The Last 1911 You’ll Ever Need: NightHawk Custom Classic— Full Review

Anyone familiar with NightHawk Custom knows that they produce superlative guns. The workmanship, function, and accuracy are second to none. I just wish you could hold this 1911 in your hands. You can feel the difference between this pistol and a mass-produced pistol immediately.

The NightHawk Custom Classic is a beautiful example of a 1911.

It’s a very clean style. Embellishments are understated and contribute to the overall look of the gun without calling attention to themselves. There are no tool marks, ill fitted components, or casting lines that you find on most guns. The fit and finish are impeccable.

When you rack the slide, it moves smoothly with absolutely no slop or wobble. It’s truly impressive how tight the slide-to-frame fit is while still moving smoothly along the long axis of the gun.

The Classic is NightHawk Custom’s interpretation of the basic 1911, although this gun is far from basic. Take a look at the slide for example. It’s very clean, no “read the manual” reminders marring its surface. But besides looking clean, it also appears crisp. A closer examination reveals a subtle line engraved at the top of the slide flats that mark the transition from the polished flat to the bead blasted curved surface. It’s something you don’t notice at first glance but which adds to the overall perception that this is a quality piece.

The NHC Classic breaks down like any other 1911. However, due to the tight fit of the barrel bushing, you might want to use the enclosed wrench.

The top of the slide is flattened with further engraving to reduce glare along the sighting plane. Again, engraved lines where the curved and flat surfaces meet sets off the flattop. Wherever two flats come together at a 90-degree angle, the edges are hand beveled so there are no sharp edges (with the exception of the notch where the safety engages the slide). The pistol is de-horned or “melted” so there are no snags. Take a look at the rear of the slide and you’ll find 40 lines per inch (LPI) serrations, which perfectly match the serrations on the back of the Heinie black ledge rear sight (which you can use to rack the slide with one hand). The front sight is a blade inset with a solid 14 karat gold bead which will never tarnish.

The tasteful cocobolo grip panels are partially checkered with a BlackHawk logo in the center. The grip is further enhanced by 25 LPI checkering on the frontstrap and mainspring housing. The mainspring housing, by-the-way, is machined from a block of steel. It’s not plastic like you’ll find in most mass produced 1911s.

Serrations on the top of the safety give you positive purchase when taking the safety off. Most other 1911s provide this too but they’re not all as crisp and positive as the NightHawk safety.

I could go on and on about all the little touches on this gun, like the beveled edges around the flush slide stop pin that facilitate takedown or the fluted barrel hood or the round butt mainspring housing, but let’s move on to specs and shooting.

SPECS

Nearly all 90 degree corners are hand beveled. Notice the smooth contouring of the slide stop.

  • Type: Hammer-fired, single-action 1911
  • Frame Size: GOVERNMENT
  • Cartridge: .45 ACP
  • Barrel Length: 5 in.
  • Overall Length: 8.65 in.
  • Weight: 36.9 oz.
  • Grips: Coccobolo
  • Sights: Dovetailed Heinie Black Ledge
  • Action: Single-Action
  • Trigger: 3 lbs., 12 oz. (tested)
  • Finish: Stainless steel
  • Capacity: 8+1 rds.
  • MSRP: $3,895
  • Manufacturer: Nighthawk

AT THE RANGE

The grooved solid aluminum trigger and checkered magazine release are nice touches.

There was nothing surprising here. As you’d expect from a custom gun, it ran great with every type of ammunition we threw at it. Accuracy was also outstanding. Whether taking intentional slow fire shots to running it quickly from the holster, bullet placement was as consistent as the shooter at the line. This is a gun that can shoot better than the skill level of most shooters, including me.

With every NightHawk Custom, you get a target; what they call the “Finger Print.” It includes the name of the builder, who prepped the gun, and the results of a 15-yard test using three kinds of Federal .45 ACP ammo. As you can see, the fingerprint for this gun with 200-grain semi-wadcutter (SWC), 230-grain jacketed hollowpoint (JHP), and 230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) from a bench rest at 15 yards all went into a hole just slightly bigger than a single round would make. That’s consistent accuracy. It doesn’t get any better.

This is the closest the author came to reproducing the factory results. The first two shots into nearly the same hole several times but the author just couldn’t get the third round to cooperate.

