Built for quick action on the range, Kimber’s recent take on John Browning’s long-lived design is also a sure bet for personal defense
by Rob Reaser
Of all the handguns brought to market, none, arguably, have seen so many interpretations and variations as has the ubiquitous 1911 semi-auto pistol. A proven battlefield sidearm for over a century, the 1911 has been the subject of custom shop tinkering and special-use refinement for decades and remains the gold standard of combat and competition pistols in the eyes of its many devotees.
One company high on the list of specialty 1911 manufacturers is Kimber. They make a pile of 1911 variants, from full-size duty handguns in .45 ACP to diminutive carry models in 9mm, all of which are touched with purpose-driven design and engineering.
A model recently introduced to the Kimber 1911 lineup is the special edition RAPIDE. As 1911s go, the RAPIDE doesn’t stray terribly far off the beaten path in terms of overall size, feel, and function, but it is infused with several features that make it suitable for both recreational and competition shooting as well as personal defense. In other words, whatever the mission, the RAPIDE stands ready.
Dimensionally, the Kimber RAPIDE falls into the familiar 1911 mold, with an overall length of 8.7 inches, 1.28-inch width, and a comfortable 38-ounce overall weight (sans ammo). Factory magazine capacity is the expected eight rounds. From here, the RAPIDE forges its own path.
The slide and barrel are the most attention-getting characteristics of the RAPIDE. You’ll not easily miss the bright, gold-colored barrel. It’s five inches of stainless steel treated with a Titanium Nitride (TiN) coating. If you’re cool with the color, TiN finish is a desirable treatment in a high-action firearm barrel. The exceptionally hard surface delivers good wear resistance and equally good corrosion resistance. From a more frequent shooter’s perspective, the TiN finish shines due to its easy-to-clean nature. Sure, you must use conventional methods to clean fouling from the bore, but exterior carbon deposits wipe off effortlessly.
Rapide is a Euro-centric word meaning fast-moving. One of the unique features of the RAPIDE is its slotted, “skeletonized” slide. Three slots along the top of the slide and the slide flats are machined out to reduce weight. Reduced weight means faster cycling time (with an equivalent recoil spring weight). Here is where the RAPIDE gets its go-fast credentials. Is it faster than, say, a military-spec 1911? We’re not that good on the range to say yay or nay and, lacking a sophisticated testing setup to make a comparison, we can only say that it makes sense, in theory.
Elsewhere, the RAPIDE slide presents other unique flavors. Serrations fore and aft provide a purchase for manipulating the slide. Looking at the rear serrations, you might think them to be super sticky given the crisp edging and high voids. Surprisingly, that’s not our take-away. The RAPIDE delivers a rather slippery grip on the rear serrations when compared to standard 1911 serrations. We’ll blame this on the ramped serration profile, which does not provide an aggressive, forward-facing edge. Some folks may like it. We don’t.
Topping the slide is one of the highlights of the RAPIDE, that being the combination night and day tritium/fiber-optic sights. Astute observers will quickly recognize these as TFX Pro models produced by TRUGLO. We’ve outfitted many a pistol with TFX Pro sights because their design provides an optimal sight picture regardless of the ambient light level. This adaptability comes from the tritium elements housed in the steel sight bodies and the fiber optic elements positioned in front of the embedded and protected tritium vials. In low light or darkness, the fiber optics gather and direct the tritium glow toward the shooter. As you transition from low to bright light, the fiber optics do all the work, so you truly get day or night visibility. The rear sight is U-notched and there is a prominent orange focus ring on the front sight. In daylight conditions, though, we’re only seeing the sight silhouettes. Regardless, the TFX Pro sights help reinforce the RAPIDE’s street cred as a home defense or EDC handgun.
Moving to the frame, there are two standouts in our mind. Let’s start with the beaver tail on the grip safety. On standard 1911s, the beavertail extends straight, terminating abruptly over the thumb webbing. On the RAPIDE, the beavertail has a much more ergonomic design. It starts out at frame width and gradually tapers down. It also curves prominently upward so that the end of the taper never digs into your hand no matter what size hand you have. We’ll call it comfortable in the extreme. Flanking the beaver tail is an ambidextrous safety to accommodate left-hand shooters.
The other noticeable “nice” of the RAPIDE is the grip. Elegantly subdued in two-tone gray/black are WavZ G10 grip panels. These are darn nice grips. Prominent major and minor ridge lines run diagonally and give a solid purchase without feeling like your hand is wrapped around 40-grit sandpaper. The grip ridges are angled upward, front to back, which seems to help a bit in countering muzzle flip and aiding in faster target reacquisition. The front strap features Kimber Stiplex stippling that, unlike the slide serrations, provide a remarkably sticky grip. Above the panel you’ll note the high undercut under the trigger guard (compared to the standard 1911 contour). This provides a slightly more “high and tight” grip feel. In back, the mainspring housing comes with three-slot-style texturing that mimics the slide’s three-slot configuration. Underneath it all is an extended magwell to accommodate the 8-round magazine. The magwell is also flared to speed up mag changes.
For the trigger, Kimber ditched steel for aluminum and machined “V” slots to lighten the weight and to give the trigger a little flair. This is a flat trigger shoe face that encourages a proper straight pull. The trigger serrations are crisp and go a long way to promote finger pad traction. The trigger reach is about a quarter inch longer on the RAPIDE than a traditional 1911. We haven’t decided if this rates a plus, minus, or a neutral, but it certainly had no negative impact on our shooting performance.
Kimber places the trigger pull weight at the factory at around 4-5 pounds. After our range sessions, we tested the trigger pull with our Lyman scale. Over several 10-pull averages, we recorded an average pull weight in the 3.5- to 4.5-pound range — a bit lighter than factory due to some expected breaking in. Trigger creep is practically imperceptible, with an exquisitely clean break. No issues here.
For our testing, we ran several FMJ and JHP loads and brands. Shooting at 15 yards, the RAPIDE delivered consistently tight groups with zero malfunctions. The gun had a delicious feel in the hand and, combined with the TFX Pro sights, offered quick target reacquisition. While the .45 ACP can be harsh for some shooters, the pairing of the RAPIDE platform with Fiocchi’s 230-grain XTPHP proved both accurate and pleasing to shoot.
Although many 1911s in the modified or “factory custom” segments tend to be geared for optimal range performance but are perhaps a bit over-developed for EDC, the Kimber RAPIDE finds that delicate balance of target performance and practical defense. With an MSRP of $1,490, it may be a bit to swallow for a daily beater, yet the KimPro II black finish seems capable of withstanding a few knocks and the adherence to standard 1911 dimensions puts this pistol squarely in the everyday duty camp.
Kimber RAPIDE At-a-Glance
- .45 ACP
- Height (inches) 90° to barrel: 5.25
- Weight (ounces) with empty magazine: 38
- Length (inches): 8.7
- Magazine capacity: 8
- Recoil spring (pounds): 16.0
- Mil-Spec guide rod
- Material: Stainless steel
- Finish: Black, KimPro II
- Width (inches): 1.28
- Material: Stainless steel
- Black, KimPro II
- Front serrations
- Length (inches): 5
- Material: Stainless steel, match grade w/ TiN coating
- Stainless steel match grade bushing
- Twist rate (left hand): 16
- TRUGLO TFX Pro Day Night
- Gray/ Black WavZ G10 grips
- V-Cut aluminum
- Factory setting (approximate pounds): 4.0 – 5.0