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