With some rare exceptions the outlaw ship of choice is the standard Rifter, spat out from industrialist production lines en masse, in its normal form it comes out of the factory full-fat and whilst still a 'nimble frigate' to some, the Rebels like to customize their rides to their exact needs and specs. The Rebels get to work by stripping down the hulls and 'chopping' parts that they don't need or want on their rides.
Basically it is the same machine that would be sported by Minmatar fleets in their homelands, but the Minmatar issue could be likened to an accessory-loaded elephant compared to the lean, custom fit dynamos that the Rebels fly. The Rebels refer to these 'standard' Rifters (and any other bog standard ship for that matter) as 'garbage wagons' and no Black Rebel pilot worth his wings would be seen piloting one of these with his colours showing.
A 'chopped Rifter' or 'chopper' for short is nothing more than a heavy hull, a minimalist interior, usually with the lightest armor plating and sometimes in a different form can be fitted with even lighter shielding systems, usually when they have to outrun something or dodge customs officials the shield version is the ship of choice. Both can spit out some heavy venom though and can't be underestimated with their heavily modified autocannons and hard-wiring systems.
The stripping alone makes a big difference in performance but most Rebel Rifters are also power-jumped with hot thruster and engine modifications, larger valves that increase the bore and stroke, custom flushed aerodynamics, half-size custom designed cap tanks that still hold the same charge and some even fit their ships with a 'suicide clutch navigation system', so called because it requires exceptional skill and timing to operate the thrusters and air-braking system during combat.
A 'chopper' is often a work of art, costing the Rebels a hefty chunk of ISK to build, not counting labour. From the highly-polished chrome thrusters to the super-light balanced flywheels and feather-lite gearing systems, it is a beautiful and graceful machine and so nearly perfect mechanically that it is sometimes hard to imagine it screaming along some midnight space-lane in the hands of a drunken, sometimes drugged up combat pilot who is hell bent on finding his next 'good fight'. This is one of the many paradoxes of Rebel lore. Whatever these guys lack in personal grooming, they make up for it in spades with their frigates. These guys will sleep on grease-caked beds in the slummiest of stations but their frigates will always be spotless.
There is not a Rebel out there who hasn't woken up in the medical facility at his station of choice and one of the natural results is that their fear for death is well tempered by a cavalier kind of disdain and swagger towards personal injury. Outsiders might call it madness but the Rebels inhabit a world in which violence is as common as spilled beer, and they live with it as easily as ski-bums on frozen ice planets play daily with the risk of broken legs. This casual acceptance of blood-letting is key to the terror they inspire to the civilians in the regions where they are active.
It is a simple matter of accumulated experience, of having been hit or stomped often enough to forget the ugly panic that 'nice' people associate with a serious fight. A Rebel who has had his nose smashed three or four times in a brawl will risk it again with hardly a second thought. No amount of instruction in any lethal art can teach this mentality.
In spite of this sinister immunity and disregard for pain and danger, they occasionally overextend themselves and get badly worked over by people who either don't know the score or choose to disregard it.
Which brings us nicely to our next chapter, published soon, where we look at the Black Rebels and their liking of a good bar brawl.