Although I tried to duplicate the NightHawk fingerprint, I’m just not that good of a pistol shot. I managed to get two into the same hole several times from 15 yards, but the third round just wouldn’t cooperate opening the group up to an inch or more. That’s all on me. How do I know that? I shot the NHC Classic better than my own Para Elite Commander. I was able to put two rounds into nearly one hole with more than one brand of ammunition. And I spend most of my time behind a computer instead of at the range which is where I’d rather be. Still, it’s not bad.

The tight tolerances of the hand fitted parts, the match barrel, barrel crown, and the superb trigger undoubtedly contribute to the overall accuracy. The trigger has virtually no creep or slack and breaks clean with very little overtravel. Generally, you describe a good trigger as breaking like glass. This trigger, you increase pressure until it breaks at just under 4 pounds. One instant you’re increasing pressure on the trigger, the next the hammer has dropped. You have to feel it to appreciate just how good it is.

The back of the slide is line checkered to match the rear sight.

Although 25 yards is long for a self-defense handgun, some people appreciate seeing what a gun will do at that standoff distance, so I obliged. From a rest at 25 yards, it produced a group of 2.812 inches. That’s not bad but if you look at the target you see the top three rounds, the first rounds fired, grouped at about an inch and a half. The last two shots in the string were low, which opened up the group. Again, I’ll take responsibility for that. The gun is definitely more accurate than I am.

As you can see from the ballistic table, all the ammo performed well. I got my best group, just under an inch at 15 yards, with the Fiocci 200-grain XTP hollowpoint (HP). The softest shooting by a small amount was the Ruger ARX 118-grain copper-polymer round, although even the +P rounds were not uncomfortable. By-the-way, I was impressed by how the Ruger ammo performed, both in consistency from shot-to-shot as well as for energy delivered to the target.

INSIDE THE NIGHTHAWK CUSTOM

The NHC Classic got a workout at the range. It shoots as good as it looks.

NightHawk’s company philosophy is based on the principal that one master gunsmith makes each pistol from beginning to end. They start with forgings (no cast or MIM parts allowed) which are machined slightly oversized so they can be hand fitted for best function. The various internal parts are machined from steel, again for best function and durability.

I’m not generally passionate about 1911s, but I really like this gun. In my opinion, the NightHawk Custom Classic is a great gun and a great value. Now I know I’ll get comments like “Yeah for someone with more money than brains,” or “How can it be a great value when I can buy five Springfield Armory Stainless Steel Mil-Spec pistols for the same money?”, so let me explain.

I love Springfield Armory 1911s. They are great guns at a modest price and that may be all you need. However, there’s a big difference between a mass-produced firearm and a custom-built firearm. A NightHawk Custom is built to closer tolerances than a more moderately priced mass produced gun. The hand fitting gives you greater accuracy and less unintended movement between parts. That means less wear, longer life and greater dependability.

Upon close examination, the NHC Classic has even more subtle features. The takedown pin is flush with the frame and the frame is beveled around it to facilitate takedown.

Maybe you don’t feel you need that level of gun. On the other hand, I know some people with CHLs (concealed handgun licenses) who figure if they might have to defend themselves, they’re going to only carry the best they can afford. I also know some in law enforcement, the military, and protective services who consider their sidearm a tool of their trade. They don’t make a ton of dough. They’re not part of the 1 percent. But they do appreciate the value of having the best tool they can get. To them the price, when measured against how much they value their life, isn’t a problem. They’ll tell you that you get what you pay for.

Competitive shooters appreciate the competitive edge a custom gun gives them. Although I no longer shoot competitively, some of our other editors do. They aren’t rich either but still own several custom guns. And people who just appreciate the value of a handcrafted pistol, who enjoy owning quality, are prospects.

Buy quality. And “don’t squat with your spurs on.”

It’s like my Rolex Submariner. I bought my Rolex for $115 49 ago when I was flying helicopter gunships in the Vietnam War.  Watches are important tools for pilots. Especially when you’re flying in a hazardous environment in uncontrolled airspace. Believe it or not, $115 was a lot of money in 1968. I could have bought five Timex. But the Timex and Seiko watches I tried just couldn’t withstand the abuse of operating day and night in combat conditions. Some of my friends questioned me for spending so much on a watch, but I’m still wearing that same watch today. And my 49-year-old watch is currently worth about $4,000. It’s probably the best investment I ever made. Simply stated, that’s the difference between price and value.

