There’s an old bit of cowboy wisdom that says it’s easier to sell a pretty horse than an ugly one. I suppose the same is true for the crowded Model 1911 pistol market. Showing sagacity, Kimber managed to reinvent America’s most prolific pistol. Since the first prototypes were introduced at the 1995 SHOT Show, Kimber has managed new models every year.
At the 2020 SHOT Show, Kimber launched the Rapide Black Ice to much enthusiasm, and a new advertisement promoting it began appearing on the back cover of firearm publications, including this one. So, what makes this 1911 special? Guns & Ammo editors ordered one to find out.
The Black Ice follows the success of Kimber’s Rapide that debuted in 2019 on Guns & Ammo TV. Our first sample was black with a titanium nitride (TiN)-coated barrel that distinctly gave it a gold contrast to the black-colored frame and slide. That black is an extremely hard ceramic material that improves the substrate (i.e. steel) surface resistance to wear and corrosion. The Rapide line is one of Kimber’s Special Edition series, which is further distinguished by stepped cocking serrations and slide lightening cuts that show off the original barrel’s golden appearance. It was available in .45 ACP or 10mm.
With the lightening cuts that gave the barrel its showy appearance, the Rapide offered the look of a low-production $5,000 1911. The new Black Ice maintains the original Rapide’s styling and lighting cuts, but uses a stainless-steel frame and slide with a more subtly contrasting two-tone silver and gray KimPro II finish with black Diamond-Like Coating (DLC) on the barrel.
Besides being offered in .45 ACP and 10mm, the Black Ice adds 9mm to the option list. But the Rapide Black Ice is about more than first impressions. Performance matters, too.
At the heart of Kimber’s Rapide Black Ice is a 5-inch, stainless steel match-grade barrel. Its black DLC coating is not only hard, but has a low coefficient of friction. The DLC also gave its barrel an anthracite shine. At the muzzle, the barrel is crowned and bored with the usual left-hand, 1:16-inch twist rate. It is secured to the slide by another stainless-steel part, a match-grade bushing, conventional guiderod, and in the case of our 10mm test gun, an 18½-pound spring.
The stainless-steel slide and frame didn’t need to have its two-tone silver and gray finish to resist the environment, but the complementary hues do work towards handsome aesthetics that would otherwise be cheapened with a brushed stainless-steel appearance. Details like these give it the look and feel of a 1911 that costs twice as much.
The stair-stepping cutouts on the slabs help to place the Black Ice in the Rapide family and also serve to lighten the slide. Kimber asserts that the lightening of the slide was engineered to speed up cycling and reduce lock time since there is less mass to move. Faster lock times mean that an accomplished shooter can deliver accurate shots more quickly than with a lesser 1911. Whether these cuts will improve your own performance remains a benefit to be speculated.
The slide serrations and the slide lightening-cut motif carry over to the pair of black G10 grips. They perfectly match the Rapide series design cues and the depressions are very tactile without being overly aggressive. Kimber did well to enhance our control of the pistol during rapid fire, especially when fingers wrap around and squeeze the front and backstrap’s Stiplex texture.
Beyond First Impressions
The minor touches and details demand equal attention to its looks. The aluminum trigger features a gently curved face and a cool V-cut design that we haven’t seen on other 1911s. Additionally, metal has been removed from the scalloped frame behind the trigger to allow for a more natural and comfortable finger position. The point where the slide-stop lever protrudes through the right side of the frame is also cleverly countersunk.
The mainspring housing wears the same three-cut rectangular design motif that appears on the slide. Underneath, there’s a flush-fit magazine funnel. Controls are similarly configured simply serrated as they are on other 1911s, except that the magazine release button is checkered. The large manual safety lever is ambidextrous and extended on both sides. It engages with a firm, positive click and can support the thumb to reduce muzzle rise.
Rapide pistols are equipped with TruGlo’s TFX Pro tritium and fiber-optic, day/night sights, which are dovetailed into the slide for tuning windage only. Extremely popular as an aftermarket item, these alone can set you back $179. They are incredibly durable and easy to see. The rear sight features a ledge that allows the rear sight to be hooked so that in a pinch, the slide can be cycled with one hand.
Kimber managed to blend cutting-edge looks with functionality. The Black Ice is good-looking without being gaudy. Fit and finish are excellent. The slide moves smoothly on the frame rails, too. It’s not quite as buttery as some $5,000 custom one-off guns, but it’s not far from those. Lube the rail with some graphite or gun grease and with your $3,500 savings in the bank, you’ll forget other custom guns.
The extended mag well is a nice touch and is usually an $87 upgrade. To feed it, Kimber provides one excellent steel magazines with the Black Ice. That’s right, “one mag.” This is worthy of a note to Kimber’s complaint department as most of us expect at least two or three magazines to come with any pistol at this price point, especially so when it’s chambered in a non-standard cartridge such as 10mm. As a result, we sourced three additional magazines for this evaluation from store.kimberamerica.com at $38.95 each. Both the 10mm and .45 ACP guns offer a magazine capacity of eight rounds, while Kimber’s 9mm 1911s adds one additional cartridge for a total of nine.
