Nighthawk Custom TRS Commander: Commander Size Double Stack 9mm 1911

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.

The Nighthawk Custom Tactical Ready Series (TRS) Commander has a barrel a little shorter than the standard 1911 barrel along with some special features. Although it follows the 1911 pattern, instead of utilizing a single stack magazine, the magazine is a double stack with a 17 round capacity. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

It’s a 1911, but it’s not a 1911. Although the operating mechanism is the same as the original, the Nighthawk TRS Commander has a flat trigger, a full length guide rod, and is a double stack design. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Price:                                $3,999

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.

These are standard 1911 controls consisting of a slide catch, thumb safety and trigger. However, the trigger is flat and the ledges on the thumb safety and slide catch are a bit larger than on the original. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

Adding to its distinctive look, the Nighthawk TRS Commander sports a series of round dimples at the front and rear of the slide. These serve the same purpose as the common slide serrations and they work surprisingly well in providing a good gripping surface. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

Instead of the partially rounded trigger face found on most 1911s, the trigger has a flat face. It works well and looks different. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

Fit and finish on the TRS is superb. There is little play or tolerance in the barrel to slide fit, and the barrel’s crown adds a nice look. The recoil spring plug is fit so snuggly to the slide that extra work is required to remove and replace it. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

The rear sight is designed by Richard Heinie and is distinctive. To reduce glare, the rear face is serrated and just below the square notch is a single, small dot containing a tritium vial that glows in low light. The idea is to line the front sight dot up directly over the rear sight dot. When aligned, the two dots look a little like an 8. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

The TRS front sight is a blade with a single white dot fitted with a tritium vial for low light use. Lining the front and rear sights up forms an 8 which Richard Heinie says is very fast and less confusing to the eye than the traditional three dot configuration. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

In a departure from the original 1911 design, the TRS Commander has a full length guide rod. This makes disassembly a little different. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

Other than the full length guide rod and lack of a barrel bushing, the major components are the same as a typical 1911. The barrel lacks a bushing because it is flared and fits snuggly with the slide. The recoil spring assembly requires small tool that is supplied by Nighthawk or a bent paper clip to capture the recoil spring during disassembly. (Doug Larson photo)

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.

PERFORMANCE

NIGHTHAWK CUSTOM TRS COMMANDER

9mm Luger

                                                                                                      Accuracy

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.

Visit Nighthawk Custom by clicking HERE.

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About the author: Doug Larson is a former Contributing and Field Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine, Doug Larson’s articles have appeared in many top firearm publications. He has completed hundreds of hours of firearm and self-defense training provided by some of the finest world class gun fighting instructors and schools. He has experience with handguns, rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, machine guns and other crew served weapons. He reports on the tactics, techniques and procedures developed by real life gunfighters and taught at the best martial arts schools. This information is passed on to the reader to stimulate thought and a desire to get the best training possible.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Chan September 2, 2020, 6:09 pm

    Berryville, Arkansas… not Alabama. Rookie oversight.

  • Kevin September 2, 2020, 5:58 pm

    Nighthawk is based in Berryville Arkansas not Alabama

  • Brock August 20, 2020, 1:51 am

    Great article. I was always wondering when the double stack would come out for the 1911. Hopefully more manufacturers will compete and lower the price. Well written great job.

  • J Chris August 18, 2020, 3:07 pm

    LOL, at that price point Bloomberg might be able to afford it but I’m not sure if he is in the market.

  • Kenneth Jamin August 17, 2020, 11:48 am

    It costs four grand, but has a “drift-adjustable” rear sight and no ambidextrous safety? Nighthawk and similar brands are beautiful and well-made, but they’re more for the Lexus crowd, not the common mortals like me. My Sig 226 and my Toyota SUV will do the same jobs as well or better than their more expensive cousins.

  • WiscoGunner August 17, 2020, 11:07 am

    Beautiful 2011 but $4000??? I can do a lot of enhancements to the Rock Island Armory 2011 and be well under $1500 with the same or higher capacity. I don’t know who buys these very high dollar guns but you would think if you had one you would be so paranoid about dinging it or scratching it that it would be too stressful to take it out of the safe.

    I also don’t think a 2011 with 17 round mag would work well for concealed carry. With a loaded mag, you are at or over 3-lbs…that is a heavy load to have on your belt.

    That bent paper clip is a must-have for take-down on some 1911s.

  • The Truth August 17, 2020, 10:33 am

    Sorry but I can get a lot more bang for the buck getting an STI Staccato for literally half the money with night sights.

    I can also get a Springfield for less than that that I guarantee you can shoot as well as that $4000.00 gun.

  • John Stanton August 17, 2020, 9:37 am

    The gun looks like a 1911/2011 airsoft pistol.

    As for the paper clip; take a heavy gauge clip; put a 90 degree bend on one end; position the “hook” into the hole on the guide rod; position so you have room on the exposed rod to bend the clip around it; at that distance make a 90 bend perpendicular to the rod; wind the clip around the rod several times; cut the end opposite to the hook and a convenient length. The clip won’t fall out and will stay in place.

  • Robert Owen Mercer August 17, 2020, 8:27 am

    Drift adjustable rear sight on a $4,000 pistol? Come on, that’s pathetic. Clearly cheapens a very expensive gun. Should have screw adjustable sight for windage and elevation.

  • Richard August 17, 2020, 5:58 am

    Strange to say a $4000 gun looks cheap….Please tell me that’s not a bent paper clip in the take down picture… Fit and finish are excellent…. are those scratches or milling marks on the front of the barrel?

    • Jon August 17, 2020, 7:52 am

      That is a bent paper clip, it’s probably easier to use than the takedown tool Nighthawk provides. The scratches on the barrel your seeing are just from hand fitting. My Nighthawk T3 has similar marks none of witch affect the performance of anything these pistols perform better than any other 1911 I own or have ever fired. Great value is a bit difficult to justify on a pistol this expensive, but shoot one & you’ll be in love.

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