If you have experience with NighHawk guns, please leave a comment below. There’s no substitute for the knowledge that comes with long term ownership.

Stay safe.

To learn more about Nighthawk Custom NHC Classic, click http://www.nighthawkcustom.com/pistols/1911s-government/nhc-classic.

To buy on GunsAmerica, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=nighthawk%20custom.

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Chris Baker July 19, 2017, 2:10 pm

    When I started reading the article I was thinking “that’s very cool, I’d like to have one.” As I continued it just kept getting better and better but then I saw the price. Yes my life is worth more than that but it’s still almost half again what I paid for my car. It’s 3 1/2 house payments. It’s a month and a half’s paychecks. No way can I afford one. So I’ll stick with hoping I can get enough cash ahead to buy a Springfield Armory 1911A1. I can do that, invest in gun smithing tools and buy new parts to replace the ones I screw up learning how to do it and still have a couple of thousand dollars left over.

  • Jimbo July 12, 2017, 6:19 am

    The sad thing is, thst even if you shoot in obvious self defense, the gun will be taken by police. So if you were not victimized by the assailant, society MAKES you a victim. That is NOT right, and we should scream bloody murder about that.

  • Bikesroget July 11, 2017, 7:48 pm

    Enjoy the pistol. Chances are you will never use in in an encounter. If you do, the cost and loss of the weapon will be the least of your concerns.

  • Andrew Ling July 11, 2017, 8:49 am

    A beautiful piece and review. There are finer things in life to be had for $4k, and this is one of them.
    I am 67 and have given my Sea Dweller to my older son for his graduation and passing the bar.
    I have yet to present my sons with my cherished 1911s. Perhaps when I will see a grand child or two.
    Money is paper, vanishes without a trace once gone. 1911s and Rolexes will not disappear in time,
    unless of course, you let them go. I say this to you all, some things are functional work of art and
    culminating at a finest level of sophistication and artistry are priceless. Wish I can afford one of these!

  • Ron Stidham July 11, 2017, 4:26 am

    I have never had the pleasure of holding, least way firing a Nighthawk of any kind. I do have full size S&W Custom Shop 1911, And of course all of their custom rigs are stainless. Fit and finish, is what I was expecting-smooth with no wobble.
    Now havening said that, I have replaced both front and rear sights (and that was a daunting task)
    I have also had it cerokoted black, for personal preference. It runs smooth, and shoots anything I feed it.
    I do carry it and am very comfortable with the performance that comes with it. Ruger ARX is the load it loves.
    Full mag plus 1 on paper at 15 yards is just 1.5-2. I have about $2,000 invested and happy with the results.
    Trigger breaks cleanly as it should at 4 lbs. No failures to date over the last 4 yrs.
    I have shot a Wilson that my cousin owns, and I must say-try it and you will buy it.
    Nothing like a complete custom shoots or feels in you hand.
    Morale of story. Buy what you can afford, practice with what you have.

  • BRASS July 10, 2017, 6:48 pm

    No doubt the Nighthawk is a fine tool and a work of art. But for almost ten times the cost of other reliable handguns, it has to be. Considering the likely fate of any gun confiscated by police as a result of a lethal force action, fatal or otherwise, and the unlikely event that you would ever see it again in the same shape as when the cops took it from you, if at all,… it seems overpriced except if one can afford this fine piece as if it were a $400 gun.

  • Charlie July 10, 2017, 4:20 pm

    All I can say is this. Buy the best that you can afford and practice. Buying a 4 grand handgun does not mean you are capable of hitting anything with out practicing. Spend all your money for a CUSTOM hand gun and not be able to buy ammo makes for little logic. Most people that I know that have this type of handgun shoot them very little, if at all. Too fancy, pretty,and expensive to take out of the safe.

    • Russ H. July 10, 2017, 5:44 pm

      Best comment I\’ve read here! Perfect answer.

      • WFK July 10, 2017, 6:27 pm

        As a carry gun I would hate to need to use it. It would be the first thing the police would take away! Probably never to be seen again.