The Black Ice maintains the Rapide’s overall length of 8.7 inches and 5¼-inch height. This is typical for a full-sized 1911. Its weight with an empty magazine was 38 ounces, which is slightly lighter than similarly sized 1911s. I suppose there’s something to those lightening cuts.
In .45, the Black Ice has a suggested retail price of $1,490. The 9mm and 10mm models command another $20 bill to shoot metric. Joking aside, this isn’t out-of-sorts given this model’s clean construction, upgraded components and one-of-a-kind looks. The Nighthawk Custom President shares some resemblance to the original black Kimber Rapide with a TiN-coated barrel, but costs $4,199. Surveying the single-stack market, we also found lightening cuts on Dan Wesson’s Discretion, available in 9mm or .45 for $2,181. If you’re in the market for one of these high-end pistols, the Rapide deserves your consideration on price alone.
The guy shooting next to me at the range was slack-jawed when I placed the Rapide Black Ice on my shooting rest. “Whatcha got there?” he asked me as he stared from his side of the bay a while longer. I could tell he wanted to take a closer look, but Coronavirus social-distancing rules of the range kept him away. He was so impressed at its performance that he penciled the name of the pistol in his notebook. “I’ll have to check that out when I get home,” he said. Friends, that’s the kind of reception you can expect when people see you have a Rapide Black Ice.
Still, I am more impressed by the attention to the gun’s minor details than its looks. Kimber’s magazines dropped cleanly with a press of the mag release. Each magazine locked securely in place, and the magazine springs were firm without being so stiff that loading was a burden. All of the mechanical movements were smooth without feeling loose, and the trigger was crisp and clean. Trigger pull ranged between 4 and 5 pounds, and G&A’s test gun measured an average of 4.8 pounds.
Model 1911s chambered in 10mm are not always fun to shoot, but the Rapide Black Ice proved manageable. Even though it’s more than a quarter-pound lighter than the last 10mm I tested, the Black Ice’s recoil wasn’t unpleasant. I fired more than 100 rounds on the benchrest, and though muzzle rise was noticeable, this gun wasn’t punishing to my hands. Much has been made to do about 10mm recoil after the FBI dropped the cartridge in 1990. In truth, if they’d been shooting this 38-ounce Black Ice in 10mm, the FBI might have carried the powerful cartridge a lot longer than it did.
A good-looking gun, like a good-looking horse, is only worth the money if it performs well. The Rapide Black Ice didn’t fail to impress. Most of the five-shot groups I fired from 25 yards measured under 2 inches. It performed very well with all five loads that I tested, and it didn’t seem finicky about the flavor of ammo it was fed. The best five-shot group of the day measured an unbelievable .99 inch. However, there were several five-shot groups ranging 1.1 to 1.4-inches, so this pistol is exceptionally accurate and consistent. That’s amazing for an off-the-shelf 10mm, especially one that’s only $1,500. The truth is, a lot of custom guns don’t shoot better than this Kimber.
There were no failures in any aspect of G&A’s evaluation. Feeding, extraction and ejection were superb. In fact, it took me a while to figure out that the noise I was hearing every fourth or fifth shot was actually an empty case slamming against a trash barrel more than 10 yards away. Ejection was so forceful that my inquisitive neighbor could have been slapped in the head if he had peeked around the corner at me.
The Kimber Rapide’s aesthetics appeal to me. They may not appeal to everyone, but those who appreciate either the original black or new silver-gray finish will be most pleased with their performance. The two-tone silver-gray KimPro II finish looks great. A few thousand holster draws did nothing to mar the finish. It’s still a stunning gun indeed.
Should you buy one? I think so, but I’m getting exceedingly good at spending other people’s money. What I do say is that if you buy a Rapide, I think you’ll be impressed. Yes, Kimber will continue to introduce new and good-looking 1911s in the years ahead, but the Rapide Black Ice is proof that Kimber makes guns that shoot well. Somehow, the Rapide is not like most other 1911s, and that may be one of its strongest selling points of all.
Kimber Rapide Black Ice
- Type: Recoil operated, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 9mm, 10mm (tested), .45 ACP
- Capacity: 9+1 rds. (9mm); 8+1 rds. (10mm, .45 ACP)
- Barrel: 5 in., 1:16-in. twist
- Overall Length: 8.7 in.
- Width: 1.3 in.
- Height: 5.25 in
- Weight: 2 lbs., 6 oz.
- Finish: KimPro II, silver/gray (stainless steel); DLC black (steel)
- Sights: TruGlo Pro TFX Day/Night, tritium, fiber optic
- Trigger: 4 lbs., 13 oz. (tested)
- MSRP: $1,490
- Manufacturer: Kimber, 888-243-4522, kimberamerica.com