The 1911 semi-automatic pistol has been around for over a century now and is still a favorite of many who shoot. It has served worldwide in many conflicts and has been carried by sworn and non-sworn civilians alike. Chamberings have varied and there have been improvements to the design over the years to make the gun easier to manipulate.
Although the double-stack design for semi-automatic handguns has been around for almost as long as the 1911. The 1911 is a single stack so its capacity has been limited. But many people who like the 1911 overlook the capacity limitation and have carried it for protection because they think very highly of the gun. Many 1911 lovers though will not carry one for protection because they want a higher capacity gun.
Eventually, double-stack 1911s began to appear more frequently. They usually were made with a polymer frame and were more commonly found at matches. Still, they never really caught on for self-defense and that was probably, at least partly, because the frame was polymer and the grip was not as comfortable as the original. It just seemed to be bulkier.
Nighthawk Custom (NHC) of Berryville, Alabama, a custom 1911 maker, for a time has offered the option of building a 1911 on a double stack frame though. The double-stack design must be catching on and sales must be pretty good because NHC recently introduced a new line of double-stack 1911s as a special class called the Tactical Ready Series (TRS). The first two offerings are a compensated model and a commander size, both in 9mm Luger. A commander size model, the Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander, was received for testing.
The TRS line has other nice enhancements that add to the appeal of the classic 1911 besides the higher capacity double stack though. Perhaps the feature that will have the most appeal to those who like and know the 1911 is the steel, not polymer, rails and dustcover. That portion of the frame is attached to an aluminum alloy grip, magazine well, and trigger guard. The full-length dust cover also adds some weight to the front of the gun to help reduce muzzle flip which in turn helps the shooter get back on target faster for follow-up shots.
The grip portion of the frame is made of an aluminum alloy with a black hard coat anodized finish that matches perfectly with the black nitride finish on the dust cover and slide. The downside to that, if there is one, is that the grip panels are built into the grip and cannot be changed. That ability to change grip panels might be missed by some 1911 fans, but they should first hold the TRS Commander to see if it is comfortable.
Although the grip will feel just a bit different in the hand compared to a stock single stack 1911, it is very similar in shape and size. It is a little larger in circumference compared to a Colt Competition 1911 in 9mm Luger, with the TRS measuring 5 5/8 inches and the Colt measuring 5 3/8 inches. The side to side measurement is only 1.212 inches compared to the greater 1.307 inches for the Colt. And the front to back measures 2.012 inches while the Colt measures 1.980 inches. So although the TRS feels larger in the hand, it really is not that much larger than a stock single stack.
NIGHTHAWK CUSTOM TRS COMMANDER
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Barrel length: 4.25 inches
Overall length: 7.757 inches
Weight empty: 36.7 ounces
Grip: Aluminum alloy
Sights: Drift adjustable Heinie Ledge Black rear, front tritium dot
Action: Single action, 1911
Finish: Black nitride
Capacity: 17 + 1 rounds
But there is quite a bit more to the Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander. Not only is it a good looking gun that operates in the same way as a stock single stack 1911, it has features that are not found on all 1911s.
Instead of the more common straight line, slide serrations found on many 1911s, the TRS Commander has round dimples at both the front and the rear of the slide. These dimples provide a good surface for grasping the slide to rack it. They are not abrasive so they won’t cause clothing to fray, but they are aggressive enough to provide a slip-resistant surface. And the dimples match the dimples found on the grip front and rear as well as the mainspring housing. The dimples give the TRS Commander a distinctive and attractive look.
The dustcover, as stated earlier, runs from the front of the trigger guard to the end of the slide. And it sports a rail with one slot that not only adds flip-reducing weight, but also provides a good attachment point for a laser or light. The trigger guard is squared, but does not have serrations along the front. As mentioned above, it’s made of aluminum alloy.
The solid stainless steel trigger has a matte finish and is flat, not curved, at the front. It’s made for a long reach. The flat trigger is being seen on more guns these days and will be liked by some and not liked by others. Many just won’t care. More importantly, the trigger pull exhibited a slight amount of take-up, a crisp break at 3 pounds 4.5 ounces on average, followed by no overtravel. It’s a good trigger.
The aluminum alloy magazine well is flared which contributes to smooth and fast reloads. With the single feed, double stack, 17 round capacity magazine that has a taper at the top, the magazine just seems to glide into the grip. And the magazine catch is slightly longer than normally found on a 1911 so it is easy to activate. Doing so allowed the empty magazine to drop freely away from the gun.
The grip safety has an extended beavertail and a bump at the back to assist in positive disengagement when the gun is grasped. The slide catch has an extended ledge to make it easier to manipulate as does the thumb safety which is located on the left side. All in all, the gun operated just like one expects a 1911 to operate.
Up top, the front sight is a drift adjustable blade with a tritium dot. Tritium glows in dim light without having to be charged by an external light source. It’s a good option for a gun that might have to be used in dim light for self-defense. The rear sight is a Heinie Ledge Black. Richard Heinie specializes in putting a single dot on the rear sight just below the notch. Combined with the front sight dot, a sort of figure 8 is formed when the sights are properly aligned. The rear sight dot is also tritium charged. The rear sight is drift adjustable but also has a vertical edge that can be used to snag a belt, shoe sole, or something else so that the slide can be racked with one hand. The rear side of the sight also has fine serrations which reduce glare.
Unlike the original 1911, this one does not have a barrel bushing. Instead, the 4.25-inch stainless steel barrel is flared at the muzzle which causes it to lock up tightly with the slide when it is in the battery. Speaking of tightly, this gun is very tight. The was very little if any wobble in the slide to frame fit, the barrel lock up to the slide, the link, or at the muzzle. And the recoil spring plug took a little extra effort to extract from the slide.
In fact, the gun has such tight tolerances that the firing pin retention plate at the rear of the slide was impossible to remove. Under most circumstances, the firing pin and spring would not be removed from the slide, but once in awhile, it may be necessary to do so for cleaning. I’m sure it can be removed, but it’s going to take some extra effort to do so.
These tight tolerances help to make the gun very accurate. Average group size at 25 yards from the bench was less than about two inches and the smallest group was delivered by Black Hills JHP ammunition and measured only .71 inch. While some shooters may find that very appealing and have need for a gun that has that much accuracy, for practical self-defense purposes it is usually not necessary. However, the gun was very comfortable to shoot and no malfunctions of any kind were encountered during testing. And reliability trumps accuracy in a self-defense gun.
As mentioned above, the TRS Commander has a full length guide rod which makes disassembly for cleaning a bit different than for a standard 1911 with a barrel bushing. The slide must be locked to the rear and then a bent paper clip or a special tool that is supplied by Nighthawk is inserted into a small hole in the rod. The slide is then eased forward. With spring tension removed from the slide, the slide catch can be removed and the slide eased off the front of the frame. The guide rod assembly with the spring and plug are then separated from the slide which allows the barrel to be removed from the slide.
With the Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander, the 1911 fan can have a 1911 with a larger capacity. The gun is pricey, but to some it will be worth it.
NIGHTHAWK CUSTOM TRS COMMANDER
Load Grains Velocity (fps) Average Best
Black Hills JHP 124 1,147 1.55 0.71
Hornady Critical Duty FlexLock 135 1,102 1.92 1.56
SIG SAUER V-Crown JHP 115 1,179 2.53 1.87
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second 15’ from the muzzle by chronograph, and accuracy in inches for three five-shot groups at 25 yards.