        • Russ H. July 11, 2017, 12:32 am

          Provided you aren\’t found guilty of anything you\’ll get it back but it may not be in the best shape. Anyone who carries needs to be prepared to lose it for awhile if they ever use it. I would hate to lose a $4000 pistol to a police evidence room for a year or two.

  • Kevin Schmersal July 10, 2017, 3:11 pm

    I always drove a nice car. They were practical and did the job. They got you there and the ride was ok. Then I bought an Infinity QX70, and Wow! The corners didn’t feel like corners anymore. Acceleration and handling were like I had never experienced. I also just bought my first Nighthawk! Get the picture.

  • KMacK July 10, 2017, 1:13 pm

    Maybe not the last 1911 you’ll need (I have seven of them) but certainly the last one you’ll buy for a long time, given the price. Yes, is appears to be accurate but will it run filthy? This looks more like a Bar-Be-Que pistol than a carry and shoot pistol and most likely will be seen as an investment more than a weapon. Looks nice, but that’s it.
    What I carry (yeah, in California you can carry on your own property) when I am out and about is an old Colt 1911 made shortly after we switched from stone to metal for weapons. It rattles and you can see its picture in the dictionary under “Old and Ugly”. It always fires and it will put a seven round mag into five inches if I do my part. Yes, the Nighthawk is a beautiful weapon, but most of us are still carrying Mr. Browning’s masterwork as realized by Colt.
    Nice pistol. Will I buy one? Naah…already got seven…plus the neat little CZ 97B. None of them are as nice looking as the Nighthawk, but they’re all paid for.

  • Scott Schwebe July 10, 2017, 1:02 pm

    There’s a reason Nighthawk is so good, I know Bob Marvel (American Hand gunner named the John Browning of our day)spent several years training their gunsmiths to become the masters they are, their frame and slide are his design. He now teaches how to build your own 1911 and sadly no longer builds 1911’s, if you ever come across one you will understand what custom is if you shoot or handle it. His would not leave the shop till they could print from Ransom rest at 50 yards 1″ MOA with .45 and I have seen his 9mm’s print .5 MOA at 50 yards, his accuracy requirements were second to none which he knew the 1911 is capable of. Nighthawk has not got to that level of accuracy yet.

  • Grant Stevens July 10, 2017, 11:42 am

    JMB would be amazed to see what has become of his 1911 masterpiece. With so many companies applying endless bells and whistles to gain 1911 market share, it is easy to forget the intended purpose of the gun. It was designed to do battle under the most extreme conditions and, like a Rolex, keep on ticking. Nice to have, need to have. Is it nice to have a 1911 that delivers MOA at 25 yards or better? You bet. Is it needed for self-defense and plinking? Not so much. Given the strong competition in the 1911 arena today, any gun that doesn’t perform well soon falls from grace. My AO 1911A1 has an exceptional slide-to-frame fit, is milled from 4140 and will devour just about every type of ammo I put through it, with accuracy that competes with the best. It’s only real drawback is its crunchy Series 80 trigger that could use some smoothing-up. I got the gun NIB for $450. And to top it all off, it is made right here in the USA. Would I love to have a hand-worked Wilson, Baer or Nighthawk? Absolutely. But I don’t feel under-gunned or under-privileged because I don’t. And just like a Rolex, my Timex keeps perfect time.

  • mike gardner July 10, 2017, 11:28 am

    I have 2 Nighthaks, a 45 #00648, and a Firehawk custom 9mm 4 inch. after these two I had the shop go over my Sig 1911 9mm math elite. The Sig was my go to gun in competition and training, Nighthawk made it better, yes BETTER.
    The sig is now deadlier at 50 feet, and a tack driver at 15. The 45 can drive nails, and it looks like I have.
    the Firehawk is my EDC, light, accurate and dependale. can say enough good abou them.

    I also liken them to tools. yes I can buy husky or craftsman for much less but if i want fit and performance buy snap on.

    I have used and carried a 1911 for 40 years, the other guns in the safe are jealous, cause they never got to go out anymore.

  • Horst Sturcken July 10, 2017, 9:32 am

    Don’t know what a Nighthawks capabilities are, I do have a friend with one, he loves it. When he told me the price WOW. I own a few 1911 a military Colt, and my Kimber with a four inch barrel, she’s bad. Shooting at steel Rams at a hundred yards. Hitting four out of five. I’m strongly leaning to buy a Nighthawk and hav some fun with it.

