February 14, 2022
Kimber’s newest entry in the Micro 9 series brings some functional enhancements along with aesthetics from the Model 1911 Rapide (Black Ice).
Originally introduced in 2017, the Micro 9 family of pistols has been a winner for Kimber. Although they look like 1911-style pistols externally, they’re actually quite different. For a tiny pistol, that’s a good thing. There’s simply not much you can do to shrink a true-to-form M1911 smaller than an “Officer” size with a 3- to 3 1/2-inch barrel and a shortened frame capable of carrying a six-round magazine. In a full-size pistol, the grip size and angle to the bore’s centerline axis, as well as the reach to the trigger and controls, work to make a well-tuned 9mm M1911 a thing of beauty.
Those advantages, however, don’t carry over to the subcompact realm. Officer-sized Model 1911s are generally picky with ammo, prone to malfunctions, uncomfortable to shoot, and gobble up recoil springs. Sure, some run great, but we’ve watched hundreds of micro-frame Model 1911’s come through an armory of a large department and they don’t compare well to modern pistols on the average.
Springfield Armory re-engineered the 1911 around the 9mm cartridge before announcing the Enhanced Micro Pistol (EMP) platform in 2007. (Those pistols start at $1,104 for black and $1,249 for two-tone with a stainless-steel slide over an aluminum-alloy frame.)
Kimber chose a different route with the Micro 9. The new pistol is smaller and more reliable than most Officer-sized 1911s pistols, yet it still feels like the classic single stack, and it doesn’t sacrifice anything in terms of the accuracy and shootability.
Still, close inspection of the Micro 9 revealed that several defining M1911 features have been changed: The grip safety has been deleted; the plunger tube on the left side of the pistol is gone; and the Micro 9’s manual safety works differently. There is still a bilateral safety lever at the rear of the frame, similar to those on ambidextrous M1911s, but the safety works as a true trigger safety, which does not lock the slide. The simplified mechanics of the safety allows it to move smoothly through its arc, locking positively in and out of position.
Guns & Ammo’s test staff felt that the safety operated as easily as most factory M1911s when disengaging it, but inferior to most M1911 safeties when re-engaging it. It is sized perfectly for this pistol, and is well contoured with no uncomfortable edges, but if you have large hands, the primary hand can impede the safety if one is not careful.
The slide stop is a slightly abbreviated version of the full-sized piece, and it works well for its intended role. Some used it as a slide release without issue.
The Micro 9 Rapide (Black Ice) takes its styling cues from Kimber’s full-size Rapide (Black Ice) Model 1911 available in 9mm, 10mm and .45 ACP for $1,665. Note the parenthesis around “Black Ice.” That’s a Kimber thing.
The aluminum frame is finished in a matte KimPro II silver. It complements the matte stainless-steel slide, which has polished flats with dull recesses wherever the slide is milled.
The frontstrap sports Kimber’s Stiplex pattern that’s milled to provide traction. Grip panels are black G10 with the Stiplex pattern carried over from the front, along with some layered shapes. The motif goes along with the patterns and lines machined on the slide. The slide also features six milled windows to reduce its mass. The overall aesthetics are quite futuristic looking.
Porting the slide to reduce mass isn’t just a fad. Less mass with the correct spring makes for less muzzle flip.
In terms of size, the Micro 9 Rapide (Black Ice) is tiny for a 9mm pistol. With a weight of 15.6 ounces, a height of 4.07 inches, a length of 6.4 inches, and a width of 1.08 inches, it is almost dwarfed by an Officers-size M1911, even though barrel length is similar. The weight difference alone is 10 ounces, which according to my phone calculator is about a 33.3 percent difference. We’re not going to do the percentage differences across every measurement, but, overall, the results are quite noticeable in hand.
Generally, the smaller a pistol gets, the more difficult it is to shoot well. The Micro 9 is definitely small, but the platform has been surprising our staff with its accuracy. Guns & Ammo’s testing protocol is tough. Evaluation guns are benched, and all pistols are shot at 25 yards for five-shot groups with few exceptions. An Officer’s M1911 typically produces between 3- and 5-inch groups. Executive Editor Joe Kurtenbach recorded a few sub-2-inch groups in his December 2020 review of the Micro 9 Triari model. Handgun Editor Jeremy Stafford produced several groups in the low 2-inches with the Rapide (Black Ice), and no five-shot group average exceeded 3.6 inches — not one. This level of precision and consistency from a production micro pistol definitely has our attention.
The second surprise from the Micro 9 has been its reliability. Through 500 rounds during testing, including a variety of ammunition types, there was only one malfunction: a failure for the slide to return to battery on round 450.
Getting off of the bench and on to steel, the Micro 9 Rapide does certain things well. It moves laterally in predictable form from target to target for a pistol of its size. And the controls are easy to use, including the magazine release. With the extended magazine in place, it is very controllable, and tracks well throughout recoil. The bright Tru-Glo dual-illuminated front sight fits perfectly within the generous U-notch at the rear. It’s good for speed and transitions between multiple targets.
Small pistols are sensitive to hand placement, so make sure you find the grip that works with the Micro 9’s layout. Then, practice reaching and using the controls. With the flush fit magazine we were slower, but the pistol may conceal slightly better. Which mag to carry is your call. The pistol does have an abbreviated magazine well attached to it, and while it’s not a competition rig, it does help with feeding the small, proprietary magazines. The trigger on this model measured a 6 pounds, 13 ounces, close to Kimber’s advertised pull weight. The trigger was OK, but it’s not as good as a traditional M1911’s. It’s hinged at the top, and then moves straight and to the rear. There was noticeable creep, but little overtravel, and it definitely felt like 7 pounds. There are aftermarket solutions, but at this price point, we feel Kimber missed an opportunity.
Overall, Kimber’s engineers did a very good job when designing the Micro 9, and it was obvious that they applied a high level of quality control during assembly. If you’re looking for a compact pistol with the features of a M1911 and the reliability of a striker gun, the Micro 9 might be what you’re looking for. If you’re after a touch of modern, find a Rapide (Black Ice). It looks as good as it runs.
Kimber Micro 9 Rapide (Black Ice) Specification
- Type: Recoil operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 7+1 rds.
- Barrel: 3.15 in.
- Overall Length: 6.1 in.
- Width: 1.08 in.
- Height: 4.6 in.
- Weight: 1 lb., 1.5 oz.
- Finish: KimPro II, silver (aluminum); matte (stainless steel)
- Sights: Tru-Glo TFX, dual-illuminated tritium and green fiber-optic, orange outline (front); U-notch, green dots (rear)
- Trigger: 6 lbs., 13 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $910
- Manufacturer: Kimber Mfg. Inc., 888-243-4522, kimberamerica.com
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