454 that is fantastic. My father bought it in the 90’s, my nephew shot it and dropped it breaking the rear sight. Called Ruger and they sent me the whole rear assembly for FREE. The reason for the “cheap” gun is how it will be used or abused in my case. I just can’t take a $500 firearm out in the woods/swamp or anywhere else. My odds of having a real boating(kayak) accident are about 100%. Not to mention the muck,crud and water, water everywhere.

        • Since Ruger is the only firearm I totally trust, I use them in some very nasty environments & take my chances (except for losing, always properly holstered)–I love the saying that ‘Ruger is the gun that you take hell & come back alive with’–just take ’em apart & clean ’em, which on a Ruger is very easy to do

      • I picked up one of these in a rush one day. On the way to a western train robbery re-enactment, both my daughters came along and I only have one .22 SAA revolver (a Rough Rider. I carry a Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt) So, we stopped at the gunshop nearest the train station. I was hoping to buy another Rough Rider, but these Chiappa things were all they had.

        I didn’t much care, since she was only going to be firing blanks from it that day, but it’s definitely an inferior gun to the Rough Rider.

        We’ve gone plinking with it a couple times and I haven’t really checked out it’s accuracy — she can hit steel targets OK at about 7-10 yards one-handed, off-hand, and we’ve never used the .22 WMR cylinder, but I’ll be sure to check those out next time

    • Even .22 WMR doesn’t have very high chamber pressures. I’m not particularly worried about a blow-up from one of those alloy rimfire revolvers.

  9. Thanks for reviewing a cheap gun. I always wonder if any of the low end stuff is any good, and most sites and publications avoid them because they are allergic to negative reviews.

    One of the cheapest guns I own is a New England Firearms Pardner single shot .410 shotgun. Over the years it has endeared itself to me by killing a variety of pests. The trigger is nicer than some firearms costing ten times as much. I’m actually thinking about putting a weapon light on it, which will certainly cost more than the gun did.

    So where do you draw the line? I’ve thought of “upgrading” to a Winchester SXP Defender or Benelli Nova Tactical but there are horror stories about their quality. The 870 is even more controversial with Remington’s recent issues, and there are even gripes about the Mossberg 500. Do you have to spend $1000 to get a good gun?

    • There are gripes about every gun. Complainers tend to be louder than satisfied customers. A cheap Mossberg or Stevens (Savage) should do you just fine. I have two 870s I’ve never had a problem with, but they’re older and so maybe not representative of today’s Remington.

    • You’re hearing gripes about the 500? Huh.

      Are they legitimate, or are they “the 500 I just bought for $279 from Big 5 doesn’t have the same fit and finish as my 30 year old 870, what a piece of crap!” gripes? I’ve got two, and they have run flawlessly.

      I’ve heard nothing but complaints about Remington and anything else the reverse Midas that is the Freedom Group touches.

    • Check out the benelli super nova (I prefer the tactical but that’s just me.)
      Less than $450 retail and outstanding quality gun. I had an 870 and could not get the thing to stop short stroking. The super Nova fires all lengths of shell and is damn near bomb proof. Best value on the home defense shotgun market as far as I am concerned.

  10. Ummmm…zamak. I saw these for nothing at the local Big R and thought “wow that’s no money”. And now I know. Thanks…

  11. Winchester SXP has been really good overall, some don’t like the trigger pull so much. The Heritage Rough Riders have gotten so much better over time; this POS should be banned from our shores, as should anything Chiappa. Nothing but problems and no support.

  12. It probably looks OK on a TV camera. The host of a western movie show could have a few around the set, even carry two in a buscadero holster. There are some quality guns. Buy quality.
    My Dad cards printed that said…
    QUALITY is like buying oats. Oats that have been through the horse are cheaper.

  13. Hey dyspeptic, I read this post as an online confession. Original poster had something good, let his eye wander then sold the sure thing then bought sh.tastic crap. Interchange a firearm for spouse and the bread & butter of divorce attorneys becomes evident as the dreaded wandering eye overcomes reason & sensibility.

  14. “Chiappa” means “stone” (like a slab) in Italian. In certain dialects, the same word is slang for “butt cheek”. This must be the latter.

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