  • primo4 July 10, 2017, 9:18 am

    As a LOACH pilot, I never had time to look at a watch.

  • Joe Martin July 10, 2017, 9:06 am

    If I’m going to shell out close to $4000.00 for a 1911, it needs to be consistently capable of 1″ or less at 25 yards, not 1″- 2″ at 15 yards. I am always amazed when manufacturers, or their gun writer shills, try to make a gun look better than it is in order to justify an excessive price tag by moving the target closer and reducing the number of shots from 5 to 3. I’ll pass on this one, thanks.

  • William July 10, 2017, 8:50 am

    Sorry folks! Paying $4,000 for a 1911 is stupid! Buying a Rolex, is stupid! Both use one hundred year old technology!
    Modern CNC machining has made both items better and cheaper. A handgun that will shoot better than you can hold it, is all you need. You think you you are buying is bragging rights. Knowledgeable people laugh at you!

    • DBC July 10, 2017, 2:09 pm

      Says the jealous guy without the means for finer things!

  • Jason Kearns July 10, 2017, 8:16 am

    I enjoy your reviews and I am a 1911 fanatic. I owner a Wilson Combat which I love. I’ve been considering a Frag Blackout by Guncrafter Industries. I’ve been told they are a similar quality to a Wilson Combat’s 1911. Have you had an opportunity to review their products.

  • Ernie Garland July 10, 2017, 7:53 am

    I love 1911s and have several. My favorite is a Dan Wesson in 9mm. I guess it’s what might be called a semi-custom. Parts are CNC machined and then hand fitted. The slide is indeed like glass; not only when you rack it, but when you clean it. The edges of the slide are polished and smoother than any other weapon I own. It ran me about $1500. I looked at Ed Brown and Nighthawk but for more than twice the money I couldn’t see that much difference. It’s the same with a S&W E-Series I have in .45. Not as nice as the Dan Wesson but lots of custom features like the Nighthawk, only for about half the money. I guess I’d rather have several nice guns than 1 really nice one. But…maybe some day…

  • Rick Kelley July 10, 2017, 7:51 am

    It does look very nice. But for almost $4k it should be!

  • Alfred Friend July 10, 2017, 7:41 am

    I personally own a Nighthawk, a Wilson Combat and a Les Baer. (in fact multiples) This is one of those ‘religious’ discussions. Nothing wrong with any of them, but my favorite is the Wilson. Priced comparably, I found that there are unlimited options with them over all others. Like the old Burger King, they believe in have it your way. In my opinion, WC has the edge because you can have it your way. For others, that may be a somewhat daunting task. Hundreds of options and what do they mean or do. I’ve been very blessed with family, work and life in general. I have the opportunity to get things because I can. I also shared at the range and either on me or in my bag is always one of my WCs.

  • Marc July 10, 2017, 7:39 am

    “Don’t squat with your spurs on”…Those poor cowboys must have been suffering from sores, nicks and cuts on their buttocks. All kidding aside; I’m partial to black guns like my 1911 .45 ACP Protector from Wilson Combat which I shoot in some IDPA matches. It’s hard to work on stainless plus the glare. But it would look nice to have it in a safe to admire the craftsmanship.

  • Greg July 10, 2017, 7:25 am

    $3,895–maybe someday

  • Russ H. July 10, 2017, 7:19 am

    Nice pistol but I see no reason to spend that kind of money on a 1911. I can take a Colt and do my thing to it and it will shoot as well as a Nighthawk – depends on use ultimately. And I inherited both of my Rolex\’s – I wouldn\’t spend that kind of money on a watch either. Unless I won the lottery.

  • Altoid July 10, 2017, 6:59 am

    Four grand?
    Really.

  • Ditto July 9, 2017, 10:11 pm

    Excellent review, sir. That gun is to die for. Come to think of it, so is your watch!

    • David Douglass July 10, 2017, 6:15 am

      Umm. I believe the gun protects the watch….and it self…..in experienced hands. The “To Die For” element of life demands responsibility of which ‘quality’ is essential. I am a ‘Custom Springfield Guy” who views the Springfield TRP with all the bells and whistles as…..entry level for the quality 1911.

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